Silence on Pollard Case Hurts Us as Well as Him

Jacob Seidenberg - Broward Jewish World - April 9, 1992

On September 10, 1991, the second day of Rosh HaShana, Jonathan Pollard's appeal to withdraw his guilty plea was heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals by a panel of three judges, two of whom were Jewish. More than six months later, on March 20, 1992, the appeal was rejected, 2 to 1, the non-Jewish judge casting the minority vote.

In the six-plus years since Jonathan's arrest, major Jewish organizations, such as B'nai Brith, the Anti-Defamation league of B'nai Brith (ADL), the American Jewish Congress, and the American Jewish committee, under the umbrella of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC) have satisfied themselves that they would not become involved "because of the absence of evidence of anti-Semitism or anti-Israel bias."

Consequently they would not join in asking for executive clemency nor even for an open trial, though there is certainly nothing unpatriotic or disloyal or even partial in backing an open trial.

Just why anti-Semitism must be present before Jews can help a fellow Jew was never explained. This writer remains uninformed of where the anti-Semitism was that moved the ADL, shortly after the Persian Gulf War, to publish a full page ad in The New York Times and elsewhere, "Who cares about the Kurds? We do!"

That prominent Jews, such as Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, thought they saw anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias in the Pollard case, that many other Jewish organizations, in the United States and elsewhere, came out in support of Jonathan Pollard (and before her release, for Anne Henderson Pollard), that they asked for an open trial, none of these moved the members of NJCRAC --members who do not don the mask of anonymity when there is credit to be taken.

Another argument repeatedly presented by the "uninvolved" organizations was that they do "not intervene on behalf of Jewish prisoners just because they happen to be Jewish." Cable News Network's Wolf Blitzer, then at The Jerusalem Post, reported on the importance to Israel's security of the information Pollard provided , information that had been withheld by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, information to which Israel was entitled under an executive agreement. Col. Aviem Stella, reportedly Pollard's initial contact, was also the leader of the 1981 Israeli raid on the Iraqi nuclear reactor (for which Israel was thanked only 10 years later at the time of the Persian Gulf war). He had told his men: "What occurred was in the national security interest of the State of Israel. What was at stake was the saving of many Jews' lives." Jonathan Pollard is not the ordinary Jewish prisoner who just happens to be Jewish.

But for some of these organizations it was not enough just to "remain uninvolved." They engaged in rumor and innuendo and in presenting only the most negative (Government) aspects of the case. Unable to see definitive evidence of anti-Semitism, they were able to use speculation to damn Pollard and stay "uninvolved."

Judge, for example, this excerpt from a B'nai B'rith letter: "There are aspects that make "B'nai B'rith leaders think twice about getting involved. One is the hyperbole and disinformation that the Pollard family and the Pollard defense committee have employed in an effort to win early release for Jonathan Pollard and win over Jewish organizations and rank and file Jews to their side. More serious, however, is the suggestion --backed up by some credible evidence - that Pollard, whatever his motivations, may have done very serious damage to U.S. intelligence, including - we are led to believe -- possibly compromising the very lives of American intelligence agents operating in Eastern Europe and the Soviet union. All this makes it difficult to rally to Pollard's defense. (My italics.)

"Suggestions," "may have done," "we are led to believe," "possibly" are convincing enough to do nothing, but repeated and suspicious indications of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias are inadequate for becoming uninvolved. As for "credible" evidence, evidence may be very credible until challenged.

The written charges brought against Pollard did not assert that he had done harm to the united states, and certainly the government's summary of its espionage case against Pollard, entitled Factual Proffer , submitted by he prosecutor, Joseph E. DiGenova, and published in the New York Times of June 5, 1986, did not. Pollard was not charged with damaging U.S. intelligence or with compromising the lives of American intelligence agents, and the outcome of extensive polygraphing did not allege that he did. Concern with what Pollard might have done was the crux of much of the government's argument, but proof is lacking for this speculation.

Concerning the "hyperbole and disinformation" cited above, I wrote, separately, to both George L. Spectre, associate director, international and public affairs, and Kent E. Schiner, president, B'nai B'rith International, very specifically asking that I be informed of such hyperbole and disinformation, "as I do not wish to be their victim," but they did not reply.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting of B'nai B'rith lodges at which a former ADL national commissioner spoke on the Pollard case. His presentation, besides being almost entirely one sided and hostile, serving up government arguments but not Pollard defense arguments contained in an ADL report, also provided misinformation and speculation.

I can not escape the very strong impression of Jewish effort not only not to help Pollard but actually to damage him by innuendo and active discouragement of any support for him.

It might be that Jonathan Pollard is guilty of many things. An open trial would tell us. New, speculative charges could be introduced with whatever substantiation, if any, that exists. Blacks and other minorities have found that "going through channels" is not always the best means for achieving their ends.

If matters are left to stand - silence by major Jewish organizations, closing our eyes to anti-Semitic blows, a trial on Rosh Hashanah, two Jewish judges voting against a second chance while one Gentile voted for - the behavior of the Jewish community in the United States, not the behavior of Jonathan Pollard, will go down in Jewish annals of disgrace.

The author lives in Coconut Creek, Florida.