Here’s why Hamas and Israel may be secretly negotiating


After more than a decade of failed diplomacy, Israel could be close to signing a major agreement with the Palestinians.

They’re just not the Palestinians you thought.

After years of vowing not to negotiate with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, Israel may be finalizing a deal with the terrorist group that reportedly would lift Israel’s blockade of Gaza in exchange for a cessation of Hamas rocket attacks and tunneling into Israel for at least eight years.

Israeli officials have flatly denied the reports. On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying that its policy of non-negotiation with Hamas had not changed.

“Israel would like to officially clarify that it is not holding any meetings with Hamas, neither directly, nor via other countries, nor via intermediaries,” the statement said.

But there may be some truth to the reports, which have appeared in the Arabic-language press and have received considerable attention in the Israeli media. A senior official in Turkey, an ally of Hamas, told the Hamas daily al-Resalah that an agreement was near, the Times of Israel reported. The official, Yasin Aktay, is an adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and said Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal came to Turkey to brief the Turkish leadership about the agreement.

After three wars in the past six years, Israel and Hamas may have a mutual interest in securing a longer-term truce that will stave off another round of fighting. Hamas would be able to rebuild Gaza — and perhaps restock its arsenal — while the Israelis would get a reprieve from Hamas rockets that is longer than two years.

“It seems to me that Hamas absorbed some [Israeli military] operations, and they’re interested in getting to an arrangement that will allow them to live in Gaza in quiet,” said Ephraim Inbar, the director of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “Israel is also interested in a long-term cease-fire.”

Arabic news sources reported that the agreement could include the construction of a port in the Gaza Strip. Ships en route to Gaza would pass through a port in Cyprus, where they would be examined by either Turkish or NATO authorities. The agreement also would include permits for thousands of Gazan day laborers to work in Israel, and in exchange Hamas would commit to ceasing all rocket attacks and tunneling into Israel, according to the Times of Israel.

The deal reportedly has been approved by the Shura Council, Hamas’ legislative body. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is said to be mediating between the sides.

Gershon Baskin, who helped negotiate the 2011 Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange that freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, said he was inclined to believe Netanyahu’s denials and doubted that an agreement was close. Israel has no incentive to sign an agreement that would strengthen Hamas while weakening Palestinian moderates in the West Bank who oppose Hamas, Baskin said.

“It’s insane for Israel to even think about entering into that kind of agreement,” Baskin said. “It’s a victory for Hamas, and the question is: You’re giving Hamas a victory as Hamas continues to build its soldiers and its army. For what? It’s not a plan to demilitarize Gaza.”

If negotiations are taking place, it would be a major reversal for a government that previously considered Israel-Hamas talks anathema — at least officially. Last year, Israel called off peace talks with the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority when the Fatah faction and Hamas signed a unity pact.

“Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel,” Netanyahu said at the time, using P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas’ nom de guerre. “Whoever chooses the terrorism of Hamas does not want peace.”

Israel, however, has negotiated with Hamas indirectly in the past. Mediated talks in 2012 and 2014 ended Israeli military operations in Gaza. At the end of August 2014, an Egyptian-mediated pact ended a Gaza conflict that saw more than 2,000 Palestinians and 70 Israelis killed. The cease-fire also called for restarting indirect talks on easing the blockade of Gaza and disarming the territory.

An Israel-Hamas agreement may be especially opportune now as Israel aims to strengthen ties with neighboring countries that share its fears about the Iran nuclear agreement. Saudi Arabia reportedly wants to create a broad, Sunni-based alliance that includes Hamas to counter Iran’s regional ambitions. Hamas, however, has received funding and weaponry from Iran.

For Israel, another positive side effect of an accord could be improved relations with Turkey, which supports Hamas. Relations between Turkey and Israel deteriorated in 2010 after nine Turks were killed when Israeli soldiers stormed a Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara, trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

Since then, Turkey and Israel have negotiated over Israeli compensation for the victims. An Israeli pact with Hamas could make Turkey more amenable to an agreement of its own with Israel. But on Monday, a statement from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said, “As for relations with Turkey, agreement is still far off.”

Even if an Israel-Hamas accord does strengthen Israel’s regional position, it could harm Israel’s relationship with the Palestinian Authority, signaling to moderate Palestinians that violence pays, Baskin said.

