Source for Newsweek’s ‘Dreyfus Affair’ Article Accusing Israel of Spying on U.S. Also Supported Anti-Israel ASA Boycott
by Joshua Levitt
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.
The ASA boycott was condemned by over two hundred university presidents and many human rights organizations around the world.
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.
Stein wrote in Newsweek:
“Israel’s espionage activities in America are unrivaled and unseemly, counterspies have told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, going far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan. A congressional staffer familiar with a briefing last January called the testimony ‘very sobering… alarming… even terrifying.’ Another staffer called it ‘damaging.'”
“The intelligence agencies didn’t go into specifics, the former aide said, but cited ‘industrial espionage—folks coming over here on trade missions or with Israeli companies working in collaboration with American companies, [or] intelligence operatives being run directly by the government,’ which I assume meant out of the [Israeli] Embassy.”
“As Paul Pillar, the CIA’s former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, told Newsweek, old habits are hard to break: Zionists were dispatching spies to America before there even was an Israel, to gather money and materials for the cause and later the fledgling state. Key components for Israel’s nuclear bombs were clandestinely obtained here. ‘They’ve found creative and inventive ways,’ Pillar said, to get what they want.”
“Now U.S. intelligence officials are saying—albeit very quietly, behind closed doors on Capitol Hill—that our Israeli ‘friends’ have gone too far with their spying operations here.”
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.”
When she formally requested the visa denial data from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in March, Meng said she sought to confirm what she and other political leaders had learned – that Israelis who had served in the Israel Defense Forces were being refused travel visas to prevent them from working as undocumented salespeople for ‘Dead Sea’ products in U.S. shopping malls.
Among a list of steps that the State Department offered to take to improve the situation, the capstone was that it would create, with the Department of Homeland Security, a joint U.S.-Israeli working group to help make Israel eligible for the Visa Waiver Program.
The Visa Waiver Program, which applies to 28 countries, has a series of technical and protocol requirements, with the biggest hurdle being to have issued new electronic passports.
Buried after Newsweek‘s accusations of Israel spying, Stein cites an unnamed congressional aide as saying, “You’ve got to have machine-readable passports in place—the e-passports with a data chip in them. The Israelis have only just started to issue them to diplomats and senior officials and so forth, and that probably won’t be rolled out to the rest of their population for another 10 years.”
Then Stein wrote, “But U.S. counterspies will get the final word. And since Israel is as likely to stop spying here as it is to give up matzo for Passover, the visa barriers are likely to stay up.”