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Hagel Responds to Zionist Critics

Jan. 9, 2013

The Emergency Committee for Israel is currently leading a campaign to discredit Chuck Hagel, the former Nebraska senator who has been nominated by President Obama as Secretary of Defense.

The Emergency Committee for Israel was a major player in the fight for the Jewish vote in the latest US elections, taking care to represent Obama as anti-Israel and reluctant to fight Iran's nuclear program. Their anti-Obama campaign included videos and press releases which depicted the president in a negative light.

The charge against Hagel's appointment took a similar direction. The same group that tried to discredit Obama is now on a mission to undercut Hagel's appointment. Having unearthed past Hagel quotes the group released a scathing ad on TV channels in New York and Washington.

"While President Obama says all options are on the table, Hagel says military action is not a viable, feasible action," the ad said.

Chuck Hagel dismisses allegations that he is against Israel, saying critics have "completely distorted" his record.

The former Nebraska senator said in an interview that an accurate assessment of his record will demonstrate "unequivocal, total support for Israel" and endorsement of tough international economic sanctions against Iran.

Critics have "completely distorted" his record, the former Nebraska senator told the Lincoln Journal Star, a local newspaper based in his home state.

At last, Hagel said, with his nomination announced by the president, he has an opportunity to set the record straight.

He added that there is "not one shred of evidence that I'm anti-Israeli, not one (Senate) vote that matters that hurt Israel."

"I didn't sign on to certain resolutions and letters because they were counter-productive and didn't solve a problem," Hagel told the Lincoln Journal Star.

Critics have hammered Hagel for not joining most of his Senate colleagues in signing on to a number of policy pronouncements that sometimes were sought by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington.

"How does that further the peace process in the Middle East?" Hagel asked. "What's in Israel's interest is to help Israel and the Palestinians find some peaceful way to live together."

As for allegations that he has been soft toward Iran's apparent efforts to develop a nuclear weapons capacity, Hagel pointed to his support for strong international sanctions, including those now in place.

"I have not supported unilateral sanctions because when it is us alone they don't work and they just isolate the United States," he told the Lincoln Journal Star.

"United Nations sanctions are working. When we just decree something, that doesn't work," he added.

"The distortions about my record have been astounding," Hagel told the newspaper, adding it's important to answer now with an accurate assessment of his positions.

But, Hagel noted, it's also important to recognize that "the president is commander-in-chief and he makes the final decisions" on those issues.

"The secretary of defense has the responsibility to give the president the best advice I can give him on national security matters," Hagel said.

"I will do that. I will give him my most honest advice," he added, noting he also would always be truthful with members of Congress.

"I fully recognize that confirmation is up to the Senate. All I ask is a fair hearing, and I will get that. I am very much looking forward to having a full, open, transparent hearing about my qualifications and my record.

"All I look for is an opportunity to respond," Hagel said.

Recognizing that his views on Israel and Iran have been the focus of most of the opposition to his nomination expressed in advance by some senators, he told the newspaper he looks forward to responding with a more accurate understanding of his views.

"I have said many times that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism," he said. "I have also questioned some very cavalier attitudes taken about very complicated issues in the Middle East.

"Israel is in a very, very difficult position. No border that touches Israel is always secure. We need to work to help protect Israel so it doesn't get isolated," he added. "Furthering the peace process in the Middle East is in Israel's interest."

The Republican Jewish Coalition, along with countless others, has cited a long list of Hagel’s anti-Israel policies, asserting that his nomination would “be a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel.”

Obama has defended Hagel's record, saying he "is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam. And is somebody who's currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job."

Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Sunday that Hagel as Secretary of Defense would be "the most antagonistic Secretary of Defense toward the state of Israel" in U.S. history.

“Not only has he said you should directly negotiate with Iran, sanctions won’t work, that Israel should directly negotiate with the Hamas organization, a terrorist group that lobs thousands of rockets into Israel, he also was one of 12 senators who refused to sign a letter to the European Union that Hizbullah should be designated as a terrorist organization," Graham said in a television interview.

“He has long severed his ties with the Republican Party. This is an in-your-face nomination by the president," Graham said. "And it looks like the second term of Barack Obama is going to be an in-your-face term."

Our Comment:

True Torah Jews rejects the approach of those who seek to tear down Hagel based on his attitude to the State of Israel. As American citizens, we are loyal to America and we strongly believe that American politicians should be chosen based on whether their positions will be good for America. Also, we don't define someone as an anti-Semite just because he is not an unquestioning supporter of the State of Israel's policies, especially the current right-wing government.

It is interesting that one of the groups attacking Hagel is the same group that attacked President Obama during the elections, a move which True Torah Jews sharply condemned at the time. In the end, we see that their efforts failed miserably, and President Obama won with 69% of the Jewish vote. We are confident that they will fail again in their current campaign against Hagel. These irresponsible individuals don't seem to care about the way the American Jewish community feels about what they say in our name. It seems that their interests are more important to them than the wellbeing of American Jews.

Update: True Torah Jews submitted an op ed to several newspapers. The text was as follows:

We have recently seen numerous political groups campaign against the appointment of Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary. Most of these groups appear to be motivated by the legitimate desire to see this country implement what they view as its best policies. But some, such as the Emergency Committee for Israel, are focusing on Mr. Hagel’s positions on Israel, implying that unquestioning support for Israeli hard-liners, whether good for America or not, is an indispensible criterion for leadership in America. This is a dangerous impression to create.

My view, and the view of many in New York’s Orthodox Jewish community, is that as American citizens, we must not use anything besides America’s security as a litmus test for a defense secretary. The President of the United States should be free to appoint members of his cabinet in accordance with what he feels is best for the country; his hands should not be tied by private interest groups. Groups who do insist on pushing private Jewish interests at a time like this certainly do not speak for Orthodox Jews or Jews in general. And such campaigning is counterproductive for Jews here, as well as Jews living in Israel.

Throughout the centuries, loyalty to one’s country has been a pillar of Jewish values, as expressed in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, "Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you." This should be especially true in a country like America that gives us the freedom to maintain our religious principles and prosper financially – as many of the prosperous donors to these organizations would do well to remember.

In light of the above, I suggest that Jews come out in support of Chuck Hagel, if only to show that the groups carrying on this negative campaign don’t speak for us. Nebraska’s Jewish community has already come out in support, as have all twelve Jewish senators. Yet many of us in New York’s Orthodox community continue to receive letters from self-appointed Jewish activists urging us to call our senators and denounce Hagel. A fitting response to this would be for us to call our senators and make the opposite request: that they confirm Hagel as Defense Secretary.

Part of this op ed was printed by the New York Daily News:

(Scroll down to the heading "Hagel Hubbub.")

True Torah Jews also carried on a campaign to telephone local senators and say, "We, True Torah Jews of Brooklyn, upstate New York and other communities, SUPPORT President Obama's choice of CHUCK HAGEL for defense secretary. We have NO PART in the campaign currently being carried on by special interest groups, who are trying to drive American politics for their own purposes. Hagel is the right choice for Defense Secretary."

Meanwhile, it seems that our fears about the State of Israel being placed higher than American interests were not unfounded. Time Magazine reported that in nearly eight hours of interrogation and testimony at Hagel's confirmation hearing, Israel and its interests were referred to by the Senate Armed Services Committee a total of 106 times. On the other hand, there were a mere 24 references made to Afghanistan and the 66,000 Americans fighting there.