“It destroys the Palestinian Authority, it destroys Palestinian moderates,” he said. “It gives the Palestinians the message that you only get concessions from Israel through violence or force.”

Israeli lawmakers press for answers on dead Australian ‘Prisoner X’


Knesset members pressed Israel's justice minister for answers on “Prisoner X,” who was identified in an Australian TV report as an Australian-born Israeli who worked for the Mossad and died in an Israeli prison.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday that the man referred to in Israel as Prisoner X was jailed in early 2010 and apparently committed suicide two years ago in the high-security Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv. The report identified him as Ben Zygier, who was known in Israel as Ben Alon. Israel has not confirmed the identification.

A gag order that is still in effect on Israeli media was issued in the incident in late June 2010, according to the network's investigative news program “Foreign Correspondent,” which said the order barred any mention of Prisoner X or of the gag order itself. In December 2010, the Hebrew-language Ynet newsite reported on the existence of the prisoner in a short article that was later removed.

Following the broadcast Tuesday, Israeli news editors were called to the Prime Minister's Office for an emergency meeting of the Israeli Editors Committee, an informal forum comprised of the editors and owners of major Israeli media outlets that dates back to David Ben-Gurion. Shortly after the meeting, news items reporting on the Australian report — a bid to avoid the gag order — were removed from Israeli news sites, according to Haaretz.

“Today we hear that in a country that presumes to be a democracy, journalists are cooperating with the government without the knowledge of the High Court, and that anonymous prisoners are committing suicide and no one knows who they are,” Meretz party chairwoman Zahava Gal-On asked Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman during a Tuesday Knesset session. “How does that comply with democracy and the rule of the law?”

United Arab List-Ta'al lawmaker Ahmad Tibi asked Ne'eman, “Do you have any information, sir, pertaining to this incident? Can you confirm the fact that an Australian citizen has committed suicide in prison under a false identity?”  

“I cannot answer these questions,” Ne'eman responded, “because the matter does not fall under the authority of the justice minister. But there is no doubt that if true, the matter must be looked into.”

“Foreign Correspondent” reported that Zygier was 34 at the time of his death and had moved to Israel about 10 years earlier. He was married to an Israeli woman and had two small children.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s website, Zygier was found hanged in a cell with state-of-the-art surveillance systems that are installed to prevent suicide. Guards reportedly tried unsuccessfully to revive him. His body was retrieved and flown to Melbourne, where he was buried.

The network said it “understands that he was recruited by the spy agency Mossad.”

Zygier's family declined to speak to the news program, which reported that friends and acquaintances approached by “Foreign Correspondent” also refused to comment.

Briefs: Holocaust denial resolution goes to U.N.; Swiss admit Israel-Syria mediation; Survivors owed


Holocaust Denial Resolution Goes to U.N.

The United States presented a resolution condemning Holocaust denial to the United Nations General Assembly. The text, introduced Tuesday in advance of the U.N.-designated International Day of Commemoration for victims of the Holocaust on Jan. 27, urges member states “to reject any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event” and “condemns without reservation any denial of the Holocaust.” Although it does not mention Iran, the measure is seen as a reaction to last month’s Holocaust denial conference hosted by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a reaction to, but certainly the conference in question only reminds us that there are those among us who actually minimize or deny the Holocaust, and we find that frightening,” said Richard Grenell, the U.S. mission’s spokesman. “And this resolution makes clear it’s unacceptable to even minimize it.”

The resolution, which has some 25 sponsors, is expected to go to a vote Friday.

Pole Wins Jerusalem Prize

This year’s Jerusalem Prize will go to Leszek Kolakowski in recognition of his critiques of the repressive aspects of Soviet communism and his championing of human liberty. The prestigious literary prize will be presented at next month’s Jerusalem International Book Fair.

Born in 1927, Kolakowski earned a doctorate from Warsaw University and went on to serve on the faculties of Harvard, Oxford and the University of Chicago before retiring in 1995. Past recipients of the prize include Bertrand Russell, Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, Mario Vargas Llosa, Milan Kundera and Simone de Beauvoir. Some of the recipients went on to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, including V.S. Naipaul and J.M. Coetzee.

