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What the Case of Jonathan Pollard Tells Us about Zionism's Worldview

Allan C. Brownfeld
Winter 2016

Jonathan Pollard, the American convicted of spying for Israel, walked out of  
a North Carolina prison in November after serving 30 years. As a Navy  
intelligence analyst, Pollard passed suitcases filled with classified  
documents to Israeli handlers in the mid-1980s. He received parole on a life  
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Pollard's release saying  
that he "had long hoped this day would come." He noted that he had "raised  
Jonathan's case for years" with several American presidents. Upon his  
release, Pollard was hailed as a hero by many in Israel, and was warmly  
embraced by many of Israel's friends in the U.S., particularly those who  
have worked actively for his release and argued that, despite his own guilty  
plea, he was, somehow, a "political prisoner" and the victim of religious  
What Pollard did is not open to question. He was working as a civilian  
intelligence analyst for the  
U.S. Navy when he was recruited by the Israeli Defense Ministry in the mid-  
1980s. He delivered a vast amount of military intelligence to Israel,  
including satellite photos. Among the tens of thousands of secret documents  
that Pollard stole for the Israelis was the National SIGINT (Signals  
Intelligence) Requirements List, which revealed which communications  
channels of which military powers, in which regions, the National Security  
Agency (NSA) was intercepting, in what order of priority. It would indicate  
to the reader where and what actions the U.S. Military might take.  
Damage beyond Calculation  
Joseph diGenova, the prosecutor who handled the Pollard case, said that the  
damage he did to U.S. Security was "beyond calculation." Assistant U.S.  
Attorney Charles Leeper declared:,"The defendant has admitted that he sold  
Israel a volume of classified materials 10 feet by 6 feet by 6 feet." The  
U.S. Government said that the damage resulting from Pollard's spying  
exceeded that caused by Ronald W. Pelton, a former NSA employee, who was  
convicted in 1986 of selling classified electronic surveillance secrets to  
the Soviet Union. "Pelton compromised specific intelligence gathering  
methods in a specific area, and damaged the U.S. position relative to the  
Soviet Union," the prosecutors said. They added that, "Pollard compromised a  
breadth and volume of classified information as great as any reported  
espionage case and adversely affected U.S. interests vis-a-vis numerous  
countries, including, potentially, the Soviet Union."  
Several U.S. intelligence analysts believe that documents stolen by Pollard  
were handed over to Moscow by Soviet moles within the Israeli intelligence  
service. Neil Livingstone of Georgetown University stated: "There's no  
question that Mossad's penetrated. A lot of what Pollard stole wasn't  
related to Israeli security. Israel is a great trader of intelligence. To  
get an advantage someplace, they get something someone else wants and they  
create an indebtedness."  
In his book, The Samson Option, former New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh  
said that Pollard was an Israeli agent for four years, not 17 months as  
originally believed, and also stated that Pollard passed even more secret  
data than the prosecutors realized: "The Israeli who was his case officer in  
Washington was actually the officer responsible for aiming Israel's missiles  
at the Soviet Union and much of the data Mr. Pollard provided was used to  
that end." Hersh said that the idea behind the strategic doctrine was that  
Soviet intelligence agents would learn of the nuclear threat and that, as a  
result, Soviet leaders would limit their military aid to Arab allies in time  
of war."  
Passing Information to Moscow  
Hersh charged that Pollard gave Israel top secret U.S. intelligence on the  
Soviet Union and that Israeli Prime Minister Shamir approved passing on some  
of the most important information to Moscow: "The nuclear targeting data  
supplied by Pollard included top secret American intelligence on the  
location of Soviet military targets, as well as specific data on the Soviet  
means for protecting those targets, by concealment and hardening of the  
sites … Some of the most important documents were retyped and sanitized by  
Israeli intelligence officials and then made available to the Soviet Union  
as a gesture of Israeli goodwill, at the specific instruction of Yitzhak  
Shamir …" An anonymous senior U.S. intelligence official was quoted by Hersh  
as saying, "There were losses of human and technical intelligence capability  
inside the Soviet Union attributed to Pollard."  
Contrary to claims by Pollard supporters that he had stolen only classified  
documents dealing with Arab military strength in order to help Israel stave  
off an invasion and that none of his actions harmed American security, the  
facts tell a far different story. M.F. "Spike" Bowman, a senior  
counterintelligence officer who was working the Pollard case, has since  
confirmed that the item in question was a NSA manual called RASIN, short for  
"Radio Signal Notations." The RAISIN was a guide to the physical parameters  
of every radio signal that the NSA was intercepting, a guide on how the NSA  
was gathering military communications … not just Israel's but any and every  
country's, including the Soviet Union's. Pollard gave his Israeli handlers  
every single page of the 10 volume RASIN."  
