Jonathan Freedland on AIPAC and the myth of the “Israel Lobby”

Jonathan Freedland

Jonathan Freedland

This piece, by Jonathan Freedland, is from The Guardian.

Now they have their Joan of Arc. Those who have long claimed that the sinister, shadowy forces of “the Israel Lobby” pull the strings of US foreign policy at last have a martyr. Last week Charles Freeman, a former diplomat, said he would not take the job he had been offered, chairing the US National Intelligence Council: he had, he said, been the victim of a campaign of “character assassination” conducted by an “Israel Lobby [willing to] plumb the depths of dishonour and indecency”. In a furious statement, he declared that the “aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process”.

Those who in 2006 lapped up the thesis argued by the US academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, attributing to the mighty lobby the power to divert the US from its own interests, seized on Freeman’s fall as decisive proof. Walt himself declared: “For all of you out there who may have questioned whether there was a powerful ‘Israel lobby’,” he blogged, “think again.”

As the reception to the original Mearsheimer-Walt article showed, this is radioactive terrain. Those who wade in carelessly can find themselves burnt. The explanation is not complicated. The notion that Jews wield excessive power, and do so in mysterious ways; that they advance the interests of a foreign power; that they function as some kind of fifth column, and that as such they have often led their country into needless wars – all these are accusations that have been hurled at Jews going back many centuries. It should be no surprise that Jews’ ears prick up if they think they can hear these old tunes hammered out once more.

And yet, after several conversations with Israel supporters in both Washington and Tel Aviv, I have found no one who denies that Freeman was indeed the victim of advocates for Israel. It is quite true that many on Capitol Hill disliked Freeman’s devotion to Saudi Arabia, the country where he had once served as US ambassador: he recently suggested King Abdullah be renamed “Abdullah the Great”. True, too, that a critical blow came from Nancy Pelosi, the house speaker, reportedly outraged by Freeman’s overly indulgent attitude towards China’s rulers. But I’m reliably told that these lines of attack originated with the pro-Israel crowd. Nor have Freeman’s character assassins bothered to hide their fingerprints.

On the contrary, several have bragged about their role, among them Steve Rosen, a former official of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, who launched the attack on Freeman.

Surely, then, as Walt claimed, this settles not only the Freeman whodunit but the larger question of the mighty “Lobby”. Clearly it is every bit as vicious – and effective – as its detractors have claimed, able to derail even a new and popular administration such as Barack Obama’s simply because it had the temerity to pick a man who had, among other things, condemned the Israeli occupation as “brutal oppression” – right? Not quite.

The flaws in the Mearsheimer-Walt case remain as visible as when they were exposed by the Palestinian-American scholar Joseph Massad, Noam Chomsky and a clutch of other anti-Zionists. For one thing, if Israel and its backers really did control United States foreign policy, there would never be any divergence between them: Washington would simply do “the Lobby’s” bidding. But that is hardly the case. One can go back to the mid-1980s, when Israel and its friends begged the Reagan administration not to sell Awacs surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia – to no avail: the Saudis got their planes. Or spool forward to 1991 when George Bush pressured Israel to attend a peace conference against its will and withheld $10bn in much-needed loan guarantees unless Israel agreed to freeze settlements on occupied land. You might mention Israel’s proposed arms sales to China: Washington compelled Israel to back down, first in 2000 and again in 2005. More awkwardly, Israel has long sought the release of those who spied for it against the US. Washington has consistently refused.

Chomsky asks a useful question. If the US has been led to behave the way it does in the Middle East by the cunning “Israel Lobby”, how come it behaves the same way elsewhere? “What were ‘the Lobbies’ that led to pursuing very similar policies throughout the world?” As for the Middle East, Chomsky quotes the scholar Stephen Zunes: “There are far more powerful interests that have a stake in what happens in the Persian Gulf region than does Aipac [or the Lobby generally], such as the oil companies, the arms industry and other special interests whose lobbying influence and campaign contributions far surpass that of the much-vaunted Zionist lobby …”

The naive assumption at work here is that the American dog has no interests of its own, leaving it free to be wagged by the pro-Israel tail. It’s a convenient view, casting the great superpower as a hapless, and essentially innocent, victim. But guess what: the US emphatically does have its own strategic interests – oil chief among them – and it guards them fiercely. Support for Israel as a loyal, dependable ally – ready to take on Arab and other forces that might pose a threat to those interests – has served America’s purposes well. That’s why the US acts the way it does, not because Aipac tells it to.

Perhaps the most powerful example – if only because so many believe the reverse to be true – is the Iraq war. Plenty of Mearsheimer-Walt followers reckon it was the “Lobby” wot done it: it was Israel that pushed for war. But as Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, and others have explained, Israel’s leaders in fact repeatedly warned against an attack on Saddam, fearing it would distract from, and embolden, what it regarded as the real threat, namely Iran. As it happened, they were right.

So the myth of an all-powerful Israel lobby, pulling the strings, is a delusion. But it’s equally false to pretend that Aipac and its allies don’t exist or exert genuine influence. They do and they play hardball, as the Freeman affair has vividly demonstrated. (Indeed, the negative publicity that has resulted may make this victory a pyrrhic one.)

Viewed this way, clearly and through a lens unclouded by exaggeration and mythology, they are to be strenuously opposed. Their attempt to limit the voices heard in Washington is not just an offence against pluralism, it also hurts the very cause Aipac purports to serve: Israel.

Aipac’s approach – not so much pro Israel as pro the Israeli right wing – ends up pushing US politicians away from the policies Israel itself needs, specifically the dialogue with enemies and territorial concessions that are necessary if Israel’s long-term future is to be secured.

The good news is that alternatives are emerging. Founded last year, J Street styles itself as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” advocacy organisation, thereby creating a space for those US politicians who support Israel but believe the policy of recent Israeli governments is hurting Palestinians and imperilling the future of the Jewish state. Aipac and its allies have had the monopoly on Israel advocacy for too long. Let’s hope the Freeman episode prompts America’s leaders to take a hard look at them, to see them as they really are: not all-powerful – and not always right either.

This piece, by Jonathan Freedland, is from The Guardian.

43 Responses to “Jonathan Freedland on AIPAC and the myth of the “Israel Lobby””

  1. Saul Says:

    And after this “debate” we can discuss whether the world is flat, whether aliens really do abduct humans and whether we all have chips in our brains!!

    It is not the answer that is racist and antisemitic,it is the question………

  2. Absolute Observer Says:

    Saul,
    There is no need for hyperbole………….

    The question of the Lobby is more akin to the other questions regarding Jews such as,

    In Germany after 1918 the question was asked,

    “did Jews dodge the draft?”. A commisssion was set up

    “Are Jews capable of assimilation”?

