Historian and journalist Gil Troy’s blockbuster piece on Jonathan Pollard today in Tablet Magazine provocatively argues that the American serving a life sentence for spying for Israel is “the victim of the worst act of official American anti-Semitism in our lifetimes.” Troy asserts that Pollard ought to be freed: Not because he was innocent—he wasn’t—or because spying on America, even for an ally like Israel, is no big deal—it is—but because his punishment has been harsh compared to similar situations, and because there are questionable explanations as to why.
Troy’s essay is about American-Israeli relations; the Rosenberg case; late-Soviet espionage; Ronald Reagan and Benjamin Netanyahu; the Israeli-settler right. Most compellingly, it is about American Jews’ lingering insecurities. We doth protest too much, Troy argues: We go out of our way to assert Pollard’s guilt and our hatred for him out of the insecurity that we ourselves will be taken as dual loyalists—as lesser versions of the Israeli spy.
Pollard has been in the news recently: This summer, Ambassador Michael Oren briefly strayed from the official Israeli line—which, since 1998, has acknowledged that Pollard was an authorized agent. Then, a couple months ago, Israeli officials were reportedly considered a deal under which an extension of the construction freeze would net them, among other things, Pollard’s release. With talk of extending the freeze back, this is something to keep an eye on.