Now For The Proper Pardon

Amiel Ungar - The Jerusalem Report - April 9, 2001

If it wasn't enough that Bill Clinton made "pardon" into a dirty "P-word," along came Robert Hanssen to remind the American public that spies are unsavory people. This sequence imposes a double handicap on Jonathan Pollard's prospects for clemency. Well-intentioned people will advise a hiatus before renewing efforts to secure Pollard's release. Such advice should be rejected. Once Israeli and American Jewish elites intervened so strenuously on behalf of Mark (sic) Rich, they can do no less and must do more for Jonathan Pollard.

An attitude corrosive to Jewish and Israeli solidarity that has become all too pervasive recently has rendered certain soldiers, agents or even Jewish communities more expendable than others. Far away in forbidding Butner Penitentiary, Pollard accurately assessed the similarity between his predicament and the tragedy of Midhar Yussuf. Yussuf, a Druze Border Police combatant, bled to death in Joseph's Tomb in Nablus at the beginning of Arafat's war. The higher-ups didn't want to escalate hostilities with the Palestinian Authority in order to secure his evacuation by force. Yussuf died, hostilities escalated anyway and a cornerstone of the Israeli military ethos - the obligation to rescue wounded soldiers - had been undermined.

Jonathan Pollard never envisioned himself as the unflappable Mr. Phelps from the "Mission Impossible" television series. Each episode in that series would begin with Phelps listening to a self-destructing tape, which informed him that in the event of capture he and his team would be disavowed by the government. Pollard believed in the contrary notion that Israel never abandoned its soldiers or clandestine warriors. If that faith is disabused, we will all bear the consequences. The same cavalry that blatantly rode to Rich's "rescue" cannot plead hoof and mouth disease in the case of Pollard.

Any comparison between the Pollard case and the Rich pardon must emphasize the tremendous differences between the circumstances of the two men. Switzerland, whatever its deficiencies, is far from a maximum security penitentiary. Since Rich ingratiated himself with the good Helvetic burghers in the same manner that endeared him to Israeli and American elites who championed his pardon, he was permitted to enjoy the good life. Pollard's terms of confinement were intended to break him physically and spiritually. Nothing was spared, including incarceration in a prison for the criminally insane, shades of measures imposed against dissidents in the Brezhnev era. The prison authorities took pains to extend the same demeaning attitude to anyone who came into contact with Pollard. When former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu visited Pollard in prison, he was subjected by the authorities to a body search. Rabbi Eliyahu could hardly be suspected of concealing weaponry or illicit drugs under his rabbinic robes. The message was the humiliation. This petty vindictiveness has been going on for 16 years. Even someone such as New York's mayor and former federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani, who is far from squeamish about imposing deterrent sentences, cannot comprehend the severity meted out to Pollard.

If the Rich pardon was a travesty of normal judicial procedure, the same can be said about Pollard's life sentence, but in reverse. A plea bargain accepted by the prosecution in the Pollard case was nullified through behind-the-back governmental intervention. Caspar (Cap the Knife) Weinberger, Reagan's defense secretary, and himself later the beneficiary of a presidential pardon for his part in Contra-Irangate, influenced the judge's sentence with an inflammatory memo that made a mockery of judicial fair play, since the defense team was not allowed to challenge the accusations.

Rich was a beneficiary of Clintonite cupidity, while Pollard was its victim. During the unfortunate Wye River summit of 1998, Clinton used the release of Pollard as bait to sweeten a deal that was calculated to enhance the president's reputation as a mediator, but that ultimately led to the collapse of the Netanyahu government. Clinton then retracted the bait, citing the vigorous opposition of the American intelligence community. He promised a subsequent review of the case. This review, of course, never materialized, just as the promised review on transferring the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem never materialized.

If the Bush administration is serious about restoring honor to the White House, it can do so by implementing an agreement which Clinton reneged on. Ariel Sharon, as a witness to Wye, can fill Bush in about the particulars.

Finally a word to CIA chief George Tenet and his fellow spooks at Langley, who are presumably the main stumbling block to Pollard's release. Whatever damage Pollard may have done to U.S. security interests (and it is time to lift the veil after the Ames and Hanssen cases) cannot begin to match the damage that the CIA has recently done to Israeli security. Many of Arafat's elite combatants enjoyed the benefit of CIA training and the craft that they absorbed is now being employed in terror operations against Israeli citizens. The purpose of the CIA's involvement was to make sure that Arafat's apparat was engaged in counter-terrorist activity rather than in terrorist activity proper. At the very least the agency could have been expected to blow the whistle on Arafat, notably after the continued violence following the Sharm al-Sheikh summit. The whistle has remained stuck in Tenet's mouth and he hasn't said a discouraging word about the Company's erstwhile pupils. A symbolic act of expiation would be the long overdue release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.

Amiel Ungar, a contributing editor of the Jerusalem Report, teaches political science at Judea and Samaria College in Ariel.

See Also:
  • The Clemency Page
  • Wye Page