Free Pollard, our Scapegoat

Pollard – His opponents say the secrets he stole did immense damage to the United States. Personally, I hadn't noticed.
Published: 1991-01-01

In the wake of the Gulf War, many American Jews are openly calling for the release of the convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Jay Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in a federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill.

Some of the arguments are dubious, but the basic demand is fair. Pollard already has served more than five years. That's plenty. A life sentence for paper crimes is wildly disproportionate. He should be freed immediately.

The dubious argument is that Pollard was stealing secrets for an ally rather than an enemy of the United States. But the laws he broke don't distinguish between "allies" and "enemies." These are political, not legal, categories. Besides, with "allies" who spy and steal from you — while already receiving billions in foreign aid — who needs enemies?

Pollard's opponents reply that the secrets he stole did immense damage to the U.S. Personally, I hadn't noticed.

And, if the secrets Pollard stole were so vital as to warrant his spending the rest of his life behind bars, Israel should have been punished, too. At a minimum, U.S. aid should have been cut off, and the alliance ended. But our elected leaders didn't so much as issue a warning, much less launch an investigation.

Israel at first denied any connection with Pollard, even as it was secretly setting aside a hefty pension for him ($5,000 a month, according to Wolf Blitzer, author of a book on the Pollard case, Territory of Lies). Israel insisted that Pollard was engaged in a "rogue operation," which also involved an Israeli official who has since been promoted. We will probably never know how many others participated in the same "rogue" operation and others like it. But it's safe to guess that the figure is in the hundreds.

Pollard, for his part, feels betrayed by Israel, which refused him asylum and disowned him in his hour of need. A man who expects honorable dealing from those for whom he was acting dishonorably has limited, claims on our sympathy; but one sees his point. Both governments used him as a scapegoat, pretending his deeds were no reflection on their dark alliance.

The Israeli interest is clear enough. But what was the U.S. interest in looking the other way from systematic betrayal, which, we can only presume, is still continuing?

None. But the interests of the U.S. and the interests of its politicians are entirely different things, and Israel and its American lobby have skillfully exploited that difference. American politicians, out of both corruption and fear, routinely sacrifice American interests to Israel's. This country's founders warned repeatedly that republican government is especially prey to foreign influence. "One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages," wrote Alexander Hamilton, "is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.

To this day, the Pollard case has been treated as a tip without an iceberg. There has been no high-level effort to expose the problem of which Pollard is only a symptom, precisely because too many people at high levels — American congressmen, senators and even presidents — would be embarrassed. If the question were pursued, Pollard might even get some distinguished company there in Marion.

Joseph Sobran is a nationally syndicated columnist who now maintains a Website at

70 Israeli lawmakers sign Petition urging U.S. to pardon spy

Palm Beach Post Wire Services WASHINGTON — Seventy members of the Israeli parliament Friday signed a petition calling on President Reagan to pardon Jonathan J. Pollard, the Navy analyst convicted of passing secrets to Israel.

The petition, presented to U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, was signed by most of the right wing Likud bloc in the Knesset and by the left wing MAPAM faction.

Pollard, a civilian Navy intelligence analyst, was sentenced to life in prison, The petitioners also asked Reagan to pardon Pollard's wife, Anne Henderson-Pollard, who was sentenced to five years in jail for being an accessory.

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Joseph Sobran
Title: Free Pollard, our Scapegoat, Pollard – His opponents say the secrets he stole did immense damage to the United States. Personally, I hadn't noticed.
Published: 1991-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1995, 7 p.m.
Last revision:
Comments: Joseph Sobran died on Sept. 30, 2010, aged 64. For an obituary see
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