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Pretending Convicted Spy Jonathan Pollard Is a Martyr Makes a “Mockery” of Israel, Charges Martin Peretz

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
August 2012

The effort to gain the release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard is growing, both on the part of the Israeli government and leading American Jewish groups.  
Early in July, Israeli President Shimon Peres promised to continue to work for Pollard’s release in a meeting with the spy’s wife, Esther, in Jerusalem. When he was in Washington in June, Peres asked President Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence.  
Among those who have recently called for Pollard’s release are the Union for Reform Judaism, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and ADL Director Abraham Foxman.  
Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987 for stealing more than a million pages of highly classified documents for the Israelis. U.S. Attorney Joseph deGenova told reporters outside the courthouse, “It is likely he’ll never see the light of day again.”  
The Israeli government, after years of denial, finally admitted in 1998 that Pollard “acted as an official Israeli agent.” In his book, Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How One of the Most Notorious Spies In American History Was Brought to Justice (Naval Institute Press) Ronald J. Olive, who served for many years as a naval intelligence investigator, reports: “It is alleged that Israel doubles the salary yearly for Israeli spies caught and imprisoned on foreign soil. If Pollard’s spy salary of $2,500 a month plus the proposed $30,000 annual bonus were doubled (the figures came from Pollard) he would earn approximately $3.6 million over 30 years. In my knowledge, no other spy in history, in jail or released from it, has been so handsomely rewarded.”  
Discussing the campaign in behalf of Pollard’s release, Martin Peretz, a long-time friend of Israel who edited The New Republic from 1974 until 2011, writes in The Wall Street Journal (June 25, 2012) that, “There is no end in sight for the campaign to persuade President Obama to let convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard go free … the agitation, a phobic mixture of fantasies of Pollard’s innocence and imaginings of anti-Semitic motives on the part of an indeterminate officialdom, has been relentless.”  
Peretz notes that, “All kinds of comparisons are being made. One is to the great democrat Natan Sharansky, who was kept in the Siberian gulag for 13 years and released because there was no evidence at all of his espionage against the Soviet Union … A different analogy that comes to mind is the ongoing zeal among nutsy left-wingers for the release of Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal, imprisoned in Philadelphia for 30 years after having murdered a policeman in a revolutionary act. This effort also never stops.”  
In the case of Pollard, writes Peretz, “There is no doubt about his guilt, no illusion of his innocence. And he did not spy for Zion out of idealistic motives. This is a retrosp¬ective improvisation. In fact, before he decided to deliver reams of sensitive intellig¬ence and defense documents to Israel’s security apparatus, he was negotiating with Pakistan — yes Islamic and Judeophobic Pakistan — to do similar chores for it. (Pakistan is not the only regime with which he was dickering as a prospective agent). Still, there are folks in the American Jewish community and in Israel who cannot let go of their image of Pollard as a man of virtue and bravery. Hence the stubborn unrest … on his behalf.”  
In Peretz’s view, “… ideological habits steam the frenzy. The placards emerge from the Israeli right which … blames every mishap to a Jew on the immemorial phobias going back to the Middle Ages. In America, too, it is ideologically right-wing Jews … who carry the banner of Pollard’s innocence. The fact is, however, that there is no deep public clamor in Israel for Pollard’s release. A reliable opinion poll concluded last week that the imprisonment of Pollard is an afterthought for almost everyone.”  
Israeli president Peres was recently in Washington to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Israeli literary figures Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman wrote that, “We feel we cannot reconcile your receiving it when the U.S. is still holding Pollard in prison … Receiving the medal would make a mockery of Israel.”  
Martin Peretz concludes that, “What makes a mockery of Israel is pretending that Pollard is a man of virtue, a martyr when he wasn’t even a gull.”  
Before his death in 2006, the man who hired Jonathan Pollard in 1979 as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy was sharply critical of American Jewish groups for lobbying in Pollard’s behalf. Rear Admiral Sumner Shapiro, who served as director of naval intelligence from 1978 to 1982, was offended as a Jew by the role Jewish organiz¬ations played in calling for Pollard’s release. “Whether it was Pollard’s initiative or the Israelis’,” he said, “the idea that an American Jew would spy for anyone bothers the hell out of me. It puts all Jews in a position of trust like that under a certain cloud … to have Jewish organizations line up behind this guy and try to make him out a hero to the Jewish people, it bothers the hell out of me.” •

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