Israeli Intelligence Operations Target U.S. Congressional Leaders
By Richard Silverstein - Tikun Olam
Thanks to a confidential source, I’ll be lifting the veil, in this post, on Israeli intelligence gathering regarding members of Congress from the Midwest. Before I do, I want to make clear that what I’m about to describe is not espionage and doesn’t even involve the Mossad, which does operate here in the U.S. This is just run of the mill intelligence gathering. But what makes this especially interesting is that despite the fact that the individuals below are doing nothing illegal, the tone and contents of their remarks are so objectionable, that one wonders what one would find if one knew what the Mossad was up to here.
My source informs me that last month, Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem, Chicago and Washington participated in a conference call to review the status of relationships with the Midwest’s members of Congress. The senior diplomat from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminded participants that the purpose of getting to know these elected officials was to advance Israel’s agenda in Congress. In other words, Israel pursues a diplomatic strategy in this country that involves overt lobbying for Israel’s interests.
I’m not conversant with how other foreign governments handle such activity via their embassies and consulates, but I’d venture to say that if the average American knew that not only were various Israel lobby groups like the Israel Project, Aipac, Stand With Us, and many others advancing a pro-Israel political agenda, but a foreign embassy was doing so not only on its own, but in close collaboration with these domestic Jewish groups–that such campaigning would raise a red flag in the eyes of many.
I repeat something I wrote last night. I detest the accusation of dual loyalty and find it a despicable canard. But in truth, Israel’s government seems only too happy to place U.S. Jews in such a position that this charge becomes credible. And American Jewish groups and leaders are willing participants.
During the meeting, the senior representative from the Washington D.C. embassy emphasized how important the efforts of the Chicago consulate would be because the president hails from the city, as does the new chair of the Conference of Presidents, and Aipac’s incoming president.
In general, Israeli diplomats are most interested in members of Congress who serve on the intelligence, defense, foreign affairs and appropriations committees since those deal with issues of most concern to Israel. This explains peripherally, why they would devote so much time and attention to cultivating Jane Harman, since she stood to become chair of the House intelligence committee if Pelosi had agreed to retain her on the committee (which she didn’t).
The Israeli officials involved in the conference call displayed a combination of chutzpah and arrogance in evaluating their Congressional targets. My informant indicates they were annoyed at their inability to gain access to Sen. Russell Feingold despite the fact that his sister is a rabbi and has visited Israel. Note that a trip to Israel in their view is like a tetanus inoculation bestowing excellent pro-Israel health and antibodies against pro-Arab propaganda.
When a meeting participant described Rep. David Obey as not a great friend of Israel and borderline hostile, the D.C. embassy representative reminded his staff that they could schedule meetings with staff when Congress members are not available (which presumably would positively influence their boss).
There is a strong underlying theme of Iran as playing an important role in the Israeli diplomatic agenda here in the U.S. During the meeting, the Israelis noted that Sen. John Thune introduced anti-Iran legislation in the last session and that Rep. Mark Kirk planned to introduce new punitive legislation targeting that country. It was approvingly noted that Sen. Sam Brownback planned a conference that would exert economic pressure on Iran. The D.C. embassy planned to follow up with him to encourage his plans. At a separate meeting with a member of Sen. Carl Levin’s staff, an Israeli diplomat marveled that every word she said about Iran was committed to paper in order to share Israel’s views with the senator.
Sen. Clare McCaskill was a particular focus of the meeting because she is a confidant of the president and a member of the armed services and homeland security committees. Staff were instructed to establish close relations with McCaskill and her staff. Another Missouri legislator, Russ Carnahan, received no such royal treatment. He was viewed, like Obey, as not friendly to Israel. Why? Because during a meeting with him, he highlighted to the Israeli representative his sympathy for the poor people of Gaza. The reason for this sympathy in the eyes of the Israelis? The legislator was poisoned by information from the Arab lobby.
Once again we can see the close coordination between the Israeli government and local Jewish leaders, when one of the participants in the diplomatic review reminds the others that members of the St. Louis Jewish community conveyed their “expectations” to Carnahan and reminded him on which side his bread was buttered. It appears that the local community and embassy serve as one-two knockout punches in the face of hostile targets like Carnahan.
During the conference call, participants noted a problematic relationship with two Minnesota representatives, Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum. Though they called Ellison, a Muslim, “not anti-Israel,” they noted he was quite attentive to the Arab lobby. Clearly they were keeping a close eye on Ellison’s schedule as they knew he was receiving an UNWRA briefing that very day about conditions in Gaza. Another Israeli piped up rather ominously that the congressmember was receiving such briefings frequently.
Later in the meeting, the Israelis noted with displeasure that Ellison has teamed up with Washington State Rep. Brian Baird (the two visited Gaza together around the time that John Kerry took a separate trip there–the two Congressional visits served to highlight the horrible conditions under which Gazans lived in the aftermath of the war last winter).
At another point in the meeting, in discussing a new Indiana representative, Andre Carson who. like Ellison is Muslim, they appeared to play “good Muslim, bad Muslim.” Carson, they noted, hasn’t yet taken any “radical” positions and therefore might serve as a counter-weight to “bad Muslim” Ellison.
This is how the Israelis play the game. They’re kicking ass and taking names as the saying goes. They’ll skirt right up to the edge of impropriety and even go over it if they feel they can. The only way to rein them in is by revelations such as the Jane Harman story or the Aipac Two spying scandal. These incidents chasten them for a time–till they are emboldened once again (remember Jonathan Pollard and the Israeli pledge never to engage in domestic U.S. spying?).
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. In the case of Israel’s domestic intelligence gathering, this is doubly true.
Very closely related and also by Richard Silverstein:
Jewish Leader Colludes With Israeli Embassy in Monitoring House Member ‘Hostile’ to Israel