Despite the fact that 69% of American Jews voted for Obama, donated and campaigned passionately for him, he has chosen to betray them at the earliest opportunity after his reelection. Even though there were other capable mainstream candidates, he has picked Chuck Hagel for the important position of defense secretary, a fringe candidate who has been one of the few vocal anti- Israeli senators.
Almost every major pro-Israeli Jewish organization and many individual Jewish leaders had strongly opposed Hagel's impeding appointment, but after the president publicly announced his selection, they backed down and have made clear they will not lobby against or fight Hagel's confirmation in the Senate, despite their concerns with the choice. Sadly, this reluctance to challenge Obama on this nomination will weaken the pro-Israeli community and render it obsolete, which in turn will weaken Israel.
But much more, the Jewish leadership’s tolerance of a nominee whose comments Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman characterized as "borders on anti –Semitism" is a betrayal of their supposed role of safeguarding the community against those who spread false stereotypes and prejudices against Jews.
Hagel's past words and actions reveal that he has a "Jewish" problem. First, Hagel has made clear in Aaron David Miller’s 2008 book "The Too Much Promised Land" that he believes in the existence of a "Jewish lobby" and that "the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people in Congress." Moreover, Hagel is quoted as saying that "Most of the times members of Congress play it safe and adopt an 'I'll support Israel' attitude. AIPAC comes knocking with a pro- Israel letter and then you'll get 80 to 90 senators on it. I don't think I've signed one of the letters," adding, "I’m not an Israeli senator. I'm a United States senator."
First, there is no such thing as a "Jewish" lobby but a pro-Israeli lobby which includes many Christians and is not supported by all Jews. Such a lobby operates in the best tradition of democracy like the NCAAP and AARP do and singling the Jews out implies dual loyalty. Second, the word "intimidates" suggest that Congress is friendly to Israel, not from political conviction but out of personal fear. But reality shows that Israel is widely supported by the American people. A Gallup poll taken last year showed 71% of the Americans view Israel favorably.
Moreover, his view is a repeat of the age old anti-Semitic libel that Jews secretly work together to gain control of the world. It is disconcerting that Senator Hagel would concern himself with "the Jews," when in reality he could not have endured any political pressures from his own state's Jewish community. In Nebraska there are only 6100 Jews in a state with a population of 1.8 million.
Moreover, many in the Nebraska Jewish community that knows him best recalled that Hagel, as a Nebraska senator, was hostile to Israel and to the Jewish community. The former editor of the Omaha Jewish Press newspaper Carol Katzman, recalled that Hagel "was the only one we have had in Nebraska, who basically showed the Jewish community that he didn’t give a damn about the Jewish community or any of our concerns.” When Hagel served as a president of USO he expressed intense opposition to keeping the USO Haifa port open to US troops abroad. During a 1989 meeting with Jewish leaders of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Marsha Halteman, a JINSA representative recalled that he told them that if the Jews wanted to keep the USO in Haifa open "Let the Jews pay for it.”
However, Hagel’s obvious Jewish problem would have been inconsequential if he was not appointed to be secretary of defense, who is one of the officials responsible for implementing the close cooperation between the US and Israel. The concern is that Hagel’s record proves that he has a problem appreciating the Jewish state as a true US ally and has a moral inclination for appeasing Israel’s most vicious enemies.
The record shows that Hagel voted against imposing sanctions on Iran, which regularly calls for the extermination of Israel and has explicitly ruled out the military option against Iran’s nuclear weapons. He called for talks with Hamas, whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews - not just Israelis - and he has refused to support a Senate letter and resolution branding Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as terrorist organizations.
It is remarkable how much political capital Obama is willing to spend to make Hagel, an ex -Republican senator, with a dubious administrative and executive record, his defense minister, unless Hagel represents everything Obama believes in but was afraid to say during his first term - including his underlying hostility to Israel.
Jews must fight this nomination even if they lose, because Obama chose this fight in order to intimidate the pro-Israeli lobby and undermine and weaken the Congress’ and US Jews’ support for Israel. If not, they will give a message to Obama that he has a free hand to shove his dangerous agenda down Israel’s throat. Jews must now call their US senators to voice opposition to the nomination and Israelis must choose a government which will be willing to say no to Obama.
Shoula Romano Horing is an attorney in Kansas City. Her blog: www.shoularomanohoring.com