I live in a world where countries blame Israel for all their ills, equate Israel’s right to defend herself with the terrorist acts perpetrated by her enemies, and promote boycotts of the only consistent and lasting democracy in the Middle East. It is no secret that since the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948, a dangerous double standard has provided fuel for biased UN resolutions and astonishing EU sanctions against Israel.
In the U.S., the tone was significantly different for many years. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush fought against any effort to delegitimize the State of Israel, and made a point of highlighting, and strengthening, the natural and necessary bond that the two countries share. Therefore, it pains me that a different reality is slowly setting in.
Since 2008, both Democrats and Republicans have been critical of President Obama for giving a cold shoulder to Israel, for implementing dangerous Middle East policies, and for his blatant disregard for diplomatic norms, especially vis-à-vis Israel.
The revelations of Obama’s actions over the past several months cut at the heart of the world’s obsession with applying a double standard to Israel and to the Jewish people.
Several months ago, the Obama Administration strong-armed Israel into releasing terrorists to meet Palestinian preconditions for peace talks. Israel gave in to the pressure, compromised the safety of its citizens, and legitimized the ludicrous idea that releasing 109 murderers, in four stages, would give the Palestinian Authority confidence to sit at the negotiating table.
The third stage of the terrorist release will likely occur next week. Among those who have already been released are Abdel al-Said Uda Yussuf and Massoud Issa Rajib Amer, two terrorists who, in April 1993, slaughtered Ian Feinberg, a young Jewish lawyer who was meeting with local officials to organize economic programs for Palestinians. Within minutes, they dug a knife into his throat, hacked him into pieces with an ax, and then shot him.
The second revelation: The NSA spied on Israel and various Israeli leaders over a period of several years. The Obama Administration, who at first denied allegations of spying, now admits that the United States had monitored the leaders of dozens of countries, including those of some of its closest allies. Though spying is commonplace and is to be expected within the realm of foreign relations, the United States’ spying on the State of Israel is an extra touchy subject.
Why are these two revelations of such consequence? The answer: Jonathan Pollard.
For those not familiar with Mr. Pollard, he was jailed in the 1980’s for passing classified U.S. documents to Israel while working for the U.S. Naval Intelligence Command. Twenty-eight years into his sentence, Pollard continues to sit, alone, behind the dimly lit halls of the Butner Correctional Complex just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. The disproportionate life sentence that Pollard faces is the harshest punishment ever assessed to an accused spy who passed information to an ally of the United States. Precedent dictates that Pollard’s crime warrants a maximum of six years in a Federal prison. He has now served almost five times that, a term that included seven years in solitary confinement.
When, in August, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked President Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence as part of the release of more than 100 cold-blooded killers, Obama refused. Reports have also surfaced that President Obama sees no connection between the NSA spying scandal and the case of Jonathan Pollard.
The sheer amount of high profile officials who are now urging Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence is staggering. Even those who called for his incarceration almost 30 years ago are now urging our Commander in Chief to release Jonathan Pollard. They include former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former FBI director William Webster, men who now accept that Pollard needs to be home with his wife, both as a matter of justice and as a result of his declining health.
Former Director of the CIA James Woolsey, who was originally opposed to releasing Pollard, recently urged Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence. He asserted that if the ex-spy were a Filipino-American or South Korean-American, he would no longer be in prison.
As uncomfortable as it is to consider Mr. Woolsey’s comments, he is right. The double standard that the world applies to any person connected to the State of Israel and to the Jewish people, is the same double standard that is responsible for Jonathan Pollard’s continued incarceration. We must bring Jonathan home.
Isi Stein, a New York native, is a recent graduate of the University of Miami, where he earned a Bachelors of Business Administration. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.