By VT Editors
Jonathan Pollard Urges “Dual Loyalty” And Spying For Israel
Jonathan Pollard, who as a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy in the 1980s was found guilty of spying for Israel and served 30 years in prison, not only has no regrets for his action but urges other American Jews to follow in his footsteps.
Now a resident of Israel, which he considers his real “home,”
Pollard was interviewed by the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom (March 25, 2021). He said, “The bottom line on this charge of dual loyalty is, I’m sorry, we’re Jews, and if we’re Jews we will always have dual loyalty.” Pollard said Jews were deluding themselves if they thought of America as their home. He suggested that he would counsel a young Jewish American working in an American security agency to spy for Israel, as he did.
“I would tell him,” Pollard said, “that not doing anything is unacceptable. So simply going home (to Israel) is not acceptable… You have to make a decision whether your concern for Israel and loyalty to Israel and loyalty to your fellow Jews is more important than your life.”
Pollard was paroled from his life sentence in 2015 and arrived in Israel last year. He was met at the airport by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He arrived on a private plane provided by the late casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Adelson once said that he regretted having served in the U.S. Army rather than the Israeli military.
Jonathan Pollard grew up in a family committed to Zionism. He recalls that at his synagogue “there were two flags: a U.S. and an Israeli one. That’s how I was raised.” He was told that Israel was the “homeland” of all Jews and that he was in “exile” in America. In his extensive espionage for Israel, his actions seemed consistent with the Zionist philosophy he had learned. **
Jewish Critics Of Israeli Policies Are Using The Term “Apartheid” To Describe Them
Increasingly, Jewish and Israeli critics of Israel’s policies in the occupied territories are using the term “apartheid” to describe them. In January 2021, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem issued a statement which declared that the Israeli Government was an “apartheid regime.” It stated that, “A regime that uses laws, practices and organized violence to establish and maintain the supremacy of one group over another is an apartheid regime.”
B’Tselem argues that the Israeli regime “of apartheid” rests on four pillars: citizenship, land, freedom of movement and political participation. Virtually any person of Jewish ancestry anywhere in the world can claim Israeli citizenship; immigration to Israel is all but impossible for Palestinians, and only a minority of Palestinians—-about 1.6 million out of seven million—-who live on land controlled by Israel are citizens of Israel and even their rights are limited compared with their nearly seven million Jewish counterparts.
This report has been largely ignored in the media and by mainstream American Jewish organizations. One who paid close attention was Rabbi Brian Walt, the founder and rabbi emeritus of Congregation Mishkan Shalom, an activist congregation in Philadelphia.
He was the founding executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and is a member of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voice for Peace. Rabbi Walt grew up In South Africa and knows a great deal about apartheid.
Rabbi Walt recalls that, “When I first heard that B’Tselem was saying matter-of-factly that Israel and the lands it occupies constitute an apartheid system, I immediately flashed back to 2008, to the moment when the truth became clear to me when I led a Rabbis for Human Rights-North America (Truah) trip to Israel and the occupied West Bank.
We arrived in Hebron. Michael Manikin, a leader with the Israeli human rights group Breaking The Silence, gestured to Shuhada Street, the street our group was about to walk down, and told us “it was a ‘sterile street’—-a street forbidden to Palestinians, only Jews and other tourists were permitted to walk down the street.”
Writing in Truthout (Feb. 17, 2021), Rabbi Walt remembers that, “I was horrified. My heart beat fast as tears rolled down my face. As a child growing up in apartheid South Africa, I was intimately familiar with separate beaches, buses, cabs, entrances to post offices and public benches with ‘whites only’ signs. But even in Apartheid South Africa, there were no ‘sterile streets’ that only white people could walk on.
In South Africa, as a student at the University of Cape Town, I had fought against apartheid. I worked on issues of economic justice for domestic workers and founded and edited a Jewish student newspaper dedicated to ending apartheid.
