Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

AIPAC’s Silence on Chuck Hagel

February 5, 2013 1:04 am 3 comments

Chuck Hagel, Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense.

Anyone who watched Chuck Hagel’s lamentable performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week had to conclude that the man is inadequate at best, woeful at worst, as the choice for the next Secretary of Defense. Here was a nominee who did not even know the Obama Administration’s position on Iranian nukes (he said it was containment but was quickly corrected and told it was prevention). At a time when the United States faces formidable national security threats from so many parts of the globe, it’s pretty obvious that a muddled, befuddled, and at times incoherent candidate for Secretary of Defense is a calamity in the making.

Then there is Hagel’s disastrous history of predictions, like the comment in his 2008 book, America: Our Next Chapter, where he wrote, “America’s refusal to recognize Iran’s status as a legitimate power does not decrease Iran’s influence, but rather increases it.” This was just one year before the government of Iran began to mow down its own citizens in the streets of Tehran in order to protect that ‘legitimacy’.

Or Hagel’s opposition to the Iraq surge, predicting, in January 2007, that it would be “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder . . . since Vietnam,” an utterly erroneous prognostication that he was correctly hammered on by John McCain at the hearings.

Or Hagel’s 1998 meeting with the elder Assad in Syria, where he said, “Peace comes through dealing with people. Peace doesn’t come at the end of a bayonet or the end of a gun.” Tell that to the sixty thousand dead who have been slaughtered by the dictator’s son.

Add to the fact that Hagel has an irrational dislike of homosexuals, voted against Iran sanctions, and believes America should be talking to terrorist organizations and Obama’s nomination becomes downright mystifying.

But what’s even more confusing is how quickly so many Jewish groups – especially AIPAC – have caved on Hagel. The same man who said that Israel didn’t need to “keep Palestinians caged up like animals,” and famously spoke of “the Jewish lobby’s” intimidation of lawmakers on Capitol Hill has been handed a get-out-of-political-purgatory-free card by many who claim to be Israel’s foremost defenders.

Senator Chuck Schumer was skeptical about Hagel but then changed his mind after a 90 minute West Wing meeting. “Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel,” Schumer said, “I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him.” Impressive. An hour-and-a-half conversation undid a twelve-year voting record, which included, as recently as 2008, a vote against an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization. Schumer is often referred to as the most influential Jewish member of the Senate. But then how could verbal assurances alone have turned him around when he is surely aware of the Jewish teaching that it is not what a man says but what he does that matters?

The Daily Beast reported that AIPAC – whose annual Policy Conference in DC I have attended for 20 years as a huge fan and supporter – has chosen to sit the Hagel nomination out, desiring as they do a positive relationship with the Pentagon and believing that President Obama has enough votes to get him confirmed.

On the surface that seems a wise choice. Why make enemies, especially if they’re going to be in powerful positions?

But what comes to mind is the famous teaching of Hillel, “If not now, when?” If you don’t use your political influence to oppose the nomination of someone who said, “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator,” with its regrettable allusion to charges of Jewish dual loyalties, and who opposed sanctions against Iran, and who called for direct negotiations with Hezbollah and Hamas, then when will you speak up?

Indeed, demonstrating a complete absence of political will to oppose a man like Hagel has its own risks.

What are brave United States lawmakers like freshman Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to make of AIPAC’s surrender? Are they to feel that they are the ones charged with protecting Israel while organizations who stated purpose it is to do just that sit on the sidelines?

In the hearings Cruz aired a clip from Al Jazeera where Hagel appeared to agree with a caller who accused Israel of atrocities. Cruz said: “The caller suggests that the nation of Israel has committed war crimes, and your response to that was not to dispute that characterization.” Cruz then asked Hagel directly whether he thinks Israel was guilty of war crimes, saying the suggestion was “particularly offensive given that the Jewish people suffered under the most horrific war crimes in the Holocaust… I would also suggest that for … a prospective secretary of Defense not to take issue with that claim is highly troubling.”

