This isn’t just about finding someone who has a more balanced view of Middle Eastern politics. This is about the most insidious type of anti-Semitism. The kind that is so subtle that there are actually Jewish organizations that defend him. Like J-Street recently did.
Chuck Hagel was a senator from Nebraska from 1996 to 2008. He is also a Vietnam War veteran who earned several medals during his service there. I used to admire him before I found out how he thinks. How can you not admire someone who puts his life on the line and serves his country with valor? His more or less conservative political views also had some appeal to me as a right leaning political moderate.
But then he started making comments like “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” That makes Professors John Mearshiemer and Stephan Walt look like members of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). For those who don’t recall, those two academicians wrote a book about how much the Zionist lobby has too much influence on US foreign policy.
As Brett Stevens points out in his excellent Wall Street Journal analysis, Mearsheimer and Walt understand that the Israeli lobby is not a solely a Jewish lobby. A lot of support for the policies of say AIPAC comes from Christian Zionists. If AIPAC only represented Jews it would have no influence at all. We are less than 2% of the population and an insignificant factor politically. And many do not even subscribe to the policies of AIPAC. Ask J-Street.
When I started hearing statements like this from Mr. Hagel, I knew that his antipathy was not reserved for those who support the state of Israel. It was reserved for us. The Jews. This is how anti-Semitism in Europe flourished. Nazism didn’t start in one day. It built up over time as we gained more wealth and influence there. By the time Germany was in enough dire straits to elect a Hitler, the Jewish people were ripe for becoming the scapegoat of choice. All that subtle prejudice turned into an eventual Holocaust aided and abetted by a willing populations in countries like Poland, Lithuania and the Ukraine.
How many times do we have to hear statements like “The Jews have too much Power” before we realize that the people saying it are anti- Semites?!
Of course Chuck Hagel will, I’m sure, deny that he is a anti-Semite. I’ll bet that he can even point to things that will “prove” it. I’m sure that he will say something like “Some of my best friends are Jewish”! Don’t believe it. I don’t buy that kind of “friendship” for a minute.
I for one was glad that he retired from the Senate. One less anti-Semite to worry about. A dangerous one who was a war hero. His political views with respect to Israel are not at all unlike those of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Recall that Wright too served the military with distinction. He was chosen as part of a medical team charged with the care of then President Lyndon Johnson. And was thanked for that in a personal letter by an Admiral on behalf of the President.
The only difference between Hegel and Wright is the level of subtlety. Wright does not mince words. Hegel tires to come off as a courageous public servant who refuses to be influenced by powerful lobbies. Like the Jewish one.
I bring all of this up because Hagel’s name has surfaced as President Obama’s possible choice to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense – probably the second most powerful cabinet position. One one that has a direct impact on Israel. The most powerful cabinet position is Secretary of State. The leading contender for that is John Kerry. Not too thrilled about that choice either. I would have preferred Susan Rice. But Kerry is gold compared to Hagel. I cannot imagine too many people who would be a worse choice for such a powerful position. Maybe Jeremiah Wright.
I somehow can’t believe that the President doesn’t know about Mr. Hagel’s antipathy towards Israel. It is surprising that he is being considered at all, let alone that he is apparently the front runner.
I know the President is not an anti- Semite. I also know that he supports the State of Israel (despite the insistence by many who say he doesn’t). He has proven to me that he does. That he has differences with them over some polices does not make him anti Israel. Nor do I feel that way even though I disagree with him on some of those policies.
In describing the “ripe” odor of Hagel’s prejudice based on the word “intimdates” in the quote above – here is a particularly trenchant excerpt from Steven’s WSJ article:
Ripe, finally, because Mr. Hagel’s Jewish lobby remark was well in keeping with the broader pattern of his thinking. “I’m a United States Senator, not an Israeli Senator,” Mr. Hagel told retired US diplomat Aaron David Miller in 2006. “I’m a United States Senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States. Not to a president. Not a party. Not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I’ll do that.”
Read these staccato utterances again to better appreciate their insipid and insinuating qualities, all combining to cast the usual slur on Jewish-Americans: Dual loyalty. Nobody questions Mr. Hagel’s loyalty. He is only making those assertions to question the loyalty of others.
Still, Mr. Hagel managed to say “I support Israel.” This is the sort of thing one often hears from people who treat Israel as the Mideast equivalent of a neighborhood drunk who, for his own good, needs to be put in the clink to sober him up.
All this points to why the possible choice of Chuck Hegel for Secretary of Defense is so troubling. Can you imagine what this guy would do if Israel’s security depended on some additional US help – whether military or financial?
He would very likely lobby hard against it to the President – arguing that Israel should not be America’s concern; that we have already helped them too much; and have already spent too much of the American tax-payer’s money on them in. Especially in the financially strapped economy we are in!
I hope and pray that this does not come to fruition. It could mean disaster for Israel – and ultimately for world peace.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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