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Case Closed?

The spying charges against former AIPAC analyst Steve Rosen were dropped last year, but the anti-Israel spirit that enlivened them, he says, is stronger than ever

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Steve Rosen (left) with his attorney Abbe Lowell, August 16, 2005. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“I wish they’d leave Bibi alone,” said my cab driver, an African-American born-again Christian in his mid-fifties. He was upset about the recent turn in U.S.-Israel relations over the last two weeks and complained all the way to Union Station. “What do they mean Jews can’t build in Jerusalem?” he asked. He grabbed his Bible from the dashboard and handed it to me. “You can find it right here.”

Europeans may believe that Palestine was settled by colonialist interlopers, but to many American ears this is akin to calling God a liar. Americans read the Bible as an authentic document detailing the eternal relationship between the Jews and their historical homeland. There are privileged sectors of the country that cannot comprehend the broad popularity of pro-Israel politics in America—corners of academia and the media that argue that Israel is a liability to U.S. interests. However, especially after 9/11, the rest of this vastly Christian country believes that American interests and those of the Jewish state are in sync, a conviction borne out not only in opinion polls, but electoral polls as well. There is no powerful coterie violating American laws to ensure that the U.S. Congress looks favorably on the Jewish state. If anti-Israel positions pleased voting constituencies, and campaign donors, our elected officials would adopt them as readily as they would spit at babies if such behavior ensured campaign victories.

For decades, those who work in academia or the news media have used plenty of methods to challenge and criticize the American consensus over Israel. But those who work in official Washington have taken up an even more meaningful weapon: the criminalization of policy disputes. Nowhere was this clearer that in the case of Steve Rosen, the former director of foreign policy issues for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who was the target of an FBI sting operation that cost him his job.

In August 2004, Rosen was accused of passing information to the Israeli embassy that he had received from a U.S. Defense Department employee. The case against Rosen, along with that of his fellow AIPAC analyst Keith Weissman, was the twisted fruit of an FBI campaign that sought to prove that supporters of the Jewish state were part of a criminal conspiracy in the service of a foreign government.

“In the American counterintelligence community,” says Rosen, “there is a faction beholden to an ideology that believes Israel spies massively on the U.S. Jewish officials and pro-Israel figures collude in it, and no one does anything about it, because, they believe, Congress is Israeli-occupied territory. So, they find and create as many cases as they can against pro-Israel Jews.”

The case against Rosen was led by David Szady, an FBI counterintelligence official whose 34-year career was marked by charges of anti-Semitism. Still, Rosen resists calling the anti-Israel faction in the counterintelligence community anti-Semites. “I don’t like to use the word. If you call someone an anti-Semite and they have a Jewish friend, it gives them a cheap shield. You know, ‘Mr. X isn’t an anti-Semite, here’s a picture of him at my daughter’s bat mitzvah.’ The reality is they’re obsessed with the theory of a Jewish conspiracy. They see it everywhere.”

Rosen, a robust and thick-chested 67-year-old who, pitched slightly forward with his arms ending in loosely clenched fists, resembles a former boxer more than a man who makes his living at Washington lunch tables like the one we’re sitting at. He’s able to joke about the incompetence of his former persecutors—one of the pieces of evidence against him and Weissman was a video recorded upside down—but there’s nothing funny about what happened to him.

“I was prosecuted for leaks,” says Rosen, “but the people running this crusade use leaks.” It is worth noting that in the U.S. debate over Israel policy, many who claim that our national interest is being undermined by an anti-democratic cabal have themselves subverted the laws of the land to try to make their point. “They have wholesale access to secrets and classified information,” Rosen continues, “and they leak them as part of their campaign, a tsunami of leaks, and they never get prosecuted. I was prosecuted for five years and they got me fired. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. It wasn’t about leaks, it was about being too close to Israel. If you are an enemy of Israel you can leak as much as you want.”

AIPAC, where Rosen worked for 23 years, cut its star policy analyst loose, even as the organization used the FBI’s campaign against him to raise money. The federal charges against Rosen were quietly dropped in May 2009, but he still has a lawsuit pending against his former employers. “AIPAC needs to make it right and settle his lawsuit,” says Larry Hochberg, a friend of Rosen’s who sat on AIPAC’s board for six years. “To completely isolate him the way they did and throw him under the bus was brutal and uncivilized. I felt it was a Jewish betrayal.”

