Pollard Pardon Due

The Jerusalem Post - December 28, 1992

When President George Bush granted a pardon to former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and five other former officials, many expected that Jonathan Pollard would also be reprieved. Not just because it is time to end an ordeal which can only be viewed as a cruel and unusual punishment; but because it was Weinberger - pardoned after being indicted of four felonies - who fought hard and successfully to "put Pollard away for life, so he will never see the light of day," as he himself put it.

It is neither necessary nor wise to dabble in armchair psychoanalysis to explain why Weinberger was indifferent to cases of Soviet spies, but made a spy for Israel his Jean Valjean. Yet the facts in the case are puzzling indeed.

Pollard spied in America but not against America. He passed American secrets not to an enemy but to an ally which was supposed to receive most of this information according to a signed agreement which was not kept. He pleaded guilty in exchange for the US government's pledge not to seek a life sentence, only to have the trial judge reject the agreement. The judge's rejection seemed to stem from on a letter from Weinberger.

Neither Pollard nor anyone else denies the severity of his crime. Yet no spy in recent history, including spies for the USSR who compromised American security, has received a punishment as harsh as Pollard's.

American-born Abdelkader Helmy was sentenced to 46 months for selling Stealth missile secrets to Egypt; US Navy Ensign Stephen Baba got two years for illicitly conveying electronic codes to South Africa; Army Specialist Albert Sombolay is serving a 19-year prison term for selling information on US troop deployment during the Gulf War.

Adding to Pollard's special hardship is that for no apparent reason he was first sent to a mental hospital, then to solitary confinement in a basement cell in the Marion, Illinois, federal penitentiary - the toughest prison in the US.

Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League have refused to plead for him. Since the case does not involve discrimination and antisemitism, they say, it is not within their purview. But it is far more likely that they are staying away in fear and trepidation because they dread the charge of dual loyalty.

To its credit, the American Jewish Committee, which was first reluctant to tackle the case, has reversed its stand. Joining the 1.5 million people, including 600 rabbis and over 200 organizations, that have asked for a pardon for Pollard, the AJC's president Alfred Moses has declared that Pollard's disproportionate sentence should be commuted.

The struggle for Pollard's release is led by his sister Carol, with Eli Wiesel, Pollard's rabbi Avi Weiss, and former chairman of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations Seymour Reich. It is a fight every person of compassion and a sense of justice should join.