ADL's Foxman: Pollard Case 'Vendetta' Against Jews

Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 10:11 PM

By Abraham H. Foxman

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Former U.S. Navy analyst and convicted spy Jonathan Pollard has served out his punishment for his crime. Given the 28 years that have passed, the decline of his health, and his potential eligibility for parole in another year, now is the time for the United States to release him.

This should happen both on humanitarian grounds and in light of the important bilateral relationship between Israel and the United States.

While the time has come for clemency, Pollard’s release should not be intertwined with any potential resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There are enormous complications to the current negotiations now taking place between the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the United States without introducing this factor as another issue on the table.

When the Pollard affair surfaced 28 years ago, there were claims by some that the sentencing of Pollard to life imprisonment was tinged with anti-Semitism. We at the Anti-Defamation League took that charge seriously, made our own investigation, and concluded there was no basis for such an accusation.

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But as the years pass, and the world has changed many times over, and with more and more prominent Americans, including individuals from the intelligence community, saying "enough already," Pollard remains in prison.

Pleas for his parole are raised on a regular basis, but go unheeded. The whole thing at this late date makes no sense.

There surely is no information that Pollard possesses after all these years that can be harmful to American interests. The fact that Pollard shared information with an ally — Israel — was no reason for him not to be punished. But after this long imprisonment, the fact that it was such a close ally who received his information should have influenced a positive response when the subject of parole arose.

I am not one to equate what Pollard did, to betray his country, to the recent revelations that the United States has been spying on top Israeli leaders. Here too, however, these revelations add further context to the absurdity of the ongoing vendetta against this one man.

Yes, I use that word because that’s what it seems like at this point. If it were only a vendetta against one individual, it would be bad enough. But it has now become one against the American Jewish community.

In effect, the continuing imprisonment of this person long after he should have been paroled on humanitarian grounds can only be read as an effort to intimidate American Jews. And, it is an intimidation that can only be based on an anti-Semitic stereotype about the Jewish community, one that we have seen confirmed in our public opinion polls over the years, the belief that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country, the United States.

In other words, the underlying concept which fuels the ongoing Pollard incarceration is the notion that he is only the tip of the iceberg in the community. So Pollard stays in prison as a message to American Jews: Don’t even think about doing what he did.

I come to this conclusion with much sorrow and, as noted, as someone who resisted efforts early on to connect the Pollard affair to anti-Semitism. It is harder and harder to do so any longer.

With all of this in mind, I hope that the Obama administration will take the step of releasing Pollard on humanitarian grounds without seeing him as a potential "bargaining chip" to pressure Israel to continue to negotiate, in the absence of a true commitment on behalf of the Palestinians to make the difficult choices and decisions that would facilitate a lasting peace with the State of Israel.

Abraham H. Foxman is National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.

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