« Broadband Grants -- A Worry | Main | Going John Galt: The Video! »

March 12, 2009


This is a valid perception and the condition exists in numerous areas of public concern and discourse. Debate on issues related to Israel is one.

By being so hysterical, the anti-Freeman camp implicitly acknowledged the weakness of – and lack of self-confidence in – their arguments.

Implicitly, perhaps, but I doubt they're terribly concerned. The scoreboard is what counts for most people.

This hyper-sensitive, hysterical attack is an attempt to stifle debate and bully critics.

d'd'd'dave found one.

To expand on what Phil Barron said above, I'll agree - I think the important thing to be taken away from the Chas Freeman brouhaha is the fundamental result: that "The Lobby" got what it wanted - a twofer, really. First, the withdrawal of a candidate for an Intelligence position deemed insufficiently "pro-Israeli" and secondly (and, IMO, much more importantly) the perception of veto power over potential Obama Administration appointees.

A "hyper-sensitive, hysterical attack [in] an attempt to stifle debate and bully critics.""? Yep - you betcha! And it worked! In Washington, that result outweighs any niceties about the "quality" of the debate or the "strength" of the arguments. Any.


The range of acceptable public debate on Israel has become unreasonably narrow – it’s far more robust in Israel itself.

This is an old, and largely true, meme. But, at least seen from afar, this last Israeli election campaign seemed to suggest that the range of acceptable public debate within Israel itself has narrowed significantly. Everyone from Meretz (the traditional Zionist peace party) on the left through Labor, Kadima, and Likud to the various religious parties and Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beiteinu on the right supported the military campaign on Gaza, no?

"...the right supported the military campaign on Gaza, no?"

Mostly. I think it was the wrong response, but it was supported because it was seen as doing something, and some kind of response became universally demanded, because having thousands of missiles and shells raining down on your citizens, with people, and children, having to run to cover numerous times per day, was perceived as intolerable.

The southern areas of Israel are still being missiled several times a day.

On neither side has a military option proved effective or wise or productive.

Well, there's another class of unacceptable debate, too, like holocaust-denying, or intellectual-design-believing, or 9-11 truther-arguing. So I think there should be a whackdoodle exemption to this observation.

Cold, cold comfort that is. AIPAC won this battle handily, and the US and ultimately I believe, the state of Israel lost.

Questions. Who are these hyper-sensitive and hysterical critics? What are they doing to earn the labels "hyper-sensitive" and "hysterical"? How do you know that their intentions are to stifle debate? Are the editors of the WA Post part of this cabal? Quote:

A former envoy to Saudi Arabia and China, he suffered from an extreme case of clientitis on both accounts. In addition to chiding Beijing for not crushing the Tiananmen Square democracy protests sooner and offering sycophantic paeans to Saudi King "Abdullah the Great," Mr. Freeman headed a Saudi-funded Middle East advocacy group in Washington and served on the advisory board of a state-owned Chinese oil company. It was only reasonable to ask -- as numerous members of Congress had begun to do -- whether such an actor was the right person to oversee the preparation of National Intelligence Estimates.

Is Nancy Pelosi a member of this Zionist network? To me, questions and criticisms ≠ stifling. And there are other questions. Why wasn't he satisfactorily vetted? Why was a person with such intense political views appointed to a policy-neutral position? If Obama really wanted to de-politicize intelligence, what assurances did we have that Freeman would be sufficiently objective in doing his job? By being so hysterical in his response, didn't Freeman implicitly acknowledge the weakness of – and lack of self-confidence in – his arguments?

To Charles' questions: Yes, the editorial board of the Washington Post is very much a part of the claque that enforces ideological conformity on U.S. policy wrt Israel. Nancy Pelosi hews to that line, as do all the members of the Congressional "leadership"; she isn't as active in enforcing it by attacking deviations, but is quick to distance herself and the Democratic Party from perceived offenders.

I don't find anything in Freeman's response hysterical. And I think that although the takedown of Freeman is yet another notch in the AIPAC belt, the "victory", and the manner in which it was "won", have made it pretty damned hard to keep up the pretense that the Israel lobby doesn't exist. This LA Times editorial is an encouraging example that the elephant in the room can now be discussed relatively calmly.

