It’s happening. The Hagel nomination is fostering a discussion of Israel policy. Well, the start of one anyway. But it turns out you’re only supposed to be for Israel.
Hagel has denied that he doesn’t love Israel. From Politico:
Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, told the Lincoln Journal-Star he had been “hanging out there in no-man’s land unable to respond to charges, falsehoods and distortions” without the ability to respond while Republicans and foreign policy hawks “completely distorted” his record on Iran and Israel. There is “not one shred of evidence that I’m anti-Israeli, not one [Senate] vote that matters that hurt Israel,” Hagel said.
But so what if he isn’t pro-Israel? The Institute for Middle East Understanding sent out two smart statements, from Yousef Munayyer of the Palestine Center and Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada, on this score.
Munayyer: ‘The most disturbing thing about the debate over Chuck Hagel’s nomination has been the “pro-Israel” framing. Instead of responding to allegations that Hagel is not “pro-Israel” enough by directly refuting them, the proper reaction should be to ask, “so what if he isn’t?” The notion that cabinet officials must be sufficiently pro-Israel to be appointable is one of the reasons the rest of the world doubts our ability to evenhandedly mediate Israeli-Palestinian peace.’
Abunimah:‘To understand how extraordinary this obsession with Israel is, just imagine the uproar if any senator raised objections to a US cabinet nominee over, say their “commitment” to Canada, France or Turkey, even though those countries, unlike Israel, are actually NATO allies.
All Things Considered just aired a segment featuring Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations (who lied to Congress during Iran-Contra), saying that Chuck Hagel appears to be an anti-Semite, for a pattern of comments, about the Jewish lobby and Israel. Host Melissa Block challenged Abrams:
Block: You consider him to be an anti-Semite?
Abrams: I think if you look at the statements by Hagel and then you look at the statements by the Nebraksa Jewish community, about his unresponsiveness to them, his dismissal of them, his hostility to them, I don’t understand really how you can reach any other conclusion, that he seems to have some kind of problem with Jews.
Abrams offered as evidence of anti-Semitism, Hagel’s suggestion that supporters of Israel are not loyal to the United States. Interesting issue. Hagel said to Aaron David Miller:
‘I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli 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 to a party, not to Israel.”
But Abrams wrote in his book Faith or Fear (1997)
Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart–except in Israel–from the rest of the population….
I wish Melissa Block asked Abrams what he meant by that (I tried to ask him when he was in the Bush White House; he never responded). And boy, look at the comments at NPR below. People aren’t on Abrams’s side.
Bob Potter • an hour ago So I guess every person who doesn’t 100% approve of the actions of Israel’s government is an anti-Semite. I guess I’m an anti-Semite too, then.
chuck thompson 38 minutes ago Indeed. I was about to say something very similar. If disagreeing with aggressive Israeli policy, particularly where foreign policy and building settlements are concerned, constitutes antisemitism, then America is far more antisemitic than I ever imagined…. including, I guess, myself.
Zach Stewart • 43 minutes ago Seriously, the charge of “antisemitism” gets thrown at those critical of Israel’s right-wing so much these days, it is starting to not mean anything anymore. With all of his Iran-Contra baggage, Abrams isn’t exactly the go-to guy for smart foreign policy advice either.
Ben Townsend • 4 minutes ago − I listened to the comments from Mr. Abrams with an increasing sense of incredulity. As he attacked Mr. Hagel for being soft on Iran, I could not help but remember that Mr. Abrams himself conspired with others in the Reagan administration to sell US missiles secretly to Iran, in violation of US law. It concerned me that NPR did not note his background more accurately in the story.