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Chuck Hagel, Knifed in the Back by the Lobby

chuck hagel

Chuck Hagel: profile in courage and the Lobby’s worst nightmare

As I wrote a few days ago when many were whispering that Chuck Hagel’s chances of becoming secretary of defense had died, what does it matter whether it’s the Israel lobby or the Jewish lobby?  When you get a knife in the back, it doesn’t matter who’s putting the shiv into you.  In Chuck Hagel’s case, he’s getting stabbed in the back by Aipac and its true believers.  It’s an unsightly, unsavory bunch including Likudists like Jennifer Rubin, Brett Stephens, Bill Kristol, Eli Lake, and Jewish apparatchiks like Abe Foxman.  You won’t see Aipac’s fingerprints on the knife because it doesn’t work that way.  If you’re going to be jumped in a dark alley, Aipac will make sure you can’t see the face of your attacker.  They’re the whispering kind.  They plant rumors, tell lies, all without attribution.

It reminds me in an ironic way of the Dreyfuss Affair.  A decorated war hero is accused of  betraying his country (or in Hagel’s case, his Party).  The victim is accused falsely, but the smears stick and he is punished for the effrontery of his independence and fearlessness.  The difference between Dreyfuss and Hagel is, of course, that Dreyfuss was Jewish and his attackers were anti-Semites.  In Hagel’s case, his attackers are Jews.  But they are using unsavory tactics that are little different than those used against Dreyfuss.

The Israel lobby has performed a typically neat trick in their campaign against Hagel.  They know they can’t attack him for being anti-Israel (though they’ve even whispered of this sin in hushed tones).  So they trot out the “A” word, the trump card that silences every debate regarding Israel: anti-Semite.  His opponents know that Hagel isn’t anti-Semitic.  But rather that he refuses to toe the line on Israel.  Not, chas v’chalilah that he’s anti-Israel.  But insufficiently obeisant.  He was the nail in the U.S. Senate that refused to be hammered down by the Lobby.  When you stick out in this way, when you maintain your independence in the face of tremendous pro-Israel pressure, you’re going to get hammered.  Literally (and figuratively).

So this campaign is payback.  The chance for the Lobby to show its muscle.  It must kill Chuck Hagel’s nomination in order to set an example for current and future legislators who may contemplate maintaining the sort of independent profile Hagel did.  They’re gonna get this sucka and get him good.  They’re going to fix his hide.

Anyone with the guts to say this must, like John Barleycorn, die:

Congress “is an institution that does not inherently bring out a great deal of courage.” The American Israel Public Affairs Committee comes knocking with a pro-Israel letter, Hagel continued, and “then you’ll get eighty or ninety senators on it. I don’t think I’ve ever signed one of the letters”—because, he added, they were “stupid.” Hagel also said, “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” but “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”

But what’s especially appalling is that liberal pro-Israel senators like Carl Levin and Chuck Schumer (both of whom know their bread is buttered by Aipac) have either refused to offer Hagel support or offered only tepid encouragement.  This is how the Lobby works.  It gives pause to even those who should naturally back you.  Theirs are not exactly Profiles in Courage.  More like sticking your finger in the wind to see which way the wind’s blowing.  If it’s that hamsin wind blowing from the hills of Judea, you know to duck and cover.

J Street has supported Hagel, but that’s no surprise for the group I call Jews for Obama.  If Obama said the sun rose in the west, Jeremy Ben Ami would have an op-ed in Haaretz the next day dutifully affirming the fact.

I’m delighted to say that Tom Friedman, whose columns I’ve praised perhaps once or twice in the entire history of this blog, wrote a sterling piece defending Hagel.

It’s especially ironic to watch opportunists like Bill Kristol become gay rights advocates when it suits them.  Because Hagel made an anti-gay statement 15 years ago (1998), the neocon, who has no previous history of being a friend of gays, all of sudden becomes holier than Stonewall.  There is no doubt that Hagel’s comment in which he used the phrase “aggressively gay,” was objectionable.  But that was a different era.  Does anyone seriously want to tell me that we can’t find 20 then-U.S. senators who made similar comments about gays in that era?

Someone has to tell me how a homophobic comment made in 1998 disqualifies someone from being secretary of defense today.  Are they arguing that he’ll backtrack on gays in the military?  No, of course not.  Hagel, a military man himself, knows that he’s in a chain of command in which the president is the commander-in-chief.  Being a cabinet member is not the same as being a senator.  Hagel knows this.

There is much that is dysfunctional about American government.  Just watch the moronic debate over the “fiscal cliff,” or abortion, or gay marriage.  But foremost in toxicity in Congress is the stranglehold the Lobby holds over U.S. policy toward Israel and the frontline states (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan).  I’m not saying this out of animosity toward Israel and its interests.  Precisely the opposite.  The Lobby doesn’t act in Israel’s interest.  It acts in the interest of the Lobby.  Hell, half the time positions advocated by the Lobby are far to the right of Israel’s official policy.  The Lobby wants power for power’s sake.  Power is its primary means of self-preservation.

That power does not help Israel.  It hurts.  Yes, it supports the short-term interests of an extreme right-wing Israeli government–today.  It supports settlements.  It opposes Palestinian statehood.  It supports regime change against Iran.  But what about Israel’s long-term interests?  What about promoting real solutions?  Does anyone seriously argue that protecting the Occupation, as the Lobby does, offers a real long-term solution?

That’s why the Lobby is toxic.  Not just within a Congressional context, but for Israel as well.

Chuck Hagel is a realist.  He’s not a wild-eyed radical or anyone’s fool.  He’s not going to carry water for Israel or the Lobby or the Palestinians for that matter.  He’s going to represent America’s interests as he sees them.  At times that will mean supporting Israel and at times it will mean criticizing Israel.  That’s just what American Jews and Israelis themselves do.  So why should we deny Chuck Hagel a cabinet job for debating the same points that are heard every time Diaspora Jews or Israelis talk about Israel?

There’s little doubt that Bibi Netanyahu too doesn’t want Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense.  The latter is built more in the mold of James Baker.  If you’ll recall Baker had the chutzpah to use the “F” in calling out Israel.  He was the one who mockingly called out the White House phone number at a press conference and dared Yitzhak Shamir to call when he was ready to be serious about peace.  Bibi needs a James Baker at DoD like it needs a hole in the head.  Instead he prefers a malleable functionary to fulfill that role.  Someone like John Kerry or Leon Panetta or Barack Obama (oops, even an Obama made out of silly putty is too feisty for Bibi and the Lobby).

A terrific, wonderfully literate defense of Hagel by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad.  He dug up this amazing chestnut from Natasha Mozgovaya, who herself is a journalistic creature of the Lobby:

Every appointee to the American government must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community.

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Reasonable Fella December 28, 2012, 11:39 PM

    After WWI, many Germans believed that Jews “stabbed Germany in the back”. Your mix of metaphors and anti Jewish/Zionist diatribe is all too reminiscent of such dark times.

    • Richard Silverstein December 29, 2012, 12:29 AM

      Though your historical analogy is ridiculous, it’s interesting in a different context: in fact it is the Lobby which believes Hagel has knifed it in the back so they’re merely returning the favor.

      • Reasonable Fella December 29, 2012, 7:26 AM

        One can only imagine the reaction of your like had a Zionist been accused of being anti-gay. You would be all over him, telling everyone how ‘intolerance against the different is an endemic part of Zionism’. Yet when a member of your camp is accused of such things – you blame the Jews for spreading libel against him.

        Jewish history is replete with anti-semitic Jews. History always repeats itself.

        • Richard Silverstein December 29, 2012, 11:36 AM

          I am a Zionist, you idiot. Just not your kind.

          If you actually knew anything about Jewish history other than what you read in the typical hasbara outlets you might be dangerous.

          • Reasonable Fella December 29, 2012, 3:20 PM

            Your slurs reveal your true personality and the degree of anger your harbor towards people. I hope you will find peace.

          • Richard Silverstein December 30, 2012, 1:50 AM

            @Reasonable Fella: It’s typical of the hasbarists to try to personalize things by insinuating that I harbor some sort of personal animus toward those I criticize. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The animus is purely based on politics and ideas. I hate injustice and lies. I hate them whether the liar is Jewish, Christian or Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian or American.

            As for peace, we won’t find it as long as people like you believe in your own righteousness and Israel’s.

          • The Mighty Cynic December 29, 2012, 6:09 PM

            Do you support the Jabotinsky plan? If not, then I discourage you lumping yourself in a category with a bad name, understanding that it may be your intent to create a different impression about the ideology. You seem to be more of a peaceful, liberal leaning, “co-existencite”. :)

            If you do, well… then own the “ethnic cleansing”.

          • Richard Silverstein December 30, 2012, 1:39 AM

            @Mighty Cynic: No I don’t “own” ethnic cleansing any more than I demand that you “own” massacres perpetrated by the Shah or Ayatollahs in the name of the people of Iran.

          • The Mighty Cynic December 30, 2012, 8:16 AM

            I’m not Iranian! :)

          • The Mighty Cynic December 30, 2012, 1:37 PM

            Plus, being Iranian is not a political ideology. It’s a culture, national identity and/or heritage. Zionism is a political ideology. So that’s a false equation there. I am simply stating that it’s hard to put lipstick on a really nasty political ideology, the same way I would never put lipstick, personally, on Nazi ideals, which have nothing to do with Germanic heritage, culture, or national identity. There are anti-Zionists right in Israel, if I am not mistaken. So, being Israeli or a worshiping Jew is not the equivalent of being a Zionist, a political scheme and completely irreligious by virtue of the acts undertaken by Zionists throughout history.

          • Richard Silverstein December 31, 2012, 5:19 PM

            I’m getting mighty uncomfortable with your claims about yourself which I don’t believe are true. If you are also Persian Advocate or any other commenter retire that identity and only say things about yourself that are true. I do not like people making up fictional personnas here.

        • The Mighty Cynic December 29, 2012, 5:35 PM

          Exactly, and you are an anti-Semite as the Palestinians are Semitic. Not Europeans though!

    • Davey December 29, 2012, 8:20 PM

      Actually, the assault on Hagel is more reminiscent of “red baiting” and HUAC. Here’s a guy who says he is for American interests first and foremost, not Israel first and this is intolerable to those whose own duties are, shall we say, “dual” at best. This episode casts light on the inherent contradiction of dual loyalties and those who articulate such nonsense. If Hagel simply put Israel’s interests first, he’d have no problem with the Lobby, isn’t this so?

  • mary December 29, 2012, 2:25 AM

    Once again, Obama finds himself in an embarrassing spot. So much has swirled around Hagel that Obama is pretty much going to look like a sycophant to Israel if he fails to nominate Hagel. On the other hand, there are fools who still believe kowtowing to Netanyahu and his thugs is going to bring back the dead and decomposing peace process. Obama can choose Hagel, and concentrate on his legacy and deal with domestic issues in his second term (kicking Palestine to the curb for his successor to deal with), or placate the zionists by nominating a good lap dog. Chances are good that he will do the latter, simply because American support for zionism is still strong. No one will call him a sycophant except those of us who know.

  • Southerner's Truth December 29, 2012, 10:02 AM

    Richard, thanks for this insightful piece.

  • bluto December 29, 2012, 11:57 AM

    It will be a political disaster for the Israeli Lobby to have Chuck Schumer, Lindsay Graham, John Cornyn, and other Israeli Lobby-/neocon-/AIPAC-paid employees go up face to face against Chuck Hagel during Senate confirmation….

    If the Neocons were smart, which they’re not, they will not let the Israeli Lobby be drug thru the Senate like a old wet mop by putting up a full court press/’Susan Rice-style’ fight on Hagel. But they will…

    Don’t get me wrong –

    I’m hoping and dreaming and wishing and praying they DO – not just because it won’t matter and Hagel will still be confirmed, which he will, but because of the devastation to the Israel Lobby of being exposed like this, and of having the entire nation turn against Netanyahu and his minions.

    They’ll even start losing some of the FOX news demographic – and that would be curtains for the Lobby

    Saying that, let me close with a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte (no, not Bibi, silly rabbit)

    Napoleon: ‘one should never interrupt the enemy when he is making a mistake’

    Enough said ;) (stolen from Chas Freeman)

  • Bob Mann December 29, 2012, 2:18 PM

    If a nominee was floated who had a position on Israel that you strongly disagreed with, wouldn’t you try to do everything you can to spread the word against that person, much like many of the groups and people you cite in this piece are doing in this case? Do you personally think Hagel would be the best choice for Sec. of Defense? Aside from his position on Israel, do you generally agree with his take on issues relevant to the job? Wouldn’t it be pretty groundbreaking for Obama to nominate a woman for the position instead, rather than another white male? Your two posts indicate that he is considering Michele Flournoy for the post. Would she not be a good choice?

    • The Mighty Cynic December 29, 2012, 6:00 PM

      Yes, Chuck Hagel was a frontline Veteran and made the proper decisions regarding the Iran sanctions, which are fraudulent, deteriorate our reputational capital while we hypocritically allow Israel criminal immunity diplomatically before the same UN Security Council, and were the same kind that caused the deaths of 500,000+ Iraqi children.

      Senator Hagel is also a recipient of two purple hearts. His criticism of the W. Bush administration proved profoundly true in hindsight. He has served in four major subcommittees under our Committees on Foreign Relations. He is also part of the Select Committee on Intelligence. He retired from the Senate on his own terms: he stated that he would after two full terms from the beginning. He currently teaches at Georgetown University in the Walsh School of Foreign Service as a Distinguished Professor in the Practice of National Governance. He is Chairman of the Atlantic Council, Co-Chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board; a member of the Secretary of Defense’s Policy Board and Secretary of Energy’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.

      Leon Panetta had asked Hagel to chair an advisory committee for the Vietnam War 50th anniversary commemoration because when a Senator, Hagel co-sponsored the bill creating the commemoration committee.

      Hmm, someone that safeguards American interests over that of a foreign country’s even in the midst of government corruption and subversive treachery by entrenched Zionists (Neocons) AND cares that much about our nation’s veterans?

      Sounds like he may be OVERQUALIFIED! As for your suggestion, Flournoy founded the pro-Israel advocacy group, the Center for a New American Security which houses anti-Muslim warmongers like Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Michael O’Hanlon, Frederick Kagan, Frank Gaffney, Norman Augustine, Richard Armitage, David Kilcullen, etc. The group is headed by retired Lt. Col. Dr. John Nagl, a Zionist Christian. She’s also buddy buddy with Ehud Barak and Benny Gantz after serving as under secretary to Robert Gates, a Neocon appointee. She refers to the bond between Israel and the US as a “marriage”. Incidentally, she is married to venomous Zionist, W. Scott Gould, a contributor to the Lobby’s Brookings Institution.

      The problem here is that Israeli-firsters are meddling with American politics, so you want to discard Chuck Hagel, well qualified for the position, for an Israeli-firster? o_O

      • Ohad F December 29, 2012, 11:33 PM

        Actually, the ones doing the “meddling” are, if I’m not mistaken, American citizens themselves.
        You(!) may not like where their interests lie, but when push comes to shove these are American citizens trying to impact American policy in a fashion they deem best serving American interests.

        American citizens, American politics… the problem according to you is, what exactly?

        • Richard Silverstein December 30, 2012, 1:38 AM

          @Ohad: That they are American citizens serving what they believe to be ISRAEL’s interests, not America’s.

        • The Mighty Cynic December 30, 2012, 8:15 AM

          With due respect, you are mistaken, Ohad. Citizenship is an oath of superior loyalty. To dictate American policy in line with the interests of a foreign country is “TREASON”. It’s also sedition, subversion, and a violation of the Foreign Espionage Act if done in this coordinated fashion.

          America is not an empty vessel that one can steer towards a country’s interests halfway around the globe.

    • Castellio December 29, 2012, 6:48 PM

      So, Bob, what might you have against Hagel?

      • Bob Mann December 31, 2012, 9:52 AM

        I’ve got nothing against him. He seems like a good choice.

        I do think it would be groundbreaking, though, if Obama nominated someone who wasn’t a white male. It’s exciting to see a woman on the short list, though I know nothing about her.

    • Richard Silverstein December 30, 2012, 1:48 AM

      Do you personally think Hagel would be the best choice for Sec. of Defense?

      Certainly one of the better choices. Personally, I’d rather see Daniel Ellsberg as secretary of defense. But it ain’t gonna happen.

      Flournoy would be much less senior appointee & hence easier to cow & manipulate, which is why the Lobby likes her.

      • mary December 30, 2012, 1:59 AM

        Personally, I’d be thrilled with Dennis Kucinich, but that ain’t gonna happen either.

  • John December 29, 2012, 6:47 PM

    It is not the Jewish Lobby that is knifing Chuck Hagel in the back, it is our weak kneed congress and our president that are doing the knifing. They are more concerned with campaign contributions than with the good of the good old USA.

  • bluto December 30, 2012, 9:34 AM

    Yahoo! – Breaking

    Jewish leaders are starting to say they have been called by White House that Hagel nomination is a done deal. Announcement shortly.

    So tweets Matt Brooks, executive director of the RJC

    story at Mondoweiss.net

    The day before – Obama did discuss Hagel with David Gregory on Meet the Press – it looks very positive for Hagel.

  • Max December 30, 2012, 10:28 AM

    Hi Richard.
    I am one of your readers. I am a jew from France. I usually support right wing parties in Israel. I am not israeli .
    I like to read haaretz or left wing newspapers from times to times as i like to listen to what people who don t think like me have to say. I have discovered your blog recently and i find it interesting. I do not agree with a lot of the things you say but we can still be friends.
    However today i am not happy with what you wrote about dreyfus. I am not happy because the comparison you made is just irrelevant inappropriate and shocking.
    Dreyfus was accused ot betraying his country , France, and these accusations were the fruit of the latent and strong antisemitism that prevailed at that time in the french society.
    The story with hagel is totally different. Hagel has constantly expressed his anti israel pro hamas opinions and his indifference to the iranian problem. I am not shocked by the fact that the israel lobby is concerned and there is nothing outrageous aboutnthis.
    You obviously have a problel with aipac but i think dreyfus should stay out of this as i found your comparison deeply offensive and totally inappropriate.
    I will continue to read your blog though .


    • Richard Silverstein December 31, 2012, 5:08 PM

      You are completely wrong in your claims about CHuck Hagel. I dare you to point to ANY “anti-Israel” or “pro Hamas” views he’s expressed. Saying he’s in favor of Israel & the U.S. talking to Hamas is NOT “anti-Israel” unless you’re willing to acccuse Israeli generals and intelligence chiefs of also being anti Israel, as they too have advanced the same view. Hagel is also not “indifferent” to Iran, he simply believes the issue can be resolved through different means than you.

      I would suggest as someone who is not American and has demonstrated no special knowledge of American politics, but who has demonstrated he supports far right Israeli parties, that you have no qualifications to judge Hagel’s credentials.

      Finally, the lies you’ve advanced about Hagel are indeed akin to those advanced against Dreyfuss in his day. Neocons have accused Hagel of betraying American interests & being anti Israel & anti Semitic, all of which is false.

      • Davey December 31, 2012, 6:17 PM

        Well said.

  • bluto December 30, 2012, 2:44 PM

    no longer ‘chosen’
    1052 Fans
    2 seconds ago ( 5:42 PM)
    This comment is pending approval and won’t be displayed until it is approved.

    Now that we are pretty well assured that the Hagel nomination is a ‘done deal’ – .

    We can soon start focusing on William Kristol’s OTHER PICK for the Obama administration – namely Rep Jane Harman for CIA director to replace Petraeus

    Harman was actually caught on an FBI wiretap – criminally conspiring against the government of the United States – to derail the Justice Dept’s attempts to prosecute the Israeli spy network in the US, in addition to, as quid pro quo, accepting Mossad/the Israeli Lobby’s help in planting her at the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

    Jane Harman claims she ‘doesn’t remember’ her taped conversation collaborating with a Mossad agent to SQUASH the criminal investigation of AIPAC members Steve Rosen and Weissman. .

    A hilarious moment on her wiretap came at the end when she told the Mossad agent – ‘this conversation never happened’.

    That’s always priceless when caught on wiretap

    ‘Two-fer Jane’ – squashing the criminal investigation against AIPAC while ALSO committing t.reason in coordination with a known Mossad agent to plant her at the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

    Who know what she would do for Israel in that ‘appointment’ – they already OWN her – because she has already collaborated with them in the past

    May I advise Mr Obama to just please say ‘NO’ to this Israeli spy instead of making her CIA director?

    The rout of the Israeli Lobby is on!

    Time for the William Kristol Donneybrook!

    • Richard Silverstein December 31, 2012, 4:59 PM

      Where are you reading Harman is either a candidate for CIA or even whispered to be so by anyone credible?

  • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy December 31, 2012, 11:14 AM

    I have asked this question so many times but never got a good (practical) answer for it and will ask it here hoping that someone will give an answer. “How to counter the FALSE accusation of being “ANTI_SEMITIC” if you dare say what the supporters of the Aparteid Jewish State do not like to hear?”. It has proven to be a very powerful tool to make people especially Americans and Canadians simply shut up! Richard declined to answer my question in a public forum about Gaza lately.

    • Davey December 31, 2012, 11:52 AM

      The slur “anti-semitic” is an ad hominem attack, it professes to identify an attribute of the speaker (you), rather than the speech (what you say, your argument.) The attributes of the speaker are separate from the speech, the argument. Identifying the speaker as a “lesbian” or “anti-semitic” doesn’t negate what they have to say. People are filled with lots of unreasonable beliefs about things including the world and other people and themselves and these things do impact what we think. The arguments that a person makes may be motivated by irrational beliefs but the argument stands or not on its merits alone.

      This is very simplified but it useful to separate the speaker from the speech. Someone once responded to my arguments and references with the accusations that I was “unemployed and angry” and “anti-semitic.” I conceded both for the sake of the argument and the argument came to an abrupt end.

      • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy December 31, 2012, 12:09 PM

        Thanks for your input. I noticed that in both the US and Canada the vast majority of people stay away from any discussion or action that would not be agreeable to the supporters of the Apartied Jewish State. Even if what is happeing is against the interests of their OWN country. This is simply because it has been planted very firmly in their minds that doing that will automatically trigger the accusation of being “Anti-Semitic”. It is a career ending (conversation ending in your case) and a life destroyer proposition in many cases! How to counter and help people get over that fear?

        • Davey December 31, 2012, 6:22 PM

          You are not talking about how to respond to such an accusation, but coping with the power of the Lobby in the US (and Canada.) That is a different matter altogether: Slowly, through organization and relentless witnessing and blogging, the word gets around that the Zionist narrative endorsed by politicians is largely untrue. I think people are really frustrated on this matter and sooner or later the dam will break in the US and Zionists and their supporters will not be driving the train any longer.

  • Bob Mann January 4, 2013, 12:13 PM

    Looks like Obama is going to be nominating Hagel.


    Obama expected to pick Hagel as opponents prepare for a fight

    President Barack Obama is expected to name Chuck Hagel as his choice for defense secretary as early as Monday, as critics of the former Nebraska senator prepare to go to war to fight his expected nomination.


    What does this say about Obama and about the lobby?

    • Richard Silverstein January 4, 2013, 8:21 PM

      What does this say about Obama and about the lobby?

      It says: Obama 1/2-Lobby 0
      When he actually nominates him I’ll raise it to a whole point.

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