Now For The Proper Pardon
Amiel Ungar - The Jerusalem Report - April 9, 2001
If it wasn't enough that Bill Clinton made "pardon" into a dirty
"P-word," along came Robert Hanssen to remind the American public that spies are unsavory people. This sequence imposes a double handicap on Jonathan
Pollard's prospects for clemency. Well-intentioned people will advise a
hiatus before renewing efforts to secure Pollard's release. Such advice
should be rejected. Once Israeli and American Jewish elites intervened
so strenuously on behalf of Mark (sic) Rich, they can do no less and must
do more for Jonathan Pollard.
An attitude corrosive to Jewish and Israeli solidarity that has become
all too pervasive recently has rendered certain soldiers, agents or even
Jewish communities more expendable than others. Far away in forbidding Butner
Penitentiary, Pollard accurately assessed the similarity between his
predicament and the tragedy of Midhar Yussuf. Yussuf, a Druze Border
Police combatant, bled to death in Joseph's Tomb in Nablus at the beginning of
Arafat's war. The higher-ups didn't want to escalate hostilities with
the Palestinian Authority in order to secure his evacuation by force.
Yussuf died, hostilities escalated anyway and a cornerstone of the Israeli
military ethos - the obligation to rescue wounded soldiers - had been undermined.
Jonathan Pollard never envisioned himself as the unflappable Mr. Phelps from the "Mission Impossible" television series. Each episode in that series would begin with Phelps listening to a self-destructing tape, which informed him that in the event of capture he and his team would be disavowed by the government. Pollard believed in the contrary notion that Israel never abandoned its soldiers or clandestine warriors. If that faith is disabused,
we will all bear the consequences. The same cavalry that blatantly rode
to Rich's "rescue" cannot plead hoof and mouth disease in the case of
Any comparison between the Pollard case and the Rich pardon must
emphasize the tremendous differences between the circumstances of the two men.
Switzerland, whatever its deficiencies, is far from a maximum security
penitentiary. Since Rich ingratiated himself with the good Helvetic
burghers in the same manner that endeared him to Israeli and American
elites who championed his pardon, he was permitted to enjoy the good life.
Pollard's terms of confinement were intended to break him physically and
spiritually. Nothing was spared, including incarceration in a prison
for the criminally insane, shades of measures imposed against dissidents in
the Brezhnev era. The prison authorities took pains to extend the same
demeaning attitude to anyone who came into contact with Pollard. When
former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu visited Pollard in prison, he was
subjected by the authorities to a body search. Rabbi Eliyahu could
hardly be suspected of concealing weaponry or illicit drugs under his rabbinic
robes. The message was the humiliation. This petty vindictiveness has
been going on for 16 years. Even someone such as New York's mayor and former
federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani, who is far from squeamish about
imposing deterrent sentences, cannot comprehend the severity meted out to
If the Rich pardon was a travesty of normal judicial procedure, the same
can be said about Pollard's life sentence, but in reverse. A plea bargain accepted by the prosecution in the Pollard case was nullified through
behind-the-back governmental intervention. Caspar (Cap the Knife)
Weinberger, Reagan's defense secretary, and himself later the
beneficiary of a presidential pardon for his part in Contra-Irangate, influenced the
judge's sentence with an inflammatory memo that made a mockery of
judicial fair play, since the defense team was not allowed to challenge the
Rich was a beneficiary of Clintonite cupidity, while Pollard was its
victim. During the unfortunate Wye River summit of 1998, Clinton used the
release of Pollard as bait to sweeten a deal that was calculated to enhance the
president's reputation as a mediator, but that ultimately led to the
collapse of the Netanyahu government. Clinton then retracted the bait,
citing the vigorous opposition of the American intelligence community.
He promised a subsequent review of the case. This review, of course, never
materialized, just as the promised review on transferring the U.S.
embassy in Israel to Jerusalem never materialized.
If the Bush administration is serious about restoring honor to the White
House, it can do so by implementing an agreement which Clinton reneged
on. Ariel Sharon, as a witness to Wye, can fill Bush in about the
Finally a word to CIA chief George Tenet and his fellow spooks at
Langley, who are presumably the main stumbling block to Pollard's release.
Whatever damage Pollard may have done to U.S. security interests (and it is time
to lift the veil after the Ames and Hanssen cases) cannot begin to match
the damage that the CIA has recently done to Israeli security. Many of
Arafat's elite combatants enjoyed the benefit of CIA training and the craft that
they absorbed is now being employed in terror operations against Israeli
citizens. The purpose of the CIA's involvement was to make sure that
Arafat's apparat was engaged in counter-terrorist activity rather than in
terrorist activity proper. At the very least the agency could have been
expected to blow the whistle on Arafat, notably after the continued
violence following the Sharm al-Sheikh summit. The whistle has remained stuck in
Tenet's mouth and he hasn't said a discouraging word about the Company's
erstwhile pupils. A symbolic act of expiation would be the long overdue
release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.
Amiel Ungar, a contributing editor of the Jerusalem Report, teaches
political science at Judea and Samaria College in Ariel.
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