The Significance Of The New Pollard Info

July 12, 2000 - Jay Shapiro - Arutz Sheva

In this article:

  • A Jewish Priority
  • The New Information
  • Israel's Role
  • "If You Only Knew"
  • Breaking The Silence


Redemption of prisoners - pidyon shvuyim - is a moral and religious obligation that takes halakhic [Jewish legal] preference over all other mitzvot [commandments]. Just by reading some halakhic responsa, one can see the great sacrifices Jewish communities have made throughout history to free our brethren from the shackles of gentile prisons. It is a mitzvah that always had the consensus of Jews, regardless of their affiliation.

It was not that long ago when world Jewry united to protest the plight of our brothers and sisters behind the iron curtain. Continuous pressure on the former USSR unlocked the bars and freed hundreds of thousands of Jews to Israel and the west. The State of Israel, as the "corporate headquarters" of the Jewish people, invaded the sovereign territory of Argentina to find Adolf Eichmann and bring him to trial, and sent commandos to Entebbe in 1976.

However, there are presently two instances where Jews are in danger, and world Jewry is not doing its share in demanding their release. One involves the MIAs, the Jewish soldiers missing in action from the Lebanese War. Three of them were last seen in Syrian captivity 18 years ago, and several years ago Yasser Arafat exhibited the identity tag of one of these missing men. The State of Israel should not have entered into any negotiations with Syria nor with Arafat without a precondition that the fate of these men be made known.

The other instance is one that is more readily amenable to an immediate solution - if Israel and American Jewry accept their religious and moral obligation: Jonathan Pollard has been in prison for fifteen years for spying for Israel. And although some attempts have been made on his behalf, the Pollard issue is not at the top of the agenda of Israel and American Jewry, as it must be. For in addition to the perversion of justice by the American judicial system, and the fact that his penalty is much harsher than that given to others for worse crimes, evidence has now become available showing that the injustice is even greater than previously known. Newly-released information from a report by a Knesset Committee chaired by Abba Eban and another by US Senator Charles Schumer sheds new light on the Pollard case.


Briefly put, the case against Pollard was based on documents belonging to the American government that Pollard had provided to Israel, and which the U.S. wished to retrieve. At the time, the Israeli Prime Minister was Shimon Peres, and the American Secretary of State was George Schultz. Schultz was friendly to Israel and wanted to limit this embarrassing situation between friends as much as possible. According to the Eban Report, a significant milestone in the development of the Israeli strategy was a midnight call from Schultz to Prime Minister Peres.

In this conversation, the Prime Minister clarified for Mr. Schultz several points, including: (a) The political echelon did not know of the Pollard initiative, as it had been taken without consent and without any official authorization. (b) Israel will cooperate fully with the United States. (c) Israel will discipline those found responsible, and will dismantle the relevant unit. (d) Israel will return the documents obtained via Pollard.

The Eban report, released only last month, goes on to say that these commitments were not given without reservations. Israel did not give an open pledge, but rather presented restrictions and qualifications - including the granting of immunity to the three other Israelis involved in the affair, and an American guarantee that the documents returned would not be used to convict Pollard.

These very documents constituted the basis for the conviction and life sentence that Pollard received, in spite of the American commitment not to use the documents against him. When the FBI used these documents against Pollard, he felt that he had no choice but to plead guilty.

Then followed the chain of events which many of you already know: The Justice Department implied that his cooperation would net him only a "substantial sentence" - understood to be less than ten years (no other spy for an allied country had received more than four years). Then, an hour before sentencing, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger delivered a secret memo to the judge, proclaiming Pollard to be the worst spy in American history, falsely accusing him treason (a charge never made by the prosecution, because Israel is an ally of the United States). Pollard then became the first defendant in American history to receive the maximum sentence after pleading guilty - sentenced to life on the basis of a secret affidavit which neither he nor his lawyers were allowed to review in detail, or to challenge in a court of law and as a direct result of an American violation of the pledge that the papers would not be used against him.