Rosen is now back to work as director of the Middle East Forum’s Washington Project. “It’s a continuation of what he did at AIPAC,” says MEF head Daniel Pipes, “even though we do not have their financial resources.”

Nine months ago, the AIPAC spy scandal was well on its way to becoming just another all-but-forgotten Washington legend, a story told during dessert and brandy. The irony is that just as Rosen’s case was dropped, the underlying premise of the campaign against him—Israel is a detriment to U.S. interests and has gained its place as a friend of America through the actions of a self-interested cabal—became the basis of American Middle East policy.

The last few weeks have been painful for friends of the U.S.-Israel relationship, as Vice President Joe Biden, CENTCOM head General David Petraeus, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have all explained how Israel poses a threat to U.S. interests. These stories were followed by another round of articles carrying denials and clarifications from those who made the initial charges, all of it little comfort to any but those who see only silver linings. According to Rosen, many in Washington policymaking circles, especially those from the Democratic side of the aisle, have tried to put fears to rest, claiming that the storm clouds have passed and all is back to normal between the two countries. Rosen doesn’t believe it.

Obama chose to pick a fight with Israel, Rosen says, and the pattern of his behavior over the last year suggests he will find plenty of further occasions to be angered, disappointed, and offended by America’s erstwhile ally. “This is a crisis that could have happened any day over the last 40 years,” he explains. It is based in a difference in policy between the two sides that dates back to 1980 when Israel passed legislation designating Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the country, a law recognized by no one else in the international community, including Washington. The Americans didn’t like it, and neither did the Palestinians, Rosen says. “But they tolerated it and conducted negotiations. In the past,” he says, “negotiations were premised on overlooking this issue. Yitzhak Rabin built houses and was extolled as a hero of peace when Clinton convened Camp David. This Administration can’t even get proximity talks. Throughout all those productive periods, it wasn’t a primary concern. So, why now? Is Israel building more rapidly? No. Is Israel more provocative? No.”

What’s changed, Rosen says, is analogous to a marriage that suddenly hits the skids. “All along, there are things the husband doesn’t like about the wife and that she doesn’t like about him. Then 50 years later, one of them says this is unacceptable, they’re not going to have dinner, or lunch, or breakfast or intimate relations unless this thing is changed.”

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Eliyahu says:

The State Dept and Obama administration have no international legal ground to stand on except misrepresentations of international law when they denounce Israeli building in Jerusalem, or Judea-Samaria for that matter. The League of Nations confirmed establishment of the Jewish National Home, which was first made international law at San Remo in 1920. No subsequent act of international law has changed that situation nor could it. What we have are misrepresentations of international law that are very widespread and conventionally accepted by many govts for their own reasons, which are not necessarily good ones.

Miri Abramis says:

Things have changed in Israel and America. Both have become more polarized. Rabin was murdered by a religious Jew who was fueled by Bibi and his right wing henchmen. As a leader who knew that one has to deal with enemies to make peace, Rabin was going to make peace with the Palestineans, and Yigal Amir, Bibi and friends knew it and “stopped” him. The alliance between fundamentalist Jews (Israeli and American), AIPAC and fundamentalist Christians for Greater Israel will destroy the soul of Israel (it may already have). Obama offers some hope (if he and the Democrats can resist AIPAC) for Isreal to save its soul, and many Jews and non-Jews, and even Israeli’s are actively supporting him!