Pollard also provided a year's worth of memos by intelligence officers in  
the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet, recording all their observations of Soviet  
planes, ships and submarines in the Mediterranean Sea. He turned over  
documents on how Navy intelligence was tracking Soviet submarines, and  
material revealing that one of America's most highly classified photo-  
reconnaissance satellites could take pictures not just straight down but  
from an angle. Foreign navies might think they could take a missile out of  
hiding once a satellite passed over but, in fact, it was still snapping  
pictures. Because of Pollard, they now knew this.  
Israel Disavowed, Then Embraced Pollard  
Originally, Israel disavowed Pollard, but has now embraced him. He was  
granted Israeli citizenship in 1995. By 2011, he became the focal point of a  
protest movement in Israel. An online petition demanding clemency quickly  
attracted 175,000 signatures. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly  
called for Pollard's release, as did Israeli President Shimon Peres. When  
Pollard's November release was announced, Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri  
Ariel, who headed the Knesset's Pollard caucus, welcomed the news with the  
Shehianu prayer that Jews utter on a monumental occasion. He declared:  
"After 30 years too many, I bless Jonathan and his family … I am waiting  
with love for him to land here." Danny Ayalon, former Israeli ambassador to  
the U.S., expressed opposition to the fact that Pollard would not be  
permitted to leave the U.S. for five years. "It's important that he be  
allowed to come to Israel immediately on his release … It's the basic right  
of every Jew to return to his or her ancestral homeland, the land of  
Israel." The Jerusalem City Council changed the name of the square near the  
official prime minister's residence from Paris Square to Freedom for  
Jonathan Pollard Square.  
Shortly after Pollard's sentencing, a strange campaign was launched calling  
for his immediate release, suggesting that he was a "political prisoner" and  
a victim of anti-Semitism. Rabbi Haskell Lookstein, president of the  
Synagogue Council of America, wrote: "Virtually every major American Jewish  
organization has asked for (Pollard's) release." Full-page advertisements  
appeared with the support of such leaders as Rabbi Norman Lamm, president of  
Yeshiva University, and Rabbi Gerald Zeller, president of the Rabbinical  
Assembly. The New York and Chicago Boards of Rabbis called for Pollard's  
In 1989, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) called upon the  
entire Reform Jewish movement to express support for Pollard. In a  
resolution passed unanimously by its executive board, the CCAR urged Jewish  
and Christian organizations to "encourage the U.S. Government to re-evaluate  
the Pollard case." Rabbi Marc Golub, a spokesman for the CCAR, declared,  
"All the images about Pollard by the press turned out to be a terrible  
"Jewish Political Prisoner"  
On April 25, 1989 a group of 15 rabbis participated in a Passover "freedom  
Seder" in front of the maximum security federal prison in Marion, Illinois  
in support of Pollard. The Seder, led by Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew  
Institute of Riverdale, New York, began with a brief ceremony on the front  
steps of the historic Old Courthouse in St. Louis, where the landmark Dred  
Scott case was argued in 1846. Rabbi Weiss referred to Pollard as a "Jewish  
political prisoner."  
Shortly after the conviction of Pollard and his first wife, Anne, a Justice  
for the Pollards Committee was organized. It portrayed Pollard as a victim  
of a vindictive and anti-Semitic Justice Department. "We have before us a  
new Dreyfus affair," said a newsletter put out by the committee. Discussing  
this historic analogy at the time, Richard Friedman, writing in The Village  
Voice, noted that, "Unlike Dreyfus, who was framed by the French Army,  
Pollard is an avowed spy. Although his supporters claim his spying did not  
harm the U.S., there is mounting evidence to the contrary. And even if  
Pollard's espionage activities didn't hurt U.S. security interests, it has  
undermined the standing of Jews in America and undermined Israel's  
relationship with its most important ally. As a result, Pollard … may go  
down in history as having done more damage to Israel than any other  
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said,  
"There is a new feeling in the Jewish community … After the Israeli-  
Palestinian peace treaty, the world and the Jewish community reconciled with  
Yassir Arafat. In light of that, at the very least, one should be able to  
consider commuting Pollard's sentence."  
Unrepresentative Jewish Organizations  
In defending Pollard, American Jewish organizations were no more  
representative of those in whose name they claim to speak than they were,  
more recently, in opposing the nuclear agreement with Iran. They have been  
widely criticized by many prominent Jewish Americans for embracing a  
convicted — and admitted — spy.  
