Finally, the Truth About the Pollard Affair

Aaron Lerner - The Jerusalem Post - June 20, 2000

I would like to share some shocking information that recently came to my attention regarding the Pollard Affair. This new information not only makes the already-powerful arguments for Pollard's immediate release just that much stronger. It also raises serious questions about US-Israel relations and provides further evidence of Israel's own role in undermining Pollard's position.

I recently obtained a copy of the May 26, 1987 Eban Commission Report on the Pollard Affair that was prepared by a subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset.

I was astounded to find the following passage under the heading "The Decision to Cooperate with the US."

Israel agreed to return the American documents it obtained through Pollard, but "conditioned the cooperation on the granting of immunity to the three persons involved in the affair and on the consent of the Americans to the fact that the documents returned would not be used to convict Pollard... " That's right. The United States agreed NOT to use the documents in the case against Pollard.

How important were those documents to the case?

Let's look at what Assistant U.S. Attorney John R. Fisher wrote on page 10 in the June 17, 1987 "Government's Opposition to Motion to Reduce Sentence": "Cooperation was not forthcoming in this case until several months after defendant's arrest. Indeed, defendant agreed to enter a guilty plea and cooperate only after government attorneys and investigators returned from Israel with additional evidence of defendant's guilt."

Not only did the Americans break their agreement with Israel and use the documents to prosecute Pollard, the government's own lawyer states for the record that Pollard pleaded guilty thanks to those documents.

America broke its word and Pollard went to prison.

And what about Israel? In the same section of the Eban Report, which was written just after Pollard was sentenced, three members of the Eban Commission condemned Israel's return of the documents and concluded, " ...These documents constituted the basis for the conviction and life sentence that Pollard received, in spite of... an American commitment not to use the documents against Pollard." When Israel handed over the documents to the US in 1985, it did not advise Jonathan Pollard of the American agreement not to use the documents against him. So he had no way to keep them out of court.

In the summer of 1991, four years after the Eban Report was issued, as Jonathan Pollard prepared to appeal his case, he still did not know that that evidence had no place in the courtroom.

Not only did Israel provide America the gun to shoot Pollard, their silence denied Pollard the opportunity to defend himself against it.

Israel did not stop there.

When Jonathan Pollard signed the plea agreement, he was explicitly defined in the plea agreement as an official agent of the Israeli Government, a status that makes clear Israel's obligations to him.

After Pollard signed the plea agreement, that passage was crossed out with two different colors of ink by two different representatives - an American and an Israeli.

So, rather than stand by their agent when the US violated an agreement not to use the documents Israel had returned to America, and press for the deal to be honored ex post facto, Israel opted to turn its back on Pollard.

The severity of Jonathan Pollard's sentence bears no relationship to either the terms of the plea bargain or the crimes he was prosecuted for.

From day one, proponents of the sentence have defended their position by claiming that the damage assessment in Pollard's classified file is so shocking that it justifies the sentence.

For years this "if you only knew what we know" argument has provided refuge for people who, for whatever reason, did not want to help put an end to this grossly disproportionate punishment.

But now we do know.

New York Senator Charles Schumer did not rely on what others claimed was in the classified Pollard file. He saw it himself. And after reviewing the "if you only knew what we know" file, he revealed the shocking truth - There was nothing to know! That's right. Schumer, after seeing the file itself, states that there is nothing in it to justify the harsh and unprecedented sentence that Jonathan Pollard is serving.

This revelation raises several questions:

One: Why did the US intelligence community misrepresent the damage caused by the Pollard affair?

Two: What does this tell us about the nature of US - Israel intelligence (and other) relations?

Three: What does this tell us about the senior actors - such as US President Bill Clinton - who most certainly must have been aware that the "if you only knew what we know" line was just that - a line.

Hillary Clinton says that she is "open to learning more (about the Pollard case) and thinking harder about what I think is the right thing to do." Well the right thing to do today, with the "if you only knew what we know" line excuse demolished, is to set Pollard free. And that's today - not tomorrow.

Dr. Aaron Lerner is a commentator and Middle East news analyst. He is CEO of IMRA, an independent news service based in Israel.

See Also:
  • Did the US Violate Its Legal Commitment to Israel?
  • Israel Betrayed Pollard, Too

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