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Uri Avnery: Welcome, Chuck

Chuck Hagel

“Once you start [an attack on Iran] … you’d better be prepared to find 100,000 troops, because it may take that,” Chuck Hagel warned in 2010. President Obama nominated Hagel to be Secretary of Defense on Jan. 7. (Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press / MCT)

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. In this excellent article, Avnery takes on the Israel Lobby’s campaign against Chuck Hagel with a combination of wit and astute analysis.

What does this have to do with Islamophobia? Senator John Cronyn, who allegedly represents the American people, has succinctly tied the whole campaign together for us on his website:

[The Iranian regime] is not a government that calculates self-interest the way America does. It is a messianic theocracy intent on exporting its violent Islamist revolution. And if Tehran gets the bomb, we might soon have a nuclear arms race in one of the world’s most volatile regions.

It is no exaggeration to say that a nuclear Iran represents an existential threat to Israel. And yet, while Hagel wants us to be softer on the Iranians, he thinks we should be tougher on the Israelis. In October 2000, at the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada, he was one of only four senators who refused to sign a letter to President Bill Clinton affirming U.S. solidarity with Israel. More recently, in January 2009, Hagel signed a letter advising Obama to spearhead direct, unconditional talks with Hamas, a terrorist group that had just fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.

Chuck Hagel raised some eyebrows when it was reported that, during an interview in 2006, he allegedly said:

The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here…. I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator.

Senator Cronyn is not an Israeli senator either, but perhaps he should be.

Welcome, Chuck

by ,

I FIND Chuck Hagel eminently likeable. I am not quite certain why.

Perhaps it’s his war record. He was decorated for valor in the Vietnam War (which I detested). He was a mere sergeant. Since I was a mere corporal in our 1948 war, I find it elating to see a non-commissioned officer become Minister of Defense.

Like so many veterans who have seen war from close up (myself included), he has become an enemy of war. Wonderful.

NOW Hagel is violently attacked by all the neocon warmongers, almost none of whom has ever heard a bullet whistle in the wars to which they sent others, and the combined political regiments of the American Jewish establishment.

His main sin seems to be that he objects to war against Iran. To be against an attack on Iran means to be anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, indeed to wish for the destruction of Israel if not all Jews. Never mind that almost all present and past chiefs of the Israeli army and intelligence community object to an attack on Iran, too. But Binyamin Netanyahu knows better.

Last week, the former much-lauded chief of the Shin Bet painted a frightening picture of Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak at a security meeting to discuss the bombing of Iran some time ago. The two were in high spirits, puffing on cigars and drinking whiskey, much to the disgust of the assembled security chiefs. In Israel, cigars are considered an ostentatious luxury and drinking at work is taboo.

Netanyahu’s spin-doctors retorted that Winston Churchill, too, was a brandy drinker and smoked cigars. Seems that spirits and cigars are not enough to make a Churchill.

Actually, I think that the appointment of Hagel may come as a relief to Netanyahu. After years of depicting the Iranian nuclear bomb as the end of the world, or at least of Israel, the bomb is mysteriously absent from Netanyahu’s election campaign. Hagel’s appointment may allow Netanyahu to climb down from this tree altogether.

But the catalogue of Hagel’s crimes is much more extensive.

Many years ago he called the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington (would you believe it?) the “Jewish lobby”. Until then, it was understood that AIPAC is mainly composed of Buddhists and financed by Arab billionaires like Abu Sheldon and Abd-al-Adelson.

HOWEVER, HAGEL’S most heinous sin is not often mentioned. While serving as the Republican senator for Nebraska, he once uttered the unspeakable words: “I am an American senator, not an Israeli senator!”

That is really the crux of the matter.

US senators are nearly all Israeli senators. Ditto for US congressmen. Hardly any of them would dare to criticize the Israeli government on any issue, negligible as it may be. Criticizing Israel is political suicide. Not only does the Jewish lobby use its huge resources to get loyal pro-Israelis elected and re-elected, but it openly employs these resources to unseat the few elected officials who dare to criticize Israel. They almost always succeed.

In the present election campaign, the Likud is showing again and again (and again) the scene of Netanyahu addressing the US congress. The senators and congressmen are seen wildly applauding after every single sentence, jumping up and down like children in gymnastics class. The text of the clip says: “When Netanyahu speaks, the world listens!”

(A curiosity: right after this shameful scene, the clip shows Netanyahu addressing the UN General Assembly. Since the applause there was sparse – hardly anyone, other than Avigdor Lieberman and the other members of the Israeli delegation in the half-empty hall did applaud – the editors of the clip used a little trick: they took the applause from the US Congress and transferred it to the UN Assembly hall.)

