One of the thorniest issues of our lifetime has reared its head again: the question of a presidential pardon for Jonathan Pollard. With the Israeli president, Shimon Peres in the country to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, some congressmen from both parties have introduced a resolution calling for Pollard’s release. Peres, himself, said that he would ask Obama to consider it. To refresh your memory Pollard is the spy who was given a life sentence for spying for the Israelis. It is not clear exactly what Pollard passed to the Israelis or how it was used. Some have contended that the Israelis gave the Russians critical information on US spies operating abroad and information on classified military technology in order to have Russian Jews be allowed to emigrate to Israel.. The problem as to the truth is that Pollard never stood trial but rather confessed to spying and was sent to jail. Consequently, the extent of his crimes and the consequences are classified and probably never will be told. Pollard was granted Israeli citizenship and has denounced his US citizenship. If he were pardoned he would be deported to Israel. One thing that I do know is that the Pollard case inflames many people that I know, especially those who are ex-military, ex-CIA and ex-FBI. Those people have told me that Israel (rightly so) puts Israeli interests above all others. They do believe that Israel is responsible for the loss of American lives, citing the murders of US spies abroad during the Pollard era and even before in the bombing of the USS Liberty during the six-day war in which 34 US sailors were killed and 170 were wounded. The surviving sailors said that the Israeli aircraft were unmarked and it was speculated that the Israelis wanted to deceive the Americans to think that the attackers were Arabs. Whatever you believe, it is hard to deny that the US did engage in a cover up in the Liberty incidence and sought to minimize it. Regardless, the very mention of Pollard’s names opens deep wounds and animosities. People that I know who are fiercely patriotic do not hide their animus toward Israel, toward the Navy establishment and toward Lyndon Johnson for what they perceive as turning their backs on Americans on the front line in the name of Israel, rather than US, interests.
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com