Party of "We Hatez Everything About Obama" Still Not Done. Chuck Hagel is Next.11:12 pm - 12/20/2012
Smearing Hagel, Ctd
Bill Kristol lost the last presidential election; and the one before that. He was responsible in part for fomenting the Iraq War (and still doesn't take any personal responsibility for the catastrophe and countless innocent deaths that war led to) - and president Obama is president in part because he opposed it. Kristol believes in torture; president Obama ended the war crimes of his predecessor. Kristol believes Greater Israel should always be backed by the US - including its neo-fascist ethnic social engineering on the West Bank, now once again put on steroids by its unhinged prime minister, essentially ending any pretense of good faith with its European allies. President Obama supports the
long-standing US view that there should be a two-state solution, along 1967 lines with land swaps. Kristol supports illegal settlements.
And yet here we have this ad, seen above, and an orchestrated campaign (you think Hiatt didn't get the memo or didn't even need to?) to dictate the policy and cabinet picks of the newly elected president. You ask: where do they get the gall? The "Emergency Committee For Israel", which sponsors the ad, contains in its very name a distillation of the paranoia and fantasy that is undermining a sane foreign policy for the United States, while supporting every suicidal, tribal, fundamentalist tendency in an increasingly isolated and fundamentalist Israel. Politico helpfully reminds us that
ECI was among the most aggressive conservative voices against Obama during the 2012 presidential campaign.
So why does he think he can get another scalp from yet another smear? And the answer is, as they say, "in front of one's nose." Because he operates on the premise that policy toward Greater Israel is not something that a president should have any serious control over. Policy in that respect is set in Congress aided and abetted by AIPAC and batshit crazy Christianist Zionists. Like the NRA, this lethal lobby will destroy any politician it can who stands in its way. It will also try to destroy the careers and reputations of any who criticize it. Nothing exemplifies this more clearly than the chilling, and repulsive headline in Kristol's own magazine when launching this character assassination:
The Chuck Hagel Controversy
Goldblog wasn't planning on covering the controversy surrounding the so-far theoretical nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense, because it is, after all, theoretical, and because I think the situation is much more complex than both right and left think believe it to be, and who wants to get into it right now? I'm into enough at the moment.
But then I received an email being circulated among Jewish liberals who support Hagel, and it provoked me to think through some of the deeper issues here. The point of the aforementioned e-mail was to argue that Hagel is, in fact, "pro-Israel," and it provides a list of the various times he's voted for this or that on behalf of Israel in the Senate. "Senator Hagel cosponsored the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006," for instance. "The bill, which became US law, declared it U.S. policy to oppose organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah..." And so on.
What struck me as unusual about the list is that it was framed as a response to right-wing criticism. It did not advance arguments you would expect to hear from the Left, but tried to mollify the Right. It contained nothing like, "Hagel is adamant in his support for a settlement freeze," or somesuch; the letter was designed to say, in effect, "Don't worry, Hagel is actually closer ideologically to Lindsey Graham than you think."
About Hagel himself, I have mixed feelings: He is a patriot, and a smart and pleasant man (I've met him on a couple of occasions) and if he's anti-Semitic, he went about hiding this from me pretty well. I think, based on what I've read, that he has harbored very naive views about Iran and Hezbollah (whether he still harbors them I don't know) and that he's not particularly sentimental about Israel. He has also accrued some unfortunate supporters, including and especially the scapegoater Stephen Walt, but Hagel can't be blamed for this. The most troubling question about Hagel's potential nomination for some people concerns what it would mean about Obama's views on Iran. I've come to the conclusion (I came to it long ago) that Obama is serious when he says all options are on the table, and he might be so serious, in fact, that it wouldn't matter if his national security adviser was Zbigniew Brzezinski. Hagel, no matter how far he's moved, hasn't moved as far as Obama has on the issue. But I'm not sure Hagel's position in this argument is overly relevant, even if he's sitting by the president's side. And who better to sell the president's militant Iran position than someone who comes from the realist camp? I really don't think he would be able to influence the president away from the stand he has taken.
Anyway, it's not Hagel's record itself that prompts me to write. The strategy advanced by the pro-Hagel Jewish Left is a fine political strategy, I suppose, and I wouldn't bother commenting on it, except that I just read that the Israeli political party HaBayit HaYehudi (the Jewish Home) is now poised to become one of the the country's biggest parties. It might, in fact, be the third-largest party in the next Knesset.
The Jewish Home party advances an ideology that will bring about the destruction (the self-destruction) of Israel. The Jewish Home party seeks to erase the dividing line between Israel and the West Bank; it seeks to build more and more settlements; it seeks to absorb the West Bank's Arabs into Israel as, at the most, second-class citizens. It seeks to empower Orthodox religious nationalism as the dominant ideology of the state
How does this relate to Hagel? This is how: Maybe, at this point, what we need are American officials who will speak with disconcerting bluntness to Israel about the choices it is making. If the Jewish Home party becomes a key part of Netanyahu's right-wing ruling coalition, you can be assured that there will not compromise coming in the forseeable future (it's almost impossible to forsee compromise now.) Maybe the time has come to redefine the term "pro-Israel" to include, in addition to providing support against Iran (a noble cause); help with the Iron Dome system (also a noble cause); and support to maintain Israel's qualitiative military edge (ditto), the straightest of straight talk about Israel's self-destructive policies on the West Bank. Maybe Hagel, who is not bound to old models, could be useful in this regard.
And yes, I write this with some measure of despair.
Chuck Hagel’s Pro-Israel Record
Conservatives seem to have learned from their campaign to block of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s Secretary of State bid that the goal is to go on the attack early, before a nomination is even in place. That’s one explanation for their concerted attack on former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) who is thought to be the top choice to replace Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta when he retires sometime early next year.
The opposition to Hagel is also centered around the premise that he is somehow “anti-Semitic” and anti-Israel and would be unwilling take action against Iran over its nuclear program. But delving into the Senator’s statements, however, it’s clear that Hagel has a long history of pro-Israel sentiment and concern about Iran. The following is a collection of some of Hagel’s public statements on Israel during his time in the Senate:
- “We have always been a strong ally of Israel — since the formation of Israel in 1948. We’ll continue to be a strong ally of Israel.” [10/15/2000]
- “A close friend and ally, Israel, remains threatened by some of its neighbors. Violent Islamic extremism finds refuge in Iraq, Iran, and Syria and seeks to make inroads elsewhere in the region. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remains a threat. [...] Both Israelis and Palestinians have unmet obligations, neither side can justify further inaction. American leadership can push and prod but we cannot force Israelis or Palestinians to negotiate.” [11/15/2005]
- U.S. Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) today sent a letter to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, calling for the United Nations to offer a strong resolution condemning recent statements by Iranian President Mohammed Ahmadinejad and by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ali Khameni threatening the existence of Israel and the United States. [12/21/2005]
- “The United States will remain committed to defending Israel. Our relationship with Israel is a special and historic one. But, it need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice.” [07/30/2006]
Hagel also supported legislation opposing terror groups that reject the two-state solution, voted for a measure expressing solidarity with Israel during the Second Intifada, and cosponsored resolutions lauding the U.S.-Israeli “special relationship.” And Hagel has supported numerous measures to strengthen sanctions on Iran over its nuclear and missile programs.
Just last year, Hagel expressed concern about what Egypt’s revolution would mean for Israel’s security. “Not since the 1967 and 1973 wars in the Middle East have we seen such a dangerous time,” he said on CNN in February, 2011. “But this is even maybe more dangerous because it’s more unpredictable, that the bilateral relationship, the first peace treaty with an Arab country that Israel had and still has and has been very important to Israel’s security has been with Egypt.”
Referring to the charges of anti-Semitism against Hagel, Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, told the New York Times: “It is simply beyond disturbing to think that somebody of Chuck Hagel’s stature and significant record of national service is being slandered in this way.”
Indeed, numerous journalists have come out to defend Hagel against the neocon smears. Here’s the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank criticizing those who point to Hagel’s assertion that there’s a “Jewish lobby” trying to influence members of Congress as evidence that he’s anti-Semitic:
But Kristol, and then others, went further, publishing a passage from a 2008 book in which Hagel is quoted as saying: “The political reality is that . . . the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.”“Using charges of bigotry to, yes, ‘intimidate’ people with whom you disagree about public policy is exactly what drives conservatives batty when it comes to affirmative action, welfare and abortion,” the Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart wrote on Tuesday. “And if they want African Americans, feminists and other liberal groups to assume their good faith on those sensitive subjects, conservatives should extend that same good faith — absent overwhelming evidence — to gentiles who don’t share their enthusiasm for Benjamin Netanyahu.”
That was a dumb phrase — many Christians are pro-Israel and many Jews aren’t — and Hagel said he misspoke (he used the phrase “Israel lobby” elsewhere in the interview). But, as an American Jew who has written about anti-Semitism in political dialogue, I don’t see this as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel. The sentence preceding the quote said that “Hagel is a strong supporter of Israel and a believer in shared values.”