Jonathan Pol­lard

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment -

HOW YOU feel about Jonathan Pol­lard de­pends largely on who you are and where you come from. The Is­raeli gov­ern­ment and many Jews around the world, view Pol­lard as an agent harshly sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment for pass­ing in­for­ma­tion which he be­lieved could save Is­raeli lives. To the Amer­i­can es­tab­lish­ment, he re­mains a traitor who be­trayed his coun­try’s se­crets for cash.

This week Pres­i­dent Obama re­vealed that there were no plans to re­lease Pol­lard, who was sen­tenced to life be­hind bars in 1987 — this de­spite ap­peals from Is­rael’s pres­i­dent, Shi­mon Peres and Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu.

Be­cause Pol­lard, now 57, pleaded guilty to a charge of vi­o­la­tion of the Es­pi­onage Act, his case was never heard in open court. How­ever, those in the US se­cu­rity hi­er­ar­chy have long claimed that Pol­lard was no al­tru­is­tic spy but rather a cyn­i­cal traitor, who at­tempted to pass his coun­try’s se­crets to at least four coun­tries — South Africa, Australia, Is­rael and Pak­istan — in re­turn for money.

Pol­lard has ad­mit­ted sell­ing thou­sands of doc­u­ments to Is­rael. There has never been a con­clu­sive ex­pla­na­tion of why he was given the max­i­mum penalty for his crime, given that Is­rael was an ally and that he en­tered a guilty plea in re­turn for le­niency.

Pol­lard was born in Galve­ston, Texas, into a Jewish fam­ily. His fa­ther, a mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist, moved the fam­ily to South Bend, In­di­ana, where he taught at Notre Dame Univer­sity. Pol­lard has told of be­ing the vic­tim of bul­ly­ing dur­ing his child­hood but con­soled him­self with the fact that “I got beaten up, but at least I knew the Is­raelis would beat up a cou­ple Arab coun­tries and maybe I would feel bet­ter”.

His feel­ings of affin­ity with Is­rael were en­hanced by a visit to the coun­try in 1970 when he was part of a sci­ence pro­gramme at the Weiz­mann In­si­tute in Re­hovot.

Pol­lard com­pleted a de­gree in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at Stan­ford and ap­plied for a post with the CIA. He was turned down af­ter ad­mit­ting to fre­quent drug use in a poly­graph test. How­ever, he was hired by US Naval In­tel­li­gence. Ac­cord­ing to re­ports he lied in vet­ting as­sess­ments and his se­cu­rity clear­ance was re­duced. How­ever, later his se­cu­rity clear­ance was up­graded mean­ing he had ac­cess to state se­crets. The pass­ing of se­crets to Is­rael is thought to date back to a meet­ing with an Is­raeli Air Force veteran, Aviem Sella. In June 1984, Pol­lard

started pass­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to Sella in re­turn for thou­sands of dol­lars.

The Aus­tralian au­thor­i­ties also re­ported the dis­clo­sure of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to one of their agents — Pol­lard later claimed to have been or­dered by his su­pe­ri­ors to dis­close the in­for­ma­tion.

In 1985, Pol­lard was ar­rested and in 1987, he was sen­tenced to life for his ac­tiv­i­ties. Af­ter eight years in prison, Pol­lard ap­plied for, and was awarded, Is­raeli cit­i­zen­ship. In 1998 Is­rael ad­mit­ted that it had bought clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion from him and in 2002 Prime Min­siter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu vis­ited Pol­lard in prison.

The dis­pute over Pol­lard has long been a source of fric­tion in re­la­tions be­tween the US and Is­rael. How­ever, the US gov­ern­ment has re­mained im­pla­ca­ble on the sub­ject — clearly feel­ing that de­spite pres­sure from its ally, the dam­age done by Pol­lard war­ranted the harsh­est penalty. It now looks as if Pol­lard will re­main in jail un­til he be­comes el­i­gi­ble for pa­role in five years time, hav­ing com­pleted 30 years of his sen­tence.

