J Street Defends Chas Freeman

Excerpts from Commentary Magazine:

It was only a matter of time before J Street — the self-proclaimed ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ organization that is neither — came to the defense of Tiananmen Square Massacre enthusiast Charles ‘Chas’ Freeman. In a statement released Friday, J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami says says that ‘J Street stayed out of this fight. First, we – probably like many of those who did comment – did not know enough about Freeman or his positions to really take a stand.’ But even though Ben-Ami admits that his organization didn’t bother to familiarize themselves with Freeman and his worldview, he then goes on record defending the man and attacking his critics. ‘What is important to me is that the Obama team not draw the lesson from this episode that they simply need to be more careful vetting of appointees to make sure they’ve never criticized Israel,’ he writes.

The problem with this assertion is that there are plenty of people in the Obama administration, up to and including President Obama himself, who have criticized Israel, some quite stridently. This has been the case in every presidential administration. So the claim that Freeman lost out because he failed to pass an ideological litmus test imposed by ‘Israel-firsters,’ in the language of his intemperate son, is a straw man argument, and it’s disappointing, though not surprising, that Ben-Ami would parrot it.

Ben-Ami never mentions the fact that Freeman was on the payroll of two foreign governments with values deeply inimical to those of the United States. From this omission, one can only conclude that this massive conflict of interest is not something that bothers Jeremy Ben-Ami or his organization.

Of course, it’s much easier for J Street to make these remarks now that Freeman has dropped out. Had J Street rallied to his defense in the midst of the controversy, it would have been conspicuous as one of the very few ‘pro-Israel’ organizations to have done so.

‘This really isn’t about Charles Freeman or the statements he’s made,’ Ben-Ami writes in bold. That’s convenient; because if it was, Ben-Ami would have to grapple with Freeman’s unhinged swan song, in which he accuses American Jews of having dual loyalties. Why on earth would an organization claiming to be ‘pro-Israel’ come to the defense — however muddled — of a man spouting such poison?"

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