The Republican Jewish Coalition is opposing the nomination of Chas Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council, while the head of the National Jewish Democratic says Freeman is "not a pick I would make" but that his reported appointment must be looked at in the "totality" of all of President Obama’s other selections for national security posts.
In a meeting with reporters Thursday morning, NJDC executive director Ira Forman said Freeman, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia who has been critical of Israel, appears to be a "strong Arabist" but said Freeman was an exception to the rest of Obama’s foreign policy team — all of whom are "supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship."
"These are not the types of people picked by Jimmy Carter or George Bush Senior" for national security posts, said Forman. "You have to look at the record, the totality," he said.
The Freeman pick, according to some media reports, was actually made by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair.
Meanwhile, the RJC announced its opposition to the Freeman pick on Thursday and issued an action alert urging members to call the White House and Congress about the appointment. Executive director Matt Brooks said "Freeman’s statements about Israel, about the nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and about the totalitarian regimes in Saudi Arabia and China call into serious question his judgment and character." Here’s the full press release:
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today voiced concern over reports that President Obama will soon publicly name Charles "Chas" W. Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council (NIC). It has been reported by Politico.com that Freeman has been offered the job though no public announcement has been made. (1)
RJC Executive Director Matthew Brooks said: "We are very troubled by reports that President Obama plans to appoint Chas W. Freeman to be NIC chairman. Freeman’s past writing and statements with regard to the Middle East cast serious doubt on his fitness for such an important and sensitive position. He apparently holds the view that Israel is the source or cause of all the suffering, terrorism, and instability in the region and that a so-called ‘Israel Lobby’ induces American governments to adopt policies not in keeping with American interests."
Brooks continued, "The NIC is the source of the National Intelligence Estimates and the long-term strategic analysis of the U.S. intelligence community. The nature of intelligence analysis, which can be devastatingly misdirected by any bias, requires the president to choose NIC staff with the greatest sensitivity and impartiality possible. Chas Freeman falls far from meeting this standard.
"Freeman’s statements about Israel, about the nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and about the totalitarian regimes in Saudi Arabia and China call into serious question his judgment and character. We call on President Obama not to move forward with the appointment of Chas Freeman."
Freeman, who served as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992, is president of the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC). His statements and writings, as well as the work of the MEPC, are strongly critical of Israel and the U.S.-Israel alliance. He regards Israel as a colonial power, whose "occupation" of Arab land "is inherently violence." (2) He blamed terrorist attacks in Britain, Thailand, India and other countries on "the continuing injustices and crimes against humanity in the Holy Land." (3)
As president of MEPC, which publishes the Middle East Policy journal (MEP), Freeman boasted about MEP’s publication of the Mearsheimer and Walt article "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," telling an interviewer from the Saudi-US Relations Information Service that "No one else in the United States has dared to publish this article, given the political penalties that the Lobby imposes on those who criticize it. So we continue to do important things that are not done by anybody else, which I think fill some gaps." (4)
MEPC became the center of some controversy when it was named in a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report in 2005 detailing Saudi-funded educational materials that teach an anti-Israel perspective of the Middle East. (5) MEPC co-produced a curriculum, entitled "Arab World Notebook," which an American Jewish Committee report described as "a text that appears largely designed to advance the anti-Israel and propagandistic views of the Notebook’s sponsors, the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC) and Arab World and Islamic Resources (AWAIR), to an audience of teachers who may not have the resources and knowledge to assess this text critically." (6)
As Gabriel Schoenfeld pointed out today in the Wall Street Journal, Freeman has also spoken about other countries in ways that run counter to American interests:
On the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989, Mr. Freeman unabashedly sides with the Chinese government, a remarkable position for an appointee of an administration that has pledged to advance the cause of human rights. Mr. Freeman has been a participant in ChinaSec, a confidential Internet discussion group of China specialists. A copy of one of his postings was provided to me by a former member. "The truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities," he wrote there in 2006, "was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud." Moreover, "the Politburo’s response to the mob scene at ‘Tiananmen’ stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action." Indeed, continued Mr. Freeman, "I do not believe it is acceptable for any country to allow the heart of its national capital to be occupied by dissidents intent on disrupting the normal functions of government, however appealing to foreigners their propaganda may be." (7)And the Jewish Telegraphic Agency noted this Freeman remark about Saudi Arabia, which provides significant funding to MEPC:
Participating in a 2002 panel for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Freeman said that "in the case of Saudi Arabia, reform has always come from the top down. It has been the ruling family that has sought to liberalize society and to open it up."
Saudi exiles over the years who have sought democratization might disagree. They have fled in fear for their lives and continue to be harassed in their new homelands. (8)