COLOMBIA, TOLEMAIDA : A Colombian Army Special Forces soldier ziplines during a military exercise during the visit of US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon at a military base in Tolemaida, Colombia, on October 10, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Guillermo LEGARIA
200 US troops are headed to Jordan, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today. Their stated purpose is to help contain violence spilling over from the Syrian conflict, and according to Mohammad al-Momani, Jordan’s Minister of State for Information, they should be arriving “in the next few weeks.” This is a significant announcement, but we’re betting it’ll get buried under all the news today about gun control legislation and the Boston explosion. And that’s a shame. source
“Is it just me,” said John Oliver on Sunday night’s Last Week Tonight, “or between Conchita and Michael Sam, did the world — did the whole world feel like it became a better place to live in the last 24 hours?”
We do not have, at 12 o’clock today, a Secretary of Defense.
Harry Reid, revealing today that Senate Republicans have rounded up the 41 votes necessary to block the nomination of Chuck Hagel to the Defense Department. Today is outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s last day on the job; if Republicans make good on their threats during Hagel’s confirmation vote tomorrow–and this is certainly a big “if”–it will be the first time a nominee for Secretary of Defense has been filibustered, and the country will be left without a Defense Secretary. A couple of Republican senators have threatened to block Hagel’s nomination unless the Obama Administration releases more information about the attack last year on the American consulate in Benghazi, an incident with which Hagel was wholly uninvolved. A Hagel spokesman said today that despite the threats of his former colleagues, the Nebraska Republican is not withdrawing his nomination. source
It seems natural for me to wade into the swamp of accusations about Chuck Hagel’s feelings toward “the Jews,” given that I write a fair amount about anti-Semitism and because I’m a Jew living in Nebraska.
Still, I hesitated.
In no small part, my hesitation was due to a desire not to offend friends and also because I’m quite sure there’s a great deal about Hagel that I – as someone who only moved to Nebraska in August 2007 – simply don’t know.
Still, I have to say something because it’s been weighing on me. So here’s the thing that I’ll say:
All of the allegations against Hagel that I have seen have to do with his position on America’s relationship with Israel and there is a general mistake that people – including Jews – are prone to make, namely that one’s position on Israel equates with one’s position on Jews.
That this is a mistake should be clear and obvious: There are plenty of Christians who insist on American support for Israel not because they like or support Jews but because they understand the existence of Israel to have some important role to play in the end of the world. And there are plenty of people around the world who don’t particularly like the direction in which the government of Israel has been moving (with regard to the peace process, to immigrants, to the role of religion in the public sphere, and so on) who nonetheles very much like and support Jews.
But we will continue to make this mistake as long as it’s considered inappropriate to ask questions about the bellicosity of Israel’s current government, about the seeming lack of interest in peace with the Palestinians, or about the way in which the United States traditionally supports Israeli policies virtually without question.
That Chuck Hagel doesn’t see eye-to-eye with some Jews in Nebraska and with the GOP more broadly on the question of America’s blank check relationship with Israel does not make him an anti-Semite.
There might be other reasons to believe that he is, but I have not seen them. Since I have many friends and colleagues here in Nebraska who read this blog – including many Jews from Lincoln and Omaha – I’m very hopeful to start a conversation on this topic, to hear from you some of your experiences with Hagel over the years, and to learn whether or not my diagnosis of this issue – controversial though it might be – is accurate.
Forget Homeland and Downton Abbey, the hottest TV in the coming weeks is going to be the double bill of confirmation hearings in which the twin Vietnam vets (Chuck) Hagel and John Kerry face torrid cross-examination from their old pals in the Senate.
That is a core paradox of our life in the 21st century: our new infrastructures create both opportunity and pressure. The pressure comes from intensifying competition as people previously marginalized in our global economy master these infrastructures and compete for jobs and markets that were previously secure franchises. More importantly, the pressure also comes as those in the core of our economy cling to practices and institutions that were designed for another world and struggle to remain successful in a world that requires new practices and institutions. The turmoil we see around the world today is a vivid illustration of this paradox.
Chuck Hagel said Monday an accurate assessment of his record will demonstrate “unequivocal, total support for Israel”
Today begins the new Spring Semester for me and, like every year, I will be teaching a class on Israel and the Middle East.
It seems important to at least acknowledge the difficulty of teaching such a class at a time when it is a black mark against an American politician to even be thought of as holding less than unequivocal support for Israel.
It isn’t clear what Hagel’s statement even means, let alone how we ought to interpret it. Does he mean to say that he supports the policies of the current rightwing Israeli government? That he supports the Israelis when it comes to the peace process? That he generally likes Israelis and wants them to flourish? That he would never publicly disagree with anything that the Israeli government says or does?
My sense is that Hagel’s critics on the question of Israel and/or Jews would require every American politician to agree with the current rightwing Israeli government and never publicly disagree with anything the Israeli government says or does. It’s not clear why they desire this or why they think it’s good policy for the United States or for Israel … but that doesn’t seem to matter.
I’m no radical when it comes to Israel – my father was born there and many of my family members live there today; I wish its citizens well, I worry for them in times of strife, and I wouldn’t want to see the country or its citizens harmed in any way – but even a cursory glance at this blog makes clear that I am not unequivocal or total in my support of the Israeli government.
I don’t think that the current governing coalition is acting in the best interests of the citizenry; many of the policies pursued by the Netanyahu government seem incredibly problematic or counterproductive to me. I doubt that I’m the only one who feels this way and I suspect that a fair number of Israelis feel this way; in other words, Israelis are not unequivocal in their support for the current Israeli government.
Of course, no one is unequivocal in their support for any government. The critics of Chuck Hagel, for example, are openly and very vocally critical of their own government, and they’re well within their rights to act this way. I don’t demand uniformity in thinking about our government and its policies, just as I don’t demand it with regard to thinking about Israel.
In the end, it’s incredibly frustrating that we can’t have a conversation about Israel that doesn’t begin with everyone expressing their complete and total support for the Netanyahu government and it’s sad that anything less than this level of support allows people to tar you as an anti-Semite.