The Hagel nomination means that people are at last arguing about the power of the Israel lobby in the mainstream press. Hagel’s confirmation hearing offers the likelihood that senators will be arguing about the definition of the term “Jewish lobby”–and it seems inevitable that the New York Times and MSNBC will have to talk about Zionism inside Jewish life, who’s a Zionist and who isn’t, and when and why the ideology enveloped the community wholesale, and what sense does Zionism make in 2013? Some of the discussion…
Below, two members of the Israel lobby are outraged by Hagel’s suggestion that the lobby bullies (not to say bribes) its way to influence over policy. These men argue that the American people just love Israel without needing to have their representatives lobbied. Ari Fleischer at CNN:
Israel is widely supported by the American people because Israel deserves to be supported. Israel is a lonely democratic ally and a steady friend of the United States in a dangerous and tumultuous region. Their people are like the American people — free, independent, capitalistic and tolerant…….Contrary to Hagel’s logic, Israel doesn’t enjoy widespread American support because anyone — from any faith — intimidated someone else; Israel earned the support of the American people because of its people’s values…I’m a New Yorker and neither of my senators — Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand — supports Israel because someone muscled them into that position through intimidation. They both support Israel because the lobby that wants them to support Israel is an American lobby, made up of people from both parties and all religions and from people with no religion or political party at all.
while Colin Powell may find the term “Israeli lobby” slipping out from time to time, he really should restrict it to Israelis or those working for the government of Israel. The rest of us–a majority of Americans–are just pro-Israel.
In what could be a crucial moment in the Obama administration’s efforts to advance the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, he will meet this week with Senator Charles E. Schumer, the most influential Jewish member of the Senate, who is expected to press Mr. Hagel on issues concerning Iran and Israel.
Mr. Schumer is also suspicious of comments by Mr. Hagel that seem to support a strategy of containment, in which the United States would accept Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon while seeking to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Mr. Hagel might need to fully reject that strategy in order to bring his position in line with President Obama’s and Mr. Schumer’s. During his race against Mitt Romney last year, Mr. Obama took a more forceful position against Iran………
Mr. Schumer will seek reassurances that Mr. Hagel now considers Hezbollah and Hamas to be terrorist groups, the person familiar with his plans said.
But the US talked to the Sunni insurgents in Iraq back in 2007–terrorists who participated in suicide bombings!
I have to believe that Chris Matthews will soon do segments on the Israel lobby, though he will try to limit the discussion to the rightwing Zionist lobby–the neoconservatives who want Israel to have the West Bank. The truth is that the Israel lobby includes all those who argue for a special relationship with Israel in which there are never consequences to its human rights violations. In that sense, the lobby includes Chris Matthews himself, who regularly professes love for Israel– and remember, David Cohen, executive vice president of MSNBC’s parent, Comcast, has said that Israel was a top priority in his own family and that link is to an award he got from an organization that has participated in the ethnic cleansing of Israel.
Yet Matthews is honest and tough, and he will at least have to look at the settlement program– and how it got wide support in both parties, to the extent that even Obama vetoed a Security Council resolution to condemn settlements. In the Los Angeles Times, Shashank Bengali describes this political reality:
[Hagel supporters] say he’s been the victim of a U.S. political landscape that has become not only more partisan but less tolerant of criticism of Israel. Particularly on the Republican side of the aisle, unwavering support for Israeli policies has become a litmus test over the last decade.
“The debate about the U.S. relationship with Israel has certainly moved to the right,” said Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat who served alongside Hagel in the Senate until 2001. “You could oppose settlements in the 1990s,” he said, referring to Israelis building on land beyond Israel’s 1968 borders. “Not anymore.”
Matthews could also put on Uri Avnery, who writes that nearly all US senators are “Israeli senators:”
HOWEVER, HAGEL’S most heinous sin is not often mentioned. While serving as the Republican senator for Nebraska, he once uttered the unspeakable words: “I am an American senator, not an Israeli senator!”
That is really the crux of the matter.
US senators are nearly all Israeli senators. Ditto for US congressmen. Hardly any of them would dare to criticize the Israeli government on any issue, negligible as it may be. Criticizing Israel is political suicide. Not only does the Jewish lobby use its huge resources to get loyal pro-Israelis elected and re-elected, but it openly employs these resources to unseat the few elected officials who dare to criticize Israel. They almost always succeed.
Speaking of huge resources, Chris Matthews’s boss isn’t the only powerful American who is in love with Israel. I noticed John Kerry, soon to be our next Secretary of State, in the owner’s box at the New England Patriots’ victory yesterday. Sitting a row behind Robert Kraft, the Pats’ owner. Of course Kerry is a Massachusetts Senator. But it bears mentioning that Kraft is a leading promoter of Israel, supports Israeli football, backs a fund that sends Jewish teenagers to Israel through the Combined Jewish Philanthropies. His late wife’s name is on that fund too; she once said that her sons could fight for Israel, but she didn’t want them fighting for the U.S.
The Israel lobby is enmeshed in the American establishment and, yes it draws on Jewish community ideals– a belief that Zionism was a Jewish liberation movement. The only way Jews will be freed of this mistaken understanding is through open discussion. Because when there’s open discussion, Americans will not support Jim Crow and apartheid– Americans of all faiths. (Thanks to Annie Robbins)