Execute Pollard?

A Response to the New York Post - Adam W. Neifeld

September 7, 2003

In response to Ralph Peters' New York Post article of September 3, 2003

The case of Jonathan Pollard - a United States Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel - has been a gift for anti-Semites. It has allowed them to spew forth nonsense about Jews' supposed dual-loyalty and Israel's nefarious intentions with regard to the United States. When anti-Jewish journalists or Congressmen (past and present) write against Pollard, there is often a palpable portion of anti-Semitism added to the equation, and it is relatively easy to dismiss their writings as tainted.

It is therefore disturbing when a noted friend of Israel writes an article arguing for the execution of Jonathan Pollard.

Ralph Peters is a respected writer and a known friend of Israel. I see no evidence of malice toward the Jews or Israel in Mr Peters' article. But just as "a spy is a spy", truth is truth; and Peters' article is clearly wrong on a number of points. I therefore write to set the record straight with regard to Jonathan Pollard.

Firstly, Jonathan Pollard is not a traitor. Jonathan Pollard did not commit, was consequently not charged with, and was therefore never convicted of, treason. Treason is defined as wilfully aiding an enemy of the United States, something that Pollard simply did not do. Pollard provided classified information to Israel, an ally of the United States. Contrary to rumours spread around Washington, information divulged by Pollard never found its way to an enemy of the United States.

Secondly, Jonathan Pollard did not act out of greed. He was not, as Peters claims, "as willing to sell secrets to China or to various Muslim states as he was to pass information to Israel". Pollard passed information only to Israel, and only passed information relevant to Israel's national security. He did not seek any payment for the information, acting out of concern for the State of Israel.

In sentencing, Judge Aubrey Robinson clearly stated that Jonathan Pollard acted for ideological reasons, not for pecuniary reward. Tangible evidence of this verifiable fact is that no fine was imposed on Pollard: in cases where a spy has acted for money, a fine is imposed in order to offset the 'benefit' of having spied.

The motivation behind Jonathan Pollard's actions has been one of the simplest aspects of the entire case: with the CIA withholding from Israel vital information about the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Iran (all enemies of both the United States and Israel), Pollard felt "he could not stand the implications of silence in the face of another holocaust"[1].

Peters then adds insult to injury by almost questioning Jews' allegiance to the United States: "By arguing for Pollard's release from prison, you appear to care more for Israel than for our own country. If that is, indeed, the case, then you are living up to the whispers of your worst enemies."

This argument completely misrepresents the movement to secure Pollard's release from prison. No one, least of all Pollard himself, is suggesting that he did not break the law. No one is arguing that Pollard should not have been punished for breaking the law. No one is arguing that when it comes to espionage, Israeli spies get a "special pass". Pollard broke the law and should have been sentenced for his actions. And he was.

Pollard's supporters argue that his punishment is egregiously disproportionate to the crime he committed. Jonathan Pollard is the only person ever to receive a life sentence[2] for passing information to an ally. When considering that Pollard's actions did not harm the United States, did not reveal information to an enemy of the United States, were not contrary to American policy and were not motivated by greed or hatred, his life sentence seems excessive, to say the least.

"Justice for Jonathan Pollard" is the major movement in the United States campaigning his release from prison. Not "freedom", not "pardon". "Justice". We want justice for Jonathan Pollard. He committed a crime, he has paid for it, and it is now time to release him. I say this not as a Jew or a Zionist, but as an American. My familiarity with the case may be due to my religion, but my feelings on it are based on an innate sense of justice, due to having been raised in a Judeo-Christian society. If - like Aldrich Ames or Robert Hanssen - Jonathan Pollard had acted out of greed by selling secrets to the USSR or China, and had caused the deaths of American agents, I too would argue that he be executed for his crimes. But Pollard, for reasons already discussed, is not in the same category as these traitors.

Peters then goes on to make two blatantly false statements, accusing Pollard of having harmed American national security and allowing information to fall into the hands of the Soviets.

