The Times Wakes Up While Schumer Says He Helped the White House Do the Right Thing

by James M. Wall

The New York Times finally woke up to the Charles Freeman affair and  wrote about Freeman’s withdrawal in its news pages this morning. 

The Times called AIPAC for a statement and allowed a spokesman to deny involvement while treating the withdrawal as a “new” story, even though the assault on Freeman has been waged for weeks in the blogosphere. (The Times’ promotion of the Iraq war creeps sadly back to mind).

Greg Sargent explains in Who Runs

 The Times didn’t seem that interested in figuring out why Freeman was ousted. The paper quotes Freeman blaming the “Israel Lobby,” and then places one call to AIPAC, whose spokesperson says that the group never took a formal position on Freeman. The paper lets the matter rest there.

Now that the Times has finally put words on paper in its news section, the rest of the MSM’s news pages will follow the Media Godfather’s lead and gingerly touch upon the topic with its usual lack of insight or perspective.

Of course, the Washington Post, AIPAC’s DC house organ, produced an editorial that sounded strangely like something an AIPAC intern might write, evoking the magic smear, “grotesque libel” in its attack. The Post helpfully links to what it calls Freeman’s “screed”.  Click on “screed”  below, and see for yourself if it is a screed, or an indictment of any group or individual who places the interests of a foreign nation ahead of our own.

Mr. Freeman issued a two-page screed on Tuesday in which he described himself as the victim of a shadowy and sinister “Lobby” whose “tactics plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency” and which is “intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government.” Yes, Mr. Freeman was referring to Americans who support Israel — and his statement was a grotesque libel.

Freeman does not write “shadowy and sinister” in his statement, as the editorial states.  The Post editorialist needs to remember Journalism 101: Thou Shalt Not Paraphrase Falsely Against Thy Neighbor. Freeman’s full statement deserves a careful reading; his language is blunt and angry. But he speaks the truth, to which anyone who has ever been attacked by the Lobby, will attest:

. . . The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful  lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East.  The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. 

The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors. . . 

Fortunately, the blogosphere has been all over this story. I wrote about it, in order,  here and here and here and here.  My postings point to links of other bloggers who have been relentless in demanding that the Israel Lobby give President Obama the right to nominate Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

This is the Council which, in the Bush days, was deeply involved in cooking the intelligence books in favor of attacking Iraq. 

Under Clinton or Bush the appointment of Freeman would not have even been considered. So score this nomination as a home rum for President Obama.

Then the Lobby came roaring out of its darkness to blast a man of integrity who has been willing to speak the truth about Israel. After a few days and a private chat between Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel,  Obama caved. Freeman withdrew.

Greg Sargent wrote that Schumer touted himself as a giant killer in a statement his office sent to the media, quoting Schumer:

“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.”

So sorry, baseball fans, this was not a home run; a replay showed the ball veered foul.  

There still could be a hopeful outcome to this series of events. L’affaire Freeman could be a turning point in the long effort to break the iron control the Israel Lobby has maintained over American foreign policy.

Larry Rosen’s comment that lobbying should remain in the dark because it dies in the sunlight, is so on target in this situation. It is ironic that it is Rosen, the former AIPAC lobbyist, who has led the battle to oust Freeman from his appointment as chairman of the NIC. He should have read his old memos.

Rosen no longer works for AIPAC, officially. He lost his position there following his federal indictment on August 4, 2005 for alleged violations of the Espionage Act in the conduct of AIPAC’s work. He was scheduled to go on trial in the U.S. Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, in April, 2008. The case has since been postponed to a future date. 

The Times story treated L’affaire Freeman as a catfight between ideological extreminsts when, in fact, it was an uprising against the Lobby’s control over the US Congress, the media and American public opinion.

And, I must add, though only religious people notice, the Lobby’s control over American churches is almost as total as is its control over the Congress. This too, inshallah, may be changing. The interfaith and anti-semitism trump cards just may have been played once too often against those God-fearing folk Martin Luther King, Jr. like to describe as “people of good will”. 

Where is the evidence that the tide against the Lobby’s control over American foreign policy is starting to shift? Start with columns like the stunningly powerful piece by Roger Cohen that ran in the New York Times on the same day that Ambassador Freeman withdrew from the NIC chairmanship. See the stories that have begun to creep into US media, print and visual, out of Gaza. The suffering there was finally just too much to cover up with the “Israel must defend itself” smoke screen. 

And when members of Congress travel to Palestine and Israel and come back to deplore the suffering in Gaza, the media had to notice. Certainly they had to notice a former presidential candidate like Senator John Kerry and courageous members of congress like Brian Baird (D-Washington) and Keith Ellison  (D-Mi), who must face voters every two, not six, years.  (Links to these three provide a comprehensive coverage of their journeys; check them out by clicking on their names.)

You want more evidence? How about money? The American public is beginning to notice how the government spends tax dollars, now, more than ever.  The money the US taxpayers send to Israel tops all other foreign assistance gifts.  This is not money to feed the hungry and cure the sick; it is money that buys arms and builds settlements on stolen land.

The Lobby, which knows how to use its money to persuade members of Congress to do its bidding, appears to have forgotten that this is not a good time to upset the American taxpayer. The Lobby’s once rigid discipline is slipping; was Freeman really that important to them?  Apparently so.

Concern for money was the same back in those earlier economic bad times, the 1930s, described in the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou, when Washington Hogwallop explained to his cousin Pete why Hogwallop had to turn Pete over to the sheriff. It was for the reward:

“Sorry, Pete, I know we’re kin, but they got this depression on. I got to do for me and mine.”

We sure do have this depression thing going on. Money unwisely spent does not go over well with American tax payers facing unemployment and foreclosures. 

This time the Israel Lobby came out of the shadows and forgot that the bloggers were watching, even as the MSM looked the other way.  

I was so impressed with the New York Times timid entry into L’Affaire Freeman that I sent them a comment, which was immediately added to what at the time were over 275 comments. overwhelmingly anti-Lobby and pro-Freeman.

For a brief shining moment, my comment was actually among those posted. But then, alas, I looked again and after the number of comments had exceeded 325, the Times cut them back to only five, “editors’ selection” comments.  Too much pro-Freeman was too much for the Times.

Here, for your reading pleasure, and for the record, is the comment I offered the Times, now sadly confined to the “others” category:

I have been writing on my blog that the Main Stream Media, which is led by the Times, would ignore this Freeman controversy until the Israel Lobby did its dirty work and forced his withdrawal. And then You would report it. Which you have done, typically treating a main culprit, Chuck Schumer, with kid gloves. But blessings on you for printing so many comments. I have gotten through more than 50 of them and they “get it”, they understand that the Israel Lobby is highly dangerous to our American well being.

The Lobby is toxic to our American domestic politics; it is dangerous to the well being of the Jewish people in Israel by pushing war not peace there, and it most certainly damaging to the well being of the occupied Palestinian people. The Times deserves credit for printing these comments. Thank you for what you did with these comments and welcome to the public discussion.

Feel free to send your comments to this posting, below.  More importantly, send your comment to the New York Times. They just might select it for the “editors’ selection”.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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5 Responses to The Times Wakes Up While Schumer Says He Helped the White House Do the Right Thing

  1. Pauline Coffman says:

    Good one, Jim! I had the same reaction entirely to the New York Times article this morning. But I hadn’t thought about their lack of coverage over the past few days. Thanks.

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