Injustice Addressed: The Case of Jonathan Pollard

Felice and Michael Friedson - Emunah Magazine - Fall 1992

We spoke to Molly, Jonathan Pollard's mother, as she was preparing for the long drive to Marion, Illinois, to spend Mother's Day in a cage-like meeting room outside her son's cell. Jonathan spends twenty-three hours a day in a cell on a level where the sun is not visible. Medical problems go unattended and sensory deprivation is severe. Each day that Jonathan Pollard remains in confinement, beyond the term served by any other individual convicted for similar offenses, is a political weapon aimed at punishing the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

In the years since the name Jonathan Pollard first exploded into our consciousness, it has evoked a wide range of responses within the Jewish community - from early expressions of shock, communal shame and embarrassment that a Jewish spy for Israel compromised its position in comfortable America, to incredulity at a sentence so grossly disproportionate to the crime that daily voices are heard from around the world supporting its commutation. It reads like a "good news, bad news" story: the former, the belated but strong grass roots support for overturning the sentence, the latter, the judicial roadblocks and continued obstinacy in some sectors of the organized Jewish community.

At the time of Pollard's arrest, the world was stunned by allegations of a Jewish spy for Israel within one of America's most sensitive intelligence organizations. Even Pollard's family does not fault the Jewish community for its initial reaction. But the family trusted the government and cooperated fully with authorities in pursuing damage assessment. As the nightmare unfolded, however, the Pollard family learned the value of the government's word as it breached the promises it had made in return for that cooperation. Secretary of Defense Weinberger intruded into the judicial process in an unprecedented and improper way and a sentence of life with the recommendation of "no parole" was handed down.

Compare Pollard's sentence to the maximum of four to six years served for anyone else ever sentenced under the same statute. Who would plea-bargain for life ? It became apparent that disinformation was permeating the media and that all the facts of the case were not being revealed to the public. One can only wonder at this point what a forceful and courageous Jewish media armed with complete facts could have achieved in raising the level of understanding and support of the Jewish community.

The consciousness of the Jewish community rose slowly as information of the cruel treatment of Pollard's former wife became known. The facts of Jonathan's miserable incarceration became more credible. Guilt in passing information to a friendly nation - an ally - cannot justify Pollard's treatment nor obscure the fact that many who have spied for enemy nations have received significantly lesser sentences. That this outrageous treatment was reserved for the sole Jewish prisoner who came to the aid of the sole Jewish state cannot be merely coincidental.

While tens of organizations on the far left to the far right and across denominational lines unite in urging a reduction or commutation of Pollard's sentence, a small number still deny their grass roots membership and refuse to adopt a position even on humanitarian grounds. Even if one were to believe unsubstantiated rumors of Pollard's allegedly nefarious acts, and even if one's imagination could lend itself to believe that the government would not have used such information against him if it in fact existed, and even if the grand jury in its exhaustive review of the case would have added the phrase " the detriment of the United States," which by law it could do but did not -- even then, he inequitable treatment of Jonathan Pollard cannot be explained or excused. Although it is claimed by some that they detect no anti-Semitism in the conduct of the case, how can they justify the lack of even-handed treatment reserved solely for the Jewish prisoner?

On the legal front, an appeal was argued on the second day of Rosh HaShanah before a panel of three judges, two of whom were Jewish but chose to work on that day. Those judges denied the appeal on technical grounds while a third judge, viewing the total picture, recognized the injustice. If the case is heard by he Supreme Court, the conclusions of the dissenting judge will hopefully prevail.

It is time to release Jonathan Pollard. It is time to free ourselves from our traditional restraint and demand justice.