Senator Hagel, Senator Graham, and the Israel lobby

Henry Siegman writes: Of the many controversial statements made by Senator Chuck Hagel over the years, none seemed to enrage Senator Lindsey Graham more than his remark that the Israel lobby intimidates U.S. Congressmen into advocating “stupid” policies. He challenged Hagel to name one such senator and to identify one such stupid policy.

The challenge created an unusual opportunity for Hagel, for there could be no better and conclusive evidence of the Israel Lobby’s power of intimidation of U.S. senators on the subject of Israel than these hearings themselves, and most particularly Senator Graham’s own behavior.

Unfortunately, Hagel could not take advantage of that opportunity. Had he done so, his nomination by President Obama to head the Department of Defense would undoubtedly have been dead in the water, for his former Democratic colleagues are no less guilty of yielding to that intimidation than Hagel’s former Republican colleagues.

But the truth of Hagel’s charge must be affirmed, particularly by those who are more concerned about Israel’s ability to survive as a Jewish and democratic state than about jeopardizing contributions to their own electoral campaigns. The truth that needs to be affirmed speaks not only to the existential dangers created by the current Israeli government’s illegal and often immoral behavior in the Occupied Territories but to the violation of the shared values that supposedly form the foundation of the unprecedentedly close ties between Israel and the United States.

It is not enemies of Israel but some of its most loyal and patriotic citizens, six former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet, the internal national security agency on which Israel’s security and existence depend, who blasted the policies of the government headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu as threatening Israel’s very survival because of its colonial ambitions in the West Bank and its lack of interest in reaching a peace accord with the Palestinians. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand lectured Senator Hagel that America’s ties with Israel are “fundamental” and not to be questioned, even if according to Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, its right wing government’s policies have put the country on a path to apartheid, a judgment with which two former Israeli prime ministers, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, concur.

The heads of the IDF reportedly refused to implement a demand by Prime Minister Netanyahu to prepare for an assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities, believing it would have catastrophic consequences for Israel. Whether they are right or wrong–given their unanimity, the high likelihood is that they were right–no one can question the patriotism of these generals and security chiefs or their motives. Successive Israeli governments trusted them and relied on their judgments in safeguarding Israel’s existence. But such words of caution, when expressed by an American Congressman, are considered heretical, because the Israel lobby says so. [Continue reading…]

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