ALEXANDRIA, VA —The efforts of the Israeli government and a
number of leading American Jewish organizations to gain the release
of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard are growing. Even some prominent
former U.S. government officials have joined this campaign, among them
former CIA Director C. James Woolsey and former Secretary of State
Early in July, Israeli President Shimon Peres promised to continue
to work for Pollard's release in a meeting with the spy’s wife,
Esther, in Jerusalem. When he was in Washington, D.C., in June, Peres
asked President Obama to commute Pollard's sentence.
Among those who have recently called for Pollard's release are the
Union for Reform Judaism, the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations, and Anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman.
Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987 for stealing more
than a million pages of highly classified documents for the Israelis.
U.S. Attorney Joseph deGenova told reporters outside the courthouse, "It
is likely he'll never see the light of day again." The Israeli
government, after years of denial, finally admitted in 1998 that Pollard "acted
as an official Israeli agent."
In his book, Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How
One of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to
Justice (Naval Institute Press),
Ronald J. Olive, who served for many years as a naval intelligence
investigator, reports, "It is alleged that Israel doubles the
salary yearly for Israeli spies caught and imprisoned on foreign soil.
If Pollard's spy salary of $2,500 a month plus the promised $30,000
annual bonus were doubled (the figures come from Pollard) he would
earn approximately $3.6 million over 30 years. In my knowledge, no
other spy in history, in jail or released from it, has been so handsomely
From his prison cell, an unrepentant Pollard still claims to have
been double-crossed by U.S. prosecutors, who had promised not to seek
a life sentence. Mr. Olive explains that the government did not recommend
the term. It was meted out by U.S. District Judge Aubrey Robinson,
Jr., after reading a still-secret memo from U. S. Defense Secretary
Caspar Weinberger detailing the grave damage Pollard did to national
security. It has been alleged that the material Pollard provided led
to the murder of U.S. intelligence agents in the Soviet Union and elsewhere
— agents who were named in the documents he turned over to the Israelis.
As part of Pollard's plea agreement, he swore not to disclose any
classified material he obtained while working for the U. S. Navy. Further,
he swore not to "provide information for purposes of publication
or dissemination" unless it was reviewed by the director of naval
Intelligence specialist Joseph Goulden points out, "To the astonishment
of prosecutors and investigators, three weeks before his sentencing,
Wolf Blitzer, a correspondent for The Jerusalem
Post, wrote a long
article stemming from a jail-cell interview with Pollard. It also ran
in The Washington Post under the headline 'Pollard: Not a Bumbler,
but Israel's Master Spy’. Pollard told Mr. Blitzer what he provided
the Israelis: reconnaissance satellite photography of PLO headquarters
in Tunisia, specific capabilities of Libya's air defenses, and far
"In general," wrote Blitzer, who now works for CNN, "Pollard
gave Israel the pick of U.S. intelligence about Arab and Islamic conventional
and unconventional military activity, from Morocco to Pakistan and
every country in between. This included both 'friendly' and 'unfriendly'
Joseph Goulden reports, "The U.S. Attorney's Office considered
voiding the plea agreement and putting Pollard on trial but decided
not to bother, given that the life sentence was at hand. When Pollard
comes up for parole, hopefully some government lawyer will dust off
the already violated plea agreement and cite it as a reason to keep
him beyond bars."
Discussing the campaign in behalf of Pollard's release, Martin Peretz,
a longtime friend of Israel who edited The New
Republic from 1974 until
2011, writes in The Wall Street Journal (June 25, 2012), "There
is no end in sight for the campaign to persuade President Obama to
let convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard go free.... the agitation,
a phobic mixture of fantasies of Pollard's innocence and imaginings
of anti-Semitic motives on the part of an indeterminate officialdom,
has been relentless."
Peretz notes, "All kinds of comparisons are being made. One is
to the great democrat Natan Sharansky, who was kept in the Siberian
gulag for 13 years and released because there was no evidence at all
of his espionage against the Soviet Union.... A different analogy that
comes to mind is the ongoing zeal among nutty left-wingers for the
release of Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal, imprisoned in Philadelphia
for 30 years after having murdered a policeman in a revolutionary act.
This effort never stops."
In the case of Pollard, writes Peretz, "There is no doubt about
his guilt, no illusion of his innocence. And he did not spy for Zion
out of idealistic motives. This is a retrospective improvisation. In
fact, before he decided to deliver reams of sensitive intelligence
and defense documents to Israel's security apparatus, he was negotiating
with Pakistan — yes, Islamic and Judeophobic Pakistan — to do similar
chores for it. (Pakistan is not the only regime with which he was dickering
as a prospective agent). Still, there are folks in the American Jewish
community and in Israel who cannot let go of their image of Pollard
as a man of virtue and bravery. Hence the stubborn unrest... on his
Israeli President Peres was in Washington, D.C., in June to receive
the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Israeli literary figures Amos Oz,
A.B. Yehoshua, and David Grossman wrote, "We feel we cannot reconcile
your receiving it when the U.S. is still holding Pollard in prison....
Receiving the medal would make a mockery of Israel."
Martin Peretz concludes, "What makes a mockery of Israel is
pretending that Pollard is a man of virtue, a martyr, when he wasn't
even a gull."
Before his death in 2006, the man who hired Pollard in 1979 as a civilian
intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy was sharply critical of those
who lobbied in Pollard's behalf. Rear Admiral Sumner Shapiro, director
of naval intelligence from 1978 to 1982, was offended as a Jew by the
role Jewish groups played in calling for Pollard's release: "Whether
it was Pollard's initiative or the Israelis', the idea that an American
Jew would spy for anyone bothers the hell out of me.... to have Jewish
organizations line up behind this guy and try to make him out a hero
of the Jewish people, it bothers the hell out of me."
The time may come when, for humanitarian reasons, Jonathan Pollard
may be released from prison. But to clamor for his release because,
somehow, he is a man of virtue, a martyr, or the victim of prejudice
holds the motives of those promoting the cause open to serious question.
The Conservative Curmudgeon archives
The Conservative Curmudgeon is copyright © 2012
by Allan C. Brownfeld and the Fitzgerald
All rights reserved. Editors may use this column if this copyright information
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which
is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has
been a staff aide to a U.S. Vice President, Members of Congress, and
the U.S. Senate Internal Subcommittee.
He is associate editor of The Lincoln Reveiw and a contributing
editor to such publications as Human Events,
The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle
The Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation needs your help to continue making
these columns available. To make a tax-deductible donation, click