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.
Here is Kampeas’ lurid prose today inveighing against 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.”
Then I went back to the original 2005 story to see whether its claims were any better documented. They weren’t:
The “Arab World Studies Notebook” is…billed by its creators as an important tool to correct misperceptions about Islam and the Arab world, the manual for secondary schools has been blasted by critics for distorting history and propagating bias.
…The…publication was created as the joint project of two organizations – both of which receive Saudi funding.
Some of the references are subtle, say critics, making them all the more harmful. For example, the manual:
• Denigrates the Jews’ historical connection to Jerusalem. One passage, describing the Old City, says that “the Jerusalem that most people envisage when they think of the ancient city is Arab. Surrounding it are ubiquitous high-rises built for Israeli settlers to strengthen Israeli control over the holy city.”
• Suggests that Jews have undue influence on U.S. foreign policy. Referring to Harry S. Truman’s support of [Israel] it says: “Truman’s decision to push the U.N. decision to partition Palestine ended in the creation of Israel. The questions of Jewish lobbying and its impact on Truman’s decision with regard to American recognition – and indeed, the whole question of defining American interests and concerns – is well worth exploring.”
• Suggests that the Koran “synthesizes and perfects earlier revelations,” meaning those ascribed to by Christians and Jews.
• Leaves out any facts and figures about the State of Israel in its country-by-country section, but refers instead only to Palestine.
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?
To his credit, the JTA reporter does quote a figure sympathetic to Freeman like M.J. Rosenberg. And 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.
So it seems that for Rosen and Freeman’s other detractors, what’s good for a goose like Ross isn’t for a gander like Freeman. Seems fair to me.