And what should Senator Jim Inhofe be thinking? Of Hagel’s views on America’s relationship with Iran and Israel, he said, “Too often it seems he’s willing to subscribe to a worldwide view that is predicated on appeasing our adversaries while shunning our friends.” Should Inhofe be protecting Israel more than AIPAC?

Then there is Senator Lindsay Graham who defended the pro-Israel lobby by pressuring a cowering Hagel to admit he could not name a single lawmaker who had ever been intimidated by those scary Jews. Graham predicted that Hagel would be “the most antagonistic Secretary of Defense toward the State of Israel in our nation’s history.”

Perhaps the pro-Israel lobby as a whole can learn how to stand up for itself from its LGBT counterpart. In 1998 Hagel’s homophobia once more manifest itself in his opposition to President Clinton’s appointing Jim Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg, stating that he was “openly, aggressively gay.” The Human Rights campaign, the nation’s largest gay-rights advocacy group, recently demanded that Hagel apologize for the disgusting remark. Sure enough, Hagel apologized which just goes to show you that not everyone is afraid of alienating a potentially powerful member of the Cabinet.

How ironic that pro-Israel groups have themselves proven the falsity of Hagel’s defamatory claims of intimidation. It turns out that even when it comes to nominees with deeply troubling records on Israel, they have little bark and still lesser bite.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” has just published his newest best-seller, “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

Anyone who watched Chuck Hagel’s lamentable performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week had to conclude that the man is inadequate at best, woeful at worst, as the choice for the next Secretary of Defense. Here was a nominee who did not even know the Obama Administration’s position on Iranian nukes (he said it was containment but was quickly corrected and told it was prevention). At a time when the United States faces formidable national security threats from so many parts of the globe, it’s pretty obvious that a muddled, befuddled, and at times incoherent candidate for Secretary of Defense is a calamity in the making.
Then there is Hagel’s disastrous history of predictions, like the comment in his 2008 book, America: Our Next Chapter, where he wrote, “America’s refusal to recognize Iran’s status as a legitimate power does not decrease Iran’s influence, but rather increases it.” This was just one year before the government of Iran began to mow down its own citizens in the streets of Tehran in order to protect that ‘legitimacy’.
Or Hagel’s opposition to the Iraq surge, predicting, in January 2007, that it would be “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder . . . since Vietnam,” an utterly erroneous prognostication that he was correctly hammered on by John McCain at the hearings.
Or Hagel’s 1998 meeting with the elder Assad in Syria, where he said, “Peace comes through dealing with people. Peace doesn’t come at the end of a bayonet or the end of a gun.” Tell that to the sixty thousand dead who have been slaughtered by the dictator’s son.
Add to the fact that Hagel has an irrational dislike of homosexuals, voted against Iran sanctions, and believes America should be talking to terrorist organizations and Obama’s nomination becomes downright mystifying.
But what’s even more confusing is how quickly so many Jewish groups – especially AIPAC – have caved on Hagel. The same man who said that Israel didn’t need to “keep Palestinians caged up like animals,” and famously spoke of “the Jewish lobby’s” intimidation of lawmakers on Capitol Hill has been handed a get-out-of-political-purgatory-free card by many who claim to be Israel’s foremost defenders.
Senator Chuck Schumer was skeptical about Hagel but then changed his mind after a 90 minute West Wing meeting. “Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel,” Schumer said, “I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him.” Impressive. An hour-and-a-half conversation undid a twelve-year voting record, which included, as recently as 2008, a vote against an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization. Schumer is often referred to as the most influential Jewish member of the Senate. But then how could verbal assurances alone have turned him around when he is surely aware of the Jewish teaching that it is not what a man says but what he does that matters?
The Daily Beast reported that AIPAC – whose annual Policy Conference in DC I have attended for 20 years as a huge fan and supporter – has chosen to sit the Hagel nomination out, desiring as they do a positive relationship with the Pentagon and believing that President Obama has enough votes to get him confirmed.
On the surface that seems a wise choice. Why make enemies, especially if they’re going to be in powerful positions?
But what comes to mind is the famous teaching of Hillel, “If not now, when?” If you don’t use your political influence to oppose the nomination of someone who said, “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator,” with its regrettable allusion to charges of Jewish dual loyalties, and who opposed sanctions against Iran, and who called for direct negotiations with Hezbollah and Hamas, then when will you speak up?
Indeed, demonstrating a complete absence of political will to oppose a man like Hagel has its own risks.
What are brave United States lawmakers like freshman Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to make of AIPAC’s surrender? Are they to feel that they are the ones charged with protecting Israel while organizations who stated purpose it is to do just that sit on the sidelines?
In the hearings Cruz aired a clip from Al Jazeera where Hagel appeared to agree with a caller who accused Israel of atrocities. Cruz said: “The caller suggests that the nation of Israel has committed war crimes, and your response to that was not to dispute that characterization.” Cruz then asked Hagel directly whether he thinks Israel was guilty of war crimes, saying the suggestion was “particularly offensive given that the Jewish people suffered under the most horrific war crimes in the Holocaust… I would also suggest that for … a prospective secretary of Defense not to take issue with that claim is highly troubling.”
And what should Senator Jim Inhofe be thinking? Of Hagel’s views on America’s relationship with Iran and Israel, he said, “Too often it seems he’s willing to subscribe to a worldwide view that is predicated on appeasing our adversaries while shunning our friends.” Should Inhofe be protecting Israel more than AIPAC?
Then there is Senator Lindsay Graham who defended the pro-Israel lobby by pressuring a cowering Hagel to admit he could not name a single lawmaker who had ever been intimidated by those scary Jews. Graham predicted that Hagel would be “the most antagonistic Secretary of Defense toward the State of Israel in our nation’s history.”
Perhaps the pro-Israel lobby as a whole can learn how to stand up for itself from its LGBT counterpart. In 1998 Hagel’s homophobia once more manifest itself in his  opposition to President Clinton’s appointing Jim Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg, stating that he was “openly, aggressively gay.” The Human Rights campaign, the nation’s largest gay-rights advocacy group, recently demanded that Hagel apologize for the disgusting remark. Sure enough, Hagel apologized which just goes to show you that not everyone is afraid of alienating a potentially powerful member of the Cabinet.
How ironic that pro-Israel groups have themselves proven the falsity of Hagel’s defamatory claims of intimidation. It turns out that even when it comes to nominees with deeply troubling records on Israel, they have little bark and still lesser bite.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” has just published his newest best-seller, “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

