Chas Freeman: Remember the US Constitution

This is a guest post by Edward P. Joseph of Z Word

Poor David Broder. He – and so many others – have missed the point of the whole Charles Freeman flap. The point is not Freeman’s character or his many capabilities or even whether or not Freeman got a “fair hearing.” The harsh truth is that nothing in our system guarantees potential appointees to high office a “fair hearing.”

But our Constitution’s First Amendment does guarantee something else: the right to free speech and the right to petition the government. In our democracy, interest groups have have a right to press their views, no matter how “one-sided” those views may seem.

Is Charles Freeman anti-Israel? I don’t really know. I do know that those who went after him have a right to do so, whether the rest of us like it or not. To target the “Israel lobby” (i.e. impassioned Jews) for somehow wielding out-sized influence is an affront – yes – to liberal values. It is precisely the point of free speech in a democracy that people we disagree with are able to voice their views, and to mobilize and organize. What no one has a right to do is to challenge groups – particularly ethnic groups that are subject to prejudice – for exercising their rights. That, Mr. Broder, is both un-democratic and un-American.

After all, which of us has the right to say how much influence Israel supporters (many of them Jews) are “supposed to have?” How much is too much? Shall we impose limits on the influence of other groups? Shall, say, Armenian-Americans be given a limit to influence because, as some would argue, the US relationship with Turkey is more important to our interests? Says who? Not anyone concerned about our democratic values.

Those who claim that the “Israel lobby” denies others the right to make their case need to back that up with evidence. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt paraded their soporofic anti-”Israel lobby” doorstopper on all forms of media. Web-sites and publications abound that press the Palestinian cause, which is fine. The New York Times ran an impassioned op-ed by Rashid Khalidi at the height of the Gaza war.

Did the Times and Post not cover in graphic detail the impact of Israel attacks on Palestinians? Promoting his book on the Middle East, Jimmy Carter complained repeatedly about the one-sidedness of media – on serial national television appearances. Indeed, the Charles Freeman flap has erupted in the MSM, with little reluctance of parties to attack, irresponsibly, “the Israel lobby.”

The real question for Mearsheimer and Walt and their ilk is this: who is stopping pro-Palestinian groups from voicing their views? After all, this is the internet era. Who resticts themselves to the financially flailing msm anyway? Moveon.org, huffingtonpost, facebook are the face of media these days. Is the “Israel lobby” also denying access to these increasingly important vehicles for mass communication and mobilization?

The truly insidious step here is not by those who fulminated against Freeman (however over-the-top they may have been.) Rather, it is by those who would deny or impose limits on Jews who exercise their Constitutional rights. The implied accusation of “nefarious” and “undue” influence of the “Israel lobby” smacks of McCarthyism and, worse, laziness. Those who believe that US policy is too pro-Israel need to stop whining, roll up their sleeves and make their case – on the merits – not by stigmatizing Jews who are exercising their Constitutional rights.

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