The Truth About Pollard

11

jonathan-pollardBy Jonathan Tobin

Last week, the Knesset took up the issue of Jonathan Pollard, the American Jew who has been serving a life sentence for spying on the United States on behalf of Israel. Knesset Speaker Benjamin Ben-Eliezer praised the spy as a “true Zionist.” Many members joined the 100,000 Israelis who signed a petition calling for Pollard’s release. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat agreed and said he would nominate Pollard for the prestigious Jerusalem Freedom Award. Pollard’s supporters are hoping this campaign on the eve of President Obama’s trip to Israel will bring attention to the case and lead to his freedom. But they are almost certainly mistaken.

In Haaretz, the paper’s Barak Ravid quotes a “senior American official” as saying that the latest round of public advocacy in Israel on behalf of Pollard is having no impact on President Obama. Though the administration is resigned to being subjected to numerous appeals to release the former U.S. Navy analyst who has been in jail since 1985, none of it is likely to persuade the president to grant clemency to Pollard. Indeed, as the official makes clear, the more Israelis and some American Jews treat the spy like a hero, the less likely Obama or anyone else in a position of authority in Washington is to listen to their appeals. That’s a hard concept for those who are trying to free Pollard to understand but if they are to ever succeed, they must start trying.
As I wrote in the March 2011 issue of COMMENTARY in an in-depth analysis of the case on its 25th anniversary, both sides of the long running argument about Pollard have exaggerated their positions to the point of caricature. Those in the U.S. security establishment have wrongly tried to blame Pollard for American intelligence setbacks at the hands of the former Soviet Union in an effort to justify their desire to continue to make an example of him. But Pollard’s backers have also inflated the value of the espionage that he committed on behalf of Israel while also trying to ignore the far more serious damage he did to the Jewish state by souring relations with its sole superpower ally.

Irrespective of these exaggerations, Pollard committed a crime for which he deserved serious punishment. But after more than 27 years in jail the case for mercy for the spy is stronger than ever. As I wrote two years ago, his sentence was disproportionate to that given any other person who spied for an ally as opposed to an enemy or rival nation. Nor is there any conceivable security justification for his continued imprisonment. But the biggest mistake that his supporters have continually made over the years is to think that his freedom will ever be won by efforts that cast him as a martyr. It was Pollard’s own foolish boasts along those lines in a “60 Minutes” interview and in discussions with Wolf Blitzer (the CNN star was then a Jerusalem Post reporter) that caused the government to trash the plea bargain agreement with the spy and led to his draconian sentence to life in prison.

Praise from the Knesset and awards from the city of Jerusalem merely repeat these mistakes.

What Pollard’s fans don’t understand is that lionizing the spy merely increases the desire of the U.S. security establishment to keep him in prison to set an example that spies are punished, not set free to play the hero. The vengeful attitude toward Pollard may stem in part from hostility to Israel by some in Washington. But it’s hard to blame them for resenting a campaign that treats a U.S. Navy employee who broke his oath and did real damage to the United States as somehow deserving praise.

But the pro-Pollard Jews just can’t seem to help themselves. One of the main lessons of 20th century history for Jews was that they couldn’t afford to be silent in the face of a threat or injustice. Such silence or a reliance on traditional modes of quiet diplomacy failed them in the greatest crisis of modern Jewish history during the Holocaust. A desire not to make the same mistake helped inspire the movements to free Soviet Jewry and to support Israel. It inspired in many Jews an understandable contempt for behind-the-scenes diplomacy or reticence on any issue. But it was that discredited strategy of quiet outreach rather than aggressive advocacy that was always the only formula to help free Pollard.

Had the issue been framed solely on the concept that Pollard was a misguided soul who erred but deserved mercy, he probably would have been out of jail a long time ago. But the attempt to cast him as an American “prisoner of Zion” merely strengthened the hands of those U.S. officials who have always been the roadblock to clemency.

At this point, it’s hard to imagine any circumstance in the immediate future that will lead Obama or his successor to free Pollard. But if there is to be any hope, it must begin with the spy’s supporters dropping any mention of anything but a desire for mercy for a man who has already been severely punished. If they ever want to see him freed, there must be an end to awards or rhetoric about his commitment to Zionism.

