Purim Plea for Pollard
Yisrael Medad - The Jerusalem Post - March 4, 1993
Exactly six years ago, on March 4, 1987, Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to
life imprisonment in the US District Court in Washington, D.C., by Judge
Aubrey Robinson. Despite a plea agreement with the prosecution, the judge
meted out the most severe sentence ever in a case where an American citizen
admitted to acting on behalf of an American ally.
Pollard was found guilty on one count of delivering classified information to
a foreign government. Nevertheless, US government officials colored his
activities to such an extent that the impression was conveyed to the media,
the public and the sentencing judge (via Caspar Weinberger's notorious
memorandum on the day prior to sentencing) that a venal traitor was in the
dock. In addition, Weinberger, who was recently pardoned by former president
George Bush for his Iran-Contra involvement, recommended to Judge Robinson
that Pollard never be paroled.
Arrested on November 21, 1985, Pollard had been an active intelligence agent
for Israel for a period of 18 months. He is now in his eighth year behind
bars; he has spent the last five and a half of them in solitary, 23-hour
confinement. For almost a year, he was imprisoned in a ward for the
criminally insane. The first month there he was kept stripped naked.
I visited with Jonathan for three hours last year in the Marion Penitentiary,
a maximum security facility. He is on a non-meat diet, because the prison
authorities cannot properly provide kosher meals fit to eat. His telephone
privileges are curtailed and limited. His cell, three floors down and
windowless, has overflowed with sewage on more than one occasion, posing the
additional dangers of HIV contamination, to say nothing of the accompanying
In comparison, Abdelkader Helmy, an Egyptian-born US naturalized citizen
convicted of illegally exporting material used in the Stealth airplane for
Iraqi aircraft missiles and rockets, received 46 months and was deported
before the end of his jail term. Clayton Lonetree, convicted on 13 counts of
espionage for the KGB, was sentenced to 30 years, but his sentence was set
aside on appeal after five years. Sharon Scrange revealed the names of CIA
operatives to a Ghanaian agent, and was jailed for two years.
Pollard only went to the courts to reverse his sentencing and to vacate his
plea-bargain after his wife was released. Indeed, Anne was the only spouse of
a convicted agent ever to be jailed on the minor charge of an after-the-fact
accessory to the possession of security-related documents.
The Federal Appellate Court, in a majority decision, rejected Pollard's
arguments that the government had acted unfairly and broken faith with him
even while terming his sentence "harsh." The dissenting judge, the sole
non-Jew, gave vent to his emotions and claimed there had been a "fundamental
miscarriage of justice." Referring to the government's behavior, Judge
Williams quoted Shakespeare's lines in Macbeth: "Be these juggling fiends no
more believed ... that keep the word of promise to our ear, and break it to
UNDOUBTEDLY, a major factor in keeping Pollard behind bars and, indeed,
originally facilitating the US government's vicious prosecution, was and is
the response of the organized American Jewish community.
The refusal of high-profile groups such as the National Jewish Community
Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC), the Anti-Defamation League and the
American Jewish Congress to act on Pollard's behalf, claiming the issue is not
a Jewish one, is difficult to grasp. Morally speaking, it is probably the most
callous decision of non-intervention made in the last 50 years.
In contradistinction, last December, almost 700 Orthodox, Conservative, Reform
and Reconstructionist American and Canadian rabbis published a plea for the
commutation of Pollard's sentence. Other major groups such as the B'nai
B'rith, Hadassah and the WJC have joined the campaign for Pollard's release to
The US Supreme Court's rejection of Pollard's appeal has stirred the hearts of
formerly indifferent men and women. It is notable that outstanding Christians
- clergy, nuns and laymen - have been in the forefront in the Pollard campaign
One more front must be addressed. Just days prior to his leaving office,
Yitzhak Shamir signed a letter to president Bush asking that Pollard be
pardoned. This was a major turnabout in the Israel government's behavior.
Pollard filed for Israeli citizenship years ago, but official instructions
were that the request be denied. Israeli consular officials were not to get
involved. Support was limited to other behind-the-scenes efforts involving,
to their anonymous credit, some of the highest officials in government.
The time has come, however, for Prime Minister Rabin, who is not unfamiliar
with the case, to appeal directly and unequivocally to President Clinton,
requesting that he commute Pollard's sentence. Such a humanitarian act by the
new president - who during the election campaign promised to review the case -
would be very fitting.
Even the villain of the piece, defense secretary Weinberger, has made it known
that he feels Pollard, if released, would no longer present a security risk.
A commutation could be achieved if the Israeli government openly made known
its desire that Pollard be freed.
Jonathan Pollard sacrificed himself. He acted in the perceived spirit of the
1983 Executive Agreement signed by president Ronald Reagan, which was to
assure Israel's survival. He revealed to Israel data on Syrian and Iraqi
chemical, biological and nuclear buildup. He was privy to Weinberger's
reports to the Saudis on US defense systems sold to Israel and other covert
operations inimical to Israel. He disturbed an FBI operation called SCOPE,
revealed in the Wall Street Journal on January 17, 1992, to maintain
surveillance on Jews in government service.
Purim tells the story of Jewish pride and the intervention of leadership
(Esther and Mordecai). How fitting it would be were the campaign to free
Pollard to move into a different phase - one of responsible public protest,
firm diplomatic demands and wide-ranging pressure. Jonathan Pollard deserves
that support in so many ways.