Diplomacy That Silences

Yair Pereg - Makor Rishon - October 22, 1999


Ehud Barak has chosen to work/or not to work for the the release of Jonathan Pollard using the "quiet diplomacy" tactic. Barak has good reason for this: the documents that Pollard passed to Israel reveal how the US purposely failed to alert Israel of Syrian war plans. Renewed discussion on the subject might just cause Israel to think twice before supporting a withdrawal from the Golan. The quiet diplomacy charade continues.


The Government of Israel has initiated a new policy concerning Jonathan Pollard: silence in the guise of diplomacy. In a recent article in the Baltimore Jewish Times, law professor Ken Lasson denounces this policy of silence that is now being carried out by the American Jewish leadership. According to Jonathan Pollard's recent petition to the Israel Supreme Court, the American Jews use the excuse that they are merely following Israel's lead by remaining silent and inactive.

Silent diplomacy began here, at home, in Israel. The Government of Israel has even declared in its response to the Supreme Court that "quiet diplomacy" is now its official policy on Pollard. Pollard's attorney, Larry Dub, says that quiet diplomacy is nothing more than a "fig leaf" to hide the Government's the complete lack of initiative, in order to bury Pollard again.

How did we ever sink to such a low level of morality? The truth is, there is nothing new under the sun. The Zionist leadership and the State of Israel, under the direction of the Labor party, have behaved this way in the past, when what was at stake was saving Jews during the Holocaust. Insisting that "quiet diplomacy" was safer, intensive public demonstrations, which might actually have saved the Jews, were squelched and shut down.

Marlon Brando Cries Out

During the Second World War, news reached America about the staggering number of Jews being slaughtered in Europe. The American Jewish leadership, led by Steven Weiss, head of the American Zionist Movement, chose to downplay the numbers and to act in secret to influence President Roosevelt to save the Jews. The real reason for acting in secret had nothing to do with the effectiveness of doing so, and everything to do the fear of annoying the "poritz"* and of encouraging anti-Semitism in the US. (N.B. In Europe Jews were not permitted to own land so they rented it from a "poritz"- a gentile landowner. European Jews lived in mortal fear of doing anything that might displease the "poritz" for he held the power of life and death over his Jewish tenants.) In their cowardice and fear of displeasing the "poritz", the American Jewish leadership did nothing to exploit the Jewish vote as means to bring pressure to bear on Roosevelt to encourage him to act to save European Jewry.

In contrast to these cowardly Jewish leaders, there was also a small group under the leadership of Hillel Kook, the American representative of the Etzel Movement, which tried to raise a great public outcry. They were joined by the famous Hollywood playwright Ben Hecht, and the renown musical composer, Kurt Weil. The group rented Madison Square Gardens and set out to stage a huge dramatic event called "We'll Never Die". The script was written by Ben Hecht and the musical score by Kurt Weil. It presented actual news items about the slaughter of Jews in Europe while actor Marlon Brando cried out: "The corpse of a nation is sprawled upon the doorstep of civilization. Look at it! Here it is! And not a voice is raised to say, "STOP!" to the slaughter - and not a single government takes it upon itself to order an end to the murder of millions of people!"

AZM leader, Steven Weiss, quickly stepped in to stop this performance. The doors of Madison Square Gardens were promptly slammed in the faces of Kook's group. Taking matters a step farther, Weiss' colleague, Nachum Goldman, then head of the American Jewish Union (Histadrut), appealed to the American authorities to either forcibly enlist Kook in the American Army or to deport him altogether as an "undesirable alien" since he was, in their words, a danger to the Jews, like Hitler.

Many American Jews say that if they had only known what was going on during the Holocaust they would have taken to the streets in such numbers and with such an outcry that the government would have been forced to do something stop the slaughter and save European Jewry. Such a forceful outcry was, of course, conveniently prevented by "quiet diplomacy."

Shaa, shtil! Don't make waves...

After the founding of the State of Israel, this silent style of diplomacy continued. For two decades government policy on aliyah for Soviet Jewry was "quiet diplomacy." During this period only a few hundred Jews, individuals, managed to leave the Soviet Union and make aliyah to Israel. When Soviet Jews themselves began to break the silence by vocalizing their right to leave the Soviet Union and make aliyah to Israel, only then did the Israeli government swing into full gear ... against them! The government's claim was, " Our policy of acting secretly, behind the scenes, has opened the flow so that there is now a slow trickle of immigrants coming from the Soviet Union every year. Any noisy, public initiative will stop the flow altogether." The Labor Party newspaper, Davaar wrote, (December 3, 1970) "The government of the Soviet Union will never allow a large number of Soviet Jews to leave to make aliyah to Israel. There is no doubt whatsoever that (in response to any noise made publicly) Moscow will seal up the cracks and absolutely stop any flow of immigrants from the Soviet Union to Israel.... [even the most minimal activity or noise on the part of immigrants Kozcov and Shperling in Israel] completely destroys any chance of even those tens of immigrants who make it through to us every now and then, from ever getting permission to leave from the Soviet authorities."

The real motive behind these editorials in Davaar and also in Yediot Achronot was the fear that irritating the Russians by advocating for the release of Soviet Jewry, might damage relations between Israel and the Soviet Union. So, upon the altar of "protection of the State", as it were, and by silencing its own moral conscience, Israel allowed itself to sacrifice an entire nation of Soviet Jews. When new-immigrant to Israel, Yasheh Kozcov (Yaacov Kedmi) , began a hunger strike in front of the the United Nations Building, the government responded with outrage and did everything in its power to stop him. Yediot Achronot, November 3, 1970: "It is no wonder that our people in the New York Consulate have denounced the two Soviet Jews (Kozcov and his friend Shperling) who came to the US to protest against the persecution of their own people in the Soviet Union as "provocateurs", G-d have mercy."

On the 11th of March 1970, the Government of Israel was about to convene a session of Knesset to to pass a motion banning all public activity against the Soviet Union; and banning all independent initiatives to help Soviet Jewry- even those by Soviet Jews themselves. The motion was to declare that all initiatives on behalf of Soviet Jewry must be coordinated with, and carried out only by the Government and only in secret. As this session approached, a bomb was dropped on it - the famous Letter of the 39. This open letter to the world, signed by 40 Moscow Jews, most of them academics, included their full names, addresses and telephone numbers. Not only did the letter demand that they be allowed to be reunited with their families in Israel, but it also declared that Israel is the historical homeland of the Jews and that as Jews they have a right to make aliyah to live in Israel. The letter also openly attacked and pitted the Soviet Union against Israel. As well, the signees made a daring demand of the Soviet Foreign Ministry to have a public press conference arranged for them. The impression that this made in Israel and around the world was a mighty one. Israeli papers wrote about this under such headlines as: " The True Spirit of G-d.."; " Greater than the Sanctification of G-d's Name "; "Zionism In Its Classic Mode"; "Courageous Soviet Jews"; and "Fearlessness of Heart - A Rare Revelation of the Strength of the Spirit of Man in the Face of Cruel Tyranny".

A Dramatic Impression

In the ensuing atmosphere of admiration for the courageous Jews that wrote this letter, the Government of Israel was forced to drop the idea calling for a ban on public activity and/or independent initiatives on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Davaar, the newspaper of the ruling Labor Party wrote regarding the special assembly that was supposed to occur to pass the resolution: "Deliberation by the government on this matter will be pursued under the influence of the dramatic impression created by outcry of the 39 Soviet Jews (referring to the Jews from Moscow and the letter they wrote.) Regarding this matter, it is likely that that in the next assembly, there will be a motion to ban all public activity that is not coordinated with the government." This motion was indeed passed in the next government assembly.

Of course this motion no longer made any difference. The brave stand taken by the Soviet Jews themselves, leading their own open struggle for the right to exit the USSR for Israel, brought about the end of the Israeli government's "quiet diplomacy." And of course the end result is well known: instead of a trickle of Jews from the USSR, there was a massive outpouring of Jews whose arrival in Israel not only changed the face of history, but also broke down the gates that led to the fall of the iron curtain and ultimately an end to the evil empire. What if these original brave fighters and their supporters had accepted the Israeli government's "quiet diplomacy" tactic? Only tens of Jews would have arrived from the USSR instead of the million that have already arrived, and all the rest would simply have been sacrificed as victims to placate the "poritz". This same kind of heartless policy is back in play once again in the Pollard affair.

As may be remembered, just before the last elections, it was announced that Netanyahu and Barak were to sign a joint letter to Clinton asking for the release of Jonathan Pollard. But then suddenly Barak backed out. He publicly refused to sign the letter and declared that his way was the way of "quiet diplomacy."

Once he became Prime Minister, Barak implemented his system of working and/or not working through "quiet diplomacy". This certainly became apparent in the way the government responded to Pollard's petition to the Supreme Court. In the petition against Ehud Barak, Pollard asks the court to have the Prime Minister desist not only from not working for Pollard's release by claiming that "quiet diplomacy" is taking place, but also to desist from working against his release under the same guise of "quiet diplomacy". The petition asks the court to insist that Barak fulfill his moral and legal obligations to Pollard, who is now officially recognized as an Israeli agent.

Pollard's attorneys have written in the petition that "Since Barak was elected, all contact between the Government of Israel and Pollard or his representatives has ceased." And that "quiet diplomacy is simply a fig leaf to cover the government's complete lack of initiative to secure Pollard's release." Additionally, in the petition Pollard has also requested that the government provide him with documents from his own file at the Ministry of defense which will reveal "who it is on Israel's side that is preventing or obstructing Pollard's release."

Early Warning Stations In Prison

What made Barak suddenly back off, and why the sudden refusal to advocate strongly and openly for Pollard's release? As is well known, Barak's advisors for his election campaign were none other than the Americans: Stanley Greenberg, Robert Shrum and James Carville - also Clinton's advisors. It is reasonable to presume that these fine fellows called Barak to attention, and made it clear to him that he better not irritate the "poritz" - excuse me, Mr. Clinton - who is working so hard to get him elected. And thus began the new policy of ducking Pollard and the whole issue of seeking his release under the guise of "quiet diplomacy".

But what drives the Americans? Why does Clinton so stubbornly insist on keeping Pollard in prison? Why won't he free Pollard, even to improve the atmosphere for peace in the Middle East which Clinton claims he strives to achieve?

The reason why has to do with American attempts to convince the Israeli public to support a retreat from the Golan. In order to convince and reassure the Israeli public, the Americans insist that Syrian dictator Assad is a "gentleman" who doesn't violate treaty agreements, and they promise to maintain sophisticated up-to-date, super-sensitive American early warning stations on the Golan Heights to give Israel advance warning of any threatening activities being carried out by the Syrians. They promise that these American early warning stations are the perfect solution for Israeli security, even better than our actual physical presence on the Golan Heights. And what was Pollard's crime? He passed vital security information to Israel - information that the Americans were obliged to give to Israel, but did not - in violation of a signed agreement between the two countries.

In the petition to the Supreme Court, Pollard's attorney points out that the documents that Pollard is requesting include those that reveal how the US deliberately failed to alert Israel of violations of the Disengagement Agreement with Syria (1974) and that these violations occurred from 1974 to 1984. The documents also show how the Americans failed to share Syrian war plans against Israel on the Golan, and these plans included chemical warfare against civilian targets. The documents expose America as an unreliable ally and Syria as an untrustworthy negotiating partner.

If in such critical matters the Americans violated the intelligence-sharing agreements that they have with Israel, even to a point of endangering the State, how can we gamble our security on American early warning stations? Early warning stations only warn if the Americans want them to, and we have already seen that they don't always want to - and obviously we can't depend on Syria to honor agreements. Should we allow ourselves to depend on American promises, when they have already shown us that they are not reliable - something that any fool would not even consider, and something that successive governments have simply swept under the carpet, while putting the State at tremendous risk.

The Americans seem to fear that the release of Pollard from prison may engender an explosion of truth within the Israeli public which would prevent the State's folding and surrendering to Syria. So honesty, fairness and justice take a back seat to political-driven agendas.

And that makes Pollard a modern-day Dreyfus. Pollard was indicted for espionage, and then sentenced for treason - a crime that he did not commit - but one that allows the US to keep him in prison indefinitely.

It's not what Pollard did, or what he knows that keeps him in prison, but the truth that he represents that is such a threat. In the final analysis, Pollard has become yet another sacrifice to appease the "poritz." The US-Israel "special relationship" may be a mile wide, but in some places it is no more than an inch deep. Those who know, will understand.