Chuck Hagel, ‘A Touch Anti-Semitic’? A ‘Bugaboo Issue’.

In his announcement that he is nominating Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, the President said:

And Chuck recognizes that American leadership is indispensable in a dangerous world. I saw this in our travels together across the Middle East. He understands that America stands strongest when we stand with allies and with friends.

I would assume that when the President refers to his travels with Hagel “across the Middle East,” and mentions “allies and friends,” Israel would certainly be included.

Thus, Hagel’s recognition that America “stands strongest when we stand with” Israel should be sufficient for the “resisters” to set aside their concerns that Hagel “doesn’t much like Israel” and, worse their shameless accusation that Hagel is anti-Semitic.

This accusation — Fred Kaplan calls it the “bugaboo issue” — stems from the time, six years ago, when as a Senator Hagel complained to a reporter that “the Jewish lobby” intimidates many lawmakers on Capitol Hill. According to Kaplan, Hagel also “once mentioned that he was a senator from Nebraska, not a senator from Israel,” to which Kaplan says, “These may have been impolitic remarks, but they weren’t false—either in strict substance or in spirit.”

Kaplan maintains that “Hagel’s sin, in the eyes of some, was to call it the “Jewish lobby” instead of the “Israel lobby” and as for saying that he’s a senator from Nebraska, not Israel, Kaplan says:

Had he or any other senator said this about any other country (“I’m not a senator from France … England … Canada” or wherever), no one would have batted an eye. To accuse him of anti-Semitism on these grounds is to reveal a staggeringly deep paranoia—or a sensitivity far too acute to be allowed any role in American politics.

Monday, in the Washington Post, a man who I believe is Jewish addresses this issue head-on.

While admitting that he has some qualms about the nomination, Richard Cohen blasts an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that “implied Hagel was a touch anti-Semitic…and suggested that Hagel’s statement that ‘the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here’ in Congress had ‘the odor’ of prejudice.”

Referring to the claims that Hagel’s uttering of “the no-no phrase ‘the Jewish lobby’” is supposedly a virtual confession of anti-Semitism, Cohen writes:

The absurdity of this charge, leveled last month by editorial writer and columnist Bret Stephens, ought to be apparent to anyone who reads what Israelis themselves write. I direct Stephens and others to page 426 of Anita Shapira’s new book, “Israel: A History.” She writes that when the George H.W. Bush administration in 1992 withheld $10 billion in loan guarantees, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir “enlisted the help of the Jewish lobby in the U.S. Congress, but in vain.” Shapira is professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University.

It is true, as Stephens writes, that Jews are not the only ones who support Israel, and it is likewise true that not all Jews support Israel — or at least the current government of Benjamin Netanyahu…

Calling the unremitting and underhanded attack on Hagel, especially the imputation of anti-Semitism, the most depressing aspect of Hagel’s nomination, Cohen says, “In fact, he could be the necessary corrective to the Netanyahu government’s expectation that anything Israel wants from Washington it’s entitled to get. Nothing Hagel has said about Israel is not said in the Israeli press on a daily basis. Trust me: By the Wall Street Journal’s standards, Israeli media would be deeply anti-Semitic.”

Cohen concludes:

I thought the day had long passed when a skeptical attitude toward this or that Israeli policy would trigger charges of anti-Semitism. The accusation is so powerful — so freighted with images of the Holocaust — that it tends to silence all but the bravest or the most foolish. Israeli policy of late has been denounced by some steadfast champions of the Jewish state — the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman or the New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier, for example — so being caustically critical is hardly evidence of anti-Semitism. Rather, it can be a sign of good judgment, not to mention a caring regard for the aspirations of Zionism.

I would bet my bottom dollar that, along with Thomas Friedman, Leon Wiesltier and yours truly (of Jewish ancestry), Mr. Cohen is a steadfast champion of the Jewish state, too.

Read more of Mr. Cohen’s excellent article here.

  

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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9 Comments

  1. This is just the first of the many false accusations which will be coming from the neo-con crowd who wish to continue American adventureism. The coming effluvia that will be poured over both men will be unprecedented. The military/industrial complex is just that – complex – and incomprehensibly large. If either man survives, it will certainly give me hope for our future as a nation.

  2. What exactly does the pro Israel crowd think Hagel is going to do? Unilaterally break ties with Israel? Just more fear mongering over phantoms. He is going to take his marching orders from the President just like every other SecDef in history.

  3. I have no problem with a politician, or anyone, that expresses some frustration with the “Jewish or Israeli, or whatever lobby” putting pressure on people in Washington to further their ends. They are after all surrounded by hostile folks and some of those are inside their borders. These people hate Israel and I’m sure the feelings are mutual, so of course they lobby aggressively. So his remarks don’t bother me and since Israel has from time to time been less than cooperative with the U.S. and have defied our notion of “fair” treatment of the Palestinians, we can’t just always give them free passes and ignore the plight of the people they in turn surround and dominate.
    Be all of that as it may, we are still staunch allies of Israel and that is our primary position. My worry is that Hagel could turn out to be Obama’s worst nightmare if he goes down his own personal road.

  4. The anti-Semitic charge is typical nonsense from a party that has a long record of pushing false memes to further it’s goals. I have no problem with Chuck Hagel and think he would do a fine job.

  5. A “touch anti-Semitic?” No.

    Saying that Hagel is a “touch anti-Semitic” is like saying John McCain is a “touch terrorist sympathetic” because he opposed torture.

  6. Even with the positive testimony of Jewish scholars and Rabbis, the malcontents persist in their absurd charges. Even here in Nebraska, Hagels’ home state, the Jewish leaders who have known him longest say the charge is ridiculous.
    Hagel simply is not hawk enough for the their liking.( Now they think we should bulldoze our way into Syria and start another round of hostility, putting our soldiers in harms way).
    Stupid people.

  7. I think we should ask Hagel if he is anti-Semitic. Perhaps he just doesn’t like the lobbying style. Does he have to genuflect to Israel to be an effective Sec. of defense?

  8. Summing up his view of the president, Stephens wrote: “I just think the president isn’t very bright. … Stupid is as stupid does, said the great philosopher Forrest Gump. The presidency of Barack Obama is a case study in stupid does.” I am sure the chickenhawk, hard-right, neocon Stephens is the one being stupid in this case.

  9. Nah, Obama is very bright, in a professorial way and a great campaigner. Getting things done, not so much, but hey, now that he found Biden things are looking up.
    But, I still say: be careful what you wish for when it comes to Hagel, Mr. President.

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