Five Observations on the Freeman Withdrawal

I'm just back from the M.E., and learned belatedly that Charles Freeman has withdrawn from the position of chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Five quick observations:

1. His withdrawal letter, first reported by Laura Rozen, states: "The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth."

I believe -- because David Rothkopf  tells me to believe -- that Charles Freeman possesses many fine qualities, though I'd have to say that self-awareness isn't one of them. The majority of Freeman's critics (me included)  reported on statements he has made in various speeches, and provided links to the full texts. Freeman and some of his supporters, on the other hand, have accused his critics of being treasonous dual-loyalists. Their argument seems to be: Opposition to Charles Freeman equals opposition to the best interests of the United States of America. I know some people find it hard to believe, but many Americans, Jewish and otherwise, believe that support for Israel is in America's best interest. Some are like me, and believe that some tough love on the question of settlements would also be in order.

2. What was bothersome about Freeman was not his criticism of various Israeli policies. What bothered me most was his accusation that 9/11 was brought about mainly by American support for Israel, an accusation that seemed designed to deflect attention from Saudi Arabia, whose king is a patron of Freeman's think tank (Freeman once said, "I believe King Abdullah is very rapidly becoming Abdullah the Great.") I would love to see Freeman publicly debate Martin Kramer on this point. I'm sure Andrew and I could convince The Atlantic to sponsor. 

3. It is widely believed on the blogosphere that the campaign against Freeman was coordinated by AIPAC or by Steve Rosen, the former AIPAC official no charged with espionage. I've been away, so maybe I've missed a couple of Elders of Zion meetings, but no one coordinated this "campaign" with me. In fact, I haven't spoken to Steve Rosen since he screamed at me for writing this profile of him in 2005.

4. One of the more interesting pieces on the controversy comes from Michael Weiss, who noted that many liberals who would ordinarily stand in opposition to the cynical "realism" of Charles Freeman were nevertheless lining up with him:

Leftists who praise Freeman on the single issue of Israel-Palestine, ostensibly out of a concern for justice and human rights, say it's beside the point to confront his endless euphemisms and evasions on other human rights abuses. An unintended consequence of this maneuver is that these same leftists appear even more obsessed with the Jewish state than do the "neocons" they purport to monitor. They also look especially stupid in this instance because they're effectively arguing that what goes on in the West Bank is more crucial to U.S. national security than what goes on in the one country which produced fifteen out of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. How's that for realism?

5. Charles Freeman is a lively writer. I think Foreign Policy should give him Stephen Walt's spot. Walt is, among other things, Foreign Policy's dreariest writer. This would also make David Rothkopf happy. 

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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