I cannot believe that I am writing about Jonathan Pollard for the second time in as many days, but today’s news from Pollard land is that Gilad Shalit’s father Noam met yesterday with Pollard’s wife Esther to offer his support. Noam Shalit believes that Israel must do more on Pollard’s behalf since the state sent him into action and it is therefore the state’s responsibility to bring him back home. Gilad Shalit himself signed a petition last week asking Shimon Peres to press the Pollard issue with President Obama.
Undoubtedly, it will not be long before Pollard’s supporters begin equating his situation with that of Gilad Shalit’s and begin using stronger language about the state’s duties toward him, asking why Israel paid such a high price for rescuing Shalit from his captives but is not willing to go out on a limb for Pollard. In the interests of grounding such comparisons before they even take flight, let’s review some basic facts. Shalit was a 19 year old conscript captured by a terrorist organization that illegally breached the border fence and abducted him on Israeli territory. Pollard was a 31 year old civilian analyst who committed espionage in exchange for cash and jewelry and pled guilty to spying against his own country. Shalit’s actions were in no way responsible for his abduction (and please, spare me the noxious theory that all Israeli soldiers everywhere are legitimate targets no matter the circumstance) and he was not engaged in any hostilities against his captors at the time of his being taken hostage. Pollard’s actions are directly responsible for his imprisonment, as he stole classified information and passed on thousands of documents to a foreign government. Shalit was held in terrible conditions in violation of the Geneva Conventions and despite calls from the U.N., the Red Cross, the G-8, and individual countries for his immediate and unconditional release. Pollard is a legitimate prisoner under the laws of the United States and in accordance with international norms, is housed in safe and sanitary conditions in a medium security federal prison, and no international governmental organizations or human rights groups have called for his release. Shalit was illegally held by Hamas as a hostage for the sole purpose of extorting Israel into complying with Hamas demands and not because Shalit had any information or intelligence that would be of value to his abductors. Pollard is alleged by the U.S. to have an unacknowledged accomplice (according to Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon) and the precise details of everything that Pollard passed on are still unclear. Shalit did not have to express remorse for his actions because he took no actions at all. Pollard remains unrepentant for spying against his own country. Shalit has been an Israeli citizen from birth, embraced both de facto and de jure by his country by virtue of being unambiguously and openly sent by Israel to serve in the military. Pollard did not become an Israeli citizen until 1995 after he had been arrested, convicted, and imprisoned, and Israel did not admit until 1998 that he was working on Israel’s behalf with its full knowledge and authorization. Shalit’s abduction did not subject any of his fellow citizens to additional danger or peril, nor did it damage Israel’s relations with any other country. Pollard’s spying cast serious aspersions on every Jewish citizen of the United States and created a backlash against Israel in the U.S. intelligence community. Shalit is an innocent kid who was held hostage by terrorists. Pollard is a traitorous spy who is wholly deserving of remaining in jail.
Gilad Shalit has gone through more than any person should rightfully be subjected to, and he has earned the right thousands of times over to hold and express any opinion he chooses without being questioned by anyone. The Shalit family, however, is doing itself a disservice by associating itself with Pollard. Gilad Shalit is in a completely different universe than Jonathan Pollard, and anyone who fully equates the two has a gross misunderstanding of who Pollard is and what he has done.