In the early hours of last Friday morning, Binyamin Netanyahu was finally given the opportunity to welcome Jonathan Pollard and his wife Esther home. Their arrival in Israel was supposed to have brought an end to a 35-year-old nightmare and catastrophic miscarriage of justice.
But writing in this week’s Jewish News, Jenny Frazer wrote a misleading and spiteful account of Jonathan Pollard’s long prison term. She called him “a traitor who allowed the question of dual loyalty, during his long incarceration, to hang unnecessarily over America Jews and diaspora Jews in general.”
Frazer then suggested that it was Netanyahu who “triggered Israel’s fourth election in two years” and “is looking everywhere for some sort of electoral advantage”. The truth is it was the Blue and White party who voted for the election, not Netanyahu or the Likud.
Next Frazer quotes the “Israeli press” although doesn’t say which journalist or network and writes, “Bibi is hoping to put Pollard in a prestigious fifth slot on the Likud list”. This really was a shameful desperation by Frazer to influence mostly Jewish readers, with a false account of the political stalemate.
Anyone who knows dear Jonathan, is aware he has absolutely no interest in politics. In his own words last week, when told by friends, there are rumours you may become involved in politics, he replied, “Don’t you think I have suffered enough”.
Frazer couldn’t even hold herself back from having a dig at Jonathan’s beard and kippa, or his wife using her Hebrew name Esther, which is custom for many who live in Israel.
Earlier in her piece Frazer criticised the “right-wing” for highlighting Jonathan’s case and that he was wrong to divorce his first wife Anne. But again, Frazer gets it completely wrong because it was Anne, after suffering a mental breakdown, who wished to cut all ties with Jonathan.
Jonathan was a US Navy intelligence analyst, who discovered that vital classified documents about imminent threats to Israel from Iraq and Syria, were being withheld from their Israeli counterparts. The papers included mass production of mustard and nerve gas, which could be used against America’s key ally in the region.
I was connected with various members of the Pollard family and carefully followed the case for several years, some of the time, from within the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem.
After agonizing over what to do, Jonathan eventually broke his oath and the law, and in 1985, was arrested for passing classified documents to a friendly country, a crime which previously dished out a sentence of 18 months.
A plea bargain with officials, in which Jonathan agreed to a 3-4 year prison term was agreed, and Jonathan pleaded guilty in 1986.
But in an unprecedented move, the Judge ignored the agreement after receiving a note from then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and sentenced Jonathan to life imprisonment in 1987.
Pollard was transferred to one of American’s most notorious maximum security prisons, where he spent several years in solitary confinement. Some of society’s worst criminals from across America were in the North Carolina jail with Jonathan. Those who visited him were told, he expected to be killed in his bed and that conditions were extremely bad.
The case became a left-right divide especially in the diaspora, with so much misinformation being spurted out in the Jewish media. I can say, that the claim Jonathan was responsible for the deaths of American agents was completely false, as was the insistence that Jonathan ONLY passed on documents for money.
In fact, Jonathan delivered secrets to Israel for a whole year without any payment, before his handler, Rafi Eitan said, “it is standard procedure that one receives money for taking such risks.”
The conviction of Jonathan was a huge miscarriage of justice. He was not even convicted of treason. In fact, he wasn’t even indicted on treason charges, but served 30 years, when the standard punishment is less than 2 years.
America made an example of Jonathan by sending a strong message to anyone working for the government – if you put Israel before America, it will not be tolerated, and you will pay a heavy price. Jonathan was even prevented from attending his father’s funeral in the late 1990s.
In reality, Pollard caught America hiding information, but he himself was caught passing on that intelligence. He genuinely believed he was doing a service to Israel by handing over information for security purposes.
Last week, Jonathan thanked Prime Minister Netanyahu for standing by his word from several years ago, when he said, he would bring him to Israel.
After 35 long years, 30 behind bars, Jonathan Pollard is alive and free, although in bad health. His wife Esther has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment for aggressive cancer.
Since all paroled restrictions were lifted last November, after five years, thanks to Israeli Ambassador, Ron Dermer, Jonathan was free to leave America with his wife Esther and settle in the land, they both love so much.
The time has now come to put this horrendous chapter behind us. Jonathan and Esther deserve to move on with their lives in peace and happiness. Esther should experience the best medical treatment in the world, and I hope they both pursue their own interests. May they both know no further sorrow.