Letters to the Editor: Hagel, Prager, Woody Allen

The Good, the Bad, the Confusing

Oh, yes, Hagel was bad for Israel — now he’s OK (“Hagel, Obama, Bibi and Red Lines,” April 26). Kerry was good for Israel — now he’s bad. And of course “good for Israel” means not pushing Bibi to actually stop eight years of talking about a two-state solution and doing nothing, not even bringing it up for a vote within his own party. Which I guess makes around half of all Israelis “bad for Israel.”

Lawrence Weinman
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Choosing Sides

Dennis Prager states Heinrich Heine was a secular Jew. But, in fact, he converted to Protestantism in 1825, when he was 27 years old. Heine’s critical article about German Christians was probably written in Paris, where he lived for 25 years before his death. As for a secular Jew who supports Prager’s thought of causes of the Holocaust, he will find it in “Moses and Monotheism,” the last book written by the greatest secular Jew of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud, who wrote: “Under the thin veneer of Christianity, they have remained what their ancestors were, barbarically polytheistic. The hatred for Judaism is, at the bottom, hatred for Christianity, and it is not surprising that in the German National Socialist revolution this close connection of the two monotheistic religions finds such clear expression in the hostile treatment of both.”

Ken Lautman
Los Angeles

The Roots of Anti-Semitism

With due respect to Dennis Prager and his quote from Yehuda Bauer (Letters, April 19), Rosemary Ruether, in her book “Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism” (1974), seems to argue in favor of Michael Berenbaum’s points about a Christian worldview that fostered Holocaust Nazism.

Rachel Malkin

Dennis Prager responds: It is an honor to have two such knowledgeable readers. As I agree with Ken Lautman, I will confine my response to Rachel Malkin by reminding her what I wrote in my original article: “Nearly 2,000 years of European Christian anti-Semitism — including from Martin Luther — rendered the Jew an outcast and thereby laid much of the groundwork for the acceptance of Nazi demonization of the Jews.”
I don’t see how that differs from Rosemary Ruether or Michael Berenbaum. But that is not the same as calling for or actually exterminating the Jews. As I wrote: “But no mainstream Christian institution or theology called for the extermination of the Jews. It took the secular shattering of the Christian conscience to accomplish that.”

Teaching a Tough Lesson

The curriculum in use for this class, and this lesson specifically, is straight out of Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit dedicated to avoiding genocide (“Nazi Role-Playing at High School Causes Stir,” April 26). You might want to contact Facing History and Ourselves to comment on the reasons for having students, rather than the teacher, verbalize why Nazi promises were effective during the Depression in Germany.

Adrienne Karyadi
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Sorry, Jewish Journal, but this story soft-peddles the entire incident. It’s much worse than described in the article.

Benny Forer
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I commend this teacher’s creativity. Teaching these subjects is not easy but must be taught. Stop being so sensitive, everyone, and let teachers teach and students form their own opinions on what they learn. Or, keep your kid home and school them there.

Gregory Rutchik
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I pay homage to Sophie Lellouche for writing this story [“Paris-Manhattan”] (“What Would Woody Allen Do,” April 26). We should have more Jewish writers explaining the real Jewish life stories to make people who hate us, understand that our God teaches us only peace and love for each other. Are we so different from the majority of people?

Ginette Z. Cohen
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Worship Woody Allen? That’s the same Woody Allen who films on Yom Kippur right in time for Mussaf across the street from an Orthodox synagogue and my building.

Sylvia Navon
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Movers and Shakers Inspire

My wife and I found the Milken student’s creativity and the words of the Holocaust survivors to be a most inspiring experience (“Moving and Shaking,” April 26). With grateful thanks to Samara Hutman for her energetic input to the project.

Arnold Schwartzman
via jewishjournal.com

Hosting U.S. defense chief, Israel hints at patience on Iran

Israel suggested on Monday it would be patient before taking any military action against Iran's nuclear program, saying during a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel there was still time for other options.

With Iran's presidential election approaching in June there has been a pause in hawkish rhetoric by Israel, which has long hinted at possible air strikes to deny its arch-foe any means to make an atomic bomb, while efforts by six world powers to find a negotiated solution with Tehran have proved fruitless so far.

