Pollard Propaganda

May 7, 1996 - Ben Caspit - A Ma'ariv Feature Op Ed
Translated from Hebrew

It is difficult to understand how it is possible in the United States of America for Jonathan Pollard to languish in prison for 11 years, now without any sign of freedom on the horizon. The answer must be sought in Jerusalem.

Once again, as in all visits and in all meetings, the ritual repeats itself, somewhere between the "Nautilus" and Memo of Understanding; between a mutual accord on the "Phalanx" weapons system; between raising the level of strategic cooperation and drafting a mutual defense pact, Prime Minister Shimon Peres begins to shift uneasily in his seat and, sweating and squirming, he utters these dirty words to President Clinton: "Jonathan Pollard".

It is customary to keep this subject marginal in press briefings. Or, in response to reporters' questions to mumble something like, "The Prime Minister raised the 'Pollard problem' and the President said he would look into it."

This time, for a change, the press was offered a 'glad tiding' which was neither specific nor clear. It was couched in Peres' cloudy euphemisms as "new ideas", or "things we need to do." And it even seemed, for a moment, that the honeymoon in U.S.-Israel relations might shine a light at the end of the very long tunnel in which Jonathan Pollard is buried.

In due course a clarification emerged. It seems that the American Administration takes umbrage at "the outspoken and noisy style Pollard and those close to him" have adopted in their fight for his freedom. "If they will change their behaviour", say sources in Washington, "it will be possible to re-evaluate the case again."

No matter how you look at it, what we are talking about here is a rare combination of "chutzpah" (arrogance), malice, indifference, ill-will and outright cruelty.

Not only is Pollard in his eleventh year of imprisonment; not only is he serving a grossly disproportionate sentence for the offence he committed (and this, without benefit of trial); not only did Pollard fully co-operate with the prosecution; not only did the country he endangered his life for hand him over without batting an eyelash; not only did the prosecution violate its plea bargain agreement with him. After all this, they won't even allow him to fight for his freedom!

Where did this happen? Not in Iran, not in Syria, not in South Korea, not in China. It happened in America. The cradle of democracy. The country in which a program like "60 Minutes" has led to the liberation of no small number of prisoners worldwide. A country which holds the right to demonstrate as a sacred value, and the right to freedom of speech as a cardinal principle. A country which defends the right of every citizen to burn the national flag, if he feels like it, on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Pollard can fight for his freedom, according to the American Administration but quietly. Politely. Without bothering anybody. In other words, as long as he continued the same "silent diplomacy" tactic pursued by certain "supporters" and "advocates" for the last ten years that led him absolutely nowhere at all.

Something is terribly wrong with this picture. The writer of this article, having spent four years in New York, finds it very difficult to buy this story. Even more so since Pollard's so-called "militant" fight for his freedom has all but been absent from American soil. His current, high-profile campaign has generally taken place in Israel and in the Israeli media. In America there were no demonstrations, no disturbances and hardly even any articles written in the mainstream press.

So what is really going on here? How is it possible to explain the fact that Clinton is ready to give Peres everything, including the moon ("I didn't even know what to ask for anymore..."), but no Pollard? The answer is, it is not possible.

One thing is certain. Pollard's fight for freedom is not violent, not loud and not militant. It is a legitimate and courageous fight for freedom by a man who has fallen victim to a terrible travesty of justice.

It is possible that Pollard's fight for freedom angers certain people. Allow me to venture that most of them live and work in Jerusalem - not in Washington.