NYT Decries 'Divided Loyallties'
Secretary of State John Kerry’s Mideast peace diplomacy seems increasingly moribund. Nevertheless, there remain all sorts of scenarios floating around as to the kind of mix that might result in an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Among the latest is the suggestion that Israel might be more amenable to release of another batch of Palestinian terrorist killers if in return the Obama administration might free Jonathan Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel.
Pollard, who’s serving a life sentence, is in his 29th year of imprisonment. His defenders argue that he has become a poster child for massive injustice. The prosecution at his trial asked for a term short of life But a side-letter by then-Secretary of State Caspar Weinberger persuaded the judge to give him life imprisonment. Pollard supporters note that such espionage -- spying for a U.S. ally, passing on confidential Soviet files that bore on Israeli security -- normally might have gotten Pollard a sentence of less than 10 years. Pollard has admitted his crime and expressed his profound regrets. It’s also clear that he had lousy lawyers.
On top of all this, Pollard is gravely ill, suffering from multiple ailments. He’ll be eligble for parole next year. So why not release him now?
It’s a powerful case. And more and more prominent Americans, including former high-level security and diplomacy officials, Jews and non-Jews, have been rallying in support of Pollard, including former Secretary of State George Shultz and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey. These are folks who have been privy to all confidential Pollard files and they vouch that his release would not in any way harm U.S. security.
But that’s not the way the New York Times sees it. In a front-page article in the April 4 edition, the Times issues a stern warning to U.S. Jews not to rush to Pollard’s defense lest they be viewed as harboring “divided loyalties.” It’s a monstrous libel designed to silence Jewish support of Pollard. American Jews -- like all Americans -- enjoy First Amendment rights to free expression -- without having to look over their shoulders to take their cues from the New York Times.
Here’s the Times’ take on U.S. Jewry and the Pollard affair, starting with a two-column headline on the front page that reads, “Talk of Freeing a Spy for Israel Stirs Old Unease for U.S. Jews.” The article, by Mark Landler, proceeds in the same vein -- “Even now, nearly three decades later, Mr. Pollard’s case bedevils American Jews.”
A bald-faced lie. The vast majority of American Jews support Pollard’s prompt release because, like many other Americans, they see injustice that has reached intolerable levels. Notwithstanding the Times, U.S. Jews are not bedeviled in supporting Pollard’s release.
Landler, however, has his own agenda. “For an older generation, the potential release of this Cold War-era spy has roused another unwelcome ghost from the past: the suggestion that American Jews, like Mr. Pollard, inevitably hold divided loyalties and cannot be trusted in sensitive posts,” Landler writes. “Pollard is also a poster child for one of the darkest tropes in American society: that Jews simply cannot have a single loyalty.” Pollard and American Jews are all the same, the Times seems to suggest.
In sum, Landler’s piece is a self-generated attack by the Times to dig up widespread but long ago U.S. anti-Semitism and, in the process, land some blows against current Zionism that happens to pervade all mainstream segments of U.S. Jewry. It is more than telling that Landler can find only two so-called Middle East experts to back up his tendentious anti-Pollard views.
Given survey findings that American Jews of virtually all stripes -- and non-Jews, for that matter -- want Pollard released, the Times’ specter of “divided loyalties” happily is merely a noxious fiction with no contemporary relevance.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers