Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Bret Stephens Thwarted Pollard’s Release

Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal is scheduled to speak at a local event this coming week, which is sponsored by all of the major shuls in Teaneck. Stephens’s incendiary campaign and disconcerting crusade to thwart the release of Jonathan Pollard make him an inappropriate candidate for such a shul forum.

In 2013, as Obama was arriving for a politically delicate visit in Israel, Stephens authored two vitriolic articles in the Wall Street Journal ranting against Netanyahu’s attempts to secure Pollard’s freedom. The scathingly critical and unfounded nature of these articles is reflected in the following excerpt:

“It does not help Israel to make a hero of a compulsive liar and braggart, fond of cocaine, who violated his oaths, spied on his country, inflicted damage that took billions of dollars to repair, accepted payment for his spying, jeopardized Israel’s relationship with its closest ally, failed to show remorse at the time of his sentencing, made himself into Exhibit A of every anti-Semitic conspiracy nut, and then had the chutzpah to call himself a martyr to the Jewish people.”

Anyone with doubts regarding the travesty of injustice this case represents should read the enlightening articles published by Lawrence Korb—the assistant secretary of defense to Caspar Weinberger—and consider the overwhelming litany of Pollard’s supporters which include former Senator Dennis DeConcini, who headed the U.S. Select Intelligence Committee, former CIA Director James Woolsey, in addition to numerous other national security advisers, attorneys general and high-level governmental officials.

Bret Stephens is a rarity among mainstream journalists for his otherwise unbiased reporting concerning the threat of Arab terrorism and the reality of the Israeli existential plight. Given the current alarming trend in the media landscape to obsessively portray Israel from a skewed perspective, at best, Stephens should not be disenfranchised or dissuaded from continuing to publish such articles. Indeed, polling results reported from surveys conducted during the Iranian accord debacle indicated that a younger generation of impressionable Americans has been negatively influenced by the barrage of newspaper articles disparaging Israel. As a result, younger Americans generally have a less-favorable (if not anti-Israel) view compared to older U.S. individuals.

That being the case, though, Stephens’s malevolent onslaught against Pollard—particularly at such a diplomatically sensitive time as Obama’s visit to Israel—make him the wrong person to be cultivated and celebrated as a heroic supporter of Israel by our local shuls. Stephens adamantly propagated falsehoods about Pollard, even though much of the misnomer circulating about the case has been corrected by the highly informed likes of Lawrence Korb and others.

Although Pollard is no longer in jail, he is not free. Intensely cumbersome parole restrictions interfere with all aspects of his daily life—from disqualifying him from obtaining employment to prohibiting him from leaving his home at certain times. When challenged in court that such restrictions are not only completely unnecessary, but inconsistent with similar prior cases, the government failed to provide any supporting reasoning. Bafflingly, though, the judge gave the government additional time to come back with some basis for continuing to subject Pollard to such confinement. The injustice suffered by Pollard should not be obscured by misguided utilitarian justifications and good-intentioned efforts to maintain overall support for Israel. Other Jewish organizations have retracted invitations to, or declined to invite, Stephens after these articles were published, and our local shuls should follow suit.

Jason Diener


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