Readers Speak Out On Ron Smith And The Israel Lobby

SPEAK OUT

March 18, 2009

Ron Smith posits a fictional, all-powerful Israel lobby that "controls Congress on matters related to" Israel and is "able to suppress free debate and shape American foreign policy" ("So much for changing one-sided Mideast policy," Commentary, March 13). But reality is different.

For instance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just returned from the Middle East, where she blasted Israel for its planned demolition of residential buildings illegally constructed by Arabs in Jerusalem and scolded Israel about expansion of "settlements."

It turns out that Mr. Smith's all-powerful Israel lobby is nothing more than a menacing chimera of his own imagining.

As for Charles W. Freeman Jr., it was his views, not the dreaded "Israel lobby," that derailed his appointment to the National Intelligence Council.

For example, Chinese human rights groups were Mr. Freeman's most vocal critics because they disapproved of his tolerance of Communist China's suppression of democratic dissent. And after the terrorist slaughter of Americans in Washington and New York on 9/11, Mr. Freeman said, "What 9/11 showed is that if we bomb people, they bomb back."

Most Americans familiar with Mr. Freeman's opinions probably do not share Mr. Smith's disappointment that Mr. Freeman's appointment to an important security position has been derailed.

Michael D. Carlis, Baltimore

I was incredulous after reading Ron Smith's column, especially about his statement that the Israel lobby "controls Congress."

I have followed the controversy over Charles W. Freeman Jr.'s appointment closely, and it is clear to me that what most concerned members of Congress were Mr. Freeman's ties to Saudi Arabia and his service on the board of the Middle East Policy Council, funded partly Saudi Arabia, and as director of the China National Overseas Oil Corp.

Mr. Freeman and his defenders accuse the "Israel lobby" of destroying his nomination. But I believe he withdrew because he wanted to avoid further investigation into his prior associations, writings and statements.

Norma Fenves, Rockville

While some talk-radio stations condone and even encourage vitriolic speech, The Baltimore Sun's Commentary page should maintain some standards for reasoned argument.

Rather than proceeding this way, however, Ron Smith's column resorted to paranoid conspiracy theories and did not discuss, in any detail, the substantive objections to the selection of Charles W. Freeman Jr. to head the National Intelligence Council.

In fact, as Newsweek has reported, one of Mr. Freeman's most severe critics was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was more infuriated by his apologies for Chinese human rights violations and oppression in Tibet than by his stance on Israel.

That said, a pro-Israel lobby has every right to oppose a nominee, just as any other lobbying organization might do.

But to characterize a pro-Israel lobby as nefarious is nothing short of incendiary.

Abe Novick, Towson

The writer is a columnist for the Baltimore Jewish Times.

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