Prisoner Release: A Two-Way Street to Trust - Risks and Rewards
Mark L. Levinson - The Jerusalem Post - November 12, 1993
For a change, Jonathan Pollard's sister Carol is telling friends that things
are proceeding "nicely." Soon Pollard may be released, and Jewish individuals
and organizations will likely be scrambling to claim instant credentials as
Ironically, one of the strongest arguments for Pollard's release reflects one
of the ugliest rumors about his original trial - that well before the end of it,
the judge was heard to remark at a social gathering, "I'm going to do to Pollard
what Israel is doing to the Palestinians."
It's about time now to do to Pollard what Israel is doing to the
Palestinians: set him free.
In a speech to a group of Democrats a week or two ago, President Clinton
recalled that when Prime Minister Rabin informed him Israel would take risks for
peace, Clinton said, "If the premier would take the risks, we would do our best
to minimize those risks."
Clinton should be aware that it isn't only Israel and the PLO which have
mutual confidence-building to do, worth releasing some prisoners for. The US too
needs to convince the parties of its sincerity.
Pollard belongs to a subplot of history that we would be delighted to put
behind us. It's worth wondering whether, if America had been sending Israel the
vital information it had promised to send, Pollard would have found himself
smuggling files out of his office to warn Israel of Syrian gas warfare
capabilities and Iraqi nuclear progress.
If the US intends to honor its commitments this time, if there is no reason
now to raid US Defense Department files for the information we have been
promised, if the conditions that made Jonathan Pollard a spy are all gone, then,
by all means, Pollard should go free.
He will never repeat his offense; he won't get the chance. And that can be
said more certainly of Pollard than of the Palestinian prisoners Israel is
Pollard has at least expressed regret for what he did, unlike many of those
prisoners. Unlike many of them, he lifted his hand against no one, threatened no
one, plotted injury to no one. He isn't a member of any dangerous group that
will be morally or politically strengthened by his release. Despite their best
efforts, the American authorities turned up no evidence that Pollard had any
There is no shame to Israel in requesting Pollard's release. Pollard isn't
Ami Popper. Popper, who gunned down Arab civilians at random, is someone many
Arabs would be only too pleased to see freed. They would love to be able to say,
"Just as we welcome back the terrorists we sent forth, you welcome back yours;
our way has been much the same."
But it hasn't. The Arab killers have been, and still are, a dominant social
force. Ours are a lunatic fringe. Rather than waving their pictures in the
streets, we punish them. We put them in prison for our own good reasons - not
for political reasons, but because, in our country, murder is illegal.
Of course, if anyone chooses to interpret Popper's continued punishment as a
gesture, directed toward America and the Arabs to show that we intend Arabs to
be safe on our land just as we would like Jews to be safe on theirs, then that's
And if the Americans would like us not to interpret Pollard's release as a
gesture, but to see them as simply expelling a convict for their own good
reasons - not for political reasons, but because he's been punished sufficiently
- then that's fine too. We don't even have to receive him in Palestinian style,
with a noisy, chanting parade; just in Jewish style, with a good meal and a