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August 20, 2014 / 24 Av, 5774
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Redeeming the Captives and Jonathan Pollard

If you respect American law, than you must accept that Jonathan Pollard was sentenced for committing a crime that, on average, results in a sentence of 3-5 years.
Demonstrators holding up signs calling for Jonathan Pollard's release.

Demonstrators holding up signs calling for Jonathan Pollard's release.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90

There is, to the outside world, something a bit incomprehensible about Jews. Most of the world cannot grasp what idiocy would bring Israel to exchange 1,000 prisoners (and yes, among them hundreds of terrorists and murderers) for the life of one person, a young soldier of no worth in terms of security or military knowledge. The sum value of Gilad Shalit’s life was simply that he was one of ours.

By contrast, here in Israel, though we knew it was a stupid and dangerous exchange, it was never something incomprehensible. Rather, it was completely understood, if not something logical. This is what we were commanded to do, above sanity at time, certainly coming within inches of danger to ourselves. We are not supposed to cross the line of endangering ourselves, but even that line blurs as the desperation to bring out own home grows.

We brought Gilad home – others may well die as a result. Perhaps even this past week, as a young child is in very critical condition because the car in which she was riding was stoned. No one regrets for a moment that Gilad is finally home, finally free. We celebrate each victory he claims on his journey to live his life and take back what was stolen from him. I don’t know if what we did was right, but it was good, and it was needed.

And we as a people continue, as we did with Gilad, always aware that there are others out there still held in captivity. Once it was millions – Russian Jews not allowed to emigrate. We protested, we demonstrated, we demanded, we bargained…until the doors of the former Soviet Union opened and more than a million came out. They are part of Israel now and everywhere mixed in with Hebrew, you hear Russian…or at least Russian accented Hebrew and we know that what we did was good, right, needed.

And there were Jews in Ethiopia and Yemen – and we flew planes to bring them home. Jews in Iran that still need to be brought home, though very few. Jews in Syria who have been smuggled in and even Jews from France, who are coming home. And we know that all our efforts are good and right and needed.

And there is a Jew in the United States. Yes, there is. He is a captive and unfairly so. The price he is paying is not for the crime he committed. There was a price to be paid – and he paid it, but he was betrayed by those with whom he made an agreement. It is to their shame that Jonathan Pollard is still in jail, not his. He has done his time and amazingly enough, the vast majority who condemn him – don’t actually know what he was convicted of doing.

You can’t imprison someone for what you think they did, not even for what you know he did. If you respect American law, than you must accept that Jonathan Pollard was sentenced for committing a crime that, on average, results in a sentence of 3-5 years. He has served more than 28 years.

President Obama wants to come to Israel this week and as recent poll showed 79% of Israelis want to see Obama get off the plane with Pollard. There are few things on which you can get 79% of Israelis to agree and given that approximately 20% of the population is Arab and would presumably not be in favor of Pollard being released, that amounts to an almost complete agreement.

The overwhelming feeling among those I know is very simple. There is really nothing to be gained by Obama’s visit. It will be a nightmare of traffic and delays for Israelis a critical week before the Passover holidays. Many of our relatives are flying in or out of the country – honestly, who needs this?

If…IF he were bringing Pollard home, we would greet him with the respect due the President of the United States, even though personally we know he is far from a friend of Israel. We will listen to the nonsense and unfair position he will spout, how WE should do this and WE should do that. We would ignore his pressuring us and ignoring endless violence by the Palestinians.

But worse, this week is likely to see an increase in violence – the Palestinians are often most dangerous when they want to get their message across. Last  week, they stoned a car traveling on a highway – a mother was critically injured, her three daughters hurts as well. The baby was labeled as “matsav anush” – a term that usually means mortally wounded, not expected to live. Some return from matsav anush, most do not.

What will this week see? Certainly a nightmare of traffic throughout parts of Israel; perhaps rockets, almost certainly more stoning attacks. Yesterday a soldier was injured by rocks…how many more?

