by James M. Wall
The MSM (Main Stream Media) still has not noticed, but the Israel Lobby is out in full force to scuttle the appointment of Ambassador Charles W. Freeman as the new chairman of the National Intelligence Council.
Once the word swept across the blogosphere, the battle was joined. You will not hear about this from the MSM until the Freeman appointment is confirmed (or blocked). Then the MSM will report the news as a “controversy” between supporters and enemies of Israel, a total distortion of the story.
Within the Jewish blogosphere, however, the debate is intense between the Israel Lobby and progressive Jewish forces.
The Jewish blog, Tikun Olam, is written and published by Richard Silverstein, a progressive Jewish journalist. He reported an attack on Freeman from JTA, a news agency which bills itself as “the global news service of the Jewish people”.
JTA has launched the first salvo in the Jewish war against proposed Obama intelligence appointee, Chas. Freeman. Freeman is a friend of Obama intelligence chief, Adm. Dennis Blair, who asked the former to chair the National Intelligence Council. Freeman’s background as former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and vocal critic of the Israeli Occupation renders him deeply suspect in the pro-Israel community.
JTA’s Ron Kampeas dredged up a highly dubious “expose” published by his newspaper in 2005 which purported to find hatred of Israel in many educational materials created by Arab groups and circulated for use in U.S. schools. Among them was a book funded by the Middle East Policy Council, chaired by Freeman. . . .
The Middle East Policy Council, whose members include former US senator and presidential candidate, George McGovern, is a center based in Washington, DC, which encourages debate on Middle East issues. McGovern is a former chairman of the group; its present chairman is Ambassador Freeman, who now in line to be President Obama’s new chairman of the National Intelligence Council.
The Council has published Middle East Policy since 1982, which the Council’s web site describes as a journal that provides “a forum for a wider range of views on U.S. interests in the region and the value of the policies that were supposed to promote them.”
Silverstein describes Kampeas’ attack on Freeman as”lurid prose”. Here is some of the “prose” Kampeas wrote for JTA, clearly designed to smear Freeman:
The Obama administration’s reported pick for a top intelligence post helped peddle a Saudi-funded school study guide decried by Jewish groups and educators for having anti-Jewish biases…
Freeman is president of the Middle East Policy Council, a Saudi-funded think tank. A JTA investigative series in 2005 exposed how the council, led by Freeman, joined with Berkeley, Calif.-based Arab World and Islamic Resources in peddling the “Arab World Studies Notebook” to American schools.
In the version examined that year by JTA staff, the “Notebook” described Jerusalem as unequivocally “Arab,” deriding Jewish residence in the city as “settlement”; cast the “question of Jewish lobbying” against “the whole question of defining American interests and concerns”; and suggested that the Koran “synthesizes and perfects earlier revelations.”
Silverstein examined the 2005 JTA “investigative series” and found that its “facts” were distorted to paint Freeman, as chair of the Council, and the “Notebook” as harmful to Israel. As Silverstein writes on Tikun Olam, a closer look reveals distortions, a typical Israel Lobby method which takes advantage of the American public’s ignorance of the region.
So here is the extent of the charges against the book that Freeman, as Kampeas would have you believe, personally peddled to impressionable American school children:
1. It correctly notes that much of Jerusalem’s Old City is Arab. Also notes that Jerusalem’s suburban communities across the Green Line are “settlements” and that those who live there are “settlers.” The JTA report would have you believe that the textbook is calling every Jewish resident of Jerusalem a “settler.” Considering that they have not provided enough context in their quote to know precisely what the text is specifically saying, I judge the reference to “ubiquitous high rises” to refer to newer Jerusalem neighborhoods across the Green Line, which are generally understood by everyone except Israel to be settlements.
2. Correctly suggests that lobbying by American Zionists had an effect on Truman’s decision to recognize Israel and that this subject is “well worth exploring.”
3. Correctly notes that Muslims see the Koran as “perfecting earlier revelations” of Christianity and Judaism, just as Jews see their religion as progressing from previous pagan religions common to ancient Israel.
4. Correctly notes that a textbook about the Arab Middle East doesn’t feature a great deal of information about Israel.
So what have we here? Where’s the smoking gun?
Silverstein lets his research stand on its own. There is no “smoking gun” that might be aimed at Freeman. He concludes his posting on the JTA attack with an appreciation of the irony of JTA depending on Steven Rosen to level accusations at Freeman:
I suppose I should be thankful that Freeman’s chief “accuser” in this story is none other than putative AIPAC spy, Steve Rosen. I find it rich that Rosen in effect accuses Freeman of having “dual loyalty” to Saudi Arabia, when the U.S. government is currently accusing Rosen of stealing secret intelligence documents to give to Israel. One man’s dual loyalty is another’s filial duty to the Jewish state.
Among Freeman’s other offenses were to defend Walt-Mearsheimer’s The Israel Lobby, along with accepting $750,000 in Saudi funding for MEPC. Kampeas does note a fact previously reported by Politico’s Ben Smith–that pro-Israel analysts like Dennis Ross also work in a similarly partisan environment funded by heavily pro-Israel donors. Ross also worked for a think tank affiliated with the Jewish Agency for Israel, a quasi-government group.
Another superb Jewish blogger, Phillip Weiss, takes aim at Marty Pertz’s attack in Pertz’ New Republic blog:
Marty Peretz, running wild and free like a mighty horse in a Marlboro ad not stopping for commas:
But [Chas] Freeman’s real offense (and the president’s if he were to appoint him) is that he has questioned the loyalty and patriotism of not only Zionists and other friends of Israel, the great swath of American Jews and their Christian countrymen, who believed that the protection of Zion is at the core of our religious and secular history, from the Pilgrim fathers through Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy.
And how has he offended this tradition? By publishing and peddling the unabridged John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, with panegyric and hysteria. If Freeman believes that this book is the truth he can’t be trusted by anyone, least of all Barack Obama. I can’t believe that Obama wants to appoint someone who is quintessentially an insult to the patriotism of so many of his supporters, me included.
So wait: You’re disloyal to America when you’re not loyal to Israel?
I believe that Peretz has potted this idea from Michael Oren’s weird/superficial completely-unpersuasive book on America’s historical attachment to Zion. (If the argument is true, it means there is no need for an Israel lobby.)
Marty, seriously: This is precisely why I–and John Judis, implicitly, in a piece that you have apparently censored from your website–have questioned the intensity of your attachment to Israel’s interests: it is a recipe for dual loyalty. And not just the recipe, the souffle!
The above mentioned Dennis Ross, by the way, has finally received his State Department assignment. It was not what he wanted; George Mitchell got that position. Ross’ pro-Israel history was too much for the White House to defend. So Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made Ross responsible to her for “the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia”.
Reporters dutifully went to Google to locate just which countries were located in “Southwest Asia”. They even tried, without much success, to get clarity from the acting press spokesman for Clinton. After an extended exchange with the spokesman, they gave up.
It would appear that Dennis Ross’ writings, his work for an Israeli-sponsored think tank, and his role in previous Middle East negotiations, required his removal from future peace negotiations involving Israel. Will the Israel Lobby now demand a quid pro quo for losing their man Ross?
Might blocking Ambassador Freeman’s appointment to run the NIC be that quid pro quo? It should not be; the two situations are not the same. The NIC coordinates intelligence data; Ross would have been involved in highly sensitive political negotiations.
But never forget, the Israel Lobby maintains control of the US Congress by playing hardball. “It is not nice to fool with Mother AIPAC”. Stay tuned to the blogosphere for the next episode of that long-running Washington program, “The Israel Lobby Smear Machine Strikes Again.”