Hagel and the lobby, the unending non-story

on 28 Comments

How large a factor was Chuck Hagel’s criticism of Israel in the Republican Senate filibuster that successfully delayed his nomination to be Secretary of Defense yesterday? Here are some news reports on the battle touching on the Israel lobby’s role. Some suppress it, some address it directly.

Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post says Israel is a big factor, and the nomination is a battle over a more realist foreign policy:

“A number of senators have serious concerns with his lack of experience leading such a massive bureaucracy, in addition to his position on Iran and Israel,” said one GOP strategist. “And in some ways, this is part of a broader debate and effort to draw attention to the administration’s policies in the Middle East.  The longer this nomination is drawn out, the more attention is given to those issues.”

Todd Zwillich on PBS News Hour is also fairly direct about the Israel issue bulking large:

There are senators on the right who are asking questions about Chuck Hagel’s speeches over the years. What did he say in these speeches? Did he give more incendiary statements about Israel, about the Jewish lobby in Israel controlling the State Department, statements preferable to Iran?…

There is an understanding on Capitol Hill that the next 10 days will be for the real staunch conservative opponents of Chuck Hagel to go through those speeches that I mentioned, go through some of his past statements — there are videos, more videos coming out — to look for more incendiary statements.

Now, so far, Chuck Hagel saying less-than-nice things about the government or Israel or the influence of Israel on our diplomats, that’s things — those are things that people in Washington do not like to hear, but they are not new. So, Hagel gets in if, over the next 10 days, as Lindsey Graham said a couple times today — unless there’s a bombshell over the next 10 days, I will vote to go ahead with this nomination and Hagel will get through, not with his vote, but Hagel will get through.

So then the question is, who’s going to look for the bombshell and will they find it?

MSNBC says not a word about the Israel lobby. “First thoughts” from the MSNBC political team, on “The five lessons we’ve learned from the Hagel fight.”

… 1) Political betrayal is a worse sin than being a member of the opposing party… 2) Getting 60 votes remains the standard in the Senate… 3) Confirmation hearings DO matter… 4) For Republicans, when in doubt just say “Benghazi”… 5) Hagel has been wounded… Obama travels to GA to press for universal pre-K… The two splits inside the GOP… Building a better “likely voter model”… And don’t count on the “six-year itch.”

MJ Rosenberg says it’s all about Israel, “The Israel Racket,” and don’t let anybody fool you. Yes, the lobby pretended to be neutral, AIPAC laid low (as Elliott Abrams gaslighted us the other day on WNYC), but that’s bull:

If AIPAC decided that, as a lobby dedicated to the interests of Israel, it is inappropriate to dictate who is fit to be in charge of U.S. national security, all it would have to do is pick up the phone. It doesn’t do that. It chooses to keep the Hagel onslaught going in order to show who is in charge. “This is what we can do.” No doubt that message has been received in all the right places.

There is nothing to laugh about in any of this.

Nor is it funny that the media and blogosphere remain so terrified of the lobby’s power that virtually no journalists are telling their readers or viewers that the only issue that is holding up Hagel’s confirmation is that he is considered insufficiently devoted to the interests of the Netanyahu government.

Contrast this to the media’s handling of AIPAC’s twin, the National Rifle Association, which, powerful as it is, cannot intimidate the media into silence or anything even close to it. AIPAC can definitely teach the NRA a thing or two.

Then there’s the “Friends of Hamas” smear, that organizations with which Hagel was associated received money from such a group. David Weigel at Slate on the fiction, and how much traction it got. Notice the inherent logic of the smear, boldfaced:

… after the Atlantic Council released a list of funders, “Friends of Hamas” was nowhere on it. The point of the accusation is that Hagel has criticized Israel, so it’s only natural to ask if he’s receiving laundered terror money. As the Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney put it in the Washington Times: “At this writing and absent the requested disclosure, it cannot be determined whether Mr. Hagel is literally associated with the ‘friends’ of a designated terrorist organization. The mere fact, though, that it seems entirely plausible — given the nominee’s record of hostility toward Israel and his affinity for its enemies (including Hamas’ longtime sponsor, Iran) — his refusal to make the sort of disclosure expected of all Cabinet appointees should be the last straw for Senate Republicans and Democrats alike.”
But the “Friends” accusation goes further than that. It supposes that a pro-terror group exists, and further supposes that the non-existent group would back Hagel somehow. This morning I wrote [Ben] Shapiro to clear up the accusation. “Have you found any more proof that this group exists?” I asked. “Is it just shorthand for some people who might support Hagel, or a real group?” [Shapiro offers no such proof]


Amazing that no one has brought up (beside Max Blumenthal, who sent it to me), the fact that the source of this fiction, Ben Shapiro, has the most primeval ideas about Jews and Palestinians. This argument for wholesale ethnic cleansing (from 2003) speaks for itself:

In the short term, the establishment of a “Palestinian state” based in Judea, Samaria and Gaza cuts Israel to the bone. …

there is certainly room in the spacious Muslim states of the Middle East for 5 million Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. If Germans, who had a centuries-old connection to the newly created Polish territory, could be expelled, then surely Palestinians, whose claim to Judea, Samaria and Gaza is dubious at best, can be expelled.

It’s time to stop being squeamish. Jews are not Nazis. Transfer is not genocide. And anything else isn’t a solution.

And this guy gets a hearing? Wow. From Rand Paul, among others. Daniel Larison at American Conservative:

Instead, Paul endorsed one of the worst, least credible anti-Hagel arguments of all, which is essentially the Ted Cruz argument that Hagel needs to “prove” that he is not in league with foreign governments or sympathetic with terrorists.

Update: More on the failure to directly address the lobby issue. WNYC host Brian Lehrer discussed Hagel this morning with Steven Dennis of CQ/Roll Call. Per my friend Ilene Cohen:

“No mention of Israel, just vague comment about the Middle East. Lehrer repeated several times that the hearing showed Hagel to be ‘incompetent.’ (Nothing about the crowd on the committee.) He kept asking why Obama chose and is sticking with Hagel– and concluded that they share a worldview about war with Iran, nuclear weapons. Lehrer had no information on Hagel’s history and background, the smart, if controversial, things he has had the courage to say (about Iran, about Israel–beyond the Aaron David Miller quote), etc. You’d have no idea from Lehrer’s report how concerned so many of the smart bloggers are about the Republicans; Lehrer made them sound reasonable. He asked his guest whether the Republicans might, with the extra time, not come up with something. The guest was quite skeptical. I have to conclude, though I can’t prove it, that this was subtle or unconscious Israel lobby stuff in Lehrer’s head–because he doesn’t talk about the outsize place of Israel that has dominated this story from its beginning in December (and including the 178 references at the hearing). Instead, he undermines the Hagel case by sounding reasonable, rather than like a Jennifer Rubin or the Emergency Committee for Israel.”

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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28 Responses

  1. Kathleen
    February 15, 2013, 11:15 am

    Great post Phil. Think you are going to be interested in what Beinart, McCaskill and Lugar had to say about the Hagel hang up on Hardball the other night. Think it was last night/Thursday

    Yep last night
    Kathleen February 14, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    tonight on Hardball Beinart said those who oppose the Hagel nomination are “waiting for a shoe to drop”

    McCaskill brings up that Hagel had not endorsed McCain for President. Then they have a clip of former Senator Lugar who talks about the intensity of the resentment towards Hagel.

    link to nbcnews.com

    Phil would be great if Chris Matthews ever did a segment on how many Jewish people have been stepping up to the plate on the Israeli Palestinian conflict and have you Adam, Alex, Annie on his program. Show the public the shift on this issue on his program. Enough of Beinart although he is well spoken but so is the Mondoweiss team

    Chris closed the program by saying “the jackals are on the streets tonight”

    Go over to the Hardball blog at least a couple of times a week. Made another appeal to Chris to have the Mondoweiss team on. He needs to be brave enough to show there is a shift that has been happening among the American Jewish community the last five to 10 years.

  2. Dan Crowther
    February 15, 2013, 11:21 am

    I think more people would be interested in the “defense” of Hagel if he didn’t come off as such a coward in front of the armed services committee.

    I still think “Israel” is really just code for “macho foreign policy.”

