Comment is Free today published my piece on Chas. Freeman’s withdrawal. I wanted to expand on a few points in it. The NY Times characterizes Aipac’s Josh Block as saying the following about the group’s involvement in the anti-Freeman campaign:
Joshua Block, a spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group, said Tuesday that his organization had not taken a formal position on Mr. Freeman’s selection and had not lobbied Congress members to oppose it.
Interestingly, Spencer Ackerman notes that Aipac has been “shopping around oppo research” on Freeman to right-wing bloggers. If you study those two statements closely you’ll find room enough to drive a Mack truck through. Aipac didn’t DIRECTLY lobby Congress, nor did it need to take a “formal position.” All it needed to do was to call every wingnut pro-Israel blogger in town & peddle its sleazy wares to them. That’s how “journalists” like Steve Rosen, Jonathan Chait, James Kirchik, Gabriel Schoenfeld and Jeffrey Goldberg “discovered their voice” on this issue.
Unfortunately, this is the type of fine tooth combing you need to do when you deal with Aipac to discover what they’re really doing regarding issues like this.
Chris Nelson points out another bit of mendacity (this via Jim Lobe since the Nelson Report is not available online) in the anti-Freeman campaign. According to the nattering nabobs of neoconservatism, Freeman posted a defense of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Tienanmen Square uprising. And if you read the carefully tailored excerpts from Freeman, it would appear that way. But Nelson’s done more digging and discovered that what Freeman was doing was representing not HIS OWN views of the uprising, but the views of the Chinese leadership:
“Unscrupulous opponents have given sections of the memo to gullible commentators with the lie…no other word for it…that it is Freeman talking for himself, with his personal views and analysis of Chinese government actions in 1989.
“In fact, as any reputable China person could have told the non-expert commentators, the Freeman memo, on a now-defunct China listserve, was Chas’s very accurate summation of CHINESE government analysis of what happened, why, and what lessons should be drawn from it.
“And as the conclusion of the memo makes clear, Freeman was personally heart-broken with the policies implemented, and the deaths, possibly in the many thousands, which ensued.”
To give you a sense of how much this smear has become like an infernal game of Telephone, a right-wing commenter in the CiF thread for my piece stated with a totally straight face that Freeman supported Chairman Mao!
One of the major themes of those denouncing Freeman is the supposed virulence of his supposed anti-Israel views. What they really mean is that Freeman is anti-Occupation and not anti-Israel. But when attacking the Jimmy Carters and Chas. Freemans of this world its all too convenient to conflate Israel and the Occupation. But they are not the same.
Chas. Freeman has NEVER written or said anything “anti-Israel.” But he is opposed to Israel’s POLICIES. And for Aipac and the Israel Firsters there is no difference. That’s why its so important for peace-affirming Jews to stake out territory that distinguishes clearly between Israel the nation and its woeful current crop of leaders and their abysmal policies. It is us Jews who are the true pro-Israel contingent. It is OUR view of the conflict (and that of hundreds of thousands of Israelis as well) that will bring peace between the warring peoples.
We must use Chas. Freeman as a rallying cry for what should never be allowed to happen again. Israel is a strong enough nation and U.S. relations with it are vigorous enough that no critic like Freeman will destroy it or them. In fact, every nation and every set of bi-lateral relations needs to be tested by people like Chas. Freeman.
The lobby wants us all to sit on our laurels and allow Israel to preserve the status quo in formaldehyde, in Dov Weisglass’ memorable phrase. Freeman’s goal would have been to rock the boat, question the status quo, note the Emperor’s wearing no clothes. And that’s why he was a threat to Aipac. Anyone they can’t control frightens and angers them.
Returning to Freeman’s alleged virulence on Israel. Really, that nation has only itself to blame. Were the former ambassador addressing France, Great Britain or Germany there would be no need to speak as acidly. But what that country’s supporters need to understand is that there is a price to be paid for Israel’s corrosive and murderous policies. When facing a bully you don’t mince words. Especially someone who is a serial bully as Israel has proven itself to be. Freeman doesn’t mince words when it comes to Israel and thank God for that.
There’s been too much sugar-coating, too much tip-toeing around issues, too many punches have been pulled when it comes to discussion of Israeli policy. We need frankness, even sharpness to see the issues clearly and convey the strength of our convictions to Israel.
Without Chas. Freeman in government, it will be that much harder to do this.