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The defense team of former AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) employee Keith Weissman launched an effort to get the US Jewish community to support the case of the two AIPAC staffers charged with communicating classified information to Israeli diplomats and others.
For the first time since the case broke, in August 2004, lawyers are attempting to end the Jewish community's silence on this issue.
Attorney Baruch Weiss, who is one of Weissman's lawyers, made his first appearance Wednesday night in front of a small crowd at a Washington synagogue. "What surprises me is the lack of support from the Jewish community. The Jewish community should be asking why were these two people selected to be prosecuted," Weiss said, referring to his client and to Steve Rosen, another former AIPAC employee charged in the case.
Rosen's defense team is not part of the effort to reach out for public support of the Jewish community.
In the event, held in the Ohev Shalom Orthodox synagogue, Weiss said that while the media has mobilized in the past several months and has voiced its concerns over the possible ramifications of the Rosen-Weissman case to the freedom of the press, the Jewish community has yet to act.
hoping that something will galvanize the Jewish community," Weiss said, adding a call to the members of the community to contact large Jewish organizations and demand that they take a stand on the issue.
Since the accusations against the two AIPAC staffers were publicized, the American Jewish community was extremely cautious in dealing with the issue and only in the last year have Jewish leaders begun to voice support for Rosen and Weissman.
AIPAC itself has fired the two accused employees in an attempt to distance itself from the case. Weiss speculated that the reason for the Jewish community's reluctance to take on the issue has to do with the fear of being subjected to accusations of dual loyalty.
"There are two words which explain why the Jewish community is not backing us: Jonathan Pollard," Weiss said.
Some 50 people came to hear Weiss's appeal to the Jewish community, two of them AIPAC workers who came to listen in. The crowd was supportive of the issue and many speakers expressed their dismay over the way the Jewish community treated Rosen and Weissman.
Ohev Shalom Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld sent a letter this week to FBI Director Robert Mueller in which he expressed his concern over reports that FBI agents asked an academic, as part of the AIPAC investigation, to provide names of "pro-Israeli reporters." "At worst, it is a government-sponsored witch-hunt," Herzfeld wrote Mueller.
The event referred to in the letter has to do with the government's attempts to reach the files of reporter Jack Anderson, who died last year. According to sources close to the case, the FBI is looking for a classified document that may be in the files and that investigators suspect Rosen had given to Anderson 23 years ago. Anderson's family refused to turn over the files.
Weissman's defense team has also set up a legal defense fund, meant to raise money to cover the legal costs of the case. While AIPAC paid the expenses over the first year, a dispute broke out between the defendants and AIPAC over the sums and the terms of the legal fee coverage, and since then AIPAC stopped covering the lawyer's expenses. "We are millions of dollars in the hole," Weiss said, appealing for contributions from the Jewish community.