Quote of the Week: Controlling the debate over Israel

Does anyone doubt that it’s far more permissible in American political culture to criticize actions of the American government than it is the actions of the Israeli Government?   Isn’t that rather odd, and quite self-evidently destructive?Glenn Greenwald

This was not in the mainstream news this week (and you have to wonder why), but Charles Freeman, who was slated to be the next Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, has withdrawn his nomination. His withdrawal was the result of a campaign to keep critics of Israeli policy out of positions of even marginal importance.

Do these sounds like the words of someone who is hostile to Israel?

Tragically, despite all the advantages and opportunities Israel has had over the fifty-nine years of its existence, it has failed to achieve concord and reconciliation with anyone in its region, still less to gain their admiration or affection. Instead, with each decade, Israel’s behavior has deviated farther from the humane ideals of its founders and the high ethical standards of the religion that most of its inhabitants profess. Israel and the Palestinians, in particular, are caught up in an endless cycle of reprisal and retaliation that guarantees the perpetuation of conflict in which levels of mutual atrocities continue to escalate. As a result, each generation of Israelis and Palestinians has accumulated new reasons to loathe the behavior of the other, and each generation of Arabs has detested Israel with more passion than its predecessor. This is not how peace is made. Here, too, a break with the past and a change in course are clearly in order.

That sounds pretty damned fair to me, but with the AIPAC aligned crowd, even mild criticism of Israel is grounds for charges of hostility to Israel or anti-Semitism.

For fans of the ridiculous, it’s worth noting that the battle against Freeman was led by Steve Rosen, a former member of AIPAC charged with giving classified U.S. intelligence to the Israeli government.

Now, just to be clear, I don’t have any particular love for Mr. Freeman, but I think the charges being leveled against him were unsubstantiated and didn’t yet ring any alarm bells. The trouble is that we need different opinions when it comes to our posture toward Israel and the Middle East. Blanket support for Israel has, in my estimation, harmed the security situation for both of our nations. As a result, I think we need to look at our relationship with Israel more objectively. Freeman seemingly offered that objectivity, and I doubt his replacement will do the same.