Growing up in South Bend, Indiana, where his father is a professor of microbiology at Notre Dame, Jonathan Pollard was raised to believe that the state of Israel was the most important country in the world. “Israel was with me every waking moment since I can remember,” Pollard has said. “The first flag I remember was the Israeli flag. It was the first flag I could identify.”
Later, Pollard’s love of Israel and his fantasies of becoming a Zionist hero led him to spy for Israel. While assigned to the Navy’s Anti-Terrorist Alert Center, where he had access to the most closely guarded US secrets, Pollard stole thousands of pages of classified documents, which, according to federal prosecutors, “could fill a room the size of a large closet…ten feet by six feet by six feet.” Among the most damaging documents turned over to Israel was a highly classified code book of exactly how the US intercepts and breaks codes of governments around the world. According to Bob Woodward and Walter Pincus in The Washington Post, Pollard also stole technical information on special National Security Agency projects designed to intercept foreign communications and to protect the security of US military and intelligence communications.1
Nearly all the documents were unedited (in intelligence argot, “unredacted”) and therefore revealed exactly where and how the US got the information—from a phone tap, an agent in the field, or from a satellite. This is the kind of information that even close allies never share with one another. The cost to the US taxpayer to repair the damage caused by Pollard has been estimated by US officials at between three and four billion dollars. In his presentencing memorandum, Caspar Weinberger, then secretary of defense, wrote to the court:
It is difficult for me, even in the so-called “year of the spy,” to conceive of greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant, in view of the breadth, the critical importance to the United States and high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel.
For this intelligence windfall, the Israelis rewarded Jonathan and his wife, Anne, with tens of thousands of dollars in cash, expensive jewelry, lavish meals (they both gained a great deal of weight during their spy work), and first-class rooms in five-star European resorts. According to the government sentencing report, the Pollards were promised $300,000 in additional payments to be deposited in a Swiss bank account over ten years. After ten years, the Pollards were to move to Israel. Pollard’s handlers had given him an Israeli passport in the name of Danny Cohen. By 1985, the Pollards “had become literally addicted to the high lifestyle funded by…espionage activities,” according to the US government’s sentencing report.
In retrospect, it is hard to believe that any US intelligence agency would hire Jonathan Jay Pollard. As The Jerusalem Post’s Wolf Blitzer writes in his often fascinating, sometimes apologetic account, Pollard’s near obsession with Israel, his abundant fantasy life, and the way he saw himself as a victim and a hero since grade school were clear signs of an unstable personality. In South Bend, Jonathan was an unpopular, lonely child. His father says he was tormented at school by young bullies who sometimes stood on a hill behind their house screaming anti-Semitic epithets. “I was never able to establish friendships in my neighborhoods and was compelled to spend most of my time around the city’s Hebrew Day School, where I felt at least physically safe and emotionally protected,” Pollard wrote in a sixty-page memorandum that was submitted by his attorney to the court before he was sentenced:
This association lasted six days a week for ten years and involved a highly concentrated curriculum of religious and Zionist indoctrination that regularly stressed the advisability of aliya, or emigration to Israel…. Whatever political conclusions I was forming at the time in terms of our dependence upon the State of Israel for racial survival tended to be confirmed and magnified by my own physical reliance upon such local Jewish institutions and population that existed.
Later, in high school, Pollard felt so threatened by militant black students that, according to his father, he picked Stanford over his first choice, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, because there were no black militants on the California campus. “Stanford was the first time he could walk around and not feel tense,” Dr. Morris Pollard told me.
The more withdrawn and miserable Pollard became, the more he talked about Israel. In the dormitory he had few friends and was known for playing mean-spirited practical jokes. Identifying with Israel somehow compensated for his feelings of being rejected socially. For Pollard, Israel was an inspiring vision—a place where Jews performed astounding feats of arms to keep at bay a vast and menacing Arab world bent on the Jewish state’s destruction. He read many books about biblical history, Zionist history, the Holocaust, and thrillers about Israeli spies. One of his favorites was about the Israeli spy Eli Cohen, who before the Six Day War penetrated the highest levels of the Syrian government before he was caught and hanged. The Israelis who “handled” Pollard later gave him the name Cohen because of his attraction to the famous Israeli spy.
