Jonathan Pollard: Forsaken or Forgotten?

Yochanan Kahan - Hamodia - May 3, 2002

The continuing saga of Jonathan Pollard is sometimes aggravating, sometimes unbelievable, sometimes encouraging, but always painful. Betrayals, cover-ups, and other ugly incidents in American, Israeli and Jewish history have punctuated this tragic story.

Jonathan Pollard, convicted of spying in America on behalf of Israel, an American ally, was sentenced to life imprisonment and has clocked 6,000 days of imprisonment in a federal prison thus far, often in solitary confinement--with no end in sight.

Jonathan Pollard, whose health has deteriorated alarmingly, has not received the unequivocal and united support of the Jewish communities in America and in Israel, due to a combination of confusing facts and fear of trespassing the "dual-loyalty" fence that American Jews and even Israeli Jews so fearfully straddle.

With the recent publication of a book on this subject, the aptly named "Miscarriage of Justice" by Mark Shaw, some of the stark facts are brought to light.

Mr. Shaw, a non-Jewish lawyer and journalist, is not hampered by perceived or real 'conflicts of interest' when he brings out the whole compelling story. Nor is he wary of pointing fingers of blame where he deems it appropriate.

The book traces Jonathan's life, beginning with his childhood years. The son of a respected scientist, his father's career in Note Dame University meant that the family lived in gentrified South Bend, Indiana, resulting in Jonathan's being raised in an environment that was hostile to Jews. Being one of the only Jews in school, Jonathan was no stranger to anti-Semitism, which may have impacted on his reaction in years to come to threats to the security of his people.

In 1979, Jonathan became a junior analyst for US Naval Intelligence, where he spent five years before he began spying for Israel. His motive to pass classified information to Israel seems to have been a combination of his resentment towards his government for violating the terms of its 1983 agreement with Israel (The US-Israel Exchange of information Agreement) and his loyalty towards his Jewish brethren, whose security was being compromised by being denied vital information they needed in order to protect themselves from existential threats.

As a matter of fact, it was presumably due to Pollard's information about the manufacture of non-conventional weapons of mass destruction by Iraq that Israel designed a comprehensive civil-defense program. This program led to Israel's preparedness during the Gulf War, when the orderly distribution of gas masks and the designation of "sealed rooms" kept panic levels of the general population under control.

The book refreshes our memories with some well-known and not so-well known facts, helping readers come to the conclusion that responsibility for effective and organized action on behalf of Pollard's freedom rests upon all of us. If we do not answer this clarion call, we will collectively carry the blame for the perpetuation of the miscarriage of justice that was begun when the US government reneged on its part of the pleas-bargain deal which Pollard adhered to.

The book's accusatory title was actually coined by Judge Stephen Williams, the non-Jewish judge who authored the dissenting opinion in the ill-fated attempt by Pollard's lawyers to win a new trial in 1992. Interestingly, the ruling of the three-judge panel followed the lines of religion to the tee: The Jews were against Pollard, and the non-Jew was in favor of a new trial.

Williams, in his opinion, wrote: "The government's breach of the plea agreement was a fundamental miscarriage of justice."

It is an almost uncontested fact that the scope of Pollard's spying activities did nothing to compromise the security of the United States; nevertheless Pollard was punished more severely than other agents whose activities did do so.

Shaw compares the disproportionate sentence of Pollard to the sentences of other agents convicted of spying for allies of the United States--including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Most of these were sentenced to between two and five years in prison, as compared to the unusual harsh sentence of life imprisonment for Pollard.

Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak are both taken to task for their decisions to abandon Pollard when they each held the position of Israeli prime minister.

Shaw holds Peres responsible for Israel's initial decision to desert Pollard in his time of need, refusing to acknowledge that Pollard was in fact an agent working for Israel.