Swiss Admit Israel-Syria Mediation

Switzerland confirmed that it had been mediating secret efforts to launch Israeli-Syrian peace talks. Swiss President and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said Monday that top emissaries from her government were currently in Damascus. She refused to elaborate, but the disclosure appeared to confirm a Ha’aretz report earlier this month that a European country had mediated two years of unofficial talks between a retired Israeli diplomat and a Syrian American businessman about how the two countries could resume peace talks that were cut off in 2000. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismissed the contacts as unauthorized, while the Syrian government called the Ha’aretz report baseless.

Survivors Owed Billions, Study Says

Holocaust survivors are still owed as much as $175 billion in reparations, according to a new study. The Jewish Political Studies Review in Jerusalem said European nations had promised $3.4 billion in reparations, but only half of that had been paid by 2005. Only about 20 percent of Jewish assets have been returned overall, according to the study, which was made public last Friday by Reuters. The study said payments slowed after the United States stopped pressuring Europe on restitution. Holocaust survivors, many of them poor, are frustrated with the lack of payments. “Things are moving much too slowly,” said Menachem Rosensaft, founder of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. The Claims Conference said it would not comment on the report.

Katsav to Face Rape Charges

Israel’s attorney general decided that President Moshe Katzav should be charged with rape. Menachem Mazuz’s office issued a statement Tuesday saying it had collected enough evidence to support charging Katsav with rape and sexual harassment of former employees, obstruction of justice and fraud. A final decision on whether to indict Katsav will be made after a hearing in which the president may present his case. The president has immunity while in office, but said last month that he would resign if indicted. Katsav has denied any wrongdoing.

JDub, Matisyahu End Legal Troubles

In a release issued Tuesday, nonprofit Jewish record label and management team JDub announced it has resolved all legal disputes with Matisyahu, although its business relationship with the artist remains severed. In a surprise move last March, the Chasidic reggae star abruptly ended his management agreement with JDub’s Aaron Bisman and Jacob Harrison on the eve of the release of his first major studio album, “Youth.” JDub claimed their agreement with the artist had three years remaining on a four-year contract when Matisyahu moved to representation by former Capitol Records president Gary Gersh.

— Staff Report

Rap Mogul Addresses Jewish Congress

Rap mogul Russell Simmons called on Jewish entertainers to fight racism. In a speech Monday to the World Jewish Congress titled “Unity: Fighting Our Fights Together,” Simmons spoke about his public service announcements against racism and anti-Semitism that will be aired in Europe later this month. The ads, produced by Simmons, co-leader of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, feature Simmons and rapper Jay-Z encouraging young people to fight racism and anti-Semitism in their communities. Simmons called on the Beastie Boys and other Jewish entertainers to create another public service announcement with him, this one focusing on Islamophobia.

Saddam Chroniclers Look to Yad Vashem

Iraqis documenting Saddam Hussein’s crimes have been consulting with Yad Vashem. Yediot Achronot reported Tuesday that a group of Iraqi exiles that want to honor the late dictator’s victims visited the Jerusalem-based Holocaust memorial last year and also met with Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, who has documented the stories of Holocaust survivors. “It is difficult for me to make a comparison between the story of the Iraqi victims and the Holocaust of the Jews in Europe,” Kanan Makiya, one of the researchers, told Yediot. “Yet there are many basic similarities. Saddam behaved toward some parts of his people as Hitler did toward the Jews. Both cases are tragedies and there were innocent victims in both cases.”

Shipwreck Found Off Israel’s Coast

An eighth-century shipwreck was discovered off Israel’s northern coast. Though the 50-foot-long boat was discovered almost a decade ago, Haifa University’s Institute for Maritime Studies announced the find Tuesday after completing its research into the vessel.

“We do not have any other historical or archaeological evidence of the economic activity and commerce of this period,” said the university’s Ya’acov Kahanov. “The shipwreck will serve as a source of information about the social and economic activities in this area.”

In addition to the wooden hull, many of the boat’s contents were preserved. Among them are 30 vessels of pottery of different sizes and designs containing fish bones, ropes, mats, a bone needle, a wooden spoon, wood carvings and food remains, mainly carobs and olives.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Hidden Heritage Inspires Director


British film director Stephen Frears was drawn to "Liam," about the making of an anti-Semite, partly because of a startling family secret he discovered in his late 20s.

His brother blurted out the news during his grandmother’s 90th birthday party, not long after Frears had married a Jewish woman. "He said how pleased our grandmother was that I had married a Jewish girl — and that our mother was Jewish," recalls Frears, 60, the director of "The Grifters" and "High Fidelity." "Of course I was surprised that something like this had been concealed from me for so long."