    “Do Jews influence one country for the advantage of their “brethren”?”

    “Is capitalism “Jewish””?

    “Did Jews take the US into wars “it” did not want to pursue”?

    “Do Jews control British/French/German/US foreign policy?”

    “Is there something about Jews that turn them into pathological child-killers when they get their own state?”

    I do agree though, the issue is not the answers, but the questions; questions that have always attracted the interest of “serious” liberals, academics and Jews as if they were legitimate questions worthy of “serious” reflection.

    These questions, by the way, also serve as the canary for state of politics generally.

  3. Maccabee Says:

    Surprise, surprise, guess which Anglican minister has already jumped on the bandwagon
    http://stephensizer.blogspot.com/2009/03/charles-freeman-encounters-israel-lobby.html

  4. Absolute Observer Says:

    Macabee,
    As Stephen Walt is so fond of saying…………proves my point!

  5. Maccabee Says:

    Indeed. Funnily enough Rev Sizer is also a big fan of Mearsheir and Walt, whom he gushes about at http://www.stephensizer.com/2009/03/christian-zionism-a-chronological-and-annotated-bibliography/

  6. Noga Says:

    I think Noah Pollak nails it with his usual no-bullshit straightforwardness:

    “The attempt to write one religious or ethnic group out of the debate by assigning them membership in conspiracies and imputing to them dual loyalties is indeed un-American, and there should be nothing controversial about saying so. ”

    http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/pollak/58832

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    I see jjfp are labeling Freedland’s article a “response to the Freeman affair”.

    It is not an “affair”; it is a familiar libel against Jews that can be found on most far-right sites (KKK, white supremacist, American Firster, etc.).

    They haven’t yet cottoned on to the fact that antisemitism rarely comes with armbands these days!

    But, of course, as long as it comes with criticism of Israel, they’ll take anything that is given.

    They are truly a disgrace.

  8. David Says:

    As I keep trying to say, there’s nothing antisemitic in claiming that AIPAC is a powerful lobby for the interests of a foreign government. Nor that it attempts to exercise its power in practical terms by campaigning for and against other groups, individuals, policies. Nor that it doesn’t “attempt” to exert more influence, as any lobby would or should.

    It’s NOT the same as claiming (as some do, who ARE antisemitic) that AIPAC is “all-powerful” or a secretive cabal, nor that AIPAC=Jews or “the Jewish lobby.” Nor is it the same as claiming that it is a priori impossible or wrong that US interests would imply support for Israel and/or Israeli policies.

    Saul repeatedly claims these ARE always the same thing. I guess Freedland is an antisemite, or another “wrong” Jew, this time a British one:

    “So the myth of an all-powerful Israel lobby, pulling the strings, is a delusion. But it’s equally false to pretend that Aipac and its allies don’t exist or exert genuine influence. They do and they play hardball, as the Freeman affair has vividly demonstrated.”

  9. Absolute Observer Says:

    I see jjfp are labeling Freedland’s article a “response to the Freeman affair”.

    It is not an “affair”; it is a familiar libel against Jews that can be found on most far-right sites (KKK, white supremacist, American Firster, etc.).

    They haven’t yet cottoned on to the fact that antisemitism rarely comes with armbands these days!

    But, of course, as long as it comes with criticism of Israel, they’ll take anything that is given.

    For the neo-nazi response to the Freeman affair, see,

    http://www.davidduke.com/index.php?s=Israel+Lobby&submit=go

    (warning far-right side, but don’t worry, this story contains nothing that is not there in Freeman’s “statement”; even the reference to Pat Buchanan. Those who have read the “Israel Lobby” will also see the resemblance).

    Seeing that they refer to Freeman’s statement, I cannot see why they do not link to Duke’s site; or, do their politics comprise solely of now what it said, but who says it.
    After all, if it is the claim to “truth” from one person’s mouth, why not another’s?

  10. Saul Says:

    I’m sorry if you do not understand.

    1. I have no idea where you get the fllowiong from.
    “Saul repeatedly claims these ARE always the same thing. I guess Freedland is an antisemite, or another “wrong” Jew, this time a British one”

    Please show me where I have done that.

    2. I think Freedland should have been stronger and shown the very question itself to be problematic. I have absolutely no idea why you think I think Freedland, (or, with a different politics, Maccoby, Lerman. Blackwell) are antisemitic

    I’ll spell it out for you,

    3. The concept of “the Israel Lobby” (singular) that is able to make the US adopt policies against “its” own interests “own” antisemitic as is the idea that the Administration has no option but to obey the Lobby’s will.

    4. The idea that there are several clued up lobbies that seek to persuade the government to adopt a particular policy is not antisemitic. It is a legitimate part of US politics.

    5. Freeman’s statement and many other comments that crystalise around Walt and Mearsheimer -Duke, Freeman and countless people on blogs – adopt the rhetoric of the former. Those demaniding a discussion around the “question” of the Lobby adopts the position of the former fantasy not the latter reality. As such, it fits in exactly with those questions mentioned by AO.

    I hope that is clear.

  11. David Says:

    Since it appears that “that Freeman was indeed the victim of advocates for Israel” as Freedland states, then what is the “familiar libel against Jews” in all this (as opposed to something that makes “Jews’ ears prick up” as Freedland says)?

    Does saying that Freeman was the victim of advocates for Israel make one an antisemite? If so, then please explain how.

    Why is there anything wrong with Freeman being the “victim of advocates for Israel,” any more than if someone else was the victim of advocates for Saudi Arabia, advocates for Black Americans, advocates for senior citizens, advocates for the health insurance industry or anything else?

    (And, Absolute Observer, just because Nazis and other antisemites make use of this to further their agenda does not itself make Charles Freeman a Nazi or antisemite. That is just innuendo and should go without saying, and one shouldn’t even need to take the space pointing it out).

  12. Saul Says:

    Of course, the question that needs to be asked concerns understanding the nature of the “gap” between no. 4 and 3 respectively. (not 4 and 2)

  13. Saul Says:

    David,
    I am not sure of you noticed, but Freedland is criticising the myth of “the myth of the Israel Lobby” (see the byline).

    So, to be clear again……………….
    It is those that Freedland is criticising that make the jump from reality to mythology – not Freedland.

    The truth (as Freedland understands it) is that one group lobbying against Freeman was successful in their outcome.

    The mythology is that this outcome is the product of a suprapolitical power.that can get its way whenever it wants.

    I am not sure how I can be clearer.

  14. Another Observer Says:

    I am not sure where you think I called Freeman an “nazi”. I have no idea if he is an antisemite or not.

