Odds are that convicted spy Jonathan Pollard is now in his 29th year in prison only because of thinly camouflaged anti-Semitism. That is the learned opinion of James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Woolsey has said so in interviews to Channel 10, as well as to The Jerusalem Post. He went on the record and without beating around the bush. He thus gave an authoritative voice to what many suspected and hinted at for years.
Woolsey may be the only higher-up in the U.S. security establishment to head-on cite anti-Semitism, but he is not the only one to have called for Pollard’s release on the grounds that he had served an unreasonably and disproportionately long sentence in comparison to the time other spies for U.S. allies spent behind bars.
In many cases the spies from friendly countries were sent up for less than four years, and they didn’t serve the full sentences either. Egyptian Abdelkader Helmy got a three-year-and-10-month sentence. Jean Baynes, who was caught spying on behalf of the Philippines, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years. Spies for Britain and South Africa were each given two years.
After the Woolsey statements, the specter of anti-Jewish prejudice, however denied, can no longer be covered up. The elephant in the room has materialized and come out in full view. Nobody — on either side of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic — can continue pretending the issue is not there.
To be sure, this is not the first time Woolsey has charged that Pollard is treated unfairly. In 2012, he wrote a critical letter to The Wall Street Journal where he supplied examples from many other cases in which the convicted spies were released after 10 years.
He emphasized several examples of people who had been convicted of spying for various regimes — Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Ecuador, Egypt, the Philippines and South Korea — all of whom had served or were serving sentences of less than 10 years. “One especially damaging Greek-American spy, Steven Lalas, received a 14-year sentence, just over half of what Pollard has already served,” Woolsey noted two years ago.
He went further: “For those hung up for some reason on the fact that [Pollard] is an American Jew, pretend he’s a Greek — or Korean — or Filipino-American, and free him.”
There is no getting away from it — appreciably lighter punishment was meted to assorted U.S. spies for greater offenses than what Pollard was accused of, including spying that involved tangible and severe security hazards to America.
That Pollard was treated so ultra-harshly by any existing legal yardsticks and the fact that his tribulation is ongoing, despite his age and infirmity, is not just pointlessly cruel. The departure from all precedents in his case smells foul. It is difficult to escape the impression that the only reason Pollard was over-punished and is still denied his freedom is because he is Jewish.
The punishment meted out to Pollard was from the outset scandalous. It was disproportionate in the extreme, principally considering he never put American agents or interests at risk, that he never divulged anything involving America but clued in a fellow democracy about the machinations of its enemies, which happened to have also been America’s enemies.
Although Pollard’s life-term is unparalleled for transferring classified material to an ally, no U.S. administration in nearly three decades countenanced pardoning him — regardless of the fact that Pollard had publicly apologized and expressed remorse.
As the Anti-Defamation League charges, this may be an effort to intimidate American Jewry whose loyalty is forever doubted owing to one anti-Semitic stereotype or another.
Yet thanks to Woolsey, it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain the charade that Pollard deserves excessive and continuing punishment. George Orwell once defined freedom as “the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Woolsey has served the cause of freedom fearlessly.
This article orginally appeared in The Jerusalem Post.