Hagel, Israel, "Apartheid"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 19 2013 1:56 PM

Hagel, Israel, "Apartheid"

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Israel's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak gestures during a podium discussion at the Munich Security Conference on February 3, 2013 in Munich, Germany.

Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images

The diligent Alana Goodman is out with another story about an old Chuck Hagel speech that might or might not have included controversial words. Last week, it was the account of an attendee at a 2007 Rutgers speech who heard Hagel say that the State Department was an adjunct of the Israeli foreign ministry. It was a paraphrase, not a quote, but it was good enough to inspire a letter to Hagel from two Republican senators.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Today, Goodman reports on another Hagel speech, also at Rutgers, in April 2010. The source is a "pro-Israel activist" named Kenneth Wagner who literally tattled on Hagel, in real time, by emailing "a contact at AIPAC."

“I am sitting in a lecture by Chuck Hagel at Rutgers,” Wagner wrote in the email. “He basically said that Israel has violated every UN resolution since 1967, that Israel has violated its agreements with the quartet, that it was risking becoming an apartheid state if it didn’t allow the Palestinians to form a state. He said that the settlements were getting close to the point where a contiguous Palestinian state would be impossible.”
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The headline, here and at Jennifer Rubin's Right Turn, is the "Apartheid" bit. "Does this fundamentally shift the playing field?" asks Rubin. "Requests for comment from Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)  and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) were not answered." You simply can't use "apartheid" and "Israel" in the same sentence. Unfortunately for the nominee, I've obtained a quote from Hagel saying this in February 2010:

As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.

My mistake! That wasn't Hagel. That was Ehud Barak, speaking in his capacity as Israel's defense minister. If we accept the text of the email, Hagel didn't accuse Israel of being or becoming an apartheid state. Wagner has Hagel saying that Israel risk[ed] becoming an apartheid state if it didn’t allow the Palestinians to form a state, and saying that two months after Israel's former PM and contemporary defense minister had said it.

But maybe this was an extreme, unacceptable comment. After all, someone in the audience got irked about it and emailed AIPAC.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.