Pollard Family Says Letter to Clinton Never Delivered

January 28, 1998 - Stewart Ain and Mollie Leitzes - New Jersey Jewish News

The family of Jonathan Pollard has charged that a letter from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, pleading for Pollard's release that was to have been sent to President Bill Clinton prior to his meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was never mailed.

Early last week, the conference announced a major campaign to win the release of Pollard, who was convicted of spying for Israel in 1986 and has spent 12 years in prison. The decision to mount a campaign and to write to Clinton asking for Pollard's immediate release came after a conference meeting at which strong support was expressed for the former Navy intelligence analyst. He was sentenced to life in prison and Clinton has twice rejected requests for commutation of his sentence.

"Before the week is out, a letter [will] be sent to Clinton making the strongest possible humanitarian plea on behalf of Jonathan Pollard," Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chair of the conference, said following the meeting.

Hoenlein said the group's 55 member organizations were being asked to get their members and organizations to mount a letter-writing campaign to Clinton urging Pollard's release.

If the Pollard family members are correct, the promised letter was not forthcoming. The conference's failure to send the letter, they say, was a monumental loss of opportunity for Netanyahu, with letter in hand, to speak to Clinton about the case.

The conference did not return telephone calls to the New Jersey Jewish News to confirm or deny the Pollard camp charge that the letter was not sent.

In a phone interview from Camp Butner, NC, with The Jewish Week, prior to the revelation that the letter may not have been sent, Pollard said that more than one million letters have been written to Clinton, and that the president had paid them no heed.

"The White House is not oriented toward the grassroots; it is very elitist-oriented and listens to the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League," said Pollard. "Those are the organizations that have been slandering me and undermining any inclination on the part of the administration to commute my sentence. I have been told the president will not take the Jewish community's sentiments seriously until those groups advocate in my behalf."

Reminded that those groups are part of the Conference of Presidents, Pollard said the White House "wants to see the statement [of support] on their letterhead."

The Conference of Presidents has written to Clinton in Pollard's behalf in the past and Hoenlein and then chair Lester Pollack visited him in prison in 1995.

Last month, Israel's communications minister, Limor Livnat, visited Pollard in prison. Weeks earlier, Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein became the first Israeli minister to visit him. Livnat brought with her letters of support from two other ministers and from Netanyahu, who said he hoped "our continued efforts on your behalf will bear fruit and that you will be a free man in the near future."

Stewart Ain is a staff writer with The Jewish Week in New York City. Mollie Leitzes is associate editor of NJJN.

See also:
  • Pumped Up Over Pollard
  • Jewish group urges Clinton to release Jonathan Pollard
  • Too late for Netanyahu visit, Pollard letter finally arrives