Pollard: The Last Bastion of Jewish Insecurity

by Jonathan Tobin, Editor Philadelphia Jewish Exponent - August 20, 2000

[Excerpted from: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Have American Jews finally arrived. Originally Published January 14, 1998 - Jewish World Review]

With the nomination of Senator Joseph Lieberman to the Democratic ticket, there is general jubliation in the American Jewish community, a feeling that Jews have finally acheived full integration into American society. In the article below, Jonathan Tobin explains that despite all outward appearances, the continued incarceration of Jonathan Pollard mirrors Jewish insecurity in America, and directly contradicts the picture of a community that is confident of its standing in America. The fact that Joseph Lieberman is a key factor in prolonging Pollard's unjust incarceration - one of his own - just to show what a true blue American he is, underscores Tobin's thesis. -


For all of our acceptance, the Jonathan Pollard story represents the last bastion of Jewish insecurity in America.

Pollard, the former U.S. Naval Intelligence officer who spied for Israel, and who has been behind bars since 1985, is being considered for clemency again. And, predictably, the push to end his long prison ordeal, and the reluctance of many Jews to join in appeals for his release on humanitarian grounds, is once again stirring up strong emotions.

For some Jews, Pollard has always been seen as a hero of sorts. They see his betrayal of his oath as trivial compared to the perfidy of American refusals to share some vital intelligence with Israel. Other Jews see Pollard as a special villain who undermines confidence in the loyalty of American Jews to their country. Over the last decade, these camps have slugged it out in Jewish forums. But the truth is, they are both wrong.

Pollard is no hero. At best, he can be considered a victim of unscrupulous Israeli intelligence agents (and their government) who exploited his naive sympathy for Zionism. His crimes were serious and deserved punishment.

But contrary to those Jews who would be happy if he rotted in jail for the rest of his life, Pollard ought not to inspire any feelings of insecurity on the part of American Jews. As Louis Brandeis said, there is no contradiction between American patriotism and love for Zion.

The bottom line is, Pollard's life sentence was disproportionate to his crime of spying for an ally. And the special hostility that defense and intelligence officials have for him has more to do with animosity for Israel than the gravity of his offense, which they continue to exaggerate in stories leaked to The New York Times. The same people who have done their best to forestall any chance of Pollard's release, such as former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, did far worse things than Pollard. It was they who helped build up the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the same time that Pollard was illegally leaking information on Iraq to Israel.

Though the spooks in the Pentagon insist that Israel betrayed American secrets they learned from Pollard to the Soviets, they are carefully forgetting to mention that the CIA official who did the official damage assessment on Pollard's spying was none other than Soviet mole Aldrich Ames!

Though I believe that Pollard is more an Israeli responsibility than an American Jewish one (and thus I think Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's attempt to free Pollard at the Wye peace talks was entirely justified), his presence still lingers unhappily on the fringes of our general prosperity.

For all of our success, perhaps the day Jonathan Pollard is released -- thus finally ending the worry about dual loyalty -- we will have truly arrived.

May that day come soon, both for his sake and ours.

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