larry derfner 88.
(photo credit: )
You have to be way over the top with Jewish paranoia to believe that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are anti-Semites or haters of Israel, that they acted out of such motives in the White House. I think any reasonable person, Jew or gentile, has to agree that neither Bush nor Clinton would have treated any Jew unfairly because he wanted to punish American Jewry or the State of Israel.
If people want to second-guess how Bush and Clinton dealt with any "Jewish issue," these two ex-presidents deserve at least that much benefit of the doubt. With complete certainty, we can say that for at least the last 16 years, the US was led by presidents who were neither anti-Semitic nor anti-Israel.
So the question is: Why is Jonathan Pollard still in prison?
The answer is one that neither Israelis nor members of the American Jewish community are willing to accept, at least not publicly: He's in prison for a good reason. What that reason is, I don't know. The few people who do know aren't saying. But there must be some substantive cause - presumably having to do with US national security - that's kept him in prison since 1985. If there wasn't, if he really was a victim of injustice who should have served a much, much shorter sentence as his legions of defenders insist, then he would have been free a long time ago. President Bill Clinton would have seen to it, and if Clinton hadn't, then President George W. Bush would have.
BUT THEY didn't. Over the course of 16 years, Clinton and Bush refused to pardon Pollard for espionage. If their reason didn't have to do with national security, then it could only have had to do with anti-Semitism or anti-Israel sentiment, and since you have to be a truly raging Jewish paranoid to believe the latter, the only reasonable conclusion is the former.
Yet the whole campaign for Pollard's freedom, which is supported by all of Israel and organized American Jewry, is based on the explicit or implicit notion that he's been kept behind bars this long because of powerful forces in the US that want to punish American Jewry or Israel. Forces so powerful that they could even dictate the decisions of presidents as friendly to Israel as Clinton and Bush.
The campaign for Pollard allows no other conclusion: Since he received a life sentence for spying on behalf of a US ally when spies for America's enemies have gotten off with a few years or even less, what else could be behind it except anti-Semitism or hostility to Israel?
"It raises concern about why a Jew who spies for Israel is treated far more harshly than those who have spied for other allies, or even enemies, of the US," wrote Pollard's wife Esther, in The Jerusalem Post this week. She compared her husband to Dreyfuss - "a Jew serving time for crimes he did not commit." Esther Pollard doesn't have to use the term "anti-Semitism;" it's clear enough what she means.
I'm sorry, this is ridiculous. But this is what Israel and organized American Jewry are saying, explicitly or implicitly, in the campaign for Jonathan Pollard's release, because there is no other explanation why he's still in prison except anti-Semitism, unless it's to protect US national security. But if Israel and organized American Jewry accepted that Pollard was still in prison because of US security concerns, they could not go on calling for his release. The message of their campaign is that to a meaningful extent, the US is controlled by forces hostile to American Jewry and Israel.
MY POINT is not that we shouldn't feel sorry for Pollard. We should. He's not a murderer, he's not a rapist, and I'm fully convinced that he didn't pass secrets to Israel because he wanted to hurt the US, but rather because he wanted to help Israel. Also, I think, because of the money he was getting and because the Israelis made him feel important, but still, 23 years in prison seems to be more than enough punishment for giving classified information to an American ally. Which is why I'm convinced Pollard is still in prison not for the sake of punishment, but for the sake of prevention - prevention of further harm to US national security that, in Washington's view, would likely occur if he were released.
I don't know what potential harm they're worried about. But it had to have been something serious to cause then-CIA director George Tenet to threaten resignation in 1998 if Clinton gave Pollard clemency. It had to have been serious for seven former US secretaries of defense and 60 US senators - including Joseph Lieberman - to urge Clinton against a pardon. It had to have been serious to keep George W. Bush from freeing Pollard before leaving the White House a month ago.
A dislike for Jews or for Israel wasn't it.
"There are details of his case that have always made his release problematic, and that's all I'm going to say about it," said Elliott Abrams, a very staunchly Jewish, pro-Israel, Republican foreign policy official, in an interview with The Post's Ruthie Blum Leibowitz last week. Could the problem Abrams was alluding to have been anti-Semitism high up in Washington? I don't think so. If Elliott Abrams says there's a problem about letting a convicted spy out of a US prison, I think he means a real problem, a substantive, serious problem for his country.
I think many Israelis and a tremendous number of American Jews who've lent their names to the Pollard campaign realize, even if only subconsciously, that the US wouldn't keep Pollard in jail if it didn't have a very good reason, one that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. But they lend their names to this campaign because in the Jewish world, the Pollard issue is like motherhood and apple pie. Demanding his release shows you're a good Jew, you're for Jewish solidarity, you have a good Jewish heart. In our world, signing your name on a petition to free Pollard is about as politically correct as you can get.
There are a couple of problems with this campaign, though. One is that it's kind of dumb - how can you demand somebody's release when you don't know the real reason he's in jail? But worse, the campaign promotes the idea of America, all the way up to the White House, being at least partly controlled by Jew-haters and Israel-haters. This is a message that slanders America and makes lots of Jews even more paranoid than they already are.
If and when Pollard's release from prison does not endanger US national security, I hope he goes free - and I'm sure he will. Until then, I feel safe in assuming that whatever the precise reason behind his imprisonment, it is not unjust. By now, I'd say the US is entitled to at least that much benefit of the doubt from any Jew anywhere.