In 1993, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch was asked about the efforts by  
Jewish groups to gain Pollard's release. He replied: "I am a proud Jew, but  
I am also an American citizen. I will not condone the actions of a traitor  
to the United States … There is no excuse for Pollard to accept $150,000  
from Israel for spying on America, and no excuse for Pollard to give Israel  
American codes … I think he deserved the punishment he got …"  
According to Michael Ledeen, who was a consultant to the national security  
adviser to the president and the undersecretary for political affairs at the  
State Department, and to the secretary of defense from 1982 to 1986:  
"American Jews who are mounting an impassioned campaign on behalf of  
Jonathan Pollard are making a mistake, a big mistake. The man deserves  
everything he got, and more, both for the despicable acts he committed and  
for the damage he did to the American Jewish community … Actions in support  
of Pollard only reinforce the deadly stereotype of the Jew as an unreliable  
citizen. So let the Israelis worry about Pollard … Pollard should be  
considered one of their men. He's certainly not one of ours."  
"It Bothers the Hell Out of Me"  
Former Director of Naval Intelligence Admiral Sumner Shapiro declared: "We  
work so hard to establish ourselves and to get where we are, and to have  
somebody screw it up … and then to have Jewish organizations line up behind  
this guy and try to make him out a hero of the Jewish people, it bothers the  
hell out of me."  
Former New Republic editor Martin Peretz, ordinarily an adamant supporter of  
Israel, said that, "Jonathan Pollard is not a Jewish martyr. He is a  
convicted espionage agent who spied on his country — a spy, moreover, who  
got paid for his work. His professional career, then, reeks of infamy and is  
suffused with depravity." He called Pollard's supporters "professional  
victims, mostly brutal themselves, who originate in the ultra-nationalist  
and religious right. They are insatiable. And they want America to be  
Israel's patsy."  
Dov Zakheim, who served as the Defense Department's undersecretary when the  
Pollard case broke, says Pollard's acts made him "very, very angry," but he  
also found the organized Jewish community's reaction troubling. "Pollard  
seems to have infatuated the Jewish community, and especially the Orthodox  
community, that he is somehow a prisoner of Zion."  
A Moral and Political Error  
Professor Noah Feldman of the Harvard Law School writes: "… what relieves me  
is that, once Pollard is freed, we'll be spared the spectacle of respectable  
American Jewish leaders calling for his early release. Those requests have  
been harmful to the principle that American Jews can be totally loyal  
Americans and also care about Israel … It remains stunning to me that anyone  
outside Israel would think Pollard was unfairly treated … For anyone holding  
a U.S. passport to seek Pollard's release was, in my view, a serious moral  
and political error … A loyal American should — and must — react to such a  
betrayal with horror … For American Jews to ask that Pollard's sentence be  
shortened is to call into question the capacity of all American Jews to  
remain loyal to their country when the possibility of conflict arises."  
Former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, in his book Ally: My Journey across  
the America-Israeli Divide, recalls that, "One senior member of the National  
Security Council told me over breakfast, 'As an American Jew, I believe  
Jonathan Pollard should get out of prison …' He paused and said, 'In a  
When Pollard was released from prison in November, two members of Congress,  
Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) urged the Justice  
Department to permit Pollard to emigrate to Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu  
has personally appealed to President Obama to lift the standard prohibition  
on parolees leaving the United States. The Justice Department has no plans  
to consider this request. "They don't want to make it look like they were  
being too lenient," said Joseph diGenova, the former U.S. attorney who  
prosecuted Pollard. If Pollard were allowed to go to Israel, where his case  
has been a cause célèbre for years, diGenova said, there would be a "parade"  
and "events just rubbing it in the United States' face."  
Million-Dollar Nest Egg  
Israel's requests concerning Pollard and its own treatment of those guilty  
of espionage are quite different. Philip Giraldi, a former CIA official,  
writes in The American Conservative: "By some accounts, Pollard likely has a  
million-dollar plus nest egg waiting for him in a bank account somewhere  
outside the U.S., representing his accumulated earnings duly deposited for  
him by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad … Those who are calling for  
Pollard's freeing from probation both in Israel and among Israel's friends  
in the U.S. should look to the example of how Israel itself has treated  
Mordechai Vanunu, who revealed the existence of Israel's nuclear arsenal in  
1986. He was drugged and kidnapped, convicted in a secret trial, and spent  
18 years in prison, 11 of which were in solitary confinement. Since his  
release in 2004, he has not been allowed to leave Israel or speak to  
journalists and has been re-arrested a number of times."  
