Victim of American Friendship

Pollard's ongoing incarceration in an American prison has become a national disgrace. It's time to change the rules of the game to put an end to this fiasco.

Ben-Dror Yemini - Maariv - April 9, 2013

Years ago I mistakenly wrote articles opposing the campaign for the release of Jonathan Pollard. The way the Americans see it, I would argue, he is a spy who did terrible damage to American Jewry. It was a strategic mistake of the government of Israel to run an American Jew as a spy. Even if it seems to us that no harm was done to the United States, American Jewry's silence on this issue for many years is understandable and perhaps even justified. Also, given that there is always someone ready to accuse American Jews of dual loyalty, they do not need the additional complication of a Jewish spy to add fuel to the fire. So I wrote.

The dual loyalty debate is far from over. Even today there are those who call supporters of Israel, "Israel firsters" -- meaning that they are first of all for Israel, or to put it less delicately, that they are disloyal to America.

Years passed and more years passed. And still more years and even more years passed. This week marks 10,000 days since the arrest and imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard. Murderers who were imprisoned at the same time as Pollard have long since been freed. Only Pollard remains in prison. It's not just that he has paid his dues - he has paid them with compounded interest. It is clear now, or quite clear, that there was something defective in the legal process he underwent. But who are we to complain about the legal system in another country? They have their own corrective mechanisms; but they too failed to provide relief for Pollard. Here, too, we must admit, repair mechanisms sometimes do fail.

But that is not the point.

Pollard has served his time. Not only has he served his time but he has served it doubled and redoubled many times over. His continued incarceration in an American prison is a disgrace. It is not only a legal and judicial disgrace - it is now a political disgrace. Given that Pollard was not a spy for a hostile country, he should have been released long ago. Ten Russian spies were caught in the United States about three years ago, and they were quickly released in exchange for one American. Another spy was caught after the deal was made and he was released as a goodwill gesture.

What is more, many top U.S. officials who in the past opposed Pollard's release are now calling for it. They realized something was wrong. The years kept going by and it was time to release him, but nothing happened. So what-the-devil is the story with Jonathan Pollard?!

The United States is currently demanding that Israel make "goodwill gestures" including the release of Palestinian terrorists to appease His Excellency Mahmoud Abbas. Only the United States is allowed to be so astonishingly cruel to a prisoner? Even more astonishing!

There is no escaping the simple conclusion: Pollard is a victim of American friendship, not hostility. The Russian spies were released with incredible ease and if this were about a Chinese spy, he would long since have walked free. But Pollard just continues to rot in prison endlessly. The all powerful pro - Israel lobby is totally paralyzed in this case. And now that American Jewry has finally woken up (it had to wake up because Pollard's incarceration is not only excessive, it is beyond excessive) its entire influence on the situation amounts to zero. Pollard is still in jail.

Let's for a moment suppose that all the claims made by those who seek Pollard's freedom are totally baseless. Let's suppose that the judicial process was flawless; let's suppose that this is a dangerous spy who did terrible damage to the US; let's suppose that extra special deterrence was necessary precisely because this case was the result of dual loyalty and the Americans wanted to deter Israel from ever doing anything like this again. Let's say it is all true. And even if it were all true, the full measure of suffering has been exacted. This was not supposed to be a show trial, but it has become a show punishment, and even that has run its full measure.

Israel paid an exorbitant price, excessive and excruciating, for the release of one soldier. It is not clear whether the price was justified. What is clear is that it would only take a tenth - no more than a tenth - of the same degree of national mobilization to secure the release of Pollard.

It would mean taking a step up: no more secret talks behind closed doors, no more burying Pollard on the agenda. There is a compelling need for a formal, official public statement by the Government of Israel demanding his release, including the appropriate arguments - and Israel has plenty of those.

The United States is the most important friend of Israel, but in this specific instance, its friendship has worked against Pollard. There is no need to harm our friendly relations, but we have to admit that playing by the old rules of the game has gotten us nowhere in resolving Pollard's plight. It's time to change the rules of the game.

View the original Hebrew article (April 9, 2013, p23)
View online at Maariv NRG