Jonathan Pollard and Spying on Friends

It’s a tenet of Jewish law that Jews unjustly incarcerated must be released. Jewish communities throughout the ages have paid ransoms, sometimes when Jews were kidnapped by antisemitic despots specifically to milk money from the Jews.

There are Jews in prison in America for all kinds of reasons: murder, robbery, white collar crimes, passing bad checks, meth and drug use. Even espionage.

From all accounts, Pollard was a lousy, self-motivated spy who was an unprofessional bull in the intelligence china shop. His puppy-like eagerness to help Israel damaged Israel’s professional intelligence-gathering capabilities in the United States and burned the careers of Israeli intelligence handlers who might otherwise continue their critical job of keeping Israel one step ahead of its enemies.

The fact is that Pollard, a United States citizen, who was given the trust of the American intelligence establishment, violated that trust. Saying that his moral higher calling was to violate that trust and pass information on to the Israelis (whether or not the Israeli government sanctioned that action) does not remove his culpability for his crime.

Pollard’s spying is different from a lot of other intelligence gathering methods. The mole, when properly handled, provides great raw and processed intelligence data for the country on behalf of which he or she is spying. But moles, once discovered, have no cover. The country they work for might try to extract them, but they are clearly guilty of the crimes they committed. In America, where justice at least approximates fairness, he was found guilty. Do the crime, do the time. Pollard must serve out his sentence. And Israel, while it should continue to ask for his release, should also understand that it’s a pro-forma request: he should not be released for betraying the country to which he swore allegience.

I don’t agree with the American position, where Israel is not given all the information it needs to protect itself. But America is its own soverign nation, and I, as both an Israeli and American citizen, understand that. It’s jejune to think that Pollard could not understand that he was on his own if he was found out. And absurd to think that Israeli, and especially American Jews, cannot understand this basic fact of life in a civilized and law-abiding country.

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