* Virulently anti-Israel since an early age
* Served as a volunteer for Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential run
* Spent more than a dozen years as a member of Senator Dick Durbin’s staff
* Organized pro-Muslim rallies
* President Joe Biden appointed Dodin to serve as Deputy Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs
* She is the first Palestinian-American to serve as a White House staffer.
Reema Dodin was born in North Carolina in the spring of 1980. Her parents, Bajis and Samia Dodin, describe themselves as Jordanian Palestinians who immigrated to the United States from the West Bank in the 1960s. Reema’s grandfather, Mustafa Dodin, was a Jordanian social affairs minister who in the 1970s helped to create the Village Leagues, West Bank organizations funded by Israel to promote Palestinian peace negotiations with the Jewish state.
Reema Dodin felt extreme antipathy for Israel from an early age. In 2001 she participated in a demonstration at UC Berkeley, where she was enrolled as a student, demanding that the school entirely divest its financial assets from Israel. Protesters at the demonstration likened Israel to apartheid-era South Africa.
Dodin graduated from UC Berkeley in 2002 with a degree in Economics and Political Science. That same year, when the Second Palestinian Intifada was in high gear, Dodin addressed a church audience in Loma, California, where she spoke about the Arab-Israeli conflict and claimed that Palestinian suicide bombings were “the last resort of a desperate people.”
In 2006, Dodin earned a JD from the University of Illinois College of Law.
Dodin said that the election of Muslim Democrats Keith Ellison of Minnesota (in 2006) and Andre Carson of Indiana (in 2008) as members of the U.S. House of Representatives, was evidence that Muslims could penetrate “the system” and bring about political change from within.
After serving as a volunteer for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Dodin spent more than a dozen years working in various positions for Democrat Senator Dick Durbin – as Durbin’s research director (2008), floor counsel (2009-11), floor director (2011-January 2021), and deputy chief of staff (August 2019-January 2021).
As Durbin’s aide on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, Dodin organized a March 29, 2011 “Muslim Rights” hearing before that committee. She also recommended the chief witness to testify at the hearing, San Francisco-area activist Farhana Khera. Khera was the founder of Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy organization that opposes U.S. counter-terrorism strategies that make use of sting operations and informants. Investigative Project on Terrorism founder Steve Emerson said of the Durbin hearing that Dodin organized: “It’s consistent with his [Durbin’s] whole entire policy of the last seven years of protecting radical Islamic groups.”
At a Netroots Nation conference on July 19, 2014, Dodin moderated a panel discussion titled “Back to Basics: Democratic Politics in an Era of Divided Government.” Promotional material for the event said: “The session will explore what the current and near-term equities are in Washington and what that means for progressive goals. This will include political and substantive reviews of the House and Senate, discussion of known goals such as immigration reform and climate change mitigation and where they stand, and a candid conversation about how the ‘pragmatic progressive’ should strategize for the next few years vis-a-vis Washington.”
In November 2020, incoming U.S. President Joe Biden appointed Dodin to serve as Deputy Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, making her the first Palestinian-American to serve as a White House staffer. When Dodin was selected for this role, Senator Dick Durbin tweeted his pleasure regarding the appointment: “Excited that my Floor Director, Reema Dodin, will be joining President-elect Biden’s Leg Affairs team. She is smart, trusted, & has the respect of members on both sides of the aisle. Reema is just what our new President needs to help him in the Senate. Thrilled with the appointment.”
Dodin’s relatives in the Middle East were likewise overjoyed by the news of her appointment in the Biden White House. Her uncle Ahmed Dodin, a resident of Dura in the southern West Bank, called it “a success for every Palestinian.” “She is the daughter of Palestine and her origins are Palestinian,” the uncle said, adding that the “post will be good for her and her mother country.”
Arab-Americans in general cheered Dodin’s White House appointment as well, according to a November 24, 2020 report in the United Arab Emirates-based media outlet, The National:
Over the years, Dodin has been a Truman National Security Fellow, a New Leaders Council Fellow, a Socrates Program participant at the Aspen Institute, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the D.C.-based Jenkins Hill Society, a fundraising group whose mission is “to bring women new to the political world together to support Democratic women in Congress sitting in the most vulnerable seats.”
Dodin also co-authored the book Inside Congress: A Guide for Navigating the Politics of the House and Senate Floor, which was published in July 2017 by the Brookings Institution Press.
Further Reading: “Reema Dodin” (Linkedin.com)