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Gaza Student Flap
Is A Reality Check
Tenenbaum's travails taint the American way.
merica is supposed to be a land of freedom
from mangled government ethics — and
mostly it is. That isn't the case, however, for
U.S. Army civilian engineer Dr. David Tenenbaum, still
seeking reparation and a government apology 16 years
after falsely being accused of spying for Israel. His tale
of duress, driven by anti-Semitic Army colleagues and
high-level White House officials, is a sad indictment of
our federal government gone amok.
As hollow as the original 1997 spying allegations
were, it's disillusioning that neither the Department
of the Army nor the Department of Defense has
had the integrity to fess up and apologize for drag-
ging Tenenbaum, an Orthodox Jew from Southfield,
through the political mud for so many
years. He was never proven guilty and the
facts underscore his innocence.
In 2006, the Army's Office of the
Inspector General, spurred by U.S. Sen.
Carl Levin, D-Mich., investigated the claim
of espionage; two years later, it found dis-
crimination against Tenenbaum based on
religion and ethnicity. In effect, the Army
had isolated him because he was Jewish
and had ties to Israel. In 21st-century
America, that isn't supposed to happen.
In 1984, the U.S. Army's Tank-
Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) in
Warren hired Tenenbaum, now 55, as a liaison to work
on joint projects with the Israeli military because he
had gone to Israel and could speak Hebrew. Ironically,
those two factors, plus Tenenbaum not fitting in with
the anti-Semitic members of his work crew, later influ-
enced the accusation that he was a spy for Israel.
What's happened to him is a travesty given what
America stands for.
As the Jewish News outlined in its Oct. 11 coverage
updating Tenenbaum's fight for justice, the U.S. gov-
ernment changed forever the lives of Tenenbaum, his
wife, Madeline, and their four children in 1997. That's
when it rigged a lie-detector exam while presumably
evaluating his fitness for higher security clearance and
raided their home on a Shabbat afternoon while osten-
sibly searching for evidence of espionage.
Worse, the "Jew-hunt," as Tenenbaum termed it, cost
the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.
When the Army targeted him for investigation, it also
What's happened to him is a
travesty given what America
discontinued a joint program he was working on with
the U.S., Israeli and German armies to armor Humvees,
the modern version of the fabled military jeep. The
program was later reinstituted under new direction.
A smart guy and a hard worker, Tenenbaum had
developed the idea of better protecting the Humvees
after U.S. fighting in Somalia a few years earlier had
exposed their vulnerability. Horror stories
abounded of American soldiers dying or
being maimed when unarmored vehicles
confronted terrorist-planted, shrapnel-laden
IEDs (improvised explosive devices) along
war-torn Middle East roads.
TACOM continues to sequester
Tenenbaum, keeping significant work
projects from him despite his top security
clearance and entrepreneurial spirit. His
reputation is ruined to an extent in the
government contract field, so he can't just
leave TACOM for another job. He exudes the
patience of Job, but is weary of this lingering debacle.
Meanwhile, Tenenbaum and his attorneys press on for
redress despite a U.S. District Court judge in Detroit
tossing their 2009 suit against the departments of the
Army and Defense. That suit sought up to $200 million
in damages and cited the Inspector General's report as
The suit was dismissed on the grounds that Inspector
General investigators didn't review Department of
Justice sealed documents asserting protected state
secrets. That meant the state secrets doctrine first
raised by the government, including then-Attorney
General John Ashcroft, in relation to a 1998 federal
civil rights case brought by Tenenbaum still stood.
The briar patch of injustice David Tenenbaum and
his family have been forced to endure has no place in
America. Our government is mandated to protect law-
abiding citizens. It's not supposed to sully them, then
try to cover that up out of fear Washington would be
roundly embarrassed by revelations of the truth. CI
t Israel's urging,
the U.S. has
for students in the Gaza
Strip and West Bank to
study in local Palestinian
universities. The 2-year-
old program was one of the
few successful ties between
America and Hamas, the U.S.-
branded terrorist organization that rules the Gaza
Strip. The Hamas Charter calls for Israel's destruction
as a Jewish state.
In 2010, during a Middle East visit, U.S. Secretary
of State Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled the scholar-
ship program, which awards up to 30 scholarships to
Palestinian high school seniors with academic creden-
tials and financial need.
The U.S. revoked the program after Israel effec-
tively stymied it. In a change of policy, Israel this year
refused to grant permits to Gaza students to travel
to the West Bank. Citing security as a reason, Israeli
policy long has barred most Gaza citizens from visit-
ing Israel or the West Bank. The only exception is for a
humanitarian cause, which education isn't considered
Israel fears Hamas is using the program to extend
its timbers of anti-Zionism to the West Bank by giving
its indoctrinated students a toehold there. Hamas' bit-
ter rival for overall Palestinian control, the Palestinian
Authority (P.A.), governs the West Bank.
How sad that Gaza students, representing the
beleaguered strip's future in the daunting struggle to
change a culture of hate toward Jews, have become
pawns in a political standoff among Israel, America
and the splintered Palestinians. With the right educa-
tion, these students could well transform the terror-
infused strip. Israel's concern about what kind of edu-
cation they would receive in the West Bank, however,
is real. Moderate as it claims to be, the P.A. itself is
ridden with terrorist cells and indifferent leaders.
Not to be outdone, Hamas last year banned seven
high school students from studying in America, cit-
ing anxiety about how well they would be supervised
under the U.S. program from an Islamic perspective.
While Washington could have confronted Israel over
the West Bank travel ban, the truth is that on security
matters, Israel does know best. This tiny nation of
7.9 million people hasn't survived 64 years of Arab-
inspired terrorism by not sometimes invoking seem-
ingly overly strict security measures, a lesson learned
through grave experiences.
Perhaps soon the clear and present danger wrought
by Gaza City (remember all those Hamas-praised
rockets launched into Israel's Negev?) will fade and
the worthwhile U.S. scholarship program for Gaza stu-
dents will be reinstated. That would be welcome amid
tense diplomatic times between Israel and its closest
Middle East ally. E