Hagel an Anti-Semite? Two Judaeans Respond

While both Gil Troy and Jonathan Weiler have very different opinions about President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel for United States Secretary of Defense, they both question the labeling of Hagel as an anti-semite.

In the Daily Beast, Gil wrote in December:

The shadow-boxing over the Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense trial balloon has turned ugly—and misleading. Some opponents have accused the former Nebraska Senator of being anti-Semitic, leading Hagel’s defenders to pitch their support for him on the equally simplistic and reductionist grounds that he is not. I think there are many good reasons for opposing Hagel, as I detailed in my recent post. However, I have not seen evidence that he is an anti-Semite.

I reserve the term “anti-Semite,” like the term “anti-Israel,” for those bigots who deserve it. There are too many blatant anti-Semites and anti-Zionists in the world today—and I will not function as their recruitment agent by adding to their ranks. I also refuse to dilute the power of the accusation through inaccurate overuse. Just as calling the nationalist clash between Israelis and Palestinians “racism” and “apartheid” drains those words of their meaning, calling Chuck Hagel anti-Semitic based on two indelicate Jewish-lobby-oriented quotations is rhetorical overkill.

Gil Troy, former Tel Yehudah camper, madrich and merakez and current member of the new Young Judaea Board of Directors, has a new book out Moynihan’s Moment: The Fight Against Zionism as Racism

Read Gil’s full post Hagel: Not An Anti-Semite, Just A Slob

In the Huffington Post on Tuesday, Jonathan wrote:

Hagel's views align more or less seamlessly with conventional wisdom among American and Israeli military officials. More to the point, if Chuck Hagel is Secretary of Defense, there is no plausible argument that US foreign policy toward Israel specifically or more broadly will change notably. Though it seems likely that significant cuts are coming to the Pentagon in any event, we will continue to maintain a vast global military presence, will continue to spend more than any other country on our armed forces and will continue to leverage our economic and military might to push our interests in all corners of the globe. America is not going to stand down because Chuck Hagel is SecDef. Nor is it going to cease treating Israel as a uniquely favored ally. His most vocal critics are not, by and large, engaging in a substantive attack on his likely conduct as Secretary of Defense because they cannot plausibly argue that his appointment would change meaningfully any of these realities.

Instead, some have resorted to dark insinuation, a key goal of which is to continue to police the boundaries of acceptable discourse in the United States about our foreign policy in general and about Israel, in particular. The attacks on Hagel represent an egregious case of political correctness -- attempting to use the pretext of a stray phrase to ensure that no meaningful dialogue about vitally important issues can take place. There are proper grounds to debate Hagel's nomination -- including his ties to the energy lobby and the security implications of those for our policies in that arena. But these will receive scarcely any attention at all, given how narrow is the respectable ideological spectrum in the US when it comes to our overseas conduct. The charges against Hagel that have received a hearing do little more than perpetuate our inability to debate seriously issues of vital national concern.

Former national mazkir and bet meat pot washer, Jonathan Weiler, is Director of Undergraduate Studies in Global Studies, UNC Chapel Hill and author of Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics

Read Jonathan’s full post, Attacks on Chuck Hagel Show Political Correctness At Its Worst

We invite you to share your own thoughts about the Nagel nomination here.

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