Returning home from a very short visit to
No, it was not about the looming danger of the radical right gaining control. It is now almost certain that the next government will consist of an assorted bunch of settlers, explicit racists and perhaps even outright fascists. But that does not evoke any excitement.
Nor was there much excitement about yet another interrogation of the (still) incumbent prime minister in his various corruption affairs. That is hardly news anymore.
All the excitement was about a “press conference” given by the former president of
Katsav, it may be remembered by those who remember such things, was accused by several of his female staff of persistent sexual harassment and at least one case of rape. He had to resign.
An Iranian-born immigrant and a protégé of Menachem Begin, Katsav had made a career based on a kind of affirmative action. Begin believed that, for the sake of integration, promising young immigrants from Oriental countries should be promoted to positions of responsibility. Katsav, a rather nondescript right-wing politician with all the customary right-wing opinions, became minister of tourism and then was elected by the Knesset to the ceremonial post of president, mainly to spite the rival candidate, Shimon Peres. Wags said that the Knesset was reluctant to spoil Peres’s (then) unbroken record of lost elections.
Since his abdication two years ago, the Katsav affair has dragged on and on, almost to the point of farce. Revelations were leaked by the police, several women disclosed lurid details, the ex-president made a plea agreement admitting to lesser offences, he then revoked the deal, the attorney-general procrastinated and now he seems to have made up his mind about the indictment.
So Katsav called a press conference in his remote home town, Kiryat Malakhi (the former Arab
So when I came back yesterday morning [13 March], I found this feat dominating the front pages of all our newspapers. Everything else was banished to the back pages.
Because of this, Charles Freeman got hardly a mention. Yet his affair was a thousand-fold more important than all the sexual activities of our ex-president.
Freeman was called by Barack Obama’s newly-appointed chief of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, to the post of Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. In this position, he would have been in charge of the National intelligence Estimates (NIE), summarizing the reports of all the 16
Throughout the 1990s, the man in charge of intelligence estimates, Amos Gilad, deliberately misled the government into believing that Yasser Arafat was deceiving them and was actually plotting the destruction of
All this shows how vitally important it is to have an estimates chief of intellectual integrity and wide experience and knowledge. Admiral Blair could not have chosen a better person than Charles Freeman, a man of sterling character and uncontested expertise, especially about
And that was his undoing.
As a former ambassador to
In a 2005 speech, he criticized
In a 2007 speech he said that the
Another conclusion is his belief that the terrorism the
Naturally, the appointment of such a person was viewed with great alarm by the pro-Israel lobby in
Public denunciations were composed, senators and congressmen pressed into action, media people mobilized. Freeman’s integrity was called into question, shady connections with Arab and Chinese financial interests “disclosed” by the docile press. Admiral Blair came to his appointee’s defence, but in vain. Freeman had no choice but to withdraw.
The full meaning of this episode should not escape anyone.
It was the first test of strength of the lobby in the new Obama era. And in this test, the lobby came out with flying (blue-and-white) colours. The administration was publicly humiliated.
The White House did not even try to hide its abject surrender. It declared that the appointment had not been cleared with the president, that Obama had no hand in it and did not even know about it. Meaning: of course he would have objected to the appointment of any official who was not fully acceptable to the lobby. The portrayal of the power of the lobby by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, has been fully vindicated.
This has a significance which goes far beyond the already far-reaching implications of the affair itself.
Many people in
Now the first skirmish has taken place, and the president of the
It may be too early to call this episode the rape of
By the way, or not by the way, a word about my trip to
I went there to lend support to a group of Jewish personalities, well-known in academic and other circles, who have set up an organization called “Independent Jewish Voices”.
Recently ,they published a book called “A Time to speak out”, in which several of them contributed to the debate about
I believe that it is of utmost importance that such Jewish voices be heard. In several countries, including the
Uri Avnery is an Israeli journalist, writer and peace activist.