No evidence has ever been brought to light that indicates that Pollard's information reached Soviet hands. Indeed, the former head of the KGB, Vladimir Karyoshkov, stated in an interview in December 2000 that the KGB had never received any information from the Mossad, and that no information sourced from Pollard had ever been received by them[3].

The accusation that Pollard harmed American national security is also false, as Pollard's lawyers noted: "Mr. Pollard never identified U.S. agents, and there is no evidence whatsoever that any U.S. agent died as a result of information delivered by Mr. Pollard to the State of Israel[4]."

Peters misleadingly uses the example of "a Chinese-American spy (arguing) that he was justified in passing secrets to Beijing because he was concerned about China's security". The comparison is completely inappropriate: China is at best a competitor, at worst an enemy of the United States. Israel, as has been previously mentioned, is an ally who is highly unlikely to use the information against the United States.

Peters goes on to state, "Some American Jews may not understand what a precarious time this is beyond Manhattan's bridges and tunnels. The appearance that a number of appointees at the upper reaches of the Pentagon allow their loyalty to Israel to excessively influence American foreign policy decisions does not play well in the hinterlands."

The previous paragraph is so full of errors that it is difficult to know where to start. Mr Peters may be surprised to learn that less than 15% of American Jews live in New York and New Jersey[5]. Manhattan's bridges and tunnels are as alien to most American Jews as they are to Minnesotans, or to my fellow Washingtonians. Contrary to Peters' uninformed opinion, the "appearance" of unhealthy influence is limited to a group of people who hold very definite and negative views of Jews and consequently, of Israel.

Our officials, including those seen to be 'pro-Israel' (whatever that means), act in the interests of the United States of America, first and foremost. As they should. It is no coincidence that many of those policies will automatically benefit any ally that is both free and democratic in nature, and faced with a common enemy. (Many American policies also benefit India and Turkey, but one does not hear of the "Hindi Lobby" or the "Anatolian dual loyalty"!)

Peters' assertions are superfluous and misinformed.

Many false accusations have been made against Jonathan Pollard. The simple truth is that he is an American Jew who illegally and wrongly transferred to Israel information which was vital to its national security. The information did not harm the United States or our agents, and did not find its way into enemy hands. Pollard acted out of concern for the State of Israel, not for greed. His sentence is completely disproportionate to his crime, and the time has come for him to be released. "Anyone who tells you differently is a liar".

I agree with Mr Peters that "the best way to defend Israel is to be, first and foremost, a fierce defender of America", and almost without exception, American Jews are. I vehemently reject any notion that American Jews "care more for Israel than for our own country". Our concern for Israel is based on the blood ties between us and our brothers and sisters in Israel, on the affinity between us and our coreligionists in Israel, and on the bond between two liberal democracies. One is not asked whether one loves Jesus or Mary more, and so it is with American Jews: our nation is the United States of America, and our roots lie in a tiny democracy fighting for its survival. We do not love one nation more or less. There is no incompatibility between the two. As Americans, we will not abandon Israel. The right of our cause is illustrated to us time and again by the incredible and genuine support of millions of non-Jews.

As a liberal democracy, Israel is a natural ally. As Americans, defending the cause of freedom is in our blood, and defending our allies is our duty.

Adam W. Neifeld is a proud Zionist Orthodox American Jew born and raised beyond "Manhattan's bridges and tunnels", in Washington State. He is currently working in the Asia-Pacific region.


  1. Theodore Olson, former Justice Department official under President Reagan, writing in the Wall Street Journal.
  2. Median sentences for persons passing classified information to an ally have been 2-4 years imprisonment.
  3. Chezi Carmel, Maariv, December 8, 2001.
  4. Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, lawyers for Jonathan Pollard, writing in the New York Daily News, December 3, 2001.
  5. Before you ask, less than 4% of American Jews live in Florida!