Robert Levinson isn’t in the news very often. And that’s just wrong, for he is the longest-held American captive in history, disappearing in Iran more than 10 years ago.
As world tensions mount on multiple fronts, including between the United States and Iran, we urge the American government and all other influential world bodies to redouble their efforts to free Levinson, who presumably was taken by Iranian forces, although he may no longer be in their custody.
The former FBI agent and CIA consultant had been in the midst of a rogue CIA operation on Iran’s Kish Island in 2007 when his colleagues lost contact with him. Other than a report of so-called proof of life delivered to his family in 2010 and subsequent photos ostensibly dating from 2011, there has been no word from the Iranian regime about Levinson’s fate.
There is every reason to worry about Levinson’s health and safety. The 69-year-old former Florida resident suffers from diabetes and hypertension, is a known intelligence agent and a Jew. It is hard to believe he would not face harsh treatment at the hands of his captors.
As part of the comprehensive Iran nuclear deal, in January 2016 President Obama managed to secure the release of five Americans held prisoner in Iran. Levinson was not among them. Administration officials stated at the time that they no longer believed he was being held in Iran, but they secured a pledge from the Iranians to help locate him. Nothing came of that effort, and given the intensifying hostility between Iran and this country today — including a measure to apply sanctions against Iran, along with Russia and North Korea, that is moving through Congress this week — it is doubtful we can expect any cooperation going forward.
When aid worker Alan Gross was arrested and jailed in Cuba in 2009, American Jews lobbied hard to free him. He was released in 2014. When Jonathan Pollard was convicted for spying for Israel, and held for decades in an American maximum-security prison, the Jewish community never stopped working for his release, which finally came in 2015.
Yet we hear so little about Levinson.
With so many flash points around the world, with the Trump administration in chaos, with climate change worsening day by day, it is admittedly hard to focus on the life of one American Jew, who surely knew the risks of his mission.
And yet we remember the eternal words of our talmudic sages: whoever saves one life, saves the world entire. And so we remember the plight of Robert Levinson, and call upon our government to demand his immediate release.