By Daniel Mandel
The withdrawal by career diplomat Chas W. Freeman from his appointment as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) has been depicted largely as the work of the pro-Israel lobby. Reports in the New York Times and elsewhere have painted Freeman as being little more than a blunt critic of Israel. Neither portrait is true.
Only the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and JINSA made an issue of the Freeman appointment. Other Jewish organizations were not involved, although they should have been – Freeman is not merely a “blunt” critic of Israel, but one who rationalizes anti-Israel hatred and violence.
Freeman never merely criticized particular Israeli policies – he argues that even the most concessionary governments in Israel’s history do not seek peace with their neighbors. That is, after Israel recognized the PLO, agreed to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA), ceded half the West Bank and all of Gaza to Palestinian control, disbursed funds, assets and even arms to the PA, and offered it statehood in almost all of the disputed territories, only to receive more terrorism and incitement to hatred and murder in return, Freeman believes Israel is the villain.
In a September 2005 speech, Freeman rationalized Palestinian terrorism as being caused by the West Bank being something other than judenrein: “Israeli occupation and settlement of Arab lands is inherently violent … And as long as such Israeli violence against Palestinians continues, it is utterly unrealistic to expect that Palestinians will stand down from violent resistance and retaliation against Israelis.”
In October 2006, he blamed Israel for 9/11, saying that the U.S. has “paid heavily for our unflinching support and unstinting subsidies of Israel’s approach to managing its relations with the Arabs. Five years ago we began to pay with the blood of our citizens here at home.” (Not a word on the almost as large American subsidies to Egypt or increasingly munificent ones to the PA). The following May, he blamed Middle Eastern anti-American hatred principally on American support for Israel. (Not a word on the Wahhabi jihadism of his Saudi benefactors).
Freeman’s fabrications extend explicitly to the ZOA. In a long interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN, Freeman blamed ZOA for “organizing” a campaign against him and even claimed that we had a posting on the web “setting out in considerable detail how they organized, researched to find [sic] material that they could use to agitate, first Congressmen who were sympathetic to them, and later others they engaged in a truly libelous campaign of selective misquotation, distortion and fabrication of facts that are absolutely not real.”
There is no such ZOA posting that Freeman describes. Our research did not extend beyond the use of the internet. Our alleged “selective misquotations” were faithfully provided by Freeman’s own speeches posted on the website of Middle East Policy Council (MEPC) that he chairs. The only things that “libel” Freeman’s reputation are his own vitriolic views.
Not just on Israel – and this is the point: Freeman’s hostility to Israel raised concerns but alone would not have evoked such a strong reaction in Congress. Rather, it was his coziness with tyrannical regimes and the conflict of interests they potentially involved that preoccupied legislators from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi down.
For 11 years, Freeman received financial remuneration from Saudi Arabia heading MEPC. MEPC itself owes its endowment to the Saudi monarch who, in 1994, awarded Freeman the Order of ‘King Abd Al-Aziz’ 1st Class (Diplomatic Service). Freeman also served on the advisory board of the Beijing-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation, which has business dealings with both Iran and Sudan.
When it comes to such regimes, Freeman again does not tell the truth. Both on CNN and in the New York Times, Freeman claimed that, in an email list posting, he had merely described, but did not himself support, the official Chinese view that Beijing had been slow in clamping down on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989.
This is untrue: in his email list posting, available on the internet, Freeman said that he found “very plausible” the official Chinese view that it was unforgivable not to have cracked down much sooner to “nip the demonstrations in the bud.” He added that he “cannot conceive of any American government behaving with the ill-conceived restraint” of the Beijing government.
In short, Freeman did favor suppression of democratic forces in China. He only wishes it had happened sooner.
On Saudi suppression of religious freedom and human rights, especially for women, Freeman is uncharacteristically quiet. Put simply, he likes autocrats and dislikes democrats.
These conflicts of interest, encompassing advocacy on behalf of tyrannical regimes like China and Saudi Arabia on which he would have had to provide intelligence to the President, sank his appointment, not the “Israel lobby.”
(Dr. Daniel Mandel is director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel: The Undercover Zionist (London: Routledge, 2004).)