Free Pollard

Jerusalem Post - October 15, 1992

JONATHAN Pollard's crime has probably done more damage to the US attitude to Israel than almost any single Israeli act since the establishment of the State. It stained Israel's image, embarrassed its government and shook the American Jewish community. Yet now that the US Supreme Court has refused to let Pollard withdraw his guilty plea, and thus effectively exhausted his legal options, both Israel and the American Jewish community must demand his immediate release.

The reason is simple: Pollard's punishment does not fit his crime. It is utterly disproportionate, cruel and unjust. It is so different from the American norm that it reeks of discrimination. As a Pollard supporter, lawyer David Kirshenbaum, has put it, "Had the typical sentence for a spy for an allied country been 25 or 30 years, and only on rare occasions a life sentence, one might describe a life sentence as simply unduly harsh. But in Pollard's case it is life versus the four years or less received by every other spy for an allied country. It is life versus the 48 months received by Abdulkedar Helmy, who passed US stealth technology to Egypt for use in a joint weapons project with Iraq."

Pollard, after all, spied in the US, not against it. He spied for an ally, believing he was protecting Israel from a threat which has since proved frighteningly real.

Even American spies for the Soviet Union, traitors who served a mortal enemy and caused untold damage to the United States, have been handed doqn milder sentences in peace time. Richard Miller, the first FBI agent to spy for the USSR, received 20 years and is due for parole next year.

What makes Jonathan Pollard's sentence particularly inhuman is that he is confined to an isolation cell in one of America's toughest high-security prisons. His contacts with the outside world are severely limited. His health, both physical and emotional, has deteriorated. After visiting him, Elie Wiesel commented, "cruelty has no bounds."

But in supporting clemency for Pollard, Wiesel has been joined by all-too-few in the organized American Jewish community. The fear of the "dual loyalty" charge is still so pervasive that most of the community's leaders have shunned the case. Distinguished exceptions are the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the American Section of the World Jewish Congress (but not the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League or the American Jewish Committee), and a few other organizations, as well as the Christians' Israel Public Action Committee.

The US is a country with a strong sense of justice and fair play. It is unthinkable that it should let a contrite Pollard rot in an isolation cell for the rest of his life. By all prevailing standards, the man has paid his debt for the crime he committed.

The Jewish community in America must realize that the issue is not of dual loyalty but of a double standard. It must unite in pleading for presidential pardon for Pollard. Otherwise, as Seymour Reich, past chairman of the conference of presidents of major Jewish organizations and a leading Pollard advocate, has aptly put it, "History will judge the silence of these Jewish organizations without mercy."