Pollard Deserves Better

Washington Jewish Week - Editorial - March 26, 1992

Previously in this space we have argued that Jonathan Pollard deserves neither gratitude nor admiration for his foolish and even selfish act of spying for Israel. But the former naval intelligence analyst and convicted felon does deserve rachmones and a better deal than he got from the federal appeals court, which upheld his life sentence Friday.

As Judge Stephen F. Williams said in his dissent from the majority opinion, it appears that the government broke a plea bargain agreement with Pollard, which led to "a fundamental miscarriage of justice."

Both sides agree that the government prosecutor, in exchange for Pollard's plea of guilty, said he would not ask for a life sentence. Instead, prosecutors did everything they could short of uttering the words "life sentence" to make sure that's what he got; last minute harangues by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, a deliberate attempt to de-emphasize the cooperation Pollard and his wife Anne Henderson Pollard provided in their own prosecution, and one prosecutor's description of Pollard's behavior as "traitorous."

As Judge Williams wondered in his opinion on Sept. 10, 1991, "How can it be justified that the Secretary of Defense uses the word 'treason' in a case in which the government could not, and did not, charge treason?"

Nevertheless, the appeals court denied Pollard's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. In short, Pollard sang like a canary, and the judges threw away the key to his cage. After six years, Pollard remains in solitary confinement and will not be up for parole until 1997.

Only a handful of Jewish organizations have voiced support of leniency for Pollard. But the major umbrella groups and mainstream organizations like the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, American Jewish Congress and American Jewish Committee have remained uncharacteristically silent. No doubt they are dogged by the same concerns over "dual loyalty" that made the Pollard case a watershed in American Jewish life. And who wouldn't be loathe to join forces with Pollard supporters who portray him as a martyr who single-handedly saved Israel from nuclear annihilation and anti-Israel forces in the U.S. military.

But if a federal judge can question the justice of Pollard's sentence, so can Jewish organizations. A spy is a spy, but fair is fair.