Jonathan Pollard finally broke his silence 35 years after he was arrested by the FBI. He should have waited another 35.
He professes great love for the Jews and Israel, but once again has done great harm to both, telling American Jews it is their duty to follow his example and betray their country.
In a worshipful interview in Israel Hayom, the right-wing Israeli newspaper, he reinforced the antisemitic tropes about Jews holding dual-loyalty. He said Jews everywhere have an obligation to help Israel any way they can, including spying.
Asked what he would advise “a young Jewish naval intelligence officer... asked by the Mossad to work for Israel,” he said, “I’d tell him not doing anything is unacceptable.” He added, “Loyalty to Israel and loyalty to your fellow Jews is more important than your life.”
He said the FBI showed him a list of 10 suspected Israeli spies – including this writer, according to his wife – offering freedom in exchange for fingering them, but he nobly chose prison instead.
Pollard clearly resents that the vast majority of American Jewry did not rise up in his defense 35 years ago and embrace him as the hero he saw himself to be.
“American Jewry has one major problem – they consider themselves more American than they do Jews,” Pollard asserted.
He is sabotaging generations of American Jewish patriotism and buttressing antisemitism at a time when it is on the rise around the world, and accusations of dual loyalty come from the highest levels.
Many Jews, especially those involved in the political, security and intelligence world, felt the sting of Pollard’s damage the first time around, and now he is compounding the damage.
I witnessed it personally in years on and around Capitol Hill as a staffer, as a lobbyist for pro-Israel and other Jewish causes, and as a journalist. It was in the references by people I positions of power to “you people” or, as Donald Trump himself put it, “your prime minister” or “your country.”
During the 1967 war, I got calls congratulating me for “your army’s” victories against the Arabs; I reminded them that I was a member of the US Army Reserve and my army was getting a drubbing in Vietnam, not winning in the Middle East.
Dual-loyalty accusations are not just a Jewish problem, as seen in the present plague of assaults on Asian Americans and other ethnic groups. It is not new, but it has intensified recently, sparked by Donald Trump’s poisonous anti-immigrant xenophobia, his friendly nod toward white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, and his anti-Chinese (“Kung Flu”) rhetoric.
Ironically, two offenders also have been victims of dual-loyalty accusations themselves. Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the first two Muslim members of Congress, both American citizens, were told by the president of the United States to “go back” to the “crime-infested places” they came from. The same two women were guilty of a similar offense, accusing their Jewish colleagues of greater loyalty to Israel. Both ultimately apologized; Trump never did.
REP. TED LIEU (D-California), himself the target of such charges, is also an offender. The Taiwan-born congressman once questioned the loyalty of former American ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
Boston-born Rep. Andy Kim, the son of Korean immigrants, said that while a State Department diplomat with top-secret clearances, he was nonetheless “banned from working” on Korea-related issues because of his ethnicity.
Sery Kim, a Korean-American congressional candidate in Texas and former Trump aide, said she opposes immigration from China because they “steal” intellectual property and “give us coronavirus.”
Israel was the benefactor and victim of Pollard’s spying. He delivered thousands of documents at the price of undermining trust between the two allies at a time when their strategic relationship was still developing. He was more like a vacuum cleaner than analyst selecting documents of importance. Pollard claimed he acted because Washington “stabbed Israel in the back” by withholding information he thought it should have. That attitude only reinforced those in the defense and security communities who said Israel could not be trusted. The recovery has been long and fruitful, but Pollard’s interview could trigger a setback.
He compromised US security by stealing secrets in massive numbers and giving them to at least one foreign country, albeit a close friend, Israel, and possibly others. He showed no concern about any damage to the country he had sworn to protect and defend, the United States. His theft cost American taxpayers millions to repair. He never came clean about how he knew what documents to look for and who on the inside helped him, since his Israeli handlers had no way of knowing such details.
A Mossad official in Washington told me, “Pollard did more harm than good for Israel.” That view was echoed by other Israelis I spoke to in the intelligence, defense and foreign affairs arenas.
Some of Pollard’s supporters claimed antisemitism was behind his extended incarceration. They may want to reconsider that after reading his Israel Hayom interview with his call for Americans to betray their country.
Israel Hayom is a free daily giveaway owned by Miriam Adelson, Israel’s wealthiest woman and widow of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Following the end of his parole, Pollard was flown to Israel at the end of December on the Adelsons’ private jet, where he was met by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, another Adelson benefactor. The paper’s nickname is “Voice of Bibi.”
The newspaper’s interviewers were fawning, failing to fact check their subject or challenge their subject’s assertions. I hope Pollard will give as much time to serious, professional journalists for a serious interview and tough questions. But I’m not holding my breath.