American Jews are experiencing a nightmare. They are finally accepting the reality that the draconian treatment of Jonathan Pollard emanates from anti-Semitic strains in the US Intelligence hierarchy. Some had believed this to be the case for some time, but with additional convincing evidence, the realization is rapidly gaining ground.
American former naval intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard is no hero. He is a convicted spy. He may have provided valuable intelligence to Israel relevant to the Gulf War, but was remunerated for his actions.
One can appreciate the outrage of American intelligence authorities against an American Jew spying for Israel. However, Pollard’s punishment grossly exceeds his crime.
Pollard entered a plea bargain agreement which would have effectively limited his sentence to a maximum of ten years but this was effectively reneged by the judge. Pollard is now serving his 29th year in prison – seven of which were in solitary confinement.
Israel is an ally, not an enemy of the US. There is no precedent for any other spy in the US undergoing such harsh treatment in the post-World War ll era. Those convicted of espionage on behalf of US allies like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Philippines served two to four year prison terms.
The moral outrage US intelligence spokesmen express about Pollard spying on allies rings hollow, particularly following recent exposures that the US itself has the most consistent track record of espionage against allies of any Western country, including Israel.
In recent months, American political leaders, including retired Intelligence heads, have created a groundswell of wide-ranging, bipartisan political support for commuting Pollard’s sentence. This has been to no avail.
In response to calls to free Pollard, the New York Times this month prominently published an emotional and jaundiced op-ed by M. E. Bowman, a former FBI deputy counsel who had coordinated the investigation against Pollard, urging that he remain incarcerated. Aside from numerous falsehoods and distortions, Bowman failed to distinguish between Pollard’s espionage against an ally and that of American traitors like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen who received life sentences for conveying information to the Soviet Union which led to the execution of numerous American intelligence agents.
To bolster his case, Bowman made an unsubstantiated allegation that Pollard was also responsible for the deaths of American agents. He based this on a fantasy that Israel conveyed information obtained from Pollard to the Soviet Union in order to gain concessions towards easing Jewish emigration restrictions. This disgusting potpourri of concocted rumors and lies is surely indicative of the determination of those within the American intelligence community who wish to make an example of Pollard in order to intimidate the Jewish community. Nor is it coincidental that the “liberal” New York Times saw fit to publish such an illiberal, bigoted and unsubstantiated article at this time.
In response to the op-ed, Tablet, a respected American online magazine dealing with Jewish life, published an editorial that breaks new ground on the Pollard debate. It explicitly accuses the U.S government of anti- Semitism and discrimination against the Jewish community.
The editorial accused the national security establishment of using the Pollard case to challenge the loyalty of Jews in order to cover up their own “incredibly damaging mistakes and failures”. It asserts: “Pollard’s continued incarceration appears, at this point in time, to be intended as a statement that dual loyalty on the part of American Jews is a real threat to America – and a warning to the American Jewish community as a whole.”
Tablet called on Jewish leaders to stand up against this “real injustice, whose perpetuation is clearly intended to suggest that all American Jews are, inherently, potential traitors to their country”. It insists that “allowing the American national security establishment to play on classic anti-Semitic stereotypes in order to keep a man in prison as a ’lesson’ to other members of his groups or race is contrary to both the spirit and letter of the U.S. Constitution – and would surely and rightly never be tolerated by Muslims, gays, blacks, Chinese-Americans, or any other group.”
Furthermore the editorial accuses the American Jewish establishment of having failed to aggressively confront this issue because of its reluctance to be associated with a convicted traitor. This “metastasized into a real threat to the promise of legal and social equality that American Jews now take for granted.”
Tablet insisted that by confining the Pollard case to a strictly humanitarian issue and merely appealing for a commutation of the sentence, Jewish leaders had “given an unwitting stamp of communal acquiescence to the message of suspicion that Pollard’s punishment is intended to convey… The business as usual attitude of the American Jewish leaders has legitimized a noxious brand of political anti-Semitism which is being adopted by parts of the US political establishment – as well as by journalists, [and] academics… The injustice that is being done to Pollard pales next to this very deliberate injustice being done to American Jews by high-ranking US government officials in Pollard’s name”. In other words the Pollard issue should be based on demands for justice rather than compassionate or humanitarian appeals.
There is no disputing that successive Israeli governments have grossly mishandled the issue, initially denying that it was their problem and falsely describing Pollard’s actions as a “rogue” operation. Now there are disturbing allegations that US Secretary of State John Kerry has hinted that Pollard’s release could be expedited if Israel makes additional unilateral concessions to the Palestinians.
The obscene implications of this are magnified, given the extraordinary pressure which Kerry exerted on Israel to release 104 mass murderers to induce the Palestinians to even agree to conduct negotiations. Hopefully Israeli leaders will adamantly distance themselves from enabling the Americans to exploit Pollard as a pawn in the extortion game with the Palestinians.
For the first time, Jewish leaders are now being called upon to confront the painful anti-Semitic motivations of those engaged in the ongoing incarceration of Pollard. Admittedly, the pressures confronting the American Jewish establishment are intensifying. Presenting the case for Israel and opposing the nuclearization of Iran has already created major tensions with the Obama administration.
But the Pollard issue can no longer be set aside, for it shakes American Jews’ core beliefs that the American Diaspora is unique and that the US is the only country in the world, other than Israel, in which Jews can genuinely feel “at home” and are always treated as equal citizens.
As the insinuations of dual loyalty become ever shriller, Jewish leaders need to review the situation and develop a strategy which will be consistent with justice and retaining their Jewish way of life in conformity with the multi-pluralism of American society.
The Pollard case goes far beyond the issue of commuting an excessive sentence meted against a Jewish spy. Its outcome will impact on the essence of the relationship between the American-Jewish community and broader American society.
The writer may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org