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Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:15 PM Dec 2012

Chuck Hagel Anti-Israel Charge Is 'Extremely Stupid,' Nebraska Rabbi Says

Updated: 12/21/2012 5:25 pm EST

WASHINGTON -- An Israeli-born, Omaha-based rabbi who has known Chuck Hagel for many years said charges that the former Nebraska senator, and potential nominee for secretary of defense, is somehow anti-Israel or anti-Semitic are "extremely stupid."

"I thought we were done with this," said Aryeh Azriel, the rabbi at Temple Israel in Omaha, Neb., where Hagel has been a longtime regular presence, in an interview Friday with The Huffington Post. "I though we were done already with the [childishness] of being Jewish where everyone who says something critical about Israel needs to be labeled an anti-Semite. I find this extremely stupid, and definitely not helpful."

Azriel, who also penned a letter published Friday in the Omaha World-Herald defending Hagel's pro-Israel bona fides, told The Huffington Post he has known the former senator for many years, and has been "completely astonished by the attacks on his character, on his identity and his ability."

Hagel's pro-Israel credentials have been called into question over the past week after he emerged as a leading contender for secretary of defense. Pointing to a sparse selection of votes in which Hagel had not supported the most stringent sanction against Iran, and one instance in which he made pejorative reference to the "Jewish lobby," critics have suggested that Hagel harbored secret anti-Israel or even anti-Jewish sentiment.



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