After a last-ditch effort by his opposition to do some muckraking has failed to harvest any serviceable pay dirt, Chuck Hagel has been confirmed today. Senator John McCain had conceded over the weekend that Hagel “very likely will be” confirmed, although he thinks the new Defense Secretary “will have been weakened” by the protracted battle. Another member of the anti-Hagel brigade spouting the same message is former diplomat Elliot Abrams, who, in an interview with Nahum Barnea, said “Yes. I suppose he will be confirmed. But he will be a weaker secretary of defense.” But Abrams–who during the contest for his confirmation leveled the most outrageous accusations at Hagel–didn’t stop there, bringing up again Hagel’s declaration that he was not an Israeli Senator but a United States Senator. For that, Abrams again flirted with labeling Hagel an anti-Semite, telling Barnea “I think that everyone who rules out an initiative by Jews to influence American policy is an anti-Semite. That’s my definition.”
Abrams had been forced to walk back from that precipice earlier due to the disapproval of his Council on Foreign Relations colleagues. In his retreat, he jettisoned dancing around the anti-Semitism slander and instead Abrams thought Hagel deserved to be questioned about his “apparent sentiment” that “Jews are doing something questionable or even disloyal when they join together to promote the closest possible alliance between the United States and Israel.” There is no evidence Hagel feels this way and so he’s in no danger of being considered an outright anti-Semite, as defined above by Abrams. But does being opposed to the preponderant influence of all lobbies in politics still make one an anti-Semite? Also, do the adherents of the pro-Israel lobby straddle the fence between dual loyalties? Let’s answer the last question first, seeing that I’ve already given it some treatment.
Israeli writer Uri Avnery most recently wrote about how he and former President of the World Zionist Organization Nahum Goldmann attempted decades ago to unravel the enigma of why the U.S. is unable to impose peace on Israelis and Palestinians, a move so obviously in the U.S.’s interest. One explanation they settled on was “the growing power of the pro-Israel lobby” but it wasn’t convincing enough. Avnery wondered “What about the spying affair around Jonathan Pollard, who stays in prison for life in spite of immense Israeli pressure to release him?” It’s a well-made point—one helping to prove that the U.S. pro-Israel lobbies do not take dictation from Israel and that there is daylight between the two, which speaks of the hidden friction between American Jews and Israelis.
In a New York Times article from 1992 about Israeli Prime Minister Rabin’s dressing-down of AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups, the author Clyde Haberman observed that the “Israelis’ attitudes toward American Jewry have always been an ambivalent blend of gratitude and resentment.” He quotes, too, an American Jewish representative who said “Most Israelis don’t take American Jews seriously.” As Rabin’s scolding reflected Israeli bitterness towards his nation’s American Jewish benefactors, it also revealed that these groups march to their own tune when he told them they “should not pursue their own initiatives but rather take instructions from the Israeli Embassy in Washington.” This separation extends to today with AIPAC et al opposing Hagel and the Israeli government having no objections to his appointment. Seems like an odd way to exhibit dual loyalty when these lobbies think nothing of bucking their supposed masters.
But if pro-Israel lobbies aren’t Israel’s lackeys, why then don’t they demand the occupation of the Palestinians be ended? As Avnery and Goldmann asked, “Why, for God’s sake, did the Americans not do what logic dictated? … It could not be in the American national interest to follow a policy that made it a hate-object of the masses throughout the entire Arab and most of the Muslim world.” The occupation is undoubtedly not in the national interest but what it is in the interest of is the U.S. empire. The occupation is instrumental in Washington’s control of the region because it radicalizes the Arab nations who seek justice for their brethren and are incensed at their leaders’ perennial lack of action. Facing this popular rage makes the terrified Arab despots clamorous for American arms and support. So when AIPAC does nothing to advance the peace process know that they are doing so primarily on behalf of the empire.
Moving on to the first question I would say that it’s possible to oppose the influence of the pro-Israel lobbies without being an anti-Semite so long as one opposed special interest lobbies in general. And every lobby should be opposed because, as a Capitol Hill aide once reminded MJ Rosenberg, “The public is getting screwed eight ways to Sunday by special interests and AIPAC is just one of them.” The aide went on to add “The issues of jobs, health, taxes, the environment, regulation to protect kids’ health, oil drilling, workers’ safety, education, guns–they are all dictated by lobbies just as overbearing as AIPAC.” Rosenberg concurred, saying “AIPAC is part of an infinitely larger problem: a thoroughly corrupted political system.” He agrees with Bill Moyers in calling that corrupt political system a plutocracy where the super rich “have used their vastly increased wealth to assure that government does their bidding.” Overcoming the dominance of all lobbies and their plenteous money-bags will be the central challenge of returning to republican principles and a non-interventionist foreign policy.