The crime of practicing dentistry while Jewish would be funny if it wasn’t true. But by all appearances, that’s exactly what led a retired dentist, Dr. Gershon Pincus, to be denied a needed security clearance to continue treating patients at an off-base naval clinic in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. We would normally question such accounts as being rooted in the kind of much-ballyhooed conspiracy theories that appear in our spam filters or email inboxes every day. But in this case, at least some of the facts have been confirmed.
This much we know: Pincus, a New York City resident, found a federal job working part time at the clinic in 2014. Later that year, he underwent a routine interview to obtain a security clearance for civilian employees. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, “As part of the interview, [Pincus] made note of his familial connections in Israel.” Those connections include two siblings, his mother and a son, who had served in the Israel Defense Forces and died from a drug overdose. Pincus himself also visited Israel three times in the last decade but made clear that he is not interested in moving there. In September, Pincus was denied a security clearance and was forced to quit his job.
In explaining its decision, the Office of Personnel Management told Pincus, “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 U.S. interests or is vulnerable to pressure or coercion by foreign interests.”
It is offensive and unfair that OPM has raised the question of Pincus’ dual loyalties merely because he has family in Israel. How many Jews would be deemed poor security risks on that basis? Is it now necessary for Jews seeking security clearances who have relatives there to renounce Israel? And must those Jews also refrain from traveling to the Jewish state or risk being denied security clearances? Indeed, are all Jews inherently suspect when it comes to Israel?
Pincus has appealed the OPM decision to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. The OPM isn’t talking about the case. But just from the contours of the whole affair, we must cry foul. Pincus was filling cavities and doing other dental work in Upstate New York; he wasn’t working on the Manhattan Project.
What is it about Pincus’ ties to Israel that have disqualified him? The government better have a very good answer. And, unless he is somehow complicit in illegal activity, Pincus should be reinstated immediately with back pay and an effusive apology.
In these hypersensitive times, OPM can ill afford to make a stupid mistake.