    That one question, “do you support Israel?” is pretty loaded – if you do, you support colonialism, exploitation, might over right and totally irrational belief systems like Zionism, American Exceptionalism etc etc. Unfortunately, this is a well represented group within our politics, but in my opinion, it goes past just Israel.

    • Citizen
      February 15, 2013, 12:37 pm

      Well, yes, Dan Crowther, it does go past Israel, straight to the reality of campaign finance, the military industrial complex Ike warned us about, and the fact our main media is not doing its basic job of maintaining an informed citizenry when it comes to anything remotely connected to Israel.

      • Dan Crowther
        February 15, 2013, 1:48 pm

        “main media is not doing its basic job of maintaining an informed citizenry when it comes to anything remotely connected to Israel.”

        And a host of other issues, some much more important to Americans.

      • James Canning
        February 15, 2013, 2:22 pm

        Citizen – – Yes, military-industrial-congressional complex. Ike was perusaded by his press secretary to delete the “congressional” portion of the descriptive adjective.

    • seanmcbride
      February 15, 2013, 1:14 pm

      Dan Crowther,

      One presumes that you have noticed that many members of the American political establishment, power elite and national security community have lined up in strong support of Chuck Hagel and are furious about the attacks on Hagel?

    • Kathleen
      February 15, 2013, 2:43 pm

      I don’t think that would have been the way Hagel would have normally reacted to such insane and vicious attacks if had not been asked to roll over at this hearing by Obama. Forget who wrote about this but makes sense. Clearly he was asked to roll over did he roll to far I think so but hey what are you going to do if the Prez who has nominated ask you to take the hit?

      • Blank State
        February 16, 2013, 1:43 pm

        “…..what are you going to do if the Prez who has nominated ask you to take the hit?”

        Hopefully, you would adhere to your convictions, and refuse to enter the donkey’s stable, no matter who asked you to. Instead, Hagel crawled under the donkey like an obedient factotum, assuming the task asked of him. It was sickening and debasing, and hardly deserving of our respect. Do you honestly think that his confirmation will foreshadow his exit from the donkey’s stall?

        No way. He Hagel shown us the mettle, or lack thereof, of this administration. Obama has thrown in the towel, and Hagel would not be in the position he is in if he wasn’t willing to go along with the game plan. All we can expect in the next four years is more of the same spineless cow-towing to Israel that Obama exhibited in his first four years, and Hagel will be the obedient concubine to policy.

  3. HarryLaw
    February 15, 2013, 11:26 am

    There is no smoke without fire, the more ridiculous the accusation the better, Hagel running guns to Hezbollah or being financed by “Friends of Hamas” will do. AIPAC will be working behind the scenes watching how everyone votes on this, it does not look good for Hagel.

  4. American
    February 15, 2013, 12:30 pm

    If there is one thing I am tired of hearing about it is ‘Jewish People’s Self Determination’.

    There is no Jewish ‘people’—-no Jewish ethnic— no Jewish race—no Jewish DNA—no unique group—-there is nothing but a collection of people of a religion…all the rest is myth. A caucasian Jew in Europe does not and has never shared a ‘peoplehood’ with Black Jews in Africa or Asian Jews in China…..all they share is a religion.

    Shlomo Sands
    ‘According to Sand, the description of the Jews as a wandering and self-isolating nation of exiles, “who wandered across seas and continents, reached the ends of the earth and finally, with the advent of Zionism, made a U-turn and returned en masse to their orphaned homeland,” is nothing but “national mythology.”
    Like other national movements in Europe, which sought out a splendid Golden Age, through which they invented a heroic past – for example, classical Greece or the Teutonic tribes – to prove they have existed since the beginnings of history, “so, too, the first buds of Jewish nationalism blossomed in the direction of the strong light that has its source in the mythical Kingdom of David.”

    So when, in fact, was the Jewish people invented, in Sand’s view? At a certain stage in the 19th century, intellectuals of Jewish origin in Germany, influenced by the folk character of German nationalism, took upon themselves the task of inventing a people “retrospectively,” out of a thirst to create a modern Jewish people.
    From historian Heinrich Graetz on, Jewish historians began to draw the history of Judaism as the history of a nation that had been a kingdom, became a wandering people and ultimately turned around and went back to its birthplace””

  5. Citizen
    February 15, 2013, 12:33 pm

    The Ace card the anti-Hegal crowd has is that the news shows Dick and Jane watch all remain silent on the fact the Hagel showdown is between Israel Firster foreign policy pundits and leaders and the Realist school advocates of US foreign policy.

