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Political Choices In Pollard Case

December 22, 1985

Although I usually find myself in agreement with Norman Podhoretz, I was deeply disappointed with his article "Dual Loyalty, Issue Resurfaces in Spy Case" (Editorial Pages, Dec. 12). The recent arrest of Jonathan Jay Pollard, an American Jew, raises a number of serious questions. Instead of addressing them intelligently, Podhoretz merely evades and obscures the issue.

The most urgent and obvious question is the number of other American Jews whose loyalty to Israel might render them--wittingly or unwittingly--agents of a foreign government. Podhoretz distracts us from this issue by advancing an irrelevant argumentum ad populum , namely, that 75% of Americans have complete trust in their Jewish compatriots. The problem is that in Pollard's case, 75% of Americans were proven dead wrong.

As for the remaining 25% who harbor suspicion, Podhoretz claims that they are (a) outright anti-Semites; (b) die-hard opponents of U.S. support for Israel; or (c) innocent victims of misinformation. Presumably, we pro-Israel gentiles who view the Pollard affair with some alarm fall into the third group. It is not at all clear, however, that Podhoretz has provided an exhaustive list of possibilities.

Podhoretz dismisses the first two groups as "beyond the reach of argument." In the case of bigots, of course, he is unquestionably justified. Yet it is preposterous to assert that there is no basis for opposing U.S. support of Israel. In point of fact, there are several serious objections that all of us who defend Israel must honestly face.

Even more astonishing, though, is Podhoretz' implication that Jewish commitment to Israel has no rational basis either. Quoting Nathan Glazer, he claims that "Israel is the religion of American Jews." As far as groups (a) and (b) are concerned, this admission lets several cats out of the proverbial bag.

The "misunderstanding" which bedevils group (c) is the notion that American-Jewish commitment to Israel is primarily political in nature. Podhoretz would have us believe that Jewish Americans love Israel in much the same way that Irish Americans love "the old sod". There are several points, however, where the analogy breaks down. The Republic of Ireland, for example, is not consuming one-third of the U.S. foreign-aid budget.

The United States cannot afford to base its foreign policy on pious sentiment or cultural affinity, as George Washington insisted in his Farewell Address. The fact of the matter is that Israel is at present an indispensable ally in defending American interests in the Middle East. Yet, given the volatile nature of international politics, it is not inconceivable that we may someday be obliged to abandon--or even declare war on--Israel.

Ideally, every American, regardless of race or creed, would stand by that decision and remain loyal. To the measure in which this scenario is unthinkable to a substantial portion of the American people, we have a serious political problem. That is what augurs ill about the Pollard case, and that is the issue that Podhoretz refuses to address.


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