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.