The revelation came out of left field. Frears and his mum had regularly attended Church of England services in his gritty hometown of Leicester, where, he recalls, "there was simply no evidence that Jews existed." Frears didn’t meet his first identifiable Jew until he was 13 and off at boarding school. "We called him ‘Ikey,’ which is what they used to call Jews in the East End, in an unthinking, schoolboy way," he says by phone from his home in the Notting Hill section of London.

Frears’ mother never revealed why she chose to conceal her background, but the director has his theories. Perhaps it was to rebel against her parents, he suggests; perhaps it was to conceal her German maiden name, Danziger, during World War II; perhaps it was to circumvent the covert anti-Semitism prevalent in Britain after the war. "People are very open about Jewishness in America, but in England, there’s a great deal of silence about it," he explains. "People just eliminate what they don’t like."

The anti-Semitism depicted in "Liam," now in theaters, is of a more strident nature. The setting is a rigidly Catholic neighborhood in 1930s Liverpool, where 7-year-old Liam (Anthony Borrows) prepares for his first Communion as his father becomes increasingly resentful toward the Jews.

The trouble starts when Dad is laid off by his Jewish employer, forcing Liam’s teenage sister to go to work as a servant for a Jewish adulteress (she’s bribed to keep silent about the affair). A Jewish pawnbroker and moneylender continually gouge the family. Eventually Dad becomes a fascist.

Frears admits some of his Jewish characters are less than flattering — but that is the point, he insists. "This is the story of a man who ends up as a Black Shirt, so of course his point of view is going to be hideously stereotyped," he says.

Liam’s impoverished childhood reminds Frears of his own early years during World War II. "I remember a lack of food," says the director, who is the son of a physician. "Most of the rooms in our house were closed because we couldn’t afford to heat them, so I basically sat with my mother in the kitchen for five or six years. I used to have baths in front of the fire, like a working-class child."

Even when his family’s lifestyle improved, Frears found Leicester to be "dull and oppressive." He escaped by retreating to the cinema twice a week.

In his 20s, the Cambridge law grad went to work for director Karel Reisz — known for "slice of life" films about the working class — and eventually churned out his own British TV movies about the working poor. His BBC film "My Beautiful Laundrette," about the relationship between a Cockney punk and a Pakistani immigrant, earned him international acclaim in 1985. Three years later, he came to Hollywood to make his first American film, "Dangerous Liaisons," starring Glenn Close and John Malkovich as French aristocrats bent on games of sexual revenge.

Frears made an interesting discovery while shooting subsequent U.S. films such as "Hero," starring Dustin Hoffman. "I found that the film industry here is dominated by Jews, and that America has a completed different attitude toward Jews than Britain," he says. "It was all much more public and upfront and talked about and part of life. So, as it were, the British silence had ended."

Yet, Frears never bothered to set foot in a synagogue or read up on Judaism. One reason, he hints, is a cruel irony that devastated him around the time he learned he was Jewish. His now 29-year-old son was born with a genetic illness, familial dysautonomia, that is carried by one in 30 Ashkenazi Jews. "His life has been dominated by this illness," Frears says. "I may not have known I was Jewish, but I carried the gene."

"Liam," based on Jimmy McGovern’s autobiographical screenplay, is one of the few times Frears has actively sought out anything to do with his heritage. "I was very aware that this was the first time I was making a film that dealt with the Jewish experience and people," he says. "I guess I was curious. I was sticking a toe into the water."

Pollard Again


It must be close to 10 years ago that I met with Dr. Morris Pollard to talk about his son, Jonathan, then serving the life sentence he had been given in 1986 for stealing government secrets and passing them along to Israel. I was a reluctant breakfast companion; I held little sympathy for Jonathan Pollard. He had been a spy, had been caught, had been sentenced. What did he expect? Some reprieve because he was Jewish, because Israel was an ally?

Dr. Pollard, a stranger to me, was another story altogether. He was an eminent scientist, probably in his late 60s, a professor emeritus at Notre Dame with an international reputation. He had been raised as a farm boy in rural Wisconsin, discovered science his first year in college, and, in what seemed like the wink of a star, discovered his life had changed overnight. His wife had raised their son and daughter and he had lost himself in microbiology. Knew and read little else. What a sweet man, I thought.

