The discredited Anthony Weiner (soon to resign, unless he goes the
“thirty-days-of-therapy-and-now-I’m-cured” route) and his debacle raise an
interesting question about the Jewish community at large: should we continue to
support and defend an unabashed supporter of Israel, notwithstanding his
infamy? Does loyalty to the tribe – and the good works that a public person
does – overcome the personal degradation and embarrassment he brought on
himself and others?
For many liberals, the answer is clear. Weiner’s scandalous behavior should be overlooked (if not excused altogether) because he’s “fought for” important liberal causes, in the words of one D-list celebrity. The demise of Weiner, this theory goes, affects more than his own personal career, but also the success of a number of initiatives to which Weiner has dedicated his public life, and for which he
became known as an outspoken, brazen, and even arrogant advocate. Should Jews adopt the same approach, seeing as Weiner has long endorsed a strong pro-Israel line – Israel’s right of self-defense; calling for bans on arms sales to Saudi
Arabia, supporters of terrorism; opposing entry to “Palestinian” leaders,
albeit unelected; and castigating the New York Times for its anti-Israel bias?
He represents a district that is strongly pro-Israel (the district coincidentally
in which I used to live in Queens, although Weiner represented another district
back then). So, does he get a pass ? No.
Support for Israel should be, and is, grounded in morality and justice. It is certainly not a sop to pushy and wealthy Jews, as our enemies would have it. There simply aren’t enough Jews or Jewish money in America to make either the critical component in championing Israel’s cause. Thus is it clear why Americans have long been supportive of Israel’s rights and claims and impressed by its narrative, and why Americans with a passionate belief in the Bible are among Israel’s strongest supporters. Such support is rooted in shared values and common goals, and even the romance of the history of the Jewish people that returned to its homeland and reclaimed its sovereignty – as prophesied in the Bible – after nineteen centuries of exile.
While support for Israel should not be taken for granted, it should also not be perceived as an act of charity or compassion. It is simply the natural expression of all people who esteem justice and/or take the Bible seriously. Support for Israel has therefore always been bipartisan. Even though, today, such backing is much more enthusiastic among Republicans than among Democrats, that is true in the grass roots but not among the political class – where lovers of Israel are found on both sides of the aisle in large numbers. And while the pro-Israel community is based in the Jewish world, it could not possibly have the impact it does on American life if the number of non-Jewish pro-Israelites did not dwarf the number of committed Jewish devotees. We make a mistake in thinking that support for Israel is a favor, or limited to a small group, or precarious; it is none
of the above. It is elementary, widespread and reliable in the United States,
and the testimony of many non-Jewish politicians that they feel that Israel’s
fate is ultimately America’s fate – and that America will be judged by its
commitment to Israel – is sincere and pervasive. And, again, the more
religious-based the sentiment, the stronger it is.
The mystique of the Jewish people is based on our status as the People of the Book, a nation distinguished by G-d to transmit His moral notions to mankind. Our standing in the world is premised on the laws and morality of the Torah, which constitutes our wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. While supporters of Israel number in their ranks both the chaste and the lecherous, it is far better – and far more salubrious and persuasive – if the public face of the pro-Israel community consists of many of the former, and none of the latter. It is just more representative of who we are as a people and what values we wish to project, and for which a Jewish state is a moral imperative.
We have to be a little more sophisticated, and mature, than to simply defend the indefensible – especially when almost all sensible, decent people have turned on him – just because he is on our team and plays one role well. That methodology is characteristic of ethnic groups that are less secure, and likely less worthy, of public sympathy for their causes. It was Cordell Hull, FDR’s Secretary of State, who allegedly said of the brutal Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, an American ally: “He’s an SOB, but he’s our SOB,” an attitude that informed American foreign policy for decades with decidedly mixed results.
It should not be our attitude. Anthony Weiner’s reprehensible and bizarre conduct taint his public life even as it has devastated his private one. He needs to repent, make amends, and recover some sense of normalcy – spiritual and personal – so he can be a constructive member of society in years to come. That he is pro-Israel should not be a reason to overlook his sins or preserve his career. Someone else – undoubtedly equally or more pro-Israel – will succeed him and be a more effective spokesman and leader. And this scandal can become just a sordid footnote in the annals of our nation.
You could ask the same question about Jonathan Pollard who commited a crime for money. Yes, he is being punished way too severely for the crime he did commit; however, putting his picture with that of Gilad Shalit, a real hero, just causes the Jewish community to be accused of the “favoritism” you refer to. While you unabashedly bash liberals, you are way too soft on the other side of the political spectrum. How about a little objectivity here.
A Middle of the Road Moderate who thinks out positions objectively
To suggest that Pollard committed his crime for money is false and patently absurd. No one with any familiarity with the Pollard case – pro or con – seriously suggests that. Gilad Shalit was also paid. What’s the relevance ?
This is similar to the lady in Oregon who was alledgedly attacked by Al Gore.
“As it was, she said, even friends of hers who had voted for Gore didn’t necessarily support her.”
Tyrants get and keep power through fear and secrecy, and are exposed and defeated when the light is shined on them.
To clarify: of course Pollard was paid (a relatively paltry amount). He was an Israeli agent. Why shouldn’t he be paid ? But the suggestion that he was motivated by money is absurd. The amount he was paid was so disproportionate to the going rate for spies – see Walker, Ames, et al, who were paid millions.
