The Limited “Freedom” of Jonathan Pollard

On November 21, 2015, Jonathan J. Pollard will be released on parole from a life imprisonment sentence. The uniqueness of this case is well-known and much has been written about it, the pros and the cons.

Briefly, Jonathan Pollard was a Jewish employee of the American government as an intelligence analyst. He had visited Israel years before and had concerns for Israel’s security. In the late 1980’s he made contact with a former veteran of the Israeli Airforce, Aviem Sella, and offered to sell highly secret information and documents to Israel.

Sella contacted his sources in Israel and arrangements were made and agreed upon by both Pollard and the Israeli government.
Pollard received from Sella an initial payment of ten thousand dollars in cash and a very expensive diamond and sapphire ring which Pollard intended to give to his fiancé, Anne.

Over a period of time, Israel paid him $2,500 per month plus tens of thousands of dollars for reimbursement of hotel and meal expenses and more jewelry.

Sooner or later, the American intelligence authorities suspected Pollard of selling secrets to the Israelis and kept him under very close surveillance.

When Pollard finally knew that he would be caught, he and Anne fled to the Israeli Embassy in Washington on November 21, 1985 seeking asylum. They were turned away by the Israeli security guards. As they left the territory of the Embassy they were arrested by FBI agents who had been following them.

Long court hearings were held. Caspar Weinberger, the American Secretary of Defense, provided evidence to the court of Pollard’s guilt, accused him of spying and of copying a ten-volume manual, Radio-Signal Notations, detailing American electronic surveillance network and operations throughout the world, which he sold to the Israelis.

The evidence against Pollard was clear that he had been in violation of the Espionage Act and he admitted his guilt and pleaded guilty on June 4, 1986. On March 4, 1987 Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment, the only American ever to be sentenced for passing classified information to an ally and friendly government of the United States.

There were many protests of the harsh sentence. Americans and others who had spied for the Soviet Union and other countries had always received lesser prison sentences. No spy had ever before been sentenced to life imprisonment. But Secretary of Defense Weinberger was adamant and insisted upon the life sentence. Some think that due to Weinberger’s Jewish ancestry (he himself was not a Jew) he wanted to make an example in the case of an admitted Jewish spy.

American Jews were conflicted in their opinions. Rabbis formed protest meetings, picketing of government offices, and signing thousands of petitions on Pollard’s behalf. All to no avail. No American President would show clemency to Jonathan Pollard. Israeli presidents and prime-ministers made appeals on his behalf, all which fell upon deaf ears.

Israel ultimately granted Israeli citizenship to Pollard and Israelis were ready with “open arms” to welcome him “home” to Israel when they learned of his pending release on parole.

Speaking quite honestly, I have little respect for Jonathan Pollard, a man employed by his government who betrayed his government and country by selling classified documents to a foreign country. I despise any person who betrays his own country for personal gain, whoever and wherever. Loyalty is a prime and valuable trait and it cannot be for sale.

Let us be clear of one thing. Pollard did not act out of pure “ahavat Tzion”… love of Zion or of Israel. If he did, he could have given the classified materials to his Israeli sources without insisting on payment. NO ! He sold the information out of greed for money and jewelry. “Ahavat mammon”. Classical espionage, pure and simple.

As an Israeli citizen I am concerned with fellow Jews who offer help to Israel solely for their own selfish personal gain. One must help Israel with “kol ha lev v’kol ha nefesh”… with all the heart and all the soul. We help Israel because it is our homeland and our motherland.

Was his sentence too harsh? YES. Was it due to anti-Semitism? No one will ever know.

But those who are awaiting his arrival in Israel will have to wait a bit longer. Under the conditions of Pollard’s parole he cannot leave the territory of the United States for five years. He will be unable to set the soles of his feet upon Israeli soil before 2020 or 2021. And President Obama has made it clear that he does not intend to change the terms of the parole.

And sof kol sof…finally, at last, five more years of limited “freedom” is better than a life imprisonment.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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