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Obama and the Israel Lobby

The Israel Lobby is flexing its muscles against Barack Obama's expected nominee to be the next Secretary of Defence. Frontrunner Chuck Hagel is co-chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board Committee.

Hagel was a Republican Senator representing Nebraska from 1996 until his retirement in 2008 and was one of the few senators who crossed party lines on issues most important to the American people.


Despite his Republican credentials and being considered for a senior appointment by a Democratic President, so-called "Israeli firsters" from both parties are united in trying to sabotage Hagel's official nomination. Not because he is ill-equipped to lead the US armed forces, it must be said, but because he was insufficiently submissive to the pro-Israel Lobby while in the Senate.

When asked on NBC's Meet the Press programme last week if he would support Hagel if he is the President's nominee, leading Israeli firster Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, responded with, "I'd have to study his record." Schumer's response with respect to a nominee by a President from his own party was uncharacteristic of American politics.

Appearing on the same programme, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham warned that the President's presumed choice for the defence role will face tough questioning from his fellow Republicans regarding "his position towards Israel". The Republican Jewish Coalition declared that such a nomination would "be a slap in the face of every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel".

Elliot Engel, a Democrat in the House of Representatives said on C-Span that Hagel's "endemic hostility towards Israel" is "troublesome for me and for a lot of other people".

Another pro-Israel advocate in Washington was quoted by the online Daily Beast last Thursday: "The pro-Israel community will view the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel in an extremely negative light. His record is unique in its animus towards Israel."

The power of the Israel Lobby is the best kept secret among American elected officials. I worked with an ex-Congressman who at the time was retained as a lobbyist for an organisation I was employed by in San Diego. He had a near perfect pro-Israel voting score during his service in Congress.

He once confided to me that his votes and many of his colleagues' on issues pertaining to the Middle East were influenced first and foremost by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Jewish financiers. While sympathetic to the Palestinians, he also remembered those (he named a few) who were ousted when "Jewish" money started pouring into their opponent's coffers during election campaigns.

In fact, I remember attending a meeting with another Congressman in the late eighties who spoke off the record of his disgust with the power of the mainly but not exclusively Jewish pro-Israel Lobby. He voiced his admiration for House member James Traficant who distinguished himself by standing up to the lobbyists. He was elected nine times before resigning to serve a jail sentence following a court conviction.

With regards to Hagel, on Sunday President Obama described his choice as "a patriot… who has done extraordinary work in the US Senate, somebody who served this country with valour in Vietnam." Hagel served as an infantry squad leader and was a recipient of a Cross of Gallantry, two Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge during his service during the Vietnam War.

The Israel Lobby is the new equivalent of Big Brother's "thought police", inhibiting open debate on a US foreign policy inconsistent with the principles of the US Constitution.

It should be a concern to everyone in America that patriotic Americans are shoved aside by the Lobby while individuals with dual US-Israeli citizenship, ex-Israeli soldiers or even suspected spies have been appointed unchallenged to the highest offices in various US administrations.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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