Benjamin Entine says:

The larger issue for purposes of Middle East peace should not be whether this hectare of land should go to Israel or to Palestine, in any ultimate accord, but rather, what will be a sufficient resolution, to engage both sides in bringing a viable peace to the region. Sadly, nothing on the horizon has a remote chance of making this a fait accompli.
The rejectionist front will not have its thirst slaked by anything short of Israel’s life-blood. They will exist and continue their activities regardless of who the U.S. installs as Duke of Ramallah–[excuse my slip, I meant President of Palestine]. With great fanfare they will announce the end of the conflict and an era of peace. Except there will be no peace–not until it would be equally offensive to both sides to glorify extremists and honor murderers–as the PA did during Biden’s recent visit, with nary a peep out of Washington.
The retinue of American policy experts, claiming the abandonment of Israel as a panacea for U.S. foreign policy deficits proves nothing more than the shallowness of our policy makers and initiatives.[Remember Condolisa’s comment after Hamas swept the elections she forced on Bush–“Who?”] That America fantasizes peace could ensue, after an imposed settlement [ on Israel] without equal determination to end incitement, that reflexively twists Israel into spasms of defensiveness–it is all so tragically absurd. That the suspicion or prosecution of pro_Israel parties is seen as appropriate, in the absence of real evidence of crime, places Mr. Rosen, in a sadly familiar Jewish quandary–on the wrong end of a double standard–but among solid historical companions. Captain Dreyfus, Nous Voici.

David says:

Case is far from closed and yes, Israel is more provocative, and despite all the rhetoric from Israel, yes they built more and in areas they never have before, such as the Arab neighborhoods of E. Jerusalem.

More importantly, as the write have indicated, all previous US administrations didn’t agree to the settlements but preferred to look the other way while Israel was busy changing realities on the ground.

But the most important factor is, the conflict is becoming a major US national security concern as have been referenced by General Patraeous, Secretary Gates and VP Biden.

Moreover, experience have shown us that looking the other way doesn’t serve US interests in the region nor Israelis, thus this administration drawing lines in the sand is the correct approach this time and if it leads to bigger crisis with the state of Israel, so be it.
The conflict needs to come to an end and if left for the Israelis to bring it there, we will have to wait for the Messiah to come first.

David44 says:

Oh my goodness, Eliyahu. The LEAGUE OF NATIONS determined this FOR ALL TIME in 1920??? THAT is your grand proof of Israel’s unassailable legal case? Just for your information, since 1920 there has been a partition plan sanctioned by the United Nations, the successor of the League, which thus overrode the League’s designations; there has been international recognition of Israel within the 1948 ceasefire lines (excluding Jerusalem), which then overrode the lines designated by the partition plan. And since then there have been numerous judgments and rulings by authoritative international legal bodies, including the International Court of Justice, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the United Nations Security Council, which have confirmed Israel’s validity within and only within those internationally recognized borders. Not a single country or legal body in the entire world recognizes the borders of the Palestine Mandate as the legal boundaries of the state of Israel. Indeed, Israel has never made such a claim herself, as far as I am aware.

But here’s a challenge for you, Eliyahu. Find me one – just one – post-1948 ruling by an international body which supports your case, or even one legal textbook by an international lawyer of recognized standing which endorses it. Because I can find you dozens which reject it, explicitly or implicitly. International law is determined by currently accepted rulings by authoritative bodies, not by dredging around in the back of drawers to come up with some historical document which somehow magically overrides everything that has happened since.

Saul P Heller says:

I was not aware of an FBI sting operation in the case of AIPAC
but it doesn’t surprise me.That the case was closed but we heard nothing from
the media does not surpise either.

I’m very disheartened with Obama’s show of anger at Israel and I made it known
in a letter which I doubt he’ll get to read.He says he listens to
the views of people and since he attended a Seder I asked if he
understood the meaning for Jews of ” Next Year in Jerusalem ”

I wonder if he understood Gaza’s Hamas leader Hassan Nasralla comment
about stopping rocket attacks, quote”It doesn’t serve our purpose,now!”

Greg Williams says:

So . . . how’s all that hope and change working out?

Lou A says:

If all the intentional bodies agreed on the armistice lines as did Israel, the Muslims never did. Why should they benefit after decades of rejection and violence?
Why can other nations acquire land in defensive wars, but the only Jewish country cannot?
Someone bringing the historically anti Semitic red cross into any argument about Israel might want to study history and culture a bit more. Why would the red cross judge anything about Jews fairly with their consistently bias track record. Not hard to make the same points about the UN security council, is it true that Israel is the only country that cannot be on the Security Council?
The neighborhood the third permit in a seven permit process was approved for is a Jewish one; there is no Muslim owned land included in the project area.
Since Jordan militarily conquered Eastern Jerusalem which included the Jewish Quarter, occupied it illegally and forced the Jewish majority out, why is this not repatriated land? Why does Israel have to bargain for mostly Jewish owned land?
I suggest it’s for the same reason the EU spends hundreds of millions of Euros with it’s NGO’s vilifying Israel and promoting terrorists as neutral peace partners…

David44 says:

“If all the intentional bodies agreed on the armistice lines as did Israel, the Muslims never did. Why should they benefit after decades of rejection and violence?”