Somebody sent me a satirical piece saying that if Hagel’s appointment is not cancelled by the US Senate, Israel will have to use its veto power to block it. In such a case, the senate would have to muster a 90% majority to overcome the veto. If this fails, President Obama would have to choose another Defense Secretary from a list of three names provided by Netanyahu.

Jokes aside, the Israeli defense establishment is not worried by the Hagel appointment. They seem to know him as quite receptive to Israeli requests. Several Israeli generals have already come to his defense.

THIS WHOLE episode might be considered trivial, or even funny, were it not for the question: Why did President Obama put forward this controversial figure in the first place?

An obvious answer is: Revenge. Obama is a master of controlling his emotions. During all the months of Netanyahu supporting Mitt Romney, Obama did not react. But his anger must have been building up inside.

Now the time has come. Appointing Hagel and openly humiliating the pro-Israel lobby was one way. More of this can be expected to come. Any slight nudge from America is bound to be felt by Israel as a heavy blow.

By the way, this blow could be used by the opposition parties here to to expose Netanyahu’s rank incompetence. Supporting Romney was plain stupid. All the more so as Netanyahu, who was raised in the US, depicts himself as an expert on US affairs. But no party dares to raise this subject in our election campaign, for fear of being considered less than super-patriotic.

I don’t expect President Obama to change the US treatment of Israel in the near future, beyond some small punitive acts like this one. But when we raise our eyes towards the horizon, the picture looks different.

There is already a marked difference between Obama I and Obama II. When he was elected the first time, he chose Chas Freeman, a highly respected diplomat, to head the National Security Council. The pro-Israel lobby raised a storm, and the appointment was withdrawn. Obama then preferred public humiliation to a confrontation with the lobby. How different this time!

This change may well become more marked in Obama’s second term and far beyond. The lobby’s stranglehold on Washington DC is loosening, slightly, slowly, but significantly.


I believe that one of the reasons is that the perception of the American Jewish community is changing. American politicians are beginning to realize that Jewish voters are far from unanimously behind the lobby. American Jewish “leaders”, almost all of them self-appointed and representing nobody but a small clique of professional representatives, as well as the Israeli embassy and some right-wing billionaires, do not control the Jewish vote.

This became clear when Netanyahu supported Romney. The great majority of Jewish voters continued to support Obama and the Democratic Party.

This is not a sudden development. For years now, American Jews – especially young Jews – have distanced themselves from the Zionist establishment. Becoming more and more disillusioned with official Israeli policy, alienated by the occupation, disgusted with the pictures of Israeli soldiers beating up helpless Palestinians, they have quietly dropped away. Quietly, because they fear an anti-Semitic backlash. Jews are indoctrinated from early childhood that “we Jews have to stick together” in face of the anti-Semites.

Only a few brave American Jews are ready to openly – though ever so timidly – criticize Israel. But US politics are slowly adjusting to the fact that much of the lobby’s strength is bluff, and that most American Jews don’t let Israel determine their voting pattern.

AMERICANS MUST be a race of angels – how else to explain the incredible patience with which they suffer the fact that in a vital sphere of US interests, American policy is dictated by a foreign country?

For five decades, at least, US Middle East policy has been decided in Jerusalem. Almost all American officials dealing with this area are, well, Jewish. The Hebrew-speaking American ambassador in Tel Aviv could easily be the Israeli ambassador in Washington. Sometimes I wonder if in meetings of American and Israeli diplomats, they don’t sometimes drop into Yiddish.

I have warned many times that this can’t go on forever. Sooner or later real anti-Semites – a disgusting breed – will exploit this situation to gain legitimacy. The hubris of AIPAC bears poisonous fruit.

Since Israel is dependent on US support in almost every sphere – from the UN Security Council to the battlefields of future wars – this is a real existential danger.

Perhaps the lobby is becoming alert to this danger. In the present affair, their voice is remarkably subdued. They don’t want to stand out.

THE SADDEST part of the story is that all these false “friends of Israel” in the US Congress and media are not really embracing “Israel”. They are embracing the Israeli right-wing, including the extreme and even fascist right-wing. They are, thereby, helping the right-wing to tighten their control over our country.

American policy plays a major role in the agony of the Israeli peace camp, which is so manifest in the present election campaign. Just one example: the huge settlement effort now in process, which makes the two-state peace solution more and more difficult to implement, is financed by American Jews who funnel their donations through tax-free organizations. Thus the US government in practice finances the settlements, which it officially condemns as illegal.

