We take seriously the issue of humanitarian release for Jonathan Pollard. Twenty-nine years in prison– half his life until now– is enough. Let him go.
But what should be the terms of his release?
First, The Israelis have never come clean about what they got and what they did with it. They must give us that information before the U.S. unlocks Pollard’s cell. There’s a strong suggestion in Seymour Hersh’s coverage of the case, and others, that some in the intelligence community believe Pollard’s secrets were traded to the Soviet Union in exchange for Soviet Jewish emigres to Israel, at a huge risk to US national security. It’s possible US agents were killed. Were they? Who? We’d like to know. Let us have the answers.
Second. It’s clear that thirty years ago, Israeli intelligence took advantage of an emotionally-distressed young man with drug problems. Have any Israelis paid the price for helping to put this man in prison for thirty years? Pollard certainly approached Israel and offered to spy for them. But who in the end is to blame for this: Israel intelligence handlers stuck him in prison for nearly 30 years and walked away with a boatload of our secrets.
The real villain here isn’t Pollard. He’s a pathetic guy who’s suffered enough. Let him go, but we want answers and the answers don’t come from him. They come from Tel Aviv. Has anyone in the Israeli security apparatus been punished for taking advantage of an insecure young man with drug issues? Why did the investigation of this spying episode stop with him? What was Israel doing? And were any of these Israeli handlers– better called his manipulators– punished for taking advantage of this young man and sticking him in prison and violating American friendship?
Three, What does releasing Pollard on humanitarian grounds have to do with the Israeli occupation of Palestine? Nothing. Why should an American who spied for Israel have anything to do with why Palestinian people who live in Hebron should be free of the crushing burden of apartheid and occupation? (See Yousef Munayyer, who makes a similar point).