Kenneth Lasson Baltimore Jewish Times September 25, 2005
American silence on various issues relating to Israel speaks loud and clear
as to the Bush administration’s policies and intentions.
When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas goes out of his way to
praise the “martyrs” – read suicide bombers – for finally bringing about
Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, he is explicitly endorsing
terrorist acts. Yet not one word of condemnation, criticism, or even caution
is forthcoming from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or her boss,
President Bush, not even a modest protest of this flagrant flouting of the
so-called road map to peace.
When synagogues in Gaza are torched under the watchful eyes of the
Palestinian Authority, or a Jewish student is stabbed to death in the Old
City of Jerusalem, nary an utterance of disapproval or consolation is heard
from the White House State Department.
And when Israel does the bidding of Washington policy-makers and exercises
restraint – both during its withdrawal from “occupied” territories that were
won in war, and in response to murderous attacks against innocent
civilians – the United States is totally devoid of any meaningful gesture of
support for its only true ally in the Middle East.
One such response could have been the commutation of Jonathan J. Pollard’s
life sentence to time already served in prison, now over 20 years and
counting. Here the sound of American silence has been both deafening and
Pollard, conscientious and justice-seeking Americans should know full well
by now, was a Navy intelligence analyst caught passing classified
information to Israel – data that should have been shared in the first place
and in no way damaged the United States.
What did Jonathan Pollard do to deserve life imprisonment? Nowhere did his
indictment allege that he ever gave classified information to other
countries before working for the Israelis, or that he ever betrayed any
intelligence agents (as has often been widely misreported by the media).
Not one instance has ever surfaced (or been documented in the victim impact
statement written by his prosecutors) of any real harm that he caused.
No doubt that what Pollard did was wrong under the law. Over the years,
however, the dozens of other Americans who have been convicted of the same
crime have been sentenced to an average of four years in prison; some
similarly apprehended have served no time at all. All the more ironic are
the mirror-image cases. During the time Pollard has been incarcerated,
Israel has caught at least two Americans and one Mossad agent spying for the
United States. The Americans were quietly expelled; the Israeli was
The circumstances of Pollard’s ill-fated plea-bargain – the government
promised not to seek a harsh sentence in return for his cooperation; he
fulfilled his part of the agreement, the Justice Department did not – led
one federal judge to call the case “a complete and gross miscarriage of
justice.” But Steven Williams of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals was the
lone dissenter on a three-judge panel, the other two of whom ruled against
Pollard on technical procedural grounds (essentially that he had not filed
his appeal in a timely fashion).
Now Pollard has virtually exhausted all of the legal appeals available to
him. Only intervention by the president could set him free. But Mr. Bush has
never spoken publicly about the case, much less offered Pollard to Israel -
which would be a simple but altogether appropriate token of mutual
understanding for an isolated and harmless instance of misplaced allegiance.
Instead, he has succumbed to the shrill will of a single-minded State
Department and a largely discredited intelligence community, which
apparently demand that Pollard never see the light of day.
To be sure the United States is not the only party to share the shame in
this tragic failure of simple fairness. Israel could and should declare
Pollard a “Prisoner of Zion” – a classification that would ensure continued
efforts to liberate him. Israel could and should have made the modest demand
for Pollard’s liberty in return for the substantial concessions it has
already made in the American-brokered peace process. Instead, by all
realistic measures, the Jewish state has effectively abandoned one of its
And the American Jewish establishment, still apprehensive about igniting
lingering canards of dual loyalty, has been too weak-kneed to make Pollard’s
case a grievance worthy of loud support.
There is ample time for Mr. Bush to make things right.
No, that’s wrong.
He should end his silence now, and let Pollard go.