This month marks a distressing milestone – the 24th anniversary of Jonathan Pollard’s imprisonment for transferring classified information to Israel.
The Pollard case is a mark of shame for the American Jewish community. His plight and the politics surrounding it are rendered absurd when seen against the backdrop of the government’s reaction, and the reaction of some Jewish leaders to U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s jihadist massacre of 12 soldiers and one civilian at Ft. Hood earlier this month.
Pollard was arrested in November 1985 for transferring classified documents regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons and other crucial information to Israel. Pollard acted as an Israeli agent during a time of unprecedented animosity toward Israel in U.S. defense and intelligence circles.
Determined to punish Israel for is successful strike against Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, the U.S. froze Israel out of intelligence information regarding the Arab world which the Americans had until then shared with their Israeli counterparts on a routine basis. Indeed, the information Pollard transferred to Israel was arguably information the U.S. was required to transfer to Israel by dint of its commitment to protect Israel’s qualitative edge over its enemies.
In what has often been characterized as a miscarriage of justice, after Pollard was arrested and indicted the federal prosecution reneged on a plea bargain it had acceded to and convinced a judge to sentence Pollard to life in prison.
Even if his legal treatment was acceptable, both the fervor with which Pollard was prosecuted and the life sentence he received were wildly disproportionate to the treatment of agents of other states that like Israel are not adversaries of the U.S. Indeed, as Pollard’s father pointed out in an article last week in The Jerusalem Post, even John Walker Lindh, the U.S. citizen who was arrested for fighting with the Taliban in the war against the U.S. in Afghanistan, received only 21 years in prison for his act of war against the U.S.
And yet, despite Pollard’s unfair and inequitable treatment by federal authorities, the American Jewish community has been at best inconsistent in its attempts to secure Pollard’s release from prison. At no time in the past 24 years has the organized Jewish leadership made a concerted and public demand that Pollard be released. Moreover, at no time has it issued a ringing condemnation of his unfair treatment by the federal prosecution and prison authorities alike.
To the contrary, American Jewish leaders have consistently argued that if Pollard’s case is to be raised at all, it should be raised quietly, behind closed doors. Pollard, after all was guilty. Raising his case, it is argued will simply anger U.S. authorities, and strengthen the position of those who claim that neither American Jews nor Israelis can be trusted. Then too, it is claimed that raising the Pollard case publicly will signal the average American that Jews are treacherous.
Proof that this view is little more than an excuse for American Jewish leaders not to take the controversial route and demand Pollard’s release is their behavior on the issue during former president George W. Bush’s tenure in office.
It is inarguable that on a visceral level, Bush was favorably disposed to Israel. Facing an American president that clearly liked Israel and Israelis, it could have been expected that American Jews would seek to persuade Bush to grant Pollard clemency, particularly when as former CIA director R. James Woosley has noted, the U.S. and Israel are fighting the same enemy today.
And yet, it was during Bush’s tenure that American Jews in Washington found themselves under the greatest suspicion since Pollard’s arrest. During the friendly Bush years, American Jews – from then-deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz to the last American Jew on the National Security Council to AIPAC in the non-governmental sector – were placed under a microscope and pilloried as fifth columnists by political opponents and law enforcement bodies alike. American Jewish leaders were too busy defending the likes of AIPAC lobbyists Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman from self-evidently false espionage charges to be bothered by Pollard’s plight.
What the Bush period indicates is that there is a built-in anti-Jewish bias in much of official Washington that is impervious to any particular administration’s position on Israel. Among this permanent bureaucracy, it is a writ of faith that American Jews are a priori fifth columnists and that Israel – the true source of their loyalty – is the most dangerous adversary the U.S. faces.
By the same token, as was made murderously clear with Hasan’s rampage at Fort Hood, the same permanent bureaucracy holds that no Muslim Americans can ever be suspected as fifth columnists even when evidence to that effect is pouring in. The FBI refused to revoke Hasan’s security clearance despite his close association with known jihadists and his prolonged e-mail contact with an Islamic cleric with ties to three of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
The army for its part, refused to discharge Hasan from the service despite his repeated protestations of sympathy for enemies of America and his public justification of the murder of U.S. servicemen by Muslim-American soldiers.
In the aftermath of his rampage, during which he called out “Allahu Akbar” in a crowded room before shooting some forty people, official Washington went to absurd lengths to pretend away the obvious fact that Hasan was an enemy agent. Everyone from President Obama to Army Chief of Staff General George Casey to Fort Hood Commander Gen. Robert Cone to the FBI loudly proclaimed that we mustn’t jump to conclusions and that it isn’t clear, or there is no way of knowing, what motivated Hasan to murder his fellow soldiers and officers. Certainly there was no reason to suspect that the fact that he is Muslim has anything to do with his actions.
The contrasting experiences of American Jews and American Muslims in the U.S. government and in Washington generally are explained by two essential facts. First, to date, no one has been compelled to pay a political price for telling lies about American Jews. And second, many have been forced to pay a political price for telling the truth about American Muslims.
Perhaps the most ironic aspect of this state of affairs is the central role many Jews have played both in legitimizing the suspicions cast on their innocent co-religionists and in delegitimizing the casting of justified suspicions on American Muslims with ties to jihadists at home and abroad.
From George Soros, who sponsors groups like J Street and the National Iranian-American Council that portray pro-Israel activists and those calling for Iran to be denied nuclear weapons as extremists to NYU Hillel Director Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, who called for Jews on campus to defend Muslims against those who point out that Hasan’s religion was the central motivator for his actions, American Jews are at the forefront of the effort to make it politically costly for Jews to voice support for Israel and for Americans of all backgrounds to point out that there are American-Muslim fifth columnists seeking to kill their countrymen in the name of their religion.
As Jonathan Pollard begins yet another year behind bars, it is time for the American Jewish community to stand up for its rights. Until a loud, consistent demand is made for equal treatment for American Jews, not only will Pollard remain in prison, but all American Jews who wish to serve their country will be forced to operate in the shadow of his persecution.
Caroline Glick is senior contributing editor at The Jerusalem Post. Her Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the last week of each month. Her book “The Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad,” is available at Amazon.com.