He needed help, in the form of advice, on how to proceed politically. He wanted to mobilize public opinion in the Jewish community and, eventually, in Congress, to gain some leniency for his son. It was apparent that he was putting the familiar world of science behind him and launching into wholly new terrain. But it was as if he had no other choice. He was a grieving father, a man in great and continuous pain. If not the father, who else would save his son?

I wanted to reach out and just touch Dr. Pollard’s shoulder. And so I found myself, my view of Jonathan Pollard and his crime unchanged, offering a number of tactical suggestions to his father, who I knew was going to travel this road no matter how hopeless it seemed.

Who would have guessed that that sad lonely journey of Dr. Morris Pollard would have helped bring matters this far? To a point where the Pollard case has become a “hot item” in the Israeli campaign for prime minister, with Binyamin Netanyahu championing release? Or who would have thought that the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, a loose confederation of 55 leading Jewish groups, would in 1998 come out against the terms of Pollard’s sentencing, on grounds that Israel was an ally and the punishment was far in excess of what other spies had suffered. Or — astonishing to me — that the Orthodox Union and the Reform Union of American Hebrew Congregations would finally unite on a single issue: namely, an end to Jonathan Pollard’s imprisonment?

My surprise, I suppose, stems from the recollection of just how many American Jews were affronted by Pollard’s act of betrayal: his passing on to an Israeli handler U.S. code-breaking and communication intercept procedures, and his throwing into jeopardy U.S. spy networks. Israel was an ally, to be sure, but no more so than our NATO allies. And while our interests in many cases dovetailed or were compatible with those of our allies, in the long run, they had to be viewed as separate.

Thus, Jonathan Pollard’s spying for Israel raised the issue of dual loyalty for all Jews. Those who worked in sensitive government areas suddenly found themselves examined more carefully, or frozen in place. Ironically, some would have preferred if he had sold the secrets to the Soviet Union because he was a communist, or to the French because he wanted the money. Then he would just be a spy who happened to be Jewish.

In the past few years, public opinion within the Jewish community has begun to shift. The feeling seems to be that Pollard negotiated a plea bargain only to have the government (and particularly former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger) subvert the agreement and push for life imprisonment. Slowly, Jewish organizational heads have altered their rejection of any reprise for Pollard. Time, changes in perspective, and other subsequent spy cases all played a role: The sentencing now is deemed too severe, even unjust; he paid for his crime, release him and let Pollard, now 44, live in Israel, is a prevailing sentiment. It is by no means unanimous, but clearly has the support of many community leaders, and has even filtered into Israel. Hence the sudden introduction of Pollard’s release by Netanyahu at the Wye meetings last October.

Now, in a surprise loop, along comes The New Yorker magazine and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh to throw a spanner in the works. Hersh’s article in the Jan. 18 issue is entitled “The Traitor,” and in it, he presents the case against Jonathan Pollard. The classified information Pollard sold caused untold damage to the U.S., he asserts. The Israelis traded some of it to the Soviet Union in exchange for letting Russian Jews emigrate to Israel.

Moreover, U.S. agents were compromised. And money, not idealism, had been at the core of his behavior. Indeed, according to Hersh, Jonathan Pollard was an insecure, storytelling braggart, who was a cocaine abuser, deep in debt. The portrait is not sympathetic. And it is clear that Hersh’s sources, in the Justice and Defense departments, from CIA and other intelligence organizations, are alarmed that President Clinton may indeed review the evidence and grant clemency. Undoubtedly, similar leaks to Sens. Bob Kerrey (D- Neb.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have convinced these influentials that Pollard should remain in prison.

Now liberal anti-establishment reporter Seymour Hersh — he gained renown 30 years ago, infuriating military hawks by breaking the My Lai story, recounting how a platoon of American soldiers slaughtered innocent villagers in Vietnam — finds himself suddenly allied with conservative hard liners who reside at the center of America’s foreign policy. Politics makes strange bedfellows, to coin a phrase.

Many in the Jewish community have begun to protest Hersh’s allegations. They point to suppositions in the article, to leaks from unnamed sources, to Hersh’s earlier errors in his 1997 book “The Dark Side of Camelot.” In an effort to expose the Kennedys, Hersh had in that book exposed JFK’s sexual exploitation of Marilyn Monroe. The problem was that the material he had rushed to buy was a forgery. This is simply more of the same, goes the argument against Hersh. Personal aggrandizement at the expense of truth. Exposé for its own sake.

