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May 15, 2014

Newsweek Publishes Unsubstantiated Allegations of Israeli Spying


Newsweek was once a leading news magazine. It fell on hard times, stopped publishing its hardcover editions and now has only an internet edition. Unfortunately, if its May 6, 2014 article on alleged Israeli spying is any indicator, its standards have declined in parallel to its importance. The writer of the piece, Jeff Stein, is a self-styled commentator on issues involving the intelligence community. For his piece on Israeli spying, Stein mostly relies upon anonymous sources, always a red flag. But one of the sources he does identify is Paul Pillar, who recently appeared in a March 2014 convocation, called the National Summit to Reassess the U.S.-Israel Special Relationship, featuring a who's who of promoters of conspiracy theories alleging nefarious Zionist influence over the United States government. This is not surprising, as Stein himself is no stranger to vitriol against Israel. In his blog Spytalk, commenting on speculation that former Senator Jane Harman might be appointed to head the CIA, Stein wrote, "Congress is already Israeli-occupied territory. The last thing Washington needs is to cede another settlement in Langley."

As for Pillar, he is a former CIA analyst, who has built a second career condemning Israel at every turn. He is a frequent contributor to National Interest, an online magazine that claims to offer an alternative point of view on American foreign policy. Pillar often writes about Israel and his positions are automatic; they are always opposed to whatever the Israeli position is, whether it be on Iran, the Peace Process, or American-Israeli relations. He even weighed in on the recent American Studies Association boycott of Israel, describing it as a "righteous action."

A review of Pillar's writing on Israel and its supporters in America should cause any serious journalist to hesitate before accepting his accusations. Pillar displays a willingness to falsify the historical record by playing fast and loose with the facts. In an article published by National Interest, he wrote,

Less than five years from now will be the 50th anniversary of the war that Israel launched and used to seize the West Bank and other Arab territory...

In reality, the facts about who started the Six-Day War are well-documented. Egypt imposed a naval blockade of Israeli shipping through the straits of Tiran. It ordered the removal of the UN buffer force in the Sinai, and then moved its army there in an aggressive pose. These were unmistakable acts of belligerency. Furthermore, it was the ill-advised decision by Jordan's King Hussein to strike at Israel that resulted in the Israeli capture of the West Bank. But apparently for this former intelligence analyst, when the facts conflict with the narrative, it's the facts that must go.

Pillar sees no distinction between Israel and South Africa. In an article published by the internet site Occupied Palestine, Pillar wrote, "the Israeli system of apartheid warrants just as much active international opposition as the South African system did."

Like most dedicated enemies of the Jewish state, he ignores reality when it doesn't suit his views. Israel's Arab citizens possess full legal rights. As for the West Bank, Pillar will not recognize the dissimilarity between the circumstances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that of apartheid-era South Africa. Israeli measures that impose restrictions on the Palestinian Arabs were a reaction to non-stop terrorism against Israeli citizens. Furthermore, the Palestinians were offered a state in 1947 and rejected it. Since then, the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly rejected Israeli offers of a self-governing state because it would entail recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and require the Arabs to formally end their conflict with Israel. Arab demands that are incompatible with the continuing viability of a secure Jewish life in Israel has no parallel in the demands by opponents of apartheid in South Africa.

Pillar reveals a darker side to his sentiments, seeing disloyalty among American Jews who express support for Israel. In National Interest Pillar wrote of the influence of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson: "the Republican party isn’t even his first love among political parties. That would be the Likud party [of Israel].

What really gets Pillar incensed is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserting that Hamas is “dedicated to the destruction of Israel.�? Pillar positions himself as an apologist for Hamas by casting Israel as the guilty party. Praising the Islamist group for its supposed willingness to make a "Hudna," a temporary peace with Israel, he then asserts, "It would be more accurate to say that Israel is dedicated to the destruction of Hamas." (Antiwar blog 4-29-2014)

Consistent with his reliance on unsubstantiated partisan sources, in a follow up story on May 8, Newsweek's Stein offers a fantastic story of an Israeli spy infiltrating through an air conditioning vent into the hotel room of Al Gore during the former Vice President's visit to Israel. Stein writes,

“So the room was all quiet, he was just meditating on his toes, and he hears a noise in the vent. And he sees the vent clips being moved from the inside. And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room.�?

On May 12, the internet newspaper Algemeiner carried an interview with the manager of the King David Hotel, Dannino-Forsyth, who stated,

I can confirm that the story is ridiculous. There is a small pipe that brings some fresh air into the room, and it is so small that even a cat cannot walk in it.

Since the Newsweek story's publication, American Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has gone on record dismissing the allegations contained within it stating, “I’m not aware of the facts that would substantiate the report.�?

Posted by SS at May 15, 2014 11:42 AM


What has been accomplished by attacking every stupid, biased, anti-Israel article? Has it done anything to diminish the frquency or intensity of these baseless attacks against israel and its Jewish population. It doesn't seem so, I think it increases because it provides more publicity to the writer and publisher. Perhaps they should be ignored, and they'll go away, or we should protest quietly to let them know they are harming the credibility of their publication. This method of publicity doesn't seem to be working.

Posted by: I. Zwick at May 16, 2014 05:32 PM

Actually, Newsweek resumed print publication thsi year. Its first such issue upon its return has become something close to infamous:

Posted by: Garnet at May 17, 2014 10:24 PM

Good article!!

Posted by: zvi gross at May 20, 2014 12:56 AM

These rebuttals need to be organized extremely well for instant reference. This point-by-point rebuttal is great, but no one will read it as it was meant to be read. This material MUST be made easily accessible.

Posted by: Michael L at May 21, 2014 02:31 AM

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