One of the more preposterous bits of news coming out of Israel is that Israelis actually believe that the revelations about NSA spying on Israel show that both sides are spying on each other. So presumably because the NSA spies on Israel that means Israel has the right to spy on the U.S. Ergo, our continued incarceration of the spy, Jonathan Pollard is a bit of hypocrisy that should be rectified by freeing him. Haaretz calls this an “increasingly popular argument.” But there should be a caveat: an increasingly popular argument…among far-right Israelis who ardently support Israel’s national security state (including Pollard as a loyal devote of it).
A bit of context is in order: first, Pollard was a paid spy who caused more damage than any U.S. spy before him. He not only betrayed the most advanced U.S. weapons systems to Israel, it turned around and exchanged that information with the Soviet Union in order to free Soviet Jewish dissidents. Pollard poisoned the well not just for U.S.-Israeli relations, but he also harmed our military posture vis a vis the Soviet Union, then our most potent adversary.
While paying an American Jew to betray this country is one of the more egregious capers Israel has pulled, let’s all the way back to the creation of the State of Israel to find the first instance of Israeli spying on U.S. The Mossad sent a former senior Haganah-IDF commander, Meir Novik (Hebrew), on an assignment to spy on this country in 1949. Here is Yossi Melman’s short history of Israeli spying here which, unfortunately, stops at 1993 and omits numerous more recent examples:
Israel has also stuck its hand in the cookie jar. Since the founding of the state, Israeli intelligence agencies have routinely spied on the United States. Meir Novik, a former Shin Bet operative (who later went to become police commissioner) was sent to the US in 1949 to carry out spying missions.
Two years later, Elyashiv Ben Horin, an Israeli intelligence agent operating under the guise of a diplomat, was declared “persona non grata” and expelled from the US after he was apprehended by FBI agents while trying to recruit Jordan’s military attaché. Chaim Herzog, who was Israel’s military attaché in Washington, was also asked to return to Israel after he was found to be involved in illicit efforts to procure technology and weapons systems.
For three decades, Israel has routinely and systematically carried out all kinds of espionage activities on US soil. In 1968, agents from LAKAM – a Mossad outfit headed by Binyamin Bloomberg and Rafi Eitan – illegally obtained uranium from a nuclear factory owned by a Jewish American businessman, Zalman Shapiro. This uranium was used for the Dimona nuclear facility.
Arnon Milchan, the high-profile Hollywood film producer and businessman, was sent to procure vital equipment for Israel’s nuclear program. In the 1980s, American customs authorities exposed a number of plots cooked up by Israeli military officers, who came to the US to receive additional training, and who stole information regarding advanced military technologies which Israel sought.
In 1993, Howard Schack, the man who built US military bases in Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Iraq, released a book in which he revealed that he spied for the Mossad, providing it with information about those same bases.
Returning to NSA spying on Israel, what precisely did it do? It used sophisticated technology to penetrate Israeli telecommunications systems. It did that from U.S. soil without buying the loyalty of any Israeli agent. No Israeli citizen stole any documents from top-secret security facilities. The U.S. has not bartered any of that information by selling or trading it to Iran or any other Israeli enemy.
Now, if Israel is prepared to renounce all future spying efforts inside the U.S. and sign a treaty promising to do so, I’d be willing to demand the NSA stop spying on Israeli targets. Until that happens, all of this blather about freeing Pollard is empty posturing. Posturing that is terribly characteristic of the sorts of ideological extremists advancing these claims.
Not to mention (as Alon Levy tweeted), if Israel wanted to be consistent and placed any value in the exposure of NSA spying on its leaders, it would offer Snowden asylum, as Russia has. If it doesn’t do that, for whatever reason, it has no standing to use any information Snowden revealed to seek Pollard’s release.
I was sorry to see an interview Greenwald gave to Israeli TV in which he was asked about the Pollard-Snowden connection. He unfortunately, didn’t fully understand the sub-text of the question in terms of internal Israeli politics, because he’s much more focused on the excesses of U.S. spying than on the excesses of Israeli spying. Instead of saying it’s hypocritical for the U.S. to jail Pollard while we spy on Israel, he should’ve pointed out that Israel is the third most active country in terms of espionage efforts within the U.S. This is not a question of the U.S. being the sole culprit. If anything, Israel tries to outdo us to the extent it can.
