Randy Alcorn’s opinion piece on former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense (“What Does America Owe Israel?,” Noozhawk Jan. 13, 2013) is wrong-headed in just about every way possible, starting with the assertion that the nomination “should not have to be defended against irrelevant accusation.”
The vetting of a candidate for a cabinet-level position is a healthy and necessary process that occurs in both the Senate and in myriad forums of public debate, and it is demagoguery for any one person to present himself as arbiter of what constitutes relevant or irrelevant criticism.
Alcorn gives the misleading impression that challenges to the Hagel nomination flow only from concerns that Hagel has an anti-Israel bias. The people Alcorn identifies as Hagel’s detractors are virulently pro-Israel “Jewish interests” and their strange bedfellows, the “evangelical Christians who believe they will get an extra harp in heaven” for defending Israel against heathens. Painting with the broadest of brushstrokes, Alcorn ignores the many Jewish leaders who have spoken out in support of the Hagel nomination — California’s own Barbara Boxer among them.
On the flip side, he also fails to mention that numerous non-Jewish Republicans such as John McCain have criticized the nomination, citing not only Hagel’s views on Israel, but his support for accelerating the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, and other aspects of foreign policy.
The details Alcorn omits are the ones that undermine the picture he paints of a monolithic Jewish community that would hijack U.S. foreign policy for its own agenda. What remains is a virtual catalog of anti-Semitic innuendo. Jews comprise less than 2 percent of the total U.S. population, Alcorn states, noting that Jews wield disproportionately great influence in America.
“What does the United States owe Israel that political candidates for high office in this country must be vetted by Jewish interests?” he asks, adding, “Does the Senate also need approval of the Israeli Knesset before confirmation of candidates for cabinet posts?” Jewish interests controlling the political process from within, the Knesset dictating policy from without? Posing these rhetorical questions, Alcorn puts himself in shameful company.
Appallingly, Alcorn identifies America’s long-standing relationship with Israel as the root cause for the “seething enmity of Israel’s Muslim neighbors,” along with a breathtaking range of evils afflicting America: “The erosion of American civil liberties in the reactionary panic that followed the 9/11 attacks, along with the consequent Iraq and Afghanistan wars that have killed and maimed tens of thousands of Americans and significantly contributed to the colossal national debt that now threatens the economic viability of our nation ... .”
In fact, radical Islamists such as those who perpetrated 9/11 hate America for a panoply of reasons quite independent of America’s relationship with Israel: the American commitment to freedom and civil liberties that stands diametrically opposed to many aspect of Shari’a law; a deep-seated anger at what they perceive as Islam’s lack of standing in a Western-dominated world; that fact that American “infidel” soldiers stood on the holy soil of Saudi Arabia when America intervened to protect Kuwait (and America’s interest in Kuwaiti oil) from Iraq’s invasion in 1990.
Alcorn’s suggestion that America untether itself from its relationship with Israel as a means of ending Islamist enmity would be laughable were it not coming from a Santa Barbara journalist with an ongoing podium. One likes to think that Alcorn actually knows better than this, and that he merely got carried away with the force of his own rhetoric. Whatever the explanation, he certainly should know better.
But however unmoored from facts Alcorn’s opinions may be, his right to publish them is sacrosanct. And while repugnant, they are anything but irrelevant. In fact, Alcorn has performed an invaluable service to the community by exposing his views to the light of day.
Chair, Israel Committee of Santa Barbara
President, Community Shul of Montecito and Santa Barbara