US Denying Security Clearances Due to Israeli Ties
As many as 100 American citizens were prevented from joining the U.S. army in the last decade because they had family leaving in Israel. But the latest case of a 60-year-old dentist from Brooklyn having his clearance application denied because his mother lives in Israel, prompted Avi Schick, a renowned attorney from New York, to address the matter in a letter directed to the head of the U.S. Navy.
According to Schick’s account, Dr. Gershon Pincus, who after 35 years as a private dentist started working as a part-time civilian dentist at an off-base Naval clinic in Saratoga, NY, recently received a notice that he was deemed ineligible to receive security clearance because he has “weekly contact with [his] mother and brother in Israel.”
In September, after two interviews with the Office of Personal Management (OPM), Dr. Pincus’s received a “Statement of Reasons” explaining why he was denied the security clearance. “You have weekly telephone contact with your mother and brother in Israel. You added your mother, sister and brother may have contact with neighbors in Israel. Foreign contacts and interests may be a security concern due to divided loyalties or foreign financial interests, may be manipulated or induced to help a foreign person, group, organization or government in a way that is not in U.S. interests, or is vulnerable to pressure or coercion by foreign interests,” the statement read.
But what is seen as even more unreasonable is the fact that his 89-year-old mother, who moved to Israel late in her life to be with her son and daughter who moved to Israel in 1980, still retains her U.S. citizenship and are not listed as Israeli citizens. DR. Pincus has lived all of his life in the United States; all of his assets and income are in the United States; as are his friends, community, and interests. He visited Israel only three times in the past decade, including one for his father’s funeral.
In a letter to Ray Mabus, Secretary of the U.S. Navy, Schick writes, “The entirety of the concern about Dr. Pincus, and the sole basis for the decision to deem him ineligible for clearance and to disqualify him from the opportunity to serve, is his relatives’ residence in Israel.”
“That is unwarranted by the facts and deeply offensive to American Jews whose loyalty to the U.S. is apparently called into question by our military if they have relatives in Israel,” Schick’s letter, obtained by Jewish Insider, reads.
“We would like to believe this can’t be happening in 2015, but unfortunately, it happens frequently,” Schick told Jewish Insider. “Over the past decade, there have been more than 100 reported clearance denials to employees of government contractors because of ties to Israel. And that doesn’t include any of the cases where military employees were denied clearance or when contractor employees don’t have the means or the stomach to fight the denial.”
In the past seven years, under the Obama administration, there has been a total of 58 cases in which Jewish Americans were denied because of their Israeli ties. As many as 36 applicants lost their appeals. “What that means is that what happened to Dr. Pincus was not an isolated incident, but rather part of a systemic problem,” he said.
In his letter to Mabus, Schick asks why someone who wants to give back to his country after a long, productive professional career is being treated with such intense suspicion.
Adding, “It is useful to go through the mental exercise of replacing Israel with the name of other countries also closely allied with the United States. It is difficult to imagine Dr. Pincus being denied clearance because he has relatives in England, Germany, France, Spain or a host of other countries. Our elected officials often talk about the special relationship between the United States and Israel, but I don’t think they mean for Israel and American Jews to be singled out in a way they have been during the interview and clearance process for Dr. Pincus.”
The Orthodox Union on Thursday expressed its outrage at the “anti-Semitic bias” by the OPM. “The notion that an American Jew, a citizen of the United States, could be accused of having ‘divided loyalties’ and therefore be denied security clearance and lose his job, simply because he has family members who live in Israel, is outrageous and offensive,” Martin Nachimson, president of the Orthodox Union, said in a statement.”The American Jewish community is an active and vital element of all parts of this country’s economy and job force. Discrimination against one individual because of his family’s whereabouts—or against a much larger population of applicants because of familial connections with Israel—suggests an anti-Semitic bias that is poorly disguised as security concerns.”