    I am merely showing the similarity of thought on the Israel Lobby between Freeman and Duke and other far-right groups. A coincidence that I think is of note in the matter at hand.

  15. Another Observer Says:

    I think also that you will find that the idea of the “Israel Lobby’ predates Walt and Mearshimer’s work by some time; so I am not so sure whose agenda is folllowing whose.

  16. Saul Says:

    As I was saying……….

    “Only days after they were groaning with fury at the Israeli lobby’s success in hounding the outspoken Charles Freeman away from his proposed intelligence job for President Obama…….. “.
    Robert Fisk

    No mention of AIPAC; no mention of J Street, no mention of the fact Freeman opted out and was not refused by Obama; no mention of why the US many not be content with Freeman’s politics. Reference once to the “Israel looby” (except Fisk does not use inverted commas, but refers to it not as a concept but a real thing………

  17. Saul Says:

    And to follow,
    “Her caution in the Middle East, it explained, was “a reflection of the treacherous landscape in the Middle East, where a misplaced phrase can ruffle feathers among constituencies back home”. You bet it can – and when Mr Lieberman comes to town, we’ll see who those feathers belong to.”

    Now, who can he be referring to…………

  18. David Says:

    1. Well Saul, for a start you stated that the Jews For Justice For Palestinians pushed “the Jews control the US line” in stating that Freeman was pushed out by AIPAC and that this was “tapping into antisemitic myths.” I don’t see where they said anything about Jews controlling America. Please advise. Freedland also seems to accept that Freeman was pushed out by AIPAC, thus he is also, according to you, “tapping into antisemitic myths.”

    2. You also stated that Freeman’s claim that he was the victim of a powerful lobby for a foreign government and that “it is not permitted for anyone in the United States” to criticize bad Israeli policies that are bad for the US (and for Israel) is his “Lindbergh moment.” (By that I presume you mean he reveals himself as an antisemite by claiming that he is the victim of Jews working for a foreign government and can’t say so for fear of being accused of antisemitism).

    But I haven’t seen him complain anywhere of being accused of antisemitism, nor have I seen anyone but you (and a couple of others here) accuse him of antisemitism. I HAVE seen him complain that he didn’t get a job he wanted because his views were opposed by a powerful lobby for a foreign state that opposes his views. He certainly has the right to kick up a fuss about that. Please point out the antisemitism there. The difference between Freeman and Freedland here appears only to be in the extent of the power of AIPAC, although not even that is clear. So is this also Freedland’s “Lindbergh Moment?”

    3. You also stated that he “relied on the antisemitic idea of a Jewish/Israel/Likud Lobby [that] controls the most powerful government on earth”.

    Sorry, but once again I don’t see where he said a Jewish lobby controls the most powerful government on earth. And it’s only you that states “Jewish/Israel/Likud.” He certainly claims that the Israel Lobby dominates American foreign policy on Israel, but saying that is not antisemitic. Please advise.

    The article in The Independent DID talk about a Jewish Lobby. That piece seems to me to have crossed the line. And other supporters/defenders of Freeman (and Walt & Mearsheimer) HAVE clearly crossed the line. And there are certainly lots of antisemites out there who hide their antisemitism and couch it in terms of anti-Zionism etc. (No question, so don’t even try to go there!) But you, as I hope I have now pointed out, seem intent upon dragging everyone across the line, even when they don’t belong there and don’t wish to cross it.

  19. David Says:

    Saul,

    Every time someone says AIPAC is powerful, you claim they are saying there is an “ALL-POWERFUL” Israel Lobby. My examples show that quite clearly. But there is a BIG difference.

    How you can claim Freedland’s words in support of your repeatedly-stated position is quite puzzling. You have accused people of antisemitism over and over again for stating nothing more than what Freedland states after the first sentence quoted below.

    Freedland:
    “So the myth of an all-powerful Israel lobby, pulling the strings, is a delusion. But it’s equally false to pretend that Aipac and its allies don’t exist or exert genuine influence. They do and they play hardball, as the Freeman affair has vividly demonstrated…through a lens unclouded by exaggeration and mythology, they are to be strenuously opposed…Their attempt to limit the voices heard in Washington is not just an offence against pluralism, it also hurts the very cause Aipac purports to serve: Israel…Aipac’s approach – not so much pro Israel as pro the Israeli right wing.”

  20. benw Says:

    The real problem that this whole issue has highlighted is the willingness among many groups, esp. on the left wing, to automatically adopt a “guilty until proved innocent” viewpoint regarding Israel and pro-Israel supporters. This sort of viewpoint became increasingly mainstream during the Gaza war, although incidents such as the “Jenin massacre” show that it has been around for a few years at least. This is the original and true meaning of “prejudice” — pre-judging before examining the facts. Prejudice is rightly decried when directed, for example, at black organizations and leaders, despite the fact that plenty of mistakes have been made (e.g. the Duke lacrosse players and Tawana Brawley scandals), that some black leaders are hardly angels (e.g. Al Sharpton or Jeremiah Wright), and that some have crass and hateful views (e.g. Louis Farrakhan). As completely unacceptable as it is to tar the entire black community based on the actions and statements of someone like Farrakhan, Sharpton or Wright, it should be similarly unacceptable to even think of tarring the entire Jewish or pro-Israel communities based on the actions and statements of people like Steve Rosen, Daniel Pipes, or Avigdor Lieberman. The very fact that it is necessary for Jonathan Freedland to spend so much effort debunking the prejudicial views of Walt, Mearsheimer et al. is a sign of how entrenched these views are.

    [BTW isn’t it more than a bit ironic that Chomsky is apparently playing the hero’s role here?]

  21. David Says:

    Saul, your opaque comments on Fisk, the inverted commas, Lieberman and the ruffled feathers leave me thoroughly mystified.

    I, for one, am a LOT more concerned about the damage Avigdor Lieberman may do to Israel than about anything Charles Freeman or Robert Fisk have to say. But that’s beyond the scope of this discussion.

  22. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Let’s get back to the Freedland atricle and away from what’s becoming a Jesuitical debate between Saul and David. There’s actually a whiff of conspiracy theory here from Freedland. Note the following:

    “True, too, that a critical blow came from Nancy Pelosi, the house speaker, reportedly outraged by Freeman’s overly indulgent attitude towards China’s rulers. But I’m reliably told that these lines of attack originated with the pro-Israel crowd. Nor have Freeman’s character assassins bothered to hide their fingerprints.”

    So, the powerful Speaker of the House of Representatives (quite high up in the succession stakes, according to the Constitution) has no views herself concerning China and Freeman’s role in promoting the place. She has to receive her instructions and be pushed by the “Lobby” – so Freedland tells us, without being other than coy about who nudged her.

    Then there’s this:

    “So the myth of an all-powerful Israel lobby, pulling the strings, is a delusion. But it’s equally false to pretend that Aipac and its allies don’t exist or exert genuine influence. They do and they play hardball, as the Freeman affair has vividly demonstrated.”

    This comes shortly after Freedland has noted the existence of other more powerful lobbies in Washington, such as oil, and all serious commentators on the Federal political scene will be able to reel off a string of other lobbies equally interested in steering US government policy in the Middle East: armaments, anyone? How about manufacturers of civil aeroplanes, like Boeing?

    Freedland comments on Aipac as though the existence of lobbies, K Street in Washington and serious money being spent on attempting to influence the US government comes as a surprise to him. They are and have been for decades a natural part of the US Federal Government scene, and Aipac is but one, and not that powerful a one, at that, player in this game.

    Just why does Freedland feel the need to make these statements? Or has he become infected by the attitudes prevalent in the rest of Guardian building?

  23. Bill Says:

    Is AIPAC powerful? Yes. As powerful as, for example, AARP, dream on jiffypop beanie wearers! But we never hear complaints about the nefarious senile geezer lobby no matter how much we want to intern our mothers-in-law into a home.

    Anyone familiar with “The Memo” linking Tiananmen to the equally unconscionable Bonus Army Massacre (as a way to get ’em off!) and all the rest of the baggage he carried knows that hopeless Chas Freeman was a bad choice, doomed to be dead on arrival courtesy not of Newt Frackin’ Gingrich (R), but Nancy Freling Pellosi (D and that’s a capital D). If we have the Lobby to thank for that, then the rest of the lobbies should just pack it in and go home out of sheer lazy incompetence.

    But it was The Lobby, we are told, that spiked him when he has no one to blame but his own bad judgement — but more importantly the bad judgement of the people who got him on the short list.

    And that’s why we’re hearing all about the Lobby now. His backers and apologists are desperate to save face as much as he is… and they’re playing people like a cheap ukulele — people who are susceptible to conspiracies theories revolving around, not every other influence seeking group in Washington (from the AARP to Countrywide), but around the Israel Lobby. And when there are so many other bigger and and better success stories about pushing, pulling and buying influences that get sent to exile on page 2 (or worse still Page 6), what IS that about, Hmmm?

    If I were “THE Lobby,” I’d be demanding some compen$ation from the other “the lobbies” for keeping people’s attention off the rest!

  24. Lbnaz Says:

    Put aside for a minute his dislike of Israel, his advocacy for the Saudis and his faith in Walt & Mearsheimerian conspiracies, Chas Freeman was outspoken in his support for the Chinese government against the brave democracy protesters who were brutally slaughtered in Tiananmen Square and sits on the board of a the third biggest oil company in China that does business with a genocidal Sudanese regime run by an indicted war criminal (not to mention the business they do with the Mullahcracy) and in response the socialism of fools and anti-imperialism of idiots crowd like Robert Dreyfuss (the ex-Larouchite) at the Nation and MJ Rosenberg of J Street feel compelled to defend him.

    The left I support stands with Wei Jingsheng and the 87 Chinese dissidents that wrote Obama asking him to drop Chas Freeman and stands against the morally and mentally compromised left exemplified by MJ Rosenberg and Robert Dreyfuss.

  25. David Hirsh Says:

    “I, for one, am a LOT more concerned about the damage Avigdor Lieberman may do to Israel than about anything Charles Freeman or Robert Fisk have to say.”

    Me too, David. I’m a lot more concerned about many things than I am about Robert Fisk or Charles Freeman.

    There are many important problems in the world that are more threatening and more immediate than antisemitism.

    I’m a lot more concerned about what is happening in Darfur at the moment, and in Sri Lanka, and in Zimbabwe, and in Congo than I am about Lieberman or Netanyahu or Fisk or Freeman.

    But so what?

    That kind of hierarchical calculus is not part of how we discuss an issue is it?

    If it was, we’d all focus on things more important and more threatening than Israel/Palestine.

    But it would be wrong, wouldn’t it, to drop concern for the human rights abuses in Palestine, just because there are much greater human rights abuses going on elsewhere in the world?

    Human rights abuses in Palestine are important in themselves, irrespective of what else is going on in the world.

    Of course it is a reasonable question, to ask why it is Israel/Palestine, which is a relatively small problem, has gained a pre-eminent status in much progressive thought and practice. Why has Israel/Palestine become symbolic of all conflict around the world and not Rwanda or Tibet?

    And Antisemitism is important in itself, irrespective of what other problems there in the world.

    Of course antisemitism also disables the ability of antiracists to address other questions. Also the increasing presence of antisemitism in socialist and liberal ways of thinking should act as an indicator of a greater problem. And the chronic denial and downplaying of antisemitism (as less important than this, less important than that) – or the trivialization of antisemitism as “understandable” or as a result of Jewish neurosis or Jewish cruelty or Jewish “lobbying” – is also an indicator of the importance of antisemitism.

    Antisemitism doesn’t have to be the greatest problem in the world to warrant our serious attention.

    Even if it comes low on the list of your hierarchy, David, of what is important, it is still important in itself.

  26. Saul Says:

    David,
    I am not sure which “Saul” you are responding too, but it is certainly not me.
    I have made my position clear.

    For example,
    “I have absolutely no idea why you think I think Freedland, (or, with a different politics, Maccoby, Lerman. Blackwell) are antisemitic”
    (and, less it is not clear, I include Walt and Mearsheimer and Freeman in that group)
    becomes
    “You have accused people of antisemitism over and over again for stating nothing more than what Freedland states after the first sentence quoted below.”

    or, again,

    My statements that,
    “The concept of “the Israel Lobby” (singular) that is able to make the US adopt policies against “its” own interests “own” antisemitic as is the idea that the Administration has no option but to obey the Lobby’s will.

    4. The idea that there are several clued up lobbies that seek to persuade the government to adopt a particular policy is not antisemitic. It is a legitimate part of US politics.

    becomes,

    “Every time someone says AIPAC is powerful, you claim they are saying there is an “ALL-POWERFUL” Israel Lobby.”

    Whether your misconstruals are for want of comprehension or simple mal fide i- forcing, against it meaning, my comments into the box of “all criticism of Israel is antisemitic” – is really no concern to me.

