It’s the Israel lobby, stupid!

Top US intelligence pick under fire for Saudi, China ties

A veteran US diplomat and vocal Israel critic named to a top intelligence post faced a probe into his financial ties Thursday, as lawmakers raised concerns about links to China and Saudi Arabia.

But US director of national intelligence Dennis Blair has served notice that he stands by Charles Freeman, a former ambassador to Riyadh and senior diplomat in Beijing, as his pick for chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

Blair “looks forward to Ambassador Freeman assuming his new role” once his vetting is complete, the director’s spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi, said in a statement that flatly disputed some of the toughest charges. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — Over the last eight years, across the vast expanse of political rhetoric, whether in the form of a speech, a debate, a treatise, a book or any other use of the word as an instrument of political change, I would contend that nothing has had a greater impact than John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s essay, “The Israel Lobby.” It’s significance derived less from the details of its content than from the fact that it broke down a massive taboo.

Taboos broken are impossible to stitch back together. Taboo breakers can be vilified but their attackers know that the war has already been lost — however many more battles might stubbornly be fought.

Washington is still well-populated with invertebrates who can’t bring themselves to utter the phrase. They fear that if the words “Israel lobby” were to pass their lips — other than for the purpose of either denying the lobby’s existence or the degree of its influence — their careers would be finished and they would promptly be chased out of town.

But anyone who still harbors any doubt about the existence of the lobby or who is unsure about the manner in which it works need look no further than to witness the campaign that is still building strength in an effort to undo the appointment of Chas Freeman.

Yet while it is clear that considerable effort has gone into gathering every conceivable form of weaponry with which they now mount their attack, there is one dimension of this that seems to be ignored: Freeman and his new boss DNI Dennis Blair can surely have had not a scintilla of doubt that a serious fight was on its way. Neither can they have had any reason to expect that their opponents would have any scrupples in how they conducted their campaign. In other words, in anticipation of what was coming, both men must have agreed, we’re ready and we have no intention of backing down.

A fight I didn’t intend to get into: Chas Freeman

…I do know something about the role of contrarians in organizational life. I have hired such people, have worked alongside them, have often been annoyed at them, but ultimately have viewed them as indispensable. Sometimes the annoying people, who will occasionally say “irresponsible” things, are the only ones who will point out problems that everyone else is trying to ignore. A president needs as many such inconvenient boat-rockers as he can find — as long as they’re not in the main operational jobs. Seriously: anyone who has worked in an organization knows how hard it is, but how vital, to find intelligent people who genuinely are willing to say inconvenient things even when everyone around them is getting impatient or annoyed. The truth is, you don’t like them when they do that. You may not like them much at all. But without them, you’re cooked.

So to the extent this argument is shaping up as a banishment of Freeman for rash or unorthodox views, I instinctively take Freeman’s side — even when I disagree with him on specifics. This job calls for originality, and originality brings risks. Chas Freeman is not going to have his finger on any button. He is going to help raise all the questions that the person with his finger on the button should be aware of.

Read carefully this NiemanWatch Q-and-A with Freedman from 2006 (or read any of Freeman’s recent policy articles here) and ask yourself two questions: do these sound like the views of an unacceptable kook? And, would you rather have had more of this sensibility, or less, applied to U.S. policy in recent years? [continued…]

The crusade to defeat Obama intelligence pick hurts all Jews

This isn’t about Freeman.

It is about a group that has decided to go after him to warn the administration that only friends of the lobby are acceptable appointees. It is about a group that is so oblivious to Jewish history that it believes it can recklessly put their interests in Israel above everything else and not expect to build strong resentment in Washington (it was strong enough, even before this).

How dare they? My children are first generation (their mom, my wife, was born in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany after her parents survived the Holocaust). We love this country and will be damned if we allow anyone to convey the impression that we take it for granted.

For us, this is the “goldeneh medina” (the golden land), the best homeland Jews ever had. How dare they imply that for us it’s only second best.

This whole thing is creepy. And it hurts all Jews.

It also hurts Israel, a country I love, which is being destroyed by policies these people have consistently supported. Why can’t they just shut up? Haven’t they done enough damage? [continued…]

Jumping up and down about China, Freeman’s pursuers hide their real agenda, Israel/Iran

One of the disgraces of the Chas Freeman case is that his enemies dare not speak their true agenda. As Steve Walt has pointed out, they are Israel-firsters; their litmus test is No pressure on Israel. Are they plain about this? No. Here is a long article attacking Chas Freeman for his “foreign ties,” chiefly his China connections, by Eli Lake in the Washington Times yesterday. The word Israel appears 3 times, and twice it’s Congressman Steve Israel! There’s one glancing reference to Israel after that. Saudi Arabia plays a distant second to China.

Let’s be clear. This is corruption. When people won’t tell you what they really care about–and in Eli Lake’s case, late of the New York Sun (I debated him on Al-Jazeera at last year’s AIPAC policy conference), it’s Israel, and I warrant, not dividing Jerusalem (who knows; does he ever say?). The same hidden agenda bedevilled the Iraq war mess; and the Jewish community is going to be sorting out that one for decades. [continued…]

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