Schindler's List and Jonathan Pollard - An Open Letter to President Clinton

Si Frumkin, Editor - Graffiti for Intellectuals - January 10, 1994

An explanation:

"Graffiti" is printed about 4 weeks before it is mailed. This letter, which you are reading in January, was sent to the President on December 16. By now he may have made his decision to free Pollard, to deny him his freedom, or to do nothing. I hope that this letter may have helped if Jonathan has been freed. If not, I hope it will help in the future, as we keep on trying to free him.

Dear Mr. President:

I have heard that you were moved when you saw "Schindler's List". This doesn't surprise me. The film is a powerful indictment of the evils that men are capable of, but it is also an affirmation of the potential within an individual to stand fast against the evil around him and say, "No. I will not join you."

No one can be quite sure why Oskar Schindler did what he did. We do know that he broke his country's laws and put himself in great danger to save lives. Lives of strangers - of Jews whom his government held to be subhuman and undeserving of life.

Mr. President, I can understand why you were moved by the story of Schindler's Jews for I believe you to be a compassionate and caring person. It was this facet of your character that prompted me - and millions of others - to proudly elect you to lead our country and represent its ideals to men and women everywhere.

Now, however, I am deeply troubled and puzzled. I cannot understand how you can be moved by what Schindler did 50 years ago while at the same time refusing to acknowledge and understand the motives that 8 years ago led Jonathan Pollard to break our laws in order to save Jewish lives. It is beyond doubt that Pollard broke the law - so did Schindler. Neither of them could stand idly by and ignore evil - for the danger to Israel a decade ago was just as great as to the Jews of Eastern Europe 5 decades ago. The sworn enemies of the Jewish state who surround it had sworn to destroy it and Pollard was in a position to sound the alarm, to alert the potential victims, to try and even the odds for Israel that is even more outnumbered by its enemies than the Jews of Poland were by the Germans.

So Pollard acted. He acted on behalf of a people to whom he was bound by history, religion, and memories of the death camps he had visited as a teenager. He had to act or be an accessory to another tragedy, and we know his decision.

Mr. President, I understand that you are an admirer of the framer of our Constitution. Thomas Jefferson. Here is what he said about the dilemma faced by Jonathan Pollard: "A strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the highest duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. "The word "Genocide" did not exist in Jefferson's days. I have no doubt that if it had he would have included it among the "laws of necessity" he listed.

I urge you, Mr. President, to follow Jefferson's advice and free Jonathan Pollard, a man who broke the written law to obey a higher commandment and is still being punished for it.

Four hundred years ago, a wise and compassionate man wrote a play that like "Schindler's List" addressed the relationship of Gentiles and Jews. There is a passage in the Merchant of Venice" that I would like to quote to you. It is as true today as it was in 1596:

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heavenit is twice blest. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown; his scepter shows the force of temporal power, the attribute to awe and majestybut mercy is above this sceptered sway. It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, it is an attribute to God himself, and earthly power doth then show like God's when mercy seasons justice."

Mr. President! For the sake of what moved you when you watched "Schindler's List", show mercy to Jonathan Pollard.

Si Frumkin