The head of a New York-based group that combats anti-Semitism says the way the U.S. is treating a convicted Jewish-American spy verges on anti-Semitism.

Jonathan Pollard was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he gave thousands of classified documents to Israel. Pollard was arrested in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison. Israeli governments and high-ranking former U.S. officials have called for his release.

Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, says there is no reason why Pollard remains incarcerated when spies convicted of far more serious crimes have walked free.

Foxman told Israel's Army Radio on Tuesday the only explanation is someone is trying to teach the American-Jewish community a lesson in loyalty and "that to me is on the verge of anti-Semitism."