Time To Free Pollard - Editorial

The New York Jewish Week - Week of October 23-27, 1995

As the 10th anniversary of Jonathan Pollard's imprisonment approaches, a window of opportunity presents itself for President Clinton to commute his life sentence and free him. We urge the President to do so.

Some of the issues in this long and tragic drama are well-known; others may never be revealed. What is clear is that Pollard, the former Naval intelligence analyst who spied for Israel, has served a longer time for selling secrets to an ally than many others have for doing the same for enemies of the U.S.

Whether he is a hero whose information helped warn Israel about Iraq's weapons and intentions before the Gulf war, or a well-intentioned Jew who tried to aid Israel, or a greedy man who was drawn to material rewards, has long been debated and is not our concern here. Pollard was guilty of committing illegal acts, he has expressed his remorse, and has served 10 years in federal prisons, much of that time in solitary confinement.

Pollard could appear before a parole board in January, but it is certain he will be turned down. The Justice Department and other federal agencies are opposed to letting him go free. If President Clinton is to entertain the notion of commuting Pollard's sentence, it must be now.

Israel Prime Minister Rabin, in asking that Clinton take action, reminded the President that Israel was making a request on behalf of one prisoner at a time, when it is planning to free hundreds, even thousands of Palestinian prisoners, some of whom committed acts of violence against Israeli citizens. That is a powerful statement.

A relatively small but extremely dedicated group of Jews in this country have worked hard on Pollard's behalf throughout his ordeal. Over time they helped recruit a number of mainstream Jewish organizations to their cause. Now his supporters are urging these organizations and individuals to make their views known to the White House, to show that this is not a dead issue and that American Jews still care about the fate of Jonathan Pollard. If we are silent now, there is little incentive for President Clinton to take the political risk required to commute Pollard's sentence.

The case need not be made that Pollard is blameless. Clearly he is not. But as a matter of simple fairness, he has served a decade in prison and it is time for him to be freed. This is the time for President Clinton to hear that message, and to act accordingly.