web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘jewish lobby’

When AIPAC Went AWOL

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Chuck Hagel’s notorious 2008 statement about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the leading institution of the pro-Israel lobby, claimed that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [in Congress]. I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”

Then a strange thing happened: no sooner did Barack Obama nominate Hagel for secretary of defense on Jan. 7, when AIPAC announced it would not oppose the former Republican senator from Nebraska. Indeed, so neutral did it wish to be on this delicate topic that its spokesman even avoided mentioning Hagel’s name, declaring only that “AIPAC does not take positions on presidential nominations.” AIPAC then kept a complete silence through Hagel’s confirmation on Feb. 26. More important, it did not lift a finger to influence the vote.

AIPAC’s initial logic made some sense: Obama, having just won an impressive reelection effort, had chosen his man and Republicans were likely to put up a merely token resistance to him, so why antagonize a soon-to-be very powerful figure and a principal player in the U.S.-Israel relationship? As my colleague Steven J. Rosen explained back then, “AIPAC has to work with the secretary of defense.” It also did not want to antagonize increasingly skittish Democrats.

Subsequently, an intense search into Hagel’s record found more ugly statements about Israel. He referred in 2006 to Israel’s self-defense against Hizbullah as a “sickening slaughter.” In 2007, he pronounced that “The State Department has become adjunct to the Israeli foreign minister’s office.” And in 2010 he was cited as warning that Israel risked “becoming an apartheid state.”

Still, the senator who spoke of an intimidating “Jewish lobby” got a complete pass from that same lobby. It makes one wonder just how intimidating it is.

Other pro-Israel organizations took a different approach. The Zionist Organization of America produced 14 statements arguing against Hagel’s nomination between Dec. 17 (urging Obama not to nominate the “Iran- & Terrorist-Apologist & Israel-Basher Chuck Hagel“) to Feb. 22 (a listing of “Ten Important Reasons to Oppose Chuck Hagel“). Not itself primarily a lobbying organization, ZOA’s calculus had less to do with the prospect of winning and more to do with taking a principled and moral stand.

In large part because of the Nebraskan’s Middle East policies of appeasing Tehran and confronting Jerusalem, Republican opposition to Hagel became much more than token. Several senators indicated to the ZOA’s Morton Klein that if AIPAC “had come out and lobbied against Hagel, he would have been stopped.” Charles Schumer (New York), indisputably the key Democratic senator on this issue, publicly cited the absence of “major Jewish organizations” as one reason why he had “no qualms” about endorsing Hagel. Still, despite the real and growing possibility of defeating Hagel’s nomination, AIPAC kept radio silence and did nothing.

Hagel squeaked through the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 12 with a party-line 14-11 vote. A vote to end debate on the nomination failed to win the needed 60 votes on Feb. 14. He finally won confirmation by a 58-to-41 vote, facing the greatest number of “no” votes against any secretary of defense (George C. Marshall in 1950 came in a distant second with 11 no’s). And so, the fringe figure who opposed even economic sanctions on Iran, the bumbling nominee who confused prevention with containment, the politician characterized by Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican of South Carolina) as “the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the State of Israel in our nation’s history” – well, he took office on Feb. 27.

As AIPAC holds its annual policy conference on Mar. 3-5 in Washington, what it calls ”the largest gathering of the pro-Israel movement” (last year’s meeting had over 13,000 participants), it is hard not to conclude that the vaunted Israel lobby has focused so intently on access, process, goodwill, and comity that it rendered itself irrelevant to the most pressing issues facing Israel – Iran and the U.S. relationship.

Yes, AIPAC remains a force to contend with on secondary issues; for instance it won an eye-popping 100-0 victory over the Obama administration in Dec. 2011 on an Iran sanctions bill. But (ever since the AWACS battle of 1981) it has studiously avoided antagonizing the president on the highest-profile issues, the ones most threatening to Israel. As a result, it neutered itself and presumably lost the debate over Iran policy.

Hagel Nomination Defeat Is in Everyone’s Interest

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

It seems certain that Chuck Hagel will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the next secretary of defense. But it shouldn’t be. For the Hagel issue is the perfect symbol of the dilemmas faced by America today.

The first problem is that the mass media and the Democratic Party are all to willing to be a doormat for President Barack Obama, even though this stance is against their own interests. Many Democratic senators resent the fact that they are so pressured to vote for Hagel even though it makes them look foolish and might endanger their reelection chances.

Their willingness to vote for Hagel, however, shows the triumph of partisanship and ideology over national interest. Obviously, there are times when those factors will prevail, especially if the question is more marginal. But when a clearly unqualified man who has made a fool of himself in public hearings is going to take a post that involves the very lives of so many, that’s where you should draw the line.

In other words, even if one argues that the president should be given whoever he wants in high posts unless there is a really good reason to deny consent to such a nomination, here is the case where that exception applies.

Second, there is the way the issue is defined. A New York senator and a New York newspaper, for example, wants to narrow the problem into the idea that Hagel may have used one word—Jewish as in Jewish lobby–in an offensive way. That’s supposedly why Hagel isn’t fit for the job.

If that’s true then anyone who opposed Hagel might be considered to represent a selfish, narrow, interest group. Indeed, some of Hagel’s defenders have turned the issue of his being criticized for saying nasty things about Jews having too much power into proof that Jews have too much power.

In defending Hagel’s gaffe, both that senator and that editorial staff have also committed what might be called ideological antisemitism. If Hagel is innocent then those who oppose him are merely too (right-wing) Jewish or pro-Israel or “neo-conservative” (a code-word for “Jewish,” especially in the Middle East). And if they block Hagel then doesn’t that prove Hagel was right?