Since the 19th century, newspapers have got used to abbreviating their reports by saying “France protests” and “Germany declares” when they mean “the French government protests” and “the German government declares”. Thus the media today write that “Israel” promotes the settlements, when in actual fact it is the Israeli government which does so. Several respected recent polls prove that most Israelis want peace based on the two-state solution, which is undermined by our government on a daily basis.

BACK TO Senator Hagel: the Israeli government and the “friends of Israel” will do anything to undermine his appointment.

Speaking for myself, I hope that his appointment will herald a new American policy – a policy of support for a sober, rational, liberal, secular, democratic Israel, striving for peace with the Palestinian people.


Young Turks: Breakdown of Netanyahu’s Appearance in US Congress

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  • I’ve seen the term “political religion” used for totalitarian ideologies such as Nazism and Stalinism, but never before for Zionism. (And I presume that it was Zionism which Cosmic Atheist was referring to, not Judaism.)

  • I’m surprised that only 49% of American scientists don’t believe in God. I also thought that it would have been biologists and/or psychologists that would have been top of the list by discipline (and that these two would have been over 90% atheist).

  • I like that idea too, I’m just trying to emphasize that we Palestinians wouldn’t mind them staying if they played nice with us, because we were raised to be hospitable and kind to those in need.

    We’re far more tolerant than most Israelis.

  • You know what I think is messed up? The international community allows Israel to have nukes without inspections or rules, knowing Israel has a plan of total annihilation on the books, but Iran is only RUMOURED to have them and everyone’s crying for Iranian blood.

  • Kirook

    I believe that there is a God. But I also believe in evolution, the Big Bang theory, etc. How do I reconcile these beliefs? Well, to start:

    In the beginning there was only void. God put energy into the void. The void expanded, forming subatomic particles and later, elements such as hydrogen and helium. As this happened, God created laws to govern His creation, and to ensure that it would not collapse into chaos. The universe continued to form. Then, billions of years later, God decided to populate His creation with life. So He selected a fledgling planet called Earth, and He touched the water with a flash of lightning, and life came forth. Over the following eons, God watched and waited as the life He had created grew, and changed, and adapted. And so, after billions more years of adaptation and evolution, humans came to be.

    And God saw what he had made, and it was good.

    This is my best guess at how to believe in God while also accepting rationality and science.

  • GCarty

    No, what we need is a way to nullify the Samson Option threat.

  • GCarty

    According to Dawkins’s theory of memetics, Islam would be described as an “uninvadable CSS” (Culturally Stable Strategy). That means Islam is almost impossible for outsiders to alter, which is why Dawkins fears and hates it so much.

  • Cosmic Atheist

    Then I suppose you can explain why 49% of American scientists don’t believe in God or a higher power while only 4% of Americans don’t? I think you’ll find that the acceptance of natural processes will generally make one a naturalist.

  • No I do not. In fact I’ve never met a Palestinian who’s openly endorsed a two-state platform, as it’d mean giving up the right of return, and it’s an unspoken rule amongst us Palestinians that whoever seeks to give up the right of return better not call themselves Palestinians. That’s a non-starter. You give that up and you’re giving up your “Palestinian-ness”.

    I duno who’s insisting that Palestinians want the two-state platform suggested by the West…because as I said before that involves giving up the right of return. These people you speak of apparently aren’t talking to any actual Palestinians.

    All the ones I know are one-staters….and here’s the crazy part — none of us actually mind living amongst Jews. One state, two people, return of all refugees. This is what Palestinians want, and they’ve always wanted.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    Sen. Coryn and those who agree with him in opposition to the nomination of Hagel are scaremongering regarding the perceived Iranian threat. They are attempting to position the conflict as they often do, the “Good” (rational, Judeo-Christian, civilized, Western, Democratic) vs. the “Evil” (irrational, Islamic, theocratic, tyrannical, savage Iran).

  • I agree.

  • We need a third intifada.

  • Reynardine

    The commenter who advocated for a science-based education happens to be an atheist. I don’t happen to be an atheist, and by the same token, trying to fetter any non-religious discipline with religious dictates leads to superstition. If, because there is a scriptural reference to “the corners of the Earth” we demand that children be taught the Earth is either flat or cubical, we are forcing them to learn superstition. The evidence that the planet is a lot older than six thousand years and took a lot longer than six days to form is overwhelming. Do we censor it? Do we not let children hear about fossils, or lie to them and say that dinosaurs were contemporaneous with human beings? Do we confuse them with nitwitted mumblings about how “we are not monkeys”? (No, we are not, but we are primates,all the same). That little peroration on pig tissue was an example. Chemically, pigs are similar to us because they are omnivores, as most primates are not, and that is why disease passes easily from one to another readily and many cultures have forbidden eating pork. But our DNA is most similar to the bonobo. Do we prevent that evidence, or the evidence of an extensive fossil record, from being taught in school? Do we prevent, not only our own children, or any children at all, from hearing it?

    In my own lifetime, scientific theory has been revised several times; the continental drift theory, once supported by findings on plate tectonics, became accepted. And that is the point about a “scientific education”: it is one based on evidence, the fair evaluation of evidence, and the willing to re-evaluate once evidence is in. That is how we should think. What we should do about it remains in the field of both religion and ethics.

  • Nur Alia binti Ahmad


    A mother doesnt need a science based parent guide to…for example to know when to put the child to the breast, or what to do when the baby cries, or when to play and when to rest…it is all intuition.

    Caring parents know these things. Most of us arent criminals, or terrorists. Most of us, within our culture are progressive and productive, and learn the things we need to know from our parents and the people around us.

    Bill Nye…whoever he might be doesnt know me, my parents, the place i was born in, or the circumstances I live in. He doesnt know the best way to raise MY children to be productive members of OUR society.

    So…again…RELIGION is one vehicle in which a parent teaches the child moral and ethcial values within the context of…thier culture, thier expreiences, and the context of thier lives.

    If those moral values include being patient and tolarant of you, your values, and your foundation, I really dont see the problem you are having…except to use your ‘anti belief’ as if it were radical religionism to tell me how evil I am to teach morals within a religious context.

    Oh…and the Qur’an (the guide I follow, and taught my children to follow) is not a science book, it is a guide to life. We (thier parents) instill in them the value of education, we encourage thier curiosity, and point them in the right direction when they ask questions.

    That is what good parents do. That is what MY parents taught me by example.

    Free thought without spirituality is selfishness, and spirituality wiithout free thought is superstition.

    There is a balance to everything.

  • Leftwing_Muslim_Alliance

    The earth was once flat beyond reasonable doubt . Witch craft was once beyond reasonable doubt and still is on Fox news .
    Reasonable doubt is nothing more than what everyone knows to be true.
    Since there are so many thinks we yet dont know . Like what is the best way to bring up a child for instance ( we know lots of ways but what we do is a different matter ) this does not seem a good criteria just to say what we can proove to be true.
    Sir David

  • Reynardine

    I understand quite what you mean. Religion is there to teach the right way to relate to each other. Religion is not there to teach planetary physics, paleontology, meteorology, physiography, evolutionary biology, or other subjects outside its purview, and insofar as any religious text gives historical data, that is as open to examination as any other historical source.

    Isaac Asimov, in his extensive analysis of the Old Testament, remarked that if Moses had taked forty years to lead an exodus to Israel via the route through what we currently think of as Sinai, he would have had to be dumb as a rock. From the internal evidence of the account, he was not that. This opens up a number of other possibilities, of which I will mention two: that “forty years” could have been one of those hyperboles of oral tradition, or that (since “Sinai” could have been any mountain behind which the moon could have been seen to rise or set) the Exodus event took place via (say) the Gate of Mandeb. Following the latter lead has produced some circumstantial, though not conclusive, archaeological evidence, which should be examined with the same scientific methods as any other archaelogical evidence. Thus, in historical matters, a scriptural account has to be weighed like any other account.

  • Heinz Catsup

    Here’s a hat-tip just in case you didn’t hear about it yet.

  • Sam Seed

    Oh I see, fair enough. I wish we could all be generous and loving human beings and some of us are thankfully.

  • Cosmic Atheist

    By science-based upbringing, I mean only instilling ideas unto children if they have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. I think Bill Nye’s video on creationism summarizes why this is important.

  • Reynardine

    Ah, not in the sense of wings, halos, or immortality, Sam. I mean that I wish we… Americans…were more as we should be: loving our fellow humans unless they gave us personal cause not to; fair, even if not omniscient; slow to strike on our own behalf, and swift to lend a helping hand; patient enough to learn the facts; not arrogant and never knowingly cruel. And yes, free to choose between good and evil, but choosing good to the best of our ability. The way I was taught we were supposed to be, when I was a kid.

  • Sam Seed

    You wouldn’t have free-will then.

  • Reynardine

    I wish we were “a race of angels”. I really do.

  • Nur Alia binti Ahmad

    What is a ‘science based upbringing?
    …and, to me, when you use anti belief as ‘the only right way’ like some people use religion…it simply becomes the religion of ‘anti belief’.

  • mindy1

    Shouldn’t all our representatives represent AMERICAN interests anyway, why should that be a sin? I’m not surprised he’s against a new war, as a former grunt he’s seen its nasty effects up close and personal

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