The good fight: Freeman would actually take on the occupation, and that’s why he’s being attacked

Paul Woodward at War in Context has a good rundown of all the Chas Freeman attacks and of Freeman's defenders too. It is a great battle–a test of the power of the Israel lobby. The Saudi Arabia money is a smokescreen–Bill Clinton was said to have gotten tons of Saudi money at his library and where is Hillary today? Freeman's crime is that he believes in the Israel lobby idea. He is said to have been the first in the U.S. to publish the Walt-Mearsheimer paper that appeared 3 years ago in the London Review of Books, doing so proudly at the Middle East Policy Council. [Actually, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs beat him to it that spring] Woodward:

Evidence that the lobby’s message is resonating in the desired way
can be seen in the fact that there are only a handful of bloggers who
are giving this serious coverage and even worse they include some who
are already willing to raise the white flag.

Matthew Yglesias writes: “I’m not thrilled to see things take this turn, but at the same time I don’t think this is the hill I want to die on.”

That’s exactly what the lobby wants to hear.

Woodward is right. This is an important test and no one should shy away from it. MJ Rosenberg has done yeoman work here, so has Steve Walt. Both of them understand what is at stake. Walt:

it is abundantly clear to almost everyone that the assault on Freeman
has been conducted by individuals — [Jonathan] Chait included — who are
motivated by their commitment to Israel and who are upset that Freeman
has criticized some of its past behavior. Of course Chait doesn't
broadcast this openly, as it would immediately undermine the case he's
trying to make.

Meantime, attacking MJ Rosenberg over the Freeman appointment, Jeffrey Goldberg makes Woodward's point for him:

What Rosenberg can't seem to comprehend is that a person can be opposed
to the occupation, and be opposed to the viciously anti-Israel
"realism" of the Walts and Mearsheimers at the same time.

So it really is about Walt and Mearsheimer, and by extension, anyone who is going to take Israel on forcefully. (Note that Goldberg repeatedly accused Walt and Mearsheimer of antisemitism when he used to refer to them, now he has backed down and calls them merely vicious.)

But what of Goldberg's point about the lobby and the occupation being separate? He's wrong: You can't be truly opposed to the occupation without being opposed to the lobby, which sustains the occupation. Goldberg's best piece ever made this very point, last May in the New York Times, when he said that we had to take on the rich American supporters of the Israeli colonization program, and do so "blunt"ly, or the two-state solution was in jeopardy.

So: Ten months pass, there is no bluntness, no one takes on the lobby, the two-state solution is sliding out of reach, and Israel announces plans to knock down 88 Palestinian homes in annexed East Jerusalem right under Hillary Clinton's nose. It does so because it has the American political system wired. This colonial activity is destroying what Chas Freeman has said is right now the world's consensus on a solution to this mess; and you can't take on Israel's behavior without taking on the enabler of that behavior, the lobby. Freeman would do that. This is an essential task for the Middle East, for American foreign policy, and for any prayer of justice in Palestine. Fighting for Freeman is a good fight.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, Neocons, Settlers/Colonists, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

{ 44 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Doppler says:

    Those in this country who continue to kowtow to the Israel-firsters, after Gaza, and after Avigdor Lieberman looks to play a key role in government, need to be recognized for what they are: enablers of war crimes, enablers of apartheid, enablers of land theft, enablers of religious zealots who, wearing IDF uniforms, urge soldiers to be cruel, enablers of white phosphorous on school houses filled with refugees, enablers of pre-emptive wars. Shame on them! Out with them! Restore traditional American values of fairness and universal rights. It is not Anti-Semitic to oppose these scoundrels, or their illegal and highly destructive policies. It is our duty.

  2. Matthew Yglesias writes: “I’m not thrilled to see things take this turn, but at the same time I don’t think this is the hill I want to die on.”

    If this Iglesias normally uses such pretentious and insulting metaphors, I'm glad I never read him.

  3. Sand says:

    Plus, where has Matt Stoller disappeared to?

  4. Gene says:

    Matt has moved up … or down depending on your life philosophy.

  5. American says:

    I think it is time ratchet up the zio fight and have some real fun.

    Let's poke the zios back by bypassing congress and writting to the FBI asking them to investigate Schumer,Ackerman, Ross, Lieberman and the usual suspects for their activities with and in behalf of the foreign country of Israel while serving in US offices.

    What is that site where you can get a petition going to collect signatures…anyone know? I had the link to it but lost it.

  6. Colin Murray says:

    This is a win-win situation. Either we get Ambassador Freeman and substantial exposure of the Lobby unsuccessfully slandering a good American or we get substantial exposure of the Lobby successfully slandering a good American with consequent raising of awareness of the power of the Lobby.

  7. David F. says:

    "If Communism was Socialism in a hurry, Lieberman is merely Zionism in a hurry."

    My feeling is similar. When the obituary of Israel is written, I think that the "liberal" US Zionists who used Israel for decades as a substitute for religious identity will bear the heaviest share of blame.

    Their practice of funding and encouraging settlements, attacking any hint of realism in our foreign policy, and supressing criticism of even the most self-destructive policies in Israel, while all the while claiming support for a "two state solution," has helped lead Israel into a pit from which I'm not sure there is any escape.

    I want to be surprised. I think I am among the few people here who genuinely likes Israel.

    Though I'm afraid that the US Jewish community and Israel alike are headed full speed towards a cliff.

  8. Dan Kelly says:

    What is that site where you can get a petition going to collect signatures…anyone know? I had the link to it but lost it.

    Petition Online

    The Petition Site

    The Petition Spot

  9. Dan Kelly says:

    I think I am among the few people here who genuinely likes Israel.

    I think that depends on how you define Israel. You obviously don't care for the policies of the state of Israel. I would imagine you don't care for the racism / Jewish supremacism which is characteristic of many of the people of Israel.

    So, that leaves the people who aren't supremacists, and the land itself.

    I'm not sure where I'm going with this, except perhaps to a place where it ultimately becomes obvious that it is sort of absurd to "like" or "dislike" a nation state. There are too many variables within them to be able to decide one way or the other.

    There's also no concrete reality to the nation state. It's an artificial construct, like the clock. It SEEMS so real, but in fact isn't.

  10. Suzanne says:

    gotta love how Kelly wants to do David's thinking for him.

    But then again, according to him….everybody else is stoooopid, less holy, less brillllllliant than he is. haha!

  11. Dan Kelly says:

    gotta love how Kelly wants to do David's thinking for him.

    But then again, according to him….everybody else is stoooopid, less holy, less brillllllliant than he is. haha!

    Suzanne, I've been posting here for months and no one else has ever taken my postings to be arrogant or self-indulged. But then, no one else here is as insecure as you, so I guess that stands to reason.

    When one starts a sentence with, "I think", that indicates an opinion, Suzanne – one that can be taken or left alone.

    When one says "I'm not sure where I'm going with this…", that indicates an indecisiveness that the writer is openly sharing with the reader – a far cry from someone who writes arrogantly, as if everyone else is beneath him.

    That being said, I do realize that my writing sometimes conveys a sense of arrogance. Likewise, it sometimes conveys a sense of uncertainty. I guess I'm human.

    David F., I certainly wasn't trying to "do your thinking" for you, and I apologize if it came across that way. Thank you for your posts.

  12. Chris Berel says:

    Kelly, of course none of the neo-nazis and supporters of islamic fascism find anything wrong with your comments.

    Stands to reason that your ignorance is getting the better of you.

  13. pulaski says:

    Dan:

    I think your comment is worthwhile: I'm not sure exactly what it means to "like" a nation state either. I consider myself pretty "anti" the nation state of Israel, but I like many of my Israeli colleagues in my field.

    I also like (and liked) my white South African colleagues.

    And I do support an academic boycott of Israel. I'm in a field where there is substantial interaction with Israeli academia.

  14. Shirin says:

    Dan, why do you take Suzanne seriously enough to read anything she writes, let alone reply to it? And why, in particularly, take seriously her personal attacks?

  15. Rowan says:

    I not only like the country, I like the people; but I am under no illusions. Let me put it this way: if you remember your fairy tales, you may recall a story in which a prince falls in love with a princess who is under a spell, which makes her hate him. There is of course a sorcerer, if not a wicked witch, involved, too. I think Wagner set it to music at some point.

  16. seethelight says:

    Sad to say, Matthew Yglesias is another example of PEP – Progressive Except for Palestine.

  17. Shirin says:

    What exactly do you like about the country, Rowan?

  18. David F. says:

    Kelly, you didn't come across as arrogant in the slightest! Thanks for the response to my post.

    I tend to like nations or groups that are interesting, and whose people have qualities I admire, or are simply competently run and manage to have some sort of balance between stability and liberty. Finland is very high on my list. Israel gets points for toughness and determination, and the fact that they have the freeest press I know of in the world, with standards of journalism that put the US to shame. Israelis also have a tragic character that resonates strangely with my fondness for Norse/Scandinavian myths and ideals.

    Human nature being what it is, I do not think that one can easily break down solutions into good ones that aren't "supremacist" and bad ones that are.

    Want a traditional nation-state? There are lots of advantages: common culture, common language, ethnic ties, common moral values. Also, people are more likely to contribute to common welfare in a homogenous nation or community (this has been shown by Robert Putnum among others). The downsides are the need for ethnic cleansing or forced assimilation.

    Want a multicultural country? Well, then things get very difficult. If differences between ethnic/religious groups are significant and there is no clear majority, the country may be ungovernable with a republican government. A republic made up of voters with radical differences in national aims is headed for civil war, break-up, or dictatorship.

  19. Dan Kelly says:

    Shirin,

    I had been doing a good job ignoring posters I don't care to read, but I slipped up this time.

    pulaski,

    Thank you.

  20. Dan Kelly says:

    David F.,

    Great points, thank you.

    Incidentally, if a "tragic character" is something that appeals to you, I can think of no group of people in the world right now that better embodies that than the Palestinians.

  21. Shirin says:

    "Israel gets points for toughness and determination…"

    Toughness in this case should be called utter inhumanity and disregard for anyone other than themselves. Determination in this case applies to realize of their territorial ambitions at the expense of everyone else, to complete the ethnic cleansing program that started with Herzl, and to commit whatever crimes it takes to achieve domination of the region.

    Not very admirable by any standard of common decency.

  22. Shirin says:

    " If differences between ethnic/religious groups are significant…"

    In the case of Israel it is not that differences between ethnic/religious groups are significant, it is that a group of colonists from Europe has turned what had always been an ethnically/religiously very diverse place into a western ethnocracy.

  23. Shirin says:

    "Israelis also have a tragic character…"

    If you think that, then you have bought into their propaganda badly. The only thing tragic about the Israelis is the tragedies they have heaped on everyone in their path.

  24. Witty's anonymous critic says:

    Shirin, I think Zionism as actually practiced was a bad idea (except in the form proposed by the binationalists or anyone who genuinely wanted to live in peace and complete equality with the Arabs already there), but there is a tragic dimension to the Israeli situation. Jews were the victims of antisemitism in the Western world and wanted their own homeland where they could feel safe. Can't blame them for that. Where it all goes wrong is that it became tainted with classic European racism towards the inconvenient "natives" already living there.

    David F–Good posts.

  25. Dan Kelly says:

    Shirin,

    Even better points, IMHO. Thank you for keeping things in perspective.

  26. David F. says:

    "Israelis also have a tragic character…"

    I am using "tragic" in the classical sense, in the sense that a tragic character has admirable yet self-destructive qualities that eventually bring about disaster for the tragic character and everyone around him.

    Just briefly, I'm thinking of the real dream of what Israel was supposed to be: a reestablishment of Jews as a nation with a homeland safe from fear or oppression. Contrast that to the reality of today, in which Israeli Jews themselves now play the role of persecutors, with a country that is despised as an oppressive, colonial relic, its very future uncertain, and possibly the last place a Jew in the diaspora would go for the sake of safety.

    That is tragedy.

  27. Suzanne says:

    wow…psychoanalysis for Israel. From folks who've really got their shit together.

    The clock is ticking for the Palestinians…they could use your psychoanalysis to0…. FAST! :-)

  28. Dan Kelly says:

    and possibly the last place a Jew in the diaspora would go for the sake of safety.

    That is the great irony, that seems to be lost on so many apologists for Israel. Again, ideology trumps common sense and clear reasoning.

  29. Shirin says:

    "Where it all goes wrong is that it became tainted with classic European racism towards the inconvenient "natives" already living there."

    Studying the history of Zionism makes it clear that it was tainted with classic European racism from its conception. Zionism was and remains in many respects a classical 19th century colonialist project with a twist.

    I'm not one of those who considers Zionism an inherently in irredeemably evil idea. However, the 19th century European racist colonialist aspects of it are undeniable. They are found everywhere from beginning to end, even in the attitudes and practices toward "oriental Jews".

  30. Norm says:

    Shirin: I'm not one of those who considers Zionism an inherently in irredeemably evil idea.
    I would like to view it that way, too, but the trolls here have done a good job of making it difficult (presumably the opposite of what they intend). What do you think are the good aspects of Zionism?

  31. Shirin says:

    Dan, you are so right about the irony part. I don't recall who said it first, but if your goal is to safeguard the Jewish people the best way to do that is not to gather them all together in one location and then make enemies of everyone in the area.

  32. Suzanne says:

    "Oriental" Jews and Ashkenazim in Israel are reportedly marrying in large numbers and erasing that prejudicial divider.

    Furthermore the idea that this type of ethnocentrism doesn't occur outside of Western cultures is a load of bunk.

    Have you ever been around Indians? I live in a city where there is a strong Indian presence, I like their values for the most part, and enjoy having them for neighbors…but the pressure for Indians to marry Indian, and the cultural snobbishness, particularly from some of the elders, is something to behold.

    They are NOT the only ones.

    I guess the "evil white folk" argument flies with liberals holed up in some white-bread town with little exposure. I grew up in Manhattan so I know better.

  33. Colin Murray says:

    @ Shirin | March 06, 2009 at 02:10 PM

    I agree completely, and relative to other 19th century European colonial ventures I think Zionism is remarkably pacific. My impression is that they weren't at all after exploitation of the natives, they just wanted them to leave. I'm not sure that American Zionist and Israeli leadership even knows what they are doing anymore, but have been on short-term damage control footing for so long that they have long lost focus on what I assume was the original objective: a safe-have for Jews.

    Zionists are hung up on the existence of a 'Jewish state' and try to shoot, torture, and bomb acceptance of its legitimacy into Arabs minds. There are, correct me if I am wrong, 5.5 million Jews in Israel, 5.5 million Arabs in Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories, and well over a hundred million Arabs in states bordering Israel. The social machinery of states and economic and military superiority wax and wane. Neither American political, economic, and military subsidies, nor the rented compliance of Arab monarchies and dictatorships are going to last forever. It is not recognition of the current version of the Israeli state that matters, even if there were a nonzero chance of it happening in the minds of Arabs who correctly and justly view it as a rabidly racist and hostile entity. What matters is the acceptance in peoples minds that Jewish people belong in the region, in the same way that Germans and French have conquered each other over centuries, and yet respected the naturalness of the notion that both peoples belonged in Europe, irregardless of whatever governments were in power. What purpose is Israel as a safe haven for Jews if, after its first inevitable defeat, it is crushed in such a way as to ensure another diaspora?

  34. Shirin says:

    Norm, it is very temping to base one's views of an entire philosophy or movement on the attitudes or behaviour of its most extreme and unintelligent proponents. Of course, it is rarely that simple.

    I did not actually suggest that there was anything good about Zionism, merely that it is not inherently or irredeemably evil. However, the original intent behind Zionism was positive, and as Ilan Pappe, one of its strongest Israeli critics, suggests, in some respects possibly even noble. Where we find problems with it right away is that it developed in the 19th century among members of the European elite who very much shared the European view of the world to the East.

