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Monday, January 14, 2013

Elliott Abrams, "Questioning Hagel": Can American Jews Voice Their Opinions Without Being Called "Jew Firsters"?

More than 60 years ago, Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" was being labeled the "Jew Deal" by American anti-Semites, and Charles Lindbergh was busy accusing the Jews of trying to drag America into the war against Hitler. Fast forward: Today's anti-Semites are blaming the Jews for America's declining economic fortunes, while claiming that AIPAC, the Zionists and the Israel Firsters are attempting to instigate a war between the US and Iran for Israel's benefit. There is nothing new under the sun.

In an opinion piece published by the National Review entitled "Questioning Hagel" (, Elliott Abrams begins by telling us that Obama is entitled to choose his own cabinet:

"The primary argument against Hagel’s confirmation seems to be that his policy views are wrong, bad, and even dangerous — and of course contrary to those of whoever is lodging this criticism. Several senators have already said they would vote against Hagel, and others have jumped on the fence and are sitting there until the hearings — due to their policy disagreements with him, often over Iran policy and Israel policy. I completely agree with the typical criticisms of his policy views, but can’t say I find them to be persuasive grounds for opposing his confirmation.

For one thing, the general rule should be that presidents get the policies and the appointees they want. I did not vote for President Obama, but he did win and he does get to make his own policy and choose his subordinates."

Abrams goes on to explain his "own argument against Senator Hagel’s suitability":

"Today most pressure from the organized Jewish community over foreign-policy issues is related to the security of Israel and the Iranian nuclear-weapons program. To be treated with indifference by an elected official is bad enough. To be told by a future nominee for very high office that, 'I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator,' and 'my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States' is insulting and unacceptable. It suggests that Senator Hagel believes such lobbying by American Jews to be illegitimate and offensive, and is indeed evidence of loyalty to another country."

Abrams observes the failure of American Jews, in the years leading up to World War II, to act on behalf of European Jewry. Many of these Jews were concerned with being accused of dual loyalties or of being accused, in today's terminology, of being "Jew firsters." Ultimately, half of Europe's Jews and a third of world Jewry would perish at Hitler's hands.

Abrams then notes that American Jews were subsequently more proactive in standing up for the freedom of Soviet Jewry, notwithstanding renewed claims that such advocacy ran counter to American interests.

Today, when voicing concern over repeated Iranian threats to annihilate Israel and when questioning Chuck Hagel's past conciliatory utterances regarding relations with Tehran, the loyalty of American Jews is again being questioned. As observed by Abrams, Hagel's assertion that he is an American senator, not an Israel senator, has exacerbated this persistent claim that American Jews care more deeply for Israel than the US.

In 2013, can American Jews voice concern over Iranian nuclear weapons development and threats to wipe Israel off the face of the map without being accused of dual loyalty or of being Jew firsters? Perhaps President Obama, who has so adamantly pushed Hagel's nomination ahead, notwithstanding Hagel's positions, which, according to The Washington Post ( place him "well to the left of those pursued by Mr. Obama during his first term — and place him near the fringe of the Senate," would care to weigh in on the topic.

Do you remember how Obama once vowed to heal a divided America? Yeah, right.

1 comment:

  1. I've come to type something intelligent, but you basically covered. Yes, again antisemites set the tone and frame the discussion.
    I think I'll just add something. During Roosevelt, Hitler's friends, including German Nazis (and American too) "defended the interests of America" (ha, ha, ha, ha).
    We have something similar now. Iran is officially (for obvious reasons) an enemy, but it's OK to be Iranian senator (what Hagel seems to be) and Ahmadinejad's friends "defend the interest of America."
    The last time I checked, Israel was an official friend, but no, no, no, you can't say anything positive about Israel.
    Is this crazy, or it's me?
    The saddest part, that now we have an Orwellian (friend is enemy, good is bad, etc.) and blatantly antisemitic President.