The “Clubby, Old-School Anti-Semitism” of Western Intelligence Agencies

July 22 2022

In The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence, Douglas London analyzes the workings, and many deficiencies, of the CIA, based on his own 30 years as a case officer. London also sheds some light on being a Jew in an agency where casual anti-Semitism remains commonplace. Reviewing the book, A.E. Smith describes his own experience with similar tendencies in the Canadian intelligence establishment:

When he completed his initial training, London set his sights on the CIA’s Near East and South Asia Division, known as NE. . . . But almost as soon as he got there, he was told that the Arabic-speaking case officer cadre known as the “NE mafia”—almost all pro-Palestinian Arabists—“would not likely take to the idea of having a Jewish case officer in their fold.” Another senior member of NE called young London’s loyalty into question, asking him if he was required to support Israel. “When you go to the synagogue, by the rabbi, isn’t it a religious requirement?”

After 9/11, . . . I discovered that the resident Arabists tended to view Israel as a kind of parvenu blight on the Arab world and were reflexively suspicious of Jews who trespassed on their preserve. Their younger colleagues, meanwhile, cleaved firmly to the notion of Israel as a brutal colonial power engaged in a genocidal war against Palestinians.

On a personal level, this clubby, old-school anti-Semitism often manifested in questions, spoken and unspoken, about my judgment on matters related to the Middle East and Islamist extremism, especially in interagency situations. I was often jokingly referred to as “the Zionist agent” and not-so-jokingly told that my opinions carried little weight because as a practicing Jew, I had to be an Israeli sellout.

Ironically, my interactions with Muslim community leaders were far more positive. Almost invariably, they were disarmed by the revelation that I was Jewish and would open up to me as someone with a unique relationship to Islam. “Really,” I was assured by one imam with a reputation as a firebrand, “despite everything, we are brothers under the skin, you and I.”

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, CIA, Intelligence

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount