The Israel Lobby is Me

All of the interesting "Catholic stories" have kept me from opining about Charles Freeman, the man who had been selected to chair the National Intelligence Council by President Obama’s incoming Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair. Yesterday afternoon, I saw that he had resigned and so apart from saying "good riddance," there wasn’t much to add.

Until, that is, Mr. Freeman made remarks explaining why he had to resign that were so outrageous, they confirmed the worst fears of his detractors. Freeman blamed the "Lobby," a group of pro-Israeli lobbyists "intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government." He lamented the "inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for U.S. policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics." Someone should tell Mr. Freeman he forgot to mention the bits about controlling the media and killing Christ.


Last time I checked, there actually was not yet a "ruling faction" in Israeli politics, as Benjamin Netanyahu is still trying to form a government. And, the opinion pages of almost any newspaper in America would dispute the assertion that Americans are incapable of discussing any and all views about the Mideast. What our government should not be capable of is appointing to a position of authority a man who is so easily given to conspiracy theories when, in fact, those of us who urge Congress and the President to support Israel are exercising our constitutional right to free speech, and doing it in the open. Mr. Freeman’s nomination was not killed backstage, it was killed in that most democratic of forums, the blogosphere.

Facts, evidently, never weighed as heavily as love in Mr. Freeman’s calculations. He served in China, and he fell in love with that culture, excusing the Tiananmen Square Massacre with the wish that the Chinese government had acted sooner, as if tardiness was the root of the problem. When he was sent to Saudi Arabia, he fell in love there too, calling the King of that reactionary land, "Abdullah the Great." What was it that Mr. Freeman admired about the Saudis? The way they stone women? Was it the swiftness of their justice against homosexuals, whom they hang? Or could it be their export of radical Wahabi beliefs through their support of Madrasahs that have become recruiting grounds for terrorists? Such greatness, indeed.

Anti-Semitism, like most diseases, is not always full-blown. And, it can be found in the strangest places. Indeed, in the pages of this magazine’s print edition last week, I discovered a quote from an Arab Catholic Israeli, Wadie Abunasser: "I don’t see any difference between Hamas and [Yisrael Beitenu Party leader Avigdor] Lieberman." Okay, let’s make this easy for Mr. Abunasser. Hamas is a terrorist organization that murders innocents, both Israeli and Palestinian, as a matter of strategy. Mr. Lieberman is a loud-mouth who I find obnoxious and wrong-headed and repulsive, but he hasn’t killed anyone, he did not organize celebrations the afternoon of September 11, and he has no known ties to terrorist organizations pledged to the destruction of Israel and America.

Christians of all people have a special obligation to be sensitive to anti-Semitism: Our historical record of persecuting the Jews is second to none. And, the Obama Administration, which has many more appointments to make, must we wary of the latent anti-Semitism among some on the Left, or in the case of people like Mr. Freeman, the not-so latent anti-Semitism of some on the Left. Otherwise, people like me will quite openly object. I am a blogger not a lobbyist. I do not belong to AIPAC. But, if supporting our best ally in the whole world – and the only nation in the Mideast any of its critics would willingly choose to live in – is essentially conspiratorial, count me in.



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11 years 2 months ago
Michael, I also usually think you're right on the money, and I've recently been referring friends to this blog because of it. But I have to agree with Anthony here. You equate admiring Arabs and/or questioning Israel with antisemitism. There are powerful lobbies in the US that can skew the debate--that's not a conspiracy theory. And arguments certainly can be made that our blind support of Israel has exacerbated conflicts in the Middle East. I'm not judging Charles Freeman's case (I don't know enough about it), but your remarks here go too far. If you mean to accuse Mr. Freeman of antisemitism, then do so, but let's not assert that anyone who criticizes Israel or pro-Israel lobbies must be antisemitic. Paul
11 years 2 months ago
Mr. Winters: Chas (not Charles)Freeman is one of our most brilliant statesmen. Not having his talents at this perilous time is a great loss to our nation. Moreover, his loss is not in the best interest of Israel. I'm afraid that if statesmen like Freeman are tossed aside we will wind up with mediocrities in Washington.
11 years 2 months ago
Judging from the majority of the comments to this piece so far I can't help but note how tragic it is that a blatantly paleocon realist who admires Chinese and Saudi authoritarians like Chas Freeman has become left wing - supposedly the way Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer have become left wing - merely by trumpeting a crude antisemitic conspiracy canard that is whitewashed and ignorantly euphemised as "criticism of Israeli policies". The contemporary left with a few exceptions has become saturated in what the great 19th century Austrian social democrat August Bebel referred to in his day as a "socialism of fools" and I would add an anti-imperialism of idiots. Shame. And as far as one commenter's allegation that the Israelis are imposing a "virtual apartheid" on the people of Gaza (for trying to block weapon and weapon components from reaching clerical fascist militias) and not responding "proportionately" to 6000 rockets mortars and missiles targeting non belligerent civilians in southern Israel, I suppose the implication here is that Israel should not build shelters for their citizens and instead should target Gazan civilians and combatants alike with missiles, rockets, mortars and suicide bombers in order to respond "proportionally" and since it is alleged to be a racist "apartheid" state it should be destroyed. This is what passes for left critique these days: total ignorance of international law, sophomoric pacifism and support for violent clerical fascist militias.
11 years 2 months ago
Michael- I think so often you are right on the money in your postings. But unfortunately not in this one. This phrase most especially leapt out at me: "But if supporting our best ally in the whole world" To me that is a little over the top and also gives the impression that then we ought to give Israel a blank check because don't best friends support each other in all things? Thanks, Anthony
11 years 2 months ago
I must also respectfully disagree with Mr Winters, at least in part. I think it's ridiculous to ascribe all manner of evil to an "Israeli lobby;" nevertheless, I don't think anyone can argue with a straight face that our 100% uncritical support of the government of Israel has been particularly helpful in our relationships with the Arab world. Granted, the Arabs are world-class champions at squandering goodwill and making themselves unworthy of sympathy ... having survived 9/11 at the Pentagon, I am singularly unfazed by anything that happens to those who danced in the streets to celebrate the cold-blooded murder of nearly 3000 Americans, and I believe God will someday sternly judge those who encourage others to religiously-inspired terrorism. But the foreign policy of the United States must be made in Washington - not in Riyadh, or in Moscow, or in Tel Aviv, regardless of our sympathies for a particular side of the argument.
11 years 2 months ago
This seems a bit exaggerated and unfair. I think it is dangerous to equate criticism of Israel, even if one thinks it misguided, with anti-Semitism. And the notion of Israel as our best ally in the world is at least arguable. The British, for example, have backed us in most of our foreign policy ventures, at the cost of British lives in many cases. They might well lay claim to the status of our best allies. And it lets Mr. Lieberman--and the government of Israel--off a bit easy. Mr. Lieberman has suggested forcing Israeli Arabs to sign loyalty oaths, and the government of Israel, while not pledged to the destruction of the Palestinian people, has imposed a virtual apartheid on the the people in Gaza, and strikes back at Hamas with a level of violence that is disproportionate (compare the fatalities in the recent invasion of Gaza). Support for the people of Israel should not mean refraining from the criticism that one friend owes another.


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