Today’s New York Times features a story by reporter Scott Shane on the long known but usually unspoken fact that our FBI secretly wiretaps the phone at the embassy of our major ally in the Middle East, Israel. It reveals that Shamai K. Leibowitz, a former FBI translator, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for leaking classified information to a blogger. Even Judge Alexander Williams, Jr., of the U.S. District Court in Maryland, did not know what Leibowitz had given the blogger.
What he passed on, Shane reveals, were transcripts of conversations caught on Bureau wiretaps of the Israeli embassy, including conversations with U.S. supporters of Israel and at least one member of Congress.
Shane’s story is based on the first interview with the blogger, whom he reveals to be one Richard Silverstein. Shane writes that Silverstein publishes a blog called Tikun Olam, which, he writes, “gives a liberal perspective on Israel and Israeli-American relations.” (my emphasis) Silverstein’s motive in talking to the press, he reports, was to show that Leibowitz, who was guilty of violating the Espionage Age, “was acting out of noble motives.”
Looking at the above sentence, what strikes informed readers immediately is the characterization of blogger Silverstein as one with a “liberal perspective.” In fact, Silverstein is, one might charitably say, far to the left of Noam Chomsky — a certified member of the fringe nutcase left-wing. What is it about Silverstein’s views that allows a Times reporter to so blatantly mischaracterize the man’s political views? Is it, perhaps, to be totally opposed to Israel and its very existence? Is this what the reporter sees as a “liberal viewpoint”?
For those interested, the website CIF Watch provides a thorough vetting of this Silverstein’s views. Silverstein says that his own blog is devoted to making the world a “better place.” CIF Watch comments that “his image of a ‘better place’ is more in line with Norman Finkelstein’s vision rather than Anne Frank’s.” They add this:
Though Silverstein repeatedly claims to be a Zionist, his writings feature unrelenting attacks on the Jewish state with a wanton disregard for any facts that repudiate his so-called “progressive” views on the conflict. Silverstein openly supports the likes of Norman Finkelstein and Walt and Mearsheimer, minimalizes and, at some times, justifies violence perpetrated by Hamas, vilifies the Israeli right wing and IDF to the point of demonization and supports a version of the one-state solution including the renunciation of the right of return of diaspora Jewry.
The proprietors of CIF Watch have conveniently assembled virtually scores of Silverstein’s writings, which they reproduce verbatim. My personal favorite is Silverstein’s defense of the terrorist attack at Chabad House in India during the Mumbai massacre a few years ago, in which the rabbi and his wife were slaughtered in cold blood. Here, Silverstein takes the words of a surviving terrorist. Silverstein wrote the following:
Pakistani militants have been known to select prominent foreign targets within Pakistan, as the Mumbai terrorists did last week. But few, if any, Pakistani militants have been known until now specifically to target Israelis. I say, Israelis rather than Jews because the single surviving terrorist noted that they chose Chabad House to avenge the suffering of the Palestinians. Therefore, the attack was anti-Israeli, though not necessarily antisemitic.