Did the Israeli Lobby Force Out Charles Freeman?

After Charles Freeman stepped down from his pending appointment to a major intelligence post, the explanations started pouring forth from the anti-Israel lobby. In essence they said, “it’s all the fault of the Jews.” You know how powerful they are and how they control the media and the country’s politics. No one put this more forthrightly than Andrew Sullivan, who wrote that the opposition to Freeman’s appointment engaged in “character assassination,” and that “even minor appointments in the president’s own staff cannot proceed if the appointees question the p.c. line on Israel.”


I don’t know Sullivan’s definition of character assassination, but carefully quoting – often in full and never out of context- Freeman’s views on China, the Saudis and yes on Israel—and holding him to account for views that previously were ignored by those who vetted him, hardly fits the charge of character assassination.

Then there is the variation on the Israeli lobby theory: It was just the Jewish neo-cons, who evidently are so powerful even when the Republicans are out of office, that they can accomplish such a feat. Thus one Charles Freeman, a self-proclaimed Jewish peacenik, blogs that he “was the victim of a mob, not a lobby.” Freeman points to Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic liberal from New York, who now is himself evidently a neo-con.  As for AIPAC, he points out that the first salvo against Freeman’s appointment  came from dismissed AIPAC lobbyist Steve Rosen who is now on trial for violation of the Espionage Act. I guess despite these disabilities, Rosen too has great power.

Finally, Flesher (who Sullivan also links to) argues that he has heard from “very reliable sources” that AIPAC spokesman Josh Block contacted journalists and bloggers about Freeman. Block is communications director for the organization, and deals regularly with the press. Even if Flesher is right and Block cited articles and evidence that revealed Freeman’s positions on different issues, this is not only not lobbying—-but is well within the terrain of Block’s job.  At least Flesher acknowledges that Freeman “had enough extra baggage to make him an easy mark.”


Then there was the ultimate so-called explanation, that which came from Charles Freeman himself. Now widely known, Freeman’s screed – and screed it is- includes the following key paragraph:

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.

Unable to disprove any of the above allegations against him, Freeman only provides more evidence why he had to step down. Instead of responding to what was proven about his views, he simply tries to deflect attention to the Israel Lobby, which he argues, akin to Walt and Mearsheimer, attacked him as part of  yet another step in the lobby’s attempt to control U.S. foreign policy.  So to Freeman, it was the Israeli lobby and those forced to support its agenda that were responsible for blackballing him. Once again, American policy and a presidential appointment were supposedly vetoed by a foreign power.


So were people like Andrew Sullivan, a supporter of Freeman and now his apologist, correct? Was he forced out by the Israeli lobby and/or the neo-cons? To answer this question a surprising source offered a more nuanced and accurate assessment. An explanation is presented by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball  on the Newsweek.com website. They write that Speaker Nancy Pelosi fiercely objected to “Freeman’s ties to China.” Long known as an advocate of a human rights policy towards the Chinese government and a supporter of its dissidents, Pelosi “was incensed about public remarks that Freeman once made that seemed to justify the violent 1989 Chinese government crackdown on democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square.” Not only that, the two journalists report, she “thought Freeman’s views were ‘indefensible’ and complained directly to President Obama about his selection.” (my emphasis)

So we may conclude the following. It is easier for Freeman and his backers to explain away this embarrassing defeat for Intelligence Chief  Dennis Blair, who supported Freeman to the end, by blaming the Jews. Such a tactic allows them to ignore the actual practices that so enraged everyone- particularly his economic ties to both the Chinese government and his kowtowing to the Saudi rulers. So I caution readers. As difficult foreign policy decisions have to be made, and some appear to be supported by Israel, expect to hear more and more of this refrain: “The Israeli lobby is running our country’s foreign policy.”


Addendum: Thursday’s Washington Post runs a magnificent editorial, “Blame The ‘Lobby'”, in which the editors call Freeman’s apologia “a grotesque libel.” He and others like him, they write, are “conspiracy theorists” who show a “blatant disregard for..established facts.” KUDOS to the Post!


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