The Spy We Left Out in the Cold

Calev Ben-David - The Jerusalem Report - October 22, 1992

Little Boy Blue, by Mark Linder Random House

In a column in The Jerusalem Report last April, Anne Roiphe suggested - at least half-seriously - that the Mossad should spring Jonathan Pollard from jail and spirit him off to Israel. A curiously macho fantasy for a liberal-feminist writer to harbor, but perfectly understandable. American Jews are infatuated with the idea of Israel as the invincible protector of Jews; its abandonment of Pollard in the field was a blow to this image and to the morale of its admirers.

When "Little Boy Blue" landed on my desk with a blurb describing it as "the stunning tale of an Israeli plot to spring a dangerous spy from an impenetrable American jail," I immediately assumed it was written with the same kind of impulse as Roiphe's column. The book's spy is a naval intelligence officer named Martin Ellis with a sickly, Gentile-born wife, and is clearly modeled on Pollard. I imagined that Linder's book would give me a chance to cheer on fearless Mossad agents as they save Jewish honor by rescuing Ellis-Pollard from the goyim and bringing him back home.

Alas, the heroes here turn out not to be the Israelis, but the FBI and Justice Department agents out to foil the rescue mission. What's more, "Little Boy Blue" rehashes many of the unproven charges made over the years that threaten Israel's special relationship with the United States. These include:

  • Ellis (Pollard) was only the tip of the iceberg of a vast number of American-Jewish spies employed by Israel, including politicians, media figures, scientists, businessmen and students;
  • The Mossad stole plutonium from American nuclear reactors and smuggles it to Israel to help create the Dimona atomic facility;
  • The USS Liberty - the spy ship accidentally hit by Israeli jets off the Egyptian coast during the Six-Day War - was deliberately attacked because Israel believed that pro-Arab American officials were sharing the information it was gathering with the enemy.

"Little Boy Blue" is not anti-Semitic, or even anti-Israeli; the Israeli characters are portrayed with sympathy and understanding. It simply reflects the current view of Israel in the post-Cold War geopolitical situation - no longer an indispensable ally, but simply another foreign competitor (like Japan) in the Bushian New World Order.

Political considerations aside, "Little Boy Blue" is a disappointment. The tangled loyalties of the Pollard affair could be the ingredients of a classic John LeCarre novel. Unfortunately Linder has taken as his literary model not LeCarre, but the far lesser Tom Clancy. The Ellis-Pollard character barely makes an appearance, and the whole complex issue of American Jewry's dual identity problem is dealt with only superficially. In place of good plotting and complex characterizations, Linder gives us pages and pages of the same kind of meticulously researched technical information - on things like surveillance techniques and the bureaucratic structure of American intelligence agencies- with which Clancy pads out his over-long novels.

Linder even fails to answer the crucial question he raises several times: Why would Israel risk losing its indispensable strategic alliance with the United States simply to save one agent? The best "Little Boy Blue" can offer in this regard are such clichéd comments from its FBI heroes as "It's part of their Holocaust mind-set," and "It's an Old Testament outlook. They are a tribe; they bring out their people from the camp of the enemy."

Yeah, right - tell us about it. Better yet, go tell Jonathan Jay Pollard.

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