Anti-Semitism Has No Place at the Pentagon

Nov. 25 2020

During the recent staff shake-up at the Defense Department, the new acting secretary Christopher Miller appointed Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army officer, as his senior adviser. Melissa Braunstein comments:

Macgregor has made fairly extensive comments about “the Israel lobby,” which he claims has bought off high-level American officials, including the former national security adviser John Bolton and the secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

Like Representative Ilhan Omar, Macgregor criticized the “enormous influence” Israel supporters have on Congress and attacked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Macgregor, who was once in line to be ambassador to Germany, lost out after [news] outlets reported on his saying that Germany’s efforts to grapple with its role in the Holocaust [reflected] a “sick mentality,” among other jaw-dropping comments.

But just as most elected Democrats—with a few notable exceptions—were loath to condemn Omar’s comments, most elected Republicans have not yet voiced displeasure over Macgregor’s appointment. And there are consequences to such spinelessness, notes Braunstein:

Public officials’ unwillingness to take deterrent action increases the likelihood that overt anti-Semitism would recur in government. It’s happening outside government too, by the way, and the FBI’s recently-released 2019 hate-crime statistics bear that out: Jews were targeted in 63 percent of religiously-oriented hate crimes last year, a 14-percent jump over 2018, even though Jews represent less than 2 percent of the population. This would certainly be a good time for Republican officials to pipe up about Macgregor. However, they remain notably quiet.

The proper conduct of foreign policy requires that government officials understand the world as it is, not as they believe it to be. That requires studying and acknowledging facts rather than allowing one’s vision to be clouded by conspiracy theories [about Jewish influence]. As such, Omar shouldn’t be on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Macgregor shouldn’t be advising the acting secretary of defense. Anti-Semitism harms Jews, to be sure, but it also disfigures the judgment of those it infects.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: American politics, Anti-Semitism, Ilhan Omar

Israel’s Friendship with Iraqi Kurds, and Why Iran Opposes It

In May 2022, the Iraqi parliament passed a law “criminalizing normalization and establishment of relations with the Zionist entity,” banning even public discussion of ending the country’s 76-year state of war with Israel. The bill was a response to a conference, held a few months prior, addressing just that subject. Although the gathering attracted members of various religious and ethnic groups, it is no coincidence, writes Suzan Quitaz, that it took place in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan:

Himdad Mustafa, an independent researcher based in Erbil, to whom the law would be applied, noted: “When 300 people gathered in Erbil calling for peace and normalization with Israel, the Iraqi government immediately passed a law criminalizing ties with Israel and Israelis. The law is clearly aimed at Kurds.” . . . Qais al-Khazali, secretary-general of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (Coordination Framework), a powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militia, slammed the conference as “disgraceful.”

Himdad explains that the criminalization of Israeli-Kurdish ties is primarily driven by “Kurd-phobia,” and that Kurd-hatred and anti-Semitism go hand-in-hand.

One reason for that is the long history of cooperation Israel and the Kurds of Iraq; another is the conflict between the Kurdish local government and the Iran-backed militias who increasingly control the rest of the country. Quitaz elaborates:

Israel also maintains economic ties with Kurdistan, purchasing Kurdish oil despite objections from Iraq’s central government in Baghdad. A report in the Financial Times discusses investments by many Israeli companies in energy, development sectors, and communications projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, in addition to providing security training and purchasing oil. Moreover, in a poll conducted in 2009 in Iraqi Kurdistan, 71 percent of Kurds supported normalization with Israel. The results are unsurprising since, historically, Israel has had cordial ties with the Kurds in a generally hostile region where Jews and Kurds have fought against the odds with the same Arab enemy in their struggles for a homeland.

The Iranian regime, through its proxies in the Iraqi government, is the most significant source of Kurd-phobia in Iraq and the driving factor fueling tensions. In addition to their explicit threat to Israel, Iranian officials frequently threaten the Kurdish region, and repeatedly accuse the Kurds of working with Israel.

Read more at Jersualem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Iraq, Israel-Arab relations, Kurds