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Hagelian Concepts



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Concerning Bret Stephens’s column today, a few observations:

1) He writes that Chuck Hagel has spoken of the “Jewish lobby,” when the more polite term is “Israel lobby.” I’m not sure I don’t prefer the less polite term: bolder, blunter, more honest?

I recall what Desmond Tutu said in an infamous speech ten years ago: “People are scared in this country [i.e., America] to say wrong is wrong, because the Jewish lobby is powerful — very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness’ sake, this is God’s world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.”

Did the good bishop, or archbishop, or whatever he was at that point, mean to compare the “Jewish lobby” to Hitler and that crew? In any event, that is far from the worst of his statements.

2) Bret writes that there are about 6,100 Jews in Nebraska, a state of 1.8 million. So winning over Jewish voters was “probably not a major political concern” for Hagel, when he was running for office.

Oddly enough — and I could dredge up the reason — I had occasion to look into Nebraska and Jews a couple of years ago. No, really. Kind of interesting.

Omaha had its first Jewish mayor in 1904 or 1905 (sources vary). It had another one from 1954 to 1961 — John Rosenblatt. You may remember Rosenblatt Stadium, where the College World Series was played until 2010. In the 1970s, Ed Zorinsky was mayor — and then went on to the U.S. Senate. (Good friend of Orrin Hatch.)

Oh, by the way? Omaha got its first Jewish mayor in 1904 or 1905. New York City: 1974 (Abe Beame) (with whose grandson I once worked in an Ann Arbor bookshop).

(People will want to protest that LaGuardia had a Jewish mother. Okay. But his father was Italian, and not Jewish, and he himself was a lifelong Episcopalian. Even if you count LaGuardia — and you shouldn’t — Omaha beats New York by about 30 years.)

3) Bret remarks on how annoying it is when people lecture Israelis on their interests. This is a longstanding pet peeve of mine.

I remember when my hero Margaret Thatcher went to Israel in 1986 and intoned — as only she could intone — “It is not in Israel’s long-term interest to be an occupying power.”

To which the obvious response was, “No sh**, lady. You think you know better than we? Did we ask for it? Do we want to be an occupying power, even for the ‘short term’? If the Arabs had accepted the Partition in 1947, just as we did, we would have lived happily ever after, side by side. But no: The Arabs wanted war. And the annihilation of Israel. They have tried to wipe us out over and over, and they have pledged to keep trying, till the end of time. So here we are.”

Israelis are famously impolite, but I don’t believe anyone responded that way. They loved her so, as I did, and do.

4) Obama as president, Kerry as secretary of state, Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense — that is pretty much perfect. “Perfect” in a twisted sense. Oh, yes, and Biden as vice president! Even more perfect. The American voter, in his wisdom . . .

Running for president in 2004, Kerry spoke of “the global test.” U.S. foreign and defense policies would have to “pass the global test.” Meaning? Well, the approval of the U.N. General Assembly, I guess. And maybe the Secretariat, too. Le Monde? Al-Jazeera? The political science department at Patrice Lumumba University?

Whatever the global test is, we are fated to pass it. The “globe” will not be better off.

P.S. You will of course recognize the opening of this post as an homage to WFB, who began many a column with that formulation: “Concerning [the subject at hand], a few observations.”

This post has been amended since its original posting. The author had not known that Rosenblatt Stadium has been razed. R.I.P. And viva TD Ameritrade Park Omaha (clumsy name and all).



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