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Jewish Journal

Why no opposition to Hagel, arms to Egypt?

by Morton A. Klein and Irwin Hochberg

February 7, 2013 | 10:28 am

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.)

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.)

Israel is facing serious challenges on two new fronts. 

President Barack Obama has nominated Israel-basher Chuck Hagel for defense secretary and sent fighter jets to Mohamed Morsi’s Israel-hating Egyptian regime.

Where are America’s major Jewish organizations? Silent, voicing no opposition.

Hagel’s nomination should have galvanized Jewish organizations in opposition, regardless of political orientation. 

Until his nomination, no major pro-Israel group could be found to have disagreed with what we have just said. Quite the contrary.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC), by its own description, had “raised concerns.” 

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director Abraham Foxman had said that Hagel’s record relating to Israel was “at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling,” and that his anti-Israel lobby comments “border on anti-Semitism.” 

In 2007, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) had issued a detailed account of Hagel’s worrying voting record on Israel and the Middle East, and in 2009 its executive director, Ira Forman, indicated “that his group would oppose Hagel’s appointment to any position that had influence over U.S.-Israel relations.”

Yet, following Hagel’s nomination, virtually all Jewish groups — except the Zionist Organization of America — refused to oppose Hagel. Even Orthodox Jewish groups, like the Orthodox Union, were silent. 

AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann asserted that “AIPAC does not take positions on presidential nominations.” 

AJC Executive Director David Harris explained that, although still “concerned,” AJC is “not in the opposition camp.” 

ADL’s Foxman averred, “I respect the president’s prerogative” — something no one called into question and which in no way reduces the corresponding prerogative of the Senate to decline confirmation. 

NJDC issued a statement saying, “We trust that when confirmed ... Hagel will follow the president’s lead of providing unrivaled support for Israel.” 

In contrast, Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel was strongly opposing Hagel’s nomination before it was even announced. It has dispatched a delegation to Washington to lobby senators against confirmation.

In short, a Christian group fights for Israel while almost all Jewish groups refuse to do so.

Why? 

ADL and NJDC believe that there is no need to fight Hagel because “we expect the president to make clear that his long-held views will continue as American policy” (ADL) and because “setting policy starts and stops with the president” (NJDC).

Really? Cabinet members do influence the president, perhaps especially on momentous and difficult decisions. Recently, former Secretary of State Colin Powell was revealed to have complained with regard to the George W. Bush administration that “the Defense Department had too much power in shaping foreign policy.” And could it really be said that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had little or no influence on the policy of President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis? Or upon President Lyndon Johnson during the conduct of the Vietnam War? The idea is absurd.

The least these Jewish groups, which once opposed Hagel, can offer their members is a clear explanation as to why they’ve changed positions. 

Where, too, are Jewish organizations when it comes to the United States sending to Morsi’s vicious Egyptian regime 16 F-16 fighter jets and 200 Abrams tanks that were negotiated in 2010 with the Mubarak regime? Its replacement by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-backed regime should have prompted a rethink.

Morsi, a founding member of the Brotherhood’s Committee to Fight the Zionist Project, was recently found to have called in 2010 for an economic boycott of the United States, for nurturing “our children and grandchildren on hatred toward those Zionists and Jews,” and to have referred to Israelis as “bloodsuckers, warmongers ... the descendants of apes and pigs.” 

In 2010, the Brotherhood leader, Muhammad Badie, advocated jihad, a state based on Islamic law, and spoke optimistically about the United States heading for a collapse. His second-in-command, Rashad al-Bayoumi, declared last year that the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty “isn’t binding at all ... On no condition will we recognize Israel. It is an enemy entity.” Yet Obama sends Cairo dangerous arms regardless — and virtually all Jewish groups remain silent. When Sen. Rand Paul proposed an amendment halting the Egyptian arms sale, AIPAC lobbied against and helped defeat it.

Not so many years ago, Jewish organizations held huge rallies for Soviet Jews. AIPAC and others campaigned against the sale of AWAC planes to Saudi Arabia. American Jewish organizations should have been fighting relentlessly to stop Hagel and the Egyptian arms package. 

When was the last time it was good for Jews to be the sha shtil Jews — the Jews of silence?


Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Irwin Hochberg is former board chairman of the UJA-Federation of New York, former national campaign chair of Israel Bonds and vice chairman of ZOA.

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