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Elliott Abrams: 'Hagel will be confirmed, but he will be a weaker secretary of defense'

In an interview to the Israeli daily ‘Yedioth Ahronoth,’ the former neoconservative diplomat criticizes Hagel for his ‘I am an American senator’ remark.

Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea has today a short interview with Elliott Abrams on the issue of Chuck Hagel’s nomination to secretary of defense, which various Israeli advocacy groups have opposed.

Abrams opens by explaining why he believes Hagel is an anti-Semite, referring to Hagel’s past remark on “the Jewish Lobby” (by the way, this is the term Israelis use too, including most of the press. Examples: here, here, here, here, here, here).

Abrams: “I don’t hate him (Hagel). I don’t know him in person. I have friends who say they have known him for years and never heard an anti-Semitic remark from him. I think that everyone who rules out an initiative by Jews to influence American policy is an anti-Semite. That’s my definition.

“Hagel once said ‘I am not an Israeli senator, I am an American senator. My commitment is to the United States’. This wasn’t a gaffe.”


Barnea: You know that eventually he will be confirmed. The Senate usually doesn’t interfere with the president’s appointments.

Abrams: “Yes. I suppose he will be confirmed. But he will be a weaker secretary of defense. The fight against Hagel presents the Republican party as a very pro-Israeli party, which is a good thing. Second, it’s becoming clear to everyone that there is a strong pro-Israeli lobby that is relying mostly on Christians. This is not a Jewish lobby.”

The article appears only in the printed editon of the Yedioth Ahronoth, so here is a shot of the piece.

SNL parody of the Hagel confirmation
The Washington witch trial of Chuck Hagel
The Chuck Hagel affair and the American ‘pro-Israel’ litmus test

UPDATE: I changed the sub-headline a bit, following a Twitter conversation with Brent E. Sasley regarding the context of one of Abrams’ remarks. You can see our exchange here.

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    1. aristeides

      I wish Abrams would publish that remark in the US press and expose the treachery of the Israel-firsters in our government.

      Reply to Comment
      • Alan

        It takes an “Israel-hater” to know an “Israel-firster.”

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          Does it take a traitor to the US to defend a US traitor?

          Reply to Comment
          • Alan

            I’m not defending anyone; I’m pointing out that you and Abrams are two sides of the same coin.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Oh? I suppose then you can cite comments I’ve made smearing Israeli ministers for being more loyal to the US than to their own country.

            There’s one honest Israel-firster I’ve seen lately, Dov Lipman, who resigned his US citizenship to take up his seat as an MK. Maybe Israel could hire Abrams to peddle drugs and ship weapons to Iran, and he’d do the same.

            Reply to Comment
      • Weindeb

        This man, Abrams, a blood-soaked coward, defied an act of Congress in serving Reagan’s right-wing regime. How dare he, as an Israel-firster and thus serving a foreign power, impugn the reputation of a wounded combat veteran. And to think he is a part of the Council of Foreign Relations.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      Only in Israel do people know who Elliot Abrams is, or even care who he is. Only in Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Elliott Abrams is a well-known neocon figure in the US, with a long history involved in the Iran-Contra affair and other crimes and treasons. We do indeed know who he is.

        Reply to Comment
        • Antonio delatorre

          That is why we need and can rely on people like him to guide our opinion, and thoughts. Isn’t like this; if a crock thinks of some one as a crock,then that make the second one less of a crock? Who said all US politicians have to approved or loyal to Israel first before their country? Is this just a Jewish, or Israeli logic?

          Reply to Comment
    3. Well there you have it. Anti-semitism is to live in the US and disagree with a policy some Jews favor. Which is one of the most nonsensical definitions ever presented. Certainly worthy of the garden party in Alice in Wonderland. Proof that Zionism started as a false view of reality; because all false views of reality, over time, descend into more and more irrationality.

      It is truly amazing that certain Jews can believe it is perfectly reasonable for the Israeli government to conduct policies that are in fundamental opposition to what the US government claims to desire; think the settlements and a peace process; and yet is pure racism for a US public official to express a view that disagrees with any view a group of Jews desire. This is the epitome of elitist egotism.

      I have known of Elliot Abrams since his infamous involvement in the Nicaragua Contra monstrosity (1980’s), and almost every pronouncement he ever made appears really stupid. Now I see he has killed all the common sense he ever had.

      Reply to Comment
    4. “I think that everyone who rules out an initiative by Jews to influence American policy is an anti-Semite. That’s my definition.” : This pushes racial reification to absurdity. Since there is more than one Jew, there may be more than one “initiative by Jews”. These initiatives might be mutually incompatible; to affirm one means denying another. Thus one can be an “anti-Semite” while supporting a Jewish derived initiative!

      Reply to Comment
    5. Shmuel

      ““I think that everyone who rules out an initiative by Jews to influence American policy is an anti-Semite.”

      American Jews are American citizens, right?

      As American citizens, they have the right to have their own opinions, right?

      Such opinions may be to support Israel, right?

      And rightly or wrongly they may believe that it is in America’s interest to implement such pro Israeli opinions, right?