This is the type of thing that would normally have every civil rights advocate and every American Jewish organization parading in the streets against that verdict. The manner in which Pollard was convicted is a blot upon the American judicial system.


Pollard was never advised by Israel that the United States had agreed not to use the documents against him. He pleaded guilty without knowing this, and when his appeal came up years later, in 1987, he still did not know this. During the appeal, the U.S. government attorney opposing the reduction of sentence said, "the defendant agreed to enter a guilty plea and cooperate only after government attorneys and investigators returned from Israel with additional evidence of the defendant's guilt." So Pollard was betrayed by both the United States, which violated the conditions under which the documents were returned, and by Israel, which never made him aware of those conditions.


There is another important point. Proponents of the severe sentence against Pollard have defended their position by claiming that the damage assessment in Pollard's classified file is so shocking that it justifies the sentence. This was the politically-correct justification for the severe sentence. New York Senator Charles Schumer did not rely on what others claimed about the classified file. He procured access to the file and reviewed it. Schumer said that he found that absolutely nothing in the file justifies the life sentence.

All the key players in this drama know the truth. The Israeli Government knows the conditions upon which the documents were returned to the Americans. The American administration, including the President, is aware of the conditions that were violated. Most importantly, the Americans know that nothing in the file can justify a life sentence for spying for a friendly country.


Larry Dub, Jonathan Pollard's lawyer, recently reported that Pollard made contact with leaders of major Jewish organizations, hoping that in light of these new revelations, they might be willing to assist in the fight against this terrible injustice. Wrong. They are not interested in helping him. They find all kinds of excuses.

One of the Jewish names that keeps coming up in reference to the Pollard affair is U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, an Orthodox Jew.

His name is associated with this affair for several reasons. One is that Hillary Clinton, who is running for Senate in New York State, answers questions about Pollard by saying that "Senator Lieberman, a Jew, is against his release." This is a terrible insult to both the Senator and to American Jews. Senator Lieberman does not represent the Jewish people. He was elected to the Senate as an American citizen - not as a Jew. New York State Assemblyman Sam Colman wrote to Senator Lieberman that Pollard was "arrested as an American but punished as a Jew...

We Jews in America will truly be first-class citizens only when we have the courage to state openly and publicly that we will not accept a double standard of justice When a Jew commits a crime, he should be punished - but not more severely than another American in similar circumstances. As equal American citizens, we must reject the 'compliment' of anti-Semites that more is expected of us, and that therefore a more severe sentence is warranted." In his reply to Colman, Lieberman said that he, Lieberman, does not speak for the Jewish community. That is certainly true.

But it should bother Senator Lieberman that Hillary Clinton considers him the 'house Jew.' As an American and as a Jew holding one of the highest elected offices in the United States, he should take public exception to Hillary's basing her excuses on him as a Jew. But Hillary and the Senator are both Democrats, so it is not easy to know what Lieberman's agenda is. Rumor has it that he is interested in being the Democratic candidate for Vice President. Whether this is true or not, it does not change the facts in the Pollard case. And as long as the American Jewish leadership is afraid to take a stand against this injustice, it is fairly obvious that, sadly, despite all their claims, they are still insecure as Jews in America.

Jonathan Pollard, betrayed by Israel and the United States, has been incarcerated for fifteen years. The moral obligation of pidyon shvuyim demands that this terrible injustice be rectified. On the eve of the new Camp David negotiations, the Israeli government should demand from the Americans that before we even sit down to talk, Jonathan be released home to Israel.

Jay Shapiro heads a consulting firm dealing with United States Government contracting. He is the host of a popular current events show on Arutz-7 English broadcasts and is the author of several books of essays on Israeli society.

See Also:
  • Senator Lieberman Page
  • Finally, The Truth About the Pollard Affair
  • Did the US Violate Its Legal Commitment to Israel?
  • Israel Betrayed Pollard, Too
  • Wein-on-Line: Our Duty to Free Pollard