As Ken Silverstein notes, Chas Freeman threw in the towel yesterday in the face of increasingly furious criticism that manipulated very few facts other than one which was well-documented: Freeman was and is a critic of the Israeli Government. His withdrawal statement packed quite a wallop:
The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East.
Squabbles over non-confirmable government appointments are an inside-the-Beltway staple and perhaps it’s a mistake to make too much out of them. And yet there is something about this one that suggests a much broader battle. Ken pointed yesterday to Max Blumenthal’s look at the leadership of the successful effort to take Freeman down. Blumenthal profiled former AIPAC director Steve Rosen, now up on criminal charges in connection with some collusive dealings with an aide to Doug Feith, who was the effort’s mainstay. And he notes that Rep. Mark Kirk, who led the charge against Freeman in Congress, was the principal beneficiary of AIPAC’s campaign funding largesse.
Andrew Sullivan, who furnished comprehensive coverage of the controversy, makes two timely observations: First, “the MSM has barely covered it as a news story, and the entire debate occurred in the blogosphere.” Clearly true and perhaps a sign of the timidity and growing irrelevance of the print news media. Second, “Obama may bring change in many areas, but there is no possibility of change on the Israel-Palestine question.” I think it may still be too early for that conclusion—moreover, Hillary Clinton’s visit and statements by Senator Mitchell suggest a very significant change in tone. But Andrew is clearly right in noting that the absence of critical voices inside the Obama team will make meaningful change much more difficult. And that was likely the principal objective of those who led the attacks on Freeman.
I am intrigued to know what John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt think about this. The whole affaire Freeman seems to be a demonstration of the thesis they advance about how the Israel lobbies work and their hold on dialogue about Middle East policy within the nation’s foreign policy-making elites. Tracking the development of this matter also allows a student to pinpoint the resources that these lobbies wield both within the media and in political circles. Indeed, the argument against Freeman was so obviously devoid of merit (other than the apparently disqualifying claim that he was a critic of the Israeli Government) that it provides a prime test case.