Facts over Emotions?
Responding to Phil Baum and the AJC

Michael Rosenzweig, Esq. - The Jewish Press [NY] - August 6, 1991


: The following article was written in response to an op-ed (07/ 25/91 - JTA) by Phil Baum, Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress, which distorted and twisted the facts about the Pollard case in attempt to justify the refusal of Jewish leaders to support justice for Jonathan Pollard.


Phil Baum's article on the Pollard case is profoundly troubling and raises serious questions regarding the sorry state of our American Jewish leadership.

First, and most simply, the article is riddled with half-truths and outright falsehoods. For example, Pollard's lawyers have not had access "to a full range of classified documents relevant to the case," and have been specifically forbidden from seeing the infamous Weinberger memoranda. The lawyer who represented Pollard in connection with his guilty plea was permitted to review one of Weinberger's memoranda for approximately 15 minutes prior to Pollard's sentencing hearing. The government has blocked Pollard's appellate counsel from reviewing the memoranda and all other classified material, although such counsel has obtained the highest security clearance. The government has suggested, rather pathetically, that Pollard's current counsel has effective access to these materials through its ability to question Pollard's first lawyer. Mr. Baum apparently finds access to the faded memory of a lawyer dismissed over six years ago sufficient to satisfy our constitutional requirements of due process and effective assistance of counsel.

Incredibly, Mr. Baum also asserts that "Pollard has been kept separate from the general prison population for his own personal safety." Does Mr. Baum have the slightest idea what conditions are like in he K-unit of the federal maximum security facility in Marion, Illinois, where Pollard is housed? The inmates at Marion are the most dangerous in federal custody, and the most notorious Marion residents are housed in its underground K-unit, where conditions are the harshest Marion has to offer. Summers in K-unit are stultifyingly hot and humid, and raw sewage lines frequently back up into cells there. K-unit prisoners are never permitted to associate with anybody outside the unit. I have visited Pollard and can say categorically that he is being subjected to a severe punishment regime. If Mr. Baum truly believes that Pollard's conditions of captivity are necessary for his own safety, I suggest that Mr. Baum visit Marion and see the truth for himself.

Mr. Baum ignores the facts when he asserts that the details of what Pollard passed to Israel are classified and concludes that his sentence was therefore justified. Pollard is seeking to stand trial to discuss openly what he passed to Israel; it is the government that resists an open trial. Moreover, the government never charged Pollard with harming the United States; his only crime was espionage in aid of Israel. Mr. Baum says others convicted of espionage have received sentences as harsh as Pollard's, but he fails to mention that these others, unlike Pollard, were charged with injuring this country. Mr. Baum also demolishes a straw man of his own creation when he proclaims triumphantly that Pollard will in fact be eligible for parole in 1997. Pollard supporters understand that he will be technically eligible for parole at that time; what Mr. Baum omits is that the sentencing judge recommended against parole, and in our criminal justice system, as a practical matter, that is tantamount to a denial of parole.

Mr. Baum's reference to pleas for "executive clemency" by Pollard supporters is similarly inaccurate. In fact, Pollard's supporters seek a commutation of his sentence to time served, which is of course quite different from executive clemency; the latter is a pardon which wipes clean the criminal record, while the former recognizes that a crime was committed but shortens the sentence to one more appropriate to that crime.

Finally, Mr. Baum is kidding himself, and unfortunately misinformed others, when he asserts that Pollard does not enjoy support in the organized Jewish community. A partial list of the organizations and prominent individuals supporting Pollard included Agudath Israel of America, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Association of Reform Zionist of America, the American Section of the World Jewish Congress, Alfred Gottschalk, President of Hebrew Union College, Norman Lamm, President of Yeshiva University, Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Emanuel Rackman, Chancellor of Bar Ilan University, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, Seymour Reich, former Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and past President of B'nai B'rith, Ida Nudel, Arthur Hertzberg and Dennis Prager. (Incidentally, Pollard's support is not limited to the Jewish community. Among his supporters are Theodore Hesburgh, President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, Robert Drinan, Frank Eiklor of Shalom International, the Right Reverend Paul Moore, Jr. Sister Michelle Olley, Vice President of the national Coalition of American Nuns and Sister Rose Therring, of Seton Hall University.) Nor do efforts by Pollard supporters "seek to circumvent the judicial system [or] tend to condone [Pollard's] criminal act." Pollard supporters, like Pollard himself, admit his guilt but seek to correct the injustice he continues to suffer by serving a disproportionately lengthy sentence under inappropriately harsh conditions.

What is most surprising is Mr. Baum's professed inability to see anti-Semitism in this case. Consider the facts: a Jew who committed espionage activity in aid of the Jewish State received a grossly disproportionate sentence of life imprisonment, in part because of memoranda submitted by Caspar Weinberger (whose antagonism toward Israel and a ambivalence about his Jewish ancestry are well known}, incorrectly accusing that Jew of treason and dramatically exaggerating the extent of the damage caused by him. Consider, also, that Pollard himself has noted publicly that he was asked during his interrogation to select from a list of prominent American Jews the names of those who had conspired with him. What exactly does one need to do to convince doubters that anti-Semitism was in fact involved in the Pollard case? What "proof" would suffice to convince Jewish organizations that they should become active in Pollard's behalf?

Mr. Baum , I suspect, has heard all of this before, which is what is ultimately most unsettling about his article. Not only does he deny what is obvious to most of us - that the Pollard case raises issues of Jewish concern that transcend the individual circumstances of Jonathan Pollard - he forces us to question the very capacity of American Jewish leadership to lead. What motivates a man like Phil Baum to write an article so full of invective, so laden with assertions he knows to be untrue? Only Mr. Baum can provide the answer to that perplexing question, and apparently he is preoccupied with other concerns. As American Jews, however, we can and should resoundingly reject the "leadership" of the Phil Baums of the world and resolve that we will not permit them to determine the fate of Jonathan Pollard.

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