Passive on Pollard

September 2, 1996 - Yosef Begun - The Jerusalem Post

For decades in the Soviet Union there were Jews whose fate was the focus of the entire Jewish world. Prisoners of Zion were accused and imprisoned for their activity on behalf of Israel.

Yes, on that point our prosecutors and judges were correct: our "crimes," aliya and the renaissance of Soviet Jews, were done for the sake of Israel, as well as for ourselves. And when we were all sent to Soviet prisons, Jews all over the world did everything possible to liberate us.

The fight for the freedom of "captive" Soviet Jewry will go down in history as a good example of Jewish solidarity and the reality of our moral imperative: "Every Jew is responsible for every other Jew."

It would seem that there are no longer any Prisoners of Zion, but it is not true. There is Jonathan Pollard. A different case, yes, but still the same. Political intrigue surrounding the case influenced the decision of the jury, suggesting anti-Jewish influence.

Much has been written about the disproportionate severity of Pollard's sentence compared with those of others who spied for the allies of the U.S. As The Jerusalem Post of July 29 stated, "Pollard has fallen victim to what can only be called an act of arbitrary injustice."

The Americans behavior in the Pollard case is a matter for their own consciences. But what is really difficult to understand is our own Jewish position. From the Israeli government and the American Jewish establishment must come the initiative and the action to help Pollard.

From any point of view, Pollard deserves his freedom after 11 years of imprisonment. Under public pressure, on the eve of the recent elections, the previous Israeli government granted him Israeli citizenship, and many representatives of competing parties expressed their commitment to securing his release.

But the elections have passed and Pollard remains a prisoner, without any sign of his situation being alleviated.

President Clinton, who is so fond of expressing his concern about Israel's security, is in no great hurry to grant Pollard his freedom, no doubt as a result of the low profile senior Israeli officials have kept regarding his case.

There are said to be political reasons for this...perhaps. But there is no excuse for the lack of public outcry for the freedom of this imprisoned Jew.

The fight for the freedom of Russian Jews witnessed a similar phenomenon in the 1960s, when the Israeli government kept a low profile on the complex issue because they were afraid to irritate the Soviet government.

Moved to take action, a massive public struggle on behalf of Russian Jews spontaneously arose in the early 1970s. As a result of this grassroots activity, the politicians became more active.

Some say that the Pollard case is very different from that of the former Prisoners of Zion in the USSR.

Is it? After all, who is Jonathan Pollard? He is a Jew who put aside his personal life and freedom in the interest of the Jewish state. He gave Israel information about treacherous Iraqi plans against the Jewish state. During the Gulf war it was clear that Saddam Hussein would stop at nothing to cause irreparable harm to Israel.

Pollard, realizing that the Pentagon wanted to conceal this information, vital for Israel's security, gave it to our country.

In other countries, people like Pollard are hailed as heroes. Isn't a Jew who risks his life and freedom on behalf of the Jewish state a national hero?

Former Prisoners of Zion seem to have a very passive attitude toward the Pollard case. As one of them, who received enormous support from American Jewry to obtain my freedom, I have a moral dilemma about not helping an American Jew in need.

We have no right to be passive. Public activity on the part of former Prisoners of Zion would help a lot in the Pollard case. It is our moral obligation to aid Jonathan Pollard.

The writer is a former Prisoner of Zion