Thursday, March 12, 2009

What the exit of Chas Freeman exposes

Israel Stance Was Undoing of Nominee for Intelligence Post - NYTimes.com

This is by no means scientific, but it is nonetheless instructive to scan the reader's responses to the Times above-the-fold story on the exit of Chas Freeman. An overwhelming number of the hundreds of comments are critical of the pro-Israel lobby, critical of President Obama for allowing his administration to be bowled over by Israel right-or-wrong zealots and frustrated with the fact that U.S. officials must be subjected to a pro-Israel loyalty test when the appropriate criteria should be loyalty to America. The readers are often critical of politicians, not least Senator Charles Schumer, whose nexus with WH Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel is an important part of the story.

Steven J. Rosen, who helped to mobilize the posse of vigilantes that worked to lynch CF before he could assume his chairmanship of the NIC, is identified in the NYT story as a former senior official at AIPAC, which describes itself as "America's pro-Israel lobby". Several readers found it passing strange that Rosen's indictment (under the Espionage Act) for illegally receiving, while he was an AIPAC employee, classified documents and passing them on to Israel went unnoticed in the Times story. I do too.

Also see this predictably hostile editorial in Wapo that describes Freeman's exit statement as a "grotesque libel against Americans who support Israel". In fact, Freeman's criticism was hardly directed toward Americans who support Israel. Here is the relevant section of Freeman's statement:

"There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States."

Freeman is clearly focusing on those who arrogate to themselves the duty to protect "Israel's interests" and to insure that Israel's privileged relationship with the U.S. remains intact, even when the bonds of that relationship jeopardize other U.S. national interests. It is obvious that many American friends of Israel are distressed and concerned by some actions of Israel, including the recent assault on Gaza, and they do not necessarily approve of, nor identify with the agenda of the high-profile lobby groups that arrogate to themselves the right to speak for them or for Israel.

The Post argues that Nancy Pelosi was the major foe of CF's appointment, and accepts AIPAC's announcement that it took "no formal position" on the appointment. (Other lobby groups were less reticent to claim responsibility, as illustrated by the ZOA memo of March 11, 2009.) Citing examples of U.S.-Israeli policy disagreements, the editorial elides the constaints that often harness discussion of U.S. policy in areas that are deemed to affect Israel.

Finally, and as David Broder notes also in Wapo, Chas Freeman disappeared "without a squawk" from President Obama. In this episode, and in several others, Barack Obama gives the appearance of former Iranian President Muhammad Khatami. Like Khatami, he was swept into office with extraordinary and wide-ranging support, offering a rhetoric of reform that inspired hope, and yet ultimately may prove a profound disappointment as did the Iranian leader. Khatami's failed because he lacked the will and the political courage to stand up to opponents who sought to undermine his agenda and to continue business as usual. In several recent instances, including the Freeman episode, Obama has shown the same unfortunate trait.

1 comment:

ewhitton said...

Dear Professor,

Is there any scholarly work that confirms Cockburn's assertion that Nitz procured an alliance between the military/indusotrial lobby and the Jewish lobby?

Best regards,

Evan Whitton
Sydney, Australia

On May 8, 2007, I noted the following in a legal magazine, Justinian:

Update: Wolfie and the neoconk

Andrew Cockburn’s April 26 piece in The Guardian ... adds further and better particulars to an April 24 Justinian piece on the wretched P. Dundes Wolfowitz and his neoconcubine.

Cockburn wrote: “We should note that his [Wolfowitz’s] entire career … has been in the service and at the direction of others. His early work in Washington [in 1969] promoting the dubious merits of an anti-ballistic missile programme, for example, was sponsored by Paul Nitze [1907-2004], a powerful insider who devoted a lifetime of intrigue to boosting east-west tensions and US defence spending. Nitze served as godfather to the neoconservative movement in the 70s, correctly calculating that a fusion of the pro-Israel lobby with the military-industrial lobby would create an alliance of unstoppable power.”
Senator Ernest (Fritz) Hollings (b. 1922, Dem. South Carolina 1966-2005, pic) thought the Israel lobby was pretty hot stuff. He said on retiring:
“You can’t have an Israeli policy other than what [the lobby] gives you around here.”