Still, if Hersh’s name is tarnished, and the charges read more like innuendo than hard facts, there is the reputation to contend with of The New Yorker and its editor, David Remnick. Fairly solid, it should be said. Perhaps what is required is for skeptical, hard-nosed Jewish leaders to follow Seymour Hersh’s trail, to walk back the cat as it were, and talk with those in the intelligence community opposed to Pollard’s release. I think the phrase is “to talk tachlis.” I would suggest that they include Dr. Morris Pollard. He is not disinterested, but he certainly deserves to be present at the denouement. — Gene Lichtenstein

Community


Imagine that it is 1940, and Great Britain is fighting Hitler’s Nazi Germany almost alone. Imagine, further, that an American who loves both America and England and hates the Nazis works in American intelligence and has access to secret files concerning Germany that, for whatever reason, the United States has not shared with Great Britain. This American gives the secrets to England and is caught.

This spy has, of course, violated both American law and the trust that its intelligence agencies had placed in him. Now, the question is what should be done to him? Specifically, should we regard him morally or legally as the same as an American who spied for Germany?

The answer is so obvious that only in a morally confused age such as ours would the question even be entertained. Yet this is precisely the question to be asked with regard to Jonathan Pollard, the American who spied for Israel.

Let us review the parallels to the imaginary situation outlined earlier. Israel has been at perpetual war for its survival (a threat England never faced against Germany, which wanted to vanquish, not end, its existence). An American who loved both America and Israel used his access to American intelligence on those Arab regimes and passed it on to Israel. He spied on behalf of America’s most loyal allies, not on behalf of any of America’s enemies, and he gave away secrets about Arab regimes devoted to Israel’s destruction not, to the best of our knowledge, about America. And, unlike spies whose espionage cost the lives of American and pro-American foreign agents, we know of no American and pro-American foreigner who lost his life because of Pollard.

Yet Jonathan Pollard was given a life sentence in prison — more punishment than some Americans who have spied on behalf of America’s enemies, and certainly more punishment than nearly all the murderers in America; and he has now languished in prison, often in solitary confinement, for 12 years.

The argument that Pollard was a spy, and that is all that matters, may be legally valid, but it is not morally valid. The argument that “spying is spying” is no more moral than “killing is killing.” Circumstances always determine the morality of an act. Just as most of us distinguish morally between terrorists killing innocents and anti-terrorists killing terrorists, most of us morally distinguish between spying on a democratic ally, especially one fighting for its existence, and spying for an anti-democratic enemy such as the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the United States spies on Israel and probably on most of its other allies. Last year, for example, Germany expelled an American for spying on Germany.

None of this is meant to defend what Jonathan Pollard did. Unless he actually saved Israel from something as awful as an Iraqi biological or nuclear attack, what he did is unjustifiable. As Rabbi Irving Greenberg recently wrote, “Pollard’s good intentions paved the way to political hell.” I am writing only to morally evaluate what he did in light of the suffering he has endured, and to compare his punishments with those given to other American spies and to violent criminals.

He is largely a broken man who suffers alone and who, for reasons that are not our business but that compel our compassion, has also suffered family crises. His continued suffering serves no good purpose. Again, as Rabbi Greenberg, one of the most credible voices in American Jewry and someone who, in his own words, “was not one of those who expressed sympathy for him when the case first broke,” wrote: “I have come to the conclusion that enough is enough…. It is time to extend mercy to Jonathan Pollard…. [There has been a] relentless parade of parallel cases in which far more damaging and dangerous spies received milder sentences.”

We quickly learn of the damage done to America by those who have spied on behalf of America’s enemies, and no damage has been revealed in Jonathan Pollard’s case. It makes one wonder why former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger so vociferously sought to keep Pollard in prison. Two reasons suggest themselves. One is that, for whatever reason, Weinberger has a particular loathing for Pollard; the other is that he may fear that if Pollard is released, Pollard will reveal how much sensitive data about Israel’s enemies the Weinberger Defense Department kept from Israel. I have no proof for either claim — I hope they are untrue. But neither Weinberger nor anyone else, including the entire American media, has offered any data that argue for the treatment Pollard has received.