Pollard’s budding interest in the intelligence field perhaps was also stimulated by his father, who frequently attended medical and scientific conventions in Europe, the East bloc, and China, and regularly reported on them to the CIA. “I don’t know whether that influenced him or not,” Dr. Pollard told me. “Sometimes with a young person it stirs the imagination.”
In any case, Blitzer writes, by the time Pollard arrived at Stanford, he was having a difficult time keeping his fantasy life from intruding into everyday reality. One of his classmates, Jonathan Marshall, now an editor at the Oakland Tribune, said that Pollard told fellow students that his tuition was being paid by Mossad, which he claimed had recruited him for the purpose of infiltrating the US government. His Stanford senior yearbook photo listed him as “Colonel” Pollard. There is no evidence that Pollard was recruited by Mossad in college; he told Blitzer that his boasts about nonexistent Mossad ties were “fun and games.” But he also told Blitzer that at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, where he studied after receiving his B.A. in political science at Stanford, he spied on third world students as a “free-lancer” for the CIA. Pollard later claimed that Tufts was filled with Jew-hating racists. “A Jewish organization at Fletcher is as unlikely as a branch of the NAACP is at a Ku Klux Klan meeting,” he later said.
After college, Blitzer says that Pollard formally applied for a job with the CIA, but was turned down because of reports that he had used drugs in college. On September 19, 1979, Pollard was hired as a researcher by the Field Operational Intelligence Office of the US Navy in Suitland, Maryland, the CIA never having passed on its information about his use of drugs to the Navy. Pollard later said he chose a career in intelligence because he thought it would provide him with “a skill which would be well received in Israel once I emigrated.” But as he settled into intelligence work for the Navy he put off his plans to move to Israel. He later told the court this caused considerable guilt, confusion, and soul searching about where his loyalties lay.
In 1981, Pollard became involved in a bizarre relationship with South African intelligence that caused the Navy to revoke his top security clearance and order him to get psychiatric help. Apparently, the CIA had given Pollard clearance to set up a special relationship with South African intelligence because of his friendship with a student at Tufts who had become deputy head of the Bureau of State Security in South Africa. Pollard told Blitzer that he received amazing information from the South Africans, including the first photograph of a particular short-range Soviet naval SAM missile.
The relationship came to an end, according to Pollard, when he was asked to plant some incriminating documents on one of the South Africans—a request Pollard told Blitzer he flatly refused, thereby angering his naval supervisors, who suspended his credentials. Pollard complained to Blitzer that he got caught up in a dispute between the CIA and Naval Intelligence. But it’s hard to know what actually happened. According to a story in US News and World Report, which is summarized by Blitzer in some detail, Pollard told naval investigators who were probing his activities with the South Africans “fantastic tales about having lived in South Africa and his father’s being [CIA] station chief there.” One senior Naval Intelligence official said: “It became obvious the guy had to be unstable…. He wasn’t on anybody else’s wavelength.”
Pollard’s father, who told me he believed his son was being used as a scapegoat by the Navy, arranged for Dr. Neil Parker, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, rather than a Navy doctor, to examine Jonathan. “The doctor’s report stated Jay was absolutely within normal limits,” his father told me, adding that his son’s top security credentials were reinstated after a grievance was filed.
Pollard continued to behave oddly. Blitzer reports that once he walked into the Washington offices of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC looking for a job. He talked about the dangers facing Israel and boasted about access to top secret information. AIPAC, which is registered as a domestic lobby, has been intensively investigated by the Justice Department for its ties to Israel. AIPAC officials suspected they were being set up, and turned Pollard down.