“We believe that the military option, which is well discussed, should be the last resort,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters at a news conference with Hagel.

“And there are other tools to be used and to be exhausted,” Yaalon said, listing diplomacy, economic sanctions and “moral support” for domestic opponents of Iran's hardline Islamist leadership.

Iran has denied seeking nuclear weapons capability, saying it is enriching uranium only for domestic energy purposes while calling for the elimination of the Jewish state. Israel is widely believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.

U.S. President Barack Obama has in the past clashed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over how urgent the need may be to consider military action against Iran. Washington has suggested more time should be given for concerted diplomacy combined with sanctions pressure to produce a peaceful solution.

But with Obama recently installed in his second term, and Netanyahu in his third, the allies have publicly closed ranks. The United States projects more defense aid for Israel after the current disbursements of some $3 billion a year expire in 2017. And Hagel unveiled the planned sale to Israel of missiles, warplane radars, troop transport planes and refueling jets.

“These decisions underscore that the military-to-military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel is stronger than ever, and that defense cooperation will only continue to deepen in the future,” Hagel said.

By contrast, the Bush administration in 2008 declined to provide Israel with refueling tankers and missiles that might be used in a strike on Iran.


Before taking the helm at the Pentagon, Hagel had stirred ire among pro-Israel Americans for remarks including skepticism about the feasibility and desirability of such military action.

But in Israel, the second foreign country he has visited as defense secretary after Afghanistan, Hagel hewed to Obama's line. “All military options and every option must remain on the table in dealing with Iran,” he said.

“I support the president's position on Iran. And it's very simple and I have stated it here … Our position is Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon – the prevention of Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Period.”

Iranian media reported on Monday that Iran and officials from the United Nations nuclear watchdog would hold a new round of talks on May 21 in Vienna. The International Atomic Energy Agency wants inspectors to restart a long-stalled investigation in Iran's suspected atomic bomb research.

From Israel, Hagel travels to Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The latter two Gulf Arab countries, which are also wary of Iran's nuclear ambitions, stand to win a major U.S. arms sale.

After lengthy disagreement, Israeli and U.S. estimates of when Iran might be able to produce a first nuclear weapon now largely dovetail to a time frame of about a year.

Hagel also said that non-military pressure on Iran has yet to be exhausted. “The sanctions on Iran are as potent and deep and wide a set of international sanctions that we have ever seen on any country. And those will continue to increase,” he said.

“Whether it leads to an outcome that we desire remains to be seen … and as I said, the military option is always an option.”

After the news conference, Hagel boarded an Israeli military helicopter for an aerial tour of the Golan Heights frontier.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)

Defense chiefs Hagel and Yaalon to meet in Israel

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will travel to Israel this month for a meeting with Moshe Yaalon, his Israeli counterpart.

Reuters on Tuesday quoted an unnamed Israeli defense official as naming April 21-23 as the dates for Hagel's Israel visit, and a Pentagon official confirmed to JTA that Hagel planned to travel to Israel “later this month.”

It will be Hagel's first trip to Israel since he assumed office in February after a bruising Senate confirmation battle in which senators besieged him with questions about his past comments critical of Israel, as well as his skepticism on the efficacy of a strike to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Israeli officials have since said they are familiar with Hagel from his days as a Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska and look forward to working with him. 

Hagel's visit comes in the wake of another round of inconclusive talks between Iran and the major world powers on Iran's nuclear program.

Why no opposition to Hagel, arms to Egypt?

Israel is facing serious challenges on two new fronts. 

President Barack Obama has nominated Israel-basher Chuck Hagel for defense secretary and sent fighter jets to Mohamed Morsi’s Israel-hating Egyptian regime.

Where are America’s major Jewish organizations? Silent, voicing no opposition.

Hagel’s nomination should have galvanized Jewish organizations in opposition, regardless of political orientation. 

Until his nomination, no major pro-Israel group could be found to have disagreed with what we have just said. Quite the contrary.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC), by its own description, had “raised concerns.” 

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director Abraham Foxman had said that Hagel’s record relating to Israel was “at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling,” and that his anti-Israel lobby comments “border on anti-Semitism.” 

