It's a new phase of what can only be described as a campaign to prevent former Sen. Chuck Hagel's potential appointment as Defense Secretary. The pattern seems to be emerging here: the right-wing raises harebrained objections, no one bothers to defend the potential nominee, the campaign catches on and, before you know it, the candidate withdraws before they've even been appointed. Henceforth, the hyperventilating war cries against Hagel emanated only from dyed-in-the-wool neoconservatives and former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, and Josh Block, and Josh Block (a distinction without a difference, perhaps). But now the Chuck Hagel affair is at the "campaign catches on" phase: the first of the relatively centrist or moderate pro-Israel Jewish groups just spoke up with a shocking statement.
Abe Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, released an exclusive statement to—where else?—the Washington Post's pugnacious neoconservative blogger Jennifer Rubin:
Chuck Hagel would not be the first, second, or third choice for the American Jewish community’s friends of Israel. His record relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling. The sentiments he’s expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and former president Jimmy Carter.
What's most stunning about the accusation is that Foxman didn't here launch into what's become the more mild—and, I think all comers will agree, more reasonable—policy critiques of some of Hagel's positions. Instead, Foxman went for the nuclear option: that Hagel's statements on Washington's pro-Israel community "border on anti-Semitism." I've addressed the anti-Semitism charge against Hagel already, and Peter Beinart did so again in these pages in response to another attack alleging Jew-hatred in the Wall Street Journal today (Jen Rubin cited the latter, natch). But don't listen to me or Peter (or Miller or Kurtzer) that Hagel's views don't put him beyond the pale for the Defense Secretary position. Listen to Abe Foxman. According to a report in the Times of Israel—which came out after Rubin's exclusive—Foxman doesn't intend to oppose Hagel's nomination:
Foxman, too, found fault with Hagel’s track record, but said it was not grounds to protest his nomination. “His positions on Israel could be much better; they are problematic,” Foxman said. “But here again, he will concur with the administration’s views and policies. He has evidenced tendencies which would give us pause for concern, but not enough to oppose him for a high-level position."
The thrust of the Times of Israel piece was that Hagel had opposed attacking Iran, but has more recently shown a willingness to strike a more hawkish posture. Of this development, Foxman said: "I think that’s a pragmatic change based on the expectation that he would be seriously considered by the Obama administration for a high-level position... He’s now in sync with the president’s approach to Iran."
I called the ADL for comment on the discrepancy, with no response by press time (I was informed that Foxman is travelling, and if we hear back, we'll update). But perhaps we should take Foxman at his word on both counts. That leaves us with this inescapable conclusion: Hagel is an anti-Semite after all, but as long as he won't get in the way of a military attack on Iran, he's a-okay, by the lights of Foxman, to run the Defense Department!