What's Bugging Besser?

Response to: "Pollard and his Admirers" (Jewish Week, NY)

Justice4JPnews Commentary - August 26, 2009

When syndicated Jewish columnist James Besser begins his latest 'let's-bash-Pollard' piece ("Pollard and his Admirers" Jewish Week [NY] 08/25/2009 - copied below) he spuriously links Jonathan Pollard's name to that of convicted Ponzi-scheme king, Bernard Madoff, as if to imply that there is some kind of commonality between them. That should be ample warning to readers that the rest of Besser's assault on Pollard is equally as disingenuous.

To be fair, Besser does make a number of points correctly: that Pollard has served a very long time - 24 years-for the offense he committed in helping Israel; that Pollard is a political hostage who may be used as a bargaining chip in the Israel-Palestinian peace process; that Israeli leaders have not made Pollard's release a priority, and neither have American Jewish leaders; that Pollard's statements that he has been abandoned by the government of Israel have merit, and so on.

Unfortunately, it is not the injustice to Pollard that gets to Besser. No, what really infuriates Besser is that there are people, prominent rabbis and notables among them, who have the gall to write to Pollard expressing their appreciation for him, particularly for the way he has weathered his ordeal in prison for the last two and a half decades!

Besser blames Pollard as if he were the one who is writing or speaking out. In point of fact, Pollard has not been interviewed for years! But as far as Besser is concerned, how dare Pollard allow anyone to write nice things about him?!! How dare anyone admire Pollard's courage and fortitude, after being imprisoned unjustly for a quarter of a century, without benefit of trial, and subjected to the harshest treatment that the US Federal System can mete out?!! Besser insists that Pollard will have to pay for every compliment he receives with more time in prison!

Is that how Besser believes the American system of justice works?! Does he truly believe that in America if anyone says something nice about a prisoner, it is the prisoner's fault and more time is added to his sentence?! Is that why the US suddenly freed convicted terrorist and bomber Khalid Al-Jawary in February of this year -- after serving less than half of his 30 year sentence -- because he was not as admired as Pollard?! [See news item.]

For over two decades, no matter how cogently the facts have demonstrated that Jonathan Pollard's on-going incarceration is a travesty of justice, all Mr. Besser can come up with is the absurdity that it is Jonathan Pollard's own fault that he remains a political hostage in America!

What's bugging Besser?

Here is one Talkback submitted to the Jewish Week (by Terry Black) and shared with J4JP that may provide an answer:

"The Lockerbie Bomber who took the lives of 279 people just went home to Libya after serving 8 years of a life sentence, yet his release did not arouse the kind of ire that Mr. Besser expresses at the "audacity" of Jonathan Pollard who killed no one but is seeking to be released after a quarter of a century in prison, for helping Israel, an ally of the U.S. According to Mr. Besser, Pollard still hasn't expressed ENOUGH remorse for his actions. How much remorse will be enough for Mr. Besser? Pollard's espionage for Israel should have netted him the usual 2 to 4 year sentence that is generally given for this type of offense. Instead he got life, and he has already served about 8 times longer than anyone else in the US indicted for a similar offense. This, without the benefit of trial!

Pardon me, Mr. Besser, instead of bashing Pollard and threatening him because others admire the fortitude he has shown in prison over the last quarter of a century, where is your voice to call for justice for Pollard?!!! Are we missing something, or are you just plain jealous that no one ever writes anything nice about you?"

Here is Besser's article. Judge for yourself:


James Besser - The Jewish Week [NY] - August 25th, 2009

I don't know why - I've been doing this for a long time, after all - but I still react with surprise to each new indication that Jonathan Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy who wants out of the prison he now shares with Ponzi king Bernie Madoff, is his own worst enemy.

Case in point: a new posting on the "official" Justice for Jonathan Pollard Web site by an Israeli rabbi, who just can't contain his admiration for Jonathan.

Rabbi Shmuel Yaniv, a "well-known Torah scholar, author, poet and expert on Torah Codes" and chief Rabbi of Givat Shmuel, according to the Pollard Website, writes this to Jonathan:

"I look upon you as a giant of a man, a hero who brought redemption to our Nation from the threat of Saddam Hussein, the cancer of Satan. Every adult and child in Israel and throughout the Jewish world recognizes and appreciates your selfless courage. Your virtue is enormous. Other leaders may rise and fall, but remembrance of your deeds shall endure forever in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people, from generation to generation, until coming of the final Redeemer."

And, Yaniv adds, Pollard "should have received the Nobel Peace Prize" for his efforts. (Read the entire letter here).

No doubt all that praise warms Jonathan's heart, chilled from 24 years in prison. The only problem is, such sentiments can only prolong his ordeal.

These are the facts: the only way Pollard is going to get out of jail is through parole - which he refuses to seek - or a presidential commutation. Either way, he's going to have to make it clear he regrets his crime, consistently and unambiguously. Every time he disseminates the praise of those who say he is a hero of Zion, he undercuts his claim to repentance.

I ask you: what president is going to take the political risk of releasing an American who spied for another country, and at least implies that what he did was justified?

It's not gonna happen; each recitation of his heroic deeds by supporters, trumpeted on his Web site, only adds to the time he will stay in jail.

(There's one other way he might get out: as part of a U.S.-Israel deal involving elements of the peace process. But that requires an Israeli leader making his release a priority - something that seems increasingly unlikely in light of Pollard's bitter criticism of an Israeli leadership he believes - not without justification - abandoned him)

Pollard complains that American Jewish leaders, too, have largely ignored his appeals for help.

Early in his imprisonment, I think his complaints had some merit; after all, he was a very young and nave man who was badly misused by an Israeli government that should have known better.

But now, what mainstream Jewish leader is going to really go out on a limb for a spy whose supporters glorify his actions - a glorification Pollard seems to welcome?

Personally, I can't see how keeping Pollard in jail serves justice or national security interests after all these years. It just doesn't make sense.

But even a president who recognized that fact is going to have a hard time releasing a spy whose supporters say outright that what he did wasn't just justified, but heroic.

Pollard seems to think that if he keeps quiet, his case will be forgotten and he'll die in jail. I would suggest the opposite; the more he talks and allows his supporters to talk, the less likely it is any president will let him out.

This article can also be read here.

See Also: