By Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Aish Hatorah Resources 

Jonathan Pollard's final punishment


He cannot move to Israel for at least five years. The reason reeks of hypocrisy.

After 30 long years of imprisonment, unprecedented punishment for the crime of spying on behalf of an American ally, Jonathan Pollard is at last a free man.


Pollard’s incarceration in a maximum security prison which he spent in solitary isolation for lengthy periods of time is finally over. Even those appalled by his offense must surely find sufficient compassion in their hearts to be gladdened by his long-awaited release, having more than paid for his unlawful actions many years ago. Today Pollard is a frail and sickly man, far from a threat to American security, anxious only to live out his remaining years with a small measure of comfort and tranquility.

But Pollard’s punishment is not yet over. By the terms of his release, he will be denied the one dream most precious to him, the one hope for which he prayed while fulfilling the terms of his sentence. Jonathan Pollard wants to end his days on earth together with his wife in the land of Israel. And this, the American government has told him, he is not allowed to do for at least five years.

What is the rationale for this cruel ruling? Why add this restriction if Pollard’s release from prison clearly makes the statement that he has paid his dues to his country, to his government and to society? We just learned the answer from Joseph E DiGenova, the former United States attorney who prosecuted Pollard. “If Mr. Pollard were allowed to go to Israel, where his case has been a cause celebre, there would be a parade and events just rubbing it in the United States’ face.”

The United States was afraid to release Pollard earlier and continues to be afraid to let him now emigrate to Israel because there might be some who will publicly express approval for his past actions - and the highest priority must be given to prevent criminals from becoming lionized.

But, with galling hypocrisy, that is a policy which America chose for itself but never deemed necessary when it came to Israel. For years, the United States has pressured Israel to release Palestinian prisoners as “a goodwill gesture,” an indication that Israel “truly wants peace,” a step forward “demonstrating compassion.” These were not people who merely spied for a friendly ally. These were butchers of innocent civilians, men, women, children and infants. These were terrorists guilty of the cruelest and most barbaric acts imaginable. At White House urging, all too often, Israel complied. And brutal murderers became Palestinian national heroes, released killers turned into heroic role models for a new Arab generation to be guided by hatred and brainwashed into martyrdom.

Palestinian society’s habitual glorification of terrorists is one of its most effective means of promoting terror. This is how the Palestinian authority entices future terrorists by offering them an opportunity for future glory and honor. Terror and murder are the Palestinian’s tickets to fame and national adoration

Those who are idolized are a veritable rogue’s gallery of sadistic and brutal killers. Those who have killed the greatest number are paid the greatest honor. Abd Al-Baset Udeh, killer of 30 at the Passover Seder massacre, had a soccer tournament for 14-year-olds named for him. His brother was honored with distributing the trophies. Dalal Mughrabi, terrorist bus hijacker who led the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history in 1978, when she and other terrorists killed 37 civilians, 12 of them children, has had summer camps, schools, graduation ceremonies and sporting events named for her, as well as many TV documentaries honoring her.

We might imagine, based on America’s antipathy to criminal glorification with regard to Pollard—albeit only as a possibility—there would be strong denunciation of this continued ongoing practice among Palestinians, particularly coming from the supposed “moderate” camp of Prime Minister Abbas. Yet there is not a peep of protest, in the aftermath of the horrific stabbings and killings of innocent Israeli victims, when stabbers become saints and killers become poster models for martyrdom.

On Oct. 3, 2015, Palestinian terrorist Muhannad Halabi, 19, attacked Aharon Bennet, 21, and his family, who were on their way back from prayer at the Western Wall through the Old City of Jerusalem. The terrorist killed Aharon and Nechemia Lavi, who came to the family’s aid, and injured Aharon’s wife and 2-year-old son. The Palestinians honored “Martyr (Shahid)” Muhannad Halabi by naming a football tournament after him.

The PA Ministry of Education is now planting olive trees honoring the “Martyrs” who have taken part in brutally murdering and injuring Israelis throughout the country.

“This event is meant to illustrate the devotion of the ministry and its staff to honoring the Martyrs, among them school students, and to strengthen the sense of belonging to the land... [and] in order to highlight the permanent presence of the Martyrs and to honor their sacrifices,” PNN, an independent Palestinian news agency.

And the list goes on and on.

If the fear of glorifying criminals was strong enough to delay Pollard’s release for years and to prevent him now from going to Israel to avert a possible parade in his honor—a fear which is far from a certainty—why is it not reason enough to be applied to the Arab world which continues to do precisely that for its terrorists? Can we still maintain the absurd delusion that those who idolize terrorists want anything other than ongoing terrorism?

And can we—America and the civilized world—not demand that if Palestinians truly seek peace they cannot continue to hold up as saintly role models those who know only the ways of fanatic extremism and violence?

Rabbi Benjamin Blech, a frequent contributor to Aish, is a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and an internationally recognized educator, religious leader, and lecturer. Author of 14 highly acclaimed books with combined sales of over a half million copies, his newest, The World From A Spiritual Perspective, is a collection of over 100 of his best Aish articles. See his website at


Reader Comments(2)

guy0116 writes:

Really? We give Israel tons of aid and get nothing in return? Are you aware that Israel is required to spend something like 75% of the aid we give them on goods and services made in the US? Did you know that from 1974 - 1990 Israel received $18.3B in US military aid, but provided the US with $50-80B in intelligence, research and development savings? (not to mention Soviet weapons systems they captured and delivered to the US).

vardoger writes:

Pollard worked with his Israeli handlers to risk the lives of Americans. Israel is important to Israelis but no American lives should be put arpr risk. We give them billions and get nothing. I'm an not Arab, I despise Iran, but I know the difference between my own country and israel.


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