Photo Credit: Joan L. Roth
Dr. Phyllis Chesler

{Originally posted to Israel News Network Website}

And so, at long last, after thirty years, seven of which he spent in solitary confinement—the most barbaric of punishments—Jonathan Pollard will be pardoned and may live to breathe the air of freedom.


I am overjoyed, apprehensive, enormously sad, relieved, and angry.

Pollard’s cell door will not swing open until November and, unless President Obama decrees otherwise, he may not be allowed to make aliyah to Israel for five years, lest he be given a hero’s (or a martyr’s) welcome.

Although I did not become an activist on his behalf, Pollard’s fate has haunted me for more than twenty years. Though he had teams of dedicated but incompetent lawyers, and dedicated and highly competent lawyers, and the support of compassionate rabbis, Pollard’s cause did not become fashionable for a very long time.

Many American Jews thought that he “deserved what he got,” since his actions had, they believed, endangered them. Pollard was the poster child for the dual loyalty accusation that has haunted Jews who simply want to fit in, to lead safe and prosperous lives in America.

Many American non-Jews in the State Department and the CIA hanged Pollard for the considerable crimes of others. In fact, Pollard was the “fall guy” for a real Master Spy, none other than Aldrich Ames. According to former White House correspondent, Leo Rennert:

“It is now clear that Pollard…has been the victim of a CIA cover-up of a massive intelligence failure, with the agency blaming Pollard for the damage caused by a real ‘mole’ inside the CIA who passed to Moscow the names of more than a dozen U.S. informants in the Soviet Union — namely Aldrich Ames, the head of CIA’s Soviet-Eastern Europe division, who fingered Pollard to keep the CIA from discovering his own treachery…The CIA did not discover Ames’ role until well after Pollard was behind bars and it still isn’t [as of 2010] willing to acknowledge its mistake in blaming Pollard for Ames’s crimes.”

On the eve of Pollard’s probable release, let us remember, in brief, his story.

What terrible crime did he commit? Did he spy against America for one of America’s enemies? The Soviets during the Cold War, the Chinese communists? Did he spy for an Islamist or terrorist? Did he do so for money, sex, or for ideological reasons?

American Navy Seaman, Michael Walker, operated a Soviet spy ring; he was arrested in 1980, pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 25 years and released after 15.

CIA Agent David Barnett sold the Soviets the names of thirty American undercover agents. He was arrested in the mid-1980s, sentenced to only 18 years, and paroled after only ten years.

In 1989, Abdelkedar Helmy, an Egyptian-born American rocket expert, and NASA employee, tried to smuggle sophisticated weapons technology to Egypt. These ballistic missiles, including Scud missiles, were subsequently fired on U.S. troops during the Persian war. Helmy did so for one million dollars. Caught, he pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate. He was jailed but his sentence is not known.

Noureddine Malki pretended to be from Lebanon, the persecuted son of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, and on this basis allegedly sought and received asylum in America, naturalized citizenship, and a job as an Arabic translator for the Army. He received top secret clearance and was working in Iraq where he took bribes from various Sunni sheikhs and passed classified information on to them. Noureddine Malki, one of five aliases, was hired as a translator and intelligence officer by the American military.

Malki passed classified documents to “insurgents” in Iraq who were battling American forces; he also had conversations with members of Al Qaeda and kept their documents on his computer.


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Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D is an emerita professor of Psychology, a Fellow at the Middle East Forum, the author of thousands of articles, four studies about honor killing and sixteen books, including “The New Anti-Semitism,” “An American Bride in Kabul," and “Living History: On The Front Lines for Israel and the Jews, 2003-2015.” She archives her articles and may be reached through her website: