Why Pollard?

June 14, 1995 - Amos Carmel - Yediot Achranot

The connection between the two television presentations seemed coincidental. Just a few moments after the heart skipped a beat at the sight of Betty Cohen, standing at the casket of her son, who returned at long last to burial in Israel, another parent appeared, Morris Pollard, who complained, at the entrance to a well-guarded prison in North Carolina, at the indifference demonstrated towards his son. But when you peel away all the large and small differences between these two human interest stories, it is apparent that the connection between them goes beyond the screen, (beyond their sequential appearances on television.)

In both these stories, that of the navigator whose corpse was left in Egypt for nearly 22 years, and of the spy who was sentenced to life 10 years ago, we are talking about the same question.

What is our obligation to somebody who took upon himself to face danger in our service, from the point at which he is no longer able to continue with his mission?

In the case of Eren Cohen there is little room for doubt. His comrades in the army did not allow us, and rightly so, to forget him. They knew where he died and they were diligent in searches and in pressuring the appropriate levels of power until they returned him home, with a full military ceremony in the presence of the President of the country.

In other case, we have seen, much to our regret, a much lower level of determination and self respect. Our leaders did not demand, for example, from the PLO with full determination and complete information on the missing in action from the battle at Sultan Yakov, and even participated in dubious gestures and made dubious statements in this connection.

The ritual surrounding half the dog tag that Arafat presented with much fanfare to the Prime Minister is still fresh in our memories. And if that is not enough, comes the declaration of the Prime Minister himself, that within a year, "a maximum of a year," we will have information on the fate of the MIAs, which added much shame to the episode. If we don't know what happened 13 years ago, how does Rabin know that in so many more months he will know?

Pollard did not go out into the battle front and was not active in an enemy country, but rather in the country that is accepted as the greatest of our friends. He annoyed in his actions American Jewry and those in the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department, and was sentenced to life in the context of democratic procedures at play in the United States.

But still, an official level of the government of Israel told him to act and not to stop. The most senior levels of the Israeli government received information that he furnished and did not raise any questions. As a reminder, a commission of inquiry in Israel placed special responsibility in this case on two prime ministers and on two defense ministers.

A Knesset subcommittee placed responsibility around the neck of the entire government.

After all these things it should be remembered that Pollard paid with his personal freedom - the exact same way that Eren Cohen paid with his life as part of the price of the mistakes and the failures of our leadership that were responsible for permitting the Yom Kippur war to take place in the manner that it did; in the exact same that the fate of the MIA's of Sultan Yakov and fate of Ron Arad were determined because of one decision or another of our elected officials; in the exact same way has happened in the case of the prisoners of the Lavon affair in Egypt who were imprisoned as spies and were freed, in the end, as prisoners of war.

The major differences between Pollard and the others lies in the fact that his address is known clearly and his fate right now is in the hands of a friendly government.

But it is precisely because of this that the weakness of our handling of the case is so blatant.

Whether Jonathan's father was justified with his criticism of Shimon Peres or whether he was mistaken, it is hard to understand how the government of Israel has not succeeded even until today to make progress in the case of an agent who worked in its name and was caught.

It is hard to understand and impossible to justify.