Why Foxman Needs To Feel Pollard's Pain

April 24, 1998 - The Forward

Abe Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, expressed an outrageously callous attitude towards Jewish suffering when he refused to join appeals by concerned Jewish leaders around the world for the release of Jonathan Pollard, who has already served 13 years of a life sentence in maximum security federal prisons. Foxman seeks to justify his mean-spirited attitude towards Pollard by stating, "His blood is not on our hands, but on his own." [Yediot Achronot, March 26] "We have revisited it and revisited. Our leadership have said this is not an issue of anti-semitism." [The Forward, April 17 - Gore Pressed on Pollard ]. This is not the first time that Mr. Foxman and his organization have broken ranks from the attempt to establish a united Jewish front to plead for clemency on Pollard's behalf.

Yet Foxman and the agency that he heads have regularly spoken out in support of a variety of contemporary humanitarian causes which have no direct involvement to the Jewish people. Foxman chooses to ignore that those calling for Pollard's release, in the name of justice, include many who condemned Pollard's crime of giving classified American intelligence information to Israel. They protest, however, the harsh treatment to which Pollard has been subjected. Pollard's sentence is disproportionately severe, even when compared to the punishment meted out to other Americans who have been convicted of spying for hostile countries, let alone the leniency typically given to captured agents of other friendly nations.

The most relevant facts in the Pollard case are not in dispute:

  1. Pollard has been held in prison far longer, and under far more severe conditions, than any other person convicted of spying for a friendly country.

  2. Pollard's life imprisonment sentence was imposed after the government unilaterally canceled a far more lenient plea bargain agreement, under highly irregular circumstances.

  3. The State of Israel has admitted that Pollard was working as an agent on its behalf, and its government leaders have repeatedly requested that the American government release him.

  4. Those within the American government who have opposed his release have never publicly revealed the nature of the national security grounds upon which their argument is based.

  5. There have been many allegations that Pollard has been wrongfully blamed for some security leaks that were in fact due to other spies who have since been exposed, such as Aldrich Ames.

  6. Jonathan Pollard has clearly and repeatedly expressed remorse for this crime.

Why does Foxman choose to ignore accusations from within the US government that those raising objections to Pollard's release are acting out of Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic motives? Is Foxman concerned that Jews who put too high a priority on the security of the State of Israel are, in fact, an embarrassment to the American Jewish community?

We think it is high time for Abe Foxman and his organization to do a reality check on the selectivity of their public conscience. Why isn't it as clear to Abe Foxman as it is to the rest of the Jewish world, as well as the Israeli government, that Jonathan Pollard is no longer being punished for his act of espionage against the United States, but for being a Jew acting on behalf of the Jewish State?

Why is it that Pollard's continued imprisonment outraged former Soviet Jewish Prisoner of Conscience Yuli Edelstein, Israel's Minister of Absorption, so much that he made a special trip from Israel to visit Pollard in his North Carolina jail; why has Communications Minister Limor Livnat been inspired to follow suit with her own visit to Pollard; why did Israel's Finance Minister Yaacov Neeman visit Jonathan; yet Foxman's conscience remains insensitive to Pollard's plight?

We suggest that it is long past time for Abe Foxman to honestly search his soul and ask himself why he cannot feel Jonathan Pollard's pain. Compassion for the downtrodden and the condemned has long been a treasured and even a defining trait of the Jewish people. How much more of that trait should we demand of those who purport to be its leaders?

Chaim S. Kaminetzky

, National President

Rabbi Pesach Lerner

, Executive Vice President
National Council of Young Israel

See also:
  • Addendum to '45 Minutes With Jonathan Pollard'
  • Gore Pressed on Pollard