Newark’s Star-Ledger called criticism of Chuck Hagel for defense as “overheated,” saying the opposition has come ”has come mostly from the armchair hawks in the neocon movement, and from the most ardent supporters of the conservative Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The editorial continues:
Don’t forget that when Israel acts like a bully, America absorbs a share of the global resentment. The fact that few members of Congress dare to point this out underscores Hagel’s point about the outsized power of the pro-Israeli lobby, which he mistakenly called the “Jewish lobby.” Yesterday, after Obama made the nomination, some key Jewish groups indicated they would drop their opposition.
Jeffrey Salkin, the Anti-Defamation League’s community director, was not amused:
“The overheated criticism of Chuck Hagel” (editorial, Jan. 8), lauding Sen. Hagel’s nomination for defense secretary, only serves to underscore the concern many Jews and supporters of Israel have about the senator’s public statements.
Reasonable people can agree to disagree on aspects of Israel’s policies. But the use of the term “the Jewish lobby” to describe Israel’s vocal supporters was inappropriate and offensive to many. To suggest, as the editorial does, that such supporters exercise “outsized power” that “few members of Congress dare to point out” smacks of medieval suspicions about secret Jewish conspiracies — not to mention the old canard about Jews having dual loyalties to the United States and Israel.
The editorial is certainly right that Sen. Hagel “mistakenly” called the pro-Israeli lobby “the Jewish lobby.” As the confirmation process goes forward, Sen. Hagel will have the opportunity to acknowledge and apologize for that mistake.
We hope Sen. Hagel’s confirmation hearings will give him the opportunity to clarify his positions on Israel and Iran. Until then, however, there is every reason for Israel’s many supporters in the United States, both Jews and gentiles, to maintain their reservations about his nomination.