Here's another story that keeps coming around with depressing regularity. It is the never-ending saga of Jonathan Pollard, convicted spy, who is serving a life sentence. All well and good. This is the sort of character we used to trade to the Russkies in exchange for one of our own spies who happened to get caught. Even the Cold War had its conventions of diplomacy. But Pollard's case is a little bit... different, shall we say. For he was not spying for any of our traditional enemies, but for none other than Israel. Now... I've referred to this case before, in discussing our bizarre and suicidal obsession with “defending” Israel at all costs. Diplomatically, economically, militarily, we are joined at the hip. And it didn't have to be this way. I mean, the establishment of the State of Israel was, basically, the result of a conspiracy among us, the Brits, and the Zionists... with the French thrown in for good measure, since they had some interests in the region. And why was the establishment of the State of Israel necessary? Well, because the Jews felt a need for a safe haven, after the recent unpleasantness in Europe. No one was about to go back to Poland or Ukraine, for instance... and for some reason, they didn't all want to come to the United States either, although they could have, very readily. The U.S. had long since established itself as the “Gold Mountain” for the Jews, and they had prospered here like nowhere else in ages. But Zionism – the idea of returning to the land that they rightfully owned – was too powerful an idea to brush aside for mere practical purposes, and so the European powers and the U.S. were enlisted in what became the triumph of Zionism – although, ironically, it was only made possible by Hitler and the Holocaust. If it had not been for der Fuehrer, the Jews would still be happily ensconced in central and eastern Europe, and the only people interested in settling in Palestine would be a bunch of fanatics (as was the case prior to World War II). But it was not meant to be... and so, in what was probably the greatest diplomatic blunder of the 20th Century, the State of Israel was established right in the heart of enemy, i.e. Moslem, territory, on land formerly part of the Ottoman -- i.e. Moslem -- Empire and inhabited, by and large, by Moslems. You could not have imagined a scenario better designed to insure perpetual trouble, expense, aggravation, and violence – and yet there it was, and we signed off on it enthusiastically.
Then a funny – but predictable – thing happened. The European powers very gradually slinked into the tall grass and disappeared, where support for Israel was concerned, leaving the U.S., basically, holding the bag and supporting an increasingly unpopular idea, now that Islamic militancy was on the rise. But Israel – to give credit where credit is due – held its own through wars with its Moslem neighbors (not without our help, of course) – so the “reality on the ground” is that the “Zionist entity”, as the Islamists call it, is alive and well, and is, for all intents and purposes, the 51st state in the U.S. -- although it's much more expensive to maintain than any normal state its size would be. And the U.S. finds itself increasingly isolated, diplomatically, because of this – often being the only one voting against a U.N. resolution chiding Israel for some offense or other. It is, in other words, us and Israel against the world – and we can see that our other “allies” are lukewarm at best about this, and in many cases downright disgusted. But we must soldier on, because... well, because Israel is our only reliable friend in the Middle East, and without their cooperation we wouldn't be able to pursue our main agenda in that region, which is... protecting Israel. Is that clear? OK.
Now, against this background, consider the absurdities and ironies of our having arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned an Israeli spy. The first question anyone should ask is, why did he need to do any spying in the first place? Because surely we hold nothing back from our “eternal ally”... not money, not diplomatic support, not weaponry, not technology, not military assistance. So what was there to spy on? And even in the unlikely event that there were things we had, or knew, that Israel did not have, or know, didn't they just have to ask? Why recruit some dweeb to rummage around and obtain information under cover of night? These are questions that, after all this time, have yet to be asked (publicly, at least). And the reason they aren't asked is that there is no answer that makes any sense.
For another facet of this issue, consider the “security briefings” I used to be subject to, along with all the other Defense Department clones, on a regular basis. These were invariably conducted by some guy right out of the movies – black suit, skinny black tie, buzz cut – and they would painstakingly go over the current rules and regulations about keeping classified stuff out of the hands of the enemy (whoever they were). But the best part of the briefing was always the “horror stories” about real live spies, and all the damage they caused, and how they were finally caught and brought to justice, the dirty traitors! And the pantheon of spies always included the same three names – Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, and... you guessed it... Jonathan Pollard. That's right! The security guys considered this person to be one of the most notorious, baddest-of-the-bad, spies of all time... or at least of the post-Cold War era.
Now... the funny thing is that these security guys never mentioned that Pollard had been spying for Israel. That was, apparently, considered a bit too controversial, even for a non-public (but not classified, I hasten to add) forum. And it might, in fact, have led to awkward questions, like the ones I raised above: If they're our friends, why are they spying on us? And if they're our friends, why do they even need to spy on us? And even if they thought they needed to and did, why is that such a bad thing? As Frank Anderson, ex-CIA, said in a recent column, “Under this theory, spying for Israel was not serious because it was on behalf of an ally and a friendly government, rather than an enemy of America.” Depends on what you mean by “friendly”, I guess...
In any case, Israel has been mounting a full-court press ever since the day Pollard was convicted, to have him freed and... what? Welcomed to Israel with open arms, I guess, the way Russian spies we and Britain traded were welcomed back to the Motherland. These appeals come around on a regular basis, the most recent having occurred last month in the form of a letter from Netanyahu to Obama. So it's an extremely awkward situation for our government, which already spends every waking moment, and every spare dollar, sacrificing our interests to Israel. Why not just let the guy go? My theory is that it's a way of making a statement, or reassuring people – not that the government has any real problem with the spying aspect, but they do feel a bit of heat from time to time regarding our unprecedented and (to put it very mildly) ill-advised relationship with Israel. Why, there are rumors that the Israeli lobby “owns”, to put it bluntly, a large portion of Congress... and we know that every presidential candidate gets thoroughly vetted by the Israeli lobby and by Zionist organizations before they're allowed to proceed on their quest for glory. (This last point is, by the way, not only not a secret, but is common knowledge. The mainstream media report on this process with every presidential election, and no one seems to think there is anything wrong with it.) So in the light of all this, and the notion that no one in the government is “their own man” (or woman) in this matter, Pollard has been singled out as the one, sole example of how we are indeed our own man, and haven't been mesmerized or blackmailed by Israel, and how we're protecting the integrity of the nation and its defenses, etc. In other words, Pollard is a kind of scapegoat, and the chances are that all of the various interests pleading for his release know that. So they have to keep up the pleas as a matter of form, and so as not to lose face... but they know (because they've been told) that he serves a purpose, and that as long as this purpose exists to be served, he will remain in custody.