MON­DAY MORN­ING be­gan with a Tech­nion UK team meet­ing with my col­leagues Suzanne and Juliet. We con­tin­ued to plan for the 11th Ron Arad lec­ture and din­ner which is tak­ing place in Novem­ber. The Tech­nion’s re­cent No­bel Prize Lau­re­ate Pro­fes­sor Dan Shecht­man will be the guest speaker on the night.

Chi On­wurha, the shadow min­is­ter for sci­ence, called to set a date to meet for an up­date on the Tech­nion. I’m very much look­ing for­ward to that. That af­ter­noon I had a skype con­fer­ence call with the agency in Paris that is de­vel­op­ing our brand new in­ter­ac­tive road­show pre­sen­ta­tion. We are re­ally ex­cited to be pre­sent­ing to or­gan­i­sa­tions across the UK this year, to show­case the life-chang­ing re­search that takes place at the Tech­nion, Is­rael’s lead­ing univer­sity of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy.

On my way home that evening, I de­liv­ered a project pro­posal to a prospec­tive donor who is in­ter­ested in sup­port­ing the Tech­nion’s new Hu­man Al­lergy lab­o­ra­tory. With hayfever suf­fer­ers in the fam­ily, and it be­ing the start of sum­mer, I have a per­sonal in­ter­est in the work of this world-class re­search.

Tues­day brought an early skype call (thank good­ness for skype — it makes life much eas­ier) to the vice pres­i­dent of the Tech­nion, Pro­fes­sor Boaz Golany. We dis­cussed progress on a re­search project look­ing at en­vi­ron­men­tally clean tech­nolo­gies be­tween the LSE and Tech­nion sci­en­tists. Then it was an up­date with our chair­man, Daniel Peltz, be­fore I grabbed a sand­wich with some young sup­port­ers who are plan­ning a ten­nis tour­na­ment. The funds raised will sup­port a stu­dent car­ry­ing out re­search into heart dis­ease.

Wed­nes­day saw the Tech­nion an­nounce the de­vel­op­ment of the Pneu­mon­i­tor, a life­sav­ing de­vice that de­tects res­pi­ra­tory dif­fi­cul­ties in pre­ma­ture ba­bies. With Pe­sach loom­ing, I was re­minded of the Jewish peo­ple’s will to suc­ceed, ei­ther es­cap­ing from Pharaoh in Egypt thou­sands of years ago or a new­born baby no longer hav­ing to fight to breathe.

Thurs­day be­gan by plan­ning a home­land se­cu­rity sem­i­nar in con­junc­tion with sci­en­tists at UCL. We take lengthy phone calls with ex­cited par­ents of school stu­dents who have been ac­cepted onto this year’s Scitech, the Tech­nion’s pres­ti­gious in­ter­na­tional sum­mer re­search camp. In­creas­ingly we are us­ing so­cial me­dia to com­mu­ni­cate with our sup­port­ers, so it was great to see Pro­fes­sor An­drew Levy of Tech­nion’s Fac­ulty of Medicine on Youtube, de­scrib­ing his lat­est dis­cov­ery; the rea­sons why some di­a­bet­ics de­velop heart dis­ease, kid­ney prob­lems, blind­ness and oth­ers don’t.

Suzanne and I plan the pro­gramme for the board of gov­er­nors meet­ing at the Tech­nion in June. This is the cen­ten­nial year of the Tech­nion and it is a great op­por­tu­nity to visit the cam­pus. We will meet Is­raeli pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres, visit the med­i­cal lab­o­ra­to­ries and see the stu­dents who we sup­port with schol­ar­ships. It’s a short week be­cause of Pe­sach, with so much to get done and my thoughts move to­ward my pi­ano les­son tonight. I know that I have not prac­tised enough so Jackie, my mu­sic teacher, will no doubt tell me off — again. Tony Bern­stein is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Tech­nion UK ( for­merly the Bri­tish Tech­nion So­ci­ety)


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