As you prepare for your first presidential visit to Washington, you will surely place on the agenda the cruel injustice inflicted on a fellow Jew, Jonathan Pollard. A US naval intelligence officer, Pollard supplied Israel with vital information about Arab preparations for war. He also fulfilled requests by his handlers for specific secret data.
Pollard was arrested. The Israeli government led by Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir, contrary to world-wide traditional norms of loyalty to agents, betrayed him. They returned the documents he supplied, thus giving the US proof of his spying. Ariel Sharon's voice was the only one to protest: "You're condemning him to prison for life," he argued. Shamir responded: "A country needs to know how to sacrifice a person."
At his trial, despite a plea-bargain arrangement in return for a short prison term, Judge Aubrey Robinson, influenced by an inflammatory letter from then-defense secretary Caspar Weinberger falsely accusing Pollard of the most serious of crimes, gave him a life sentence "Friendly power" spies nabbed in the US get more than five years - and have always been released earlier. Yet Pollard now faces his thirteenth year in jail. American Jews, fearful of the "dual loyalty" charge, have with rare exception been muted. Rabin was the only prime minister to protest, as you Mr. Weizman know well. You encouraged Rabin in 1994 to write to President Clinton asking him to release Pollard, as promised by the US, after 10 years in jail. You asked Peres to complete the second letter Rabin was working on before his assassination.
To strengthen your hand Mr. President, let us relate how assistant US attorney general Charles Leeper, an hour before Pollard's judgment, produced the pale figure of his ailing first wife Anne. Her clothes were stained with hemorrhaging blood. Her weight was down from 46 kilos to 30 kg. "Plead guilty, or she goes to prison - where there are no doctors," Pollard was told. "Guilty" said the shaken Pollard. Although never charged, Anne was in prison for a year.
A SIMILAR brutal act of blackmail, which mocks the word "justice," was employed in 1953 when the US judicial authorities accused Julian Rosenberg of sending US atomic secrets to Moscow. Although threatened with death if he did not confess, he remained mute. The "impartial" judge went further. After consulting the Justice Department he sentenced both Julian and his wife Ethel to death. After all, like the Pollards, they were only expendable Jews. "You can still save your wife by confessing," said the judge. Rosenberg knew the trial was a set-up. He and his wife were doomed anyway. He refused to plead guilty. Both went to the electric chair on June 19, 1953 despite pleas of clemency to president Eisenhower.
At the time, the FBI, the White House and Justice Department knew that the trial was a set-up. Now thanks to intelligence expert, Phillip Knightley, writing in the London Sunday Times, the truth about the Rosenbergs has emerged. The couple were small-fry, low- level couriers. He was told by a notorious double agent, Englishman Kim Philby, who had penetrated the top level of British and US intelligence on behalf of his KGB masters that the Rosenbergs "were absolutely separate from the networks gathering atomic secrets."
Philby, then working in Washington, had discovered that the FBI was closing in on a KGB nest of spies that had penetrated the US's ultra-secret Los Alamos nuclear plant where the Hiroshima bomb was assembled. Philby promptly warned the KGB. He was ordered to tip off ace Soviet spies, like Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and the Krogers (real names Morris and Lona Cohen who later penetrated British naval headquarters). All fled in time.
"Why were the Rosenbergs not warned?" Knightley asked Philby. "They were expendable." he was told. Being minor figures neither he nor the KGB dreamt that they would be executed if caught. Clearly conscience-stricken, Philby declared before his death: "I made mistakes....and I paid for them." Comments Knightley: "I think he was talking about the Rosenbergs."
True, Pollard did not face the electric chair. Yet he's destined to die a forgotten, ailing man in his prison cell. For he was also "set up." This time by a senior CIA operative, Aldridge Ames, a KGB mole. He fingered Pollard as the culprit to camouflage his own treacherous role which resulted in the deaths of CIA agents in the Soviet Union. It is written in the good book: "Where there are no men - be a man."
Mr. Weizman, we appeal to you. You are renowned for straight talking. Your reputation will carry great weight and authority when you meet Clinton. Tell him, president to president, as only you can: "Jonathan Pollard has been punished long enough. He's no danger to anybody. Let me bring him back to Israel in my plane. After all, fair is fair. We were promised that he would be freed after 10 years."
To once again quote from the sages: "He who saves one life" - in this instance the life of a man who set out to help the Israel he loved - "saves the whole world."
(c) Jerusalem Post 1997
Uri Dan and Dennis Eisenberg are Jerusalem Post columnists.