Behind the Headlines U.S. Jewish Leaders View the Implications of the Pollard Case
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Behind the Headlines U.S. Jewish Leaders View the Implications of the Pollard Case

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The life sentence given to Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew, last week for spying for Israel is not expected to basically alter the close relations between the United States and Israel, according to American Jewish leaders.

Nor do they expect it to create a feeling in this country that Jews have dual loyalty, except, of course, among anti-Zionists and anti-Semites, who have always made this claim.

At the same time, concern was expressed that the “poor judgement” shown by Israel in promoting two Israelis, who controlled Pollard’s espionage activities, could damage Israel-U.S. relations.

The whole subject is expected to be taken up when the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations meets in Israel next week.


“The espionage activity for which Jonathan Pollard was justly sentenced was a serious crime and should never have taken place,” Morris Abram, chairman of the Presidents Conference, said in a statement.

“I am also deeply concerned by the public perception of the official treatment accorded Col. (Aviem) Sella and Rafael Eitan, and will raise these concerns with the proper authorities next week during a visit to Israel.”

Jewish leaders with whom the Jewish Telegraphic Agency spoke expressed little sympathy for Pollard, 32-year-old former civilian analyst for the Navy, or for his wife, Anne Henderson-Pollard, 26, who received two concurrent five-year terms for being an accessory to her husband’s espionage.

The day before the Pollards were sentenced, a federal grand jury indicted Sella, who was Pollard’s first contact in providing Israel with classified documents, for conspiring with Pollard. The indictment came shortly after it was learned that Sella has been made commander of Israel’s second largest Air Force base.

Earlier, Eitan, the counter-terrorism expert who ran Pollard’s now disbanded spy unit, was named chairman of Israel Chemicals, the largest government-owned corporation.


These promotions angered the Reagan Administration. The State Department, while still maintaining that Israel has cooperated with the Pollard investigation, said Israel was expected to “call to account” those involved in the Pollard case.

Hyman Bookbinder, Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee, said “you could almost sense the change” in the Administration after the Sella and Eitan promotions were revealed.

He said earlier he and others had been assured in talks with “key” officials that the Pollard case would not have any long-term effects. But after the promotions were revealed there was “a lot of anger” within the Administration among “people who are good, good friends of Israel.”

He warned that there will be no immediate effects, but there could be an “erosion” in relations if the situation was not corrected.

David Brody, Washington representative of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, seemed to agree. He noted that the Pollard case has been around for over a year, but during that time Israel was granted the new status of a “major non-NATO ally” which allows it to bid on Defense Department research and development contracts.

But he, too, noted that Administration officials were upset by what they considered the “cavalier” attitude of Israel in promoting the two men.

Theodore Mann, president of the American Jewish Congress, and Seymour Reich, president of B’nai B’rith International, also called the promotions unwise. Reich called it “poor judgement” by the Israelis.


But David Brody said this problem may have been alleviated by the decision of the Israel Inner Cabinet Wednesday to name a two-man committee to investigate the Pollard case and to work with the Knesset intelligence subcommittee probing the affair.

Abram also pointed out that the appointment of an investigatory commission by the Inner Cabinet “is the kind of response one would hope for and expect from a vital and functioning democracy. All governments make mistakes, but democratic nations have a responsibility and a capacity to examine what went wrong and to take corrective action. I am encouraged that Israel has now acted in this spirit.”

Whether the Pollard espionage was a “rogue” operation, as the Israeli government maintains, or not, Sella and Eitan should not have been promoted, Mann said.


But the strongest reaction came from the Jewish War Veterans which sent a telegram to Israeli Ambassador Meir Rosenne Wednesday calling for the promotions to be rescinded.

The JWV telegram, signed by the organization’s national commander, Edwin Goldwasser, stressed that JWV members “detest all acts of treason” whether on behalf “of our adversaries, the Soviet Union, or by a Pollard on behalf of our ally Israel.”

The JWV said the promotions of Sella and Eitan “presents America with a showing of an insensitivity by one friend to another friend on an issue of vital concern to the integrity of the United States.

“JWV calls upon Israel to recognize the American concern over the betrayal of its nation by immediately suspending both Sella and Eitan from their positions of trust pending a full and impartial investigation of the affair. The moral imperative in the relationship between our nations requires no less than that.”


While there is little concern that Jews will be charged with dual loyalty, Bookbinder warned that the issue is “potentially explosive” and must be closely watched by the Jewish defense agencies.

It is certainly an issue on the minds of many Jews. Bookbinder said that when two or three Jews meet the first topic in the last few weeks has been the Pollard case.

Brody said that except for anti-Semites, the only ones raising the issue of dual loyalty are Jews. He said Pollard was an individual who was solely responsible for his “misguided” acts and the responsibility cannot be transferred to other Jews.

Mann, however, said he was “angry” that an American Jew had been used to spy on Israel, breaking what he called “an unwritten rule between our two Jewish communities. I think it is an outrage.”

Noting that Israeli officials have publicly apologized to the U.S., he said Israel also owes “an apology to the Jewish community.” While he did not say how this could be done, he said there are ways to accomplish it.


Reich called the Pollard case an “aberration” which he said is now “behind us.” He stressed that the Jewish community does not “owe” Pollard any help for his illegal act.

However, he said he felt the life sentence was “harsh” considering Pollard pleaded guilty and had cooperated with the government.

“I know the relations between the United States and Israel, two democracies whose vital interests are intimately linked, are strong enough to weather this deplorable incident,” Abram said.

“Israel needs America. America needs Israel. This interdependence will and must be the overriding consideration binding the two countries in their common devotion to freedom, to justice and to human dignity.”

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