American Double Standard

November 10, 1998 - Editorial, Denver Intermountain Jewish News

If Pollard's release is a horror, why is Israel's release of thousands of "Pollards" a desideratum?

Let us take US Attorney Joseph diGenova's word for it. He is the prosecutor of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and he has this to say about the request for his release from prison:

"[This would be] one of the most disgraceful acts by an American president in the history of this country."

Let us take Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's word for it. He has this to say about Prime Minister Netanyahu's recent request for Pollard's release:

"I think it would be a tremendous mistake for the US to start putting traitors on the negotiating tables as a pawn, and I hope the administration will now say they will not, under any circumstance, release Pollard."

A disgrace and a mistake of the highest order this is how the legal and political leadership of this country responded to the last-minute request of Benjamin Netanyahu for Pollard's release.

Well, then, what are the implications of their silence on this country's full backing for the Palestinian demand that Israel release Palestinian criminals? Indeed, what does it say about the Clinton administration's view of the humanity of Israelis if Israel must cave in before these incessant Palestinian demands for the release of Palestinian prisoners?

Just who are these prisoners? They include premeditated, first-degree, cold-blooded murderers of Israelis. Take, for example, the man who admitted to throwing grenades in the Beersheba bus station during the Wye talks. He left 66 people wounded, two seriously. He also admitted to breaking into the home of Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan two months earlier and stabbing the rabbi to death; then, while leaving through the window, tossing a couple of hand grenades for good measure.

Where was admitted terrorist Salem Rajab Sarsour between the murder of the rabbi and the havoc in Beersheba? He was known to Israeli authorities, who asked Palestinian authorities to detain Sarsour for his involvement in terrorist activities (which also, by Sarsour's own admission, included throwing a grenade at Israeli troops last Yom Kippur). Sarsour, in short, was just the sort of man Israelis arrest and try, just the sort of man whose release from prison the Palestinians demand just the sort of man whose freedom the diGenovas and the Gingriches find perfectly normal to be included as "pawns" in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Yes, let's take diGenova and Gingrich at their word. The release of prisoners under clemency ought to be a very rare, seriously thought through, and genuinely justified exception. Yet, Israel is routinely asked to release scores or hundreds or thousands of Palestinian prisoners Israel is routinely condemned by the highest levels of American political leadership as "intransigent" and "against peace" if she resists these demands.

What does this say about the humanity of Israelis?

That it is terribly wrong for an American prisoner to be set free, but perfectly normal for murderers and other real or attempted attackers of Israelis to be set free?

That it is right to maintain one standard of clemency for the US, but another standard for Israel?

That American blood is redder than Israeli blood?

That one man's crime, that of Jonathan Pollard, is unforgiveable, but that another man's crime, that of a Palestinian, is acceptable?

That it is perfectly understandable for Americans not to want to stomach the release of one so-called" traitor" (who in fact was never charged with treason), but also perfectly understandable for Israelis to be forced by American administrations to stomach the release of not one, not 10, not 100, but of countless criminals, not just now, in 1998, but for the last 17 years?

That it is, well, simply too bad if one of these released Palestinian criminals returns to murder innocent Israelis as, in fact, has happened?

Where is Joseph diGenova's rage over that?

Where are Newt Gingrich's scruples over his own government's pressure on Israel, at the negotiating table, to release criminals who have replicated Pollard's crimes and worse?

Israelis find it difficult to credit American assurances about Palestinian intentions for peace. This is not only because of the unceasing Palestinian terrorism in Israeli bus stations, city streets, highways and river banks. No, there is a deeper reason: American tolerance of Palestinian terrorism.

Oh yes, President Clinton says he's against it, while simultaneously telling Israeli prime ministers, in effect: "Hey, what's the big deal? Let a few prisoners go. It'll be a nice gesture for peace. It'll make the Palestinians feel good. . . What? I should let Pollard go just because you must let 750 Palestinians prisoners go? Forget it!"