In 1984, Steven Stern, a New York stockbroker and first cousin of Leonard Stern, the owner of the giant Hartz Mountain pet food company and The Village Voice, introduced Pollard to Avi Sella—a brilliant, highly decorated Israeli combat pilot who led the raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981. Stern had known Pollard and his family for years and Pollard told Blitzer that Stern must have known that he wanted to spy for Israel. (Stern was not charged with any crime and cooperated with the FBI’s investigation.) Sella subsequently met Pollard in a Washington, DC, park that Sella chose in order to minimize the risk of electronic surveillance. Sella then accepted Pollard’s offer to become a spy. Pollard later explained in his statement to the court that he decided to become a spy because, as a Naval intelligence researcher, he discovered that
despite the commonly held belief that the US provides ‘everything’ to the Israelis, the intelligence exchange…is anything but equitable…. The principal instruction I received from my supervisor was that we should only be prepared to give the Israelis enough information to get them paranoid but not enough, say, to let them figure out a countermeasure to a newly identified Soviet weapon system.
Pollard claims, for example, that when he asked a superior why information on Soviet chemical warfare agents wasn’t turned over to Israel, the superior responded sarcastically that Jews “were overly sensitive about gas.”
Sella, who was working on his Ph.D. in computer sciences at New York University, had relayed Pollard’s offer to Rafi Eitan, head of LEKEM, a top secret spy unit that specializes in scientific espionage and works closely with Israel’s Defense Ministry. Although it is an official Israeli agency, in most cases LEKEM operates without cabinet supervision in order to insulate the political leadership from the embarrassment of a failed mission. LEKEM agents, for example, reportedly smuggled the plans for the Mirage jet fighter from France after DeGaulle blocked the transfer of weapons to Israel on the eve of the Six Day War. The Israeli agents also smuggled the spare parts from some fifty Mirages, which were assembled on a secret assembly line at Israel Aircraft Industries in Tel Aviv.
Eitan, a famous spy master who had helped organize the kidnapping of Adolph Eichmann from Argentina in 1960, approved using Pollard to spy on his country, although Israel has widely been reported to have an official policy of not employing non-Israeli Jews to spy on their host countries. (Mossad, which has a liaison office in Washington that works closely with the CIA, was notified of Pollard’s availability but, according to Blitzer, declined to employ him.) Eitan, who became directly responsible for “handling” Pollard, was not new to espionage in the US. According to FBI officials and reports in the Christian Science Monitor and in The Washington Post, he had during the 1960s been involved in the diversion to Israel of two hundred pounds of reprocessed uranium from the Nuclear Materials and Energy Corporation in Apollo, Pennsylvania. Although no one was arrested, NUMEC’s president, Dr. Zalman Shapiro, was subsequently stripped of his top security clearance.
During the late 1970s, Eitan, an adviser to Ariel Sharon, then minister of agriculture, was a leading promoter of West Bank settlements. He had been out of the spy business for some time when Prime Minister Menachem Begin appointed him head of LEKEM in 1981. As Blitzer amply documents, Eitan was extremely careless in the use he made of Pollard. Though Pollard was able to amass a huge amount of information that not only impressed Eitan, but also dazzled his often jealous colleagues, none of Pollard’s handlers in the US was experienced at dealing with spies. Pollard himself kept raising the ante, demanding more money while stuffing his briefcase with classified documents that he took to a Washington safe house, where the Israelis xeroxed them. The chief prosecutor in Pollard’s case, Joseph E. diGenova, told me that Pollard once pressed Eitan for more money while the Israeli was in a hospital bed, still woozy from eye surgery.
Blitzer maintains that Pollard was drawn to spying not for money but for his convictions. But, as Blitzer notes, Pollard was much interested in money as well. He writes that long before Pollard met Avi Sella, he gave classified documents to three businessmen, not, he said, for payment but because he hoped that turning over the information would lead to “business opportunities” when he left Naval intelligence. And Anne Pollard, a public relations consultant, used information she extracted from long, classified studies pilfered by Jonathan to try to win a PR contract with the Chinese embassy.
After a seventeen-month spying spree that was becoming increasingly more brazen, Pollard’s boss, Jerry Agee, became suspicious. Agee disliked Pollard intensely. He saw Pollard as a shirker who seldom finished assignments, and who made up stories, like the one Pollard told about how he was “running” a freelance American journalist in Afghanistan for the National Security Council. Finally, Agee learned Pollard was routinely ordering classified files from various intelligence agencies on subjects—like advanced Soviet weapons systems—that had nothing to do with his assignment at the time to write a background report on terrorist threats in the Caribbean. Naval counterintelligence and the FBI were called in and the Pollards were placed under surveillance.
Eitan had never worked out a contingency plan in case the Pollards were detected. The Pollards, who were not trained as spies, had to come up with their own plan in case Jonathan was caught. They agreed that, if arrested, he would call home and alert Anne that something was wrong by slipping the word “cactus” into the conversation. That would be her cue to get rid of the many classified documents they kept in the house. When the call finally came, Anne left her Washington apartment, somehow slipped her FBI tail, and called Avi Sella from a pay phone to say Jay was in serious trouble. Ironically, Jonathan and Anne had planned to have dinner with the Sellas that night. Sella, in turn, called Pollard’s chief handler in New York, Yosef Yagur, the science attaché at the Israeli consulate. “To his horror, Sella was informed that there were no…contingency plans [for escape],” Blitzer writes.
Despite Israel’s reputation for having the most efficient intelligence service in the world, no one had worked out an escape plan for the Pollards and other operatives involved. Sella was advised to leave the country immediately. “Don’t worry about Pollard,” Yagur said. “He’s one of us. I trust him completely.”
Pollard, meanwhile, dissembled long enough to let his handlers leave the US. When he was picked up for questioning by the FBI, he stated that he had never removed documents for unauthorized reasons. He was released and returned home to find it surrounded by US security agents. The FBI had already confiscated fifty-seven classified documents hidden in a box in the bedroom under Anne’s clothes. When confronted with the documents, Pollard acted as if he was surprised, saying he must have taken them home to do some research and had forgotten to return them. For two more days, Pollard appeared for questioning without revealing his Israeli connections. On November 21, 1985, the Pollards took their wedding album and cat Dusty and drove to the Israeli embassy seeking asylum. They never got past the guards in the driveway. After several tense moments the Israelis turned the Pollards away. As soon as Pollard’s car left the Israeli embassy’s driveway he was arrested by the FBI. Anne was arrested soon after.
Blitzer is at his most convincing when documenting Israel’s treatment of the Pollards. Although he was miserable over Israel’s refusal to arrange a safe haven or at least diplomatic protection for him and Anne, Pollard refused to supply the names of his Israeli handlers for days after his arrest. In Israel, government officials maintained that Pollard was part of an unauthorized, “rogue” operation. The Israeli government promised that it would cooperate with the official US investigation, but when a delegation headed by the State Department’s legal adviser, Abraham Sofaer, traveled to Israel, officials there declared that while Pollard passed on information, it was limited in scope. Israel also refused to identify the other members of the spy team. Israel’s halfhearted cooperation jolted Israel-US relations as much as the original spy scandal, if not more. (Two separate Israeli inquiry committees investigating the Pollard affair concluded that the decision to employ Pollard was made without the involvement or knowledge of any cabinet ministers. But both panels said that the defense ministry bore responsibility for the affair because it failed to insure adequate oversight of LEKEM.)
According to Blitzer, Pollard was shocked that Israel cooperated with the Justice Department without first attempting to obtain his release. Once Pollard realized the Israelis would do nothing for him, he began to cooperate with the US government, revealing, during polygraph examinations and debriefings that lasted many months, one of the most extensive spy operations in American history. For his cooperation, the Justice Department promised Pollard it would not ask for a life sentence. Thanks in part to Pollard’s testimony before a federal grand jury, Sella, Eitan, and Yagur were indicted for espionage, although at the time of the indictment, Eitan and Sella were working in important government jobs in Israel. (Pollard later claimed in letters to friends that he cooperated with government interrogators only after they threatened to prevent Anne from receiving medical treatment for a chronic stomach disorder.)
Wolf Blitzer, an Israeli citizen and the American-born Washington correspondent for The Jerusalem Post, was the first reporter to be given permission by the US government to interview Pollard. Blitzer met with Pollard twice in prison, shortly before Pollard was sentenced. Not only did Pollard justify his spying to Blitzer, claiming that everything he took was vital to Israel’s security, but he also said he was disappointed that his spying “wasn’t more effective from a long-range standpoint.” Moreover, Pollard revealed a few unclassified details about some of the information he passed on to Israel, which Blitzer promptly published in his newspaper. In the government’s presentencing memorandum, prosecutors cited Pollard’s interview with Blitzer as one reason why he should receive a harsh sentence. “I was shocked,” Blitzer writes in his book. “Unwittingly and unhappily, I found myself part of the story…. If those interviews were not approved, why was I allowed into prison?”
Obviously, the government used Blitzer, hoping to obtain a long prison sentence for Pollard. When I asked Joseph E. diGenova, the chief prosecutor in the case, why Blitzer was granted the interview, he indicated that the government was fairly certain that if he were given the opportunity, Pollard would violate one of the provisions of his plea-bargain agreement, and talk to a journalist without first receiving permission. DiGenova believed that in such an interview Pollard would not express remorse and would continue to justify his espionage. In his book, Blitzer says he never received a straight answer from diGenova about why he was allowed to interview Pollard, and it was only many weeks after Pollard was sentenced to life that he
began to suspect that the prosecutors had deliberately allowed me to interview Pollard to see exactly what he might say. They probably assumed that he would undermine his own defense by talking too much.
Anne, who pleaded guilty for “conspiracy to receive embezzled government property,” and for being “an accessory after the fact, to possession of national defense documents,” also hurt the couple’s chance for leniency by talking to Mike Wallace in a 60 Minutes interview, which was taped without the knowledge of her lawyer and broadcast shortly before their sentencing. Like her husband she expressed no remorse, making it clear that Israel, and not the US, came first. “I feel my husband and I did what we were expected to do, what our moral obligation was as Jews, what our moral obligation was as human beings, and I have no regrets about that.” Both Jonathan and Anne’s comments to the press were read into the public record by one of the government prosecutors with apparently unfortunate consequences for the sentences given to the Pollards.
On March 4, 1987, Jonathan Pollard received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after ten years. Anne received a five-year sentence and will be eligible for parole next March. The Pollards received stiff sentences mainly because of a top-secret, forty-six-page report by then Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger that was submitted to US District Court Judge Aubrey E. Robinson III and described the damage Pollard had done. In a supplemental, unclassified statement to the court, Weinberger said that Pollard “both damaged and destroyed policies and national assets which have taken many years, great effort and enormous national resources to secure.” Weinberger asked for a “severe” sentence commensurate with the crime. One source told The Washington Post that Judge Robinson was “stunned that one spy could do such damage.” The Weinberger memorandum stated that some of the material that Pollard stole could have been diverted to the Soviet Union by a mole inside the Israeli government.
Blitzer, siding with Pollard, says that the spirit of Weinberger’s memorandum violated the government’s promise to the convicted spy not to ask for a life sentence. While the US attorney’s office asked for a “substantial” sentence, Weinberger asked for a “severe” sentence. “There is more than a semantical difference between substantial and severe,” Blitzer told me.
The Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who was recently hired by Pollard, agrees with Blitzer. “Anybody reading Weinberger’s memo and letter has to come to the conclusion that the Defense Department asked for life imprisonment,” Dershowitz recently told me. “That is the only way to interpret it.” Dershowitz, however, has been denied access to the classified Weinberger memo by the government. At a speech in Los Angeles last year, he said the Pollards’ case was “an American injustice,” and went on to make comparisons between Pollard and the Rosenbergs, who were executed in 1953 for selling atomic secrets to the Soviets.
Conceding that both Jonathan Pollard and Julius Rosenberg were spies, Dershowitz said that neither stole secrets that were harmful to his country. He claimed that in both cases the government manufactured additional evidence of guilt to get a maximum sentence.
“Both men were guilty and both men were framed,” said Dershowitz. “I think they [the government] are holding the Pollards hostage to get further information being held by Israel.”
Indeed, the Justice Department is still looking for the Pollards’ alleged accomplice. Bob Woodward and Walter Pincus reported in The Washington Post that Justice Department officials believe Israel has a mole in the CIA or the Defense Department who specified the exact date and control number of the classified documents that the Israelis asked Pollard to steal.
