Text: Jonathan Pollard's 20th Anniversary Speech: Don't Trade Me for Barghouti

Presented at the Handcuffed Human Chain Rally in Jerusalem, November 21, 2004 B"H

What do Marwan Barghouti, Dennis Ross and I have in common?

  • Marwan Barghouti is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison for murdering Jews.

  • Dennis Ross, a Jew, is the former US Special Envoy to the Middle East (1988 to 2000).

  • I, Jonathan Pollard, am serving a life sentence in America for my activities on behalf of Israel.

The common thread that links us all is the amorality of the Israeli Government, and its constant willingness to sacrifice its people on the altar of political expediency. I would like to discuss that idea with you today in honor of an historic occasion.

On this day, 20 years ago, an historic record was set. For the first time in modern history, a bona fide agent was expelled from the embassy of the country he served, and thrown out into the street to be arrested by local security services. The nation he served became the first and only nation in the history of modern espionage to cooperate in the prosecution of its own agent. Indeed, they did such a thorough job, that he received an unprecedented life sentence for an offense that usually merits a 2 to 4 year sentence, or less.

I am that agent; and Israel is the nation I served.

Now in my 20th year of a life sentence with no end in sight, it is irrelevant to talk about whether or not I was abandoned and betrayed by the country I served. The facts speak for themselves.

Lately there has been a barrage of speculation in the Israeli media about a new proposal to secure my release. The deal is that I may be traded, along with Azzam Azzam (the Israeli Druse in prison in Egypt) for the release of Marwan Barghouti, murderer of Jews and mastermind of the Intifada.

Let me state from the outset that I have always been opposed to gaining my freedom in exchange for the release of murderers and terrorists. My position has not changed. I deserve to be released because my sentence is unjust and because the U.S. has promised my release on more than one occasion, including a commitment by the President of the United States at the Wye Summit in 1998.

Someone who fundamentally agrees that I should be released because my sentence is unjust, and not in return for unilateral concessions by Israel, is the former US Special Envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross.

In his new book, "The Missing Peace" (Farrar Straus Giroux, N.Y., 2004) Ross writes that at Wye the President asked him if freeing me would be important to Israel. "Yes," [Ross replied] "because he is considered a soldier for Israel and there is an ethos in Israel that you never leave a soldier behind in the field." (page 438)

In a footnote on the same page Ross added: "I also said I was in favor of [Pollard's] release, believing that he had received a harsher sentence than others who had committed comparable crimes. I preferred not tying his release to any agreement..."

No sooner does Ross acknowledge the injustice of my sentence and that I deserve to be freed unconditionally, than he advises the President NOT to free me! Why? Because of my great value as a political asset and a bargaining chip.

Ross writes that he cautioned the President against releasing me until greater concessions from Israel could be secured during final status talks. Referring to me as "it", he told the President: "It would be a huge payoff [for Israel]; you don't have many like it in your pocket...You will need it later, don't use it now." (page 439)

By understanding Ross' attitude towards me as an asset, not a person, it becomes possible for the first time to understand Prime Minister Sharon's indifference towards me. Sharon has deliberately, calculatedly ignored every opportunity to secure my release ever since he took office. Why? Because he too sees me as a political asset, and not as a human being. Sharon is apparently reserving me for a time that my release will be the fig leaf for some very, very dastardly initiative. Perhaps something as dastardly as enabling another mass murderer of Jews to become prime minister of the P.A. just as Israel once did for the arch murderer, Yassir Arafat.

In the meantime, the Government of Israel recognizes that the Americans regard me as a very valuable bargaining chip. But instead of pressing for my release, Israel has learned how to exploit the bargaining chip without ever having to pay the price. Israel has learned how to manipulate my name and my fate in the media in order to sell the Israeli public on its morally repugnant actions.

Over the years, when it was calling for relinquishing the Golan Heights; when it was determined to divide Jerusalem; when it abandoned Hebron; when it wanted to renounce the Temple Mount - and so on- the Government publicly raised the hope that I would be released as a reward for making these terrible concessions. Each time the Nation comforted itself, thinking, well at least we will get Pollard... But it was a lie.

Even at Wye, the bid for my release was simply to be the fig leaf to sell a bad deal to the Israeli public. As Dennis Ross puts it (page 455): "[The Prime Minister] said he couldn't do the deal without it. He said that he'd made concessions on the prisoners based on the assumption that he would have Pollard and on that basis he could sell the prisoners [release], indeed, could sell the whole deal". But like anything expendable, I was dropped from the agenda when the Americans reneged on their commitment to free me. And Israel released the Arab murderers and terrorists all the same.

