At a time that the Biden Administration is attempting to clinch a deal with Iran and antisemitism is rising in America to the highest level of documented reports of anti-Jewish harassment, vandalism, and violence, let’s go back two decades and examine significant but forgotten catalysts eroding support for Israel. This should remind us that every advance the enemies of Israel make will be followed by an attempt to encroach even further.
From the time of the Iraq invasion in 2003, the executive branch of the U.S. government repeatedly targeted Jews and Jewish organizations based on their political views. For the first time, the FBI, DOJ, and IRS were weaponized to selectively weaken and destroy pro-Israel organizations in order to advance unpopular Middle East policy that was at odds with the views of the majority of American voters and therefore could not be enacted via Congressional legislation and Senate-approved treaties. The State Department and CIA were also in on these efforts.
In 2004, just when Iran’s nuclear weapons program was drawing increasing attention from the Bush Administration, lobbyists for AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and a Pentagon analyst were implicated in a fabricated spy scandal, supposedly involving treasonous acts on behalf of Israel and against American interests in Iran. Federal prosecutors indicted both AIPAC’s longtime director and deputy director of foreign policy issues on bogus espionage charges in 2005 that were only dropped a full four years later.
In a 2010 Tablet Magazine piece, Lee Smith described how the U.S. counter-intelligence community took up the failed, decades-long effort by media and academics to undermine solid American support for Israel by criminalizing legitimate, pro-Israel advocacy in Washington: “For decades, those who work in academia or the news media have used plenty of methods to challenge and criticize the American consensus over Israel. But those who work in official Washington have taken up an even more meaningful weapon: the criminalization of policy disputes.” The most obvious example were the two AIPAC employees who were the target of an FBI sting operation.
As usual, Caroline Glick’s reporting (“A Cautionary Tale,” May 4, 2009, The Jerusalem Post) presents the fullest picture and alarming take-home messages:
Rosen and Weissman (the two AIPAC employees) were approached by Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin (who happens to be Catholic). Franklin asked them to use their connections with the National Security Council to make then-president George W. Bush aware of Iran’s central role in the insurgency in Iraq and of its swift progress in its nuclear program. He felt that this information was being obfuscated by the CIA and the State Department in their briefings to the President. After that meeting, Franklin was approached by the FBI, which had been wiretapping his conversations, and was compelled to entrap Rosen and Weissman in a sting operation.
He was given false information relating to a supposed imminent threat to the lives of Israeli agents operating in Iraqi Kurdistan which he passed to Weissman and Rosen, who in turn, passed it on to Naor Gillon, then serving at the Israeli embassy. It was this incident that spurred the CBS report and the accusations that Weissman and Rosen were Israeli spies. Rosen and Weissman were indicted under the 1918 Espionage Act – a law that had not been enforced since World War I – and accused of “conspiracy to communicate national defense information to people not entitled to receive it.”
[T]he decision to prosecute Weissman, Rosen, and Franklin was clearly political – and deeply discriminatory. In speaking to Franklin and acting on the information he provided them, Weissman and Rosen did nothing that lobbyists and journalists in Washington don’t do every day of the year. By selectively choosing to enforce an arguably defunct law against them – and against no one else – the FBI and the Justice Department and whatever forces in the State Department the CIA and elsewhere that supported them made clear that the U.S. government will treat pro-Israel forces in Washington differently than everyone else.
This politically motivated prosecution was wildly successful. It did not lead to a Rosen or Weissman conviction, but that was never the point. The prosecutors – and those faceless bureaucrats pulling the strings – managed not only to drag Weissman’s and Rosen’s names through the mud for five years, but they also succeeded in casting a pall of criminality and treason across the whole pro-Israel community and the hawks in the Pentagon that tended to agree with them on matters of national security policy.
The Obama Administration finally dropped the doomed indictment against the AIPAC former employees (who were forced to resign) in 2009. Next, the Obama Administration’s IRS began to single out conservative groups and pro-Israel organizations, a development which we will explore in a subsequent column.