No relationship with any other country, including our Motherland, the United Kingdom, is so complex as the U.S.’ relationship with Israel.
It is a connection of both kith and kin; many Israelis were born American, many still hold their U.S. citizenship. The Judeo-Christian ethnic which underlies our society found its roots in ancient Hebrew societies. The democratic ideals which Israel professes are, as with those of the United States, often imperfect but closer to their goal than virtually any other country. In the scheme of geopolitics, Israel is an anchor for U.S. policy in a critical region of the world but one which unlike other allies while heavily dependent on American military supply has never called on U.S. troops for its defense.
That is why we have always considered the background of the case of Jonathan Pollard a rank and enduring injustice. There is no doubt that he was a spy for Israel. The issue is even more clouded by the fact that he is alleged to have taken money for his services as well as committing his crime against his own country for ideological and emotional reasons. The case, of course, brings up the accusation of dual loyalty – one that frightens many American Jews and has become a weapon in the hands of traditional anti-Semites. The truth is that there are few if any instances which pit loyalty to the U.S. for Jew or gentile as jeopardizing by a friendship and support for Israel for all the reasons we have named.
Nor ever was it clear why Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger was so bitter in his denunciation of Pollard. Those who knew him well believe it may have had something to with his own annoyance at being mistaken for a Jew because of the name handed down by a Swiss ancestor. But certainly his accusation of treason against Pollard was not justified by the Constitution which defines this particular crime as action in support of an enemy of the U.S. Pollard passed information gained in his civilian intelligence service to the U.S. to a friendly power. There is no doubt that it was a crime and that it needed to go punished. But a lifetime sentence was always excessive. In the same era, for example, a Korean American charged with a similar offense netted a much lighter sentence – as undoubtedly he should.
Intelligence mavim, including leaders of the CIA, argued that Pollard not only passed on information – in this case on an Arab power, Iraq, with which the U.S. was to later have extended conflict. And in so doing he revealed sources and methods, it was alleged, a cardinal issue in the murky world of espionage. We would have to bow to the experts on this part of the accusation, but given the rapid advance of much of the technology of spying in our – and Polland’s lifetime – we doubt that today it is of the monumental importance ascribed to it then.
Furthermore, the world of 1987 in which Pollard was convicted is, in many ways, eons behind us in geopolitical terms, particularly in the volatile Middle East. The lifetime sentence to which Pollard pleaded guilty has now taken 28 years and left him, at 61, a broken and ill old man. His sentence is again due for the possibile pardon this year. Rather than make it a part of the Obama Administration’s torturous present relations with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu, we believe Polland needs to go free on the basis of his conviction and time served rather than as part of a backroom deal on other issues. But if necessary, we call on Pres. Obama to pardon him. Enough is enough.