Source: COMMENTARY MAGAZINE

{Matzav.com Newscenter}

11 COMMENTS

  1. Are you suggesting that all hope is lost? As jews, we never lose hope. The mistakes made in an effort to free Pollard are negligible compared to the blatant fact that Obama is a socialist leader, who could care less about a suffering jew in the US orison system. If anything, your article only give Mr. Obama reason to continue holding him longer….shame on you.

  2. This article is 100% correct, and it’s a tragedy that no one heeds its message. I’ve been saying the same thing for years, but no one seems to listen. Loud public demonstrations and pressure produce the opposite effect. L

    We are a minority of a minority here in the US, and we have no political power outside of a few districts in New York and northern New Jersey. Trying to “exert pressure” just makes it necessary for the people we are trying to pressure to prove that they can’t be influenced by outside interests. The old-fashioned way of quiet, behind the scenes persuasion is what works, and what we need to return to.

  3. We set free arab terrorist guilty of Killing womens & Childrens in order to advance the broken peace and we do it with the blessing of the USA & the world, the arabs pay their familys a salary & they get a bonus, they name streets after martyrs and no one care so what is the big deal with pollard he didnt kill no one, and give us secrets our Good USA ally keep from us ,secrets needed four our security, the security of their friendly Israel! They keep from us what we need to protect our people, secrets not used against the USA like the Russian do when they get info from their spy’s

  4. #1, & #3 – The fact that we are a minority doesn’t give any government the right to inflict their wishes on us without any regard for morals – especially the medinah shel chessed of the US. What is happening to Jonathan at this point in time borders on torture. The facts are that Jonathan has served the longest prison term for this crime by an ally nationalist.
    Aside from the fact that you are incorrect by making these statements, you need to realize and forgo your minds “intellectual” arguments and recognize the urgency and need that your fellow needs from you. Put yourself in his shoes or in Esther Pollards shoes, and be dan l’kaf z’chus here….
    #2, You make valid points – but calling Obama a socialist leader may be slightly too blatant.

  5. I agree with the article but in Pollard’s case, the bad mistakes were made a number of years ago – in particular, the infamous interview. While in most cases, silent diplomacy works better than loud demonstrations (and in a few cases public pressure is called for), the sad truth is that in regards to Pollard, at this point, it’s difficult to imagine a feasible way out.

  6. I laud people who take on unpopular opinions when those opinions tell the unpopular truth, which is what this article wants to do. However, Mr. Tobin clearly does not know the facts of the Pollard case and still states his opinion, which is irresponsible.

    “But PollardÂ’s backers have also inflated the value of the espionage that he committed on behalf of Israel while also trying to ignore the far more serious damage he did to the Jewish state by souring relations with its sole superpower ally.”

    What espionage? The prosecution charged Pollard with giving over information to an ally, which is not espionage. What proof do you have of espionage? Even assuming you have proof, Pollard was never charged with espionage, so his sentence should have been commensurate with his charge, which would be 2-4 years.

    “But the biggest mistake that his supporters have continually made over the years is to think that his freedom will ever be won by efforts that cast him as a martyr.”

    Let us talk facts. Pollard could have gone through trial, which would have caused serious harm to the US government. Then President Reagan signed an executive order directing the intelligence establishment to give over certain information to Israel, including a possible Iraqi missile attack on Israel. As such, he is not only a martyr for Israel, by helping them prepare for the 1st Gulf war, he is also an American martyr by not using a trial to embarrass those who ignored the executive order.

    “Had the issue been framed solely on the concept that Pollard was a misguided soul who erred but deserved mercy, he probably would have been out of jail a long time ago.”

    What? Hansen and Ames were also “misguided souls” and they are in prison permanently for espionage. They are not getting out. Pollard erred. Conjecture stated that he passed information to the Israelis, which was received by Kalmanovitch, who then passed it to the Russians. We now know that it was Hansen and Ames who were giving information to the Russians, not this absurd Pollard/Kalmanovitch/Russian link.

    I also find it interesting that Tobin never mentioned Kalmanovitch, the bogus main link in the Pollard to the Russians saga.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here