One of the rabbis asked why Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy convicted in 1986, was still in prison. Mr. Biden, on a mission to shore up support for President Obama, replied forcefully, according to several people at the meeting.
“President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time,’ ” Mr. Biden said. “If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.”
Biden is delivering a message for the administration. In part the message is the obvious political one that Obama isn’t the bad guy and that Jews should vote for him. But there is more to it than that.
Pollard’s hugely disproportionate sentence — Pollard is the only American who has been given a life sentence for spying for an ally — the government’s reneging on his plea bargain, his treatment in prison, far worse than that of Soviet spy Aldrich Ames, for whose crimes Pollard may have been blamed, and the continued lack of an acceptable rationale from the government, tell us that there is something ‘special’ about this case.
Let me quote what Ma’ariv writer Ben Caspit asked Biden recently:
Is it possible, Mr. Biden, that you know something that James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, and Dennis DeConcini, former chairman of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, do not? Because both of them are both in favor of releasing him. Do you know something that Henry Kissinger, George Shultz or John McCain don’t? All of them, esteemed American patriots, are in favor of clemency.
How about former US Attorney-General Michael Mukasey? Do you know something he doesn’t? Have you got intelligence that Lawrence Korb, assistant defense secretary under Casper Weinberger, was not privy to? Korb was there, in real time, but Korb, an honest and decent man, felt his conscience claw at him, and today he leads the call to free Pollard, who next month will mark his twenty-sixth year in American prison…
…I ask that you examine your own conscience. Ask yourself, Mr. Biden, why Pollard has been in prison for 26 years for a crime that generally receives a two-to-four year sentence in America.
Ask yourself why spies who have committed far graver sins, betrayals that led to the killing of American agents on foreign soil, received far lesser sentences? Ask yourself why it is that the blood libel of attributing those murders to Pollard was circulated so widely. Ask yourself why, once those allegations were proven to be false, his sentence was not commuted. Ask yourself why the United States of America, a society governed by law and order, did not honor its plea bargain with Pollard.
Good questions, all of them. Something is definitely special here, and it is not some dark issue of national security, as Caspit’s list of insiders who favor releasing Pollard proves.
Let’s ask ourselves what else is special. One of the most special things in the the American consciousness, to our great misfortune, seems to be the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Here are just a few entirely random examples:
- The perceived importance of American Jews in our forthcoming Presidential election, although we are actually about 1.7% of the US population.
- The disproportionate media attention, mostly unfavorable, to Israel.
- The US government’s obsession with the Israel-Palestinian conflict at a time when there are massive changes and instability throughout the Middle East.
- The alleged power of the “Israel Lobby” in a land of many, many lobbies, and where the Saudi lobby is much more effective in getting what it wants.
- The abnormal concentration by the academic and media Left on Israel and the Palestinians.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
My hypothesis is that a large number of those in what Barry Rubin called the MUG complex (Media-University-Government) distrust and fear Jews and the realization of their national aspirations, Israel. They chose to make an example of Pollard, to serve as an object lesson to other Jews who might be tempted to allow their loyalty to the Jewish state to take precedence over their obligations to America — because they see this as a real threat.
For this purpose, it is not necessary that Pollard actually be guilty of damaging US interests (read what he actually did here). His job is to be a symbol of the disloyal Jew, and a warning to others.
It is also establishes the administration as tough, not easily pushed around by lobbies — although it did support freeing the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, on compassionate grounds (and incidentally to facilitate a huge oil deal for BP). By the way, Megrahi is still alive in Libya.
While Obama should simply pardon Pollard, compassionate release would be welcome. But he’s only a poor Jew, unrelated to oil deals.
Update [1530 PDT]: The relatively left-wing Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has called for Pollard’s release. Anything they do is likely coordinated with the White House. It’s possible that Obama will take this opportunity to free Pollard, thus scoring many points with Jews. Yes, it’s cynical, but anything that gets him out is OK with me!