The Chicken And The Egg

NJJNews Editorial, April 15, 1999 - David Twersky, Editor

Hanging over the report that former intelligence official Adam Ciralsky is preparing to sue the Central Intelligence Agency over alleged anti-Semitism (see story by Matt Dorf, copy follows below) is the Jonathan Pollard affair.

The Ciralsky attorney who leaked the CIA memos to the press last week is Neal Sher, the former Justice Department Nazi-hunter, former director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a syndicated columnist.

When we asked Sher to speak about the Ciralsky case a few months ago, he demurred, arguing that he was close to a deal with the CIA. Now the news reports indicate that the deal Sher hoped to achieve for his client has fallen through.

According to an April 9 report on National Public Radio, the CIA's "documents demonstrate CIA officials had been suspicious of Ciralsky since his arrival at the agency. The suspicions centered on his religious background, questioning whether his family had donated to Israeli causes through organizations like the United Jewish Appeal." In other words, contributing to the UJA, or sending your kid to Israel for the summer, can blow your career opportunity in United States intelligence.

"If contributing to the UJA and Israel Bonds made one suspicious, if it questions your loyalty, then the vast majority of the Jewish community in the United States would be under suspicion," Sher told NPR. "If there's evidence that he violated the laws, they ought to take action against him. But there's nothing here."

Under CIA interrogation, Ciralsky was asked "why he had failed to report that when he had gone on a high school trip to Israel at age 15, the trip chaperone was Israeli, and why he had failed to disclose that his college Hebrew teacher was Israeli." In other words, an Israeli counselor at camp could also ruin the future of an American Jewish James Bond.

This is big stuff. If these reports are true, and if their meaning and significance as reported on NPR stand up, it will mean that the U.S. intelligence community is severely tainted when it comes to information about American Jews and Israel. Whether the CIA has a real obsession with American Jews and Israel read "dual loyalty" has profound implications. Since the Wye Israeli-Palestinian peace conference, the CIA is charged with monitoring Palestinian and Israeli compliance with the peace accords. Also at Wye, CIA Director George Tenet successfully used a resignation threat as a de facto veto of President Bill Clinton's inclination to release Pollard.

But even if true, the question remains which came first, Pollard's spying or the CIA's obsession with Jewish ties to Israel? NPR's Nina Totenberg, who broke the Ciralsky story, quotes an intelligence source saying, "You have no idea what it was like in the wake of the Jonathan Pollard spy case. Every Jew was looked at with suspicion, and still is." But was it only in the wake, or also in the prelude?

There are a number of reasons to suspect the worst. Pollard tells us that following his arrest in the mid-'80s he was shown a list of American Jews and was asked to identify those who had helped him spy for Israel. As we have pointed out, U.S. intelligence continues to search for a "Mr. X" Israeli super spy in Washington. And finally, the flurry of reports about Chinese Americans spying for China has not produced a similar mind-set with regard to that ethnic group. Instead, according to The Washington Post, the agency is committed to further recruitment among Chinese Americans.

American Jewish support for Israel cannot provide a pretext for a witch hunt.

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