The American Jewish Committee, along with the Anti-Defamation League and other national Jewish organizations is foot-dragging when called on by concerned Jewish citizens to help obtain Jonathan Pollard's release from prison.
But Bernie Abrams, a leader of the AJCommittee, has put it on the line in support of Pollard, the former naval intelligence officer who was given a draconian life sentence for spying for Israel. Addressing a gathering of the American Jewish Committee May 26 at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, Abrams demanded more of the national AJCommittee leadership.
"We Jews have a real problem with the paranoia we display whenever a crime, be it minor or major, is committed by a Jew" Abrams said as he and his wife, Jane, received the Samuel Gendel Human Relations Award.
"To a Jew, Jewish crimes are the worst. We fear if a Jew errs that he affects the entire Jewish people, " he said. "And if we had our druthers, we would sweep it all under the rug and forget about them as we have done in the Pollard case."
He said Jewish judges are not better. It was a Jewish judge who sentenced the Rosenbergs to death "to make sure that no one could say that he would treat Jewish criminals favorably."
Abrams noted that in Pollard's appeal before a three-judge appellate court, two judges were Jewish and one was Gentile.
"Wouldn't you guess that the two Jewish judges voted against the appeal?" Abrams asked. "Not on the important issues, but only on the technical issues. The non-Jew, in a dissenting opinion, unequivocally called the sentencing of Jonathan Pollard "a miscarriage of justice."
Abrams charged that "since the news of Pollard's arrest was made public, Jewish groups such as ADL, AJCommittee and AJCongress have shunned Pollard and his supporters."
"While specific reasons are hard to come by, "Abrams said, "it is increasingly difficult to understand why Jewish groups which defend civil rights, minority rights and sexual rights would spurn a fellow Jew charged with helping the Jewish state.
"Some Jews apparently fear being branded as traitors or fifth columnists. Others fear a backlash to Israel or themselves. Still others are embarrassed, self-righteous or anti-Semitic (themselves). Others simply do not know the facts or have accepted disinformation."
Abrams reviewed the Pollard case, noting that the defendant "is now serving his seventh year in solitary captivity in a federal prison. His alleged crime was giving to Israel U.S. information that the U.S. had promised via treaty to provide to Israel."
Abrams pointed out that Pollard provided Israel with information detailing the future targets of PLO terrorist attacks and the buildup of Iraqi nerve gas arsenals.
He told how Pollard, on being arrested pleaded guilty, expressed deep remorse and cooperated fully with the government.
Abrams then said that AJCommittee, as a single member of NJCRAC, the umbrella agency for various Jewish defense agencies, did show interest in the Pollard affair.
"But the information handed down by the counsel of NJCRAC was so one-sided," Abrams said, "that it could have been the prosecution for the government." Abrams concluded that "AJCommittee has not done any investigating. They have merely been passing on hearsay information which is most detrimental to the Pollard case."
Then he asked: "Should AJCommittee act in the Pollard case?"
"There are hundreds of thousands of Jews who would say a resounding 'Yes! Yes! Yes!' The problem is that there is no coalition of Jews."
Charging that the Pollard case "is a gross perversion of American justice," Abrams said that American Jews must coalesce to bring back justice where it belongs. He said that murderers, rapists, robbers, con artists and securities racketeers serve minimal sentences and that gang members and looters commit savage acts in full view of TV cameras--"and are often not prosecuted."
"In some quarters they are even treated as heroes," Abrams said.
He said the Walker family gave U.S. secrets to the enemy, the Soviet Union, with minimal sentences compared to the Pollard offense.
"While the government promised not to ask for a life sentence for Pollard," Abrams said, "it broke its promise, denigrated Pollard's extensive cooperation, misrepresented his remorse and, in the person of Caspar Weinberger, characterized his crime as treason, which assuredly it was not."
Pollard got no bargain for his plea bargain, Abrams said.
He got no justice, and he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.
Abrams volunteered his money and his time to form a group within the AJCommittee "containing our brightest people to study the Pollard case. "The miscarriage of justice for Jonathan Pollard must be corrected."