Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

Joseph R. Rackman - Miami Jewish Tribune - November 10, 1992

Jonathan Pollard is guilty, but so is the judicial system of the United States.

The American who spied for Israel received a life sentence and is in solitary confinement twenty-three hours each day. Sentences against spies in the employ of allies have always been for less than five years and even an American F.B.I. agent, Richard Milke, who spied for our old nemesis, the Soviet Union, received only a twenty year sentence. Sadly, a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court refused to review the Pollard case so that his relief can come only from the White House.

There are those who would rouse public support for Pollard by portraying him as a hero as, it is believed, the materials provided by Pollard to Israel should have been provided in any event (under previously implemented intelligence exchange agreements between Israel and the United States government.)

While Pollard is guilty, so is the judicial system of the United States for letting an unfair sentence stand.

Of special concern is the failure of certain mainstream Jewish organizations to come to the defense of Pollard. They argue that his situation is not a Jewish issue. I suspect that Pollard would have fared much better had he been a non-Jew who had spied in behalf of Israel; The Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and American Jewish Congress would be vying for the right to speak out on his behalf - for Pollard, the big three do not utter a word. Why?

The only answer I can come up with is that they fear opening up American Jewry to charges of dual loyalty. Ironically, the ability for us as Jews to both condemn what Pollard did and, at the same time, object to his unfair sentence represents the quintessential discharge of both our duties and rights as American citizens. Condemnation of Pollard's actions can be coupled with support for Pollard's release by reason of the excessive sentence.

While we must be careful to temper our support for Pollard with recognition of his guilt, no such temperance is necessary in condemning the actions of Caspar Weinberger. His private communication to the trial judge in the Pollard case was the probable cause for Pollard's harsh sentence. What motivated Caspar Weinberger? One theory is that he was seeking a harsh sentence in order to send a message to the Arab world. What better way to signal oil-rich Arabs of American distancing from Israel than by giving an Israeli spy a graver punishment than would be meted out to a Soviet spy?

Another possible motivation for Weinberger was suggested by Alan Dershowitz. "Was Weinberger, whose father was born Jewish, overreactive to espionage committed by a Jew for the Jewish state?" In other words, is Weinberger's villainy explained by his own fears of being charged with dual loyalties?

Harsh words must also be directed at the State of Israel which abandoned a loyal spy in order to preserve the reputations of cabinet ministers. Early on, as the relations unfolded, Israeli officials expressed surprise upon being told that there was any spy on behalf of Israel in America. There were protestations of innocence. It was a rogue operation, they claimed, an unauthorized escapade. Over the past few years, however, it appears that the quality of the information supplied by Pollard to the Israelis was of such a high caliber that it must have come to the attention of the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister.

What may have started out as a rogue operation must have become known to the upper echelons of the Israeli government and the spy operation thereafter continued with their approval. Yet the politicians will not admit this as the Pollard fiasco caused a serious erosion of United States-Israel strategic cooperation.

One must hope that the Pollard information was so valuable that it was worth risking the safety of American Jewry, but no Israeli politician will admit this. So far only Jonathan Pollard has directly paid the price, but there must have been some erosion, to an unknowable degree, of American tolerance for Jews. The Israeli government is responsible for this.

The Pollard case is a necessary reminder that Israel and Diaspora Jewry do not have an identity of interests. American Jews like the good life of the diaspora and our first loyalty is to our own creature comforts in exile. Israel put this at hazard for her own purposes. Perhaps, this is why so many American Jews are silent about the Pollard case. We do not like that our good life in America has been placed at risk. If that is our true motivation in remaining silent then not only are Pollard, the American Judiciary, Caspar Weinberger and the Israeli cabinet guilty, but so are we.

The author is a partner in the Manhattan law firm of Squadron, Ellenoff, Plesent & Lehrer.