For someone who got Chuck Hagel so right in 2007 – in a post that was disappeared down the memory hole, but may still be found via the Way Back Machine – Ira Forman’s silence is deafening. Forman, chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council and most recently the Obama campaign’s liaison to the Jewish community, had this to say about Hagel in March 2007.
As Senator Hagel sits around for six more months and tries to decide whether to launch a futile bid for the White House, he has a lot of questions to answer about his commitment to Israel. Consider this:
– In August 2006, Hagel was one of only 12 Senators who refused to write the EU asking them to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
– In October 2000, Hagel was one of only 4 Senators who refused to sign a Senate letter in support of Israel.
– In November 2001, Hagel was one of only 11 Senators who refsued to sign a letter urging President Bush not to meet with the late Yassir Arafat until his forces ended the violence against Israel.
– In December 2005, Hagel was one of only 27 who refused to sign a letter to President Bush to pressure the Palestinian Authroity to ban terrorist groups from participating in Palestinian legislative elections.
– In June 2004, Hagel refused to sign a letter urging President Bush to highlight Iran’s nuclear program at the G-8 summit.
In 2009, when Hagel was appointed to be co-chair of President Obama’s National Intelligence Advisory Board, Forman had this to say:
Back in 2009, when President Obama appointed Hagel to co-chair the President’s National Intelligence Advisory Board, the NJDC’s then executive director, Ira Forman, reserved criticism, as The Weekly Standard reported at the time.
“Anybody who’s looking for purity from us is going to be disappointed,” he said, after apparently being pressed to criticize Hagel’s appointment. Forman at the time also suggested that the RJC was engaging in selective criticism and hadn’t been so exercised about Hagel until the former Republican senator was embraced by Obama.
But Forman (who since went on to be the 2012 Obama campaign’s Jewish outreach coordinator) added: “If [Hagel] was taking a policy role, we’d have real concerns.”
Secretary of Defense sure sounds like a ‘policy role’ to me. But last week, Forman refused to comment when contacted by the Daily Beast’s Eli Lake.
Hagel doesn’t just represent someone who is anti-Israel or who is an obsessive believer in ‘engagement.’ As Bret Stephens points out in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Hagel has attempted to tar American Jews with the anti-Semitic canard of dual loyalty.
Prejudice—like cooking, wine-tasting and other consummations—has an olfactory element. When Chuck Hagel, the former GOP senator from Nebraska who is now a front-runner to be the next secretary of Defense, carries on about how “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” the odor is especially ripe.
Ripe because a “Jewish lobby,” as far as I’m aware, doesn’t exist. No lesser authorities on the subject than John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of “The Israel Lobby,” have insisted the term Jewish lobby is “inaccurate and misleading, both because the [Israel] lobby includes non-Jews like Christian Zionists and because many Jewish Americans do not support the hard-line policies favored by its most powerful elements.”
Ripe because, whatever other political pressures Mr. Hagel might have had to endure during his years representing the Cornhusker state, winning over the state’s Jewish voters—there are an estimated 6,100 Jewish Nebraskans in a state of 1.8 million people—was probably not a major political concern for Mr. Hagel compared to, say, the ethanol lobby.
Ripe because the word “intimidates” ascribes to the so-called Jewish lobby powers that are at once vast, invisible and malevolent; and because it suggests that legislators who adopt positions friendly to that lobby are doing so not from political conviction but out of personal fear. Just what does that Jewish Lobby have on them?
Ripe, finally, because Mr. Hagel’s Jewish lobby remark was well in keeping with the broader pattern of his thinking. “I’m a United States Senator, not an Israeli Senator,” Mr. Hagel told retired U.S. diplomat Aaron David Miller in 2006. “I’m a United States Senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States. Not to a president. Not a party. Not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I’ll do that.”
Read these staccato utterances again to better appreciate their insipid and insinuating qualities, all combining to cast the usual slur on Jewish-Americans: Dual loyalty. Nobody questions Mr. Hagel’s loyalty. He is only making those assertions to question the loyalty of others.
When someone in as prominent a position as Hagel is making those kinds of assertions against American Jewry, it’s time for the American Jewish leadership to circle the wagons and fight back. And yet, Ira Forman is hiding in the brush along the side of the road (as, admittedly, are many others who find anti-Semitism in every pro-Israel pronouncement of a Christian Zionist – I looked in vain for a statement about Hagel from Abe Foxman over the last month).
What’s the matter, Ira? Cat got your tongue? Or has Obama threatened your pocket?
In a recent interview with The Algemeiner, former New York Mayor and staunch backer of President Obama’s re-election, Ed Koch, strongly opposed the possible appointment of former senator Chuck Hagel as America’s next defense secretary, due to the latter’s perceived hostility towards Israel. “I believe it would be a terrible appointment,” he said, “and so do apparently most of the Jewish leaders who have expressed themselves.” Explaining his opposition to the appointment, which is looking increasingly likely to materialize, Koch said that it would lead Arab states to believe that President Obama was seeking to create distance between his administration and Israel. “Such an appointment would give great comfort to the Arab world that would think that President Obama is seeking to put space between Israel and his administration,” Koch said, “I hope he doesn’t go forward with that appointment.” Koch says that since his election, Obama has acted in support of Israel. “He has been stalwart since the election, nobody has stood up as well as he in support of Israel, I hope he continues with that,” he said. But the appointment of Hagel, he concluded, “would be a great mistake.” Hagel has been roundly criticized by Jewish leaders and groups from across the political spectrum for his policies relating to Israel and the Middle East. In a September interview with The Algemeiner, Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein said, “He is one of the most hostile critics of Israel that has ever been in the Senate.” “There is only a handful of senators that have been openly hostile to Israel and Chuck Hagel is one of them,” Klein added. In 2007 the National Jewish Democratic Council listed on its website a number of instances where Hagel’s positions relating to Israel have appeared to be hostile. The Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks said in a statement Friday that choosing Hagel would be “a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel.” Last week The Algemeiner reported that “Sen. Chuck Hagel has met with both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and is the front runner for the Secretary of Defense position soon to be vacated by Leon Panetta.” One Democratic source with knowledge of the process told CNN that Hagel’s nomination is “almost a done deal.”