Something's Rotting

Leonard Fein - The Forward - November 6, 1998

In an odd way there's something quite sweet about including the fate of one poor individual in momentous negotiations of nations and peoples. After all, every person deserves justice, and Jonathan Pollard, moldering away in prison these many years is no exception.

Still the general reaction to the Pollard footnote at the Wye River negotiations was surprise bordering on shock. It is one thing to try to squeeze a dollop of mercy into a dense agreement; it is another to permit one controversial person's condition to become a major item on the negotiators' complex agenda.

We're told that the idea came from the Palestinian side. The Israelis had insisted on the extradition of Palestinian police commander Ghazi Jabali; the Palestinians refused and proposed as the requisite quid for their non-quo that Mr. Pollard be released.

President Clinton? As Louis Menand writes in The New Yorker, "Clinton always sounds like he is trying to please everyone because he is always trying to please everyone. ...And since he can't always please everyone he often finds himself obliged to warm the truth a little. This is not because he wishes to deceive you; it's because he wants you to know that his heart is in the right place. He cannot bear to be the bringer of bad news." Which is why it is entirely believable that he first agreed to release Mr. Pollard, and then when the CIA yelped, backed away from his pledge.

All this, curious though it is, was a sideshow. The interesting question is not the back and forth at Wye, but the immediate and intense opposition to Mr. Pollard's release from the CIA, from the Republican leadership and from diverse others. What is it that begets so vehement a reaction?

There are several theories. [Justice For Jonathan Pollard Notes: not a single theory below is supported by a shred of evidence, nor was Jonathan Pollard ever indicted for any of these allegations. He has continuously been accused in the media, but never in court, because the various theories do not stand up to an honest examination of the facts.] One has it that Mr. Pollard still knows secrets that he might sell to a foreign government if he is released. On the face of it this seems unlikely. Secrets that are still secret after a dozen years? But in the tunkle-munkle world of spies, handlers, cutouts and safe houses, who are we to say?

Another more ominous theory holds that Pollard could not have accomplished what he did without the help of a highly placed mole somewhere in the American Intelligence Community, and that he will remain in prison until he reveals the identity of that mole. If that is true, so much for Mr. Pollard's insistence that he is truly remorseful. [Justice for Jonathan Pollard Notes: This theory is not true! See the article: "Was there another U.S. spy tasking Pollard? - Mr. 'X' Exposed"]

Then there's the theory that Mr. Pollard had clients in addition to Israel-that far from being motivated purely by love of Zion, he was an active entrepreneur. [Justice for Jonathan Pollard Notes: Once Israel finally admitted that Jonathan Pollard was a bona fide Israeli agent, (12 May 1998) it put the lie to all these allegations that Jonathan may have been a freelancer or a mercenary. Moreover Pollard's ONLY indictment was one count of passing classified information to an ally, Israel.]

And finally there's the Jewish issue which is less about Caspar Weinberger's alleged anti-Semitism and more about the large number of Jews who are employed in sensitive positions in the American government. Many of them are devoted to Israel's welfare, which is, of course, an entirely legitimate devotion. But shall they all be placed under a cloud of suspicion?

On this latest reading, the fact that Mr. Pollard spied on behalf of an ally rather than an enemy, a fact often cited by his defenders, as an argument for the undue harshness of his sentence, cuts against his release. Those responsible for protecting America's secrets are trained to monitor contacts with America's enemies. Must they also monitor contacts with our friends? And amongst America's friends, Israel enjoys a special status, in part by virtue of American Jews for its safety. Hence Pollard's punishment as prophylactic precedent, a warning to others who might be tempted to break the law on Israel's behalf.

[Justice for Jonathan Pollard Notes: Equal Justice is the only issue here: - similar punishments for similar offenses for all Americans. Jonathan Pollard is the only person in the history of the US who received a Life Sentence for spying for an ally. The median sentence is 2 to 4 years for such an offense, and currently the new maximum is 10 years. Pollard begins his 14th year of a Life Sentence, with no end in sight, on November 21, 1998.]

The problem with all of these theories is that we have no way of determining if any of them is true. Only a handful of people have been privy to the full dossier, and they, appropriately, are not talking. The rest of us are left to speculate, and our speculations may be way off.

What then is a citizen to do? We dare not ever place blind faith in our governors. "If you knew what we knew," they say, "you'd doubtless agree with our action." Nonsense. A citizen is entitled to reach conclusions based on available information, and as uncomfortable as it may be, if the conclusion the citizen reaches is at odds with those in power, then those in power have only one recourse - to make more information available.

Might it not be helpful therefore, for the President - presuming that his pledged re-review of the dossier once again leads him to deny Mr. Pollard his freedom - to invite, say Seymour Reich and Rabbis Avi Weiss and Alexander Schindler, three active advocates for Mr. Pollard's freedom, to a briefing, pledging them if need be to secrecy regarding the details they learn?

Failing that, many in our community will continue to believe that there's something rotting here, and it's not just Jonathan Pollard in jail.