Forward Thinking

Chuck Hagel's Jewish Scorecard

By Nathan Guttman

  • Print
  • Share Share
getty images

The debate over the possible nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel for defense secretary is not dying down.

The White House has yet to formally announce whether Hagel will be its pick for the top Pentagon post, although President Obama has signalled to insiders that he is the likely choice. And the president did come out in Hagel’s defense in his Sunday Meet the Press interview, calling the Nebraska Republican “a patriot”.

Where does the Jewish community stand on Hagel as Defense Secretary? All over the map.

Leading the detractors is, of course, Abraham Foxman of the Anti Defamation League whose remark that Hagel’s comments on the pro-Israel lobby “border on anti-Semitism” triggered the entire debate. The American Jewish Committee’s David Harris weighed in on the same side with an anecdote reminding the public of Hagel’s refusal to sign a letter condemning anti Semitism in Russia. Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations expressed “concern” over the possibility that Hagel will take over as defense secretary, although he did add that such a nomination will be something “we will work with.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition was first to criticize Hagel, calling his nomination “a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel.”

The Israel Project’s new president and CEO Josh Block has also been active in circulating material highlighting opposition to Hagel due to his record on Israel.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has not made any public statement regarding its views on Hagel although it is widely believed that the pro-Israel lobby would not be at ease with a defense secretary who has openly criticized it.

Among the few Jewish groups standing up for Hagel are the dovish lobby J Street as well as Americans for Peace Now. The National Jewish Democratic Council did not express any view on the issue.

In Congress, some Jewish lawmakers chose to steer clear. New York Senator Chuck Schumer refused to take a stand on the issue, while Senator Dianne Feinstein said Hagel was “confirmable meaning he could get approved by Senate. Michigan’s Carl Levin, who heads the Senate’s armed services committee which will lead the confirmation expressed his support for Hagel. Independent Joe Lieberman, who ended his Senate career on Wednesday, said he would have some “serious questions” for Hagel and estimated that his confirmation would be “tough”.

In the House, retiring Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank stated his opposition to the nomination because of Hagel being “against fairness for LGBT people” and New York’s Eliot Engel, the incoming ranking Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee said he is concerned about the nomination.

In the world of pundits, it was the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman who set the tone for the debate by urging all parties to “give Chuck a chance”. On the other end of the spectrum it was the Weekly Standard’s William Kristol who not only led the attack against Hagel but also ran ads through the Emergency Committee on Israel he founded arguing that Hagel is “not a responsible option” for the job.

So, Hagel’s bottom line with the Jewish community is surprisingly mixed. While he clearly does not enjoy much support from the organized Jewish world, he still has backing, albeit not very vocal, from some leading Jewish senators. And he’ll always have Tom Friedman.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: jewish, israel, defense, chuck hagel, barack obama, Pro-Israel, Pentagon, Israel

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.