by James M. Wall
The Washington Post’s Al Kamen has a follow up story on the State Department assignment given to Dennis Ross, discussed in my earlier posting, However, the smear tactics now being used by the Israel Lobby against Ambassador Charles Freeman’s appointment as the new NIC chairman are not in the Kamen story.
His story focuses on Ross, a favorite of the Israel Lobby. His silence on Freeman is revealing.
Still, as background to the ban on Freeman stories. Kamen’s report makes for fascinating inside baseball reading. The shifting about he reports on may or may not have long term diplomatic significance, but it does suggest that strong personalities are in play in Hillary Clinton’s State Department. For the entire Kamen report, click here.
State Department spokesman Robert Woods’ explanation of Ross’ new job is further down in the story:
. . . .[T]he list, which Wood read from the podium, includes a chunk of Near East turf. “From our standpoint,” Wood said, “the countries that make up areas of the Gulf and Southwest Asia include Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, and those are the countries.” Iran’s in there.
Meanwhile, Ross may not be a “special envoy,” but he’s certainly being treated like one. He’s been given an office, right next door to Holbrooke’s, on Envoy Avenue. (This was formerly known as the George W. Bush Hall of Diplomatic Glory.)
That office had been given last month to special envoy George J. Mitchell, who’s in charge of arranging peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Signs identifying the office as Mitchell’s have been removed, but it’s unclear where he went.
So if you’re wondering where Southwest Asia really is, it’s in the hallway just between Ross’s and Holbrooke’s offices. . . .
Kamen also reports on a very positive appointment:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, roundly cuffed about by human rights groups for kowtowing to the repressive Chicoms during her recent Asia trip, has picked Michael Posner, president of New York-based Human Rights First, to be assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, Bloomberg News reports.
Posner has been with Human Rights First since 1978. His work has placed him:
. . . at the forefront of the international human rights movement for nearly 30 years. As its Executive Director he helped the organization earn a reputation for leadership in the areas of refugee protection, advancing a rights-based approach to national security, challenging crimes against humanity, and combating discrimination.
The naming of a human rights activist to the State Department is good news in a department which is still finding its footing with George Mitchel and Dennis Ross still competing for office space.
Meanwhile, on the MSM front, the struggle over the announcement that Ambassador Freedom will head NIC, is still unreported.
Philip Weiss has posted a link to a hard hitting piece on the battle within the Jewish community which is raging over Freeman. The piece is on The Nation blog by Robert Dreyfus. It should be read in full. Here is a sample of Dreyfus’ warning:
. . . .If the campaign by the neocons, friends of the Israeli far right, and their allies against Freeman succeeds, it will have enormous repercussions. If the White House caves in to their pressure, it will signal that President Obama’s even-handedness in the Arab-Israeli dispute can’t be trusted. Because if Obama can’t defend his own appointee against criticism from a discredited, fringe movement like the neoconservatives, how can the Arabs expect Obama to be able to stand up to Israel’s next prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu?
Freeman is a one-of-a-kind choice: with an impeccably establishment pedigree, Freeman has developed over the years a startling propensity to speak truth to power, which is precisely what one would want in a NIC chairman.
Over the last decade, he’s excoriated Israel for its stubborn refusal to compromise with the Palestinians, he’s accused George W, Bush and the “neocons” of having pushed America over a cliff in Iraq, and he’s ridiculed the military-industrial complex for trying to tout China as a bugaboo because, Freeman once told me, the Pentagon has suffered from “enemy deprivation syndrome” since the end of the Cold War. . . .
On Philip Weiss’ blog, in which he linked to Dreyfus’ blog, Weiss, a close observor of American Jewish political history, has this cogent observation of the struggles within the Jewish community:
. . . This action has been going on for a long time on this issue–anti-Zionist Jews complained 60 years ago about getting out-foxed in Washington by the Jewish-nationalists, at the same time as the Arabists (Freeman’s tradition) were also dealt out– and you can call it neoconservatism or Israel-firstism, or a transparent cabal, or the Israel lobby; but until Chris Matthews can discuss it openly, let alone our presidential contenders, our politics are corrupted by it.
As of late Thursday afternoon, there is still no MSM attention to Ambassador Freeman’s pending appointment. Stay tuned.