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August 21, 2008 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-08-21

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Editorials are posted and archived on JNonline.us.

Dry Bones



Ugly Old Suspicions

ews have been plagued for hun-
dreds of years with the charge
of divided loyalty. Throughout
European history, especially, they were
accused of being more loyal to fellow Jews
in other lands than to the nation in which
they lived.
The case of 50-year-old Southfield
resident David Tenenbaum reminds all of
us that such attitudes are far from dead.
Not even within the "equal opportunity"
United States Army.
Tenenbaum was hired 24 years ago as
a civilian engineer to work at the mili-
tary's Tank-automotive and Armaments
Command (TACOM) in Warren.
Supervisors saw a distinct benefit for pro-
grams with Israel in his observant Jewish
background and fluency in Hebrew.
In 1997, these attributes cast him under
suspicion, and he was accused of spying
for Israel. These "beneficial" attributes,
apparently, made him a security risk in
some people's eyes. He was placed on paid
leave and subjected to months of inten-
sive surveillance (including a traumatic
home search by FBI agents while he and
his family were observing Shabbat). Even
after no evidence of improper conduct was
found, he had to fight for years to regain a


top-level security clearance.
A report released by the Department
of Defense Inspector General last month
found he was the subject of "inappropriate
treatment" because of his religious beliefs
and "ethnic background." U.S. Sen. Carl
Levin, D-Mich., was a driving force behind
the probe and feels that Tenenbaum is
owed an apology and possible compensa-
"In David's case, they targeted a Jew
for being a Jew," says one of Tenenbaum's
attorneys, Daniel E. Harold.
The Army promises a comment on the
Inspector General's report within a month.
It will have had years essentially to formu-
late its response.
What makes this case even more dev-
astating to the Army's reputation is that
the high-security project Tenenbaum was
working on involved enhanced protec-
tion for military vehicles against shrapnel
from roadside bombs. The program was
not resumed and this gap in protec-
tion could be blamed for hundreds of
American deaths and injuries in Iraq and
So what is to be learned from all of this?
Profiling cuts both ways. In a sharply
defined situation, it is a useful tool for

security agencies.
But its indiscrimi-
nate employment by
supervisors who may
be touched by per-
sonal bias is harmful
to everyone's security.
There is a price to
be paid for discrimi-
nation. Tenenbaum's
contributions to
the protection of
American soldiers
were unquestioned.
Depriving them of his
expert knowledge was
an inexcusable and
deadly lapse of judg-
Never assume that the specter of
in clearing his name.
charges of divided loyalty is part of an evil
Sen. Levin and the Southfield law-
past. Although Israel is one of America's
yers who fought on his behalf, Mayer
most steadfast allies, the Tenenbaum
Morganroth and Daniel E. Harold, deserve
case underscores the fact that feeling too
a lot of the credit for that. But it was the
close a bond can make Jews vulnerable to
perseverance of Tenenbaum himself, guid-
incredible charges that approach the capi-
ed by his deep religious faith, which even-
tal offense of treason.
tually brought him through the ordeal.
Finally, never give up. It took
That, too, may be an old story but a far
Tenenbaum 11 years of living under the
more uplifting one. ❑
most intense pressure before he succeeded


Reality Check

Coming Around Again


f you stay around newspapers long
enough, you'll see the same stories
returning for a second and third go-
round. And on each cyde.they are treated
as something wonderful and new
I suppose it's the nature of the media
beast. But it struck me recently that two
stories I reported on back in 1971 have
made dramatic reappearances.
One of them was the four-day work-
week; the other was the economic costs of
For the first of them I went to New
England where the shorter workweek
seemed to be coming into vogue. I visited
a bank in Boston, a mill in Lowell and a
hospital in Providence to interview man-
agers and workers.
They all loved it and said it was the
wave of the future. I still remember one
guy at the mill telling me, "If they ever
want to hold a parade for the four-day
week, put me right at the head of if

A vast silence followed.
We are now seeing the inter-
There was simply no economic
section of both these stories.
imperative that would encour-
Several Michigan communities
age government or business to
are strongly encouraging a
adopt a four-day, 10-hour work
four-day workweek and others
are leaning that way. Gas prices
Later that year, I wrote a set
supply the economic hammer
of pieces on environmental-
that was lacking 37 years ago.
ism, a movement that was just
There are many reasons
George Cantor
then getting big media play.
for the surge in oil prices,
Colu mnist
Environmentalists stressed
paramount among them ris-
that an ecology was a unified
ing demand in the developing
whole. Cause a disruption here and totally economies of China and India. But there
unexpected consequences would result
are also the restraints placed upon domes-
over there.
tic oil production and refining by environ-
My conclusion was that the same prin-
mental groups and their political allies.
ciple applied to the economy. Alter mar-
Their fierce resistance to any such
ket forces significantly to accommodate
initiatives has sharply reduced America's
environmental demands in one place and
ability to supply itself with politically
the changes would ripple across the entire
secure sources of energy.
economic structure. There was a bottom
This may be a wedge issue in the com-
line, and it could be severe because every-
ing election although it seems the voters
thing has a cost.
are out ahead of both Presidential candi-

dates on this one. Sen. John McCain would
allow the states to decide on offshore drill-
ing although opposing the opening of the
Arctic National Wildlife refuge. But recent
polls indicate a strong majority of voters
back both initiatives.
The effect of spiraling energy costs has
ripped through every corner of the econo-
my. People are more than concerned. They
are frightened; not because of right-wing
demagoguery but because of what they
see happening in their own lives.
Even the best-intentioned movements
carry a price. When that price no longer
involves polar bears but hits too close to
home the political winds shift.
Maybe I should dig out those old sto-
ries and see if I can sell them as hot news.
What's a mere 37 years in this business?

George Cantor's e-mail address is

August 21 • 2008


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