In response to:
The Secret Agent from the October 26, 1989 issue
To the Editors:
Please allow me to respond to Robert I. Friedman’s review of my book on the Pollard spy case, Territory of Lies, in your October 26 issue.
Friedman wrote that I am “an Israeli citizen.” I am not. I am an American citizen only. I do not have dual US–Israeli citizenship.
Friedman wrote that I did not refer to any of Pollard’s letters from prison in which he attacked Israel for betraying him, parts of the American Jewish community for condemning him, and the Reagan and Bush administrations for being anti-Israel. I did not have to refer to his letters to make those points since Pollard, during his face-to-face prison interviews with me, made those exact points directly, and I quoted those passages at great length.
I was especially surprised by some of Friedman’s other criticisms since they indicated to me that he had not read my book very carefully.
“Blitzer never offers an opinion of Pollard nor does he try to make sense of Pollard’s complicated personality.”
Yet throughout the book, I did exactly that, beginning in the introduction (“Pollard impressed me as a son of the American Jewish community run amok,” p. xix), continuing through lengthy chapters on his childhood and college experiences, and winding up on the very last page when I noted that Pollard’s “original motivation was to help Israel. His primary loyalty was to that country. He saw information he felt Israel needed, and he decided to make it available—that was a horrible and tragic mistake…. Pollard should have quit his job and moved to Israel the moment he was tempted to become a spy. But he almost certainly was also intrigued by the excitement of becoming a spy—something he had indeed fantasized about for many years.”
“Blitzer never asks to what extent Pollard’s kind of Zionism is an aberration among Jews.”
But beginning on p. 281 and continuing through p. 291, I quoted a variety of American Jewish leaders on that very point.
“Blitzer plays down the damage caused by Pollard.”
But on p. 308, I wrote: “None of the information that Pollard provided—not one page—was authorized for Israel in its unredacted form. Many of those pages could (and probably should) have been released with certain sections censored—as is done when classified documents are made available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act…. Some of the information that Pollard provided Israel—especially in the area of highly-sensitive communications intelligence—was so sensitive that it would not be authorized for release to Israel or to any other country under any circumstances whatsoever.”
Finally, I never wrote that “everything” that Pollard stole related directly to Israel’s security, as Friedman maintained. I reported on his taking US documents about China home to his wife to help prepare her for a public relations contract she hoped to win from the Chinese Embassy in Washington. I reported on his providing classified documents to other personal friends in order to impress them. And despite Friedman’s contention, I did indeed cite the S government documents showing that some of the material Pollard provided the Israelis dealt with U.S force deployments and ship movements outside the Middle East (p. 260).
Finally, Friedman wrote that I never examined why Israel “contravened its own policy and risked using an American Jew to spy on the US” and that I never put the Pollard case “into a comparative perspective.” On these points, I can only disagree strongly by insisting that the entire book deals directly with those very questions. So far, more than 100 other book reviewers in the United States, Israel, Canada, Britain, and elsewhere have agreed with me.
Washington Bureau Chief
The Jerusalem Post
Robert I Friedman replies:
Senior Israeli Defense Department officials are understandably pleased with Blitzer’s book about Pollard. First, Blitzer serves up the fiction that Israel’s running of Pollard in America was the exception, not the rule. Second, Blitzer covers for senior Israeli officials who approved the Pollard mission by making a scapegoat of Rafi Eytan, who he suggests was largely responsible for the “rogue operation.” Blitzer misrepresents my views in a number of ways. I did not criticize him for failing to refer to Pollard’s prison letters. However, Pollard’s prison letters to friends and family members are far more revealing than the two self-serving and manipulative interviews he accorded Blitzer. Nowhere in his book does Blitzer reveal Pollard’s affinity for the right-wing extremist views of Gush Emunim and Greater Israel, though those ideas are expressed in great detail in his letters.
I’m not the only reviewer who has commented on Blitzer’s lack of analytical perspective. “I wish Blitzer had spent more time interpreting some of Pollard’s views,” wrote Steven Luxenberg, the deputy editor of the investigative staff of The Washington Post in his review of Blitzer’s book. “He says that he was reluctant to introduce his own opinions into the narrative; he also seems reluctant to include much analysis until the epilogue….”
In the final analysis Blitzer fails to make sense of the bizarre and contradictory aspects of Pollard’s life, diluting to blandness whatever superficial comments he does offer about the spy. While it’s true that Blitzer quotes a number of Jewish establishment figures about the extent to which Pollard’s kind of Zionism is an aberration among Jews, Blitzer himself neatly sidesteps the issue—once again declining to express a clear view.
Blitzer plays down the damage caused by Pollard, although he says he has not read the full unedited version of Weinberger’s classified damage assessment, and although Israeli intelligence sources told him than at a minimum the take from the operation was “breathtaking.” Nothing Blitzer has to say refutes this.
Finally, I never accused Blitzer of writing that everything Pollard stole related directly to Israeli security. I even pointed out that Pollard stole information to impress friends and to help his wife win a PR contract. I would add that this fact contradicts another of Blitzer’s themes that Pollard was motivated by love of Israel and not, as the US government contended, by greed. What I did write was that Blitzer claims that everything Israel “tasked” Pollard to steal was needed for the security of the Jewish State. But according to court documents and interviews with US government sources, Pollard stole a great quantity of information, such as US ship movements in the Mediterranean and top secret US code books that had nothing to do with legitimate Israeli security needs. Apparently Blitzer, like Pollard and his handlers, believes that everything available in the CIA computer banks is of utmost importance to Israel’s security.
I apologize for bestowing Israeli citizenship on Mr. Blitzer. Before, moving to The Jerusalem Post he worked for AIPAC where he wrote for their propaganda sheet, The Near East Report. Currently, he travels the American TV talk show circuit as the “voice of Israel.” Territory of Lies is a slick piece of damage control that would make his former employers at AIPAC (not to mention Israel’s Defense Ministry) proud.