What makes this view objectively absurd is that there are dozens of reasons to oppose Hagel’s nomination, most of them having nothing to do with Israel.

First and foremost among these is that he has expressed objectively anti-American views, as was shown for example, in his agreeing with an al-Jazeera caller who described the United States as an aggressive bully. Anti-Americanism may be fashionable among the U.S. elite today, but it is not a good characteristic for a secretary of defense. Aside from everything else, if the United States has always been bad for pursing its interests in the past why should this secretary of defense compound the sin by championing U.S. interests today?

Second, it is painfully clear—even to his supporters who would never admit it in public—that Hagel doesn’t understand the issues and is incapable of running a huge bureaucracy. Hagel even admitted his incapability in his own defense, boating that this didn’t matter since he wouldn’t be making any decisions anyway!

Once again, though, Hillary Clinton’s 2008 election advertisement test applies: Who do you want to answer the call at three AM? We have before us at this moment a perfect example. The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, where four Americans were murdered, was dropped into the lap of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. How many Americans might die when Hagel is given the responsibility for action?

Third, one could point out that the ultimate choices for Benghazi were with Obama. But that’s also a reason for understanding why Hagel shouldn’t be confirmed. A secretary of defense should not just be a “yes-man.” He should represent an independent point of view and also represent his department’s interests.

If the secretary of defense is only a “yes-man” for the White House that means the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commanders in the field will be left out of decision-making. With Hagel at the helm, the uniformed military will have no spokesman when the top-level priorities and choices are set.

Smelling Chuck Hagel & Other Anti-Semites

Monday, February 18th, 2013

My grandparents emigrated from Russia to the U.S. before the revolution. They were the type that divided things, and people, into Good For The Jews or Bad For The Jews. They were wary people, who understood that a Jew always had to be careful, even in America. They could smell antisemitism, and they believed that a Jew could not count on the authorities, or on his non-Jewish neighbors if the worse happened. I was close to them, closer than to my Americanized parents, and I became this kind of Jew as well.

Most younger American Jews do not display this heightened awareness, this almost paranoid (but not unreasonable) consciousness of their Jewish marginality, as Jeremy Ben Ami of J Street explained to a NY Times reporter several years ago:

The average age of the dozen or so staff members is about 30. Ben-Ami speaks for, and to, this post-Holocaust generation. “They’re all intermarried,” he says. “They’re all doing Buddhist seders.” They are, he adds, baffled by the notion of “Israel as the place you can always count on when they come to get you.” That notion is not baffling to me and certainly wouldn’t have been to my grandparents. My alarm bells went off when the President chose Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. I am not especially worried by officials of our government, even presidents, who are not particularly friendly to Israel. As Hagel himself said, they are American senators, or congressmen, or cabinet members, not Israelis. The trouble is that this guy — like another Obama nominee for an important post, Chas Freeman — is way over on the hostile side.

Hagel’s problem with Israel is so consistent over time and over issues, that it’s hard to believe it is wholly rational. The most recent example is his 2007 statement (which he says he “can’t recall making”) that “the State Department was becoming an adjunct of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.”

The assertion that the State Department — that bureau which fought tooth and nail to prevent Harry Truman from recognizing the Jewish state, which does not believe that any part of Jerusalem belongs to Israel, and which maintains a U.S. Embassy to ‘Palestine’ in the capital of Israel (which it doesn’t recognize) — is dominated by Israel, is beyond ludicrous. So why did he make it?

This statement is ‘ZOG’ (Zionist Occupation Government) stuff, an expression of one of the central anti-Jewish myths, that of a shadowy Jewish conspiracy pulling the strings that control our government. It fits with Hagel’s use of the phrase ‘Jewish lobby,’ and his suggestion that the lobby “intimidates” U.S. officials.

Hagel’s supporters are pushing this theme to the max. Stephen Walt wrote,

…if the lobby takes Hagel down, it will provide even more evidence of its power, and the extent to which supine support for Israel has become a litmus test for high office in America. [my emphasis] Ah, the powerful lobby! Ask M J Rosenberg:

The onslaught is unprecedented. Never before has virtually the entire organized Jewish community combined to stop a presidential cabinet appointment because it deems the potential nominee insufficiently devoted to Israel. …

The onslaught against Hagel is unique however because the reason for it is not merely that he opposes the rush to war with Iran and favors negotiating an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The reason is because he dared to refer to the existence of the Israel lobby. He said this in 2008 in an interview with former State Department official, Aaron Miller.

“The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” but as he put it, “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”

That quote will likely doom Hagel’s candidacy because, if there is one institution that is considered untouchable, it is the Israel lobby and its power. [my emphasis] Their theme is that “The Lobby” will “punish” Hagel and Obama for their disrespect. The same point is made by Patrick Slattery on (yes) DavidDuke.com:

AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which represent the official command center of organized American Jewry, have come out beating their chests over his public acknowledgement of the existence of the 800-pound gorilla of a “Jewish lobby.” On the other hand, “liberal” Zionists like Thomas Freidman and Peter Beirnart are defending Hagel, perhaps because nothing can draw public attention to the power of an 800-pound gorilla more than the gorilla ripping to pieces a respected public figure in broad daylight. [my emphasis] All this diverts attention from other important questions about Hagel, like “is he competent to run the massive enterprise that is the Defense Department?” and, given his opposition to both economic sanctions and the use of force, “what does putting Hagel is in the chain of command of the U.S. armed forces tell Iran about our resolve to stop them from getting nuclear weapons?” That may be the idea.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fresno-zionism/smelling-chuck-hagel-other-anti-semites/2013/02/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: