Another American Aleihum on Israel

The Israel lobby for journalistsAn aleihum in colloquial Hebrew (or rather, as borrowed from Arabic) means a piling-on, an unreasoned attack. This is what we have been seeing in recent days with horrifying scare stories emanating from the US Administration about “alarming, even terrifying levels” of Israeli spying against the US.

Israel has been trying to steal secrets from the US, its principal protector and benefactor, but also occasional rival, ever since the inception of the Jewish state in 1948, and even before. But according to the latest issue of Newsweek, quoting Obama administration officials, these activities have “crossed red lines” rarely encountered in the past.

In the words of one Congressional aide, with access to classified briefings in January on the subject, Israel’s behaviour was “very sobering…?alarming…?even terrifying”. Israel, it would appear, is after everything it can lay its hands on: not just diplomatic and policy documents, but industrial and military technology. The means include Israeli trade missions to the US, joint ventures between Israeli and American companies and, presumably, spying by Israeli intelligence agencies.

And yet in the same article malicious allusions to the sinister “Israel lobby” in Washington are debunked:

The new claims coincide with stalled efforts by Israel to secure admission to the US visa waiver programme, from which 38 countries currently benefit. Hitherto, the assumption was that two issues were causing the hold-up on Capitol Hill: accusations of discrimination against Arab- and Muslim-Americans seeking entry to Israel, and a growing number of young Israelis who overstay tourist visas and work illegally in the US. Now, however, a third problem looms at least as large – the worry of US national security agencies that any loosening would make it easier for Israeli spies to enter the country.

On the face of it, the delay is still surprising, given the legendary influence that the Israel lobby wields among US lawmakers (influence that once prompted the right-wing gadfly and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan to describe Capitol Hill as “Israeli-occupied territory”).

But if spying is involved, such influence would seem to have its limits. “They thought they could just snap their fingers,” a Congressional staffer told Newsweek, and Israel’s friends would get the business done, bypassing the immigration authorities and the Department of Homeland Security. But not so.

Nor has it been so in the case of Jonathan Pollard,…

This being the Independent, the article adds its own aleihum into the aleihum by mentioning now long-debunked accusations about other Israeli spies:

In 2001 dozens of Israelis were arrested or held on suspicion of being part of a giant spy ring, and a US government report after 9/11 concluded that Israel ran the most aggressive espionage operation against the US of any ally. Three years later, two officials of Aipac, America’s most powerful pro-Israel lobby group, were charged with spying, for passing to Israel official documents on US policy towards Iran. The case was dropped in 2009 – but how many others have been, or will be, quietly brushed under the carpet can only be guessed at.

Israel has reacted furiously to these outrageous accusations:

Israel’s political establishment is responding forcefully to accusations that its intelligence services spies on American leadership.


Israeli leaders sought an official US response this weekend that would either condemn or substantiate the accusation.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who holds the intelligence portfolio in the Netanyahu government, accused “someone of trying to maliciously and intentionally harm relations between Israel and the United States.”

Steinitz “unequivocally” denied the report, featured in Newsweek magazine, as having “no basis” in fact.

But the initial report was followed by one that detailed alleged US efforts to “cover up” Israel’s spying on then vice president Al Gore in 1998. It claimed that the US Secret Service caught an Israeli “agent” in an air duct in the process of bugging the vice president’s hotel room.


US officials have declined to comment on the Newsweek report. Its contents could not be independently verified by The Jerusalem Post.

“There is nothing at all to that type of report,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Israel Radio last week.

“Israel is very careful, and does not participate in anything even similar to spying [in the US].”

Former Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin also dismissed the allegations.

“Israel is certainly not spying in the United States,” Yadlin said. “This is a former Military Intelligence head telling you this. If you bring all of the past Military Intelligence chiefs from the past 29 years, since the of [the arrest of Jonathan] Pollard, or the past heads of the Mossad, they will tell you the same .”

Yadlin said he expects the leaders of the US intelligence community to address the American public in response to the report, and to “either say that this is baseless, or present facts.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called the accusations malicious and baseless:

Senior cabinet officials on Wednesday angrily dismissed as baseless an article that appeared on the Newsweek web site accusing Israel of extensive spying in the US saying that “Israel is as likely to stop spying here [in the US] as it is to give up matzo [sic] for Passover.”

“There is nothing at all to that type of report,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Israel Radio. “Israel is very careful, and does not participate in anything even similar to spying” in the US.

These claims, Liberman continued, were the “inventions of some people in the US who are interested in harming Israeli-US relations.”

Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz also unequivocally denied the reports, saying that after the Jonathan Pollard affair some 30 years ago, Israel stopped all spying operations in the US.

“As intelligence minister, I say unequivocally and clearly that these accusations have no basis at all,” Steinitz said. “Israel does not spy in the US, does not enlist spies in the US, and does not do intelligence gathering in the US.”

What is even as egregious as the unsubstantiated claims, said one Israeli official, is the metaphor employed by the author of the story, Jeff Stein, who wrote that Israel was as unlikely to give up spying in the US as it would give up eating matza on Passover.

“That sentence is just as unacceptable as if someone would write, ‘the Americans are about as unlikely to stop invading Muslim lands as they are to stop slaughtering turkeys on Thanksgiving.’” the official said.

“That sentence would be considered somewhat racist,” the official said. “Then why is the parallel sentence about Israel and spying and matza considered okay by Newsweek.”

Saying that being deceitful and spying in the US is as natural for Israel, that it as much an article of faith as eating matza, “is a very disturbing metaphor,” he said.

But what has triggered this sudden “alarm” and terror at Israeli spying in the first place?  And why now?

The Algemeiner reveals that the source for the accusation is a certain Paul Pillar, a retired CIA officer with a record of supporting BDS:

Paul Pillar, a retired CIA intelligence officer and the main named source in this week’s Newsweek article, ‘Israel Won’t Stop Spying on the U.S.,’ which was rejected by Israeli officials, is also an outspoken supporter of the American Studies Association boycott of Israeli universities, according to an article he wrote for The National Interest.“As a matter of intent, justice, legality, and morality, the recent decision by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions is a righteous action,” Pillar wrote in December.

[Ed’s. note: I wrote about the ASA boycott here]

In his article supporting the ASA boycott, Pillar said, ”The government of Israel, while paying lip service to the idea of a Palestinian state, occupies indefinitely, and continues to colonize, land that Israel conquered in a war it initiated 46 years ago and is home to Palestinian Arabs, and in so doing is depriving Palestinians not only of self-determination but of most of their political and civil rights as well as keeping them in economic subjugation.”

“Israel is the occupier. It is easily the most powerful state in the region. It is in control. The Israeli government could make such a settlement a reality within weeks if it decided to. It instead prefers to cling to conquered land rather than to make peace, and to continue the colonization that threatens to put a peace out of reach.”

The Jewish Independent, which flagged Pillar’s column in the wake of the controversy over his comments in Newsweek, said, “This, folks, is Newsweek’s source on how the Zionist spies are undermining America.”

The publication said the Newsweek article, written by Jeff Stein for his ‘SpyTalk’ column, was reminiscent of the anti-Semitic accusations of the hundred-year old French ‘Dreyfus Affair,’ when a Jew was accused of spying to throw attention away from internal corruption.

“There are many species of antisemitism, and as history progresses, they are becoming numerous, but this one has been around for several centuries,” The Jewish Independent wrote. “It has the aroma of a campaign generated by a politico-military establishment against the foreigner Jew, the swarthy Johnny-come-lately meddling in our affairs. There are no specific charges, but there are heaping insinuations about how those Israelis are taking advantage of our generosity, biting the very hands that feed them.

”Stein’s article was built mostly around unnamed sources, with the exception of Pillar and a named FBI source.


