Fallows on Freeman

James Fallows has a characteristically judicious take on the Chas Freeman situation:

Again, I don’t know Freeman personally. I don’t know whether the Saudi funding for his organization has been entirely seemly (like that for most Presidential libraries), which is now the subject of inspector-general investigation. If there’s a problem there, there’s a problem. […] So to the extent this argument is shaping up as a banishment of Freeman for rash or unorthodox views, I instinctively take Freeman’s side — even when I disagree with him on specifics. This job calls for originality, and originality brings risks. Chas Freeman is not going to have his finger on any button. He is going to help raise all the questions that the person with his finger on the button should be aware of.

To offer another word, I think it’s fair that people who don’t like Freeman’s views on Israel are going after him with the kitchen sink — comments about China, vague allegations of financial improprieties, etc. Politics ain’t beanbag and you go after your enemies with what you can find. But the habit of turning around and acting indignant when people point out that what’s motivating this fight is Freeman’s views on Israel is really pretty silly. When you hear that indicted former AIPAC director Steve Rosen, The New Republic, Commentary, Eli Lake, and Chuck Schumer are spearheading opposition to something you don’t say to yourself “they must be concerned about the human rights situation in China!” This is an organization dedicated to human rights in China and this is a good government group, and they don’t seem very interested one way or another in Freeman. You don’t need to read the minds of the individual members of the anti-Freeman coalition, or question the sincerity of any individual person’s statements on any particular issue, to see that Israel is what’s driving and uniting the coalition as a whole.



I should note in fairness than in one of his articles on this, Eli Lake did get a quote from Tom Malinowki from Human Rights Watch criticizing Freeman. Still, it remains the case that the driving force both in that particular instance and throughout the controversy more generally, is coming from the Israel hawk community and not from the human rights advocacy community.