Meet the Arab Americans in the Biden-Harris Administration
By: Theo Stamatis / Arab America Contributing Writer
As the new administration steps into its first 100 days, President Joe Biden has promised the American people that his administration will reflect America’s diversity. Throughout his campaign and once elected president, Biden has been a vocal advocate of every ethnicity and background being represented: African American, Hispanics, Asians, and finally at the table – Arab Americans. Biden’s victory recognizes the overwhelming advocacy from the Arab American communities across the country. Roughly 59% of Arab Americans supported him last November compared to 35% for Trump. So far, there have been seven Arab Americans chosen to be in the Biden Administration and there are more to follow. Meet some of the new Biden officials.
Hady Amr, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel-Palestine, U.S. State Department
Background: Hady Amr (of Lebanese American heritage) has returned to the State Department to work on Israeli-Palestinian issues. This is his fifth executive branch post, including previous posts at DOD, DHS, USAID, and DOS. Most recently, during the Obama administration, he served as deputy special envoy for Economics and Gaza for the special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Amr was a fellow at the Brookings Institution and contributed to the Biden administration’s strategy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was also a member of Biden’s transition team at the State Department.
Reema Dodin, Deputy White House Director of Legislative Affairs
Background: Dodin was born in North Carolina.[ii] Her parents are Palestinian and emigrated from Dura, near Hebron. Dodin graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in economics and political science and followed it with a law degree from the University of Illinois.[iii]
Experience: For 14 years, Dodin served in Senator Dick Durbin’s Office. She rose through the ranks in Senator Durbin’s office from a law school intern to deputy chief of staff. In addition to her tenure in the Senate, Dodin volunteered for then-candidate Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, focusing on voting rights.[iv]
Maher Bitar, Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the NSC
Background: Bitar is a Palestinian-American who has a law degree from Georgetown University and is a graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.[xiv]
Experience: Since 2017, Bitar served as the general counsel for House Intelligence Committee Democrats where he played a key role during the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump.[xv] Prior to his appointment, Bitar served as the director for Israel-Palestinian affairs on the National Security Council under President Obama.[xvi] Before that, he was the deputy to Ambassador Samantha Power when he served as the National Security Council director for multilateral affairs and human rights.[xvii]
Dana Shubat, Senior Legal Affairs Advisor
Experience: Prior to her appointment, Shubat has served in Senator Michael Bennet’s office as a legislative aide.[vii] In that capacity, she often served as lead contact in dealing with issues pertaining to the Middle East.[viii]
Brenda Abdelall: Senior Advisor – Office of Civil Rights, Department of Homeland Security
Background: The proud daughter of Egyptian immigrants, Abdelall’s family moved from Taylor, Michigan to Ann Arbor, Michigan, seeking to find a more diverse community. She graduated with both a BA and JD from the University of Michigan and later became a Professor at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of law where she taught legal writing.[ix]
Experience: Abdelall started her career practicing law, representing the interests of Arab American and Muslim American communities in front of the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Education and the White House.[x] During the 2020 Presidential Campaign, she served as one of the key volunteers for President Biden’s “Arab Americans for Biden” group.
Bechara Choucair, Vaccinations Coordinator
Background: Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Dr. Choucair earned a B.S. in Chemistry and a Doctorate of Medicine from the American University of Beirut. In addition, Dr. Choucair also has a Master of Science degree in healthcare management from the University of Texas in Dallas.[xi]
Experience: Since 2016, Dr. Choucair has been Kaiser Permanente’s Chief Community Health Officer, working on projects outside the typical purview of a healthcare organization.[xii] Before working at Kaiser, Dr. Choucair was chosen in 2009 to be Chicago’s public health commissioner where he helped launch the city’s first public health agenda.[xiii]
Ike Hajinazarian, Regional Communications Director
Background: Born in Columbus, Ohio to Lebanese-Armenian parents, he is a graduate of Indiana University and George Washington University School of Political Management.[xviii]
Experience: He served as the Western Pennsylvania Regional Press Secretary for the Biden campaign after working in communications during the primary.[xix] Prior to joining the Biden campaign, he worked on Capitol Hill – first as a Press Assistant for Sen. Donnelly and as Deputy Press Secretary for the House Homeland Security Committee.[xx]
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