Let’s Not Forget Robert Levinson, Still Missing after Vanishing in Iran

Jeffrey Salkin | Religion News Service | Thursday, January 21, 2016

Let’s Not Forget Robert Levinson, Still Missing after Vanishing in Iran

I wish that I were feeling better with the thawing of U.S.-Iran relations.


I’m not.


True — four Americans were released as part of the deal (Americans who should never have been captured and imprisoned in the first place).


But not all American prisoners were released.


Not Robert Levinson — an ex-CIA contractor and FBI agent, who has been missing in Iran since 2007. Levinson disappeared while in the country on an unauthorized mission for the CIA. It’s unclear where he is, or if he’s still living. Iranian officials have said they don’t know; Levinson’s family does not believe them.


That’s nine years. That makes Bob Levinson, my Broward County, Fla., neighbor, one of the longest-missing captives in American history.


Some observers, such as Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, suggested on Facebook that “President Obama screwed American Jewry” by abandoning Levinson, thus sealing his death warrant and in so doing, making clear that “Jews are second class citizens and not worthy of the same protection as all other Americans.”


Glick, and her ideological homies, think that the Obama administration deliberately left Levinson behind because he’s Jewish. And, to be sure, this fits into the Obama-phobic narrative that many Jews have adopted.


Jews have turned suspicion into an aerobic sport. But this seems a bit off. It’s not about Levinson’s ethnicity. This is not a singular or deliberate blow against Jewish Americans, as tempting as it might be to think so.


In fact, President Obama said: “Iran has agreed to deepen our coordination as we work to locate Levinson, missing from Iran for more than eight years. … Even as we rejoice in the safe return of others we will never forget about Bob. … We will never rest until their family is whole again.”


I’m actually more concerned about American Jewish organizations that are falling all over themselves lauding the breakthrough with Iran.


Consider a triumphant mailing from the Shalom Center. It actually had the poor taste to link Martin Luther King’s birthday with the Iran deal:


Today — as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King — we can also celebrate a victory for nonviolence and peacemaking not only in the past but in the present and future.


Disconnect No. 1: Martin Luther King Jr., the champion of nonviolence and civil rights, mentioned in the same breath as the mullahs of Iran. ‘Nuff said.


Disconnect No. 2: The Shalom Center fails to mention Iran’s ongoing murderous rhetoric against the state of Israel. Because, apparently, that doesn’t count.


Disconnect No. 3: Again, the good news from the Shalom Center: “It (Iran) has released Americans it had unjustly imprisoned … ”


Um, except for Levinson.


But the Shalom Center is not alone.


Unless I have totally missed something, there have been no statements from American Jewish organizations about Levinson’s plight.


Or, for that matter, Christian churches.


Which can only remind us of King’s famous bon mot: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”


Hillary Clinton got it right the other night, in her retort to Bernie Sanders’ rhapsodic glee over the current state of U.S.-Iran relations: “We’ve had one good day over 36 years.”


Over the past nine years, Levinson has had no good days.


This Sabbath, I am instituting a new prayer in my synagogue — a prayer for the safe return of Bob Levinson. All synagogues and churches (and mosques?) should follow suit.


Indeed, to quote one of my favorite Bill Murray films — #WhatAboutBob?


It is time — way past time — for Levinson to come home.



Jeffrey K. Salkin is the rabbi of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society


Courtesy: Religion News Service


Publication date: January 21, 2016