Jews Need to Fight for Jonathan Pollard's Release

Avram Hein - Israelinsider - October 15, 2003

Jonathan Pollard will begin his 19th year in prison on November 21, 2003. Numerous organizations have come out in support of Pollard's freedom. Former intelligence specialists have come out and showed that Pollard did not cause any damage to the U.S. nor endanger any lives. At various points, groups as diverse as the American Bar Association, ACLU and NAACP have come out in support of a pardon for Pollard. Congressman Anthony Weiner has been a strong voice in calling for Jonathan's freedom.

Yet, there are those in the Jewish community who, despite otherwise strong pro-Israel credentials, still call Pollard a traitor and make statements like "Pollard did immense damage to the level of trust given to American Jews" and saying that Pollard betrayed the American Jewish community. Have we not forgotten that between close friends and allies, let alone those committed to equal justice, Pollard should never have been in jail (a broken plea agreement, incompetent legal counsel, and an illegal intelligence embargo enacted because Israel shut down the development of the Iraqi nuclear program, etc.).

Have we forgotten what is important? Have we forgotten that Pollard is serving a grossly disproportionate sentence? Have we forgotten that equal justice under the law is more important than blaming the Jews for an anti-Semitism in the defense establishment that existed long before Pollard was employed by the Navy?

Yet there are Jewish leaders who still call Pollard a "traitor" conveniently ignoring the fact that treason is defined as levying war against or assisting an enemy state. How ironic then that the most pro-Israel members of Congress and several former Secretaries of Defense still oppose Pollard's release (of course, that includes Secretary of Defense Weinberger, whose accusations against Pollard included statements in his affidavit that "It is difficult for me, in the so-called 'year of the spy' to conceive of a greater harm to national security." Yet, fifteen years later, Weinberger conceded that "the Pollard matter was comparatively minor. It was made far bigger than its actual importance." Of course, at that point it was revealed that Jonathan Pollard's damage assessment was written by none other than arch-traitor Aldrich Ames and the lies about Pollard were slowly coming out into the open.)

While Jonathan has been accused of "betraying sources and methods" and significantly damaging U.S. national security, the worst charge the American government could come up in their victim impact statement is:

threaten[ing] the U.S. relations with numerous Middle East Arab allies, many of whom question the extent to which Mr. Pollard's disclosures of classified information have skewed the balance of power in the Middle East.

...the U.S. has been deprived of the quid pro quo routinely received during authorized and official intelligence exchanges with Israel... The obvious result of Mr. Pollard's largesse is that U.S. bargaining leverage with the Israeli government in any such further intelligence exchanges has been undermined.

In fact, prosecutor Charles Leeper originally characterized the damage caused by Pollard as "minimal." As Angelo Codevilla, a senior staffer for the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time of Pollard's arrest and now a professor of international law at Boston University, wrote, "Judges in the Anglo-Saxon tradition are supposed to write opinions explaining their judgments. Judges are supposed to evaluate the evidence and contrasting arguments provided to them at trials. Judges are not supposed simply to listen to some powerful person whispering in their ear.

In the case of this judge, he allowed himself to be used by Weinberger, who lied to him and supplied a false memorandum. I find this behavior by Weinberger to be contemptible, and the judge's behavior to be beneath American standards."

But what about the "pro-Israel members of Congress" and "seven former U.S. secretaries of defense" (including Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney)? Why are they the most vocal opponents of Pollard's release? As Congressman Weiner wrote,

...there has been a shameful public campaign to exaggerate the crimes he committed. Officials in the intelligence community who have no direct knowledge of the case have spread blatantly false information about Pollard's actions. I have seen the secret documents and am bound by law not to describe the material or even characterize it. What I can say is, when you read or see someone explaining that the crime was much worse than the public record indicated, remember the adage - those who know aren't talking and those that are talking don't know.

The lack of justice in how Jonathan Pollard was treated is what we should be focusing on, not the fact that the Pollard's arrest provided another excuse to scapegoat the entire Jewish people. Of course, Jonathan Pollard's supporters should also not be representing Jonathan as the savior for the Jewish people or the State of Israel. Pollard committed a crime and, even when committed for the most noble or ideological reasons, that does not minimize the fact that he deserved to be punished for it. With a median sentence of 2-4 years and after serving more than anyone else who passed classified information to an ally it is self-evident that his 18 years in some of the harshest prison systems is enough. He poses no further danger and the information he passed has been released. As Congressman Weiner wrote,

"after reviewing the facts of the case and receiving multiple classified briefings on this matter, I believe that he has served a sentence that far exceeds the appropriate term for the crime he has committed."

Only in prison will he be a hero. Outside and free, everyone (except those closest to him such as his wife who he never had the chance to start a family with) will forget about him and he can begin his life as a free citizen in the state of Israel and we won't have to worry about "the Pollard issue."

Of course, the fact that equal justice demands it is really the only reason that matters - the point is - Jonathan deserves his freedom and a presidential pardon TODAY. Jonathan may deserve a lot more but justice demands no less.

Biographical Note: Avram Hein is a research assistant at American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise and has served as a delegate to the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem. He is also a board member of MERCAZ USA: The Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement.

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