  27. Bill Says:

    Lbnaz,

    Oh No you don’t🙂, lets talk about the Saudis as well. First, I have four letters for you A-W-A-C (the s to make ’em plural’s on me) — nice failure of your incredible influence, all omnipotent AIPAC, so let’s put to bed the myth of their freemason-like power. Secondly and more to the point: He was, to some degree, a quasi lobbying agent for them (albeit not at the time of AWAC drama as I understand it), just as he was for the Chinese. As such, we have a comparable issue with AIPAC sitting right in Chas’s lap of which we must not speak, a pair of nefarious organizations with shadowy influences, driven by other countries’ agendas. Yet we see not much discussion from his apologists regarding his equivalent shadowier relationships (shadowier only because they’re eclipsed by all the mock indignation over “The Lobby”). Indeed, the AIPAC huffing and puffing seems to be a major distraction from all the other baggage that he carried (and the appointment squad carried for him, or just missed, when they cruised over his resume). In contrast to the rest of his issues, his take on Israel was just the overweight carryon that set him over the limit at the ticket counter.

    But of course, this isn’t about shadowy influence of foreign governments. We’re changing the subject. Heck, we may not even be talking about Jews this time (kosher pigs are flying!). It’s about using AIPAC cynically as a cover for certified stupidity over a very sensitive and important post. And not-so-amazingly, it works like a charm!

  28. David Says:

    OK Saul, it didn’t take long for you to turn snitty. I would request that this time we both try to avoid that tone , PLEASE. I will try to do the same.

    I thought I pointed out pretty clearly (complete with quotes) several instances where you accused people of antisemitism based simply on statements they made that are similar to Freedland’s (or even a lot milder). You haven’t even attempted to rebut even a single one of those examples.

    Instead, you keep asking me where I got the idea you thought Freedland was antisemitic. Well, I ‘m sure you don’t think he is. But the logical extension of your accusation of antisemitism against others, based on similar statements to Freedland’s, is that you ought to believe he is antisemitic too.

    Let me lay it out for you again from Freedland’s statements, as clearly as I can:

    A) “[I]t’s …false to pretend that Aipac and its allies don’t exist or exert genuine influence. They do and they play hardball, as the Freeman affair has vividly demonstrated…”

    Also, based on his conversations described in his piece above, Freedland clearly states that he accepts that AIPAC and its allies pushed Freeman out. Certainly, they seem to have been the prime movers. (Personally I don’t see anything antisemitic or even anti-Israel in accepting that).

    In my example #1 above, you said that SOLELY stating that Freeman was pushed out by AIPAC=pushing the “Jews control the US line” – an antisemitic myth.

    B) “Their attempt to limit the voices heard in Washington is … an offence against pluralism”.

    That is the same as Freeman’s claim in my example #2 above, which you define as his “Lindbergh Moment” (ie coming out of the closet as an antisemite).

    Based on these statements, which you have elsewhere used as the SOLE basis for accusations of antisemitism, you ought to accuse Freedland of antisemitism.

    And those are only the Freedland statements. You have accused people of antisemitism for other things that are a long stretch, as I have also pointed out. (Usually, you later say “where did I say that?” So this time I’m trying to be as specific as possible, so that you cannot avoid your own words).

    Pointing out that you said something different or clearer ELSEWHERE does not address the issue at hand! If you really believe that more is required of a speaker or writer to justify being accused of antisemitism than you have provided in the examples I have cited, then you should provide that information, or you should admit that you have been too free with your accusations.

    I sincerely await your reply.

  29. David Says:

    David Hirsh,

    I certainly didn’t say that antisemitism isn’t important, or even low in my hierarchy of issues. Don’t know where you got that idea from, but I really don’t appreciate your attribution of such a notion to me!

    (I raised the issue of Lieberman as an aside, since Saul raised possible reactions to Lieberman as Israel’s Foreign Minister).

  30. Neal Says:

    For what it is worth, the fairly prominent US news weekly, Newsweek, rejects the theory that concerns raised about Israel related by Israel’s US friends were the cause for Freeman’s demise. Rather, it was the fact that he was seen as a supporter of reactionary politics most particularly in China and that raised the ire of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. See http://tinyurl.com/cua57q

    Moreover, there is his infamous email where he supports actions taken against not only against students in Tienneman Square but against the Bonus army during the 1930’s. His email reads as follows:
    ——————————–
    From: CWFHome@cs.com [mailto:CWFHome@cs.com]
    Sent: Friday, May 26, 2006 9:29 PM

    I will leave it to others to address the main thrust of your reflection on Eric’s remarks. But I want to take issue with what I assume, perhaps incorrectly, to be your citation of the conventional wisdom about the 6/4 [or Tiananmen] incident. I find the dominant view in China about this very plausible, i.e. that the truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than — as would have been both wise and efficacious — to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China. In this optic, the Politburo’s response to the mob scene at “Tian’anmen” stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action.

    For myself, I side on this — if not on numerous other issues — with Gen. Douglas MacArthur. I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans’ “Bonus Army” or a “student uprising” on behalf of “the goddess of democracy” should expect to be displaced with despatch from the ground they occupy. I cannot conceive of any American government behaving with the ill-conceived restraint that the Zhao Ziyang administration did in China, allowing students to occupy zones that are the equivalent of the Washington National Mall and Times Square, combined. while shutting down much of the Chinese government’s normal operations. I thus share the hope of the majority in China that no Chinese government will repeat the mistakes of Zhao Ziyang’s dilatory tactics of appeasement in dealing with domestic protesters in China.

    I await the brickbats of those who insist on a politically correct — i.e. non Burkean conservative — view.

    Chas
    ——————————
    Source: http://tinyurl.com/cg7bsg

    That pretty much says it all.

  31. Lbnaz Says:

    I have four letters for you A-W-A-C (the s to make ‘em plural’s on me) — nice failure of your incredible influence, all omnipotent AIPAC

    Nice failure of “[my] incredible influence, all omnipotent AIPAC”? WTF?

  32. Saul Says:

    David,

    Freeman talks of the Likud lobby in his latest statement, here,

    “The senior diplomat who withdrew as one of Barack Obama’s top intelligence officials in a row over Israel has stepped up his attack on those he says are stifling debate in the United States, adding that he was “deeply insulted” to be accused of antisemitism for criticising what he described as “the Israel lobby”.”

    and here,

    “His opponents “should probably be called the Likud lobby” rather than the Israel lobby, he added. “The atmosphere is such in this country now that, whereas Israelis in Israel routinely criticise Israeli policies that they think may prove to be suicidal for their country, those who criticise the same policies here, for the same reasons, are subject to political reprisal.” (see report in the Guardian)

    So, no mention of AIPAC is there?

