|Photo by: REUTERS/Mian Kursheed|
Why don't Jewish groups oppose Hagel, arms to Egypt?
By MORTON KLEIN AND IRWIN HOCHBERG
Hagel’s nomination should have galvanized Jewish organizations, regardless of political orientation.
Israel is facing serious challenges on two new fronts. President Barack Obama
has nominated Israel-basher Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense and sent
fighter jets to Mohamed Morsi’s Israel-hating Egyptian regime.
America’s major Jewish organizations? Silent, voicing no
Hagel’s nomination should have galvanized Jewish
organizations, regardless of political orientation.
Here, after all, was
a former senator with a virtually unrivaled record of hostility to Israel,
bigotry towards Jews and gays, disbelief in the importance of a strong US
military, willingness to indulge Middle Eastern terrorist groups like Hezbollah
and Hamas, and antipathy toward any conceivable measure – economic or military –
aimed at preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power if negotiations
Until his nomination, no major pro-Israel group could be found
which would have disagreed with what we have just said. Quite the
The American Jewish Committee (AJC), by its own description,
had “raised concerns.”
The Anti Defamation League (ADL)’s 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.”
The National Jewish Democratic
Council (NJDC) had issued in 2007 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 US-Israel relations.”
Hagel’s nomination, virtually all Jewish groups except the Zionist Organization
of America refused to oppose Hagel. Even the Orthodox Jewish groups, like the
Orthodox Union, were silent.
AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman asserted
that “AIPAC does not take positions on presidential nominations.”
executive director David Harris explained that, though still “concerned,” AJC is
“not in the opposition camp.”
ADL’s Foxman averred: “I respect the
president’s prerogative” – something no-one had called into question and which
in no way reduces the corresponding prerogative of the Senate to decline
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 Christian United
for Israel was strongly opposed to Hagel’s nomination before it was even
announced. It has dispatched a delegation to Washington to lobby senators
In short, a Christian group fights for Israel while
almost all Jewish groups refuse to do so.
Why? ADL AND AJC believe that
there is no need to fight Hagel since “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).
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
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 Lyndon Johnson during the conduct of
the Vietnam war? The idea is absurd.
Where, too, are Jewish organizations
when it comes to sending Morsi’s vicious Egyptian regime 16 F-16 fighter jets
and 200 Abrams tanks, an arms deal that was negotiated in 2010 with the Mubarak
regime? Its replacement by Mohamed 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 US, for nurturing “our children
and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews,” and to have
referred to Israelis as “bloodsuckers, warmongers... the descendants of apes and
In 2010, Brotherhood leader Muhammad Badie advocated jihad, a
state based on Islamic law and spoke optimistically about the US heading for a
collapse. His second-in-command, Rashad Bayoumi, declared last year that the
Egyptian/Israeli peace treaty “it isn’t binding at all.... On no condition will
we recognize Israel. It is an enemy entity.”
Yet Obama sends Cairo arms
regardless – and most major Jewish groups remain silent.
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
chairman of the board UJA Federation of New York and vice-chairman of ZOA.