- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 15, 2005

There have been hundreds, even thousands, of articles in the American press regarding an FBI investigation involving the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

While the reports imply or assert various charges, none have in fact been lodged despite the more than yearlong investigation. While information has dribbled out, it is still hard to discern exactly what wrong has allegedly been committed that would justify this highly publicized case.

Despite confidence that there is no substance to the allegations, the level of concern among leaders and members of the Jewish community is increasing. Why?

I think it is safe to say American Jews are among the most patriotic and loyal of U.S. citizens. Certainly this is true of those who are the targets of this investigation.

As a community, we respect the authority of government and support the rule of law. Historical realities have loaded on us such a great deal of baggage that when a Jew is charged, particularly in such sensitive areas, it is seen as a communal, not just a personal, matter.

In recent months there have been repeated stories about the “neocons,” often a code word for Jews, or widespread canards placing the onus on Jews for everything from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to the war in Iraq.

The implicit references to “dual loyalty” cannot be overlooked, especially when reliable studies show a significant percentage of Americans still believe this baseless and bigoted idea. American Jews care about Israel and advocate proudly in support of the special U.S.-Israel relationship. So do many other Americans with historical or ethnic ties to other homelands overseas. The effectiveness of that advocacy has raised resentment, jealousy and wild mythologies. These are among part of the context for reaction to the AIPAC investigation.

There are many questions why after such a long period there have only been selected leaks and why, after AIPAC fully cooperated, it was necessary for seven FBI agents, with CNN waiting at the door as they departed, to stage a raid for voluntarily offered information.

The root of the concern harkens back to Leslie Stahl’s original breathless report on CBS’ nationwide broadcast the night of Friday, Aug. 27. That initial account asserted espionage was involved and that a Pentagon “mole” was working with AIPAC. The CBS Web site carried a headline, “The FBI believes it has ‘solid’ evidence that the suspected mole supplied Israel with classified materials that included secret White House policies and deliberations on Iran.”

In the following days, the story kept changing to the alleged transfer of secret documents, to the mishandling of classified information, to ever lesser charges. Immediately, there were some who likened it to the Pollard affair and others who saw it as part of the turf battles within the administration. There were no official statements from administration sources. Some members of Congress shied away from comment, while many called for investigation of the probe.

The Jewish organizations, confident of AIPAC’s assurances that there was no substance to any of these charges, rallied to its support. So did the members of AIPAC in public and private ways. They were bolstered by the appearances of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice at a major AIPAC event in October, after the revelations, and by President George W. Bush’s address to the AIPAC annual conference a few months earlier while the investigation was well under way.

But damage was done and certainly the Pat Buchanans rushed to take advantage of it. Mr. Buchanan said on a national television show, “We need to investigate whether there is a nest of Pollardites in the Pentagon who have been transmitting American secrets through AIPAC, the Israel lobby, over to … the Israel Embassy to be transferred to Mr. Sharon.” While these comments were repudiated by one of his fellow panelists, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, another — then Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat — chose not to respond even when the program’s host asked him to do so.

While the early speculation continues about the true motivations behind the investigation, it clearly has crossed the line of the acceptable.

The latest revelations by investigative journalist Edwin Black and others suggested agents took advantage of a scared, lower-level, non-Jewish Defense Department employee to set up AIPAC and others. including Richard Perle and CBS producer Adam Ciralsky.

The case has already taken a toll. Jews working in government have told of the pressure they feel and of unpleasant experiences. Those seeking to spread venomous anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views have found temporary camouflage. AIPAC has been forced to divert resources and time from its ongoing work. All this before a single charge has been brought.

We do not want a cover-up. If there was wrongdoing, let it be exposed. We are confident there was none and that the allegations bandied about will prove false.

We want to see this case concluded, that it not be allowed to “hang out there” as did the “Agent X,” the “mole” and other past unfounded charges against Israel that were never repudiated.

Neither AIPAC nor the Jewish community will be cowed into silence or to in any way lessen our commitment to working on behalf of the interests of the United States and its democratic ally, Israel. There is no sinister plot, but a reaffirmation of democratic values in a system that is uniquely American.

The American people identify with Israel based on common values and worldviews. And no fabricated charges or allegations can undermine these fundamental bonds or commitments.

MALCOLM HOENLEIN

Executive vice chairman

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

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