A Scandal Called 'Pollardgate'

October 25, 1992 - The Jerusalem Post

Several months ago, I received a letter from Jonathan Pollard.

"It's a real tragedy that the Labor Party has, for the most part, remained silent on my case," he wrote. "Neither Mr. Peres nor Mr. Rabin has shown a willingness to come to my assistance." It's more than a tragedy.

It's a scandal in the making.

Three items in the news recently have all come together to make the tragic and scandalous Pollard case clearer.

First, there was the decision of the US Supreme Court to reject Pollard's appeal. The convicted Israeli intelligence operative now faces

a lifetime

in prison, with the only way out a presidential pardon. We can rest assured that no Republican president, and certainly not one connected with the Reagan administration, will be helpful. I also don't see any sign that Bill Clinton is going to hurry to free Jonathan Pollard from his isolation cell in the federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois.

Second, we were all reminded recently by the Israeli media that six years have passed since navigator Ron Arad fell into the hands of Arab terrorists in Lebanon. In the last few weeks, Arad has been repeatedly in the news: his family openly putting pressure on the government; the Lebanese delegation to the peace talks in Washington admitting that he is alive; a French journalist claiming that he's in good health; and now terrorist organizations offering his release in exchange for some of their own people held by Israel.

And finally, there were the Kerry Committee hearings in the US Senate, which stunned Americans with the news that the Nixon administration lied about the Vietnam war PoWs, that it knowingly left Americans behind in Communist hands.

To me, these three ongoing news stories, each shocking and depressing in its own way, are woven together, forming a single tapestry of shame and dishonor.

What do the American PoWs, Ron Arad and Jonathan Pollard have in common? A great deal.

They were all captured while performing missions on behalf of their governments.

The Americans, mostly Air Force pilots, were acting under the direct orders of the US president. Ron Arad was participating in continuous Israeli Air Force overflights in Lebanon, a policy implemented by the national unity government in the mid-1980s, following the withdrawal of most IDF ground forces from Lebanon.

And Jonathan Pollard, too, was acting under orders, on behalf of the Israeli government.

When Pollard first made contact with high-ranking Israelis in the US, he was not told to go away, or to quit his job and come on aliya. Instead, he was given assignments.

The Israeli intelligence community produced "shopping lists" for the American Naval Intelligence employee and taught him the rudiments of modern spycraft. He was flown to Europe, where he met with increasingly important Israelis, and was informed that the highest levels of our government knew of his work and appreciated his efforts and the risks he was taking on behalf of the Jewish state.

No less than the American PoWs, who may still be alive in the hands of Vietnamese and Laotian Communists, no less than navigator Ron Arad, Jonathan Pollard was acting in the service of the country he loved.

The Pollard operation, like the Vietnam war and the "Peace for Galilee" campaign, was rejected by the nation it was meant to serve. But that does not mean that Jonathan Pollard should pay the price of a mistake made at the highest levels of our government.

The abandonment of Jonathan Pollard began the day of his arrest,

when he and his wife Anne were ordered to leave the grounds of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. We may have suspicions about Nixon's decision to leave Americans behind in Vietnam, or doubts about how effective the government has been in its efforts to free Ron Arad; but there is no doubt about what happened in the Pollard case.

The national unity government threw Pollard to the wolves

, not only failing to extricate him from a dangerous situation in time, but even coming to the assistance of the Americans in securing his conviction. The three cases are woven together in a fabric of shame. Men who served their countries, obeying orders they were given by their governments, participated in operations which divided public opinion in their countries. When captured, they were abandoned by those governments (in the case of Arad, possibly abandoned). To this day, their families suffer and wait - and cannot trust those governments to do their jobs and bring the men home.

Fortunately, there has been a change recently. After 20 years, a Vietnam veteran, Senator John Kerry, has brought the PoW issue to life again. With the collapse of Soviet communism, it now appears possible that the fate of the missing Americans in Southeast Asia will eventually be resolved.

There is also reason for cautious optimism in the case of Ron Arad. The Lebanese delegation's admission that Arad is still alive offers hope that in the context of the peace talks, something will move in his case.

But the Pollard case is not moving toward resolution. On the contrary,

the Supreme Court decision confirms that Jonathan Pollard will rot in his cell in Marion until the day he dies


Pollard is still a relatively young man. He may live for many more years. For some reason, I find it easy these days to imagine an Israeli equivalent of the US Senate's Kerry Committee, investigating this case 20 years from now. The documents will be declassified, and the Israeli and American publics will learn why our leaders in Jerusalem decided to betray Jonathan Pollard.

And the journalists will find a name for the scandal - probably something clumsy like "Pollardgate."