The Anti-Defamation League is pushing for a Jewish engineer for the US Army to get his day in court after being unjustly targeted for alleged ties to Israel.
In an amicus brief filed on behalf of David Tenenbaum, the ADL argued that the "dual loyalty" stereotype unfairly made the 25-year Army employee the target of unfair scrutiny and anti-Semitism.
Tenenbaum's lawyers said the US government has dismissed his complaints and shielded itself behind a "state secret" defense. But in 2008, a Department of Defense report concluded that Tenenbaum "was the subject of inappropriate treatment by the Department of the Army and Defense Investigative Service officials," and but "for Mr. Tenenbaum's religion, the investigations would likely have taken a difference course."
"We just want him to have his day in court," said Deborah Lauter, the ADL's Civil Rights Director. Like other Jews who have had security rights revoked, Tenenbaum was targeted simply because he is Jewish and has ties to Israel.
In Tenenbaum's case, she noted, the government wrongly interpreted his ties to Israel meant he would promote Israel's interests over America's while on the job. "That's extremely problematic and anti-Semitic," Lauter said.
The brief outlines other examples of religious discrimination, from the Dreyfus affair to a case in the 1990s, when the CIA investigated a Jewish attorney named Adam Ciralsky who was singled out because of his religion. The ADL points to other cases of Jewish employees being denied security clearance, and even the case of a non-Jewish CIA employee who was suspended after taking a trip to Israel.
Lauter said the "dual loyalty" stereotype is persistent, according to ADL research. Between 1997 and 2007, ADL polls showed between 31 percent and 35% of those surveyed agreed with that statement, "Jews are more loyal to Israel than America."
Tenenbaum told The Jerusalem Post: "They targeted me because I'm a Jew."
He said he first got wind that the Army was investigating him in the 1990s. "They would call the FBI from my office saying, 'That Tenenbaum guy speaks Hebrew, you better check him out,'" he recalled.
"The purpose of this is to get justice," Tenenbaum's attorney, Mayer Morganroth, said. They are seeking $200 million from the US government to compensate Tenenbaum for the years he could have been advancing his career and to show the significance of the injury. Federal authorities at one point "came in with guns drawn on the Sabbath where his children were," Morganroth said.
Another time, Tenenbaum was almost run over by a car driven by investigators keeping him under 24-hour surveillance. "To this day, they are scared," the attorney said. Tenenbaum said when he was cleared and ordered back to work, high-ranking Army officials told him his career was over. "I'd be lucky to get out without getting fired," he said he was told.
"When I first went in as a civilian engineer, I thought it was a great opportunity to help soldiers in the field, to make sure that if there's a war or a bad situation that these guys can come home safely," Tenenbaum said. "I'm disillusioned in that politics sometimes seems to have more of an effect." He is a persona non grata at work now. "I believe I could have contributed a lot more," he said.