The Jewish world is only nine days away from commemorating the 24th anniversary of Jonathan Pollard’s incarceration – barring a miraculously dramatic development.
Pollard was arrested on Nov. 21, 1985, and subsequently convicted on one count of passing classified information to an ally – Israel. The sentence for this crime has generally been 2-4 years, and Pollard had reached an agreement with the prosecutors that the maximum punishment would not be requested – yet Federal Judge Aubrey Robinson shocked observers by abruptly sentencing him to life in prison. Bedlam broke out in the courtroom, and even the prosecution was surprised at the severity of the sentence.
One explanation that has been advanced is that after Pollard granted press interviews, thus breaking the “etiquette” that supposedly governs not-yet-sentenced prisoners, the prosecution felt no qualms about taking revenge by violating its legal agreement – and worked actively for a severe sentence.
Possibly most damaging of all in this respect was, as one researcher has written, “an unprecedented last minute four-page affidavit from Secretary of Defense Weinberger, who essentially asked for ‘life imprisonment,’ even though the plea agreement expressly prohibited such a request. Life sentences had been dealt just months before to several notorious spies. Weinberger’s affidavit made clear to the judge, ‘It is difficult for me, in the so-called ‘year of the spy’ to conceive of a greater harm to national security.’ The message was clear: give Pollard life – regardless of the plea agreement.”
In honor of the upcoming sad anniversary, the Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization will be re-publishing what it deems “some of the best-written, most informative, and most interesting articles, essays and information written about the case over the last two and a half decades.”
The first article in this series was an op-ed by Nissan GanOr, head of the Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home, that was first published in the Jerusalem Post in 2006 to mark the start of Pollard’s 22nd year in captivity. Entitled “Bashing Pollard Does Not Comport With the Facts,” it can be read in its entirety here. Below are excerpts:
“Ever since Pollard was able to obtain the unclassified titles of the documents that were used as evidence against him… there can be no doubt that the information Pollard passed to Israel concerned Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear, chemical and biological warfare capabilities – all being developed for use against Israel.
“It also included information on ballistic missile development by these countries and information on planned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian targets. The US was deliberately withholding this vital information, despite a legal commitment to share this data with its ally, Israel.
“Even a glimpse at the record shows that Pollard, who spied for an ally of the US, was sentenced far more severely than the most notorious spies for enemy states – all of whom are free today. [Examples are included.]
“Unlike the above-mentioned, Pollard was never convicted of treason. Nor was he ever accused of damage to the United States in a formal indictment – only in the media, where he could not respond to his accusers. The only offense Pollard was ever indicted for was one count of passing classified information to an ally…
“Pollard never had a trial. He was coerced into a plea-bargain agreement, which he honored and the US abrogated. In spite of the fact that he pled guilty and cooperated fully with the prosecution, at the last minute the sentencing judge ignored the plea deal and sentenced Pollard to life.
“…There is an old adage that says when you blacken a spy, you blacken the country he serves. It is obvious that the invective and false charges against Pollard have more to do with Israel, the country he served, than with Pollard himself. What is more, the hatred directed against Pollard personally is simply too big to be credible…
“The US intelligence community has neither fear nor limits in bashing Pollard beyond any credulity because there is not a single voice in Israeli officialdom, in the American Jewish leadership or in the media protesting this savaging… Where is the prime minister [Olmert, at the time – ed.] of Israel, who claims to care so much about Pollard and to be seeking his release? …
“Where are the Knesset Members… Where are the American Jewish leaders? Where is the average person? Jewish silence does not behoove us in the face of such outright anti-Semitic targeting. It is incumbent upon all honest persons of every faith to stand up and be counted. Prayers are not enough. Your voice is needed in calling leaders both here in Israel and the US to take responsibility.
“The feeding frenzy that now engulfs the case of Jonathan Pollard must be stopped. Pollard must go free. Israel’s honor as a nation and our integrity as individuals depends upon it.”
by Hillel Fendel