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Chuck Hagel's question time.

First, read our editorial on the nomination of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense. Then watch the confirmation hearing here:

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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Nice to hear him remind us that the great President Harry S. Truman "helped give birth" to the State of Israel.

Over the strong objections of Secretary of State George Marshall.

Margaret: Who do you think was right? Truman or Marshall?

The Republican senators are so devious in this confirmation hearing. They start of with "thank you for your service in the military" and then they pile on. I am convinced that they really want to humiliate him.On the other hand, I do not think that he has answered some of their questions well. Claire McCaskill may have picked up on that when she made the point in an interview on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell that senators are more used to asking questions than answering them.

Jeff: I think Truman made the right decision; he should have done a better job of building consensus with and among his foreign policy advisers.

The State of Israel's creation would have been much more acceptable through time and place if it has NOT been created as a Jewish State but, rather, as the State of Palestine with citizenship open equally to Jews and Arabs. Would it have been a slam-dunk? No. Is today's situation any better for those who are not Jewish?

Watching McCain-Hagel back and forth, McCain is still making up for loosing in 2008. Pretty sad.

Ted Cruz, junior senator from Texas, seized his moment too, showing he can grandstand with the best of them.

Hagel's problem: he understands how complex these issues are...his Iraq back and forth with McCain was telling... McCain wants a yes or no on the surge...Hagel want to discuss the whole war...and by the way offers a fuller picture of the surge's dependence on the "Sunni Awakening."

Sour grapes from the Republicans: They obvious don't like it when one of their own has gone off the plantation bringing attention to their chauvinist attitudes and the grandiose proportions of their own self-importance.Bill Maher says it best:Ted Cruz is the newly minted, teabag-endorsed, junior senator from Texas. Hes a Canadian-born Harvard Law graduate, but he speaks fluent s-kicker, Maher blogged Wednesday.Ted Cruz is 42 years old. So he wasnt born when Chuck Hagel won two Purple Hearts in Vietnam and John Kerry won three. You get those for being wounded in action, but maybe Ted doesnt know that. And Im not saying you dont get to have an opinion about war if you werent a soldier, Maher wrote, adding Im just saying, its an odd world where a guy can be a senator for a month and start doing eye-rolls at John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, as if they obviously have m - - - e b - - - s.

Jim: The Palestinians would have had their own state in 1948 had they simply agreed to the two-state solution recommended by the U.N., instead of going to war to prevent it, and even after Israel fought the Palestinians and the invading Arab armies to a standstill and entered into armistice agreements in 1949 with Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, the Palestinians could still have had their own state on the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as the capital. The reason that didnt happen in 1949 had nothing to do with Israel. Its because Jordan annexed the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Egypt annexed Gaza. So, blame Egypt and Jordan for that.As for Israel being the Jewish state, the region is littered with one Islamic state after another, but they dont seem to cause you any problem. And the Palestinians enacted a provisional constitution in 2003 in which Palestine would be dedicated to the Arab people (chap. One, art. 1) and in which Islam would be the official religion (chap. One, art. 4), but that hasnt caused you to believe that their national movement has been rendered illegitimate. But for there to be one Jewish state in the world seems to cause consternation in some people. You would think that given our history, there would be a little understanding in this regard.For the Palestinian constitution, see

Here's the unexpurgated Bill Maher on Cruz & Hagel ..... caveat emptor!

It's a sad day when a magazine that's committed to Gospel values resorts to quoting Bill Maher.

Can't you troll elsewhere?

If this represents the majority thinking in Israel today, then there is no hope. have a Jewish state means there must be, by the nature of the state and its government, a curtailment of the parameters of democracy to allow for the continuation of the Jewish character of the state. This would therefore be defined as a limited democracy. To have a completely democratic state means that there must be the political framework in place to undermine and dispose of the Jewish aspect of the Jewish state and to replace it with something else democratically elected upon by the majority vote. Moreover, as said above, if Israel were to cease being a Jewish state and a national Jewish homeland, then it would loose all legitimacy to exist as a state in the Middle East surrounded as it is by a hostile Muslim population who hate it and Jews down to their very souls. The answer to the contradiction is rather simple and easy. I have already suggested it above. Israel needs to define herself as a state of limited democracy. It needs to exist as a Jewish state and as nothing less, for as we know, nothing less, will soon lead to nothing at all. Israel needs to cease its irrational pursuit of pleasing western powers and mimicking western ideals and morays. Israel is a part of the Middle East. It is not the 51st state of the United States, nor is Israel a nation of Europe. The western model cannot and does not fit the Israeli modality.

Ms. Steinfels and Jeff - unfortunately, the question whether Truman was correct or not is like closing the barn door after the cows have escaped. As you know, the history from the Balfour Declaration (or earlier) until Truman recoginized Israel is littered with hypocrisy and betrayal of the indigenous Palestinians. In the short term, can see approving of Truman's decision but, in fact and sadly, there were other options but no will to look at them. In the long term, Truman's decision only continued the mess of 1948 and laid the foundation for the mess in 2012.Cruz - understand that he is playing to his Texas, red, tea party base - nothing else. What he knows about military, defense, etc. would barely fill a thimble. Did you see his antics yesterday on the gun control issue (the plastic handle?) - same playing to his base. Sad, he is supposedly Hispanic but identifies and has experienced nothing like what 95% of Texas Hispanics live like.Prediction - he will be a one term governor; in six years time, Texas demographics and, if Cruz continues to play the tea party act, will cost him any future positions. Funny - connection between Israeli politics and Cruz - demographics will catch up to both and provide the future if they both don't learn something beyond knee jerk ideologies.

Sorry, meant to say *senator*

Jim: Not only do most Israelis not think that way, Israel does not operate that way. Its Arab citizens have the same rights of citizenship as its Jewish citizens, including the right to vote. So, why quote an extremist view as though it describes the facts on the ground in Israel, when you must be aware that it doesnt?And, of course, you left unaddressed my point that you dont seem to mind Islamic states, only the Jewish state. For some reason, you seem to think that the only just solution is for the Arabs to control 100% of the land in the Middle East, and that for the Jews to control one-half of one percent of the land is a crime against the Arabs.But its worse than that. When the Palestinians went to war in 1947, to block the two-state solution, they werent fighting for an enlightened single state of Arabs and Jews living democratically together and enjoying equal rights. They were fighting to preserve an Islamic domination in which the Jews would be subject to the enforced inferior status that had been the hallmark of Arab treatment of Jews in the Middle East and across North Africa for a millennium. Israel is a liberation movement from that kind of treatment at the hands of the Arabs, a liberation movement that you seem to wish had been defeated.

Bill de Haas: "Ms. Steinfels and Jeff unfortunately, the question whether Truman was correct or not is like closing the barn door after the cows have escaped. As you know, the history from the Balfour Declaration (or earlier) until Truman recoginized Israel is littered with hypocrisy and betrayal of the indigenous Palestinians. In the short term, can see approving of Trumans decision but, in fact and sadly, there were other options but no will to look at them. In the long term, Trumans decision only continued the mess of 1948 and laid the foundation for the mess in 2012."Being linked with Jeff is little bit like drowning because I couldn't get off my wool jacket and boots as you tossed both of us into the cistern!!I would add that Truman instead of consulting with his foreign policy advisers also acted precipitously. He could have certainly waited and gotten the lay of the land vis a vis both Israelis and Palestinians. The British in the Mandate Period and the Balfour Declaration were a source of hypocrisy to the Arabs, but also to the Jews. I don't think we should hold back from holding the British responsible for this mess. The British under fire from both sides did not do what they should have done-- stayed to negotiate a peaceful departure, in this the Jewish attacks on the British, including the bombing of the King David hotel, may have been more determinative than anything the Palestinians did to the British. And then, Rashid Khaldidi, part of the Palestinian clan, in his book, The Iron Cage, is highly critical of the Palestinian factionalism, naivete, and lack of organization vis a vis the end of the mandate and the Jewish Community, which was highly organized with virtually a parallel government to the British, and good for them. The Palestinians were not. If the international community had intervened to prevent the war and to open Palestinian eyes to their situation would things have been different. Well, barn door and all of that. Did Truman do anybody any favors by his immediate recognition. Definitely open to discussion.

