Nebraska Jews Refute Hagel Anti-Semitism Charge

Elliott Abrams Made Incendiary Claim About Pentagon Pick

Nasty Fight: Chuck Hagel has had plenty of charges lobbed at him. The nastiest is the accusation that he is an anti-Semite.
getty images
Nasty Fight: Chuck Hagel has had plenty of charges lobbed at him. The nastiest is the accusation that he is an anti-Semite.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 11, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

With Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense heading for tough confirmation hearings, the most explosive charge against the former Nebraska is that he displayed anti-Semitism in his relationship with Jews in his home state.

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams has sought to make Hagel’s supposed “problem with the Jews” a centerpiece of the fight to deny him the Senate votes needed to be confirmed as Pentagon chief.

Trouble is, Jews in Nebraska on both sides of Hagel’s confirmation fight emphatically refute the charge. “To make such an accusation you need to be very careful,” said Gary Javitch, an activist in Omaha, Nebraska’s biggest city, which has a community of about 6,500 Jews. “He never demonstrated anything like that in all the meetings I had with him.”

Javitch’s views may hold particular weight because he is no fan of Hagel. A lay leader in several Jewish organizations, he is considered by locals to an expert on the local Jewish political scene.

Javitch harshly criticized Hagel’s expressed views on Israel and the Middle East and did not appreciate his demeanor. “Every time we’d raise something about Israel, he’d filibuster us,” said Javitch, who met with Hagel both in Washington and in Omaha. The former Senator attended a B’nai Brith International “bread breaker” meeting at Javitch’s invitation, but gave the impression he thought Israel “should always do more” for the Palestinians.

Still, when asked if he thought the claims of Hagel’s bias against Jews had any merit, he responded flatly “No.”

Hagel’s home state Jewish newspaper is calling for a “wait and see” attitude on the controversial Pentagon pick, saying it hasn’t been convinced by either supporters or opponents.

Annette van de Kamp-Wright, editor of The Jewish Press of Omaha, wrote that Jews should “give the man a chance,” even as she pointed out that Hagel has occasionally made “clumsy” statements about Israel and Jews.

Abrams, in a January 7 interview with NPR, based much of his claims regarding Hagel’s “problem” with the Jews on a report quoting members of the local Jewish community expressing their dislike to Hagel and describing him as not accessible to the community.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.