Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Israel Lobby Crushes Debate

Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair announced today that Ambassador Charles W. Freeman Jr. has requested that his selection to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council not proceed. Director Blair accepted Ambassador Freeman’s decision with regret.

This story just popped up on my radar the other day, so I haven't been following it closely, but it appears that this is another example of the Israel lobby making sure that the President can't get independent intelligence or dissent on U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Freeman, who seems to be universally called "Chas", is a diplomatic veteran. Freeman — a former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia who once served as President Nixon’s chief translator in China in 1972 — not only opposed the Iraq war, but has demonstrated a commitment to a well-rounded understanding of key U.S. national security issues and the importance of an even-handed U.S. role in the Israel-Palestine dispute:

“We abandoned the role of Middle East peacemaker to back Israel’s efforts to pacify its captive and increasingly ghettoized Arab populations. We wring our hands while sitting on them as the Jewish state continues to seize ever more Arab land for its colonists. This has convinced most Palestinians that Israel cannot be appeased and is persuading increasing numbers of them that a two-state solution is infeasible.”

In other words, he has the temerity to utter statements that run counter to U.S.-Israeli orthodoxy. We have known for years that the permissible scope of political debate on the Middle East is far more strictly circumscribed in the United States than it is in Israel: criticisms that are commonplace in Israel, from prominent Israeli speakers, would immediately be attacked as anti-Semitic if spoken in the United States.

It's obvious that Freeman, while stating that he withdrew his name, was, in fact, kicked to the curb, thrown under the bus, made to walk the plank, or otherwise summarily dismissed in the face of right-wing agitation. For instance, here's what Chuck Schumer said about it: Charles Freeman was the wrong guy for this position. His statements against Israel were way over the top and severely out of step with the administration. I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him, and I am glad they did the right thing.

One of the interesting things about this whole debate is that a couple of years ago two academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, were viciously attacked when they published a book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, for daring to suggest that American supporters of Israel wield influence over the foreign policy of the United States. In the minds of Measheimer and Walt's attackers, simply to raise the question is beyond the pale, a sure sign of anti-Semitism. Nothing could be more absurd than the idea that supporters of Israel in the United States would try to influence U.S. foreign policy.

Except now Jonathan Chait, editor of the New Republic, has let the veil slip. Here's what he says about the Freeman defenestration: Of course I recognize that the Israel lobby is powerful, and was a key element in the pushback against Freeman, and that it is not always a force for good.

In other words, the Israel lobby is a fiction, and it will crush anyone who dares to challenge it.

Good luck finding a new adviser who will tell the truth about Israel.

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