Of all the perennial jailbird stories that come around on a regular basis – you know, like O.J., Mumia, that “Kennedy cousin”, whatever the hell his name is (who, it now appears, is a free man again, confined to a 100-acre estate somewhere, I'm sure) – the one with the most political significance, therefore with the greatest potential for causing rage and depression, has to be Jonathan Pollard. Now... I won't belabor the sordid details (Google it!); suffice it to say he was tried, convicted, and jailed for spying and for causing grave damage to our national security. OK so far. But who was he spying for? Israel. Oy, there's the rub. He was spying for not just an ally, but an “eternal ally”... a country for which there is no “daylight” between it and the United States... whose foreign policy and ours are synonymous. So, as I've often asked, why did they even need to spy on us? Don't we always give them anything they ask for – whether in terms of money, military support, diplomatic support, propaganda – oops, I mean media – support? Can't they walk into any secure area in Washington, DC and get immediate access to files labeled “Top Secret Crypto/Destroy Self After Reading”? Well... apparently not, unless...
... unless what Pollard did was not so bad, or so unusual, after all, and he's being held for other reasons, as a kind of twisted version of a political prisoner. Now first, as to the “badness” factor, well, he didn't give atomic bomb plans to the Russians like the Rosenbergs did, who wound up getting fried for their trouble. But in any periodic Department of Defense security briefing for the worker bees, Pollard is right up there in the pantheon of spies – as a public enemy and traitor of legendary stature. Make no mistake (say the security guys), Pollard is lower than the do-do of whatever it is that eats snake do-do. And this is part of a litany that is recycled year after year. Of course, never is it mentioned that the Israeli government has been putting crushing pressure on every administration since Pollard was first locked up to set him free so that he can live out his golden years on some kibbutz pitting peaches or something.
So here's a case where Israel is most definitely, thumpingly, not getting what it wants. And the question is why? It's quite simple, really. Even though every administration that comes along stumbles all over itself to be even more accommodating of, and to make even greater sacrifices for, Israel, it has not yet reached the point where we can openly declare ourselves a colony of Israel and proud of it. There has to be at least some appearance, however minimal, of autonomy – that we are still a sovereign nation and that the president (whoever it might be) is his own man.
So here's where Pollard comes in. He's kind of like a scapegoat, but what he actually is is a sign or symbol of the notion that we don't just take orders from Israel... that we can, in fact, even “get tough” with Israel once in a while, and assert ourselves, and declare our independence. To give Pollard up and put him on the next plane to Tel Aviv would be to, once and for all, admit that our sole reason for existing was to support the Zionist project – and that might not go over so well in some quarters (although it would make the Evangelicals and Neocons downright giddy with delight).
What this means, paradoxically, is that if we were ever to admit a bit of “daylight” between us and Israel... and stop calling them out “eternal ally” (the only time in all of history that the word “eternal” has been used in a diplomatic context, note)... we might be able to afford to let Pollard go. But as things stand, he's the one bit of evidence against the argument that we've become a wholly-owned subsidiarity of Israel, so for that reason alone he's going to have to stay in that old jailhouse.