The US Navy has reversed its decision to deny security clearance to a Jewish American dentist because of his family in Israel.
The Navy informed Gershon Pincus of its reversal on Jan. 7, the Albany Times Union reported Thursday.
Pincus, 62, told the newspaper he was “overjoyed.” He commutes 400 miles one day a week from his New York City home to Saratoga Springs, New York, where he treats sailors serving at the nearby US nuclear submarine propulsion program.
Pincus had initially been denied clearance because of his weekly phone contact with his mother and brother in Israel.
“Foreign contacts and interests may be a security concern due to divided loyalties or foreign financial interests, may be manipulated or induced to help a foreign person, group, organization or government in a way that is not in US interests, or is vulnerable to pressure or coercion by foreign interests,” said the statement of reasons released to Pincus by the Office of Personnel Management.
Pincus appealed, and at least three Jewish organizations – the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America and the American Jewish Committee – spoke out on his behalf.
The AJC had last month slammed what it called “the shopworn canard of dual loyalty,” and demanded an end to the practice.
“Of course, the US must evaluate every candidate, but what is truly stunning is that our armed forces make judgments on the loyalty of certain American citizens based solely on their Jewish identity and any family ties to Israel,” said the AJC’s general counsel Marc Stern in an emailed statement.
The OU on Friday welcomed the reversal. “We are pleased to see that the Pentagon corrected its wrongful decision to assert Dr. Pincus has divided loyalties just because he is an American Jew with family in Israel,” Nathan Diament, who heads the OU’s Washington office, said in a statement.
“We encourage the Obama Administration to review the security clearance process so that such cases do not arise in the future.”
Denial of security clearance to Jews with relatives in Israel has been reported for decades, although it seems to be applied randomly, with some applicants denied and others sailing through. In recent years, Jewish community professionals and Jews with ties to the security services have said that the practice has eased.
Lawyers who specialize in appealing denials of security clearance say Muslims are much more likely than Jews to be denied security clearance, including those whose families live in countries allied with the United States.
The issue of so-called “dual loyalty” briefly returned to the spotlight recently, with the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish civilian analyst for the US Navy who served 30 years in jail for passing classified documents to Israel. Following his 1985 arrest, the vast majority of Jewish leaders in the US sought to distance themselves from the case, which, like the trial and execution of Jules and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953, was seen as corrosively toxic to the achievements of American Jewry.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish Democrat in the Senate, also faced accusations of putting Israel’s interests above those of his own country earlier this year, when he came out against the July 2015 agreement between world powers and Iran on the latter’s nuclear program, which was also heavily criticized by Jerusalem.
After Schumer announced that he was opposed to the deal, a weekly cartoon on liberal website Daily Kos depicted the senator as a woodchuck, and in the course of a TV interview, the flag in the woodchuck’s office changes from American to Israeli and the moderator, a basset hound, calls Schumer a traitor.