Welcoming President Obama; saving Pollard

Arel Segal - Maariv - February 22, 2013

Translated to English by J4JP

For 28 years Jonathan Pollard has been languishing in an American prison, and it should be said in a loud and clear voice, the cruel and unusual punishment he has been subjected to is out of the ordinary, and stems from one despicable reason only: he is a Jew.

The same longstanding doubt about the loyalty of Jews over the years has made Pollard a scapegoat, a living example, and a case in point, all wrapped into one. This is also the reason that the American Jewish Community until recent years, held itself aloof and was initially even hostile towards Pollard.

In 1985 the FBI closed in on him. Pollard immediately contacted his handlers and they requested that he hold off the investigators for 24 hours, the amount of time that was needed to get the rest of the Israeli team out of the USA and safely back to Israel. They promised him they would save him too, but they broke their promise. On November 21 (1985) the Israeli agent knocked at the gates of the Embassy in Washington as he had been told to do by his handlers, but those gates remained shut in his face.

Afterwards, the Israeli Government led by Shimon Peres jettisoned Pollard and handed over to the Americans all of the documents needed to indict him which it had received from him, without imposing any conditions at all to protect the agent.

Not only did Israel abandon Pollard, it also betrayed him in the most cowardly and despicable way. On March 5, 1987, at the sentencing hearing in court in Washington, the then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger submitted a secret memo to the judge describing the great damage that Pollard was alleged to have caused. Weinberger claimed that Pollard was the worst spy in American history. This lead to Pollard's receiving the maximum sentence, life in prison. Weinberger even declared publicly that Pollard should have been shot.

Years later, in 2002, when Weinberger was asked in an interview why he had not mentioned Pollard in his autobiography, he responded in an offhand manner that the Pollard case was just "a very minor matter but made very important." Pollard's Draconian sentence was driven by the claim that he had been responsible for the deaths of American secret agents in the Soviet Union. However, it was a senior CIA official, Aldrich Ames, (a soviet mole) who was responsible but (even after he was exposed in 1994) the CIA chose to continue using Pollard as the scapegoat. In 2001, a Russian defector fingered another American traitor who was also involved, a senior CIA officer named Robert Hansen.

Seven years ago, Pollard wrote a very moving letter to the people of Israel. Unfortunately, at that time, his case seemed to be the exclusive property of the religious right. In recent years, all of the people of Israel have become involved and we are all care about Pollard. And now that there is an opportune time, an opportunity presented by the visit of President Barak Obama, we must turn up the volume.

Pollard put himself in harm's way for Israel, and provided information vital to Israel's existence which the Americans sought to hide from us, and for this he has paid an inconceivable price.

A quick comparison. Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier, was held in captivity by Hamas for 5 years. The people of Israel demanded his release. They took to the streets and forced the government to act. Jonathan Pollard has been in captivity for 28 years in even worse conditions, and his health is failing. If he dies, his blood is on us.

For the visit of President Obama, the people of Israel should take to the streets. In one hand, a flower. In the other, a picture of Jonathan.

The author, Arel Segal, is a journalist for the Hebrew daily Maariv, where he writes a weekly column which is widely read.

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Note: This article was originally titled (in Hebrew) "The City Square Waits"