Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Chas Freeman, “Fifth Columnists” and the ‘Guardian Left’

February 3, 2013 5:41 pm 0 comments

Chas Freeman.

Indeed, for some on the Guardian Left, the narrative advanced about many political debates in Washington could be reduced to ‘the enemy of the ‘Israel lobby’ is necessarily a progressive political protagonist.’

To CiF’s Michael Cohen, for instance, the fact that the largest pro-Israel lobbying groups (most notably AIPAC) have stayed away from the Hagel row is no obstacle to framing the debate along this binary lobby/anti-lobby paradigm, and condemning Hagel’s opponents – in a manner similar to Glenn Greenwald – for engaging in a “McCarthyite” smear campaign.  (Chuck Hagel’s Senate hearings: A discredit to all concerned, ‘Comment is Free,’ Feb. 1)

Cohen – whose views towards Israel are such that he recently suggested that more Israeli fatalities as the result of terrorist attacks would actually help the peace process – criticizes the control the “Jewish lobby” has over the process, thus:

“As we saw during the GOP primaries last year, the new apparent litmus test for being a foreign policy-maker in the US government appears to be the extent to which you offer unconditional support for basically everything that Israel does,

Ted Cruz tried to link Hagel to a speech given by Chas Freeman, a former US diplomat who has been publicly critical of American support for the Jewish state, and in particular, the domestic lobbyists that defend Israel.

When Cruz could not identify an obvious link between the two men, he backed off. But the moment was chilling because the implications of Cruz’s questioning wasn’t hard to deduce: simply having a relationship with Freeman and his controversial views on Israel would have been enough to indict Hagel.

This is quite frankly modern-day McCarthyism: guilt by association with those who hold differing views. It was the low point of the day in which the depths of practically every valley of squalid foreign policy discourse was plumbed. That a hearing on the fitness of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense was dominated by a discussion of a country that is not even a military ally of the United States – and which, in the just the last three months, has taken actions on settlement construction that run precisely counter to US policy – offered compelling evidence of the disproportionate and unhealthy role that Israel plays in US foreign policy debates.”

While the at times comical misuse of the word “McCarthyism” by some on the left to characterize legitimate criticism and debate within a democratic framework is, in itself, an under-explored topic, it’s remarkable that Cohen defends Chas Freeman, who has, himself, engaged in ugly, racist smears of American Jews.

Joe McCarthy – the former US senator whose politics during the Cold War inspired the term ‘McCarthyism’ – is largely known for the fact that, in the 1950s, he led hearings into the “un-American” activities of those who he (often falsely) accused of actively working for the communist party or even being agents of the KGB.  While the threat of Soviet infiltration into the upper echelons of US government during the time was indeed real (as the Venona papers have proved) McCarthy’s notoriety is derived by the fact that he recklessly imputed disloyalty to many who were completely innocent – all of which brings us to Chas Freeman.

Freeman was forced to withdraw his name from consideration to be chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council in the Obama Administration, in March 2009, due to his vitriolic attacks on Israel (which, he had argued, was a “catalyst” for the attacks on 9/11), his close ties with the Saudi government, and comments he made which were sympathetic to China’s bloody crackdown of pro-democracy activists at Tiananmen Square.

After the nomination row, Freeman was even more explicit in his attacks on American Jewish supporters of Israel, and published a post, at the extremist anti-Zionist blog, Mondoweiss, where he argued that Zionism was worse than S. Africa. His post included the following passage:

“[At least] South Africa’s whites did not have a dedicated cadre of coreligionists or ethnic kin abroad who labored to protect them from the consequences of their deviance from the norms of humane behavior as defined by Western civilization at large.  Nor, despite open sympathy for South African whites in the American South and among ardent anti-Communists, did apartheid enjoy international ideological support outside the neo-Nazi fringe.  Israel’s policies are supported morally, politically, and financially by large Jewish communities…”

So, just how dangerous are these “large Jewish communities”?  Helpfully, Freeman further expanded on his concern about the influence of Jews during a speech he delivered in Russia on Dec. 1:

…I would like to put forward some thoughts about the control of narrative and the manipulation of information as an essential element of modern warfare. The Israelis call this ‘hasbara.’ Since they are without doubt the most skilled contemporary practitioners of the art, it seems appropriate to use the Hebrew word for it. And, since Israel’s most recent war (against the Palestinians in Gaza) sputtered to an end just ten days ago, I’ll cite a few examples from that war to illustrate my main points.

In some countries, like the United States, Israel can rely upon a ‘fifth column’ of activist sympathizers to amplify its messages, to rebut and discredit statements that contradict its arguments, facts, and fabrications, and to impugn the moral standing of those who make such statements.”

In case there was any doubt who Freeman was referring to as “fifth columnists”, he went on to “name names” – imputing guilt to members of several Jewish organizations (and at least one American rabbi).

To be clear, “fifth columnists” refers to a group of people who clandestinely seek to undermine a nation from within.  It declares people “disloyal-enemies of their own country”, often due to their ethnic or race-based loyalties, and the use of such a charge against Jews has represented one of the more popular antisemitic narratives.

Historically, even before the birth of the modern state of Israel, Jews stood accused of not possessing sufficient loyalty to the nations where they resided. One of the earliest examples of this fusion of “excessive” Jewish power with ‘dual loyalty was the suspicion in parts of medieval Christian Europe that Jews were in league with some Muslim powers.  The charge of dual loyalty manifested itself in the Dreyfus Affair through the Nazi’s rise to power – and, indeed, this notion in large measure underlay the failure of European emancipation more broadly.  In the 1920s Henry Ford published The International JewThe World’s Problem where it was asserted, along with other calumnies, that disloyal Jews were pushing the United States towards war – a charge which resurfaced in the political aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq, and in the current framing of a possible US war with Iran.

Explicit characterizations of Jews as “fifth columnists” has an extremist right pedigree (David Duke highlighted Freeman’s recent charge against Jews on his website, per screenshot below ), so it seems that genuine anti-racists would be troubled that Guardian Left commentators such as Cohen and Greenwald are not only evidently not outraged by Freeman’s antisemitic (and McCarthy-style) attack on Jews, but consider him a victim.


Increasingly, many on the far left (certainly on the Guardian Left) explain, in a tone of exasperation, that they’re tired of false accusations of antisemitism which, they often add, make people less sensitive to “real” antisemitism.  Yet, it seems, when confronted with a competition for their sympathy, foes of the Israel lobby (no matter how crude, unenlightened and Judeophobic their rhetoric) seem to win out over a historically oppressed Jewish minority every time.

A ‘left’ which can’t condemn, passionately and without qualifications, the hideous charge that American Jews are corrupting the body politic, and are working to undermine the nation, due to an unhealthy ethnic loyalty, are simply not worthy of the progressive mantle to which they so hubristically lay claim.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Beliefs and concepts What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David?

    What’s That Huge White Bridal Dress Floating Over the Tower of David? –  “What’s that huge white bridal dress floating over the Tower of David?” That’s what visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City asked last week. The wedding gown, created by leading Israeli artist Motti Mizrachi, is part of the 2nd Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, an event that blew into town as the Sukkot holiday got underway. Mizrachi, who lives and works in Tel Aviv, created the dress that floats majestically over the Tower of David, the main exhibition site […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    The Top 10 Places to Visit in Israel

    Israel is a holiday destination on many travelers’ bucket lists. No matter the style of holiday you are after, Israel has the answer. Whether you prefer to relax by the beach, hike up mountains in the desert, visit religious and historical sites, eat your way through the country or just enjoy some retail therapy, your journey through Israel will be one to remember. While there are obviously so many things to see and do, here is a list of 10 of […]

    Read more →
  • Pioneers/Philanthropists US & Canada Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO

    Jewish American Fashion Mogul Ralph Lauren to Step Down as CEO – Jewish American fashion mogul Ralph Lauren announced his plan to step down as chief executive officer of the renowned fashion brand. The head of Gap Inc’s Old Navy brand will take over the position. The 75-year-old Lauren, who founded Ralph Lauren Corp. in 1967, will continue to serve as executive chairman and will continue leading the fashion house’s design team, according to a statement by the company. After the announcement, Ralph Lauren shares rose 3.79 percent while Gap shares […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Sports US & Canada Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish Boxer Dustin ‘White Tiger’ Fleischer Scores Fourth Knockout Victory

    Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout. Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout. Read full story at JTA.

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Pioneers/Philanthropists Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Meet Israel’s Santa Claus, the Trustee Tasked With Handing Out Leona Helmsley’s Billions (INTERVIEW)

    Renowned New York attorney Sandor (Sandy) Frankel, one of four trustees of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, was in Israel earlier this month to look at additional philanthropic options and to observe the progress of those endeavors already funded – to the tune of multi-millions. Frankel, who recently joined the prestigious Park Avenue law firm Otterbourg P.C., met with Israeli politicians and other bigwigs to get a sense from them about which projects in the country […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Food Spirituality/Tradition ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah

    ‘Pastry Secrets’ Arrive Just in Time for Rosh Hashanah – Babka. Strudel. Stollen. Danish pastry. Not to mention Gugelhopf and Charlotte. The names set the mouth to watering and conjure up lovingly concocted pastries that feed the body and comfort the soul. If you didn’t have a grandmother who baked these delicacies, you wish that you had. George Greenstein was never a grandmother, but his life as a baker provided his children and grandchildren with memories infused with the smell of fresh baked bread and rugelach. His daughters, Julia […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’

    Fusing Israeli and Holocaust History, Novel Offers a ‘Middle Eastern Western’ – There is a game that all of us have played at some time in our lives. We ask ourselves: What would my life be like if I had gone to this school instead of that one, or if I had married this girl instead of that one? In their newly published book The Ambassador, authors Yehuda Avner and Matt Rees play that game with modern Jewish history. Avner — who died earlier this year, and was a speechwriter, secretary and adviser to […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Lifestyle A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A Toulouse Fashion Student Finds Style and Harmony in the Holy Land

    A unique group of young fashion bloggers and designers recently visited Israel to learn more about the country’s fashion industry and diverse culture. Hailing from the Philippines, Korea, Kenya, Japan, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.K., the 10 participants toured the country and met with top Israeli fashion designers throughout last week. “It was an amazing experience,” said Meissene Maghni from Toulouse, France — one of the participants of the program. “I’m Muslim and I really wanted to see Israel […]

    Read more →