    Dick and Jane have never heard of Chas Freeman nor of those foreign policy experts with similar Realist, dare I say, classical, foreign policy views, such as those expert people on the panel last January discussing US strategy in the Middle East hosted by the Middle East Policy Council.

    When it comes to anything remotely connected to Israel, the US press is no better than Pravda under the USSR.

    • Castellio
      February 15, 2013, 1:24 pm

      You write the US press is no better than Pravda under the USSR.

      But Pravda served the official government, and even the uninterested Soviet citizen was aware of that. The US press neither serves the official government nor truth, and it manages to maintain discipline and coordination across many so called independent companies. So even the interested American citizen, turning from one bad source to another, ends up confused, angry, and marginalized.

  6. MarkF
    February 15, 2013, 12:48 pm

    This is why I think there will never be true capaign finance reforms or public financing for elections. AIPAC will be at the forefront to squash that noble idea.

    • Citizen
      February 15, 2013, 5:15 pm

      @ MarkF

      An even more fundamental reason there won’t be real campaign finance reform is that earmarks and other “pork” are how any congress critter stays influential no matter voters’ concerns of the moment (partnering with gerrymandering of course). Pork is the source of real power. Congress critters love the big money K Street lobbyists.

      It’s interesting that the most influential lobby in America is one devoted to the best interests of a foreign country even at the expense of America’s best interests. And not even the NRA has the mainstream media on board as AIPAC does, nor does the NRA have any impact beyond America’s borders.

  7. seanmcbride
    February 15, 2013, 1:31 pm

    If Germans, who had a centuries-old connection to the newly created Polish territory, could be expelled, then surely Palestinians, whose claim to Judea, Samaria and Gaza is dubious at best, can be expelled.

    To understand where Ben Shapiro is coming from, be sure to read this:

    “An Open Letter to American Jews”


    • James Canning
      February 16, 2013, 1:36 pm

      How interesting, for someone to argue the Palestinians have a “dubious claim” to their own contry!

  8. James Canning
    February 15, 2013, 2:19 pm

    MJ Rosenberg is of course quite right, that Aipac pretended to be neutral, while behind the scenes doing its best to keep Hagel from Defence.

  9. James Canning
    February 15, 2013, 2:20 pm

    MarkF – – Foolish Citezens United case by US Supreme Court. Corporations can spend unlimited sums on political campaigns.

  10. Kathleen
    February 15, 2013, 2:47 pm

    This morning on the Diane Rehm international hour she allowed two guest to repeat the “Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map” dangerous hooey that Juan Cole (speaks Persian) , Flynt Leveretts have said is one hundred percent inaccurate. This has been going on for close to a decade now that this lie has been repeated on the Rehm show with no challenges and elsewhere in the MSM. Flynt Leverett called Charlie Rose out on this when Rose repeated this lie. Wish one of the accuracy in media groups would take this one on. Follow the neocons first mis interpretation and how many times it has been allowed to be repeated. Diane Rehm has allowed it to be repeated hundreds of times on her program over the last 10 years with absolutely no corrections or challenges

  11. bob
    February 15, 2013, 3:34 pm

    Remember “The Israeli Factor” and Hagel?



  12. Citizen
    February 15, 2013, 6:17 pm

    On Chris Matthews moments ago, he started the show with the Hagel vendetta. Chris says, showing a clip of Cruz, it’s guilt by association, not the American way of vetting high government official wannabes. On video clip Cruz was saying Hagel was backed by Iran, referring to a statement by Iran without quoting it or otherwise showing it. Chris showed the Iranian public announcement which simply, without naming Hagel, said it had hope the new US Defense chief means the US will start showing some respect for other nations.

    Chris then showed a vintage clip of McCarthey attacking Morrow for having communist associations. Then, a clip of Cruz demanding to know why Hagel won’t at least tell congress if he got a specific $200,000 directly from a foreign government, such as Saudi Arabia or North Korea. (LOL)

    Followed by another vintage film clip of McCarthy castigating some guy for being associated by a communist 20 years prior, in 1932–the guy was an ACLU lawyer defending the “red” way back then, it seems.

