by Quin Hillyer
Washington is all atwitter about Senate Republicans conducting a temporary filibuster against Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel. Whatever one thinks of Hagel, it is important to understand that, for once, this isn't just a game of political "gotcha." There are substantive reasons for concern (if not outright opposition, which is not my point here) about various implications of some of Hagel's positions. The concerns are rooted in the unique, and thoroughly justified, status of good will between Israel and the United States.
The current Senate blockade against Hagel revolves largely around Hagel's history of oddly antagonistic stances against Israel and/or oddly friendly stances toward Iran and Iranian-linked terrorist fronts. Worse, some of Hagel's statements seem to go beyond criticism of Israel and border on slanders of Jews in general. On Tuesday, yet another report emerged indicating questionable judgment on Hagel's part, including assertions that Israel was bordering on become an "apartheid" state.
Nobody should suggest that Israel is above criticism. But to say, as Hagel reportedly did, that Israel is responsible for violating virtually every United Nations resolutions since 1967, is factually inaccurate. Combined with Hagel's advocacy of negotiations with the terrorist organization Hamas, it is morally obtuse.
Again, though, this column isn't about Hagel; it's about Israel. The facts are as follows. First, when Israel was created in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust, the United Nations offered a separate state to people who later became known as "Palestinians." Instead, Arabs attacked the new state, trying to wipe it from the Earth. They failed.
In both 1967 and 1973, Arab-state attacks posed an existential threat to Israel. In winning those two defensive wars, Israel pushed the Arabs out of border areas such as the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. Those areas then provided buffer zones so Israel would be less vulnerable to future attack.
In the Camp David Accords of the late 1970s, Israel gave up the Sinai to Egypt - in return for lasting peace, along with American aid to both nations. Israel has consistently honored those Camp David Accords.
In the 1990s, the Palestinian Liberation Organization somehow shucked off three decades of terrorism against Israel (and others) and, with President Clinton's help, used negotiations to back Israel into the Oslo Accords, through which Israel traded even more land for "peace." But the PLO repeatedly violated those agreements via violent attacks called an "intifada," so much so that Clinton himself blamed PLO leader Yasir Arafat for having made Clinton's peace efforts "a colossal failure".
Again this wasn't Israel violating agreements, or U.N. resolutions (not that the U.N. is necessarily a moral arbiter, but that's another story). This was Israel repeatedly being victimized by violations from others. Since modern Israel's 1948 founding, the story has ever been thus.
Israel has never attacked other countries except in responsive self-defense (unless one counts the Suez Crisis of 1956, when Israel, France, and England did attack, but only in response to Egypt nationalizing the Suez Canal and threatening to block Israel shipping). But Israel has been subjected to many thousands of mortar attacks, missiles, terrorist assaults, bombings, and of course the formal warfare from some Arab/Islamic neighbors in the aforementioned conflicts. All Israel really wants is to be left alone - and meanwhile, internally, Israel observes the civil rights of its Arab residents, too, which is far better than how Islamic societies treat (abuse) Jews.
Israel's cause is moral and just. Even aside from Biblical pronouncements (which are naturally important to many Christians), its people have a deep moral claim on the thin strip of land they inhabit. Jews worldwide have been subjected to two full millennia of second-class citizenship, abuse, and pogroms (mini-Holocausts). Despite a record of productive citizenship almost everywhere, a long record of great philanthropy, and their history as codifiers of a humane and ethical system of justice (the first building blocks of the famed Judeo-Christian tradition), they have been vilified, discriminated against, and cast out. Then, of course, there was the Holocaust, where some six million of them were destroyed in deliberate genocide.
In return, all they asked was to govern their own tiny, historic homeland, which was then under nobody's local control (certainly not by "Palestinians") and in which Jews already comprised a majority of residents. The Palestinians, meanwhile, were offered their own nation, but refused.
Since then, Israel has become a model democracy, with civil rights constitutionally protected and a thriving economy built through its own people's honest sweat. Meanwhile, it always has been a firm ally of the United States, not just from need, but from a mutual commitment to Western values. Its current prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, was raised and educated largely in the United States, and expresses a deep love for our nation.
All of which is reason enough to question whether somebody antagonistic to Israel is the right person to be Defense Secretary. Senators in good conscience might decide either way, but it certainly makes good sense to slow down debate and consider the nomination carefully. Israel, not to mention the strategic interest of the United States, deserves no less.
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About the Contributor
Quin Hillyer is a Senior Fellow for The Center for Individual Freedom, a Senior Editor for the American Spectator magazine, and a Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mobile. He has won mainstream awards for journalistic excellence at the local, state, regional and national levels. He has been published professionally in well over 50 publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle, Investors Business Daily, National Review, the Weekly Standard, Human Events, and The New Republic Online. He is a former editorial writer and columnist for the Washington Times, the Washington Examiner, the Mobile Register, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and a former Managing Editor of Gambit Weekly in New Orleans. He has appeared dozens of times as a television analyst in Washington DC, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana, and as a guest many hundreds of times on national and local radio shows.