Treating Pollard Cruelly? Look What We Do to Vanunu

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Mordechai Vanunu in court, 2010.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The ability of the creature called man to look in the mirror and not see himself is truly amazing. For decades, the Israeli media have complained about the “cruelty” with which the U.S. administration and legal authorities have allegedly treated the man fondly nicknamed here “the Jewish spy” – Jonathan Pollard.

The moaning by Israeli journalists goes something like this: “How come they made him serve his entire sentence to the day, and how come, even now after he was freed, they’re imposing terrible restrictions on him for five more years and banning him from talking to the media and surfing the Internet?

“How come they’re not letting him roam free? And worse, they’re banning him, at least for five years, from leaving the United States, and he won’t be able to, oh no, come to Israel. And they’re using the lame vindictive excuse that 30 years after his trial he still has secrets he could pass on.”

So now, in a land not far far away, in fact right here, in the same Israel Pollard yearns for, lives another Jew (based on Jewish law), an Israeli not an American. He’s named Mordechai Vanunu, also known by the notorious nickname “the atomic spy.” If anything the Americans have done or are doing to Pollard can be called “cruelty,” then what we’ve done and are doing to Vanunu is the mother of all cruelty times 77.

First, just as the Americans did with Pollard, we didn’t release Vanunu one day before he served his full sentence, which with no justification he “spent” mostly in complete isolation. When he finally did come out of prison, Israel’s security services and legal authorities imposed on him sanctions that have been maintained for 11 years, and they’re much harsher than the ones Pollard is subjected to.

Not only is Vanunu’s movement restricted, and not only is he forbidden to talk to the media, he’s forbidden to talk to people who aren’t citizens of holy Israel, even to say “shalom shalom.” And there are all kinds of other strange restrictions.

Of course, Vanunu is banned from leaving Israel – not for five years but for the past 11 years, and there’s no sign they’ll let him leave Israel until the day he dies. And all this with the lame vindictive excuse that 30 years after his trial he still has secrets he could pass on.

Convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard after release. Manhattan, New York. November 20, 2015.Credit: AP

The interesting thing is that the same learned journalists who come out raging against the United States for its alleged abuse of poor Pollard are those who passionately and furiously support the continued abuse of “the traitor” Vanunu.

Don’t say “it’s not the same thing” – don’t say “you can’t compare” and “for us it’s a matter of life and death while for them it’s nothing.” Because if Vanunu in your Israeli eyes is a traitor to his country, then Pollard is exactly that in American eyes.

But we don’t see that. When we look in the mirror, we don’t see our wrinkles and pimples. We only see how right we are.

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