    (Jjfp uses this headline to the story – “The Power of the Israel lobby in the US” – no mention of AIPAC, but repeats Walt and Mearsheimer/Freeman/Lindburgh/Duke’s view of the matter – i.e. the one Freedland criticises)

    Finally, and I don’t know how many times I have to spell it out for you, but I am a patient person,

    1. Freeman (in the US) speaks of the Israel/Likud Lobby………..(see above). He does not speak about AIPAC or any one lobby group.

    Antisemitic. Why? Because it taps into the myth of the Jewish lobby and, contentwise is exactly the same as Lindburgh and Duke. It does not refer to AIPAC.

    2. Jonathan Freedland (in the UK) says no – it is not an Israel Lobby, it is AIPAC what done it.

    3. Freedland’s point is that point 1. taps into antisemitic myths, but point 2. gives an adequate description of the “affair”.

    4, He is criticising Freeman’s account of the matter because Freeman (in the US) refers not to AIPAC but to the Israel/Likud Lobby.

    4a. I agree that if the story is how Freedland (in the UK) says it is, to point to AIPAC’s role is not antisemitic.

    4b. If Freeman (in the US) talks about an Israel/Likud Lobby (with its echoes the content of the myth of a Jewish Lobby) then that is an expression of antisemitism (see quote above, and the reason given)

    n.b. The Livingstone formulation as used by Freeman (in the UK who speaks of the Israel/Likud Lobby and not AIPAC)

    Answering charges of antisemitism, Freeman said: “There’s a very large number of American Jews who have written to me to express their gratitude for me raising the issues I have… The last thing on earth I am is antisemitic.”

    Maybe, but as I have clearly demonstration or “pointed out” as you would say, he is tapping into antisemitic tropes.

  33. David Says:

    Not sure why my lengthy reply (and very polite & friendly call to keep a nice tone) to Saul is still awaiting moderation…

  34. David Says:

    Saul, I would just refer you to my posting just prior to yours, as it appears you wrote an additional response without having been able to see my comments on your last one.

    It seems to me you’ve just confirmed again what I said. Now your argument about Freeman seems to hinge on talking about an “Israel/Likud lobby” as opposed to AIPAC. I fail to understand how that makes Freeman antisemitic? “Because it taps into the myth of the Jewish lobby” you say. How’s that? Because it’s not specific enough? Please explain. (If anything, Freeman probably doesn’t mention AIPAC because there’s no evidence on record of an official AIPAC position or activity on the matter, and talks about Likud because he wants to make it clear that he doesn’t mean “Jews”).

    You’ve also ignored all my points about your other throwing around of accusations of antisemitism, for example against the JFJFP.

  35. David Says:

    Now I see, I missed it, sorry. Well at least I’m taking the trouble to pore over your postings!

    1. Just like Freeman, you claim the JFJFP is also antisemitic because they didn’t specify AIPAC, but just said the “Israel Lobby” is powerful. Again, please explain. I don’t see how saying one vs. the other makes one an antisemite.

    You said previously that the JFJFP is pushing the antisemitic “the Jews control the US” line. Is that what is therefore constituted by their use of the term “Israel Lobby” rather than “AIPAC?” (If there is something else they said that implies “Jews control the US,” as you claimed, please let me know. I keep asking you for evidence to back up this claim, but to no avail).

    2. I’d like to suggest to you that perhaps you should refine your analysis as follows: It’s only antisemitic if one uses a lower-case letter ‘l’ (i.e. “Israel lobby” rather than “Israel Lobby”). The latter is too specific and could refer to an official organization, whereas the former could more easily be taken to refer to “Jews control the US.”

    3. You seem to be backing away from the outright accusation that Freeman is an antisemite. Now he’s just “tapping into antisemitic tropes.” That’s pretty broad. Would it include my saying “George Soros, wealthy international investor, is a Jew?” Because it seems to me that it might. Does that mean I should not make that statement?

  36. benw Says:

    David, your attempt to make a distinction between lowercase “Israel lobby” and capital “Israel Lobby” seems specious to me. I’d challenge you to find a single person who throws around a term like “Israel [L/l]obby” and imparts any significance to the use of a capital vs. lowercase letter.

    I also don’t really understand your objections regarding “tapping into antisemitic tropes”. It seems pretty clear to me that, since the concept of a Jewish conspiracy to control the world is an anti-Semitic belief, someone who speciously invokes this concept or a variant of it is being anti-Semitic (although arguably is not an “anti-Semite” as such, since that would imply a pattern of behavior).

    As for your comment about George Soros, it would depend on context. If it appeared as part of a biographical entry, or if it was relevant to understanding some action he had taken w.r.t. Israel or Jews, obviously no problem. If it was gratuitously inserted, it would be potentially problematic. If it was mentioned along with a discussion of Soros’s alleged malevolent control over international finance, it would likely be anti-Semitic. (As an analogy, consider when it might or might not be appropriate to mention that someone is black or gay or whatever.)

  37. benw Says:

    I also think that the whole idea of an “Israel lobby” in general is problematic, because it implies a monolithic movement. It would be much better to say “pro-Israel activists” or something of that sort. Notice that we in the U.S. say “gay activists”, “anti-abortion advocates”, etc. not “gay lobby”, “anti-abortion lobby”, etc. Consider also the difference between the terms “human-rights advocates” vs. “human-rights lobby” — to the extent the latter term is used at all, it’s explicitly pejorative.

    Even if you narrow it to a “pro Israel right wing” faction, it seems to me there are at least four rather different camps, each with their own concerns:

    1. Those concerned about Israel as such, e.g. AIPAC.
    2. Those concerned mostly about U.S. security issues, e.g. “neocons”.
    3. Those concerned about the influence of radical Islam, e.g. Daniel Pipes.
    4. Christian fundamentalists.

    Most people who fulminate about the “Israel lobby” seem to have difficulty separating out at least groups (1) – (3), and tend to label them all as “neocons”.

  38. Saul Says:

    David,
    Do I detect some civility!!
    If I do it is appreciated.
    1, Yes, the very term “Israel Lobby” or “Israel lobby” is an antisemitic trope. It mystifies and distorts actuality (i.e. AIPAC, and a host of other lobby groups.) I may be more lenieint to the term Isael lobbies, but no-one has used that term; and that begs the question…………..

    3. I am not sure I have said Freeman is an antisemite anywhere . I have no idea if he is or is not. But, yes, he taps into antisemitic mythology.

    As to the Soros questions, I agree with benw. It all depends on context. There is the empirical fact that Soros is Jewish (not antisemitic); there is the mystification and distortion of that fact (i.e. a notion of Jews running the financial worlds/markets for their own interests; etc. and so forth.) (antisemitic).

    Regards,
    Saul

  39. Bill Says:

    “Nice failure of “[my] incredible influence, all omnipotent AIPAC”? WTF?”