    It is not so much Zionism that is evil as it is the actions and practices that have been used to achieve its goals. There were among the Zionists a few who had a very different vision of how to behave toward the Palestinians, but that necessitated a very different vision of what Zionism was about, and their ideas never caught on.

  35. Shirin says:

    "…relative to other 19th century European colonial ventures I think Zionism is remarkably pacific."

    Conceptually, yes. In practice, it is right up there with the worst of them.

    "My impression is that they weren't at all after exploitation of the natives, they just wanted them to leave."

    That is precisely correct. They recognized that ethnic cleansing of the non-Jewish population – or at least the overwhelming majority of it – was necessary, but they did not envision using violent means. In fact, when they realized that the Palestinians they displaced were not going to just go to some other Arab country, they tried devising various ways to "help" them leave. One plan, for example, involved buying land for them in Iraq, supplying them with farming equipment and "spiriting them across the border" in that way. That is still a form of ethnic cleansing, but the people who thought up these types of schemes were trying to accomplish it in the most humane way possible.

    Their mistake in that regard was that they assumed that to an "Arab" any Arab country would be the same as any other, and as long as they had what they needed to live, they would be fine with going somewhere else. They drastically underestimated the Palestinians' connection to Palestine as their home and their homeland. They also had no clue about how varied Arabs are from region to region in culture, society, and even language. And, in addition, they apparently did not realize how diverse and at the same time interconnected Palestine's population was, and that not all Palestinians were Arabs.

    "I'm not sure that American Zionist and Israeli leadership even knows what they are doing anymore, but have been on short-term damage control footing for so long that they have long lost focus on what I assume was the original objective: a safe-have for Jews."

    I think many of them lost focus on that even before statehood, and for sure that focus is long gone by now.

  36. Dan Kelly says:

    Shirin,

    Do you write regularly for any outlets on the web, or do you have a website of your own?

  37. Shirin says:

    Dan, most of the writing I do these days is in comment sections of various blogs. I have been a regular commenter on Helena Cobban's terrific blog for quite a few years now, and have been pretty active on BoomanTribune.com, and American "progressive" blog. There are several people there who are very good on Palestine matters. Look in the sidebar for their "diaries". I will occasionally put something in the sidebar, but don't have a lot of time these days to compose something from scratch, so I comment instead. I also comment on Juan Cole's blog from time to time. He is actually very good on Palestine for the most part, not so good on Iraq, though.

  38. Dan Kelly says:

    Thank you Shirin.

  39. What exactly do you like about the country, Rowan? Posted by: Shirin | March 06, 2009 at 10:54 AM

    Well, as I said, there is a quality of fairy tale (rather dark, 'adult' fairy tale) about the whole business, and about Judaism in general. Mutated religiosity and occultism have always interested me, much in the same way that surrealism interests certain painters. Also,as David F pointed out above, the whole thing is tragic, in the proper and profound sense of the word. So, 'like' is perhaps the wrong word, but it is certainly possible to feel affection, even deep affection, for people who not only 'seem' but objectively are, like the tragic heroes of greek theatre, engaged in solemn self-destruction. David refers to 'norse/scandinavian', rather than greek mythology, I'm not too sure why; I didn't have the impression the tragic theme was quite so evident there (though it is in Wagner's treatment of it).

  40. Rowan says:

    Also, Israeli Jewish women can be pretty foxy, of xourse.

  41. Rowan says:

    sorry about the spelling – typing in the dark again (though not one-handed, as suzanne or c berel will probably assert).

    When thinking of foxy israeli jewish women, I do not think of anatomically over-developed specimens like Bar Rafieli; I think more often of israeli jewish women singers, with their distinctive husky voices. For instance, Malka Spigel, who used to play bass guitar for Minimal Compact, and has made a lot of solo albums too, starting with the 1993 album, "Rosh Ballata."

  42. Sand says:

    Gene…

    Thanks I was wondering where Matt had gone. I miss his entries. I hope he's happy.

  43. Citizen says:

    Lots of insightful comments here today, even Suzanne contributed one. chris berel's of course, excepted.