via Lobe Log

As Lobe Log alumnus Ali Gharib eloquently argues, when all the facts are considered, claims about Chuck Hagel’s alleged anti-Semitism boil down to “slander pushed almost exclusively by a small coterie of neoconservatives“, one of whom he responds to directly: Elliott Abrams. Here’s Ali in the Daily Beast’s Open Zion today:

The other story Abrams recounts to insist that Hagel’s Senate confirmation hearing focus on purported anti-Semitism is the case of the USO station in Haifa, Israel. A decorated Vietnam vet, Hagel helmed the USO, an organization dedicated to caring for military service members abroad. Accusations recently surfaced on a neoconservative blog alleging that Hagel sought to shutter the Haifa USO station (with some alleged unsavory language along the way). At the Standard, Abrams cited the blog: ”The Israeli who headed the USO site, Gila Gerson, was later given a prize by the U.S. Navy for her work. There seems little doubt that USO Haifa was immensely successful and valued,” he wrote. “It’s in that context that Hagel’s 1989 effort to shut it down, and his comments when doing so, become problematic.” The original right-wing item noted in passing that, in fact, under Hagel’s leadership the Haifa station was kept open even as ten others in the region closed. (Hagel took the indebted organization into the black, which as recently as last Nov. 3 was the sort of thing Republican partisans held up as a qualification to be President, let along Defense chief.) What’s more, the research was again lacking: the Atlantic‘s Steve Clemons bothered to get on the horn to Gerson (also Gerzon). “I admire him. I have great respect for him,” the longtime USO Haifa head told Clemons. “For me, it was an absolute gift of God and for our volunteers when Chuck Hagel came to Israel.” Clemons also spoke to a host of other American and Israeli officials involved with the USO who were roundly supportive of Obama’s defense pick, and concluded that this neoconservative attack, too, was “groundless.”

Photo: Elliott Abrams speaking at CPAC in Washington DC on February 10, 2012. Gage Skidmore/Wiki Creative Commons