      And if they believe that, then they have the right to try to influence other Americans to implement such policies right?

      But if somebody comes along and accuses such Jews as being traitors because as Jews they are suspected of having dual loyalties then in effect, they are prohibiting Jews to hold pro Israeli opinions. Such statements are bigoted and discriminatory.

      Why? Because there are millions of Christian Americans who hold the same opinions. And I never heard anyone accusing Christian Americans who support Israel of having dual loyalties.

      Therefore, what Hagel said is the very definition of Antisemitism. He intimated that any Jew who tries to influence American policy to favour Israel is a traitor. But has he accused Christian Americans of the same thing? If he did, I never heard it. So the above quote is correct as far as I am concerned.

      OK I am ready for the usual personal abuse from the usual suspects in here. But I doubt that anyone will try to argue against what I said above, using logic rather than abuse. You guys really amuse me at this stage …

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Abrams’ statements are quintessential antisemitism.

        He claims that Jews, on behalf of Israel, are working to weaken the US Secretary of Defense. In conseqence, to weaken the US.

        That’s his message. If the US doesn’t place Israel above its own interests, Jews will work to weaken it. What could be more classically antisemitic?

        Reply to Comment
    6. Shmuel

      “That’s his message. If the US doesn’t place Israel above its own interests, Jews will work to weaken it. What could be more classically antisemitic?”

      No Aristeides, Abrams does not say that. Only you are saying it.

      Abrams is saying that Jews supporting Israel believe (rightly or wrongly) that Israel’s interests are not against the best interests of America. And if some American Jews believe that, then no one has the right to accuse them them of placing Israel’s interest above America’s interests. Only antisemites like you try to smear them as traitors.

      But what do you say to millions of Christian Americans who also support Israel? Are they traitors too, according to you?

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Yes, Shmuel, that’s what Abrams is saying.

        Abrams says he opposes Hagel because Hagel claims his committment is to the US, not to Israel. Abrams says “Jews” want to influence US policy to favor Israel, which, according to his views on Hagel, mean to favor committment to Israel above the US.

        And Abrams is gloating that the Republicans, as a “very pro Israeli party” have succeeded in weakening the future US Secretary of Defense – that is, clearly, the success of the influence of “Jews.”

        It’s very clear that Abrams is not only celebrating the success of “Jews” in using their influence to weaken the US defense, he is agitating to weaken it further, for the sake of Israel.

        And that, Shmuel, is definitely how most Americans will read his remarks. If someone else had placed his own words directly in his mouth, the usual antiantisemites would be howling.

        Reply to Comment
    7. Susan

      I agree with Chuck Hagel’s positions on the issues. I do have a problem with his use of the term “Jewish lobby”. Hagel is a Republican and most Jews vote for Democrats. The most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the Republican party is Christian who are often to the right of American Jews.

      I disagree with Elliot Abrams, but that is no reason to accuse him of being an “Israel firster” or questioning his loyalty to America. Even Elliot Abrams ought to able to express his opinions in a democracy.

      Reply to Comment
      • Leen

        I agree plus AIPAC is full of neocon Christians who support Israel because it is part of the revelations that Jews return to their homeland. In the end, this will urge Jesus’s second coming and all the Jews will either die or convert (according to their views).

        Ironic because it is extremely antisemitic.

        Reply to Comment
    8. Kiwi

      Shock horror …

      An Israeli Jew (Abrams) says “Yes. I suppose he will be confirmed. But he will be a weaker secretary of defense”

      Why? Because Hagel made a stupid remark about American Jews.

      What exactly did you expect from Abrams, Aristeides? That he should praise Hagel?

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        From an Israel-firster like Abrams, I wouldn’t expect anything else. Because only an Israel-firster would be gloating to see America weakened just because a candidate for office once made an imprudent but true remark about the Lobby.

        Contrast the remarks of Republican but American John McCain: “I think he will have been weakened, but having said that, the job that he has is too important,” McCain said. “I know that I and my other colleagues, if he’s confirmed, and he very likely will be, will do everything we can to work with him.”

        Reply to Comment
    9. Nikki

      This is so ridiculous it is literally unbelievable. Should not every politician, statesman allegiance be to his state, not that of a foreign nation?

      Reply to Comment
      • Shmuel

        “This is so ridiculous it is literally unbelievable. Should not every politician, statesman allegiance be to his state, not that of a foreign nation?”

        Who exactly asked Hagel to make alligeance to a foreign nation?

        Some people however, dare to question his prudence about how he treats citizens of HIS OWN nation.

        Would it be OK for you to elect someone to high office if he would make imprudent comments about African Americans? Or Hispanics? Or Muslims? I am sure you would be the first one to jump up and down against that, am I right? But Jews are different they are fair game according to you “Progressives”, right?

        Reply to Comment
    10. Philos

      It appears Abrams would have every American say,
      “I pledge allegiance to the State of Israel, and to the Zionism for which it stands, one Nation indivisible for peace, with its political interests at one with America’s.”

      Reply to Comment
    11. Kiwi

      No Philos,
      That is just your propaganda. The issue is his statement about “the Jewish Lobby”.