Further, Greenwald didn’t take advantage of his opportunity to raise the case of Anat Kamm, who remains in prison for doing much less than Snowden did. Instead of taking millions of documents as he did, she took 2000 or so. She gave them to a journalist just like Snowden gave his to Greenwald. Her documents confirmed that the IDF senior command violated orders of the Supreme Court and engaged in targeted killings of unarmed Palestinian militants. Greenwald’s argument that Snowden did this country a service by exposing illegal government acts holds equally true for Anat Kamm.
Her imprisonment and Uri Blau’s four month sentence are an indelible blot on Israel’s so-called claim of press freedom and democratic values. When you have the bully pulpit Greenwald has, that’s a subject worth raising.
The action to get Pollard’s sentence commuted is decades old and Netanyahu had made a deal with president Clinton after the Wye accords. The pressure increased a few months ago with the release of Palestinian prisoners and my analysis was – Will Pollard Be Home Free by Christmas 2013?. Obama withstood Israeli pressure and the peace talks with the Palestinians still had nothing to show for Kerry’s effort.
When the NSA spy element was added I was not amused as earlier Snowden releases stated that NSA had an open relationship with Israel’s intelligence community in sharing data. This led me to write a new diary about the affair and the involvement of Rafi Eitan –”I should have put a bullet in his head”- and “peace dove” Shimon Peres who recently promised the Israeli people the release of Pollard would be foremost on his mind in the remaining months. I don’t understand how spy masters like Rafi Eitan, Peres and Netanyahu are free to travel to and fro between Israel and the States. Netanyahu Knows About Spying In US Relations, Wants Pollard Released.
I appreciate a number of opinion pieces in the Jerusalem Post, especially one where it’s written: “We’re dealing with an obsession [by Kerry],” one source said. “He’s a nudnik [nuisance].”
You are wrong regarding the damage accusations. see here:
Weinberger’s contention has been debunked. Information that Pollard gave to Israel did not make its way to the USSR. Instead, the information that the Soviets received during the 18 months Pollard was spying for Israel most likely came from Ames and Robert Hanssen, a onetime FBI agent who spied for the USSR and Russia from 1979 to 2001.
R. James Woolsey, the CIA director from 1993 to 1995, stated after examining the Pollard case file that none of Pollard’s information went to the Soviet Union. Moreover, Woolsey now believes that Pollard has served long enough and should be released. In a 2004 interview, Weinberger himself admitted that in retrospect, the Pollard matter was comparatively minor. In fact, he does not even mention it in his memoirs.
Richard Silverstein says
Holy crap! You’re going to proffer James Woolsey, one of Israel’s (& the MEK’s) chief paid flacks in Washington, as a reliable source attesting to the damage Pollard did? You can’t be serious?!
I just can’t fathom why Israel is so persistent about Pollard — who is this show for? Why disturb relations with the US again and again on this Pollard business? Maybe we can counter this with a call for a new USS Liberty investigation, among other things. Show American kids “shreying” for the victims of the Liberty assault or something like that.
Israel has thrown even Jewish lives to the dogs when it was “necessary” or perhaps convenient, why the deal with Pollard?
Regardless of any conjecture, here’s the bottom line. Vice President Biden made the sentiment of the entire American (note: not internationalist; note: not pro-foreign country) military and intelligence establishment clear when it said: you will have Pollard over his “dead f*cking body”.
Whatever you want to say, about how badly or not he damaged US interests, is fine. The truth is, he was kept alive by miracle and he’s used today as a live bait to see who is really for or against US interests when it comes to Israel. If you have your facts genuinely mixed, then fine. If you are speculating, then look at the broader picture I present and read between the lines. Maybe you aren’t being told all of what he did for a reason. And if he did what he is being publicly accused of doing, why is he still alive?