Chuck Hagel and Israel: Nothing new under the sun

The possibility of a Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary revives an old debate and calls for some ancient perspective. Photo: Associated Press

SAN DIEGO, January 23, 2013 ― As the dust settles after President Obama’s inaugural victory lap, the stage is set for confirmation hearings of his proposed cabinet appointees. One of the more controversial possibilities being floated around is the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary. Concern has been articulated from several directions.

In their book, “The Post-American Presidency,” political activist Pamela Geller and terrorism expert Robert Spencer write:

 “In the Senate he (Chuck Hagel) amassed a significant track record as one of a hardline hater of Israel who would not affix his name even to the most innocuous pro-Israel initiative. When all but four Senators signed a pro-Israel statement in 2000, Hagel was one of the holdouts. The next year, he was again among the few Senators – eleven this time – who refused to add their names to a statement urging George W. Bush not to meet with Yasser Arafat as long as the Palestinian groups under his control continued to pursue violence against Israel. In 2005, Hagel, along with 26 other senators, opposed a call to the Palestinian Authority to disqualify terror groups from participating in elections. And when twelve senators wrote to the European Union in 2006 asking that the EU join the U.S. in classifying Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, Hagel was once again one of the few.” 

Senators like Lindsey Graham have also expressed serious concerns with a Hagel nomination:

“Chuck Hagel, if confirmed to be the secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the state of Israel in our nation’s history. Not only has he said you should directly negotiate with Iran, sanctions won’t work, that Israel should directly negotiate with the Hamas organization, a terrorist group that lobs thousands of rockets into Israel, he also was one of 12 senators who refused to sign a letter to the European Union that Hezbollah should be designated as a terrorist organization” (CBS News, January 7, 2013).

Although Hagel claims his opinions about Israel have been “completely distorted,” the words speak for themselves and go back many years. He said in 1998, “The Israeli government essentially continues to play games … Desperate men do desperate things when you take hope away. And that’s where the Palestinians are today.”

And while Israel gets criticism from the senator, his position on Iran seems far more trusting: “I think we should continue to pursue openings with Iran, understanding this is still a nation very hostile to the West. We need to understand cold, hard realities and be very clear-eyed and clearheaded, but every opening we should take.”

Usually missing from such sweeping, sanctimonious statements are stubborn little facts such as Iran’s desire to conquer the world for Islam, an ambition not shared by Israel, which is merely trying to survive. Another piece of forgotten historical trivia was Israel’s agreement to a proposed U.N. two state solution as far back as 1947 and the Palestinians’ unwillingness to accept this agreement. It is simply not true that a new Palestinian state will bring any peace to the Middle East. The last time Israel gave land back to the Palestinians by vacating the Gaza Strip (2005), she was rewarded with a barrage of missiles.

In all fairness, Hagel is not alone in his judgment of this war torn corner of the world. Viewing Israel as a dangerous, aggressive nation, rather than a persecuted people, is an assessment as old as the hills. One can only imagine what a news interview might have been like in the days of the Pharaohs.

ANCHOR: From the banks of Egypt’s river, this is Bill O’Niley. My special guest today is Thutmose the Taskmaster. Thank you for joining us Mr. Thutmose.

THUTMOSE: Good to be here, Bill

ANCHOR:  Well let’s get started and remember, this is a no spin delta. As I understand it, you have some trouble with the way the Hebrew exodus from Egypt has taken place.

THUTMOSE: I certainly do. Our country has been devastated.  Crops destroyed! Servants in rebellion! People dropping dead from plagues! It’s all the fault of those Israeli aggressors!

ANCHOR: You’re calling them the aggressors? I understand the Israelis haven’t been treated too well by you Egyptians.

THUTMOSE: Oh you want to talk about treatment? Let’s talk about it! Just look at what that Moses did to our river! Changing it into blood! Do you know how many new EPA regulations we have as a result of that little magic trick?

ANCHOR: But you seem to be taking one incident out of context. This all began…

THUTMOSE: Just a minute, I don’t need a lecture from you on when it all began. I’ll tell you when it all began, it began when Joseph and his family moved from those deserts and came to Egypt. This illegal occupation of our country has been the whole problem.

ANCHOR: Hold on!  Didn’t Pharaoh press the Hebrews into forced labor?

THUTMOSE: Since when has a little good hard work hurt anyone?

ANCHOR: Slavery is hardly a little good hard work. Your pharaoh is a tyrant!

THUTMOSE: Oh we’re talking about tyrants now? How about George Bush?

ANCHOR: No you don’t. You’re not changing the subject. George Bush hasn’t even been born yet. Let’s get back to Egypt. Aren’t the Hebrew slaves just trying to escape from the taskmasters?

THUTMOSE: Hey Mister, one man’s taskmaster is another man’s freedom fighter.

ANCHOR: Now you aren’t going to argue moral equivalence, are you? The slaves are as equally guilty as the slaveholders?

THUTMOSE: Sure they are.  Or do you want to suggest that the plague killing our firstborn sons was collateral damage?

ANCHOR: Isn’t pharaoh responsible for these plagues? He keeps agreeing to let the people go and then changing his mind.

THUTMOSE: So? What politician hasn’t flip flopped on issues from time to time? Is that any reason to destroy our entire nation?

ANCHOR: I think slavery is the issue. Are the Hebrews supposed to enjoy slavery?

THUTMOSE: Nobody is asking them to enjoy it. All we ask is that they show restraint and give the peace process a chance.

ANCHOR: But they didn’t create the plagues. God did.

THUTMOSE: Yeah, well that’s another thing, dragging God into this whole mess. That violates separation between church and state.

ANCHOR: I see we aren’t getting anywhere, so I’ll go ahead and wrap this interview up with just one last question. If you’re so dead set against the exodus, is there any way you would ever consider sharing your land with the Hebrews?

THUTMOSE: Sure we would. We’ll take the surface and the Hebrews can be buried underground, an even 50/50 split!

 


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Bob Siegel

A graduate of Denver Seminary and San Jose State University, Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and popular guest speaker at churches and college campuses across the country, using a variety of media including, seminars, formal debates, outdoor open forums, and one man drama presentations.

In addition to his own weekly radio show (KCBQ 1170, San Diego) Bob has been a guest on many other programs, including The 700 Club, Washington Times Radio's Inside the Story, The Rick Amato Show, KUSI Television's Good Morning San Diego, and the world popular Jonathan Park radio drama series, for which Bob guest starred in two episodes and wrote one episode, The Clue From Ninevah.

Bob is a regular contributor for San Diego Newsroom and San Diego Rostra. Bob does a good deal of playwriting as well (14 plays & 5 collaborations), including the award winning, Eternal Reach.  Bob has also published two books;  A Call To Radical Discipleship, and I'd Like to Believe In Jesus, But...

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