    Chris observed the demeanor and type of questioning directed by Cruz now and McCarthey then, were similar. Then Chris was amused by Cruz’s suggestion of N Korea as a money connection Hagel may have had. CSM: “Who’s he gonna speak to in N Korea?” (Nothing about his other suggestion, Saudi Arabia–isn’t SA a big ally of the US?)

    CS: “This is McCartheism–looks just like it!”
    Wayne Slater: “They are planting false ideas” by using the McCarthy tactic: Who me? “I’m just asking a question.”

    CS: (The Iranian statement Cruz referenced to show terrorist Iran loves Hagel) ” just said Iran is glad no super hawk. (Chris showed the actual statement, which was bland)

    A woman pundit said Cruz is auditioning to be a variant of Jim Demint, “hoping something will stick–another shoe will drop.”

    A video clip of Cruz showing a short clip of Hagel interview on an Al Jazeera call-in show, where callers had attacked Israel for war crimes. Cruz’s point was that Hagel did not diss the callers or refute what they said about Israeli war crimes. He ignored that in his brief comment to Al Jazeera. Chris then showed a vintage clip of McCarthy attacking somebody for some alleged connection with the Communist Daily Worker.

    Chris then (talking to his female pundit) said Cruz’s tactics were “prosecutorial, not senatorial. I don’t know why–I guess its his Tea Party stuff.”
    Nothing at all about the Israel Lobby as to why. In fact I don’t remember a single mention of the lobby during the entire segment.

  13. Citizen
    February 15, 2013, 6:24 pm

    Now Al Sharpton is yakking about McCain’s part in the Hagel deal. Segment called “Spite Night.” Says it’s all about settling scores with Obama because McCain lost to him. Gov Ed Rendell says that’s right. “It’s clearly about Obama, not Hagel, you’re absolutely right.” Sharpton: Anything Obama is for, McCain is against.

    McCain clip: Obama “doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism.” And “Not a good commander in chief.”

  14. EUR1069
    February 15, 2013, 8:04 pm

    “..Hagel needs to “prove” that he is not in league with foreign governments.” That would be easy. However, for his inquisitors to prove the same would spell disaster.

  15. piotr
    February 15, 2013, 8:35 pm

    I guess we need a citizens’ committee to investigate if Sen. Ted Cruz indeed fellated a donkey?

  16. mcohen
    February 15, 2013, 10:22 pm

    voting machines and talking heads

  17. Felice Gelman
    February 15, 2013, 11:44 pm

    It’s worth thinking about the “special relationship”‘s bearing on Chuck Hagel’s confirmation travails. Do the defense contractors who receive billions of dollars annually in orders from the Israeli military want Chuck Hagel overseeing military spending? Do the companies supplying the US Army Corps of Engineers project of building the Israeli Air Force’s new headquarters (yes, that’s right) think that Chuck might not be a fan of the US building Israel’s military bases for them.? Do the American police departments that use federal grants to send cops to Israel for training think their overseas junkets might be at risk? And I’m sure the list goes on from here.

  18. bilal a
    February 16, 2013, 12:31 am

    Hagel’s visible lobby opposition is the tip of the iceberg. Tikun Olam reports on the activities of the dual nationals , ie the prisoner Xs:


  19. Citizen
    February 16, 2013, 6:19 am

    Stephen Sniegoski: Hagel’s hearings, Iran and Neocons
    Audio Program Type: Interview (35 min)
    Featured Speakers/Commentators: Stephen J. Sniegoski, author of “The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda,
    Contributor: Jeff Blankfort [Contact Contributor]
    Summary: Stephen J. Sniegoski, author of “The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel” (2008) on Hagel hearings, why Obama chose him—to avoid attacking Iran—and if Hagel’s dismal performance significantly damaged his effectiveness if confirmed by Senate. Topics covered include influence of Israel Lobby; its limits on making US foreign policy; role of necons who are thriving; US as ultimate defender of Israel in UN recipe for pessimism. Also GHW Bush, Wm. Safire, James Forrestal, Bobby Ray Inman, Strobe Talbott and USS Liberty.
    Credits: Interviewer, Jeff Blankfort


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