OUR WORLD: Senator Menendez and the Pollard Effect

Pollard’s disproportionate punishment is a powerful expression of official, state-sanctioned antisemitism in America.


Jonathan and Esther Pollard

Speaking to his ministers on Sunday about his visit last week to Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heralded a new era in US-Israel relations. To a degree, he was correct.

When US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greeted Netanyahu and his wife Sara as they alighted from their car at the southern entrance to the White House, Trump demonstrated that the eight years of hostile treatment Israel suffered at the hands of his predecessor Barack Obama were no more.

But unfortunately, Obama wasn’t the only thing that was wrong with US-Israel relations.

There is also a problem with antisemitism.

Rather than confront the problem head on, and where it does Israel and American Jewry the most damage, Netanyahu shied away from contending with the issue.

This was a mistake.

Just hours after he left town, another American Jew was targeted by an antisemitic slander of the sort Netanyahu failed to address during his meeting with Trump.

Thursday afternoon, the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee held a confirmation hearing for Trump’s ambassador designate to Israel, attorney David Friedman.

Friedman is a Jewish attorney. He is unapologetic about his support for Israel. The fact that unlike his liberal Jewish predecessors, Friedman does not make his support for Israel contingent on Israel’s willingness to appease the territorial and other demands of the PLO , made him the subject of withering criticism at the hands of several Democratic lawmakers.

While unpleasant, the scathing criticism Democratic senators leveled against Friedman was within the bounds of legitimate debate. They support a different, less supportive policy toward Israel than the policy that the Trump administration is developing. They receive support from liberal Jewish groups that insist there is no contradiction between funding Palestinian terrorists (in the name of the chimerical two-state solution), and supporting Israel.

What was not within the bounds of legitimate debate however, was a question that Democratic Senator Robert Menendez posed to Friedman. Noting that Friedman is “very passionate about Israel,” Menendez asked Friedman to assure the senators that his loyalty and commitment lay with the US, rather than with Israel.

Menendez’s query was beyond the pale because it wasn’t about Friedman’s positions. It was about his Judaism. Inherent to Menendez’s question was a barely disguised insinuation: Jews who are passionate about Israel cannot be trusted by their fellow Americans.

There are many distressing aspects to Menendez’s decision to use an antisemitic line of questioning against Friedman. It is distressing, for instance, that liberal Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League did not condemn the liberal lawmaker for trafficking in antisemitism.

But by far, the most distressing aspect of Menendez’s allegation that Jews who support Israel passionately and unapologetically are inherently disloyal to the US was its familiarity. The canard that Jews are inherently disloyal has been the bane of the Jewish community in America for generations.

It doesn’t matter how much you love America. It doesn’t matter how much of your life you devote to advancing the interests of America.

If you are a Jew, and you support Israel, then your loyalty to America will be questioned.

This brings us back to Netanyahu and his failure to address the issue of antisemitism in his meeting with Trump.

There is one issue where Netanyahu is uniquely positioned to fight the canard that pro-Israel Jews are disloyal to America.

That issue is the plight of Jonathan Pollard.

Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1985 for transferring classified materials to Israel. He was paroled in 2015.

Pollard’s plight is important for two reasons that bear direct relevance to Menendez’s antisemitic behavior at Friedman’s confirmation hearing and to the general problem of antisemitism in America.

First, Pollard is proof of American antisemitism.

To be sure, Pollard failed the loyalty test. America trusted its secrets to Pollard 35 years ago when he served as an analyst in US Naval Intelligence. And he betrayed that trust when he revealed American secrets to Israel.

Pollard though is not unique. Korean Americans, Japanese Americans, Italian Americans, French Americans, Irish and German Americans have also transferred American secrets to foreign governments with which they felt a kinship. To the extent they transferred secrets to states that are allies of the US, they received prison sentences that ranged on average between two to five years and served their terms in minimum security prisons until they were released back into society and free to leave the US.

Pollard, in contrast, was railroaded by the US justice system. He was given a life sentence and served for 30 years in maximum security prisons. He spent his first 10 years in prison in solitary confinement.

Over the 30 years he sat in prison, US national security officials and lawmakers on both sides of the partisan divide called for successive presidents to commute his sentence.

They all refused.

And when Pollard was finally paroled in November 2015 his nightmare of persecution didn’t end. Instead he was given draconian parole conditions that no prisoners are subjected to in state or federal prisons. Not only is Pollard barred from leaving the country, he is barred from leaving Manhattan.

He cannot practice Judaism because he is confined to his apartment from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. so he cannot attend morning and evening prayers. He cannot keep Shabbat because he is required to wear a GPS tracking device that he must charge in an electrical outlet every few hours, including on Shabbat when such activities are prohibited. He cannot get a job because anyone who hires him will be required to allow the government total access to their computer network.

Pollard’s disproportionate punishment is a powerful expression of official, state-sanctioned antisemitism in America. And since 1985, it has served as a warning to American Jews and as a license to antisemites like Menendez to discriminate against American Jews.

For 30 years, as Pollard served out his life sentence at a maximum security prison, no one needed to do anything more than mention his name to put fear into the hearts of American Jews. The message was clear. It doesn’t matter what you do. We will destroy your life if you are too supportive of Israel.

As for US relations with Israel, successive administrations have held Pollard over the heads of Israeli governments. On the one hand, they would on the one hand dangle the prospect of his release in front of their Israeli counterparts to exact concessions. The concessions were invariably made and the promise to release Pollard was always withdrawn.

On the other hand, Pollard’s crime, and his incarceration, afforded successive administrations the ability to use antisemitism as a political tool against Israel domestically. Every few years when public support for Israel hit a new high, a mid-level national security official would give a background briefing to reporters and raise allegations of Israeli spying, along the lines of Pollard’s actions. The subsequent reports would instigate a public debate about Israel riven with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish vitriol.

During his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu chose not to bring up Pollard and Pollard’s scandalous parole terms. Instead, Netanyahu sufficed with discussing Pollard’s plight at his meeting with Vice President Mike Pence. According to media reports, the two men agreed that Ambassador Ron Dermer will work with the administration on the issue. What that means was left open to interpretation.

Given the devastating role the Pollard affair has played in US-Israel relations, it is understandable that Netanyahu wouldn’t want to bring up Pollard at his first meeting with Trump. Who wants to bring up unpleasant subjects when you’re trying to build a new relationship with a new US president?

But while understandable, Netanyahu’s decision to minimize his discussions of Pollard’s plight and then delegate the issue to his ambassador was the wrong way to build that relationship.

Every day Pollard is subjected to prejudicial treatment by the US justice system is another day that the US is officially persecuting an American Jew, not because he breached his oath to protect US secrets, but because he did so as a Jew.

And as Menendez’s bigotry toward Friedman made clear, every day that this continues is a day when it is acceptable to slander loyal American Jews simply because they passionately support Israel. Every day that Pollard languishes under effective house arrest is another day when it is acceptable to question the good intentions of America’s greatest ally in the Middle East.

In other words, to rebuild its alliance with the US, Israel needs more than a warm embrace at the White House. It needs to receive Pollard at Ben Gurion Airport.

February 21, 2017 | 9 Comments » | 41 views

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9 Comments / 9 Comments

  1. I believe that Jonathan Pollard should have been freed many years ago . I published openly, joining with former secretaries of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger and many others.

    When the Soviet Union fell we employed every former Soviet intelligence agent we could find to thoroughly review then available Soviet intelligence files. We found that the accusation that Israeli intelligence had been penetrated and that Pollard’s information had gone to the Soviet Union was 100% false. We also determined that there was no compromise of US intelligence sources nor of the US intelligence means since the exact equivalents of all of Pollard’s materials had been previously released by US intelligence to Israel.

    The testimony given by the Department of Justice prosecution team in each of the parole hearings was false
    Why was Jonathan kept in jail. Had he been Chinese, Korean, or even Russian he would have been released a lot earlier and maybe would never have faced prosecution.

    The judge in the case was informed that Pollard had agreed to spy for South Africa. The Judge’s back-channel communication with the prosecution was illegal. That Pollard’s legal representation was never given access to the materials is a blot upon the US Department of Justice that can never be erased

    However, much of the blame for Pollard’s lengthily incarceration and harsh conditions falls directly on the US liberal Jewish community. They were so afraid of being identified with Israel they literally threw him under the bus. Except for Kissinger, about every top leader in the free Pollard movement has been Christian.

    I would explain Sen. Menendez so that Caroline Glick may gain a better understanding of the background. The question that he asked was the proverbial “elephant in the room”. J St. and liberal Democrats were whispering this in the background. It had to be confronted directly. Rabbi Rick Jacobs has done more harm to the Jewish people in the United States and Israel than any 10 affirmed anti-Semites that I know. Rabbi Jacobs is opposing Friedman’s appointment. J St. is opposing Friedman appointment. They are the source of much of the disinformation and accusations of dual loyalty that are floating in the backwaters of this confirmation battle.

  2. Menendez was one of two dem senators who bucked Obama on the Iran Deal. Menendez was punished by being railroaded to prison for accepting a donation from a dentist friend and Schumer was made the victim of an anti-semitic witch hunt while the Senate Party leader position was dangled before him, Obama openly hinted about his dual loyalties on television. I saw it, it was disgraceful.

    They learned their lessons. Schumer supports a Muslim Brotherhood stooge for DNC chair and Menendez questions the patriotism of a Jew who supports Israel. I wonder if Menendez was ordered to say that to save his career in much the same way that Communists in the Soviet Union were required to push the party line they had opposed and lost — that’s called “Democratic Centralism.”

    I wonder if anybody has tried to count how many ways the word “democracy” or “democratic” has been distorted in Orwellian fashion. We have the Jewish and Democratic state that discriminates against Jews on behalf of terrorist Arabs. We have the “Peoples Democracies,” we have the “Democratic” party which is anything but.

    The Democrat party enforces a strict anti-semitic party line where it counts and shouts shrill accusations of anti-semitism from the tree-tops where it doesn’t. Ironic, the loyalty with which our people stick with a party that has always stuck it to the Jews.

    In fact, blind unwavering loyalty is our weakness. We were blindly loyal to FDR and Obama. We are so terrified of being accused of dual loyalty like this that that is obviously what happened with the Holocaust statement that left out Jews. Trump delegated it to a Jewish subordinate who was afraid of appearing too loyal to his own people, even in marking the anniversary of the genocide of his people.

    You know, what people never emphasize is that while it’s true that the Nazis murdered others as well, the Nazis not only murdered more Jews than anyone else, and single-mindedly dedicated themselves to that genocide above everything else, even at the cost of the war effort, they also succeeded in murdering 90 to 95 percent of all the Jews in the areas they occupied for any length of time. The Jews of Tunisia and Egypt they had begun to separate out, ghettoize and put in labor camps but they had just begun the process when they were defeated and driven out.

    It’s a pity we don’t have dual loyalty. Like the Arabs. Have you ever noticed that Arab-Americans — so fiercely proud they are, as proud as Puerto Ricans, Irish, or Koreans — have only one issue that unites them?

    Their common hatred of Israel.

    From time to time, Jewish-Americans, in our endless quest to be liked — will offer to join them in that noble goal and, miracle of miracles, be accepted.

    Kumbaya! It’s the lions, Tigers and Hyenas laying down with the lambykins.

  3. After all these years, commuting his sentence to time-served would be appropriate. He has more than paid for his crimes. Make room for Hillary Clinton to serve a similar sentence for selling out to donors from countries that hate the US, not forgetting the classified e-mails made available to who even knows whom, or what countries, at what price?

  4. Pollard’s a hero not a criminal. But for his intelligence, Assad and Saddam Hussein would have gotten nukes. The Reagan administration was really stupid as well as anti-semitic when it came to the Middle East. I don’t know why people say Reagan was pro-Israel.

    I’d like to see somebody write a science fiction novel about what the world might be like today if Pollard hadn’t made his noble sacrifice but just plodded along and kept his mouth shut like a good functionary. (He said that if he had it to do over he would have gone over the heads of his superiors but do you seriously think anyone in that crowd would have listened to him or failed to stick it to him anyway as a whistleblower, even if only internally?)

    Pollard did the right thing. Substance over form. He deserves the Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and not just to be pardoned but he should be completely exonerated.

    I can’t even imagine the numbers of lives he’s saved.

  5. Of interest are the letters from Shultz and Mukasey:

    From M. Mukasy’s letter:
    “Particular weight should be attached to the views of former CIA director James Woolsey and former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dennis DeConcini, who are familiar with the information Pollard disclosed and the circumstances of its disclosure, and who have expressed firmly their belief that his sentence should be commuted. Moreover, the highly unusual submission to the sentencing court of affidavits from Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, seeking a heavier sentence than requested by the prosecutors despite Pollard’s guilty plea and cooperation, as discussed in the submission by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, is deeply disturbing.
    Pollard disclosed the information in question to an ally, and has not been alleged by anyone to have had any motive to harm the United States. In these circumstances, a life sentence can only be considered utterly disproportionate to the crime.”

  6. Most failed to notice the symbolism when the Trumps hosted the Netanyahus. FLOTUS Melania wore custom couture, by Chanel’s Lagerfeld, exclusive & most likely for the Inauguration, but she wore it for the Netanyahus:

    “…FLOTUS wore a outfit designed exclusively for her by Karl Lagerfeld – a white cashmere pencil skirt and jacket. The designer was believed to have been in the mix when Trump was planning her Inaugural Weekend wardrobe. In addition to his own designer label, Lagerfeld is head designer and creative director at Chanel as well as Fendi. …”

    fwiw, Women’s Wear Daily has the ONLY NOT-biased coverage of Melania.

    In 2011, Karl Lagerfeld smacked-down Galliano for anti-Semitism. http://nypost.com/2011/03/03/chanel-designer-lagerfeld-furious-over-galliano-behavior/

    Also, Glick does not know everything that was discussed, including the private dinner with the Rubios on Feb 15, before Friedman’s confirmation hearing. See my comment about that, especially that every U.S. Senator has a planned role in every confirmation hearing I have ever seen.

    Menendez WAS outrageous, especially the dripping with condescension tone. Was it his assigned role? Someone else can watch it and decide.

    Seems to me that Netanyahu asking for USA recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights was a better priority than the unfortunate Mr. Pollard.

    Everyone wants Trump to do everything immediately. Good thing he knows how to prioritize.

  7. How is it possible in today’s politically correct USA that Sen. Menendez can raise, without any objection among his colleagues or public in attendance, the issue of Friedman’s religious views as a legitimate national security concern? If Friedman was a practicing Muslim, would the panel have overlooked such a question? I doubt it!

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