Freeman's Elementary Mistakes

by James Kirchick | March 7, 2009

In an attempt to defend the selection of Tiananmen Square Massacre enthusiast Chas Freeman as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Andrew Sullivan links to this essay as an example of the man's supposedly sharp thinking, and pulls out the following "money quote:"

Tragically, despite all the advantages and opportunities Israel has had over the fifty-nine years of its existence, it has failed to achieve concord and reconciliation with anyone in its region, still less to gain their admiration or affection. Instead, with each decade, Israel's behavior has deviated farther from the humane ideals of its founders and the high ethical standards of the religion that most of its inhabitants profess. Israel and the Palestinians, in particular, are caught up in an endless cycle of reprisal and retaliation that guarantees the perpetuation of conflict in which levels of mutual atrocities continue to escalate. As a result, each generation of Israelis and Palestinians has accumulated new reasons to loathe the behavior of the other, and each generation of Arabs has detested Israel with more passion than its predecessor. This is not how peace is made. Here, too, a break with the past and a change in course are clearly in order.

There's plenty of room for debate about Freeman's analysis of who's to blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict and how much blame should be apportioned onto each party. But Freeman's statement that Israel has "failed to achieve concord and reconciliation with anyone in its region" is patently false, and it's shocking that a man who's being presented to us as a Middle East expert could be so historically illiterate. In 1979, Israel signed a peace treaty with its neighbor Egypt, known as the "Camp David Accords." It's was a pretty monumental moment in the history of the region. And in 1994, Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan, another of its once-hostile neighbors. While not perfect, Israel's relations with both counries has been cordial and enormously productive for all concerned. 

Again, there may be some merit to Freeman's views. But the fact that he could make such a brazenly false statement does not attest well to his analytic capabilities, which, presumably, are why he was selected for this position in the first place. 

--James Kirchick

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/freemans-elementary-mistakes