" In addition to chiding Beijing for not crushing the Tiananmen Square democracy "

Freeman says the remarks he made that supposedly show this were taken out of context--

NYT story

I don't know who is telling the truth about his views on China--I never heard of him until this controversy.

Whatever he may have said about Saudi Arabia or China, I doubt that he'd have gotten in much trouble for such remarks by themselves--it's not as though being in favor of authoritarian regimes that crush dissent is a career killer in D.C. Holbrooke, to pick a name out at random, favored supporting Indonesia and its crushing of East Timor in the 70's, but I can't recall any furious opposition from anyone that mattered to his working for Obama. (And Dennis Blair who was Freeman's chief defender may have a few Timorese skeletons in his closet, for that matter.)

So I think any embarrassing stances taken in the past, real or imaginary, have only achieved the kind of prominence they have received for other reasons.

As'ad AbuKhalil, who I tend to trust as someone who hates every government and armed faction in the Middle East (AFAIK anyway), says Freedman is a Saudi apologist. Though there must be a fair number of those in D.C. Anyway, these days the Saudi goverment and Israel are often on the same side, to hear As'ad tell it. So if he'd been a polite Saudi apologist who kept his mouth shut about Israel, he'd have been fine, I suspect.

Below is something I found by way of Richard Silverstein's blog Tikun Olam.

It strengthens the case for believing Freeman has been slandered as far as the Tianenmen Square massacre is concerned--


I often wonder why even have a press--it shouldn't be that hard to track down the memo Freeman wrote, even if it was on a defunct listserv, and either confirm or deny that he was an apologist for the Chinese crackdown. If he was, then I won't cry over the fact that he wasn't confirmed (though there are plenty of others who deserve the same treatment). If not, then the people who know better and distort his record ought to be exposed.

Yes, the editorial board of the Washington Post is very much a part of the claque that enforces ideological conformity on U.S. policy wrt Israel.

Nell, how do the WA Post editors enforce anything? They write opinions. Regarding his comments about Tiananmen, they said Freeman was "chiding Beijing for not crushing the Tiananmen Square democracy protests sooner." This is the fullest version of what he said that I could find:

I will leave it to others to address the main thrust of your reflection on Eric's remarks. But I want to take issue with what I assume, perhaps incorrectly, to be yoiur citation of the conventional wisdom about the 6/4 [or Tiananmen] incident. I find the dominant view in China about this very plausible, i.e. that the truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than -- as would have been both wise and efficacious -- to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China. In this optic, the Politburo's response to the mob scene at "Tian'anmen" stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action.

For myself, I side on this -- if not on numerous other issues -- with Gen. Douglas MacArthur. I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be. Such folk, whether they represent a veterans' "Bonus Army" or a "student uprising" on behalf of "the goddess of democracy" should expect to be displaced with despatch from the ground they occupy. I cannot conceive of any American government behaving with the ill-conceived restraint that the Zhao Ziyang administration did in China, allowing students to occupy zones that are the equivalent of the Washington National Mall and Times Square, combined. while shutting down much of the Chinese government's normal operations. I thus share the hope of the majority in China that no Chinese government will repeat the mistakes of Zhao Ziyang's dilatory tactics of appeasement in dealing with domestic protesters in China.

I await the brickbats of those who insist on a politically correct -- i.e. non Burkean conservative -- view.


I think the WA editors described Freeman's views accurately, and he took a pretty dim view of people who were seeking redress from their government.

His statement that he never took money from the Chinese government is an elision. He took money from a Chinese company that was subsidiary of the Chinese government, and presumably controlled by same.

Regarding "...have made it pretty damned hard to keep up the pretense that the Israel lobby doesn't exist." That's a strawman. I don't know who is saying that there aren't groups or lobbies that are strong supporters of the Israeli government. Freeman would have been on more solid ground if he named names and identified what acts his detractors were doing. Instead, he trotted out vague conspiracy theory.

The comments to this entry are closed.