Because legal borders are not determined by good behavior. But any case your premise is wrong. Israel never accepted the armistice lines as constituting the de jure limits of her territory. (Israel has never actually said what she thinks the exact de jure limits of her territory are, which is another problem.)

“Why can other nations acquire land in defensive wars, but the only Jewish country cannot?”

The answer is that NOWADAYS (since c. 1950) NO nations, Jewish or otherwise, can acquire land in defensive wars. International law used to permit it, but it no longer does. Israel cannot acquire land using a law that was already nearly 20 years obsolete at the point when the land was acquired.

“Since Jordan militarily conquered Eastern Jerusalem which included the Jewish Quarter, occupied it illegally and forced the Jewish majority out, why is this not repatriated land?”

Because although Jordan’s conquest and occupation of the Jewish Quarter was never legally recognized, that land was never legally part of Israel either, and so Israel’s conquest and occupation of it is no more legal than Jordan’s was. Or to be more precise, it has EVEN less claim to legality, because Jordan’s claim was at least recognized by two countries (Britain and Pakistan) – which is two more than have ever recognized Israel’s claim.

And as far as your complaints about the Red Cross and the Security Council go, like it or not, those are two of the bodies whose rulings go towards making up international law. (The Red Cross does so by virtue of being the official guardians of the Geneva Conventions, and so their determinations on the applicability of and possible violations of those conventions carry a great deal of weight.) You can (if you choose) whine that the people who rule on the laws are all biased against Israel, but that doesn’t change the fact that the laws are what they are, and that Israel has repeatedly been ruled to be blatantly and consistently in violation of them.

Marty says:

From an objective perspective, Obama’s handling of the “peace” negotiations has been more detrimental to the cause than all the settlements Israel has built. Negotiations continued for seventeen years while settlement building occurred; they ended within days of Obama’s demand that the construction stop. The reason for this is quite simple: No Palestinian leader can demand less of Israel than the US, so US pressure on Israel actually undermines the prospect of a successful negotiation. We have seen this repeatedly over the last sixty-plus years, something the self-styled “peace advocates” never seem to understand.

Obama has now painted himself into a corner he won’t be able to get out of on his own. I expect he will continue to double down on his losses until he causes a major blow up in the region. He will blame Israel, of course, but the fault lies with him. Whether the media and his coterie of acolytes will point the finger in the right direction will determine whether the prospects for peace in this generation have been destroyed.

The ability to have a diversity of opinion on Israel and the Palestinians is a democratic value. We should be glad to live in a country and to have an Israel that can support a multiplicity of viewpoints. We should also be glad that there is a democratic process for Steven Rosen to redress charges brought against him. That is what is also necessary among the Palestinians. And Fatah has made great strides in this area. They must be supported and be seen as a viable partner or there will be more fundamentalist extremism on the other sides and wars like the one in Gaza will continue. There is nothing wrong with pressuring Netanyahu to call a halt to building new homes for settlers, since he is politically obligated to appease the right wing in Israel. Then he can blame it on Obama (who is probably willing to take the blame), and if he is cagey like Sharon and Rabin were, make it seem as though he had to do it. The question is, is Bibi that smart? Unfortunately the pressure cooker will be ratcheted up with more war on the horizon. Hopefully not the “Big One.”

