Justice for Pollard

Editorial - The Canadian Jewish News - April 21, 1994

U.S. President Bill Clinton disappointed many people recently when he decided not to grant Jonathan Pollard clemency. Citing national security reasons and the alleged gravity of Pollard's spying activities, Clinton indicated that his decision represented the recommendations of U.S. Attorney General Jane Reno and "the unanimous views of the law enforcement and national security agencies."

What is especially disquieting in the Clinton statement on Pollard is the side-stepping refusal of the president to confront the real issue. Neither Pollard nor his supporters have ever denied that he is guilty of passing classified information to Israel. The issue is not his guilt but the life sentence that was meted out to him under circumstances which cry out for explanation.

Those circumstances include: allegations that Pollard was promised leniency when he agreed to forego a trial; the bizarre and vindictive role of a former American defense secretary and the disproportionate sentence handed Pollard compared to comparatively light sentences given to other convicted spies in recent years, even to those who spied for enemies of the United States. It should not be lost on the president that Pollard gave classified information to an American ally.

How was it possible for Clinton to ignore these factors in reaffirming Pollard's sentence?

The answer probably lies in the U.S. president's shaky political position in view of the Whitewater probe into his and his wife's financial activities more than a decade ago. The recent arrest of CIA agent Aldrich Ames on charges he spied for Russia has also complicated the situation by making it more difficult for Clinton to display flexibility in the Pollard affair.

These factors and a mounting wave of criticism of the president's inability to move the country on health and economic issues has induced a timidity on his part. Refusing clemency for Pollard was an easy out for the American president.

Bill Clinton is no Pharaoh and his heart, far from being hardened, is still susceptible to a change for the better. That change will be effected, however, only if the vast coalition of Pollard supporters - Jews and gentiles - continue to pressure the White House unceasingly with appeals to the moral conscience of the American government.

The gauntlet has been picked up by, among others, Elaine Zeitz, the Toronto-based spokesperson for Citizens for Justice for Jonathan Pollard and Pollard's fiancée. Zeitz, no shrinking violet, has pledged that the battle for her betrothed has only just begun.

Righteous protests of this sort have been found to work. They can bring Jonathan Pollard out of this captivity.