So Obama – again, I ask you – please, please don’t come to Israel if all you come for is to pressure us to do your will and ignore our nation’s needs, our safety. Enough. Seriously – send us an email if you feel you have to but unless you are bringing Jonathan Pollard on your plane – don’t come.

And know that the commandment to redeem captives is one of the most important. We will do all we can to bring Jonathan Pollard home. No, he is not innocent of wrong-doing. No one ever said that. But he has served his time – and another 4 times as much as he should have served. Longer than those who commit murder in your country, longer than those who transfer military secrets to your enemies. Longer than rapists. Enough. Justice prolonged to long fast becomes injustice.

Bring Jonathan Pollard home…or else, honestly, we have better things to do the week before Pesach than listen to you.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

About the Author: Visit Paula Stern's blog, A Soldier's Mother.


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31 Responses to “Redeeming the Captives and Jonathan Pollard”

  1. If only American Jews were as united.

  2. Very good! Sharing.

  3. Samuel Ramos says:

    Jonathan Pollard deserves what ever sentence is commensurate with U.S. law for what ever crimes were committed by him. Nothing more and nothing less……

  4. … give it a rest, under US law his debt to society was paid years ago it has since become about politicians covering their collective butts …

  5. Meir Marcusohn says:

    "President Obama is coming to Israel this Wednesday. Remember! Barack Obama’s top ten insults against Israel – http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/nilegardiner/100036389/barack-obama’s-top-ten-insults-against-israel/ And now he refuses to release Pollard. What an arrogance! So how are we to respond? Here is one suggestion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7RlIuywN5WQ".

    הסרטון בעברית"

  6. So well said, Paula!

  7. In the US the average sentence for espionage is less than 5 years. The walker family (all five of them) spied on the US for Russia during the Cold War the amount of time the five of them served put together is less than what Jonathan served so far. This despite a plea deal.

  8. Nosson Shulman says:

    For those of you who have not had the chance, please call the White house 202-456-1414 and tell them as an American voter, how important it is to you that President Obama grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard.

  9. Charlie Hall says:

    I truly do not understand how so many pro-Pollard activists can get away with spouting so many falsehoods. For example:

    "The price he is paying is not for the crime he committed. There was a price to be paid – and he paid it, but he was betrayed by those with whom he made an agreement."

    Completely wrong. It was Pollard and his then wife who broke the plea agreement by giving interviews without permission — Pollard to Wolf Blitzer and Anne to 60 Minutes. Prosecutors and judges don't like it when people charged with crimes break their plea agreements; Pollard is lucky that he didn't get life without parole.

    "You can’t imprison someone for what you think they did, not even for what you know he did. If you respect American law, than you must accept that Jonathan Pollard was sentenced for committing a crime that, on average, results in a sentence of 3-5 years. He has served more than 28 years."

    Not true. Pollard pled guilty to espionage. Others who have been convicted of espionage include John Walker, Aldrich Ames, and Robert Hanssen, who also got life sentences; Jerry Whitworth, who got 365 years; and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who got the death penalty. And he has served 27 years and a few months, not 28 years. (Walker has been in prison even longer.)

    "longer than those who transfer military secrets to your enemies".

    As pointed out above, that is a lie.

  10. Charlie Hall says:

    You really don't know what you are talking about. John Walker has himself been in prison longer than Pollard and his co-criminal Jerry Whitworth is serving 365 years.

  11. Stewart Nasar says:

    agreed

  12. Eli Neuberger says:

    he has been the recipient of some awful advice from R"Avi Weiss

  13. Jacob Alperin-Sheriff says:

    Isn't Pesach Schindler of NCYI his advisor

  14. Look up what the average sentence is for espionage on behalf of a friendly government. That's where the average 3-5 years comes in. On the other side when Israel catches an American spy generally they're just deported immediately.

  15. Charlie Hall says:

    Julius and Ethel Rosenberg got the death penalty after being convicted of spying for an ally.

  16. Chris Sears says:

    Oy, think of the traffic.

  17. Elisheva Alphonso Vanunu says:

    uh no, being a spy and traitor gets the death sentence in time of war. since he was in the u.s. navy at the time, you'd better check the U.C.M.J. there Paula.

  18. Alex Shapiro says:

    Excuse me, someone is using a word ‘lie’ while lying himself by using incorrect facts:
    John Walker Lindh is a US citizen who was an enemy combatant who fought with Taliban against the American forces. He took part in the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi, a violent uprising of the Taliban prisoners, during which the CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed. He got 20 years without parole.
    Aldrich Aimes spied for the Soviet Union and Russia, which are not friendly entities. He compromised many CIA assets in Russia, following which many of these people were killed. He’s is serving a life sentence.
    Robert Hanssen was a Soviet mole working at the FBI. His activities also severely compromised many US interests. He’s also serving a life sentence.
    Jerry Whitworth was a member of a spy ring led by another US-born spy, John Anthony Walker, who spied for the Russians. They also caused serious damage to the US interests by disclosing to the Soviets/Russians encryption methods used by the US military.
    Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the US born communists who passed to the Soviets the secret of atomic weapons, allowing the Soviet to acquire it which tremendously changed the balance of power during the Cold War.
    None of these people spied for friendly country. Pollard passed to Israel the information about WMD programs in the Arab countries. The US intended to keep this information as a bargaining chip when dealing with Israel.

  19. Akiva David Miller says:

    Pollard deserves what the Rosenbergs got and his wife deserves to be locked up for the rest of her life. Pollard got far less than what he deserved; my only hope is that since he violated his plea agreement that they find a way to keep him locked up for the rest of his natural life. And yes, I AM a G-d fearing Jew.

  20. The Rosenbergs were spying for Russia who was only nominally an ally and gave Russia secrets pertaining to national defense (nuclear). Jonathan Pollard gave Israel secrets about Arab defenses that the US was bound by treaty to give Israel but the Secretary of State Weinberg refused to (because of his own deeply felt anti semitism)

  21. John K. Marchioro says:

    Jonathan Pollard is a traitor. He not only provided information to Israel, for pay, he also tried to sell information to South Africa during the apartheid era and several other countries. Circumstantial evidence indicates that Israel shopped Pollard's information to the Soviet Union in order to get freer Jewish emigration from the Soviet bloc to Israel. You state that Obama is no friend to Israel. Based on its conduct in the Pollard case and that of Shlomo ben-Ami as well, one might well ask what sort of friend Israel has been to the United States. Clearly "friendship" means for Israel that Israel can do whatever it wants, and the US, a country that has showered largesse and weaponry and countless other forms of support on Israel, has no right to punish Israel or its spies when they harm the US. And Pollard did immense harm to the US, since the secrets he sent to Israel ended up in the Kremlin in very short order. One last thing: To get a pardon, a prisoner must first express remorse for his crimes. Pollard has never done this. He has not even applied for parole. He no doubt thinks that he is a victim. But he is not. He is a traitor who took money for selling top secret information to another country, in violation of his security oath. Pollard's crimes are in fact no different from those of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. The only difference is that they do not have a bunch of whining advocates proclaiming their innocence. Well, have fun with Pollard. He is a megalomaniac (read the Wikibio, it says it all) and a completely unsympathetic figure. He will never be released unless he repents, and he certainly will not be going to Israel so that Netanyahu can hold a big national love fest, while Pollard is rewarded with a fortune and provided with a media platform from which to attack his native country, which he so ignobly betrayed.

  22. John most of the "findings" that Jonathan supplied intel to anyone but Israel or that said intel went to Russia came from (I'm not sure how to spell the name) Aldrich aimes

  23. At the time Aldrich was a trusted agent handpicked by sec state weinberger to investigate what intel Jonathan took and where it went most of what was claimed was later found to be done by aimes (proven at his trial). Kind of makes all his findings suspect don't you think.

