An Orthodox Jewish dentist who had been practicing part time at an upstate New York naval clinic as an act of charitable patriotism has been told that he can no longer treat patients after his security clearance was denied because he has relatives living in Israel.
Far Rockaway resident Dr. Gershon Pincus had been practicing dentistry in Flatbush on Ocean Parkway between Avenues M and N for 35 years when he decided to use his skills treating patients in the military.
“I can think of no better way to experience the sunset of my career than by using my professional skills as a dentist to assist those who have chosen to serve in the United States military,” said Dr. Pincus in an affidavit.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Dr. Pincus found a part time job at an off base naval clinic in Saratoga Springs, New York, a 400 mile round trip that he made weekly. While the position offered less compensation than Dr. Pincus’ regular work it provided the father of four with an opportunity to do something for his country.
In a routine security interview that is mandatory for all civilian employees, the Brooklyn born dentist stated that he had several family members who lived in Israel, including a brother, a sister and an elderly mother who suffers from dementia and two siblings. Dr. Pincus’ son Avi, now deceased, had served briefly in the Israeli army and over the last ten years, Dr. Pincus had visited Israel on three separate occasions, one of which was his father’s funeral. The results of the October 2014 interview proclaimed that there was no reason to suspect that Dr. Pincus would be vulnerable to “blackmail, extortion, coercion or duress,” but five months later he was summoned for a second interview that focused almost exclusively on his Israeli connections.
Dr. Pincus’ security clearance was denied in September by the Office of Personal Management who gave a list of reasons that questioned his allegiance to the United States.
“You have weekly telephone contact with your mother and brother in Israel. You added your mother, sister and brother may have contact with neighbors 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 U.S. interests, or is vulnerable to pressure or coercion by foreign interests.”
A Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals database of individuals who were denied security clearances lists another case of someone refused a federal security clearance in 2014 solely because their sister in law is a member of the Israeli military.
The percentage of citizens denied clearances because of possible ties to Israel seems higher than average, with 62 percent of cases brought during the Obama presidency denied on appeal. In the same time period, just one individual with ties to France lost on appeal and every case that involved a connection to England was successfully appealed.
A statement released Thursday by the Orthodox Union blasted the Office of Personnel Management, which by its own admission said that they were aware that Dr. Pincus did not intend to move to Israel or to seek Israeli citizenship.
“The notion that an American Jew, a citizen of the United States, could be accused of having ‘divided loyalties’ and therefore be denied security clearance and lose his job, simply because he has family members who live in Israel, is outrageous and offensive,” said Orthodox Union president Martin Nachimson.
Nachimson characterized the denial as thinly veiled anti-Semitism.
“This discrimination cannot and should not be tolerated against Jews any more than it should be with regard to any other minority group,” said Nachimson.
Allen Fagin, executive director of the Orthodox Union called on both the navy and the president to rectify the wrongs that have been brought to light through the Pincus case.
“We call on Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to review Dr. Pincus’ case and the Obama Administration to investigate and address any prejudice that appears to exist within the OPM bureaucracy and its security clearance process,” said Fagin.