Senator Hagel: ‘The Jewish Lobby Intimidates a Lot of People Up Here’

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 28 Comments

Aaron David Miller was a negotiator for Bill Clinton at Camp David. Now he’s coming out with a book on the peace process called The Much Too Promised Land. The website suggests that the book will contain an open discussion of the "pro-Israeli lobby and those who are lobbied." And on the website is an excerpt of an interview with Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, among others.

Says Hagel: "The political reality is that… the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here." Hagel then related a meeting he had in New York with a group of supporters of Israel who are pushing the U.S. to attack Iran. When Hagel said it hadn’t worked out that well in Iraq, a couple of members of the group said he wasn’t supportive enough of Israel. Hagel spoke firmly: "Let me clear something up here if there’s any doubt in your mind. I’m a U.S. Senator. I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a U.S. Senator. I support Israel… But my first interest is, I take an oath to the constitution of the United States. Not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel." Gee.

More to come from Miller’s website. Will anyone do journalism about this?

Oh, and let’s be clear about something. Talk of the lobby is breaking out all over now, praise Allah. But Aaron Miller and Random House have the running room to publish frank descriptions of "the Jewish lobby"–and to bring up the the issue of dual loyalty–for one g-dd-mn reason. Because Steve Walt and John Mearsheimer exhibited incredible intellectual and professional courage and published their paper and book on the Israel lobby. They have been smeared again and again in the last two years. Kill the messenger…

28 Responses

  1. Charles Keating
    March 3, 2008, 7:39 pm

    "I'm a U.S. Senator. I'm not an Israel senator.I'm a U.S. Senator. I support Israel… But my first interest is, I take an oath to the constitution of the United States."

    No surviving U S Presidential candidate dares to say this. That says everything. Watch the general elections, this statement will not come forth. Draw your own conclusions.

  2. samuel burke
    March 3, 2008, 7:57 pm

    "I'm a U.S. Senator. I'm not an Israel senator.I'm a U.S. Senator. I support Israel… But my first interest is, I take an oath to the constitution of the United States." Huh.

    It sounds like they tried to give the 'U.S. Senator" a lashing.
    I almost cant believe he stood his ground, you wouldnt expect that from one of our elected american Senators or congressmen who rose to their positions through the vote of a trusting citizenry.

    when will they show their allegience to the constitution of their nation.

  3. samuel burke
    March 3, 2008, 9:16 pm

    Can Omert be prosecuted for hate speech?
    isn't this remark by him a textbook example of hate speech by fearmongering.

    Israel cannot stand on the sidelines and watch Iran attain offensive nuclear capabilities, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday, forging an implied link between the Iranian regime and the Third Reich during a special Knesset session to mark International Holocaust Memorial Day.

  4. patrick
    March 3, 2008, 9:30 pm

    I don't know the date of the quote, but I would wager that it was after his last election (Hagel's retiring from the Senate). Senator Fritz Hollings spoke the truth…. after he announced he would not run for re-election.

    It's easy to speak up after one's political career is over. However, it is good to see the subject is being discussed.

  5. paul malfara
    March 3, 2008, 10:02 pm


    Not only is your point accurate, we can continue the thread and say that Hagel will be criticized and derided in the Mainstream Media from now until and after his retirement. They will try to portray him as an Anti-Semite, or better yet, they will make him disappear.


  6. Dylan Waco
    March 3, 2008, 11:21 pm

    I have an advanced copy of the book, though I admit that I haven't touched it. From the looks of things it seems rather establishmentarian, though you know what they say about judging a book by its cover. If you are interested in taking a look at it before it comes out, shoot me an email Phil.


  7. Glenn Condell
    March 3, 2008, 11:56 pm

    'No surviving U S Presidential candidate dares to say this. That says everything.'

    Not so long ago Hagel was himself being talked about as a potential candidate, before disappearing into the ether. Is this comment one of the reasons?

  8. neocognitism
    March 4, 2008, 2:07 am

    Philip, would you please write about the AIPAC trial? It's about to start and the lead prosecutor just quit. Regardless, people need to know about AIPAC, and since this is the most important blog in America…

  9. Jewlatto
    March 4, 2008, 5:01 am

    "As Americans increasingly seek new religions, building walls won't work"

    SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — A study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that Americans are switching religions more than ever. As many as one of every two adults does not practice the religion in which they were born or raised.

    …As an aging religious group, it is time for Jews to take heed of the changes affecting religion in America because they are Americans, too, and no major trend passes them by…

    At a time when other religious groups are seeking adherents and promoting their religious faiths, Jewish organizations and institutions generally are so afraid of decline and loss that they turn inwards. The result, however, is that these very insular approaches end up ensuring that decline and loss occur.

    The reason is that Jews, like other Americans, crave free choice. We are more likely to retain more people because they feel they want to be Jews, not because they have to be.

    The Jewish communal response to this expression of religious freedom is locked somewhere in another time or place — Europe and North Africa in the 1700s, for example. We keep having the same tired discussions about “preventing intermarriage” or “strengthening Jewish identity” or saving the Jews from assimilation with the right kind of, or enough, Jewish education.

    Again and again we respond with rhetoric, ideas and programs that circle round and round in the same orbit — how do we keep Jews in? Hundreds of years of discrimination, violence and murder take a huge toll. They create a psychology of fear that results in Jewish isolation, a construct of us and them, insiders and outsiders, Jews and enemies. And with unabashed and straight-faced boldness, as if no one else is listening, we ask how do we keep strangers — meaning all non-Jews — out of our families, out of our synagogues. Out.

    We don’t want to be part of the marketplace of religious ideas and practices, thank you, we just want to be left alone to marry each other and keep everybody inside, safe and secure.

    This of course is an illusion.

    Still, we fantasize that if we inoculate our young people with enough Jewish education, then they will reject the 98 percent of other Americans they might fall in love with or not be attracted to Zen Buddhism. What nonsense. We all have seen the numbers to prove that the head in the sand, return to the ghetto and hope the gentile will go away strategy is not going to work. No number of day schools or summer camps is going to turn back the clock on religious freedom and competition.

    It is time for Jews to join every other group in America and quit obsessing about who is being lost and start acting on who might come in. Right now it is largely a one-way street because we cling to dangerously obsolete ideas, attitudes and practices about conversion. We do not welcome people with open arms but rather we stiff-arm. We still question people’s sincerity — do they really want to be Jewish? We make people jump through hoops. Those who convert have to be persistent enough to batter down the barriers.

    Yes, of course we need standards and procedures — and to say that making Judaism more accessible means abandoning rules of admission is a straw argument to cover up how suspicious, off-putting and unfriendly we often are to those who want to be part of the Jewish people.

    Openness and excitement do not mean that learning and ritual requirements to become a Jew should be abandoned. Just the opposite is the case. Spiritual seekers are looking for meaning, content and purpose. Becoming a Jew can be a deeply intellectual and emotional experience, and spiritual seekers are willing to engage in rigorous education about Jewish life, rituals of conversion and rites of passage to become a Jew.

    Some rabbis do a great job in dealing with potential converts; many do not. Our synagogues often are less welcoming than we think. And our newspapers, sermons and sociological literature are filled with hysterical reprimands and dire predictions about the demise of the Jews that result from gentiles breaking through our traditional walls. How welcoming do we think it is when we say we wish our sons or daughters would have married someone else, but as long as you are here, we will try and be nice to you?

    We have a theology that has no intermediary between the individual and God. That is appealing. We have a set of daily, monthly and yearly rituals that provide guidance and purpose. That is appealing. We have rich liturgy, beautiful prayers, deep roots in Israel, a strong communal system. All appealing. By being attractive to others, we will also be more attractive to born Jews. What are we afraid of?

    We are checkmated by our own notion of ourselves that Jews don’t do that — we don’t compete for newcomers. Maybe Jews in 18th century Poland did not — and with good reason. It brought the wrath of the church and the state on them.

    But this is 21st century America, not 18th century Poland or 20th century Germany. Pew tells us that Americans are switching religions like never before. Do we want to enter the competition armed with our wonderful 3,000-year-old history, or kvetch about assimilation, intermarriage and our dwindling numbers?

    Those who choose to join the Jewish people will enrich us with their ideas, energy and passion. And born Jews who choose to embrace their Judaism in an open marketplace also will enrich Jewish life. It is time to embrace the America in which we live. We must abandon the paradigm that our children and grandchildren are potential gentiles and promote the new belief that America is filled with potential Jews.

    Gary Tobin is the president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco and writes frequently about American and Jewish philanthropy.

  10. Richard Witty
    March 4, 2008, 5:22 am

    One of the great features of Judaism, is that it is NOT a marketplace religion. It does not actively seek converts, by persuasion or by force.

    It is not Christianity, not Islam.

    The Jewish religion IS of Jewish community.

    To the extent that the Jewish state is valid in the eyes of the religious, is because it protects Jewish community (not Jewish values marketing). NOt because of empire.

    Even when I was an avid yoga practitioner, I was a Jewish one.

    Zionism is valid because the horse AND the cart is Jewish community. It exists to protect and gather a nation (a social nation, more than a geographic one).

  11. Richard Witty
    March 4, 2008, 5:33 am

    How about criticize the message and messenger?

    Or are you Walt/Mearsheimer right or wrong, Phil?

  12. Charles Keating
    March 4, 2008, 6:42 am

    Correct. Judaism is not an abstract religion in the sense of Christianity or Islam. It is of this world, not the alleged next one. Most Americans do not know this. A rabbi once defined it repeatedly in a class I took as "a portable culture." He was a big fan of Maimomides (sic?) and stressed Vico's cyclical theory of history in combination with Hegel's dialetics. The old testament conflates the tribe's version of its own temporal history with theology. I asked him, "what would Judiasm be without its anthropomorphisms?"

    The large ethnic portion of being a Jew is underlined by the fact one can be a Jew yet be an atheist or principled agnostic.

    he law of return echoes the Nuremberg Laws. The free marketplace of ideas is itself an idea, an ideal. There's always a thumb on the scale. The horse and cart must first be made separately. Ditto the chariot and its horses. Humanism or universalism depends on individualism. The right balance between liberty and community. Towards heaven on earth. What the horse and cart take away or push forward–the devil's always in the details.

  13. Jim Haygood
    March 4, 2008, 7:00 am

    "Zionism is valid because the horse AND the cart is Jewish community. It exists to protect and gather a nation (a social nation, more than a geographic one)."

    A complete non sequitur. Nearly everyone belongs to a community of some kind. Does entitle the community to arm themselves and start dispossessing their neighbors? Even GW Bush could spot the flaw in this logic.

  14. Richard Witty
    March 4, 2008, 7:33 am

    Judaism has been a social nation for the whole period of its exile.

    Following WW2, a prevailing number became convinced that it needed to be a landed nation to be a safe social nation.

    Ultimately, ALL nations are social. States are geographical.

  15. Charles Keating
    March 4, 2008, 8:19 am

    And some states have a constitution and bill of rights, and some do not. Some separate religion and state, some do not. Most who do not do not trumpet their democracy to the world.

  16. Richard Witty
    March 4, 2008, 8:19 am

    How many other lobbies take assertive positions with Congressmen?

    I've OFTEN heard of threats made by every lobby under the sun to Congress, even those that the left supports.

    A Congress-person saying to a lobbyist, "don't even try to push me around", is not news.

    It is necessary for you to apply some sense of proportion and reasonableness, Phil.

  17. Charles Keating
    March 4, 2008, 8:24 am

    The geography of the state of Israel has been/is disputed.

    So, Israel is a state like any other, a community like any other, a geographical area like any other? Exceptionalism is a two-way
    sword, no?

  18. Richard Witty
    March 4, 2008, 8:54 am

    Israel's borders are disputed, and they should be resolved confidently, so that there is concensus as to the status of Israel.

    And, it should renounce expansion.

  19. Charles Keating
    March 4, 2008, 9:14 am

    Whie a Congress-person saying to a lobbyist, "don't even try to push me around", is not news, when the lobbyist is pushing the usual AIPAC line, it is news of the first order. Phil is applying the correct historical sense of proportion.

  20. Val
    March 4, 2008, 9:46 am

    I second the request for Phil to write about AIPAC just don't forget about Sibel Edmonds- link to
    Remembering Hagels words don't forget about Gaza or Syria and Iran – link to
    Witty bores the socks of us explaining judaism/zionism. Hey man, you're zionism is getting our guys killed, it's targetting countries to safeguard Israeli supremacy in the ME. To keep the one guiding question that keeps us all locked up in our own country. What's good for the jews. Hagel tried to explain to your people what they think is good for them isn't. Before i give a crap about what you think is good for you, do you ever stop to wonder what is good for the gentiles or what it is we want.
    I don't know anymore if centuries of discrimination you used to excuse everything is historical or more hysterical crap. How do we know what happened then when your people wont allow us to know what is happening now, using every smoke and mirror tactic known to man. You own the goddam media.

