The renewed assault on Mearsheimer and Walt

In an apparent acknowledgment that the Freeman controversy has once again confirmed John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s thesis, apologists for the Israel lobby have renewed their assault on the two professors who first drew attention to its power. The effort I believe is meant to preempt people turning to their book for answers by tainting their reputation. Since the right has little credibility on this, the charge has been led this time by ‘liberal’ Zionists such as David Rothkopf and Jonathan Freedland. My friend Phil Weiss recently posted a brilliant defence of Rothkopf’s scurrilous attack on M&W by Middle East scholar Jerome Slater. I am hoping to find some time so I can respond to Freedland’s equally specious arguments.

Phil Weiss writes: ‘What I have urged more than anything else in the Israel lobby discussion is: discussion! Because only with open discussion can the true extent of the Israel lobby be understood. Chas Freeman’s ouster has had a huge effect, of course. A week or so back David Rothkopf published a vicious attack on Walt and Mearsheimer at Foreign Policy suggesting the lobby is a figment of their gentile imaginations. Below, Jerry Slater, a friend of this site who has published his own critique of Walt and Mearsheimer and is distinguished for practicing the new history of Israel/Palestine in our country, leaps to the scholars’ defense re Rothkopf. An ardent, sincere, and moving argument.’

In the year and a half since the publication of John Mearsheimer’s and Stephen Walt’s Israel Lobby, the attacks on the book’s main arguments as well as personal attacks on its authors have intensified–even as Israeli policies and behavior towards the Palestinians have become more disastrous than ever, and even as the lobby demonstrated its muscle in its successful effort to induce Obama to abandon support for the appointment of Charles Freeman as Director of the National Intelligence Council.

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Philip Weiss on the Freeman Affair

Investigative journalist Philip Weiss discusses the aftermath of Chas Freeman’s withdrawal from NIC chairman consideration, the alienation of liberal American Jews from the Israeli government, the opportunity to break up the monolithic AIPAC lobby and the conflict between Zionism and democracy.

MP3 here. (21:19)

Philip Weiss is an investigative journalist who has written for The Nation, New York Times Magazine, The American Conservative, Jewish World Review and other publications. He is the author of American Taboo : A Murder in the Peace Corps and writes the blog Mondoweiss.

Freeman’s Fight

The Israel lobby gets its man—and tips its hand. My friend, the great Philip Weiss on the Freeman affair.

Charles Freeman Jr.’s withdrawal of his acceptance of a high-level intelligence position in the Obama administration was a national-security drama more riveting than an episode of “24.” The moral was clear: even a president who owes his job to a progressive movement in American politics could not support a longtime public servant who had made the mistake of criticizing Israel. Fierce advocates of the Jewish state, notably Sens. Chuck Schumer and Joe Lieberman and Reps. Eric Cantor and Steve Israel, played important roles in Freeman’s exit, while present and former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee flitted in and out of the wings.

The message to all office-seekers is obvious. “They want to kill the chicken to scare the monkeys. They want other people to be intimidated,” Freeman told The American Conservative just before he withdrew his name to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council. He went on, “If the administration does not stick with me, then it’s destroying the argument that the Israel lobby is only a mythic entity and does not control the public space. … It will show the world that it is not able to exercise independent thinking on these issues.”

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The Freeman Affair

In his latest piece for the indispensable TomDispatch, Robert Dreyfuss calls the Freeman affair ‘the Israel lobby’s Waterloo’.

Is the Israeli Lobby Running Scared?

Or Killing a Chicken to Scare the Monkeys
By Robert Dreyfuss

Is the Israel lobby in Washington an all-powerful force? Or is it, perhaps, running scared?

Judging by the outcome of the Charles W. (“Chas”) Freeman affair this week, it might seem as if the Israeli lobby is fearsome indeed. Seen more broadly, however, the controversy over Freeman could be the Israel lobby’s Waterloo.

Let’s recap. On February 19th, Laura Rozen reported at ForeignPolicy.com that Freeman had been selected by Admiral Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, to serve in a key post as chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). The NIC, the official in-house think tank of the intelligence community, takes input from 16 intelligence agencies and produces what are called “national intelligence estimates” on crucial topics of the day as guidance for Washington policymakers. For that job, Freeman boasted a stellar resumé: fluent in Mandarin Chinese, widely experienced in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War, and an ex-assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration.

A wry, outspoken iconoclast, Freeman had, however, crossed one of Washington’s red lines by virtue of his strong criticism of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Over the years, he had, in fact, honed a critique of Israel that was both eloquent and powerful. Hours after the Foreign Policy story was posted, Steve Rosen, a former official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), launched what would soon become a veritable barrage of criticism of Freeman on his right-wing blog.

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