  24. John K. Marchioro says:

    Since I do not have a security clearance, I do not know the specifics. But neither do you, right? What is known is that Israel tasked Pollard with a long, long list of documents, many of which had specific document numbers indicating some knowledge of their existence but not contents in Israel or the Kremlin, and that list was at least in part provided by the Soviets. This is all written up in Wolf Blitzer's very fair study of Pollard (parenthetically, it merits noting that Pollard had a bad falling out with Blitzer when it became clear that Blitzer was not going to serve as Blitzer's mouthpiece, and was instead going to right a completely fair and objective account of the case, an account that leaves little doubt about Pollard's guilt and the huge damage his espionage did to this country). Since Pollard was in Naval Intelligence and not the CIA, it is almost certain that he gave the Soviets a huge amount of top secret info that they did not get from either Ames or Hanssen (who provided information primarily on counterintelligence operations and US spies in the USSR). In closing, I must add that all this special pleading for Pollard, which completely misrepresents the facts in almost every particular, should really be reserved for someone else who deserves some sympathy. How about Mordechai Vanunu instead? There is someone who clearly is a prisoner of conscience, who acted without selfish motives of personal gain, and who has been treated horribly for it. I would gladly sign a petition for HIS release. Pollard, however, is a rank traitor, and he has split hairs in an effort to justify his crimes, just as his advocates are doing now. He should rot in prison until he expresses remorse, just like Ames and Hanssen.

  25. John K. Marchioro says:

    I think that your assertion is misleading if not completely false. According to Blitzer's detailed account, Pollard had access to a Naval Intelligence library full of top secret documents. He routinely checked out (there was a check out process) huge numbers of documents (a cart was needed to take them to his car in the parking lot) every Friday afternoon, and then drove them to an Israeli safe house in the DC area where they were photographed over the weekend. Pollard then returned the documents on Monday morning. So there almost certainly was a record of what Pollard had taken out (there had to be, since Pollard's chief first realized there was a problem when he learned from such a record that Pollard was checking out large numbers of documents that had nothing whatsoever to do with his own work, a pattern that was also found in the Wen Ho Lee case), and it was not necessary for Naval Intelligence to call in Aldrich Ames to do a damage assessment. BTW, people have made the same argument about Ames, that his documents were not all that valuable, and that the really valuable stuff was provided by Hanssen. We could play this game all day, but to me it is just more of the evasions and special pleading that have characterized the "advocates" whining about Pollard. Well, for comparative purposes, let's examine Israel's standards in a similar espionage case. Mordechai Vanunu. I do not see him being shown any leniency. You cannot have it both ways, Michael. If you scream foul and split hairs about Pollard, you cannot then crucify someone like Vanunu. I realize that people in Israel have a bad feeling about Israel given the way that the Israeli government stabbed Pollard the back too once he became expendable, but instead of pestering Obama in this obnoxious way, why not present complaints to the Israeli government? If Israel had really care about Pollard, it would not have shut its embassy to him when he sought refuge there when the FBI was closing in on him.

  26. Charlie Hall says:

    "Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the US born communists who passed to the Soviets the secret of atomic weapons, allowing the Soviet to acquire it which tremendously changed the balance of power during the Cold War.
    None of these people spied for friendly country"

    Wrong. At the time of the Rosenberg's espionage, the Soviet Union was an ally.

    " Pollard passed to Israel the information about WMD programs in the Arab countries."

    How do you know that? Are you in Israeli intelligence?

    " The US intended to keep this information as a bargaining chip when dealing with Israel."

    How do you know that? Are you in US intelligence?

    The fact is, the doesn't know what secrets Pollard sold, or their impact. The only people who know for sure are Pollard's handler Rafi Eitan, and Pollard himself. And neither has ever talked.

  27. Charlie Hall says:

    " since he violated his plea agreement that they find a way to keep him locked up for the rest of his natural life"

    Pollard is scheduled for release November 21, 2015.

  28. Charlie Hall says:

    "while lying himself by using incorrect facts:"

    You actually confirmed my facts! This is unfortunately typical of Pollard's apologists, accusing people of lying who are telling the truth. Time to retract your accusation.

  29. Just send the man home to Israel, after 28 years, There is such a thing as justice tempered with mercy.

  30. Just send the man home to Israel, after 28 years, There is such a thing as justice tempered with mercy.

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