30 years a prisoner
Hebrew media review

30 years a prisoner

Some more and some less, but all the Hebrew papers buzz about the potential end of Jonathan Pollard’s imprisonment

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israelis demonstrate at the Western Wall for the release of Jonathan Pollard in 2005. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Israelis demonstrate at the Western Wall for the release of Jonathan Pollard in 2005. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israeli cause célèbre American spy Jonathan Pollard unites the Hebrew press on Sunday, with the long-haired prisoner’s visage gracing the cover of every major newspaper.

Pollard, who has been imprisoned for espionage for nearly 30 years, may be released in November, US Justice Department officials told the Wall Street Journal late last week.

Israeli newspapers all agree that Pollard’s release is unrelated to the Iran nuclear deal, which has been much-maligned in Israel since its signing earlier this month.

Haaretz reports the story “straightest” and quickest of them all, with minimal background and no editorializing on the decision.

Even its boring headline, “USA: Pollard set to be released on November 21,” stands in sharp contrast to the more lyrical,” Pollard, because the time has come” and “The way home,” which Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth use, respectively.

In a short article on page 4, Barak Ravid explains simply that Pollard will likely be released in November as he has served 30 years of his life sentence. After 30 years, the onus of keeping him imprisoned moves from Pollard, who would have had to convince the parole board to let him out, to the US government, which would have to convince the parole board to keep him in.

Yedioth Ahronoth quotes multiple Israeli politicians who reinforce that Pollard is being released for his time served and not “as compensation for the agreement of surrender to Iran,” as Culture Miri Regev puts it.

Ronen Bergman, writing for Yedioth, alludes to some of the more heinous charges against Pollard — namely that some of the information he provided to Israel wound up in the hands of the Soviet Union while the Cold War was still going on — but quickly brushes that away without any real explanation.

“The accusations that some of the information made its way to non-Israeli elements, exposing American spies and causing them to be killed by the Soviet Union, turned out not be true,” Bergman writes, despite the fact that many American intelligence officials still claim that they are true.

Israel Hayom, meanwhile, skips over all the negative allegations against Pollard in its brief history of the case.

The accusations that Pollard also spied and brokered arms deals for countries besides Israel, including allegedly Iran and Pakistan, and that his interest was principally monetary and not Zionistic, are nowhere to be found in Israel Hayom’s description of the case.

Haim Shine, a columnist for Israel Hayom, writes that Pollard’s release is “not a gesture, but a moral necessity.”

Nevertheless, Shine says this act, which he explains is not a gesture, is not a good enough gesture. “The release of Pollard at this time is not considered a tribute to Israel,” Shine writes.

However, he goes on, “If they want to pacify the State of Israel, it is preferable that they think of a way to change this unreal deal and ensure the future and safety of Israel and Western Civilization in general.”

Kerry’s threat

The other top story of the day in the Hebrew press is US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent tacit threat to the Israeli government, warning Netanyahu et al. that if the US Congress votes down the Iran nuclear deal, the world will blame Israel.

“I fear that what could happen is that, if Congress were to overturn it, our friends in Israel could actually wind up being more isolated. And more blamed,” Kerry told the Council of Foreign Affairs, in a not so subtle threat to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.

Kerry’s statement, Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev writes, “is a simple truth that is intended to be troublesome, even if the former ambassador Michael Oren defines it as a threat. Maybe in La-La land they are convinced that the world will praise Israel and the Republicans for succeeding in killing an agreement that the international community, including Saudia Arabia now, have come together to praise.”

Israel Hayom deals more with Kerry’s warning against a military assault on Iran’s nuclear facility, seeing it as indicative of the further consequences the nuclear accord will have.

“What’s the point of Kerry warning Israel against an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites, when it is well known that the chances of it are approaching zero?” Dan Margalit asks.

“Kerry’s warning to Israel was a political scarecrow,” he answers.

Yedioth Ahronoth puts Kerry’s statements in a news story, but forgoes an editorial. Instead, next to the Kerry piece, the Israeli daily includes a sidebar story on the United Kingdom removing travel warnings to Iran.

Naughty language

Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz throw language taboos out their respective windows in their Sunday editions.

Rogel Alpher writes a response to his colleague Benny Ziffer’s piece last week about a dinner party with the Netanyahu couple, cheerfully titled, “Eating s*** with Bibi.”

In it, Alpher questions Ziffer’s assertion that our opinions of politicians are distorted by the media’s representation of them.

“Let’s say that we enjoyed playing chess together and chit-chatting about evolution, two things that the two of us enjoy. So what? So he’s no longer a catastrophic leader?” Alpher asks.

“If I eat quinoa with him, does that mean that he doesn’t feed us a load of s***?” he adds.

Yedioth goes even filthier in its language. In its report on Hulk Hogan — slow news day, I suppose — the newspaper discusses a recording of the once famed wrestler from 2007, in which Holgan employs both a racial slur for black people and an offensive English curse word to describe his daughter’s new boyfriend.

The newspaper repeats the curse word four times and the racial slur five times — excessive by any sane person’s definition.

Israel Hayom, in the meantime, uses US President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya, in which he calls for the African nation to do more to help its LGBT population, to remind the Israeli public that Obama’s middle name is Hussein.

“Obama in Kenya: ‘There’s a reason my name is Barack Hussein,'” the Israel Hayom headline reads because that out-of-context and incomplete quote is the most important aspect of Obama’s attempts to promote closer business and security ties between the US and Kenya.

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