Throughout my anti-apartheid activism, Israel was always an essential part of my Jewish identity. I was a committed progressive Zionist. Creating a just, democratic Israel that reflected the highest moral values of Judaism was—-and remains—-a core commitment.”
Over decades, Rabbi Walt engaged in political activism on the West Bank with groups such as the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions and encountered disturbing realities. He witnessed the demolition of Palestinian homes, the expropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish settlements, olive orchards uprooted by settlers, and Palestinians uprooted from homes in Jerusalem that they had owned for generations.
“Those experiences were so shocking,” notes Walt, “that, if I hadn’t seen them with my own eyes, I would never have believed they were true. These experiences reminded me of very similar injustices that I had seen in South Africa… At that moment in Hebron I felt a new determination to name what I saw as apartheid. We, the Jewish people, must tell the truth. We can no longer cover up the shocking systemic discrimination and oppression of the Palestinians by the State of Israel—-a state that relies on our support and acts in our names and in the name of our tradition.”
More and more Israelis have been using the term “apartheid” to describe their country’s occupation. Professor David Shulman of the Hebrew University notes that, “No matter how we look at it, unless our minds have been poisoned by the ideologies of the religious right, the occupation is a crime.
It is first of all based on the permanent disenfranchisement of a huge population… In the end, it is the ongoing moral failure of the country as a whole that is most consequential, most dangerous, most unacceptable.
This failure weighs… heavily on our humanity. We are, so we claim, the children of the prophets. Once, they say, we were slaves in Egypt. We know all that can be known about slavery, suffering, prejudice, ghettos, hate, expulsion, exile. I find it astonishing that we, of all people, have reinvented apartheid in the West Bank.”
In 2019 in a position paper entitled “Our Approach to Zionism” Jewish Voice for Peace stated: “Jewish Voice for Peace is guided by a vision of justice, equality, and freedom for all people. We unequivocally oppose Zionism because it is counter to those ideals… While it had many strains historically, the Zionism that took hold and stands today is a settler-colonial movement, establishing an apartheid state where Jews have more rights than others. Our own history teaches us how dangerous this can be.”
Hagai El Ad, the director of B’Tselem, declares that, “Calling things by their proper name—-apartheid—-is not a moment of despair, rather it is a moment of moral clarity… People of conscience must reject apartheid in Israel just as clearly and forcefully as we reject white supremacy in the U.S… ” **
Israeli Supreme Court Says Citizenship Must Be Granted To Non-Orthodox Converts; Chief Rabbi Compares Them To Dogs
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled on March 1 that Israel must grant citizenship to those who converted to Judaism in Israel under non-Orthodox auspices. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (March 4, 2021) notes that, “Past Supreme Court decisions have mandated that the state also recognize Jews who converted outside of Israel under non-Orthodox authority, provided they live in a recognized Jewish community. Non-Orthodox converts, however, still often face hurdles in obtaining Israeli citizenship and are sometimes denied.”
In Israel, there is no separation of religion and state. The state finances ultra-Orthodox chief rabbis and non-Orthodox rabbis do not have the right to perform weddings and funerals or fulfill other religious functions. The International Jerusalem Post (March 5-11, 2021) reported that, “The decision set off a firestorm of criticism from Orthodox political parties that vowed to pass legislation to overturn the ruling.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners compared Reform Jews to dogs and produced xenophobic ads warning that African asylum seekers would convert to Judaism. The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party depicted dogs wearing ritual items like kippot, tallit, tefillin, along with side locks and glasses.
Another ad featured a picture of African asylum seekers with the caption, “Jews certified by the Supreme Court. Danger! Thousands of infiltrators and foreign workers will become Jewish through Reform conversion.”
One Israeli lawmaker, Moshe Aboutboul, said of the court ruling: “They’re trying, essentially, to kill the Jewish people.” He told the Israeli news site Ynet that the ruling “would benefit every clown in America who calls himself Reform or a Reform rabbi.”
Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said: “What is Reform conversion? It isn’t Jewish… If a Reform convert comes to me after marrying a Jewish woman, I’ll send her away without a divorce. She doesn’t need a divorce. The marriage is invalid. Her husband is not a convert.” Yosef said that Reform Judaism “falsified” the Torah and said that immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union are “communist, religion-hating gentiles.”
Editorially, Washington Jewish Week (March 11, 2021) declared: “… even though the ruling is significant… it did nothing to loosen the haredi Rabbinate’s stranglehold on personal status issues… Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau said those who undergo Reform or Conservative conversions ‘are not Jews.’
Interior Minister Ariyeh Deri… pledged to overturn the decision through legislation since it constitutes ‘a mortal blow to the Jewish character of the state’ and the ‘complete demolition of the status quo’… Non-Orthodox streams of Judaism account for the vast majority of the world’s Jewish population… that is an issue Israel will have to address as it works to sustain its foundational commitment to being both Jewish and democratic.” **
ICC Opens Investigation Of Potential Israeli War Crimes
In March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor opened a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories. Fatov Masouda said the probe would cover events in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip since June 13, 2014. The Hague-based court ruled that it could exercise its criminal jurisdiction over the territories.
Israel rejected Bensouda’s decision while Palestinians praised it. Israeli Prime minister Netanyahu said it was “antiSemitic.” The ICC has authority to prosecute those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes on the territory of states party to the Rome Statute, its founding treaty. Israel has never ratified the Rome Statute, but the Secretary General of the U.N. accepted the accession of the Palestinians in 2015.
Many Israeli and Jewish human rights advocates welcome the ICC investigation. Writing in Mondoweiss (March 4, 2021), Larry Derfner, for many years a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and now a contributor to Haaretz, notes that, “There’s a natural resistance to saying that your country deserves to be investigated for war crimes by the ICC in The Hague. But if you believe that Israel’s open-ended occupation and the settlements and lethal onslaughts in Gaza that go with it are morally untenable, how do you avoid that conclusion?”
Derfner, the author of “No Country For Jewish Liberals,” declares that, “The arguments against an investigation don’t stand up. I suspect Netanyahu knows that the real reason the ICC doesn’t investigate Iran or Syria… or a number of other regimes whose criminality exceeds… Israel’s… is because the wrongs these regimes commit don’t effect a state that has granted the ICC jurisdiction over it by signing the Rome Statute.
Neither Iran nor Syria or the other countries are terrorizing states that have signed the Rome Statute, so unfortunately North Korea, Zimbabwe, etc. are free to plague their citizens as much as they want to and they will fall outside the ICC’s purview.
Israel hasn’t signed the Rome Statute either but the difference is that Palestine has. Palestine—recognized by the U.N. General Assembly as the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza—-is where Israel’s persecution has been taking place. It was the government of Palestine, the Palestinian Authority, that asked the ICC to investigate Israel for war crimes.”
Larry Derfner concludes: “Is it fair that the ICC is investigating Israel for war crimes? In the narrow legal sense, yes. In the larger moral sense, it’s more than fair.”
The new ICC role, says Michael Sfard, the Israeli human rights attorney, means that it cannot “evade” an investigation and possible prosecution of Israeli officials over the illegal settlements policy on the West Bank. Speaking to Ori Nir on an Americans for Peace Now webinar in February, Sfard said that the ICC can now begin an investigation in earnest:
“ And Israel is in a box. It will say that it has legal mechanisms to investigate war crimes stemming from its assaults on Gaza and other atrocities but it has no such fig leaf for the settlements… On the issue of settlements, Israel does not claim to investigate and prosecute. For Israel, settlements are not illegal, and so it’s an official policy… .If the ICC were to drop a case against Israel, that would cause a domino effect of developing world countries leaving the court. So it’s an existential problem for the ICC.”