Barak is blamed for pressuring outgoing president Bill Clinton to grant a presidential pardon to billionaire financier Marc Rich rather than Pollard. (Clinton's recent comments on this subject seem to suggest otherwise. Clinton claims to have rejected pleas for Pollard's clemency due to his impression that Pollard was 'unrepentant.') [J4JP: Clinton had been made well aware of Jonathan's numerous expressions of remorse but continued to use the excuse that Pollard was unrepentant. What is more, Clinton had no qualms however about freeing 14 unrepentant FALN (Puerto Rican Terrorists) responsible for death and destruction in the US, even though they flatly refused to express any remorse for their crimes. See the FALN Page. ]

In one of the book's strongest points again, unhindered by possible cries of Jewish paranoia--the author discussed the impact of anti-Semitism on the outcome of the case. Then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger wrote a very incriminating memo to the sentencing judge, which included the assertion that Pollard possessed the "same virus of treason which had infected the Rosenbergs" (This reference evokes embarrassing memories of shame Jews felt when the Rosenbergs passed on the secret of the atom bomb to the Russians.)

Pollard hadn't previously been accused of treason; he hadn't betrayed his country by passing on secrets of his government to an enemy. But despite the fact that his government was violating an agreement to share critical information with an ally, he did breach his trust to his government--a clear crime, regardless of circumstances. He understood this, and agreed to plead guilty in an attempt to minimize the embarrassment both governments would suffer from a public trial, hoping to benefit from a lighter sentence in exchange.

But Weinberger, a reputed self-hating anti-Semite, pushed for the maximum sentence: life, with a recommendation of no parole. No one else in the history of the United States had ever received a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally. Weinberger thus totally transgressed the terms of the plea bargain, and was also plotting the damage to the relationship between the U.S. and Israel this affair and its handling would likely cause.

That damage didn't occur, since the government of Israel initially chose to wash their hands of Pollard and not even to recognize him as their agent. It took a full ten years for Israel under the stewardship of Benjamin Netanyahu--to publicly admit that fact, and to begin working for his freedom.

As a matter of fact, the release of Pollard was one of the carrots offered to Netanyahu to induce him to sign the Wye Agreements. [Justice4JP: Jonathan's freedom was negotiated as an integral part of the Wye Accords. It was the deal maker. See: Terror in the US and the Jonathan Pollard case for details.] At the last minute, then-president Clinton confessed that he couldn't go ahead with it, since the head of the CIA (another instance of anti-Semitism?) threatened to quit if he did. [J4JP: Nonsense! This is an excuse, not the reason Clinton reneged. Note that Clinton had no such qualms when the same threat of resignation was made to prevent Clinton from freeing the 14 unrepentant FALN Terrorists. Clinton freed the terrorist and no one resigned. See the FALN Page. Link Below]

More recently, the Israeli government has finally taken a strong step in the right direction. In an unprecedented show of solidarity, a virtually unanimous Knesset 110 members, which included every single member of every Jewish political faction signed a petition to President Bush calling upon him to release Jonathan Pollard.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delivered this historic petition from the White House.

That does not free us from our responsibility to mobilize all our efforts to rectify to whatever degree possible--the terrible injustice that was perpetrated on Pollard by governments and individuals alike. Demanding, in the loudest and most unified voice that we can muster, long-overdue freedom for Pollard will us from complicity in his harsh and endless incarceration.

Justice4JP Notes:

  1. Neither Jonathan Pollard nor his attorneys were not given the opportunity to review Mark Shaw's book "Miscarriage of Justice" for accuracy prior to its publication.

    While the basic theme of the book cited above is correct; namely that the Pollard case represents a great miscarriage of justice, J4JP cannot endorse the overall accuracy of the book. The only source of accurate up-to date information on the case endorsed by J4JP is the Justice for Jonathan Pollard web site:

  2. Justice4JP Notes that in spite of numerous calls to action by articles such as this one there has been absolutely no new initiative on the part of the Jewish leadership in America or in Israel and Jonathan Pollard continues to languish in prison, now in his 18th year of a life sentence, with no end in sight. (This article was web posted Dec 2002 - Jonathan Pollard began his 18th year in prison on November 21, 2002). SEE What No One Wants to Talk About (link below).

  3. Neither the Knesset nor the Government of Israel has followed up the lack of response to the Historic letter signed by 110 Members of Knesset calling for Jonathan Pollard's release. Sharon claims to have delivered the letter to Bush but White House sources say that it actually ended up on the desk of some low level clerk in Condoleeza Rice's office. The Administration has had no difficulty perceiving the lack of commitment to this initiative by the Jewish leaders, and is therefore responding in kind by simply ignoring it...

See Also: