Why Has Jonathan Pollard Been Abandoned?

July 31, 1997 - Dr. Steven F. Windmueller, Ph.D. - The Miami Jewish Journal

Covenants and contracts in many ways best define the Jewish historical experience. God's covenants with Noah and then with Abraham have helped frame this idea. Similarly, the Jewish people have created over time a series of agreements and understandings defining their relationships with secular civic authorities, Christians and Muslim religious institutions and other enterprises with which the community had commercial, political, or social interactions. Even inside the Jewish communal system, Jews developed compacts defining their collective interests and obligations. A current example of this later model involves the financial connections and responsibilities of world Jewry with the Jewish Agency and the State of Israel.

Such interlocking structures have helped to define the particular institutional requirements associated with the network of Jewish social and humanitarian services. These types of agreements focus on meeting the needs of individuals while at the same time preserving a system of organizational cooperation and accountability.

As a result, contracts serve on the one hand to meet the particular requirements of the individual Jew, while being seen on the other hand as a part of the collective and historic character of the Jewish people. Applying this concept of the special interconnection between the individual and the community, how can we explain the abandonment of Jonathan Pollard by the State of Israel and the Jewish people? Using a similar analogy, how is it possible to understand the unusually harsh actions of the United States against one of its own citizens?

The fact that Pollard readily acknowledged his actions in making available to a friendly foreign government classified military documents represents a central ingredient in this saga. While others who committed acts of espionage have done so on behalf of governments hostile to the United States and for purposes of personal financial gain, the Pollard case possesses neither of these ingredients.

In addition, Pollard, unlike others who were recently charged with such crimes, never denied his actions or personal intentions and fully cooperated with federal authorities. Yet, despite these considerations, his sentencing represented a far harsher penalty than those imposed on others charged with acts of treason who were in the employ of nations viewed as America's enemies.

The issue here as well is why this nation's governmental officials and judicial representatives failed to keep their agreement with Pollard and his attorneys, reflecting another type of contractual relationship that appears to have been violated. For Pollard, who had embraced his love for Israel to then be all but abandoned by that government's leaders, this directly undermines the notion of why in fact a Jewish state was to be established.

The concept of creating a national entity that would serve as a refuge for the ingathering of the Jewish people must be called into question when one reviews the Israeli decision to distance itself from Jonathan Pollard. The sacred contractual commitment of ensuring the well being and safety of a single Jew is sacrificed for other apparent political ends; this appears to have been a part of the motivation associated with Jerusalem's unfortunate policy choices.

For American Jewry this case holds profound symbolism, even for those individuals who have elected to separate themselves from Jonathan Pollard's defense. The test of American justice is being played out on the one hand, while the commitment on the part of the Israeli establishment to reach out to assist an individual Jew represents a second focus in this significant matter.

Will public officials from both societies fulfill their roles in a reasonable and just manner? The answer to date must of course be a deafening "no", as all moral, social, and even legal contracts seem to be in this situation set aside, or in some measure rejected outright.

Jonathan Pollard has become a symbol for the measuring of responsible political behavior, involving the performance of two governments and the responsiveness of Jewish leadership. When the history of this period of the 20th century is crafted, how will this chapter be viewed? For in many respects it represents the barometer of justice and fairness within this nation and raises questions of whether Israel and Jews worldwide were prepared to heed the covenantal call: I am my brother's keeper.

Dr. Windmueller is Director of the School of Jewish Communal Services of the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. Before taking this position he served as the highly-regarded executive director of the Los Angeles JCRC.