It's a valid one and deserves a response:
Freeman defenders like Andrew Sullivan are using the fact that the first criticism of him came from staunch Israel defenders to paint all criticism of him as secretly motivated by support for Israel, and thus to refuse to engage it. Isn't it possible that some people first came out against Freeman because of his views on Israel and that others -- even Jewish people who are pro-Israel! -- independently decided the broader evidence weighed against Freeman, and weren't merely conspiring to concoct arguments about China and the like in order to secretly advance the Israeli agenda?
Absolutely. Those who deeply oppose any realist engagement with China that does not place human rights and democracy front and center have every reason to disagree with Freeman, and I have no doubt at all that that was the motivation behind Human Rights Watch and Matt Welch, to take two examples. Freeman's very colorful paper-trail contains any number of statements that would make even Henry Kissinger blush.
But the stated reason for Freeman's appointment was precisely that he had views that were not typical, that brought an element of extreme-realism into the treatment of intelligence and who had serious, deep empathy for some Arab actors and states in the region. And he was not articulating policy; he was there as a dissident voice on intelligence, designed to prevent the kind of cloying groupthink that suckered both Chait and me into supporting the Iraq war- a war championed by many of Freeman's foes.
But take the Israel lobby out of the equation, and does Jon really believe Freeman would have been scalped?
Of course not. It would never have gained that kind of traction. I mean: the secretary of state was just sucking up to the Chinese dictators with Kissingerian alacrity and somehow the outcry was not quite as loud, was it? As for the claim "secretly advance": hasn't this now been conceded by the Israel lobby itself? Ahem:
Jewish and pro-Israel organizations largely decided not to make the fight against Freeman a public crusade, though they were the first, and fiercest, Freeman opponents and made their views known privately. "The vast majority of the Jewish community [were] very careful not to make this a Jewish community issue," said a top official at one major pro-Israel organization.
If you want to avoid the impression of a secret group pulling strings under the radar, you might want to stop acting like a secret group pulling strings under the radar. And if you want to dispel all kinds of nefarious anti-Semitic slurs, you might not want to have your campaign launched by a man who famously said:
"A lobby is like a night flower. It thrives in the dark and dies in the sun."
As Mr Block reiterated today:
Joshua Block, a spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group, said Tuesday that his organization had not taken a formal position on Mr. Freeman’s selection and had not lobbied Congress members to oppose it.