In 2007, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) had issued a detailed account of Hagel’s worrying voting record on Israel and the Middle East, and in 2009 its executive director, Ira Forman, indicated “that his group would oppose Hagel’s appointment to any position that had influence over U.S.-Israel relations.”

Yet, following Hagel’s nomination, virtually all Jewish groups — except the Zionist Organization of America — refused to oppose Hagel. Even Orthodox Jewish groups, like the Orthodox Union, were silent. 

AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann asserted that “AIPAC does not take positions on presidential nominations.” 

AJC Executive Director David Harris explained that, although still “concerned,” AJC is “not in the opposition camp.” 

ADL’s Foxman averred, “I respect the president’s prerogative” — something no one called into question and which in no way reduces the corresponding prerogative of the Senate to decline confirmation. 

NJDC issued a statement saying, “We trust that when confirmed … Hagel will follow the president’s lead of providing unrivaled support for Israel.” 

In contrast, Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel was strongly opposing Hagel’s nomination before it was even announced. It has dispatched a delegation to Washington to lobby senators against confirmation.

In short, a Christian group fights for Israel while almost all Jewish groups refuse to do so.


ADL and NJDC believe that there is no need to fight Hagel because “we expect the president to make clear that his long-held views will continue as American policy” (ADL) and because “setting policy starts and stops with the president” (NJDC).

Really? Cabinet members do influence the president, perhaps especially on momentous and difficult decisions. Recently, former Secretary of State Colin Powell was revealed to have complained with regard to the George W. Bush administration that “the Defense Department had too much power in shaping foreign policy.” And could it really be said that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had little or no influence on the policy of President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis? Or upon President Lyndon Johnson during the conduct of the Vietnam War? The idea is absurd.

The least these Jewish groups, which once opposed Hagel, can offer their members is a clear explanation as to why they’ve changed positions. 

Where, too, are Jewish organizations when it comes to the United States sending to Morsi’s vicious Egyptian regime 16 F-16 fighter jets and 200 Abrams tanks that were negotiated in 2010 with the Mubarak regime? Its replacement by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-backed regime should have prompted a rethink.

Morsi, a founding member of the Brotherhood’s Committee to Fight the Zionist Project, was recently found to have called in 2010 for an economic boycott of the United States, for nurturing “our children and grandchildren on hatred toward those Zionists and Jews,” and to have referred to Israelis as “bloodsuckers, warmongers … the descendants of apes and pigs.” 

In 2010, the Brotherhood leader, Muhammad Badie, advocated jihad, a state based on Islamic law, and spoke optimistically about the United States heading for a collapse. His second-in-command, Rashad al-Bayoumi, declared last year that the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty “isn’t binding at all … On no condition will we recognize Israel. It is an enemy entity.” Yet Obama sends Cairo dangerous arms regardless — and virtually all Jewish groups remain silent. When Sen. Rand Paul proposed an amendment halting the Egyptian arms sale, AIPAC lobbied against and helped defeat it.

Not so many years ago, Jewish organizations held huge rallies for Soviet Jews. AIPAC and others campaigned against the sale of AWAC planes to Saudi Arabia. American Jewish organizations should have been fighting relentlessly to stop Hagel and the Egyptian arms package. 

When was the last time it was good for Jews to be the sha shtil Jews — the Jews of silence?

Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Irwin Hochberg is former board chairman of the UJA-Federation of New York, former national campaign chair of Israel Bonds and vice chairman of ZOA.

John Kerry at State: A disaster for Israel

President Obama’s decision to nominate Senator John Kerry as his next Secretary of State will prove to be a disaster for Israel.

The choice of the American Jewish establishment to vehemently protest the expected nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel while granting Kerry a free pass for his anti-Israel behavior follows their longtime pattern. Hagel is a Republican who has a history of marking foolish remarks regarding Israel and has long been seen as an independent thinker on Middle East policy with a non-interventionist outlook.

Kerry, however, is the much bigger problem for Israel.

Hagel as SecDef will be tasked with handling military issues. Kerry will be in a position to effect policy as it impacts Israel, set an overall tone for US in the Middle East and be a key player in  future negotations.

