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Rose Report: A Long Wait for Justice

Binyamin Rose

Will Secretary of Defense Mattis go to bat for David Tenenbaum?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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Law and Order

A Long Wait for Justice

Clearing one’s name from false accusations can seem like an impossible task. Even more so when the process drags on for years.

But that’s precisely the plight of Dr. David Tenenbaum, a civilian engineer in the US Army, ten years after an inspector general in the Department of Defense exonerated him of charges that he spied for Israel. Instead, the investigation found that Tenenbaum was targeted by coworkers primarily because he roused suspicion as a practicing Jew.

My first article on Tenenbaum’s case made the cover of Mishpacha in August 2008, a month after the inspector general’s report. Almost ten years have passed, but the Defense Department has so far disregarded requests from Tenenbaum’s legal team for a formal apology and monetary compensation over the ruination of a talented man’s career.

President Trump’s sudden commutation of Sholom Rubashkin’s prison term cheered Tenenbaum, but he was guarded in his comments during a telephone interview last week from his home in Southfield, Michigan.

“I’m not comparing myself to anybody else,” Tenenbaum said. “But it’s pretty frightening that it’s taken this long.”

Tenenbaum has recently been encouraged by a letter-writing campaign spearheaded by leading politicians and national Jewish organizations. Two months ago, Missouri’s Senator Claire McCaskill, the ranking Democrat on the Committee on Homeland Security, wrote Secretary of Defense James Mattis requesting that he personally review the case and direct his department to take appropriate action to provide Dr. Tenenbaum with redress. Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive director of Agudath Israel of America, followed suit with his own letter to Secretary Mattis in mid-December, as did David Kurzmann, executive director of the Detroit-area Jewish Community Relations Council, and Dr. Michael Engelberg, president of the New York Center for Civil Justice, Tolerance and Values.

Dr. Tenenbaum, a product of Akiva Hebrew Day School and Yeshiva Beth Yehudah of Greater Detroit, was working in the army’s Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) in the 1980s on a project tasked with developing technology to better protect military vehicles against the kind of armor-piercing weaponry ultimately used all too lethally against US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In 1992, Tenenbaum was chosen to go to Israel on an engineer exchange program, intended to benefit the US Army, but which ended up arousing the canard of dual loyalty. Over the next four years, anti-Semitic coworkers filed seven reports against Tenenbaum under the Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the US Army (SAEDA) regulation. The FBI joined the investigation, even raiding the Tenenbaum home one “Saturday” afternoon while David was enjoying Shabbos lunch with family and guests.

Eventually, all charges were proven baseless, but the damage to his career was irreversible. So far, no one in the Army has been held accountable for their actions. Even though the Army restored Tenenbaum to his post, he is treated as a pariah, and does not receive any meaningful assignments on the job.

Tenenbaum said he has no way of knowing when, or even if, Secretary Mattis will respond to his plea, but he expressed the hopes that more Jews and Jewish organizations will bring his case to the attention of the Trump administration.

“It’s an issue that affects everyone in the Jewish community,” Tenenbaum said.

A ghostwriter is finishing a book on his saga. Tenenbaum prays that the last chapter — and a happy one at that — can soon be written. 


Trump Talk

Ryan to Trump’s Rescue

Ever since ex-president Jimmy Carter brokered a treaty between Israel and Egypt at Camp David, the woodsy retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountain Park has enjoyed a reputation as a peaceful place.

Perhaps that’s one reason President Trump got along so famously with the same lawmakers he spent much of his first year feuding with when they gathered at last weekend’s Congressional Leadership Retreat at Camp David.

Trump held a news conference with Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan. The camaraderie was such that Ryan even bailed the president out of a reporter’s trap.

 

The reporter asked Trump to comment on talks between North Korea and South Korea that might enable North Korean athletes to participate in next month’s winter Olympics in the South. He asked if the president would be willing to engage in phone conversations with Kim Jong-un to facilitate warming relations.

Trump replied: “Sure. I always believe in talking.”

The reporter followed up: “So no prerequisites for coming to the table and talking with him?”

Speaker Ryan jumped in: “That’s not what he said.”

Ryan’s intervention afforded Trump with a vital few seconds to avoid committing himself either way. Trump called the Olympic talks a big start, adding that North Korea knows the US isn’t messing around and that he and Secretary of State Tillerson were working on a peaceful solution to their nuclear war of words, which Trump said “would be a great thing for all of humanity and the world.”

A goal for the president, with a big assist to Paul Ryan. 



Peril and Promise

Iran: A Taste of Its Own Medicine

The news is rarely amusing these days, but it was almost comical to read that former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was arrested recently for joining the ongoing street protests against the regime.

Ahmadinejad, who thrust Iran’s nuclear program into high gear during his two-term presidency from 2005 to 2013, and routinely called for Israel’s destruction, had become synonymous with the very nepotism and economic corruption that Iranians are now demonstrating against.

Those demonstrations are giving the Iranian regime a taste of its own medicine, says Dr. Thamar Eilam-Gindin, a research fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf research in Haifa University, and author of several books on both ancient Persia and modern Iran.

She contends that the hardline Islamic clerics who are the real power in Iran organized the initial demonstrations in a power struggle with Ahmadinejad’s more liberal successor, Hassan Rouhani.

“What they overlooked is that once protests started, other citizens would follow them into the streets, so it deteriorated very quickly into a protest against the regime,” said Dr. Eilam-Gindin during a conference call with the foreign press in Jerusalem last week.

The last time widespread demonstrations broke out in 2009, President Obama was criticized for not supporting the Iranian opposition. President Trump has expressed support, which has its pros and cons.

“The leader of the free world should step in or at least express his support. The problem is the leader of the free world is Mr. Trump, and Iranians hate him,” said Dr. Eilam-Gindin, adding that she believes the demonstrations are short-lived.

“I belong to the analysts who think the protests will either be violently suppressed, or just die away and there will be no change,” she says. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 693)

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