“Why shouldn’t he be paid?” Well, if he provided Israel with classified information at least partly because of the money, then you’re right, why shouldn’t he have been paid. But if he was doing it solely out of concern for Israel’s security and belief that Israel deserved to have the information, well then that’s your answer. He shouldn’t have been paid because it’s inconsistent with the notion that he was spying for altruistic reasons for him to have accepted payment from Israel of $15,000, a gold watch, and a monthly stipend. All of which seems to suggest that Pollard may have had mixed motives. Further cloudying the picture are the reports that he also provided classified information to Pakistan. If those reports are accurate, it’s difficult to believe that he also had altruistic reasons for providing classified information to Pakistan and further suggests that financial remuneration was at least a motivating factor in his spying.
In the end, only Pollard (and G-d) truly knows for certain what his motivations were. I don’t know for certain, Avi doesn’t know for certain, and neither do you. Yet you appear to be the only attacking someone else’s suggestion on this point as “absurd”.
There is a third possibility that you fail to consider: that Israel paid Pollard not because he sought the money but because it was in their interest to have him portrayed, if caught, like a mercenary rather than an ideologue. That tactic would have worked had Pollard been given a normal sentence like others convicted of passing classified information to an ally of the United States, i.e., 0-4 years. It also enabled Israel to claim for years – falsely – that Pollard was not their agent, but simply a rogue operator. The plan failed, of course, because Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment and thus Israel finally admitted in 1997 that Pollard had been their agent all along.
Is that what happened ? Think about it.
The accusations that he gave information to Pakistan, China, the USSR, etc. are all bogus, and this information I have from the highest authorities.
OK, I’ll consider your third possibility. As I said, I don’t know Pollard’s true motives, so I won’t rule out even your theory, much as it strikes me as a stretch. Certainly I won’t reflexively reject it as “false and patently absurd.”
I don’t know what you mean when you say that the “normal sentence” for passing classified information to a US ally is 0-4 years. The statute to which Pollard pled guilty, 18 USC 1794, “Gathering or delivering defense information to aid foreign government,” distinguishes only between whether the information was provided during wartime or peace and whether or not the provision of the information caused the death of a US agent. There’s no distinction made in that statute or in any other relevant statute as to whether the country that received the information is an ally or non-ally of the US. It’s a fair question whether such a distinction should exist in the law, but the bottom line is that it simply does not, and such has been true since long before the Pollard case.
Putting aside the statute, do you seriously believe that the punishment for providing classified US government information to an ally is or should be only 0 to 4 years? I highly doubt you can point to any instance of such a light sentence given by US courts to a convicted spy (or one who pled guilty). And do you seriously believe that someone who provides classified US government information to another country, albeit a foreign government that’s a US ally, should be sentenced to no time at all (or just several years) in prison?
You can look up the sentences meted out to US spies for allies (Taiwan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.) and you will see. E.g., the Saudi spy, Michael Schwartz ( a non-Jewish naval officer) admitted his crimes and spent not a day in prison (dishonorably discharged from the Navy, lost rank and pension). Dr. Abdel Kader Helmy passed ballistic missile secrets to Egypt in 1986, sentenced to four years in prison, and was relieased after two years. Even Clayton Roundtree, the Marine who gave the Soviets (an enemy) American secrets in 1987 was sentenced to 25 years (less than Pollard) and was released after nine years. Pollard is the only exception – convicted of passing classified information to an ally and sentenced as if he was convicted of espionage for an enemy.
You may not like the facts, but those are facts.
You wrote above, in response to a point I made, that you have information “from the highest authorities” that the claims that Pollard provided classified information to countries other than israel are “all bogus”. Well it’s being reported today that the the former FBI agent on the case says that Pollard admitted after his arrest that he attempted to spy for another country. And the person who supervised the case as chief of the Justice Department’s counterespionage section says that country was Australia. See http://www.newsmax.com/RonaldKessler/Jonathan-Pollard-spy-Australia/2011/09/19/id/411526. So perhaps you should check in with your high authorities because they seem to have provided you with misinfornmation. Or will you simply write off today’s news reports as sheer lies by ex-FBI and Justice Department officials?
Often times in life the messengers actions carry a much more powerful tune than their message. I think you are right in waiting until he makes his amends before jumping back in his corner.
Pretty funny that your “facts” come from an article written by Aish.com. You even copied their words. Here’s the article link, as you know http://www.aish.com/ci/s/48899682.html. Nothing against Aish, but they’re hardly the best source of facts about the US legal system’s convictions of spies.
Had you looked to the original sources for the facts on the examples you cite, such as the reported court decision on Dr. Abdel Kader Helmy’s appeal, that’s at 951 F.2d 988, you would have seen that he was convicted for a violation of the Arms Export Control Act. He was NOT charged with or convicted of passing along classified information, as Pollard was.
Your statement above, for which I challenged you to provide an example, was “…had Pollard been given a normal sentence like others convicted of passing classified information to an ally of the United States, i.e., 0-4 years…”. Dr. Helmy was not convicted of passing along classified information, so his light sentence does not support your statement. Your example (or should I say, Aish.com’s example) of Michael Schwartz fails for the same reason.
Yes- DOJ is lying about Australia. And aren’t you curious about how this accusation can arise….hmm…. more than 25 years later ?
And regarding Helmy and Schwartz, your facts are also wrong. They both pleaded guilty to passing classified information to an ally.