      Hagel himself already apologised for using that term instead of the term
      “Pro-Israel lobby”

      You do understand the difference, don’t you? The first term is a slur on all Jewish Americans. The second is a statement of fact. Hagel admits his mistake but you anti-Israel lobbyists resort to every cheap trick to misrepresent reality.

      Reply to Comment
      • Philos

        Abrams: “Hagel once said ‘I am not an Israeli senator, I am an American senator. My commitment is to the United States’. This wasn’t a gaffe.”
        So actually, he wants all Senators to say the following:
        “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies [and serve Israel’s political interests], foreign [except Israel] and domestic [except certain unnamed lobbies]; that I will bear true faith [except in matters pertaining to Israel] and allegiance to the same [except in cases that involve Israel in which case I will defer to the Israeli position]; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation [especially, in matters concerning Israel] or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Kiwi

          “Abrams: “Hagel once said ‘I am not an Israeli senator, I am an American senator. My commitment is to the United States’. This wasn’t a gaffe.”
          So actually, he wants all Senators to say the following: …”

          No, that’s just you putting words into Abrams’s mouth. Actually, he wants Hagel to stop intimating that American Jews are a fifth column.

          Even I as a non Jew agree with Abrams about that.

          Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            The words from Abrams’ mouth are quite sufficient. His objection is to Hagel being commited to the US, not Israel. That’s what Hagel said. He said nothing about a “fifth column” you’re the one making that up to make Abrams seem reasonable.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            Words are normally read in context. And context offers meaning.

            Yes Abrams uttered those words in the context of objecting to Hagel’s implication that Jews are a fifth column.

            Had he meant what you claim he meant then he truly would be a stupid man. And he does not sound to me to be stupid.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            Here, read what Abrams himself says what he meant when he was challenged about that sentence of his …


            “What, then, is the meaning of his reply if not this: that he is loyal to the United States, and his oath is to the Constitution of the United States only, “not to Israel,” unlike some people, who put Israel’s interests first. This remark seems to me more than merely irascible; it suggests that those who challenged his views have different loyalties. Can such a statement really be left unexamined and unchallenged? […]”

            His explanation is the only one that makes sense irrespective of whether he is right or wrong about Hagel.

            I mean any Jew who would openly EXPECT a US official to swear an oath of loyalty to Israel rather than the US, and say so on US media, would be a lunatic. And whether you like Abrams or hate him, he does not strike me as a lunatic.

            Reply to Comment
    12. Mikesailor

      I wonder why those who “support” Israel also support a convicted liar such as Abrams, holding him up as a ‘patriot’? Abrams was scum when he lied to Congress and he hasn’t changed his spots. Kiwi, look up Iran-Contra and you will realize Abrams’ true worth. As to the Israel-firsters: The one thing you haven’t heard is any poll asking the American public their opinion of this Israel-centric loyalty professed by Republicans which even led to an chickenhawk American junior senator (Cruz) to question the loyalty of a decorated American veteran. As far as I can tell, the pro-Israel faction has ‘jumped the shark’ and if it thinks the American public is itching to go to war with Iran for Israel’s sake, they are sadly mistaken.

      Reply to Comment
      • Alan

        No one called Abrams a “Nicuragua-Firster” when he was arming the Contras. But when he lobbies hard for Israel the Israel-haters call him an “Israel-Firster.” Of course the Israel-haters would deny any connection between the label “Israel-Firster” and the fact that Abrams is Jewish.

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          Don’t be even more of an ass.

          Abrams is worth a dozen dirty names even worse than Israel-firster.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            “Don’t be even more of an ass.

            Abrams is worth a dozen dirty names even worse than Israel-firster.”

            A meaningless post. No substance or logic, just an ad hominem attack.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Kiwi, like most internet posters, does not know the meaning of an “ad hominem attack.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            “Kiwi, like most internet posters, does not know the meaning of an “ad hominem attack.”

            I don’t? Well then here is a definition of it:


            “An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an argument made personally against an opponent instead of against their argument.[2]Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as an informal fallacy,[3][4][5] more precisely an irrelevance.[6]”

            The very exact thing that you did in your post to Alan about Abrams.

            Reply to Comment
          • Alan

            Asterisk– “Israel-firster” is a term based on anti-Semitic mythologies; for a prime example, look at the post by Joseph Tillotson. He references every anti-Semitic canard implied by the term Israel-firster: “dual citizen, dual loyalist–doing his part to interfere and meddle in U.S. politics to perpetuate the evil influence of the Jewish lobby.” I actually think Abrams is a moral moron and I’d like to see Hagel become Secretary of Defense, but, as usually happens on 972, the rhetoric of the Israel haters and anti-Semites derail any opportunity for meaningful discourse. That’s why you and Abrams are two sides of the same coin. You’re both haters who move the discussion beyond the margins of reasonable discourse.

            Reply to Comment
          • Paul

            Yes, yes. Haters and anti-Semites. Anyone who doesn’t love Israel with their whole heart and soul is a Hater and an Anti-Semite. Phew. That makes life so much easier without all that pesky thinking.

            Reply to Comment
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