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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Sports Gold on the Galilee: Israeli Kayaker Comes of Age, Eyes Olympics (VIDEO)

    Gold on the Galilee: Israeli Kayaker Comes of Age, Eyes Olympics (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Three years ago, kayaking coach Roei Lev found aspiring Olympian Ilya Podpolnyy crying on the steps of the Jordan Valley Sprint Kayak Club overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Podpolnyy, then 17 years old, had just been disqualified from the Israeli kayaking championship. He couldn’t survive the heats. He didn’t make the start line. He was devastated—and he had no one with whom to share his hopes, his dreams, and his disappointment. His divorced parents still live in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    “Girls” creator Lena Dunham responded on Tuesday to charges of antisemitism over an article she had penned for the New Yorker, saying it was all in good humor. Speaking to Variety, Dunham reflected on her “tight-knit Jewish family, where Jew jokes were part of the essential fiber of our communication.” The article Dunham referred to was called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz,” with options such as “He doesn’t Tip” and “He’s Crazy for Cream Cheese.” Among Dunham’s critics, Anti-Defamation [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Retired NBA player Keyon Dooling tweeted a link on Wednesday to a wildly antisemitic article that accuses Jews of seizing control of the world’s media and using it to promote their own interests. The article, published by an obscure blog in April 2013, highlights six companies it claims are owned by Jews — such as Time Warner, Inc. and the Walt Disney Company – that allegedly “control 96 percent of the world’s media.”  The post includes allegations of “Jewish control” and says [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz responded to an outcry from Jewish fans on Tuesday, saying he will go ahead and play in the season opener despite the fact that it falls on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “Keep getting tweets about that being the first night of Rosh Hashanah… Don’t know what I’m supposed to tell you. It’s a tough break,” the Jewish athlete wrote, referring to the Giants’ on-the-road game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    JNS.org – When David Blatt was hired as head coach of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers last June, he was not often recognized when he walked the streets of downtown Cleveland. What a difference a year makes. Now, Blatt can go few places without being recognized. For good reason. The Jewish coach has the Cavaliers in the mix to win the city of Cleveland’s first championship in a major sport since the Browns won the National Football League title in [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    For the past two years, I have served as Opinion Editor at The Algemeiner. I’m perhaps most proud of the paper’s commitment to publishing diverse and opposing viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day. We pride ourselves on voicing different opinions because we know that most issues are not black and white, and because our community is better served by a public debate. In my life outside of the paper, I am a professional actor and playwright. And similarly, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.