The Incredible Case of Jonathan Pollard

David Kirshenbaum, Esq. - The Jerusalem Post - August 4, 2000

Many hopes were shattered by the failure of the Camp David summit. One of those was the report that Jonathan Pollard might be released in the context of a comprehensive settlement.

Rumors of a like nature have been floated over the years at different stages of the Oslo process, always, of course, turning out to be ephemeral. As an example, several participants at the Wye talks support the assertion of former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu that President Clinton reneged on a promise to free Pollard as part of the Wye accords. But beyond the dose of skepticism with which many Pollard supporters viewed the rumors at Camp David, the implications of those reports were most troubling.

It seemed that if Pollard were to be freed, the release would have to be linked, not simply to yet another Israeli territorial withdrawal and another interim agreement, but to Israel satisfying every Palestinian demand in connection with a final settlement.

Regardless of whether the Camp David talks can be resuscitated during the last few months of the Clinton administration, the time is long overdue for him to free Pollard.

It behooves Clinton to do so, not for reasons of realpolitik, but because it is the just thing to do.

It is a sorry truth that the American government's conduct in the Pollard case and its posture towards Israel as a consequence thereof is distinguished by broken promises, double standards and bad faith. The oft-cited "fundamental miscarriage of justice" is not a creation of paranoid American Jews who see antisemitism where it does not exist. That severe indictment of US misconduct in the Pollard affair was issued by Judge Stephen Williams, a conservative judge on the US Court of Appeals panel that heard the appeal of Pollard's life sentence.

Reverend Benjamin Hooks was equally harsh. In a 1993 letter to Clinton, he wrote, "As a lawyer and a minister, as well as a former judge and CEO of the NAACP, I have rarely encountered a case in which government arbitrariness was so clear cut and inexcusable."

The fact is that Pollard has been singled out from all other Americans who spied for non-adversaries. He is the only such spy for a non-adversary to have received a life sentence, and his brutal and draconian treatment can only be compared with the punishments meted out to the most notorious spies for US adversaries.There have been numerous other cases where individuals were caught spying for US allies. None of these cases caused a crisis in relations or a bitter, unforgiving grudge among the American intelligence community toward the offending country. Rather, these cases were dealt with without any fanfare, with sentences in the two-to-five-year range.

In marked contrast, in the Pollard case, there is a very obvious but rarely stated feeling among many circles in the US that, given the prominent role of Jews in government, an example has to be made of Pollard. Thus, it is frighteningly apparent that US intelligence and government officials still opposed to Pollard's release are not only hell bent on exacting a pound of flesh, but also on sending a blunt warning to American Jews, and particularly to Jews who work in government.

The rabid opposition, even after 15 years, of many in the intelligence community to lightening the life term that the government promised in writing not to seek in the first place, raises the selective targeting of the American Jewish community to an extreme and frightening level.

When statements are issued to the effect that Pollard can't be released even after 15 years because it will weaken deterrence, what is really meant is that with so many Jews working at all levels, including the highest echelons, of every federal agency and department, Pollard must be dealt with so harshly and so abusively as to deter any other Jew with sympathy for Israel from repeating what Pollard did.

If Pollard's incomparably harsh sentence is allowed to continue, all but the most naive will have to confront the real possibility that he is still in prison only because he is a Jew.