By Morton Klein and Irwin Hochberg
Israel is facing serious challenges on two new fronts. President Barack Obama has nominated Israel-basher Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense and sent fighter jets to Mohamed Morsi’s Israel-hating Egyptian regime.
Where are America’s major Jewish organizations? Silent, voicing no opposition.
Hagel’s nomination should have galvanized Jewish organizations, regardless of political orientation.
Here, after all, was a former senator with a virtually unrivaled record of hostility to Israel, bigotry towards Jews and gays, disbelief in the importance of a strong U.S. military, willingness to indulge Middle Eastern terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, and antipathy toward any conceivable measure – economic or military – aimed at preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power if negotiations fail.
Until his nomination, no major pro-Israel group could be found which would have disagreed with what we have just said. Quite the contrary.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC), by its own description, had “raised concerns.”
The Anti Defamation League (ADL)’s national director, Abraham Foxman, had said that Hagel’s record relating to Israel was “at best disturbing and at worst, very troubling” and that his anti-Israel lobby comments “border on antisemitism.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) had issued in 2007 a detailed account of Hagel’s worrying voting record on Israel and the Middle East and in 2009, its executive director, Ira Forman, indicated “that his group would oppose Hagel’s appointment to any position that had influence over U.S.-Israel relations.”
Yet, following Hagel’s nomination, virtually all Jewish groups, except the Zionist Organization of America, refused to oppose Hagel. Even the Orthodox Jewish groups, like the Orthodox Union, were silent.
AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman asserted that “AIPAC does not take positions on presidential nominations.”
AJC’s executive director David Harris explained that, though still “concerned,” AJC is “not in the opposition camp.”
ADL’s Foxman averred: “I respect the president’s prerogative” – something no one had called into question and which in no way reduces the corresponding prerogative of the Senate to decline confirmation.
NJDC issued a statement saying, “We trust that when confirmed… Hagel will follow the president’s lead of providing unrivaled support for Israel.”
In contrast, Pastor John Hagee’s Christian United for Israel was strongly opposed to Hagel’s nomination before it was even announced. It has dispatched a delegation to Washington to lobby senators against confirmation. In short, a Christian group fights for Israel while almost all Jewish groups refuse to do so.
ADL and AJC believe that there is no need to fight Hagel since “we expect the president to make clear that his long-held views will continue as American policy” (ADL), and because “setting policy starts and stops with the president” (NJDC).
Really? Cabinet members do influence the president, perhaps especially on momentous and difficult decisions. Recently, former Secretary of State Colin Powell was revealed to have complained with regard to the George W. Bush administration that “the Defense Department had too much power in shaping foreign policy.” And could it really be said that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had little or no influence on the policy of President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis? Or upon Lyndon Johnson during the conduct of the Vietnam war?
Where, too, are Jewish organizations when it comes to sending Morsi’s vicious Egyptian regime 16 F-16 fighter jets and 200 Abrams tanks, an arms deal that was negotiated in 2010 with the Mubarak regime? Its replacement by Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-backed regime should have prompted a rethink. Morsi, a founding member of the Brotherhood’s Committee to Fight the Zionist Project, was recently found to have called in 2010 for an economic boycott of the U.S., for nurturing “our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews,” and to have referred to Israelis as “bloodsuckers, warmongers… the descendants of apes and pigs.”
In 2010, Brotherhood leader Muhammad Badie advocated jihad, a state based on Islamic law, and spoke optimistically about the U.S. heading for a collapse. His second-in-command, Rashad Bayoumi, declared last year that the Egyptian/Israeli peace treaty “it isn’t binding at all… On no condition will we recognize Israel. It is an enemy entity.”
Yet Obama sends Cairo arms regardless – and most major Jewish groups remain silent.
Not so many years ago, Jewish organizations held huge rallies for Soviet Jews. AIPAC and others campaigned against the sale of AWAC planes to Saudi Arabia. American Jewish organizations should have been fighting relentlessly to stop Hagel and the Egyptian arms package.
Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).
Irwin Hochberg is former chairman of the board UJA Federation of New York and vice-chairman of ZOA.