Public Enemy No. 1

January 21, 1999 - The Jerusalem Post - Uri Dan

The unceasing crusade against granting any kind of clemency to Jonathan Pollard is based on exaggerations - not to mention lies - aimed at painting him as some kind of monster that threatened America's national security.

Americans and foreigners that were caught in the US spying for the Soviet Union, who caused the US real damage by selling its secrets to the former communist superpower, have received far more lenient treatment, either by having their sentences reduced or by receiving a pardon.

But now, when we are talking about an American citizen (now also an Israeli citizen) who worked as an intelligence agent for a friendly country like Israel, all are demanding that he be buried alive in his prison cell, even though he has been behind bars for more than 13 years.

No one denies that Pollard committed a serious crime and is worthy of punishment. But it makes no sense to try to turn him into Public Enemy No. 1, just to prevent him from having his sentence commuted.

Joining the demonization of Pollard this month is the noted American journalist Seymour Hersh, who, in an article that appeared in the New Yorker, accused Pollard of everything he could think of.

He described Pollard as a drug abuser, who betrayed his country because he needed money to support his habit. Hersh also claimed that the US intelligence secrets that he passed on to Israel made their way also to the Soviet Union, during the period that the KGB still ruled Russia and was conducting its own espionage activities throughout the world.

Now, anyone in Israel who is familiar with the Pollard affair knows that no secret or document that he gave to Israel was passed on to the Soviet Union.

Pollard volunteered to work as an intelligence agent for the clandestine Scientific Liaison Bureau during the period when Moshe Arens was defense minister and Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister. Pollard's work was later approved by Shimon Peres and the late Yitzhak Rabin, when the two were prime minister and defense minister, respectively, in the 1984 national unity government.

So the period during which Pollard was providing his crucial information - some of which had been withheld from Israel improperly, given the intelligence cooperation agreements the US and Israel had signed - the Soviet Union was still a diplomatic and security threat to Israel.

It wasn't possible to even have considered any intelligence deal under which any Israeli would have turned the material Pollard supplied into a marketable commodity.

This evil allegation - that Pollard's material had made its way from Israel to the USSR - was raised during Pollard's sentencing in 1987. It was a period when the CIA was suffering brutal hits in the Soviet Union; when several of its agents were uncovered and even executed.

American security officials were in the dark as to how this had occurred, and tried to pin the blame on Pollard. Several years later, they learned the bitter truth: that it was a CIA man, Aldrich Ames, who had sold out his colleagues for money and caused the biggest setback the US intelligence community had ever suffered.

But when these shocking facts were revealed, there was no senior US administration official with the guts to get up and admit that the allegations against Pollard with regard to the events in the Soviet Union in the late Eighties had been proven baseless.

There is the same lack of truth to Hersh's turning of Pollard into a drug addict, with the help of a dubious "witness."

It's no surprise that Seymour Hersh includes half-truths and fairy tales in his sensational stories, particularly since Pollard is linked to Israel, which Hersh had already turned into a nuclear monster in a previous book. In the same fashion, he paints Pollard as a monstrous spy, who severely harmed American national security.

Just as the current Israeli government, which had nothing to do with the Pollard affair, finally took responsibility for him and asked that he be pardoned - something Shamir, Arens, Peres and Rabin couldn't bring themselves to do - it would behoove an official government spokesman to categorically deny this libel against Pollard with regard to the former Soviet Union.

After all, these slanders are meant to discredit Israel as much as Pollard, as they make Israel look like an ungrateful and treacherous friend.

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