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Israelis Concede Pollard Worked For Them; Jewish Groups Are Criticized For Urging Pollard’s Release

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
May-June 1998

Israel officially recognized Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew jailed in the U.S. for spying for Israel, as its agent—13 years after he was denied sanctuary in its Washington Embassy. (The Washington Times, May 12, 1988)  

"The state has announced that Jonathan Pollard acted as an Israeli agent," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said.  

Reuters reported that, "Pollard embarrassed Israel and American Jews when he was caught in 1985 after passing to the Jewish state information on Arab countries that he said the U.S. had withheld from its Israeli ally. Israel originally distanced itself from the spy...and said he had been part of a rogue operation. But two years ago, the Israeli Government made Pollard a citizen as a public campaign intensified to win him official recognition as an agent."  

Many Jewish groups in the U.S. have engaged in a campaign urging Pollard’s release. In 1997, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Reform Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) and Rabbi Raphael Butler, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, wrote a letter to President Clinton which said that, "We—the representatives of the broadest spectrum of the American Jewish community—come together in the spirIt of unity and out of a clear sense of fellowship and brotherhood as fellow Jews to raise Jonathan’s plight with you once again." (Washington Jewish Week, May 15, 1997)  

The rabbis said that while they did not condone Pollard’s actions, "his sentence is grossly disproportionate to his crime." They said that "it is wrong for American justice to treat Pollard, a contrite offender, as you would those who committed high treason against our nation."  

Writing in The Wall Street Journal (May 6, 1998), E.V. Kontorovich, a contributing editor of The Forward as well as a member of the Journal editorial page staff, sharply criticized those Jewish groups working in behalf of Pollard’s release: "Jonathan Pollard has become the Jewish Mumia Abu-Jamal. Or rather, the campaign to commute the life sentence of the intelligence analyst turned spy—which has gained considerable impetus in recent weeks—has all the hallmarks of the ‘Free Mumia’ movement on behalf of the Black Panther propagandist turned cop-killer. Both movements rely on inflammatory appeals to ethnic solidarity and groundless charges of bigotry in the criminal justice system...Jews of all stripes and persuasions have rallied to Pollard’s defense. Now, 13 years after his imprisonment, the movement for his release has reached a fever pitch...The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish organizations, representing more than 50 groups, signed on recently..."  

Referring to "paranoia" on the part of Pollard’s defenders, Kontorovich quotes columnist Anne Roiphe who wrote, "While Mr. Pollard remains in jail...no Jew can place complete trust in this country."  

The fact is, Kontorovich declares, that, "Pollard got well over $60,000 in cash and jewels for his perfidy. The intelligence community says that Pollard did real damage to U.S. security...He seemed proud of his actions, and considers himself a martyr. In various interviews...he seems unable to restrain himself from bragging about the importance and nobility of his actions. He called the U.S. a ‘foreign’ country in a January interview...It’s striking that...the American Jewish establishment has come together in favor of leniency for this spy. This seems to be yet another manifestation of the culture of victimhood pervading the country. Identity politics makes criminals into symbols of the larger social bias against their particular group...By becoming the poster boy for a new victimhood delusion, Pollard may be doing a more lasting harm to America than he managed in his short career as a spy."  

Rear Admiral Sumner Shapiro, U.S. Navy (Ret.), who was director of Naval Intelligence when Jonathan Pollard began work in that organization, sharply criticizes those Jewish organizations seeking his release. Admiral Shapiro, who is Jewish, declares: "I am thoroughly familiar with his personal and professional history. I am fully acquainted with the deeds and circumstances for which he was tried and convicted. I am also aware of the continuing efforts by him and his apologists to mislead the American—and the Jewish public in particular—into believing that it was only his love and concern for Israel that motivated him to betray his country. I know, based on irrefutable evidence, that Pollard was motivated not by ideology, but by arrogance and greed." (Washington Jewish Week, May 21, 1998)  

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