Concerning the behavior of the Israeli government, Giraldi notes that, "…  
the focus on Pollard has obscured the duplicitous behavior by the Israeli  
government and its proxies in the U.S. I recall when I was in Turkey shortly  
after Pollard was arrested and a delegation of the American Jewish Committee  
came through town and met with the Consul General and later the Ambassador,  
insisting that Pollard was some kind of nut and assuring all who would  
listen that Israel would never spy on the U.S. That spin prevailed in much  
of the media and among the punditry, calling it a 'rogue operation,' until  
Tel Aviv finally 'fessed up in 1998. The fact is that the Pollard spy  
operation was approved at the highest level of the Israeli government and to  
this day Tel Aviv has reneged on its agreement to return all of the material  
stolen to enable the Pentagon to do a complete damage assessment. And Israel  
continues to spy aggressively on the U.S., ranking first among 'friendly'  
countries in that category."  
Jonathan Pollard is, in many respects, a tragic figure. He is not a victim  
of political persecution or anti-Semitism but is a product of the Zionist  
philosophy he learned as a boy, which told him that Israel was his real  
"homeland" and that he was in "exile" in America. This is Israel's message  
to Jews in every country. After terrorist attacks in Denmark and France,  
Prime Minister Netanyahu urged Danish and French Jews to leave their  
countries and return to their "real home, Israel." To the extent that Jewish  
institutions in the U.S. fly Israeli flags in synagogues and tell students  
in religious schools that Israel, not God, is "central" to their faith, they  
are promoting a philosophy which alienates young Americans from their own  
country. It is also a form of idolatry which flies in the face of Judaism's  
moral and ethical tradition.  
Encouraging "Aliyah"  
In its 1999 Statement of Principles, the Union of American Hebrew  
Congregations, now the Union for Reform Judaism, went so far as to declare  
that, "We affirm the unique qualities of living in the land of Israel and we  
encourage Aliyah (immigration to Israel). From Birthright Israel trips  
sending young people on free trips to Israel to a host of Jewish  
organizations focusing on influencing U.S. Middle East policy, the center of  
attention within the organized American Jewish community has not been the  
traditional Jewish commitment to God but something far different.  
The government of Israel spends its time, money and energy promoting this  
Zionist worldview.  
Israel refers to itself as the "nation-state of the Jewish people." Its  
prime minister claims to speak not only for his own country, but for Jews  
throughout the world who are citizens of other countries, including American  
Jews. In February 2015, Mr. Netanyahu declared that he was not just prime  
minister of Israel but also "a representative of the entire Jewish people."  
(Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2015). It is unprecedented for the leader of one  
country to claim to speak in the name of millions of men and women who are  
citizens of other countries, simply because of a shared religious faith.  
On March 1, 2015, just before leaving to address a joint session of  
Congress, Netanyahu tweeted that, "I feel that I am an emissary … of the  
entire Jewish people." (Washington Times, March 2, 2015). There was a harsh  
reaction from many American Jews. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) declared:  
"Netanyahu doesn't speak for me … I think it is a rather arrogant  
Israel Can Speak Only For Its Own Citizens  
David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founding prime minister, agreed that Israel can  
speak only on behalf of its own citizens "and in no way presumes to  
represent or speak in the name of Jews who are citizens of other countries."  
That was 1950. Now, in 2016, Benjamin Netanyahu has taken it upon himself to  
speak in the name of all Jews, whatever their nationality, citizenship or  
point of view.  
Most young Americans who are exposed to this Zionist refrain recognize how  
little it has to do with truth or with the reality of their lives. Jonathan  
Pollard evidently believed it all and acted upon it. He paid a heavy price,  
but not an unreasonable one. He may have merited release after all this  
time, but it should be made certain that he can do us no further harm. And  
the motives of those who have so eagerly embraced him are certainly a  
legitimate subject for future examination. If he is welcomed as a hero, it  
will tell us a lot more about those who embrace him than it does about the  
flawed figure of Pollard himself.  
In the end, Jonathan Pollard may indeed be considered a victim. He is a  
victim of Zionism, of a worldview which holds that Judaism is a nationality,  
not a religion of universal values, and that all Jews living outside of  
Israel, the Jewish "homeland," are in "exile." It promotes the idea that  
Israel is the real home of all Jews and that their highest obligation is to  
serve that state while living outside of it and eventually emigrate to it.  
To them, America, England, France and other countries represent only a  
temporary "diaspora," hardly worthy of any real loyalty or commitment.  
American by Nationality, Jews by Religion  
This flies in the face of the beliefs of most American Jews, that they are  
American by nationality and Jews by religion, just as other Americans are  
Catholic, Protestant or Muslim. Their loyalty is to the United States, which  
is their "nation-state," contrary to the claims of the Israeli government.  
What would we say if other religious groups in the U.S. were in the business  
of alienating their members from our country? Surely, it would be considered  
a subversive enterprise. Sadly, Jonathan Pollard committed himself to  
Zionism and it destroyed his life. Let us hope that others will learn a  
lesson from all of this.

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