Some Panel (Pollard sandbagged again)

December 9, 1998 - Mark L. Levinson - Freeman Center For Strategic Studies

One day in the early 1950s, a boy went down to the river in Bangor, Maine. His father was Jewish, his mother was not, and he had just been told about the extra requirement for his bar mitzvah -- a ritual conversion, with mikveh and symbolic circumcision.

"I wore a mezuzah around my neck, and I snapped it off and I threw it as far as I could into that river," he told an interviewer decades later. "I said to myself, 'Now I don't have to be a part of that ever again. I'm through pretending.'"

He may be through, but we're still a part of "that" and he's Secretary of Defense of the United States of America.

What's more, Defense Secretary William Cohen is one of four panellists charged to review the Pollard case and thus make good on a Wye Plantation promise to Bibi Netanyahu.

The others are Attorney-General Janet Reno, who has already come out against releasing Pollard; CIA director George Tenet, who reportedly threatened to resign if Clinton dared let Pollard free; and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, whose self-proclaimed ignorance of her fairly obvious Jewish ancestry remains coldly puzzling.

This panel looks stacked even worse than the three-judge panel that Pollard faced last time around. That time, there were two Jewish judges and one Christian. The Christian called Pollard the victim of horrid injustice, but the Jews outvoted him and one of them, after a decent interval, was appointed to the US Supreme Court.

Anyone expecting fairness for Pollard might as well be sitting on the steps with the little old man Bill Cosby once told about. "A herd of elephants just stampeded over me," the old man complained. "How often does this happen?" asked Cosby. Every day after the train runs over me, the little old man said. So why does he stay there? "Because I can't believe that it's happening."

It's happening. While congratulating itself as a great and true friend of the State of Israel, the US government is running over us every day, and we are stunned into disbelief by the stampede of shrugged-away murders, the praise and material aid showered on emeritus terrorists, and the threat of Scuds which we are once more warned to ignore. Freeing Pollard, who could tell an insider's stories of America's callousness toward Israel, is in the American government's datebook under "never."

Pollard, when he was first imprisoned, had the idea that he could reach past the government to the people. To that end, he hoped reporter Wolf Blitzer would be his Emile Zola, but Blitzer produced a book with a different, curious slant of its own. In Pollard's opinion, Blitzer was trying to make the book as eligible as possible for adaptation as a network TV movie.

These days even some Jews who don't see Pollard as a hero have come to see him as overvictimized. There may still be no buyers in Hollywood for a pro-Pollard filmscript, but a few independent philanthropists might pull off a modest production. It might screen at Jewish community centers and schools, and it might pin some shame where shame belongs: on those who promised intelligence data to Israel and then withheld it, who put pressure on Pollard by threatening his wife, who broke the plea bargain with him, who locked him in solitary and denied his wife medical treatment, who punished him for the crimes of Aldrich Ames and will still not admit it, and whose ilk remain in control of America's security policy today.