The Pollard Affair

The Jerusalem Post - November 18, 1992

Sir, - I disagree with the assertion in your editorial of October 15 that "Jonathan Pollard's crime has probably done more damage to the US attitude to Israel than almost any single Israeli act since the establishment of the State."

The Pollard affair was the result of a rift in US-Israel relations, not the cause of it. The significance of Pollard's crime was not that it changed the US attitude, but that it was used by elements in the US government to erode popular support for Israel to justify a tilt toward the Arab position. By 1982 the signs of this new tilt were clear.

The spying itself shows that US policy had changed before the Pollard affair. Otherwise, Israeli officials would not have asked Pollard to spy. The 1973 US-Israeli agreement to share military information in the Middle East was still on the books, but had been superseded in fact by a new US policy that sought to limit Israel's ability to anticipate actions of its enemies.

To promote the new policy, its supporters used whatever tools were available, facts or falsehoods, or falsehoods with a thin mask of fact. It is in the last category that the Pollard affair belongs. It is true that Pollard committed the crime, but it is also true that the US government lied about he damage it caused.

The key to understanding the Pollard Affair was the decision by the US government not to keep a lid on it, as it did later when the Egyptian Defense Ministry recruited US rocket expert Abdelkader Helmy to smuggle stealth technology in 1989. In 1989, I saw only one story about the Helmy affair, in The New York Times, on page 6. In contrast, the US publicized the Pollard affair as aggressively as possible and maximized the crime. As your editorial pointed out, Helmy received 48 months while Pollard got life.

Defense secretary Caspar Weinberger swore under oath that Pollard's pirated secrets posed the greatest threat to US security in 40 years. Everyone knew that was not true, and everyone understood his allusion to events 40 years earlier when other American Jews, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, had proven themselves disloyal to their adopted country.

The purpose in making that otherwise gratuitous reference was to undermine trust in Israel as a reliable ally and to intimidate American Jews from backing Israel wholeheartedly. It distracts us from the real issue of what factions within the US government are seeking to alter the balance of power in the Middle East, and why.

JAMES E. CARNER, East Windsor, New Jersey.