When it comes to criticizing Democrats who are hostile to Israel the Jewish elites have a history of weakness. From Jesse Jackson to Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama Democrats are treated with kid gloves and given the benefit of the doubt while pro-Israel Republicans are never given their due praise.

When Kerry ran for president he was vetted by the so-called pro-Israel community in the U.S. and little was made of his attitudes toward Israel because he had, for the most part, steered clear of controversy.

Kerry’s record since his presidential campaign tells a different tale. It was clear Kerry would not run for president again and his policy shift on Israel was ignored. What’s worse is Kerry’s attitudes on Israel are still being ignored by the pro-Israel community.

Even Kerry’s failure to sign the December 20, 2012 letter in support of continuing sanctions against Iran has not been a matter of concern for pro-Israel activists. And this even though 73 of Kerry’s fellow senators signed the letter

Kerry’s Israel problem goes back much farther than his troubling attitude towards Iranian sanctions.

When Kerry decided to take over for former President Jimmy Carter as the front man for Democratic criticism of Israel he enlisted the U.S.'s first Muslim member of Congress for help.

Kerry was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he stated on March 04, 2009 at a Brookings Institute address:

“nothing will do more to make clear our seriousness about turning the page than demonstrating – with actions rather than words – that we are serious about Israel freezing settlement activity in the West Bank For decades American presidents, Democrat and Republican alike, have opposed new settlement activity and recognized that the settlements are an obstacle to peace.. “

It should be apparent that when it comes to pressuring Israel on Israeli settlements John Kerry plans to pick up at Foggy Bottom where James Baker left off.

Kerry’s idea that the settlements are the main problem echoes the rhetoric of Yasser Arafat’s successors Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. In his March 2009 remarks Kerry even adopted the Arab view that Jerusalem is one of “the big three issues.” Jerusalem is no issue – it is Israel’s capital.

The view that Israel and the Palestinian Arabs equally share blame for the continuation of a decades old conflict is just  another part of Kerry’s troubling perspective.
While Kerry was on his February 2009 junket to the Middle East it was no mere coincidence that Rep. Keith Ellison was in Gaza at the same time. This was a coordinated effort by senior Democrats to demonstrate to Israel’s government that the pro-Israel attitude of the Bush Cheney years were over.

The Forward reported on April 10, 2009 that “…he (Ellison) presented the findings of his February 19 trip to Gaza at a Capitol Hill event sponsored by the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

The second-term congressman did not mince words when describing the hardship that Gaza residents are facing in the aftermath of the Israeli attack, or in addressing Israel directly on what actions ought to be taken to ease the suffering. “I come here with one message only,” he told the audience: “Open up the crossings, open up the crossings, open up the crossings.” Later in his speech, Ellison once again chose the triple-repetition technique when calling on Israel to “stop, stop, stop the settlement expansion.”

Kerry provided Ellison with the cover he needed for his verbal onslaught against Israeli settlements.

At the Democratic Convention in 2012 Kerry ignored the decision of his party leadership to remove Jerusalem from their platform and instead opened his podium speech by attacking Romney for his “neo-con advisors” and then proceeded to quote Benjamin Netanyahu out of context. [See this article and see the full speech here.

We all know what Kerry meant when he said “neo-cons” – it is code speak for pro-Zionists. Kerry’s words show that he will be hostile to the very existence  of Israeli towns in the suburbs of Jerusalem. Democrats consider these “settlements” to be part of the “Occupied West Bank” and he will label them as such.

John Kerry’s leadership at State will be the beginning of a new effort by the Obama Administration to pressure Israel to surrender territory to the Palestinian Authority, deny Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem, negotiate with Hamas and accept a hostile Palestinian State along its vulnerable borders.

Israel and its American supporters are in for a very tough time with Kerry and they seem to have no idea.


Moshe Phillips is the president of the Philadelphia Chapter of Americans For a Safe Israel / AFSI. The chapter's blog can be found at phillyafsi.blogtownhall.com and Moshe tweets at twitter.com/MoshePhillips. This column originally appeared on the American Thinker website on December 28, 2012: americanthinker.com/2012/12/john_kerry_at_state_a_disaster_for_israel