Graham Asks Hagel If He Said Israel Risks Becoming Apartheid State

Letter to Hagel: 'Have you said anything similar? Does this contemporaneous email reflect your views?'

Sen. Lindsey Graham / AP
February 20, 2013

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) sent a letter to secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel Wednesday asking whether he made disparaging comments about Israel during a speech at Rutgers law school on April 9, 2010.

The Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday reported on a contemporaneous account of the 2010 speech written by former Rutgers law student Kenneth Wagner, who attended the event.

"I want to call your attention to and request a response to a story in the Washington Free Beacon on February 19th, which includes a contemporaneous account from an attendee at your 2010 Rutgers University lecture," Graham wrote in the letter. "Senator Hagel, did you say this? Have you said anything similar? Does this contemporaneous email reflect your views?"

According to Wagner’s notes, which he emailed to a contact at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) during the speech, Hagel said Israel was at risk of becoming an apartheid state, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was radical, that the Jewish state has violated UN resolutions and that Hamas should be included in any Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiation.

Hagel reportedly made the comments during the post-speech question-and-answer session.

A spokesperson for Hagel did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

Graham and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) sent a letter to Hagel last week after a previous Free Beacon report on an account of a speech Hagel gave at Rutgers University in 2007. The account, written by Hagel-supporting political consultant George Ajjan, stated that Hagel said the U.S. Department of State was an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister’s office during the question and answer session.

Hagel has since disavowed the comment and says he does not recall making it.

Two of the lecture’s organizers, Iran presidential candidate Hooshang Amirahmadi and Professor Charles Häberl, say they do not recall Hagel making the comment. Ajjan’s account was posted on his website shortly after the speech and is the only known published report of the question-and-answer session.

Ajjan stood by his account in an interview with the Free Beacon on Monday.

"I’m a conscientious person," Ajjan said. "When I was blogging at that time, I did my best to record things accurately … there’s no way that I would pick a phrase like ‘adjunct of the Israeli foreign ministry.’ That’s a pretty odd combination of words to use. I wouldn’t have just pulled those out of thin air."

The Free Beacon is working to obtain a transcript and video of both the 2007 and 2010 events, and is continuing to reach out to other attendees.