While the Newsweek article focuses on Israeli spying, the core of the issue was actually about harmonizing visa processes to allow Israelis quicker access into the United States.Last month, New York Congresswoman Grace Meng and others pressed the U.S. State Department to report data that showed that 32 percent of Israelis aged 21 to 27 were refused B-2 tourist visas in 2013, double the 16 per cent refused in 2009.Rather than a question of spying, Meng, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “The Department conceded that efforts to spot and prevent visa abuse is what led to the increase.”

Read the rest of the article. The whole story is indeed alarming and terrifying – for Israelis. A biased newspaper, with biased sources and a biased reporter, have twisted a simple technical visa-requirement problem (electronically readable passports) into a Dreyfuss-like accusation of spying against an ally, something that is highly likely to whip up anti-Israel sentiment, antisemitism, and ultimately violence against israel and its supporters.

Shame on Paul Pillar. Shame on Newsweek. Shame on Jeff Stein. Shining examples of media bias and distorting the truth at its worst.

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7 Responses to Another American Aleihum on Israel

  1. Rob Harris says:

    Anne, I think a very similar story came out around three years ago but it was debunked as being by a prejudicial source – unfortunately the good Algemeiner article didn’t reference it

    I think this is a manifestation of an old anti-Semitic libel with a New Anti-Semitism motif but it is Israel in place of the Jews. Thus, we have the paranoia of Arab countries over a variety of wild-life, Iranian executions, and latterly in various Western countries, when we hear of pro-Palestinians defaming Israel, and the undue influence of the “Israeli (AKA Jewish) lobby. In articles about these issues, Israel can be emphasised in odd ways when it is a completely unnecessary aspect to the story, e.g.

    By contrast, it is a bit of a laugh that pro-Palestinian Americans complain about Israeli spying, considering the way in which the US has been caught out spying on its allies, and monitoring civilian foreign traffic, to the extent that it does. Rice ordered a broad spectrum spying operation against Israel at the end of 2008 as wikileaks subsequently attested. There is so much wind about Pollard but Yosef Amit, a former IDF military intelligence major who was convicted of spying for the United States in 1987. Then there is also another fascinating story about Israel’s “allies” that begs more investigation but I’m unsure of its veracity.

    • anneinpt says:

      I’m pretty sure you’re right Rob about this story having surfaced before. When I have time I’ll search it out. Certainly you’re correct as to the antisemitic motivation of the accusers, and of course it’s well known and documented, even here on this blog, how Israel has become the “Jew among the nations”.

      Re the spying itself I wrote some time ago about American spying against Israel and their hypocrisy re Pollard. The link you bring is fascinating. I’ve read reviews of the book but never the book itself. It sounds rather scary to be honest!

    • anneinpt says:

      As I said in my comment above, and as you correctly recalled, American accusations against Israel of spying are nothing new, and seem to get wheeled out for purely political motivations every so often when they feel Israel needs to be reined in or “punished” for not surrendering fast enough.

      One of the most famous incidents was mentioned in the Independent article that I quoted from in my post: the Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal. Just a short quote from the Wikipedia page:

      While prosecutors said several 2009 court rulings would have made it almost impossible to obtain a guilty verdict and forced disclosure of large amounts of classified information, defense lawyers and some legal experts said the government was wrong in the first place for trying to criminalize the kind of information horse-trading that long has occurred in Washington. Steve J. Rosen, AIPAC’s then-policy director, said he met with senior government officials all the time.[3]

      My recollection of having written about American spying against Israel was also correct. Here is the post I wrote back in December: America spies extensively on Israel but Pollard still languishes in jail.

      So all in all, the Americans are two-faced and hypocritical. We should transfer the “perfidious” label from Albion to America!

  2. Reality says:

    I feel as if I’ve just read about an American blood libel.As far as I know we share intelligence info with the USA. I’m sure we could report something along similar lines about US spying on us.But then that would “insult”the administration wouln’t it?

    • anneinpt says:

      Not quite a blood libel, but a Dreyfuss affair to be sure. And hypocritical too, as I wrote in my comment above in response to Rob.

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