3 Comments

  • Lawrence Kulak

    It is kind of hard to guage or to Judge the silence of a group who are the subject of the Senate questioning of Hagel. Hagel’s disparagement of AIPAC may appear to be worse if the Israeli lobby remains silent, and this may have tactically played into its decision. Besides, the clamoring of an interest group yields probably the least weight in term of trying to derail Hagel’s appointment.

    Much worse that AIPAC’s silence has been the rapid acquiescence of Chuck Schumer, who in my opinion has only a vapid interest in supporting Israel. Schumer initially puts up a protest I think jus t to make it obligatorily appear that he is firmly in Israel’s corner, but at the end of the day he really does not care. I would love to see Chuck Schumer replaced by even a Gentile like Giuiliani who genuinely supports the Jewish State.

  • They are silent because they are missing two pieces of male anatomy.

  • “AIPAC […] has chosen to sit the Hagel nomination out, desiring as they do a positive relationship with the Pentagon and believing that President Obama has enough votes to get him confirmed.”

    AIPAC has a policy of not taking positions on Cabinet nominations, much as it does not endorse candidates in either American or Israeli elections– something a long-time attendee of AIPAC summits such as the Rabbi should know.

    Understandably, they want to have a relationship with whomever is in power in either country– otherwise they can spend an electoral cycle or two being ineffective, which will not serve the interests of the alliance between the two countries.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →