NPR ran a story this afternoon about the Hagel nomination that featured Elliot Abrams, a neoconservative critic who says outright that Hagel is an anti-Semite: “He seems to have some kind of problem with Jews,” he says about three-quarters of the way through this short interview.
To make his case, he refers to a statement Hagel once made about the “Jewish lobby” and about how he was a United States Senator, not an Israeli Senator. But, really, Abrams relies on the testimony of the Jewish community of Nebraska, of which I am a member.
He specifically refers to Hagel’s “hostility toward that community — their word not mine.”
In fact, in fewer than eight minutes, Abrams mentions the Nebraska Jewish community three times to hammer home that Hagel’s Jewish constituents are deeply distrustful of him.
Apart from the obvious fact that Jews in Nebraska are not a monolithic community that speaks with one voice, none of the allegations amount to anti-Semitism. That all of the allegations seem to be made by staunch members of AIPAC is particularly telling; by their lights, I’m certain to be just as much of an anti-Semite as Hagel.
I said it earlier today and I’ll say it again:
That Chuck Hagel doesn’t see eye-to-eye with some Jews in Nebraska and with the GOP more broadly on the question of America’s blank check relationship with Israel does not make him an anti-Semite.
Despite the fact that all of this has made me angry enough to write a series of blog posts about it, I want to be perfectly clear that I don’t have any skin in this game. It doesn’t matter to me whether Chuck Hagel or someone else is our next Secretary of Defense. Contrary to Abrams’ position in this NPR interview, the next Secretary will serve at the pleasure of President Obama; he won’t be cozying up to Iran or punching Netanyahu in the stomach just because he feels like it. I write all of this because it’s incredibly disturbing to see someone tarred with allegations of anti-Semitism by neoconservatives, Tea Partyers, and AIPAC when, in fact, the person in question simply isn’t toeing the AIPAC line on writing blank checks to the Likud party in Israel.
This isn’t how Cabinet-level positions should be decided, not if we have any sense left in our heads.