Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Henry Siegman's Garbage Comes Out

"But we do not have to wait for confirmation that with respect to the Middle East peace process, the U.S. Congress remains in the grip of the Israel lobby. This was more than fully confirmed at last week's hearing."
Henry Siegman is back to explain how the Jews Zionists Israel "lobby" continues to control everyone and everything, even as the Hagel hearings last week proved that such a notion continues to be unacceptable outside of the Huffington Post. His tactics in this article boil down to simply strawmanning what Hagel said and why he was getting flak for it. According to Siegman, the only thing that Hagel ever did wrong was say, "Hey Israel don't do XYZ." Don't worry, as always, I will prove it.

Siegman begins with one of the highlights (or lowlights) of the hearings, when Hagel was asked to name just one senator who was "intimidated" by the "lobby" or one "stupid" decision that the Congress had made because of it. Hagel could not, and neither can Siegman, though he tries to make the case that the hearings themselves somehow prove the strength of the "lobby."

Instead Siegman just says what every Huffington Post blogger says, ever: that Israel is on the wrong course down a right wing path and needs to stop. Even Israelis agree with him!
"But the truth of Hagel's charge must be affirmed, particularly by those who are more concerned about Israel's ability to survive as a Jewish and democratic state than about jeopardizing contributions to their own electoral campaigns. The truth that needs to be affirmed speaks not only to the existential dangers created by the current Israeli government's illegal and often immoral behavior in the Occupied Territories....six former heads of Israel's Shin Bet, the internal national security agency on which Israel's security and existence depend, who blasted the policies of the government....according to Israel's president, Shimon Peres, its right wing government's policies have put the country on a path to apartheid, a judgment with which two former Israeli prime ministers, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, concur."
This is all very interesting but it doesn't have anything to do with Hagel or his role in President Obama's cabinet. The problem is not that Hagel thinks Israel should leave the West Bank. Everybody thinks that, including most of Israel. The problem is that Hagel says bigoted things where Israel and gay people are involved, and is more in favor of reaching out a hand to people like Hezbollah than defeating them militarily. Which for the Secretary of Defense is a bit of a red flag.

Siegman returns to a favorite of the Great Anti-Zionist Strawman: black and white thinking. Because the 'Israel lobby' is mad at Hagel, it must have followed that he "criticized" Israel's "policies," because in Siegman's world everyone is either an unswerving Zionist or a noble dissenter. Except that Hagel didn't "criticize" anything. In fact he hasn't had much to say about Israel's policies and that isn't what came out at the hearing. What he said was quite insulting to Jews on both sides of the pond and reflected badly on Hagel's character. But rather than address the criticism, Siegman prefers to just throw mud at Israel and hope for the best. It obviously isn't working.

Next we get into assumptions:
"This record of Senate and House members' gutlessness in their subservience to the Israel Lobby was exemplified by Senator Graham's rudeness in his questioning of former Senator Hagel, repeatedly cutting him off as he was speaking. Apparently he believes that if he could have gotten Hagel to admit even one instance of disagreement with a policy of the current Israeli government, he would have made his case that Hagel is an enemy of the Jewish State, if not the Jewish People."
Yes, now the nefarious Jews lobby is even behind politicians being mean to each other! Truly, is there no end to their depravity? Remember what I said when bloggers use terms like "apparently" and "he believes" a lot: it means they are lying. There is not the slightest hint that anyone would say that Hagel is an "enemy of the Jewish people" and to say that only serves to destroy Siegman's own credibility. As if he even had any to begin with.

After whining that the Senate doesn't criticize Likud enough (boo hoo hoo hoo), Siegman returns to the strawman on which his whole article is built: That the problem here is that Hagel was a mere "critic" of Israel, instead of an ignorant and naive hater. Let me let Siegman do the talking for now:
"The attacks on Hagel for his occasional dissent from Israel's policies...Yet they proclaim that the slightest criticism of even the most reprehensible policies of Netanyahu and Israel's government disqualifies a person from serving in a high office in the U.S. government.How does one explain the Senators' bizarre notion that criticism of their own government's policies is a responsible exercise of their duties but criticism of a foreign government's behavior--in the case of Israel, of course, but not of any other foreign government--is not, except in terms of the Israel lobby's "influence" (to use the term preferred by Senator Graham)."
There's a term in computer science that when you start with bad data, you are always going to get bad data no matter what you do with it. It's referred to as "garbage in, garbage out." In this case Siegman's garbage is that the only thing Hagel has ever done wrong is "occasionally dissent from Israel's policies." And that just isn't true. If anything Hagel was pretty quiet in terms of criticism. But when he does speak, he comes off like a total jerk, which is why he is running into trouble now. When Siegman puts his garbage in, it's no surprise that his analysis provides not only a wrong result, but also a confusing one.

Unfortunately, telling the truth about Hagel would mean actually addressing the criticisms that the American people and the American government have about him. That's something that Siegman isn't doing, either because he can't or because he won't. I will leave you to speculate on why Siegman can't be bothered to argue for Hagel on the merits, and why he is relying on stupid old tropes like the "Israel lobby" and its "grip" on the Ameriacn government.

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