Editorial: Why Is America Dredging Up Ancient History?

Hamodia - April 30, 2008

Last Tuesday, in the midst of zeman cheiruseinu, U.S. federal authorities descended upon a retirement home for seniors in suburban New Jersey and arrested an 84-year-old man for a crime he allegedly committed a quarter-century ago.

Mr. Ben-Ari Kadish - described in The New York Times as "a balding gray-haired man wearing a hearing aid" - worked as a mechanical engineer at a U.S. Army facility in Morris County, New Jersey, from 1963 to 1990. The government now alleges that Mr. Kadish spied for Israel during six of those years, from 1979 to 1985. Specifically, the government charges him with having "borrowed" certain classified documents from the facility's library, taken them to his home and allowed them to be copied by a science adviser at the Israeli consulate in New York.

Of course, we have no idea whether Mr. Kadish did or did not commit espionage. If in fact he did, we in no way condone his actions. However, be all that as it may, we cannot help but wonder why the U.S. government has suddenly decided to prosecute this 84-year-old man after all these years.

For one thing, the passage of so many years since the alleged crime was committed raises obvious questions. Aside from legal technicalities, it is difficult to fathom why the Justice Department would be devoting its energy at this time to prosecuting a long-retired octogenarian for a crime he allegedly committed so many years ago. Even though the statute of limitations doesn't apply here, shouldn't common sense dictate that the government devote its resources to more immediately pressing priorities?

And if this really is such an important case, where was the government all these years? Why has the Justice Department woken up only now?

There is something fishy - and quite unseemly - about this entire matter.

Some have theorized that the timing of the Kadish indictment may have a broader political purpose. The Bush Administration has apparently decided in the waning months of the President's incumbency to try to broker a new "peace agreement" in the Middle East. To accomplish that, Secretary of State Rice is pressuring the Israeli government to make various political and territorial concessions. In this context, the theory goes, America's leverage over Israel is enhanced when there is a public reminder of Israel's alleged espionage activities against the U.S.

That might explain why State Department spokesman Tom Casey saw fit to offer public comment the day after Mr. Kadish's arrest. "Twenty-plus years ago during the Pollard case, we noted that this was not the kind of behavior we would expect from friends and allies," said Mr. Casey, "and that would remain the case today." The not-so-subtle message underlying this otherwise silly statement - silly because Mr. Kadish's alleged crime took place some 25-30 years ago - is that if Israel still wants to be treated as America's friend and ally, it must atone for its sins by doing the State Department's bidding at the Middle East negotiating table.

If that in fact is what prompted the U.S. government to pursue Mr. Kadish at this time, a quarter-century after his alleged crime, the strategy is dubious at best, even from the American perspective. The U.S. already exercises considerable leverage over Israel - far more than is healthy for the Israelis - and there is no need to dredge up ancient history in an effort to enable the Bush Administration to earn its own legacy in modern history.

More importantly, from Israel's perspective, one would hope that any decisions the Israelis might make about the "peace process" will reflect their own clear-headed assessment of their short- and long-term security needs, not the wishes of the U.S. State Department. Certainly nothing about any espionage that may have taken place 25-30 years ago should have any bearing on that calculus whatsoever. In his public statement on behalf of the State Department, Mr. Casey may have also signaled a second motivation underlying the Kadish prosecution: an effort to torpedo any move to free Jonathan Pollard.

Mr. Kadish's alleged espionage activities took place around the same time as Mr. Pollard's. His Israeli "handler" was allegedly the same person who served as Mr. Pollard's "handler." His alleged modus operandi was similar to that of Mr. Pollard.

Aha! The case of Ben-Ami Kadish proves, say the conspiracy theorists, that Jonathan Pollard was not acting on his own, but was rather just one part of a larger sinister Israeli plot to infiltrate the American defense establishment and steal all our secrets. In the words of Joseph diGenova, the former U.S. Attorney who led the government team that prosecuted Mr. Pollard, "It's a fascinating case of another agent in place, another sleeper, with the very same handler. We always suspected there were other people."

And if there were other people, so what? Jonathan Pollard has already served

23 years

in federal prison. The case for his release through executive clemency, which we have made repeatedly in the pages of Hamodia, stands on its own merits. To close his prison gates even tighter because another unconnected individual may have also furnished the Israelis classified information would only compound the injustice of his unconscionably harsh sentence.

Last week's arrest of Ben-Ami Kadish, perplexing on its face, may best be understood as an attempt to silence those who are advocating for Jonathan Pollard's release. If so, it is all the more reason we should continue to press his humanitarian cause.

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