Pollard’s ongoing incarceration in an American prison has become a
national disgrace. It’s time to change the rules of the game to put an
end to this fiasco.
By Ben-Dror Yemini – Maariv
Years ago I mistakenly wrote articles opposing the campaign for the
release of Jonathan Pollard. The way the Americans see it, I would
argue, he is a spy who did terrible damage to American Jewry. It was a
strategic mistake of the government of Israel to run an American Jew
as a spy. Even if it seems to us that no harm was done to the United
States, American Jewry’s silence on this issue for many years is
understandable and perhaps even justified. Also, given that there is
always someone ready to accuse American Jews of dual loyalty, they do
not need the additional complication of a Jewish spy to add fuel to
the fire. So I wrote.
The dual loyalty debate is far from over. Even today there are those
who call supporters of Israel, “Israel firsters” — meaning that they
are first of all for Israel, or to put it less delicately, that they
are disloyal to America.
Years passed and more years passed. And still more years and even more
years passed. This week marks 10,000 days since the arrest and
imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard. Murderers who were imprisoned at the
same time as Pollard have long since been freed. Only Pollard remains
in prison. It’s not just that he has paid his dues – he has paid them
with compounded interest. It is clear now, or quite clear, that there
was something defective in the legal process he underwent. But who are
we to complain about the legal system in another country? They have
their own corrective mechanisms; but they too failed to provide relief
for Pollard. Here, too, we must admit, repair mechanisms sometimes do
But that is not the point.
Pollard has served his time. Not only has he served his time but he
has served it doubled and redoubled many times over. His continued
incarceration in an American prison is a disgrace. It is not only a
legal and judicial disgrace – it is now a political disgrace. Given
that Pollard was not a spy for a hostile country, he should have been
released long ago. Ten Russian spies were caught in the United States
about three years ago, and they were quickly released in exchange for
one American. Another spy was caught after the deal was made and he
was released as a goodwill gesture.
What is more, many top U.S. officials who in the past opposed
Pollard’s release are now calling for it. They realized something was
wrong. The years kept going by and it was time to release him, but
nothing happened. So what-the-devil is the story with Jonathan
The United States is currently demanding that Israel make “goodwill
gestures” including the release of Palestinian terrorists to appease
His Excellency Mahmoud Abbas. Only the United States is allowed to be
so astonishingly cruel to a prisoner? Even more astonishing!
There is no escaping the simple conclusion: Pollard is a victim of
American friendship, not hostility. The Russian spies were released
with incredible ease and if this were about a Chinese spy, he would
long since have walked free. But Pollard just continues to rot in
prison endlessly. The all powerful pro – Israel lobby is totally
paralyzed in this case. And now that American Jewry has finally woken
up (it had to wake up because Pollard’s incarceration is not only
excessive, it is beyond excessive) its entire influence on the
situation amounts to zero. Pollard is still in jail.
Let’s for a moment suppose that all the claims made by those who seek
Pollard’s freedom are totally baseless. Let’s suppose that the
judicial process was flawless; let’s suppose that this is a dangerous
spy who did terrible damage to the US; let’s suppose that extra
special deterrence was necessary precisely because this case was the
result of dual loyalty and the Americans wanted to deter Israel from
ever doing anything like this again. Let’s say it is all true. And
even if it were all true, the full measure of suffering has been
exacted. This was not supposed to be a show trial, but it has become a
show punishment, and even that has run its full measure.
Israel paid an exorbitant price, excessive and excruciating, for the
release of one soldier. It is not clear whether the price was
justified. What is clear is that it would only take a tenth – no more
than a tenth – of the same degree of national mobilization to secure
the release of Pollard.
It would mean taking a step up: no more secret talks behind closed
doors, no more burying Pollard on the agenda. There is a compelling
need for a formal, official public statement by the Government of
Israel demanding his release, including the appropriate arguments –
and Israel has plenty of those.
The United States is the most important friend of Israel, but in this
specific instance, its friendship has worked against Pollard. There is
no need to harm our friendly relations, but we have to admit that
playing by the old rules of the game has gotten us no where in
resolving Pollard’s plight. It’s time to change the rules of the game.
View the original Hebrew article (April 9, 2013, p23) at
http://epaper.maariv.co.il/Olive/ODE/News/ or view online at Maariv