Pollard: An American-Israeli Patriot

January 30, 1991 - Edward Langer & David Wolfe - The Jerusalem Post

It is no secret that over the past 42 years, since the establishment of the state, American-Israeli relations have seen no small measure of trials and tribulations.

Undoubtedly, recent events reflect one of the finest hours in the relationship between Washington and Jerusalem. Similarly, one would be unlikely to find many objections to a definition of the "Pollard Affair" as one of the lowest points in that relationship.

Since January 15 [1991], American officials as well as the media have offered generous and unprecendented praise to Israel's policy of self-restraint in the Gulf crisis.

Much attention has been give to Israel's general state of preparedness, and some of the most vivid images of the Gulf crisis are those of Israeli children being placed in gas-proof basinettes by their gas-masked parents.

Families have taken steps to seal windows and doors with weather-stripping and plastic sheeting, all in accordance with Civil Defense instructions which have been periodically repeated on radio and television. Clearly, one of the most pleasant surprises of this crisis has been the population's exemplary calm under the present tense circumstances.

For a number of years now, Israel has been making quiet preparations for the current crisis, including diverting scarce manufacturing resources to the production and stockpiling of several million gas masks for the protection of the entire population.

Obviously, a high-level decision-making process was initiated several years ago, allowing the civilian population to cope with the Iraqi threat of chemical warfare now. What prompted the Israeli government to initiate and maintain a long-term policy directed at a seemingly unknown threat by a country whose involvement as a "confrontational state" had been marginal?

All decision-making processes are based on information, the reliability of which is essential to defining and implementing the correct policy. Given the uncertainties of geo-political developments in the Middle East, the true test of policy implementation is seen in its effectiveness to meet the challenges of an ever-changing situation. What information enabled Israel to properly asses the Iraqi threat, define policies to address it, and implement them in a timely fashion?

In his definitive report of the Jonathan Pollard affair, entitled "Territory of Lies", Wolf Blitzer, then the Jerusalem Post's Washington correspondent, now a familiar face on CNN, describes the content of information provided by Pollard to Israel during the years 1984-85, as follows:

"For example, he [Pollard] obtained the most exact U.S. gathered information about Iraqi ... chemical warfare production capabilities, including detailed satellite pictures and maps showing the location of factories and storage facilities. The United States did not want to make such specific information available, fearing a preemptive strike ... The first documents Pollard gave Israel, and which so impressed his handlers, involved the details of Iraq's chemical warfare factories.

As to what motivated Pollard to pass such information to the Israelis, Blitzer relates the ridicule which Pollard faced when participating in an official U.S.-Israeli intelligence exchange conference. At a particular juncture in the meeting, a U.S. representative was asked for "releasable" information on Soviet chemical warfare agents. In response, the U.S. representative turned laughingly to Pollard and said that he thought "the Jews were overly sensitive about gas due to their experience during the Second World War, and suggested they [the Israelis] should just calm down a bit."

In retrospect, Pollard's efforts should now be re-examined, since they were reportedly calculated to give the Israelis advance warning of the growing Iraqi threat of chemical warfare, and it is this vital information which has proved invaluable in preparing Israel and its civilian population for the present crisis.

Moreover, in light of today's headlines, one could easily conjure up the most horrid scenario had Pollard not supplied the information which gave Israel the early warning required to meet the deadly Iraqi threat.

Patriotism can assume many forms, and acts of patriotism are often dictated by circumstances not fully appreciated at the time when these acts are performed. Surely, the events of recent days shed new light on both the value and motivation of Jonathan Pollard's actions. Israel's cooperation with the U.S. policy of waging war in the Gulf, demonstrated by its highly praised self-restraint, would not have been possible were it not for its confidence in its own general preparedness for Iraqi chemical threats.

Today, both the U.S. and Israel fully appreciate the real danger of Iraqi chemical threats. However, it what now seems to be a very distant past, in 1984-85, Israel knew only one American, Jonathan Pollard, who reportedly appreciated this threat and was in a position to assist Israel by providing it with vital information regarding what is now acknowledged as one of the most powerful and menacing dictatorships in the world. This fact can no longer be ignored. The value and valor of Pollard's actions should now be clear to all.

Tonight, the people of Israel will sleep better knowing that U.S. Patriot anti-missile missiles guard its skies. However, Israel's sleep will remain uneasy, so long as Jonathan Pollard, a no less crucial contributor to Israel's defense, is denied his freedom and the belated recognition that his actions were not traitorous, but were rooted in a deep conviction that bolstering Israel's defense fully coincides with America's best interests.

Patriotism can assume many forms .. this truism is Pollard's legacy.