Pollard claims that this search for an accomplice is further evidence of the Justice Department’s anti-Semitism. He insists that he is a victim of a plot that is reminiscent of the Dreyfus affair. (The charge has been repeated in a recent book by Anne Pollard’s father, Pollard: The Spy Story, An American Dreyfus Affair?2 ) Meanwhile, in dozens of letters Pollard has sent from prison to his family and supporters—none of which is mentioned in Blitzer’s book—he has bitterly attacked Israel for betraying him, parts of the American Jewish community for condemning him, and the Reagan and Bush administrations for being anti-Israel. “Israel is confronted,” Pollard wrote to a supporter in the summer of 1988,
by an animal-like Caspar Weinberger whose policies are predicated on cynical indifference to the continued welfare of our beleaguered national homeland. And while many American Jews have naively bought the artfully crafted myth of Reagan’s purported “love of Israel” they should wake up and smell the coffee: The unprecedented military buildup of the so-called moderate Arab states which has occurred over the past seven years was the direct result of his administration’s “evenhanded” Middle East doctrine.
In another letter, Pollard accuses diGenova of leading an “anti-Israel smear campaign,” and denounces Judge Robinson, an Afro-American appointed to the bench by Jimmy Carter, saying “the judge’s implacable hatred of Israel can best be understood in light of the fact that he is a supporter of the radical Black Hebrew sect, which is violently anti-Zionist in its political orientation.” Pollard also claims that the judge told his attorney “long before the facts of the case had been established that he was going to impose the maximum sentence given his belief that the Israelis were no better than the Nazis.”
Pollard’s most serious charge is that prison officials are denying Anne, who is suffering from a rare stomach disorder, proper health care. When she appeared on 60 Minutes earlier this year, Anne compared conditions in her prison to those at Auschwitz. Blitzer wrote a piece for The New York Times saying Anne should be immediately released from prison on humanitarian grounds and be allowed to go to a kibbutz in Israel for rehabilitation. However, a US federal magistrate in Rochester, Minnesota, rejected a lawsuit by Anne’s lawyer alleging “cruel and unusual” punishment for lack of evidence. Following the magistrate’s ruling, an ad hoc committee of Jewish organizations met with the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons last February to determine whether Anne was receiving proper medical care. “We came away with the sense that the prison officials were by and large treating Anne responsibly and doing what they could to give her more than adequate medical care,” Jeffrey P. Sinensky, director of the civil rights division of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, told me.
As the large Jewish organizations have denounced Pollard’s espionage and have failed to come to the Pollards’ aid, Jonathan’s prison letters have become increasingly contemptuous of American Jews who do not share his view that a Jew’s first loyalty must be to Israel. In Pollard’s view, American Jews are “pocket book Zionists,” who are plagued by dual loyalty—a form of the split personality, characteristic of Jews in the diaspora. The only cure, he says, is unquestioned allegiance to Israel:
When we accepted the covenantal yoke we pledged our bodies and souls, not a yearly tax-deductible contribution to a country of standins…. Eilat, and Kiryat Arba, and Jerusalem are first and foremost Jewish cities, which are part of our people’s sacred territorial inheritance from God. As such, the land demands the unequivocal loyalty of every diaspora Jew—even if that entails placing one’s life in harm’s way.
Given Pollard’s extreme views, it is not surprising that he has been in touch with radical right-wing Jewish organizations in Israel and America. In a letter to Yisrael Medad, the American-born aide to Knesset member Geula Cohen of the ultra-right-wing Tehiya party, Pollard praises the Gush Emunim “patriots” who blew the legs off two pro-PLO West Bank mayors in 1980 car bombings. He only regretted that the Jewish terrorists did “half a job.” Pollard also asks Medad to pass along his personal regards to several Gush terrorists still in prison.
While more than seventy Knesset members from various Israeli political parties, ranging from Shulamit Aloni on the left to Geula Cohen on the right, have signed petitions calling on the US president to grant clemency to the Pollards, in this country Pollard has been embraced primarily by the “Israel first” lobby—particularly groups like Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI), whose views are similar to Pollard’s. “I’m convinced that there are elements in the government in high places who use whatever opportunity they can to pound Israel on the head,” AFSI’s chairman, Herb Zweibon, told me. He believes that US officials have exaggerated the damage caused by Pollard “to plant in the minds of the American people that the US-Israeli alliance is a questionable one.”
