Jonathan Pollard was tried and convicted in November 1985, in what amounted to a less than fair trial. Pollard, who passed information to Israel, an openly declared ally and not an enemy state, received the same sentence as John Walker, Robert Hansson, and Aldrich Ames, all of whom notoriously betrayed their country by selling top U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union for money. Not only did they endangered U.S. security in the process, but claimed the lives of many U.S. agents. The eagerness of then-Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger to punish Pollard — a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst — was unprecedented in such cases.
Today, 26 years into his imprisonment, Pollard’s health has deteriorated, and he is suffering kidney failure and gallbladder complications. Israeli Knesset member Uri Ariel (National Union), chairman of the Pollard lobby in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), denounced Pollard’s treatment by U.S. authorities, declaring that, “Pollard’s imprisonment is a humanitarian disgrace.” He then added, “I call on President Obama to release him immediately, not because he is not guilty, but because you can’t keep a sick and non-dangerous man imprisoned for so many years.”
The cruelty of the U.S. authorities toward Pollard is deliberate. Multiple requests to allow him to attend his father’s funeral were denied. His father, Professor Morris Pollard, a prominent U.S. researcher on viral diseases, died on June 18, 2011 at the age of 95. Human rights champions were glaringly silent in the face of Washington’s lack of empathy in denying the request. Pollard was also denied the opportunity to bid farewell to his mother, when in December 2001 he was refused permission to attend her funeral. Pollard has also been denied conjugal visits with his wife, Esther. This sort of extremeness on the part of the U.S. authorities is unprecedented in the Western world.
Pollard has denied that he spied “against” the U.S. and claimed that he only provided Israel with information vital to its security, which was being deliberately withheld by the Pentagon. A 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel ensured that such information would be transferred. Pollard provided information that dealt with Soviet arms shipments to Syria and Iraq, chemical weapons in these countries, as well as information about the Pakistani nuclear bomb project and Libya’s defense systems. None of this information could possibly have endangered U.S. security.
According to a 2006 interview with Rafael Eitan, Pollard’s alleged Israeli handler, “It is likely that [Israel] could have gotten the same information without him.” Eitan claimed that the information Pollard passed on might have made a difference had Israel been involved in another war. According to Eitan, a spy named Aldrich Ames, who betrayed American agents and contributed to their deaths, tried to implicate Pollard. Pollard, as Eitan charged, never exposed American agents.
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