Palestinian women hold pictures of jailed relatives during a protest marking “Palestinian Prisoners Day” in the West Bank town of Ramallah, April 17, 2007. (photo by REUTERS/Oleg Popov)
Jonathan Pollard should be released on humanitarian grounds, but the release of prominent Fatah member Marwan Barghouti could resuscitate negotiations with the Palestinians.
It happened about 20 years ago. Morris Pollard, Jonathan Pollard’s father, called my home in Washington. Unlike other relatives and public figures who fought for the release of his son, Morris never complained about anyone. He never protested that the government of Israel wasn’t doing enough to bring about Jonathan’s release and didn’t even claim that his son risked his life on behalf of Israel’s security. In a sad voice and a restrained tone, the prisoner’s father shared with me the deep pain that he felt and asked if I had any advice. I recalled that conversation with sadness when I heard three years ago that Morris had passed away at the age of 95, without seeing his son released from his prison cell.
Jonathan Pollard betrayed his country, but as late US Ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis told Amir Tibon of Walla! in January, 28 years in prison is more than enough time served. Even vindictiveness needs boundaries. Another year or two in prison will neither increase nor decrease the deterrent effect of his imprisonment on other potential traitors and spies. At the same time, the removal of the name Pollard from its agenda will free the American Jewish community from an affair that cast a heavy shadow over its loyalty to its country. A miserable individual like Pollard, whose physical and mental health is deteriorating by the day, should have already been sent home, regardless of the difficult state of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
In the same article, retired senior diplomat Thomas Pickering also expressed his opinion about Pollard’s release. The former undersecretary of state and ambassador to Israel and the UN said, “Diplomats have to take challenges and turn them into opportunities.” He also declared, “Achieving a framework agreement is far more important than the continuation of Pollard’s incarceration.” Pickering was absolutely right. Still, it seems that the idea that Pollard’s release will pave the way for the much longed-for framework agreement is little more than wishful thinking. Believing that Pollard’s release will change the rules of the game in the diplomatic process is a lot like using cupping therapy on the dead. What was depicted as a weapon that the Americans held back in case of emergency could, at best, extend the agony of the negotiations by a few more months.
Pollard’s arrest was not directly related to the conflict, and his release will not help end it and promote reconciliation between the two rivals. Actually, the contrary is true. The case of the prisoner is completely different from that of freedom fighters like South Africa’s late President Nelson Mandela, whose release was a formative event in that reconciliation process.
The day after his release, Pollard will likely become a key figure in the political right’s struggle against a two-state solution and its campaign of incitement against the Barack Obama administration. The American Jewish spy has become a hero to the settlers. He has even been honored with the naming of an illegally occupied building in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem: “Jonathan’s House.” It is no coincidence that Pollard was quick to announce that if his release is part of a deal that leads to the release of Palestinian prisoners convicted of killing Israelis, he will forego his right to appeal to the US prison system’s parole board.
If, as Pickering says, US Secretary of State John Kerry is prepared to turn this challenge into an opportunity to advance peace, he will find the right person on the Israel Prison Authority’s list of security prisoners. His name is Marwan Barghouti, and he is the most popular Palestinian leader in the occupied territories. Since April 2002, he has been serving five life sentences in Israel for the murder of Israelis in a series of attacks for which he was held responsible as head of Tanzim, the militant faction of the Palestinian Fatah movement in the West Bank. At present, the leaders of Fatah and Hamas are competing among themselves over the privilege of bringing about his release in a prisoner exchange with Israel.
It is not only hard-core leftists like Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On who believe that Barghouti’s release could change the balance of power in the territories in favor of the peace camp. In a September 2007 interview by Mazal Mualem for Haaretz, Binyamin (Fouad) Ben Eliezer of the Labor Party, who was privy to classified intelligence information when he served as defense minister, said that Barghouti was influencing everything that was happening in the Palestinian Authority from his prison cell and that he was the only person with the power to “make Hamas knuckle under.”
Many people within the professional ranks of the security apparatus share the assessment of Ben Eliezer. They also believe that Barghouti will be the next leader of the Palestinians and that he is a real partner for a diplomatic breakthrough. “We have nothing to lose,” said Eliezer, who is now a presidential candidate. “We’ve been running around in circles. … We have to look for some creative approach.”
Adding Barghouti to the list of prisoners who will be returning home in the next wave of releases will provide an inestimable boost to the stature of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, especially in his struggles with his opponents in Fatah and the Hamas leadership. A picture taken together with the man who was once one of the most outspoken supporters of the Oslo Accord could help Abbas overcome the settlement obstacle and remain at the negotiating table. At the same time, Pollard’s release might enable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to overcome the obstacle posed by the release of Palestinian prisoners who are citizens of Israel without seeing his right-wing coalition slip out of his hands.
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
Feb 02, 2020 0The remarks from the US official came in wake of the Palestinian decision to reject the administration’s peace plan. US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive to...
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.