AJCommittee Changes Position on Pollard

Elliot Goldenberg - The Jewish Journal (Florida) - December 29, 1992

The American Jewish Committee - which in the past has taken a "wait and see" posture concerning convicted spy Jonathan Pollard - is now apparently reversing that policy.

In a telephone interview with the Jewish Journal, Sam Rabinove, AJCommittee's legal director, last week confirmed that the AJCommittee is prepared to take a more active role in trying to get President Bush to reevaluate the Pollard case.

However, when asked to respond to a story that appeared recently in New York's Jewish Week - which said the AJCommittee has already asked Bush to consider commuting Pollard's life sentence - Rabinove said his organization has not yet gone that far.

Pollard, a former civilian Navy intelligence analyst, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for passing classified U.S. military secrets over to Israel.

In the Jewish Week article, reporter Stewart Ain wrote that the AJCommittee's decision to reverse its past policy "was not publicized," but noted that AJCommittee president, Alfred Moses, told the Jewish Week that he believed Pollard's sentence appeared "disproportionate with other sentences under the espionage statues."

According to Ain, Moses said a letter he wrote to Bush, on Pollard's behalf, was written at the direction of the AJCommittee's directors.

Ain said Moses also told him that when his organization reviewed the Pollard case a year earlier, it decided "not to pursue the matter because an appeal of his sentence was still in the courts, and the AJCommittee normally doesn't intervene in a criminal case unless there is evidence of prejudice or discrimination."

When contacted by the Jewish Journal, Ain said he, "stands by my story as written."

Moses could not be reached for comment, but Rabinove, speaking from his New York office, said Ain's article was only partially accurate.

"Stewart Ain's article is correct except that no letter has yet been written to President Bush," Rabinove stressed. " Al Moses told me that, aside from this point, the story is basically the way Stewart [Ain] wrote it."

Rabinove emphasized, however, that while the proposed letter will ask for "a fresh review of the case," it will not actually ask the president to let Pollard out of prison.

"Still, this case has been a troubling one, for many of us, for a very long time," Rabinove said. "Now that the legal aspect of the case is finished - since the Supreme Court decided not to hear it - we've decided to take this step."

William Gralnick, the AJCommittee's Southeast regional director, said his was "one of several chapters" that urged the AJCommittee's national board of governors to review its past decision on Pollard. Gralnick added that two weeks ago, his local board voted 3-1 to support a position that the national organization should review its prior stand.

"In the past, almost all the national Jewish agencies had taken the position of staying out of the Pollard case and letting the chips fall where they may," Gralnick explained. "For a laundry list of reasons, this man pled guilty and was sentenced. But there was a great deal of local activity here on his behalf. At the same time, Carol Pollard, Pollard's sister, was crisscrossing the country, speaking about this -and what was once almost a non-reaction at the grassroots level, obviously changed."

"As the months passed," Gralnick added, "particularly the issue of the disparity of Pollard's sentence began to hit home. And all of a sudden, the seeds that had been there in the grass roots began to sprout.

Asked to comment on the AJCommittee's apparent policy change, Carol Pollard, speaking from her home in Connecticut, said: "[The American Jewish Committee] has taken a small step forward."

"We can just hope," she said, "that even bigger steps will still come."

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