Last week Charles Freeman, nominated as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, was forced to withdraw from consideration because of his previous bile-ridden statements about Israel, his support for the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and his having been a leading apologist for Saudi Arabia (which is hardly surprising considering he was on the Saudis’ payroll).
But it was the only the Jews he chose to attack when he withdrew. In his official statement, Freeman, sounding unhinged, declared that 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.”
Heavens. Can no one stop those lying Jews?
And to think that this hothead came within a hair’s breadth of being responsible for “policy-neutral intelligence assessments” that would daily land on the president’s desk.
Barack Obama was elected president of the United States largely because of his temperament. Americans trusted a man who had always exhibited a cool and collected manner to lead this country in a moment of real crisis. An unstable senior analyst who so easily blows a gasket deserves no place in any senior position of authority.
But what really puzzled me about the fracas was how few public figures, both inside and outside the Jewish community, stood up to respond to the smear on the heroes who constitute the much-maligned Israel lobby.
I have been involved with AIPAC for fifteen years. Its leaders are great Americans who lobby our elected officials not for an auto bailout or to rescue a bank that wants to buy a thirty-thousand dollar toilet or have Sheryl Crow sing to its shareholders, but for the support and protection of America’s most trustworthy ally and the only democracy in the Middle East.
If Israel flourishes in the Middle East, American-style democracy triumphs in a critical region that controls most of the world’s energy. What the 9/11 attacks taught us is that Israel is the canary in the coal mine for the United States and attacks against Israel presage imminent danger to the United States.
To know the leaders of AIPAC – David Victor, its president, Howard Kohr its executive director, and the many dedicated professionals who fill the ranks – is to come into contact with men and women who subordinate ego and influence to a cause much larger than themselves. The same is true of Morton Klein of the ZOA and so many others who constitute the “Israel lobby.”
Theirs is a thankless task because all who despise Israel – and it is amazing, though not altogether surprising, to discover just how many do – end up despising them as well for their advocacy on Israel’s behalf. So let me count myself among those who publicly salute them.
I love America. It’s a country whose commitment to goodness, however imperfect, is without parallel. And America’s greatness is demonstrated in its commitment to a tiny country that struggles to be free even though it has no natural resources that are of use to the United States. As an American I identify with a country that fights for its liberty, has a press so free that it regularly exposes the corruption of its leaders, and whose politicians are utterly beholden to the people.
I therefore am extremely proud to support and identify with the guardians of the American-Israel relationship. I feel no shame in counting myself among those who champion AIPAC, only immense pride.
And yes, I am aware of the suffering of the Palestinians. But I cannot, by any rational examination of the facts, hold Israel accountable for that suffering when it is the Palestinians’ own leaders who have repeatedly chosen violence and terrorism whenever Israel has stretched its hand out in peace.
By contrast, Charles Freeman’s championing of Saudi Arabia at Israel’s expense makes a mockery of American values. Is there anything American about a monarchy that brutalizes political opponents and throws critical newspaper editors in jail? Has Freeman forgotten that the U.S. came into being by fighting a king who imposed tyranny on his colonies?
Is there anything uniquely American about a regime that, just last week, sentenced a 75-year-old widow to 40 lashes and four months in prison for spending time with her 25-year-old nephew who delivered to her five loaves of bread? And is there anything American about a country that allowed 15 teenage girls to burn to death in their religious school five years ago this month because they tried to run from the blaze without their face-coverings?
Yet Freeman’s recent assessment of Saudi Arabia was this: “I believe King Abdullah is very rapidly becoming Abdullah the Great . Since he became king I’ve been struck by the scope of change. It has been quite extraordinary.”
I realize there are other Freemans out there who disdain Israel and subscribe to a Protocols-of-Zion-belief that a Jewish cabal of pro-Israel activists controls the American government and has hijacked its foreign policy.
To those who are still rational on the subject, I ask the following:
Suppose the Jews could be persuaded that Israel is a failed experiment and they ought to completely disband and be absorbed in friendly countries like Australia, Canada, and the United States, would good times suddenly come to the remaining inhabitants of the Middle East?
Would Bashir Assad stop crushing democratic protesters with armed police?
Would Hamas stop its reign of terror and assassination without trial in Gaza?
Would the Saudis suddenly allow a woman to ride a bike or drive a car?
And would the nearly one million Arabs whom The New York Times says Saddam Hussein murdered suddenly come back to life?
Since the probable answer to all those questions is no, we know why – even after Yasir Arafat was granted authority over 95 percent of the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank – more than one million Israeli Arabs chose to continue living under Israeli sovereignty in the Jewish state of Israel rather than under the all-too-unfortunate oppression that is the lot of nearly all the Arabs throughout the Middle East.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is a bestselling author and the founder of This World:
The Jewish Values Network.