November 28, 2001

Feds holding 60 Israelis in connection with 9/11 – Why?

Haven't we had enough of Israel? The other day, an explosive device planted near a school by Israeli army commandos killed five Palestinian kids: Mohammed Na'im Astal, 14; his brother, Akram Na'im Astal, 7; Aniz Idris Astal, 11; his brother Omar Idris Astal, 14; and Mohammad Sultan Astal, 12, a cousin. They were blown to smithereens, and not even the shards of their bodies could be found. The children were killed 200 yards from the UN-sponsored school they attended, along a path regularly used by students. Looming over this horrific death scene, the shadow of an Israeli army watchtower guarding the nearby Gush Katif settlement.


Haven't we had enough of Israel? The day after the US announced its new Middle East peace initiative, the Israelis bulldozed more Palestinian homes in Gaza and announced the planned construction of new houses for Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron, thumbing their noses at their American benefactors at a time when the US itself is besieged.


Haven't we had enough of Israel? When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visits Bush at the White House, he plans to "raise the issue of Jonathan Pollard," according to Middle East Newsline. Pollard, you'll remember, is the Israeli spy whose betrayal of American secrets led to the deaths of untold numbers of American agents in the field. Many contend that the Israelis traded the stolen information to the Soviet Union in return for increasing the emigration of Russian Jews to Israel. In "The Case Against Jonathan Pollard," Seymour M. Hersh relates a conversation between the late William J. Casey, then CIA director, and one of his station chiefs, a month after Pollard's arrest. When his subordinate asked why the CIA chief was ordering stepped-up monitoring of an Israeli delegation on a routine visit,

"'He asked if I knew anything about the Pollard case,' the station chief recalled, and he said that Casey had added, 'For your information, the Israelis used Pollard to obtain our attack plan against the USSR, all of it. The coordinates, the firing locations, the sequences. And for guess who? The Soviets.' Casey had then explained that the Israelis had traded the Pollard data for Soviet émigrés. 'How's that for cheating?' he had asked."


When one grasps the enormity of Pollard's betrayal, it is possible to wonder: why wasn't he shot? Yet, Sharon, like his predecessors, is intent on releasing him: furthermore, he is raising the issue at a particularly tense moment in the history of US-Israeli relations. After all, the Israeli Prime Minister just got through accusing the Americans of "appeasing" the Arabs by sacrificing Israel on the altar of a Middle East peace settlement, just as Czechoslovakia was sold out to the Germans in the years leading up to World War II. First he compares an American President in the midst of a crisis to Neville Chamberlain – now he wants to bring up Pollard. What will he do for an encore – build an Israeli settlement on the White House lawn?


November 21 was the sixteenth anniversary of Pollard's arrest, and the week seemed to mark a new upsurge in the movement to release Pollard from his life sentence. In addition to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (a consortium of fifty-five groups), the Reform Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Orthodox Union, the roster of organizations and politicians urging freedom for Pollard includes the sainted Mayor Rudolph Giuliani – and now even the Reverend Al Sharpton.


Sharpton is being wooed by another Pollard supporter, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of the "Kosher Sex" guide for married couples and bosom buddy of mutant pop singer Michael Jackson. Shmuley opines:

"The civil rights movement was not a black issue, it was about human rights. This is not a Jewish issue, it's about human rights. I think Rev. Sharpton can help in this cause. He's a man who is a voice for many who have no voice."

At Shmuley's urging, Pollard wrote to Sharpton, suggesting a meeting:

"I am aware that in the past you have gone on public record stating that the life sentence that I am serving is too harsh, calling for equal justice in my case, and advocating for my release. Your participation in this case is welcome and I look forward to exploring with you the ways in which your enhanced involvement might be most effective."


Sharpton and Pollard might seem like strange bedfellows, at first: after all, the Reverend Al has attacked Jewish merchants in the black community as "interlopers," and been accused of anti-Semitism by his detractors. But when you get right down to it, Pollard's supporters and the Reverend Al's are brothers under the skin. Black victimology and its Jewish equivalent – the doctrine of Zionism – are both organized around the same principle: that past oppression of a minority requires extraordinary present-day remedies, which inevitably violate the rights of the majority.


In the case of the victimologists-of-color, the remedy is affirmative action and the victims are those who lost out in the process: the students and job applicants who would have been rewarded if merit and not race had been the only criterion. According to the dogma of the Jewish victimologists, the remedy for their past oppression is Zionism, the idea of a separate Jewish state in the land of Palestine – and the victims are, among many others, the five Palestinian schoolchildren blasted to bits by an Israeli booby-trap.


US support for Israel has gotten us – what? Our tax dollars bought the explosives that snuffed out those five young lives. We also pay for Israeli settlements that make peace in the Middle East an impossible dream. Without US aid and political support, the Israeli settler-colony would sink like a stone, enveloped by the vicious and incessant tribal warfare that characterizes the whole history of the region. Certainly our support has not earned us the gratitude that one might expect. Instead, the Israeli Knesset held a special session to mark the anniversary of Pollard's incarceration, where, as Israel National News reports, "speakers from across the political spectrum addressed the Knesset and dozens of special guests, each demanding that the U.S. release Pollard."

During the session, one right-wing deputy got up and denounced Sharon because he "didn't have the courage to stand in front of the US President and demand Pollard's immediate release." Sharon cannot afford to lose the support of his ultra-right wing, and, at any rate, cannot fail to do what his Labor predecessor did, and that is lobby for Pollard's release.


To even bring up the Pollard case is to stand accused of anti-Semitism, but in this case it is the Israelis, and their vocal amen corner in the US, who are making this an issue. It is Pollard's numerous supporters in America, as well as in Israel, who have not let us forget him. He is the Mumia Abu Jamal of the Zionist cause, a symbol of Israeli independence and combativeness – even against its ally and devoted sponsor, the US. Just how far this combativeness goes was vividly dramatized by the sinking of the U.S.S. Liberty, in 1967 – another topic, along with the Pollard case, that only alleged "anti-Semites" discuss – and it may go even farther, in light of a strange new twist in the post-9/11 terrorism investigation.


What's interesting, in this regard, is the news that, along with the 1,000 or so Muslim Middle Easterners jailed in the Ashcroft Sweep, 60 Israelis have been picked up and held, not just for routine visa violations, but in connection with the 9/11 investigation. The Washington Post story subhead read: "Government calls Several Cases 'of Special Interest,' Meaning Related to Post-Attacks Investigation." According to the Post, INS officials in Cleveland and St. Louis testified in court that these Israelis were "of special interest to the government" – putting them in the same category as hundreds of mostly Arab men rounded up by the feds since the attacks.

What, exactly, is the meaning of this? In the days and weeks after the twin towers went down, perfervid rumors of Israeli responsibility for the attack roiled some sectors of the Arab media, with the former Imam of New York City's biggest mosque refusing to rule it out. The pro-Israel pundits had a field day with this, pointing to such nonsense as proof positive that the Arab mind was fundamentally and perhaps irreversibly deformed by "Islamo-fascism" and anti-Semitism. But as long as 60 Israeli citizens are being held – under conditions of great secrecy – in connection with the 9/11 investigation, it is no longer tenable to dismiss the possibility of an Israeli angle in this story.


Although the Post story blandly assures us that the Israeli detainees "are observing a time-honored tradition in their country – touring the world after their mandatory service in the Israeli military," we are also informed that "a number of them had served in counterterrorist units in Israel." Well, spying is indeed a time-honored tradition, and something tells me these guys are no ordinary tourists, but since the US Government is keeping mum about everything connected with this investigation, we just don't know. In rounding up untold hundreds of mostly Arab Muslim men, and interviewing thousands more, the Ashcroft Sweep is clearly designed to gather information that might lead them to the remaining conspirators. It could be that the Israelis, or at least some of them, fall into this category: while not being directly involved, maybe they know something. Nothing else could account for the government's "special interest."


A delegation from Israel came to the US warning of some unspecified terrorist threat a few months before 9/11. Add to this persistent stories about the employees of Odigo, an Israeli software company, who received "instant messages" over their computers on the morning of 9/11, and news reports of Israelis picked up by the FBI after neighbors reported them laughing and smiling while they photographed themselves against the backdrop of the burning World Trade Center – and now this.


Taken together, these stories justify at least some suspicion of Israel's role. It is still nonsense – and vicious nonsense – to ascribe the 9/11 horror to "Zionist agents." But now there is at least a hint of Israeli foreknowledge, on some level, which can only be dispelled if and when the government comes clean and lifts the veil of secrecy.


Secret trials, secret evidence, closed military tribunals – many commentators, in decrying these extraordinary measures as unconstitutional, have also pointed out that none of this is necessary, since we already have the legal means to deal with terrorism, as in the case of the first WTC bombing. One would think that, normally, the US would be trying to impress the public that the administration is on the job with this investigation, in addition to building a public case for holding over a thousand detainees.

There is, however, nothing normal about the times we are living in: and, in any case, secrecy is a necessity for those who have something to hide. But in these days of the Internet, and the instant dissemination of information, the gatekeepers have to resort to quasi-legal means to keep the truth from coming out. But it will come out, sooner rather than later – in which case, the question, "Haven't we had enough of Israel?" may be definitively answered.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.


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