Enough is enough. As I watch America release thousands of murderers and child molesters after a few years in prison, and give a spy for Saudi Arabia no prison term at all, I get progressively more disturbed as to why Jonathan Pollard is still in prison.

To contact Justice for Jonathan Pollard, call (416) 781-3571; fax (416) 781-3166; or e-mail pollard@cpol.com. The web site is http://www.interlog.com/

Opinon


Imagine that it is 1940, and Great Britain is fighting Hitler’s Nazi Germany almost alone. Imagine, further, that an American who loves both America and England and hates the Nazis works in American intelligence and has access to secret files concerning Germany that, for whatever reason, the United States has not shared with Great Britain. This American gives the secrets to England and is caught.

This spy has, of course, violated both American law and the trust that its intelligence agencies had placed in him. Now, the question is what should be done to him? Specifically, should we regard him morally or legally as the same as an American who spied for Germany?

The answer is so obvious that only in a morally confused age such as ours would the question even be entertained. Yet this is precisely the question to be asked with regard to Jonathan Pollard, the American who spied for Israel.

Let us review the parallels to the imaginary situation outlined earlier. Israel has been at perpetual war for its survival (a threat England never faced against Germany, which wanted to vanquish, not end, its existence). An American who loved both America and Israel used his access to American intelligence on those Arab regimes and passed it on to Israel. He spied on behalf of America’s most loyal allies, not on behalf of any of America’s enemies, and he gave away secrets about Arab regimes devoted to Israel’s destruction not, to the best of our knowledge, about America. And, unlike spies whose espionage cost the lives of American and pro-American foreign agents, we know of no American and pro-American foreigner who lost his life because of Pollard.

Yet Jonathan Pollard was given a life sentence in prison — more punishment than some Americans who have spied on behalf of America’s enemies, and certainly more punishment than nearly all the murderers in America; and he has now languished in prison, often in solitary confinement, for 12 years.

The argument that Pollard was a spy, and that is all that matters, may be legally valid, but it is not morally valid. The argument that “spying is spying” is no more moral than “killing is killing.” Circumstances always determine the morality of an act. Just as most of us distinguish morally between terrorists killing innocents and anti-terrorists killing terrorists, most of us morally distinguish between spying on a democratic ally, especially one fighting for its existence, and spying for an anti-democratic enemy such as the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the United States spies on Israel and probably on most of its other allies. Last year, for example, Germany expelled an American for spying on Germany.

None of this is meant to defend what Jonathan Pollard did. Unless he actually saved Israel from something as awful as an Iraqi biological or nuclear attack, what he did is unjustifiable. As Rabbi Irving Greenberg recently wrote, “Pollard’s good intentions paved the way to political hell.” I am writing only to morally evaluate what he did in light of the suffering he has endured, and to compare his punishments with those given to other American spies and to violent criminals.

He is largely a broken man who suffers alone and who, for reasons that are not our business but that compel our compassion, has also suffered family crises. His continued suffering serves no good purpose. Again, as Rabbi Greenberg, one of the most credible voices in American Jewry and someone who, in his own words, “was not one of those who expressed sympathy for him when the case first broke,” wrote: “I have come to the conclusion that enough is enough…. It is time to extend mercy to Jonathan Pollard…. [There has been a] relentless parade of parallel cases in which far more damaging and dangerous spies received milder sentences.”

We quickly learn of the damage done to America by those who have spied on behalf of America’s enemies, and no damage has been revealed in Jonathan Pollard’s case. It makes one wonder why former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger so vociferously sought to keep Pollard in prison. Two reasons suggest themselves. One is that, for whatever reason, Weinberger has a particular loathing for Pollard; the other is that he may fear that if Pollard is released, Pollard will reveal how much sensitive data about Israel’s enemies the Weinberger Defense Department kept from Israel. I have no proof for either claim — I hope they are untrue. But neither Weinberger nor anyone else, including the entire American media, has offered any data that argue for the treatment Pollard has received.

Enough is enough. As I watch America release thousands of murderers and child molesters after a few years in prison, and give a spy for Saudi Arabia no prison term at all, I get progressively more disturbed as to why Jonathan Pollard is still in prison.

To contact Justice for Jonathan Pollard, call (416) 781-3571; fax (416) 781-3166; or e-mail pollard@cpol.com. The web site is http://www.interlog.com/