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Curses On The Wall

Past criticism revisits Chuck Hagel, the next US defence secretary

Curses On The Wall
AFP (From Outlook Magazine Jan 21, 2013 Issue)
Curses On The Wall
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

A bitter battle is brewing on Capitol Hill. Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as the next defence secretary of the United States boils down to this litmus test: does he support Israel, understand the threat posed by Iran and is he sorry for past remarks that his critics say were borderline anti-Semitic? Even before President Barack Obama nominated Hagel this week for the top job at the Pentagon, critics of the former Republican senator from Nebraska had launched a full-throated campaign against the nomination. 

As a senator in 2006, Hagel had infuriated the powerful pro-Israel lobby when he refused to sign a letter urging the European Union to designate the Iran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. His explanation of his decision only made matters worse.

In an interview with Aaron David Miller, a former State Department Middle East peace negotiator, Hagel laid it out: “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here (in the US Congress).... I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.” Hagel’s critics were irked by his description of the pro-Israel lobby as a Jewish one. Not all Jews support Israel, and many advocates for Israel are not Jewish.

“In the Arab and Muslim world, the terminology of a ‘Jewish lobby’ conjures up conspiratorial theories, exaggerated notions of Jewish power and, frankly, anti-Semitism,” says Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organisation. “When you take that together with, ‘I’m not an Israeli senator,’ he obviously has a problem which we would like for him to address head on in an open and public way,” the rabbi adds.

The Emergency...

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