Which brings me to Sen. Hagel. I think it is time to acknowledge, bluntly, that certain major Jewish organizations, indeed, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations—also, the ADL, AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, political groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition, along with their various columnists, pundits, and list-serves—are among the most consistent purveyors of McCarthyite-style outrages in America today. Are there greater serial defamers of public officials in fake campaigns against defamation? Starting with Andrew Young and the late Charles Percy, and on to Chas Freeman and (now) Chuck Hagel, the game has been to keep Congresspeople and civil servants who might be skeptical of Israel's occupation and apologetics in a posture that can only be called exaggerated tact.More. You'll read, you'll enjoy...
Fault Israel and you are accused of faulting Jews in our collective state, or, the same thing, overlooking the venality of our enemies—things only an anti-Semite would do and, of all times, in the wake of the Holocaust. This is not a charge anyone in public life wants to suffer or try to deny. My Israeli friends love that old Borsch-belt joke, that anti-Semitism means disliking Jews more than necessary. For American Jewish organizations, the very idea that dislike is ever warranted is proof of bigotry, like Philip Roth's early novels were proof of "self-hatred."
AIPAC et al know that if American politicians—and especially those fighting routinely for Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio—are not cowed by the fear of being branded as anti-Semitic they may not be embarrassed into backing Israeli actions ritualistically. Where is the shame and who is our Murrow?
Suffice it to say that Hagel is a man of independent judgment whose views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict track pretty much exactly with those of Haaretz. He was distinguished guest at J Street's first national conference. Nothing he's said has not been said by leaders like Ehud Olmert and intelligence chief Ephraim Halevy. Hagel is also a man, like George McGovern, who having served with distinction in the military knows the unknown dangers of resorting to military force without a clear diplomatic strategy and except as a last resort. So he refuses to speak glibly about using force against Iran the same way he refused to endorse war with Iraq. A Vietnam purple heart, he would in retrospect have engaged with the Viet Cong. Should he not now endorse engagement with the Taliban or Hamas, for that matter?
Why should this stance be thought anathema to Jewish organizations? Let's get real. The latter throw their weight around, presumably on behalf of us Israelis, but really on behalf of the Israeli right, whose orthodoxy and pathos they relate to more readily than to Israeli peace advocates (my em). The weight they have derives from their being able to hold American politicians to endorsing a "special relationship" with Israel, where special means unconditional, so that (as James Baker and Howard Dean discovered) even the desire for "even-handedness" is treachery.
Hagel had the brass to call this grass green: Congresspeople will tell you openly that AIPAC has become one of the most feared, and secretly loathed, presences on Capitol Hill. Hagel spoke with thinly veiled contempt—which he came by honestly—of efforts by the Israeli lobby to intimidate dissenting diplomats and legislators. Ah, but he spoke of the power of the "Jewish Lobby"—not the Israeli lobby—which was the opening the lobby's hallelujah chorus needed to brand him a bigot.
In fairness, even though I hate to because I hate the right-wing bastards, AIPAC is sitting this one out. They know it's futile and don't want to piss him off because they need a good relationship with the Pentagon.