A Place for Pollard

September 15, 1995 - Shmuel Shnitzer - Ma'ariv

I don't know if a positive response to Jonathan Pollard's request that he be given Israeli citizenship would have any effect on the American Administration - the same Administration that has to decide whether or not to grant him clemency. It is entirely possible that they might have decided that this was strictly a matter between Jonathan and Israel that didn't have anything to do with them.

But I do know very well how they will interpret out Israeli Interior's rejection of this request. The message this sends to the Americans and to all the world is that the State of Israel has washed its hands of the one who served her, that she is abandoning him to his fate and throwing him to the dogs. And this is a decision I can neither relate to nor, ever more so, be proud of.

It seems to me that this is one of those moments when an honest man and a proud Jew has to get up and declare "Not in my name and not in my behalf!" This is a decision that is neither fair nor Jewish, and I want no part of it. I am not indifferent to the fate of Pollard, and I do not think it was the right thing to do, to cut him loose and to abandon him.

In our statutes we have a law that every Jew throughout the world has the right to make aliyah to Israel and to become a citizen of the Jewish state. The meaning of this law is that every Jew is, in fact, a citizen of Israel. More than a few who have used this law to come to Israel have been active anti-Zionists, enemies of the state. But we never discriminated against them nor investigated their past. Because they came to Israel, and because they came as Jews, we forgave them all their sins. It becomes clear then, that whoever served the Soviet Union is worthy of forgiveness, but he who served Israel isn't worthy of having his "sin" forgiven. Let him rot in prison. We won't lift a finger for him.

As a nation, we know what it is to go to war without intelligence, and how many lives can be saved by reliable information that is received in time. Jonathan Pollard served the State of Israel and Tzahal (the Israel Defense forces) on the intelligence front. He betrayed the trust of the country in which he was born and raised in order to save the land that he had adopted. What punishment does a man deserve who does such a thing? To be ostracized in both worlds? To remain a criminal in the United States and an unwanted foreigner in Israel?

There aren't many ways for the state to say to a man who is injured in her service, "You are our brother and we are with you in your tragedy. We will find a a way to free you and we will give you a new home to replace the one that you gave up on our behalf" One of the ways is extending citizenship, a symbolic act, after all, and perhaps without any real benefit - but nevertheless an act that expresses a lot. Jonathan Pollard deserves an expression of our love. If we have nothing more in our power to give, then at the very least we are obliged to do just that.

And I, for one, am absolutely not convinced that if we really wanted to and if we were to ask emphatically, we couldn't, at the very least, open the prison gates for him and bring about the commutation of his life sentence, changing it to expulsion for life. In any case, America's finished for him; when all is said and done, he already chose between the United States and Israel - and he chose Israel. I believe that if we were to make it clear to the American Administration that we really want him; that we believe he has paid the price for his deeds; and that now he deserves a chance at a new beginning - if we were to explain that, in our opinion, this is the true test of the friendship between our two nations - they would understand and they would respond.

But we're not broadcasting any real interest; we're broadcasting indifference. We are creating the impression that Pollard is the least of our worries, and that if they want to deal harshly with him we will understand completely. After all, we just ruled that Jonathan Pollard is an orphan without parents, a bastard child that everyone is shamed of, untrustworthy even in our eyes.

I know that, taken as a whole, as a nation, we are not perfect. Our inability to hate is one of our most notorious characteristics. It's possible to chase us, to fell us, even to kill us - but we still don't hate. We have 6 million reasons to hate Germany; and we are drawn back there like moths to a flame. We have a longstanding account with Britain, but we've already forgiven and forgotten it. We have good reasons, fresh reasons - and piles of them - to hate Arafat; but even him we've gotten used to.

Are we not also capable of loving those who do good for us? Is the one who has suffered on our behalf despicable in our eyes? Is the citizenship that we give to virtually everyone, without question or qualification, too good to give to Jonathan Pollard?

Ten years ago, when he came to seek refuge in the Israeli embassy in Washington, we showed him the door (on the other side of which waited the American Secret Service). Now he's asking for citizenship, and we're turning him away empty-handed. Because he loved us more than his freedom? Because he sacrificed professional honesty and trust for us and placed himself in the greatest danger?

History, the ultimate judge of justice, will yet overturn this cruel judgement.