It is 1985. You are a young American Jew of the post-Holocaust generation, employed in the US Naval Intelligence. Your loyalty to your country of birth has never been in question. But you are also a Jew, one stamped with the “Never Again” vow and a love and admiration for Israel, its ultimate guarantor.
Across your desk comes a flow of information that seems deliberately designed to test the veracity of that vow and that love. It is intelligence of the most disturbing nature concerning inter alia, the existence and location of Arab chemical warfare and nuclear development facilities, the size and strength of PLO and other terrorist positions within striking distance of Israel, and the deployment of massive quantities of American weapons sold to Saudi Arabia over the past decade. You have also seen evidence pointing to possible serious Egyptian breeches of the Sinai demilitarization provisions of the Camp David Accords.showbox for ios
You are convinced that this is the kind of information that could spell the difference between victory and defeat for Israel in another round. You also know that it is being routinely, calculatedly withheld in violation of America’s repeated pledge that Israel would suffer no strategic disadvantage as a result of US arms sales to the Arabs or its agreeing to hand over its Sinai buffer to Egypt. You know that America is playing fast and loose with Israel’s security.
You have two alternatives: (1) Keep silent about the intelligence that has come into your possession using loyalty, duty, or self-interest to justify your silence; (2) Sound the alarm in the only effective way possible – relaying these facts to Israel, whatever the personal cost.
Those who say they would chose silence must know that by that decision they would reincarnate and legitimize the Jewish silence of the 1940’s, the conspiracy that may have consigned hundreds of thousands of European Jews to avoidable extermination. The rest of us would choose to sound the alarm, even at the risk of being accused of “dual loyalty”, even at the risk of being charged with “treason”, and in so doing we would, each of us, become Jonathan Jay Pollard.
What this episode tells American Jews about themselves is disquieting. One ight have assumed, nearly a century after the great East European Jewish immigration, that this second and third generation of American Jews, with its pacemakers in the arts, sciences, professions, business, and politics, was free of the anxieties and insecurity of its immigrant forebears. In fact, it turns out that in the paranoia department, our great uncle from Byalistok couldn’t carry our shoes. What else can explain the shower of renunciatory Op-Ed articles, the frantically apologetic letters to the editor, the organized proclamations of contrition that came in the wake of Pollard’s conviction?
Pollard’s real sin was that he had put a tack under the fat, complacent position of Jews in American society. Better he should have remained silent about the dangers he saw threatening Israel than that their tranquillity should have been disturbed.
We also discovered that the canard of “dual loyalty” thought to have been laid to rest by Justice Louis Brandeis half a century ago, was alive and well – in the timorous hearts of untold numbers of American Jews. With no urging from their non-Jewish compatriots they came out of the woodwork in droves to confess that their might now be a conflict between their loyalty to America’s interests and the security of the only nation in the Middle East which embodies those interests.
Another sobering revelation of the Pollard affair was the discovery that to this new legion of “Jewish Americans” the promise made to our martyrs and renewed each year on the Day of Remembrance, Never Again to stand silent in the face of any threat to any portion of the Jewish people was not worth it’s weight in breath. With what alacrity they took to the hills the moment one man had the temerity to display the courage of their conviction.
But perhaps the most disheartening discovery we have made about ourselves is our virtual loss of the capacity for honest righteous rage. Erich Remarque, the brilliant diarist of the Hitler-driven generation of the 1940’s, observed in his last book Shadows in Paradise, that maybe Jews were “too neurasthenic” for real anger. Because of that, he wrote: “their hatred had no stamina; it soon gave way to resignation and, to preserve their self-respect, they turned their energies to understanding the enemy.”
We have surely by now had more than our fill of Jews who make a career of understanding the enemy, be it the “students”cum rock-throwing terrorists of Bir Zeit, the “Poor Palestinians” who ask for nothing more than a “homeland” from which to prepare a final assault on Tel Aviv, or the East Jerusalem “journalist” so “undemocratically” barred from circulating his incendiary hate sheet. Their unmitigated contempt for the self-haters in Israel who are trying so hard to “understand” them is surely no greater than that displayed by Caspar Weinberger (Secretary of Defense) towards 5.7 million American Jews when he declared that it was contrary to America’s interests for either side in the Middle East conflict – read Israel – to achieve strategic dominance in the region? Pollard’s “crime” he said in effect was his attempt to provide Israel with the Intelligence (deliberately withheld by the Pentagon) vital to maintaining the ‘edge’ over an Arab foe vastly superior in numbers, resources, and hardware – and thus subvert the Defense Department’s policy of keeping Israel on the strategic defensive.
If the American Jewish community, fully aware that it was precisely this strategic edge that save Israel’s life in five wars of intended nnihilation, had an iota of righteous anger left in its system, it would have risen to a man to demand Weinberger’s resignation. Instead, like Remarque’s hopeless neurathenics they fell over themselves in a rush to understand Weinberger and Co. and turned their fury inward on Pollard, the young Jew who had thrown it all away – his name, his freedom, his life – to warn Israel and the Jewish people of the dangers threatening them. They did not even raise their voices when a conscienceless prosecutor and a vindictive judge, sensing the opportunity for cheap self-aggrandizement at the expense of a young Jew obviously abandoned by his people, conspired to sentence him to a lifetime behind bars, callously abrogating an agreement to treat his case with a modicum of perspective in return for the “full cooperation” he gave the authorities. And when, his bloodlust still unsated, Weinberger protested that life in prison was too lenient a punishment for Pollard, did the “Jewish Americans” even raise their voices? Most of them his in the corner, silent witnesses to one of the ugliest distortions of justice in American history.
William Mehlman is editor of The Insiders Chronicle, a weekly financial newsletter in New York