Editorial: Ambassador Jones' Twisted Moral Calculus

Hamodia News - May 30, 2007

Jonathan Pollard, the U.S. Navy intelligence research specialist who received a life sentence after being convicted of spying for Israel, has languished in federal prison for more than 21 years. He remains in solitary confinement and endures extraordinary physical suffering. His abandonment by much of the Israeli and Jewish establishment has exacted an even more excruciating emotional toll.

Just when one might have thought that Pollard had already suffered every possible human indignity imaginable, along comes the U.S. ambassador to Israel and finds a brand-new way of inflicting psychological torture.

Last Monday, at a conference in Bar Ilan University, Ambassador Richard Jones, one of the featured speakers, entertained a question from the audience regarding Pollard's life sentence. The ambassador replied that Pollard will probably spend the rest of his life in jail - and deservedly so. "It came out in the trial very clearly, Jonathan Pollard took money for what he did, he sold out his country," said Ambassador Jones. "The fact that he wasn't executed is the mercy that Jonathan Pollard will receive."

But what about the fact that Pollard spied for an American ally? That only made things worse, Ambassador Jones declared. "This is a very emotional issue in the United States I know he was helping a friend, but that's what makes it even more emotional for Americans - if a friend would cooperate in aiding and abetting someone who is committing treason against his own country."

One can only hope that the ambassador's command of Middle Eastern diplomacy is better than his command of the Pollard affair. How egregiously did he distort history and confound common sense? Let us count the ways:


: Contrary to Ambassador Jones' statement, Pollard never even had a trial. He received his sentence after a plea bargain, through which he pleaded guilty and relinquished his right to trial. Pollard did so with the reasonable expectation that the judge would be lenient in imposing sentence. Instead, he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in jail.


: The ambassador's statement that Pollard "took money" for his spying activities is grossly misleading. Pollard was acting as an agent of Israel, as the Israeli government has formally acknowledged. His motives were not mercenary, but ideological; he felt that the U.S. was improperly withholding vital security information from Israel, and that it was critical for Israel to receive that information.


: Ambassador Jones' assertion that Pollard committed "treason" is entirely unfounded. Treason is a legal term, defined in both the U.S. Constitution and federal statute as levying war against the United States or aiding America's enemies. Pollard's indictment never charged him with treason - it could not have, given Israel's status as an American ally - nor even with causing injury to the United States.

The ambassador's use of the incendiary "T word" is reminiscent of the notorious memorandum submitted by then-secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger on the eve of Pollard's sentencing, urging the judge to impose punishment commensurate with "the magnitude of the treason committed." Many experts have speculated that it was this hyperbolic charge that led to Pollard's life sentence in the first place. For the U.S. ambassador to Israel to revive this odious slander now is inexcusable.


: It apparently has never happened in the history of the United States that anyone has been executed for peace-time espionage. Indeed, since 1953, when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union during the Korean War, no spy has ever received the death sentence even during wartime. To call Pollard's life sentence an act of mercy is as baseless as it is heartless.


: Perhaps most outrageous of all is Ambassador Jones' declaration that Pollard's crime is somehow worse because Israel is America's friend. According to the ambassador's way of thinking, apparently, because the recipient of the information was Israel, a staunch ally of the United States, rather than a country like North Korea or Iran, Pollard's crime remains unforgivable.

The absurdity of this line of reasoning is obvious. Any rational analysis of Pollard's crime would conclude that spying on behalf of an ally, though a serious crime, involves far less moral culpability than doing so on behalf of an enemy. Ambassador Jones' twisted moral calculus, which leads him to the opposite conclusion, turns logic on its head.

The day after his unfortunate remarks, Ambassador Jones issued a "clarification." He said that his remarks had been "misinformed and misleading," that they did not reflect U.S. policy, that he personally did not believe that Pollard should have been executed. Conspicuously absent from the ambassador's apology, though, was any retraction of his "treason" comment or of his inverted logic regarding espionage on behalf of an ally.

Perhaps there is a silver lining in this latest Pollard cloud. Perhaps the breathtaking impropriety of Ambassador Jones' statement will at long last lead to some serious introspection by the Bush Administration on the harshness of Pollard's sentence.

Perhaps it will lead the president himself to conclude, as former CIA director James Woolsey has, that 21 years "is enough time in prison for someone who spied for an ally and a democracy."

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