Elliott Abrams

Elliott Abrams

The fight over Chuck Hagel’s appointment as Secretary Of Defense has ventured into truly unfortunate terrain with assertions of prejudice and bigotry by Hagel’s opponents.

In an NPR interview Tuesday Elliott Abrams claimed that former Senator and current Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel was antisemitic:

ABRAMS: I think he has a chance at his confirmation hearing to show that he is not what he appears to be, which is frankly an anti-Semite. It’s not just being anti-Israel. He’s got a problem with what he calls the Jews, the Jewish lobby. I think if he cannot satisfy people that he is not, in fact, bigoted against Jews, he certainly should not be confirmed.

In response the Council On Foreign Relations, where Abrams is a Senior Fellow, stated Abrams comments did not represent the institution:

The Council on Foreign Relations told Al Monitor Tuesday that controversial accusations made by its senior fellow Elliott Abrams in an interview Monday did not represent the views of the institution.

Abrams, the former Bush White House Middle East advisor, called Hagel an anti Semite in an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered. The accusation was widely lambasted on social media sites after the interview aired. Asked by Al-Monitor what evidence he has to support his accusation, Abrams did not respond.

Abrams’ wife Rachel Abrams is a founding board member of the Emergency Committee for Israel, a Bill Kristol–led, GOP group at the center of the anti-Hagel campaign. ECI previously ran TV ads against President Obama’s 2012 reelection.

“As you may know, the Council on Foreign Relations takes no institutional position on matters of policy,” CFR’s vice president for global communications and media relations Lisa Shields told Al-Monitor by email Tuesday. “The views expressed by our more than seventy experts, who reflect a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives, are theirs only.”

Whether the anti-Semite charge sticks is unknown though it seems clear if Chuck Hagel continues on to a confirmation hearing he will have to address concerns about comments he has made concerning Jews and the state of Israel.

In the event Chuck Hagel passes confirmation and substantively demonstrates he does not harbor antisemitic views Elliott Abrams will likely face calls to retract his charge or face further distancing. If Abrams has knowingly made a false charge then he has done everyone a disservice.

Photo by Miller_Center under Creative Commons license