Amina Khalid says:

Indeed, it is a classical case of “hidden” anti Semitism (do neither like to use the term) allied with Islamist Segregation against the “Jew”.
Organizations such as CAIR with proven ties to terrorism go fine and dandy with full support and no contestation despite of endless leaks, whereas pro Israel supporters are constantly prosecuted by Media, Washington, regardless. Actually, there is nothing ever any pro Israel supporter can do that can be approved by Jew haters- unless Jews convert to Islam for example, and erase the Jewish trace from Earth.
Moreover, when the case is dismissed, still the echoes of the lies are perpetuated by Islamists, many parasites of the left and Jew haters.
Israel was attacked in 1967 and won the war. According to International law, when a nation is attacked, if this nation wins it has the right of the conquered land, Period.
Jews haters, either Nazis, leftists, Islamists or parasites from the Media (in search of public adulation towards them- and therefore guaranteeing their income), struggle to deny that Israel was attacked or for example has been attacked by Islamic terrorists attacks since the 20s- not a new phenomena for to say- by Muslims Nazis or Muslims terrorists (AKA Islamists). Also, this same Media hides with teeth the fact that Muslims were best supporters of Nazis having pledge to build concentration camps in the Jewish land that belongs to the Jews and has been so for more than 3000 years, according to the bible.

David44 says:

“According to International law, when a nation is attacked, if this nation wins it has the right of the conquered land, Period.”

Not according to real-life international law (as opposed to the fake international law propagated by Israel apologists). This, for example, is a quote from Lung-chu Chen, “An Introduction to Contemporary International Law” (2nd ed., New Haven, 2000), p.122:

“Although a minority dissents, it is increasingly conceded that contemporary international law has no scope for the acquisition of territory through conquest or subjugation. It has been asserted that the acquisition of territory resulting from self-defense against an aggressor state is still permissible, since self-defense remains permissible. That argument, however, misconceives the scope of self-defense”.

Or this from Martin Dixon, “Textbook on International Law” (6th ed., Oxford, 2007), p. 161:

“Prior to 1945 … the use of force was perfectly lawful and title to territory acquired through conquest was quite common … From the moment aggressive force became unlawful it has been impossible for a state to acquire title to territory by conquest … In similar vein, it is clear that a state that exercises force in (alleged) self-defence is under a duty to return (or retreat from) any territory of the aggressor state which it has occupied … In such circumstances, although the initial use of force by the defending state would not have been in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the [U.N.] Charter, the subsequent retention of territory when the threat has passed would be unlawful”.

These are standard textbooks on international law, and they are clear that the acquisition of territory through force, whether or not in self-defence, is entirely illegal. Perhaps if supporters of Israel would recognize her real violations of international law, rather than scrabbling around to come up with phony justifications of her actions, there might be some possibility of moving forward on these issues.

Christian Zionist says:

Miri wrote: “Rabin was murdered by a religious Jew who was fueled by Bibi and his right wing henchmen.”

Nonsense. Rabin was murdered by his own short-sightedness in
(1) designing an agreement (Oslo) which, in giving the PA and Hamas a foot-hold, may eventually result in the destruction of Israel
(2) forcing that agreement on Israel without even a majority of Jewish MK’s.

Christian Zionist says:

The answer is that NOWADAYS (since c. 1950) NO nations, Jewish or otherwise, can acquire land in defensive wars.

But they can and should acquire land in compensation – in Israel’s case, in compensation for Mizrahi assets stolen by the Muslim world.

David44 says:

So once again we can see that supporters of Israel prefer to engage in fantasy versions of international law than address Israel’s actual violations. Here’s the latest version:

“The answer is that NOWADAYS (since c. 1950) NO nations, Jewish or otherwise, can acquire land in defensive wars.

But they can and should acquire land in compensation – in Israel’s case, in compensation for Mizrahi assets stolen by the Muslim world.”

An ingenious claim – but no basis for this in international law either (at least, if you imagine that the territories conquered in 1967 form that “compensation”). Individual Jews who lost property in the Arab world can, if they wish, press legal claims against those who took the land, just as individual Palestinians who lost property when Israel gained independence can, if they wish, press legal claims against Israel. (The two claims have equal justice behind them and, in my view, approximately equal chances of success …). But the State of Israel cannot legally gain “compensation” by seizing a random selection of Arab land in war (little of which was owned by Jews prior to 1948) and handing it over to a random set of Jews (hardly any of whom are occupying property which their family owned prior to 1948).

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Case Closed?

The spying charges against former AIPAC analyst Steve Rosen were dropped last year, but the anti-Israel spirit that enlivened them, he says, is stronger than ever

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