More recently, when debate was raging in the media about the morality of swapping terrorist chiefs Obeid and Durani, plus hundreds of terrorists, for 3 dead Israelis and one live Israeli, Tanenbaum, my name was linked to the deal to soften the blow. As soon as the Israeli public got used to the idea of this obscene deal, my name was dropped and the deal was done. There was never any intention of including me in the deal, only of raising the Nation's expectation that I would be.

Now, apparently, Israel is planning to do the same thing in order to justify releasing Marwan Barghouti, the multiple murderer of Jews. But this time, the stakes are higher. And this time, Israel might actually be forced to follow through.

When news of the proposed 3-way deal broke, my close contacts began to investigate. Here is what we have learned from reliable sources in this country and in Israel:

1. It is Israel, not the Arabs, who is pressing for Barghouti's release.

Officially, Israel insists that it will never free Marwan Bargouhti. He is a murderer sentenced to multiple life sentences and freeing him, they claim, would undermine the rule of law.

Unofficially, sources, including one very close to the Prime Minister, admit that Israel has been grooming Barghouti in prison to be the next leader of the Palestinian people.

It is an open secret in Israel that top officials have been secretly meeting with Barghouti throughout his incarceration. He is taken out of his prison cell and brought to clandestine locations for these meetings, to enlist his help in promoting various initiatives with the Palestinians, such as the cease fires. These secret sessions are part of the "grooming" process.

2. It is Israel, not Barghouti's military Tanzim, who leaked the story that there are talks aimed at putting together a 3-way swap for Barghouti's release.

Officially, Israel reviles Barghouti and dismisses any possibility of releasing him.

Unofficially, Sharon's Government and his closest people believe that Barghouti is someone that they can work with, someone who can control the Palestinian street. They see him as someone who can unite the warring factions among the Palestinian militias and hold them in check.

3. It is Israel, not the Arabs, which is now secretly supplying positive PR material to the media about Barghouti.

More than just whitewashing Barghouti, Israel is seeking to create the impression that there is such popular support amongst the Palestinian people for Barghouti, that it cannot be resisted or denied. This is an attempt to create an atmosphere where the U.S. feels it must step in and direct events. The Americans can then "force" Israel to release Barghouti, and Israel can do so with "clean hands."

4. It is Israel, not the Arabs, which is attempting to recast Barghouti as the Palestinian version of Nelson Mandela.

Israel has done more behind-the-scenes work in the media in the last week to ensure the release of the murderer Barghouti and his subsequent election as Prime Minister of the PA, than it has over the past 20 years to lay the foundations of my release!

In fact, in the last 2 decades, Israel has never done anything in the media to help explain my case to the American public or to the Israeli public - in spite of my repeated requests for this kind of help. My contacts tell me that for Barghouti, they are working overtime.

Israel's behind-the-scenes diplomacy and secret advocacy for Barghouti is just another reflection of government amorality. It is not a question of ethics but of expediency. Morality has nothing to do with it, and that is what makes this so contemptible.


5. It is Arab public opinion, not Israeli public opinion which prevents Israel from releasing Barghouti outright.

Israel must make it appear that it is being forced to free Barghouti, and that a high price has been paid for his release. Unless Israel gains something very valuable in return for Barghouti, the Palestinian "street" will consider him a traitor, a collaborator, an Israeli stooge; his credibility will be zero and his life in danger.

There are not many high-priced bargaining chips left, and fewer yet, of great value that won't cost the Palestinians anything.

Unfortunately, nothing I say about my own unwillingness to have any part in such a morally degenerate scheme will make any difference. The Government will do whatever it must, to get what it wants, regardless of what I or anyone else may say or do.

And if they succeed?

If they succeed, remember that only G-d knows how the full story will turn out. It says in Tehillim that sometimes G-d allows evil to flourish, only to cut it down all the more thoroughly (Psalm 92, Verse 7). Although some may believe that they rule the world, our fate both as individuals and as a Nation is, was, and always will be in the hands of the Almighty.

As G-d fearing Jews we take our motto from Tehillim (Psalm 62,Verse 7): "In G-d is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge is in G-d!"

Twenty years ago, on November 21, 1985, when I was thrown out of the Israeli Embassy, the Torah portion of the week was Vayeitzei . Literally: "And he went out". And I went out of the Embassy. This week, for the first time in 20 years, the Torah Portion corresponding to the November 21st anniversary is once again Vayeitzei. Let us hope that this time, Vayeitzei means, "And he went out of prison."

May the G-d of Israel bless us all and keep us safe from harm! May He speedily redeem us all - individually and collectively - to do His will. May He return me and my beloved wife, Esther, swiftly to the Land so that the next time we meet at a Pollard rally, it will be for the purpose of Hodaya (giving thanks to HaShem.) Amain! Ken yihi ratzon!

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