The Jerusalem Post - December 19, 1993
If the anti-Pollard editorials in The New York Times and The Washington Post,
the spurious "new revelations" about the secrets Pollard passed, and the leaks
about Pentagon and CIA recommendations against his pardon are any indication,
there are still powerful forces in Washington which want to see Jonathan
Pollard stay in prison for many years. If nothing else, the shrillness of the
campaign against him raises the possibility that what animates his adversaries
is vindictiveness and retribution, rather than a desire to see justice served.
Jonathan Pollard's crime has probably done more damage to Israel's standing in
the US than almost any single Israeli act since the establishment of the
state. It stained Israel's image, embarrassed its government, and shook the
American Jewish community to the core. That he committed a serious crime is
acknowledged by all his friends and by Pollard himself. But his sentence was
as draconian as it was unjustified.
It is difficult to accept the official American assessment of the damage
Pollard did to US intelligence, and it is well-nigh impossible to take the
flood of leaked innuendo seriously. Charges that Pollard compromised
communication codes, exposed American intelligence networks, revealed the
secrets of new weapons systems, and collaborated with the then-apartheid
regime of South Africa are floated in the knowledge that denials of such
charges - in the unlikely case they are made at all - are never credible. And
the fact that Pollard was not tried in an open court gives the rumor
manufacturers a carte blanche for malicious mischief.
That such rumors are being spread now recalls the role played by
then-secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger in Pollard's sentencing. Ignoring
some of the most damaging penetrations of the American defense establishment
by American traitors working for the Soviets, he stated in a March 1987
affidavit: "It is difficult for me ... to conceive a greater harm to
national security than that caused by Pollard." Such statements are animated
more by rage than reason.
Without minimizing the enormity of the crime of spying, Pollard's defenders
vehemently disagree with such hyperbole. In Pollard's defense, they say that
had the US adhered to its intelligence-sharing agreement with Israel,
virtually all the information Pollard transmitted would have passed through
regular government channels. Most of the information, they maintain, was
regional and tactical - about Iraqi and Pakistani nuclear capabilities and PLO
bases, for example - hardly the kind which could compromise American security.
As one of them put it, Pollard spied in the US, not against the US. He was not
convicted of treason.
According to prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who represented him last year,
Pollard was sentenced after entering a plea bargain in which he agreed to
plead guilty in return for an implicit promise that he would be treated with
relative leniency. This agreement spared the government a messy trial in
which it would have had to reveal secret evidence and sources, and defend its
withholding information from Israel. Opening the case could have turned it
into another Irangate, with mud sticking everywhere.
But the judge, disregarding the deal and influenced by Weinberger's incredible
statement, passed an unprecedented life sentence. No spy for a friendly power
has ever been sentenced to life imprisonment in the US. In peace time, such a
penalty is meted out only to those caught spying for America's primary
enemies, and even then only rarely.
For the first time since Pollard was sentenced, both the Jewish establishment
in the US and the Israeli government have asked for a presidential pardon.
They have not done so lightly. The Jewish organizations had to overcome their
fear of the charge of dual loyalty; and Jerusalem, which has always claimed
Pollard's was a rogue operation, had to put its prestige on the line. To his
great credit, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was the first Israeli premier to
plead for Pollard's release.
A refusal to grant Pollard a pardon at this stage will not only raise the
suspicion that a Jew is being singled out for special cruelty because he is a
Jew who served Israel; it will be a slap in the face of both the American
Jewish community and Premier Rabin.
The US is a humane society with a strong sense of justice and great sympathy
for contrition. President Bill Clinton represents this kind of compassion and
humaneness perhaps better than any president in recent history. By all
accepted standards of civilized, democratic society, Pollard, who has
expressed remorse and regret for his actions, has paid for the crime he
committed. It is time to pardon him.