AFSI is a tax-exempt, pro-Israel group based in New York. Some of AFSI’s members help finance Gush Emunim settlements, and AFSI favors annexing the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and expelling Arabs who are not content to live passively under Israeli rule. “AFSI has been quite supportive of us and has a fairly extensive network in place across the country,” Pollard wrote to his father-in-law, Bernie Henderson, on September 28, 1987. Pollard further explains that he is particularly pleased that Rabbi Avi Weiss, the leader of the group that staged a demonstration at the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz this summer, encouraged a group of prominent Russian Jewish activists to hold a candlelight ceremony at the Wailing Wall, where they proclaimed Pollard to be a “prisoner of Zion.” Weiss’s sister-in-law, Dvorah, got Natan Sharansky to sign a petition to pardon Anne Pollard at a rally for Soviet Jews in Washington several years ago.
The Pollard spy scandal continues to have serious consequences for Israel’s relationship with the US government and the American Jewish community. For example, according to US intelligence sources, the relationship between the CIA and Israeli intelligence organizations have become strained. At the same time, the US government has stepped up its investigation of alleged Israeli intelligence operations in this country. Blitzer says little about such issues.
His account of the spy operation and Jonathan and Anne’s capture is well reported. He apparently was able to talk to many of the Israelis who were involved in the affair and the subsequent Israeli government cover-up. But Blitzer never asks to what extent Pollard’s kind of Zionism is an aberration among American Jews. Leonard Fein observes in his book Where Are We?: The Inner Life of America’s Jews,3 that because so many Jewish parents and Hebrew schools teach that the “State of Israel is the most important country in the world for Jews,” it is no wonder that some Jews grow up with deep emotional attachments to both countries. “On its face,” Fein writes, “such a teaching means that Jonathan Pollard…may be thought a success story.” However, Pollard is the only American Jew I know of to have been convicted of spying for Israel.
Blitzer never offers an opinion of Pollard, nor does he try to make sense of Pollard’s complicated personality. He doesn’t try to find out whether Pollard’s claims of being the lifelong target of anti-Semitism have any basis in fact. By not examining Pollard and his right-wing politics more closely, Blitzer seems, in effect, to accept his subject’s point of 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 that at a minimum the take from the operation was “breathtaking.” Furthermore, Blitzer’s contention that everything Pollard stole related directly to Israel’s security is contradicted by the court transcripts and published reports showing, for example, that Pollard stole documents relating to US military training exercises, US force deployments outside the Middle East, and US ship movements.
Blitzer holds Israel accountable for the spy scandal although he says that much of the material Pollard stole should have been made available to the US government. But he never examines why Israel contravened its own policy and risked using an American Jew to spy on the US, except to say that the information was too good to pass up and Israel, after all, is famous for its “chutzpah.” More important, Blitzer never puts the Pollard spy case into a comparative perspective. Allies spy on one another, but Israel seems especially active in this regard. Blitzer points out that John Davitt, former head of the Justice Department’s Internal Security Section, told The Washington Post that there had been a handful of cases during his thirty years in government service in which Israeli diplomats suspected of espionage were quietly asked to leave the country. “But those occurred,” Blitzer writes, “in the 1950s and the 1960s, when the US-Israeli relationship was by no means as strong as it later became.” Blitzer fails to mention that Davitt also told The Washington Post that Israeli intelligence services were “more active [in the US] than anyone but the KGB….”
Meanwhile, Pollard, the passionate defender of Israel who has claimed to detect anti-Semitic sentiment at work in nearly every phase of his life, has recently questioned whether he was wise to give up his liberty for the sake of the Jewish state. Complaining that Israel has abandoned him and his wife, Pollard wrote in an open letter to the Free Pollard Committee that he is no longer sure he wants to live in Israel when he is released from prison. “The government of Israel—in no way do I mean the citizens of the state—has betrayed Anne and me, and in doing so, I believe, has betrayed the people of Israel.”
October 26, 1989