The issue of releasing the Jewish political prisoners is a reliable yardstick in measuring “Love of Jews” (Ahavat Yisrael.) What person with a Jewish heart can bear to see Jews, who acted out of nationalist motives, decay in prison while Arab murderers are set free. Only a Jew who has something dead inside of him cannot identify with the plight of the Jewish prisoners who acted out of pain, retaliation and sometimes self-defense.
Yet, we see so many right-wingers adamantly against their release. Elyakim HaEtzni, considered an extreme right-winger is against releasing the Jewish prisoners, as is the new “savior” Benny Begin. Benny Alon as well says he has a “moral problem” with helping them. We can see from this that there is sometimes no connection between nationalism or “love of land” and “love of Jews”. All the staunch Zionists (including religious ones) don’t even mention Jonathan Pollard anymore. He is simply not in their consciousness. For so many YESHA types, Eretz Yisrael is the only goal that stands before them, while Ahavat Yisrael falls by the wayside. (The attitude of so many of them is that Pollard is an “American”, and anyway, aren’t all Americans crazy?) This is their level of Ahavat Yisrael. Even their slogan “Ahavat Chinam” (unconditional love) is reserved strictly for the secularists, and is only a manipulation to placate the secularists and further the cause for strengthening the settlement enterprise. For this reason, their “Ahavat Chinam” does not extend to the “Haredim”, since the “Haredim”are not settlement supporters.
Note: The point here is not to take away from the importance of settlements,but there is a disproportionate emphasis on this one subject, while other values are ignored. When a Jew is murdered by an Arab, they scream for more settlements instead of for vengeance or the expulsion of the Arabs. Another example: Several years ago when the Russian Jews were coming out of the Soviet Union and going to America instead of Israel, many wanted the Soviets to shut their gates to these Jews, since they are not making Aliyah to Israel. But true “Ahavat Yisrael” would dictate that we should want those Soviet Jews freed in any case, even if they don’t come to Israel. Again, the ideal of Zionism does not have to overshadow the value of “Ahavat Yisrael”. That is why Rabbi Kahane fought anti-semitism in the exile, even if he knew that the ultimate answer is Aliyah to Israel.