Pollard and The Exchange Package

William Mehlman - Jerusalem Post, International Edition - September 21, 1991

One name is conspicuously missing from the package being assembled for the reported exchange of Hizbullah godfather Sheikh Obeid and 375 of his street soldiers for the 10 Western hostages still held by Islamic Jihad and the live and/or dead bodies of seven Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon between 1982 and 1986. It is the name of Jonathan Jay Pollard.

Nobody, including Pollard, now in his sixth year of incarceration at federal maximum-security prison in Marion, Illinois, denies he violated American law in relaying to Israel U.S. spy satellite information concerning PLO force concentrations, Arab biochemical installations and other matters he deemed directly relevant to is security while serving as a civilian employee of U.S. Naval Intelligence. Whether the U.S. itself was in violation of pledges solemnly undertaken at Camp David to share such information with Israel and whether, being a member of a people threatened with a Middle Eastern genocide 40 years after suffering a European one, did not impose on Mr. Pollard a moral obligation to divulge the damning facts that superseded any by-the-book legal considerations, are questions that will be debated long after the dramatis personae of this affair are gone from the scene.

What is not debatable is that Jonathan Pollard's punishment--a life sentence--for supplying this information to Israel, a friend and ostensible ally, was at least as harsh, if not harsher, than that meted out to the Walkers for more than 20 years of military espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union, a country that until a couple of years ago was regarded as a threat to America's very existence. Nor is there much debate at this point about the vindictive role of former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger in this blot on America's reputation for judicial fairness and balance.

The proposed hostage-for-prisoners exchange offers an appropriate venue for rebalancing the scales. If Sheikh Obeid, who daily importuned for the destruction of Israel from his pulpit in South Lebanon, is to be set free at the urging, nay with the blessing, of the United States, then the continued imprisonment by the same United States of Jonathan Pollard for his efforts to spare Israel that fate no longer has even the semblance of a moral leg to stand on. Six years of solitary confinement at Marion ought to be punishment enough for that "crime", even by Mr. Weinberger's standards. Israel having long indicated its willingness to provide him permanent asylum under the Law of Return, the termination of the Pollard episode is now squarely up to George Bush, who should let him go.

William Mehlman,
Neponsit, N.Y.