  21. Richard Witty
    March 4, 2008, 10:41 am

    "Whie a Congress-person saying to a lobbyist, "don't even try to push me around", is not news, when the lobbyist is pushing the usual AIPAC line, it is news of the first order. Phil is applying the correct historical sense of proportion. "

    How is it news? Its selective agitation.

    Some select it because they feel exagerated guilt by association, some because they hate Jews and seek every opportunity to stick it to them.

    If you are prinicipled in reducing the effect of lobbies in general on Congress, that is one effort. When ONLY AIPAC (not even) is singled out as influencing, its something else.

    Don't prove Dershowitz right.

  22. David
    March 4, 2008, 10:54 am

    The latest from your "favorite newspaper"
    Suck it, Phil

    link to

  23. Charles Keating
    March 4, 2008, 11:34 am

    Ignoring indirect lobbyists, there are over 156,000 registered lobbyists in D.C. And, 500 plus congress persons. I don't think
    that's what the founding fathers had in mind when they gave us
    the right to petition the government. The average American wouldn't even get to the door of a congress person. Commerical speech is a low level of free speech; all lobbists should be curtailed. Most lobbyists do not advocate foreign policy. Here's where we need the most transparency. Let's limit campaign donations to individuals.

    As implemented, all news is selective agitation when it's not simply entertainment or commerical propaganda.

    So, the motives of Witty's "selected agitation" are exagerated guilt by association or hatred of Jews, the lust for every opportunity to stick it to them?

    Quite an either/or world view.

    Yes, Dershowitz has moved far right from his old days.

  24. Richard Witty
    March 4, 2008, 12:06 pm

    Dershowitz sited that one element of distinguishing anti-semitism from legitimate criticism and dissent, is the degree to which criticism is directed ONLY at Israel, not applied according to principles where the principles are evident, and not articulating the principles by which the judgements are made.

    That rings true to me.

    Dissent is not served by bigotry. Its not served by subtler selective agitation.

    Its obscured by those.

    It takes CARE to dissent well.

  25. Charles Keating
    March 4, 2008, 2:52 pm

    When USA politicians and MSM brag about our special relationship with Israel; both they and Israel brag about Israel as the only real democracy in the Middle East, and such approach has resulted in so many billions of US tax dollers going to Israel year after year (& to Egypt & Jordan to make nice with Israel), no strings attached when compared to our usual foreign aid packages, and the USA itself is a debtor nation mostly populated increasingly with Have-Nots, on the brink, drowning in interest payments to creditors like undemocratic China and Racist Japan, and the world hates us, it makes no sense to question if this situation is in the USA's national interest anymore than, say, what's the story with Kosovo? Now, isn't that special.

  26. Charles Keating
    March 4, 2008, 3:13 pm

    And notice I didn't even mention who got us into Iraq, and now want us to attack Iran.

    Some things deserve more focus than others. Laws continually discriminate in the ostensible interest of the greater, wider good.
    Policy is certainly no exception, whether domestic or foreign policy. Foreign aid as well. BTY, Ron Paul has the most consistent principle on foreign policy and he articulates application accordingly. The other candidates play favorites and withold vital information from the taxpayer and soldier. Dershowitz went from attacking our support for S. Africa to defending Israeli apartheid. The old Dershowitz would have pointed out Albanians formed their own volunteer Nazi units to ship off all of Kosovo’s Jews to Bergen Belsen, and that Serbs died with Jews in the same concentration camps that resulted in the birth of the Jewish state. The revised Dershowitz would blame the Serbs for WW1 AND WW2. Israel has good relations with the Serbs, and doesn't want the Palestinians to unilaterally declare themselves a state. Or maybe not– Who's the underdog?

  27. Gene
    March 5, 2008, 12:25 am

    Witty: "The Jewish religion IS of Jewish community."

    I sometimes wonder if you take classes in making yourself obscure. Or are you merely saying, as the rest of your post seems to illustrate, that Jews should not let gentiles convert lest they contaminate the Jewish genepool with their inferior gentile blood?

  28. Charles Keating
    March 5, 2008, 9:24 am

    The Zionist conceptualization of an unchanging Jewish ethno-national group (Volk) that has existed from time immemorial and that maintains blood-and-soil historic rights to Palestine. This primordialist essentialism is the exact Zionist counterpart of the German Nazi idea of an unchanging German people that has existed from time immemorial and that maintains blood-and-soil historic rights to places where German peoples (including ancient Teutonic and Germanic tribes) live or have lived in the past even if no or very few modern Germans have lived there in recent times. link to

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