President Clinton Shouldn't Mix Politics With Pollard

Week of April 11, 1996 - Editorial - Dade Jewish Journal

Jonathan Pollard committed a crime. He put himself above the law in spying for Israel on the United States, and he has paid a heavy price. Now that he has served 10 years, he should be set free, but President Clinton refuses to grant him his freedom.

The president is wrong.

He has shown many times that he is a friend of the Jewish community, but now he is cavilling to anti-Semites who he is afraid may stand in the way of his campaign for re-election. Clinton has been accused of waffling before, and it is clear that he has been studying some of history's profiles in cowardice.

President John F. Kennedy admitted privately that he would have like to make peace overtures to Red China, but was afraid to risk criticism for taking such a radical step. Instead, rapprochement had to wait nearly a decade, when the conservative Richard Nixon could "safely" take advantage of "ping-pong diplomacy."

History teaches us a similar lesson about official acts on behalf of Jews, even in the liberal democracies. Though Benjamin Disraeli never forgot his origins as Jew and frequently "crossed the aisle" in Parliament to vote for Jewish rights, sometimes he feared taking risks. When it was first proposed to raise Nathaniel Rothschild to the peerage, Disraeli send he was actually in less a position than any other British Prime Minister to do so.

Finally, it fell to Gladstone, a Liberal, to convince Parliament to ennoble Rothschild. Disraeli had Queen Victoria in his hip pocket, yet he failed to use his influence to get her support for Rothschild. Before he became prime minister of France, Leon Blum was heard to criticize French Jews for looking down their noses at their backwards Russain co-religionists and supporting restrictive immigration laws. Yet as prime minister, Blum feared, in his sensitive position, to encourage the immigration of persecuted German Jews.

The same goes for friends of the Jews. Even the Democratic Party has never nominated a Jew to run for either president or vice-president. Henry Kissinger holds the record so far as the Jew with the highest-ranking political distinction in America, and he was named by Richard Nixon.

Pollard has suffered from the fright of both Jews and non-Jews.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, when she served on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, cast a vote against Pollard. Some say it was motivated by her concern about her position as a Jew.

The whole official reaction to Pollard can be compared to using a hammer to swat a fly. It is time that it stops. While Jonathan Pollard can still be reunited with his parents,

it is the time to act

- even for a president with an anxious eye on the polls.