    WOW! you’re AIPAC. Shucks, you guys are everywhere! (at that point I was “taunting” the lobby that that can’t stop an AWAC sale — at the time it was “rumored” that they let it go to maintain their myth of shadowy invincibility — play ominous organ chords here)

    And thanks, Neal, for reposting “The Memo.” For me that sealed the deal against him. At first, I thought a lot of what was being said was overblown partisanship. But when he equated Tiannamen with MacArthur’s driving his divisions through a convenient but predictable hole on the Posse Comitatus Act (in what we’re supposed to believe is a post-Patriot Act era of Hope and Change no less!), I wouldn’t recommend him for town dog catcher!

    As for Freeman being an true-blue antisemite? I doubt it. But he IS willing to cynically leverage the antisemitism to distract people from his baggage (like the above memo). When you cynically play the race card, you have a helluvalotta trouble dissuading people that you have some racist subroutines running in the background. If you play “The Lobby” card as pettily as it’s been played here by Freeman and his apologists… you rightfully deserve the same off-tempered looks you’re going to get — even if it’s just a reactionary tantrum in response to people seeing you for the buffoon and patsy you really are.

  40. David Says:

    OK benw, my point about the lower- and upper-case “L” was meant to be a joke. Sorry that you took the time to address it, I guess I should have made it clearer that it was meant as a reductio ad absurdum, or satirically.

    Saul, yes I am trying hard to be civil, and I appreciate that you have (almost) mangaged to control your own condescending (and VERY English) tone!

    I’m sorry that I’m being so persistent about all this, but I’m a logician and philopher of science and language by training, and it seems to me VERY important that we have a clear idea of what behavior is required of a person or group in order to legitimately accuse them of antisemitism (or perhaps even before “tapping into the accusation of antisemitism,” as you might say. But that’s another discussion!).

    So it seems, after a lot of beating about the bush, that your claim ultimately boils down to the following: Anyone using the term “Israel Lobby,” as opposed to “Israel lobbies” or something more specific (e.g. AIPAC), is both “pushing the Jews control the US” line and “tapping into antisemitic tropes.” (The accusation that someone is “pushing the Jews control the US” line is clearly an accusation of antisemitism, don’t you think?)

    From what you have written, perhaps you would also add the requirement that the claim be made that this “Lobby” is quite powerful. But certainly you don’t see it necessary for the claim to explicitly be made that it’s all-powerful or controlling. In fact, from what you said about the JFJFP, merely the use of the term “powerful Israel Lobby” in your view automatically implies “Jews control the US.”

    I think I’ve managed to encapsulate your position. And quite frankly, it’s a stretch, and not a little one.

    As for context, well certainly: There is the empirical fact of a powerful “group of lobbies including AIPAC” (as you would have it) that advocate for the interests of a foreign state. Anyone who lost a good job as the result of the political opposition of some members of that group of lobbies would definitely not speak of those people or organisations in friendly terms, and would certainly consider them powerful and even malevolent from a certain point of view (i.e. his employment prospects). I don’t think there’s any distortion or mystification present thus far.

    But in this context, how could Freeman possibly avoid “tapping into antisemitic tropes” or mythology if he mentions any of this? Should he not be able to express any anger, resentment or political opposition in terms of what I have described? It appears in the end that you would have to say that his offense is merely in his use of the term “Israel Lobby.”

    As for that, and benw’s examples from the US that purport to demonstrate the antisemitism inherent in the use of the term “Israel Lobby,” I did a fews searches on Google, and he’s right that usage of the examples he provides is usually pejorative and a bit loose (i.e. sloppy shorthand), since a collection of groups may be involved and not a single monolithic bloc. The same applies to “China Lobby,” “Cuban Lobby,” “Armenian Lobby” etc.

    But “pejorative” or “problematic” is not the same as, and does not necessarily imply, racist or antisemitic. One couldn’t expect opponents of these groups of lobbies not to be pejorative could one?

    Let’s take the example of someone complaining that the power of the “China Lobby” resulted in the US govenment maintaining for many years the fiction that the Republic of China (Taiwan) represented the whole of China (quite possibly to the detriment of US interests). This “Lobby” in fact consisted of various groups with differing views on a range of issues, but an overriding desire to overthrow the communist regime of Mainland China. Perhaps the opponents of this desire didn’t take the time to distinguish among the differing views on a whole range of issues (much as the distinction between AIPAC and other lobbying groups’ views on a range of issues may be opaque or of littles interest to many critics of Israel). And there was a racist view of a sinister Chinese “Yellow Peril” as “background noise.”

    Certainly there would be many racists who might refer to the “China Lobby” with a sneer (ignoring the fact that its principal opponents were also Chinese). But does the mere usage of the term mean someone is a racist or is tapping into racist tropes? Of course not. They’d need to say more than that.

    Just out of interest here’s an article from ‘Time’ magazine in 1951. It’s fascinating to see the leading opponent of this so-called “China Lobby” be accused of racism by the supporters of maintaining the US “anti-communist” foreign policy. But it looks like he had also talked of foreign money, un-American behavior, sinister conspiracies and so on (although the specifics aren’t provided). I’m not saying it supports my position, I just think it’s a fascinating parallel in many respects (not just the issue of racism).

  41. Brian Robinson Says:

    Are there copyright restrictions preventing posting this here?
    Brian
    =======

    LRB
    26 March 2009
    John Mearsheimer
    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n06/mear01_.html
    The Lobby Falters
    John Mearsheimer
    Many people in Washington were surprised when the Obama administration tapped Charles Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council, the body that oversees the production of National Intelligence Estimates: Freeman had a distinguished 30-year career as a diplomat and Defense Department official, but he has publicly criticised Israeli policy and America’s special relationship with Israel, saying, for example, in a speech in 2005, that ‘as long as the United States continues unconditionally to provide the subsidies and political protection that make the Israeli occupation and the high-handed and self-defeating policies it engenders possible, there is little, if any, reason to hope that anything resembling the former peace process can be resurrected.’ Words like these are rarely spoken in public in Washington, and anyone who does use them is almost certain not to get a high-level government position. But Admiral Dennis Blair, the new director of national intelligence, greatly admires Freeman: just the sort of person, he thought, to revitalise the intelligence community, which had been very politicised in the Bush years.

    Predictably alarmed, the Israel lobby launched a smear campaign against Freeman, hoping that he would either quit or be fired by Obama. The opening salvo came in a blog posting by Steven Rosen, a former official of Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, now under indictment for passing secrets to Israel. Freeman’s views of the Middle East, he said, ‘are what you would expect in the Saudi Foreign Ministry, with which he maintains an extremely close relationship’. Prominent pro-Israel journalists such as Jonathan Chait and Martin Peretz of the New Republic, and Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, quickly joined the fray and Freeman was hammered in publications that consistently defend Israel, such as the National Review, the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard.

    The real heat, however, came from Congress, where Aipac (which describes itself as ‘America’s Pro-Israel Lobby’) wields enormous power. All the Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee came out against Freeman, as did key Senate Democrats such as Joseph Lieberman and Charles Schumer. ‘I repeatedly urged the White House to reject him,’ Schumer said, ‘and I am glad they did the right thing.’ It was the same story in the House, where the charge was led by Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Steve Israel, who pushed Blair to initiate a formal investigation of Freeman’s finances. In the end, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, declared the Freeman appointment ‘beyond the pale’. Freeman might have survived this onslaught had the White House stood by him. But Barack Obama’s pandering to the Israel lobby during the campaign and his silence during the Gaza War show that this is one opponent he is not willing to challenge. True to form, he remained silent and Freeman had little choice but to withdraw.

    The lobby has since gone to great lengths to deny its role in Freeman’s resignation. The Aipac spokesman Josh Block said his organisation ‘took no position on this matter and did not lobby the Hill on it’. The Washington Post, whose editorial page is run by Fred Hiatt, a man staunchly committed to the special relationship, ran an editorial which claimed that blaming the lobby for Freeman’s resignation was something dreamed up by ‘Mr Freeman and like-minded conspiracy theorists’.

    In fact, there is abundant evidence that Aipac and other hardline supporters of Israel were deeply involved in the campaign. Block admitted that he had spoken to reporters and bloggers about Freeman and provided them with information, always on the understanding that his comments would not be attributed to him or to Aipac. Jonathan Chait, who denied that Israel was at the root of the controversy before Freeman was toppled, wrote afterwards: ‘Of course I recognise 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.’ Daniel Pipes, who runs the Middle East Forum, where Steven Rosen now works, quickly sent out an email newsletter boasting about Rosen’s role in bringing Freeman down.

    On 12 March, the day the Washington Post ran its editorial railing against anyone who suggested that the Israel lobby had helped topple Freeman, the paper also published a front-page story describing the central role that the lobby had played in the affair. There was also a comment piece by the veteran journalist David Broder, which opened with the words: ‘The Obama administration has just suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the lobbyists the president vowed to keep in their place.’

    Freeman’s critics maintain that his views on Israel were not his only problem. He is said to have especially close – maybe even improper – ties to Saudi Arabia, where he previously served as American ambassador. The charge hasn’t stuck, however, because there is no evidence for it. Israel’s supporters also said that he had made insensitive remarks about what happened to the Chinese protesters at Tiananmen Square, but that charge, which his defenders contest, only came up because Freeman’s pro-Israel critics were looking for any argument they could muster to damage his reputation.

    Why does the lobby care so much about one appointment to an important, but not top leadership position? Here’s one reason: Freeman would have been responsible for the production of National Intelligence Estimates. Israel and its American supporters were outraged when the National Intelligence Council concluded in November 2007 that Iran was not building nuclear weapons, and they have worked assiduously to undermine that report ever since. The lobby wants to make sure that the next estimate of Iran’s nuclear capabilities reaches the opposite conclusion, and that would have been much less likely to happen with Freeman in charge. Better to have someone vetted by Aipac running the show.

    An even more important reason for the lobby to drive Freeman out of his job is the weakness of the case for America’s present policy towards Israel, which makes it imperative to silence or marginalise anyone who criticises the special relationship. If Freeman hadn’t been punished, others would see that one could talk critically about Israel and still have a successful career in Washington. And once you get an open and free-wheeling discussion about Israel, the special relationship will be in serious trouble.

    One of the most remarkable aspects of the Freeman affair was that the mainstream media paid it little attention – the New York Times, for example, did not run a single story dealing with Freeman until the day after he stepped down – while a fierce battle over the appointment took place in the blogosphere. Freeman’s opponents used the internet to their advantage; that is where Rosen launched the campaign. But something happened there that would never have happened in the mainstream media: the lobby faced real opposition. Indeed, a vigorous, well-informed and highly regarded array of bloggers defended Freeman at every turn and would probably have carried the day had Congress not tipped the scales against them. In short, the internet enabled a serious debate in the United States about an issue involving Israel. The lobby has never had much trouble keeping the New York Times and the Washington Post in line, but it has few ways to silence critics on the internet.

    When pro-Israel forces clashed with a major political figure in the past, that person usually backed off. Jimmy Carter, who was smeared by the lobby after he published Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, was the first prominent American to stand his ground and fight back. The lobby has been unable to silence him, and it is not for lack of trying. Freeman is following in Carter’s footsteps, but with sharper elbows. After stepping down, he issued a blistering denunciation of ‘unscrupulous people with a passionate attachment to the views of a political faction in a foreign country’ whose aim is ‘to prevent any view other than its own from being aired’. ‘There is,’ he continued, ‘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.’

    Freeman’s remarkable statement has shot all around the world and been read by countless individuals. This isn’t good for the lobby, which would have preferred to kill Freeman’s appointment without leaving any fingerprints. But Freeman will continue to speak out about Israel and the lobby, and maybe some of his natural allies inside the Beltway will eventually join him. Slowly but steadily, space is being opened up in the United States to talk honestly about Israel.

    John Mearsheimer is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.

  42. Bill Says:

    “Israel’s supporters also said that he had made insensitive remarks about what happened to the Chinese protesters at Tiananmen Square, but that charge, which his defenders contest, only came up because Freeman’s pro-Israel critics were looking for any argument they could muster to damage his reputation.”

    What a load of bunk.

    Israel’s supporters didn’t “say” that he made insensitive remarks via sneaky gossip. Chaz Freeman, himself, we know made not only insensitive remarks, but gobsmackingly stupid remarks about Tiananmen Square — remarks that in the same breath and email also bring serious questions on his take to domestic US security (as well as foreign) in times of crisis. It’s in the email for all to read, courtesy of Neal. The only person engaging in sleazy innuendo is Mearsheimer.

    Of course Mearsheimer, has put all his eggs, karma and, above all, his credibility into harping about The Lobby, it’s his only basket, and likely now his only gravy train in the public debate. So everything must go back to The Lobby somehow. Indeed, if we were to have found that Freeman had a kiddie porn dungeon in his basement, no doubt that would have been part of The Lobby’s machinations in Mearsheimer’s cynical eyes to discredit him for his contrarian views on Israel (never mind his binding the Tiananmen Square to the Bonus Army crackdown, his Saudi & China connections, etc). After all, we can’t change the subject from the one and only reason to keep him out of such a sensitive post.


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