Not all arabs are muslim. There are jewish and christian arabs who lived and still live in islamic mid east countries.Christian and jewish arabs had their own courts though the dominent favored religion in an islamic theocracy was of course islam.In christian europe for over a thousand years the christian faith -of whatever denomination[catholic prior to the reformation and anlgican and then protestantism after the reformation in certain countries] was likewise favored in europe.And today in israel, arab jews are discriminated against by israelis of european descent -which are most of israelis. Zionism is a colonial settler movement started in europe. If you want to call settling land already occupied as a liberation movement then you're denying the equal rights of the arab native population. But regardless of the origin of the state of israel-today all arab countries and iran and all "terrorist" organizations[freedom fighters they and their supporters would claim] all of them say that today they would accept the original pre 67war borders of israel. The land Israel seized in that war is what their struggle today is against.Since world war 2 it is illigal to aquire land through war. Hence the continued resistence of the palestinians and the recognition by most of the world that israel should return to it's legal 67borders.That israel only has 1 percent of land is irrelevant;palestinian arabs were and are being expelled from their communities-to make way for others.That is ethnic cleansing. What's also relevant is that the land israel seized in the 67war is illigally aquired land and by law and by right-should be returned to the proper native inhabitants.It is Israel that is the rogue state here seizing land illigally. That is the issue today-not the existence of the state of israel.Though arabs originally[and rightly] objected to the european zionist colonization-and fought them-today they would accept the original borders of israel. It is the 67occupation and land annexation that they resist today.Muslim theocracies are by definition islamic. Israel was not formed by religious Jews but by secular europeans.Israel claims to be a democracy yet it also claims that it must have more people who are Jewish then non Jewish .That is racist. That is not about religion,but about ethnicity. Arab muslim theocracies are not concerned with the ethnic make up of their state.They are concerned with theocracy.Iran is not arab yet sides with arab palestinians[some of who are christian btw].

There are many countries that have a national religion, other countries that have settled land where there were already occupants ... Britain's monarch is the head of their Christian church (who up to now couldn't marry a Catholic) and they still occupy N. Ireland. In a region where democracy is rare and where freedom of religious worship is rare, Israel is practically a beacon in comparison to the other countries around it.

Even many Jews realize that Marhsall was right but conclude that once the decision was made it is difficult to reverse.The Senators questioning Hagel are so upset that Hagel was one of the few who realized the folly of starting the Iraq war. So they focus on the one point that has any legs--the increase in troops once we were there. Clearly they showed the jackasses they are. McCain in particular. Hagel is extraordinary in that he is his own person more than most Senators. Politicians always have problems with a statesman.

Juan Cole captures the surrealism of the Hagel hearing:"The confirmation hearing in the Senate for Chuck Hagel, President Obamas nominee for Secretary of Defense, was painful to watch because it displayed the tomfoolery, pretense, self-righteous know-nothingism, and embarrassing lack of contact with reality that dominate the landscape of Americas broken democracy. It was like watching a Nebraska ordinary Joe set upon by circus freaks a phalanx of moral midgets, stalking cat-men, vicious lobster boys and ethical werewolves."Those who regretted that Hagel seldom stood his ground, often just deflected persnickety questions, and sometimes was made to recite the catechisms of Neoconservative orthodoxy, should remember that what is important in Washington is willingness to conform orally, regardless of what one actually believes or how one acts. Hagel might agree to look like he is being pushed around by his former colleagues, for the sake of their face and his. He wont agree actually to be pushed around once he is in office."

If the Senate confirmation hearing had been conducted like a blog on the Internet, McCain, Graham, Cruz et al. would be considered trolls.

Helen: yep. They are.

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