Cue: Gnashing of teeth (or… Freeman: Jesus or Findley)


There’s a Jewish joke far more ancient than its retelling by Sarah Silverman (who after all is about a decade less ancient than me) or even Lenny Bruce’s riffs.

It goes like this: "Killed Jesus? No. But only because the Romans got there first."

Eric tells me that when he interned at AIPAC, he heard a similar take on Paul Findley, failed congressman and perennial Israel critic, who was the Walt-Mearsheimer of the 1980s, when he published his own critique of the pro-Israel lobby, "They Dare to Speak Out."

"Forced him out of Congress? No. But if he wants to give us credit… "

The jokes are telling: After being accused of a calumny for so long, part of you wants to own it. Run the joint? Sure, I run the joint. Right now, I’m thinking of running you out of the joint.

This is not always productive (See under: Jesus). More recently, however, it has been — for the pro-Israel lobby — a happy if unintended consequence of its (shhhh!) utterly routine maneuverings in Washington. A hefty portion of power is perception and the "lobby’s" critics have been pushing perceptions of its omnipotence, in spades. (See under: Paul Findley.)

It might even help explain AIPAC’s wild growth. Control the levers of power? Sure we do. See ya at our next policy conference!

What astonishes me is how the enemies of the lobby feed this imagined monster, with a neurotic commitment to self-defeat. The reactions today to the end of the Chas Freeman fiasco are not just typical, but a kind of apotheosis.

Andrew Sullivan:

What Real Power In Washington Means

You get to dictate to a president who he can and cannot appoint to his own intelligence staff. This was not a Senate-confirmation issue. And it was not because of some financial or tax issue. It was because of what he believed. And a president is simply not allowed to have that kind of diversity of view in his administration. And he knows this is a battle he shouldn’t fight.

Glenn Greenwald:

In the U.S., you can advocate torture, illegal spying, and completely optional though murderous wars and be appointed to the highest positions.  But you can’t, apparently, criticize Israeli actions too much or question whether America’s blind support for Israel should be re-examined.

Chas Freeman:

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.  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.

And on and on.

I’d like to argue that if, theoretically, a critic of Israel’s occupation had been appointed to a sensitive, senior security position without Freeman’s baggage, jampacked with apologias for the Saudi and the Chinese dictatorships, such a person would have been a serious test of the pro-Israel lobby’s power. I’d like to argue the point, but I don’t have to: Samantha Power, after all, handles multilateral organizations on the National Security Council.

Samantha Power, who accused Israel of war crimes, who called for moneys for Israel to be diverted to the Palestinians, who called for an interventionary force to protect the Palestinians from Israel.

And yes, I know the White House placated pro-Israel figures by saying that her work would be confined to Darfur and other non-Israel issues. And then her first assignment was: Durban. With nary a pro-Israel complaint. With the blessing (not that it would have mattered, I think) of one of Freeman’s fiercest critics, Marty Peretz.

But that doesn’t matter to Freeman or his supporters. They apparently want a Jesus, however much this does the work of pro-Israel groups. In the long run, after all, Jesus scored major points for his followers.

Good luck with that guys! Looks to me, though, like you got a Findley instead.

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