Contrition and Punishment: What About Jonathan Pollard?
October 2, 1998 - Lawrence Kulak - The Jewish Press (New York)
Is the Perversion of Justice that Keeps Jonathan Pollard Chained to A Grossly Disproportionate Life Sentence now being used by President Clinton to Clear His Own Name?
On the day that the report of Independent Special Prosecutor
Kenneth Starr was delivered to Congress, President Clinton appeared
before a group of rabbis and ministers where he confessed to having
sinned, admitted to a "broken spirit" and requested forgiveness after
reportedly reading a passage from the Yom Kippur prayer book.
However, if President Clinton wishes to follow the Jewish Law on
repentance and forgiveness, perhaps he should try to learn about it. If
he did, the first thing he would learn is that in order to be completely
forgiven by G-d, a good deal more is required than a sincere apology, a
temporarily broken spirit, and a verbal declaration of an intention to
do better in the future.
True forgiveness in Judaism depends upon a person renouncing the
undesirable conduct in question, either by resisting some future
temptation to act in a similar fashion or by some affirmative action
which proves that he has unequivocally disavowed the former conduct. If
any individuals have been hurt by the offensive conduct, forgiveness by
G-d then becomes contingent upon the person or persons so injured, along
with said renunciation of such conduct.
The true sincerity of a person who wants to be forgiven is not
something to be taken lightly or taken for granted, and the person
seeking forgiveness is required to prove his sincerity instead of merely
stating it. Jews are only required to forgive after and apology has been
made three times as that is considered to be a test of sincerity. The
suffering of an individual is also considered very often to have
effected atonement because it is understood that suffering achieves the
sincerity necessary for a truly contrite heart.
All of this very timely discussion inevitably brings us back to the
issue of Jonathan Pollard, who has by this time become a Jewish
Political Prisoner of the United States. Pollard has done more than
simply confess his wrong-doing and apologize. He has paid a hefty price
in surrendering his freedom for nearly 13 years.
I deliberately stated that Jonathan Pollard surrendered his freedom
because that is exactly what he did as part of expressing his contrition
for his actions. By pleading guilty to the crime of espionage, Jonathan
Pollard surrendered his fate to the mercy of the Court and accepted the
punishment that would be coming his way. As everybody knows, the
punishment he received for his penitent conduct was a lifetime
condemnation (a life sentence with no possibility of parole) -
way out of proportion to the offense he committed and the
consequences that flowed from it.
The simple fact is, Jonathan Pollard could have chosen to force the
government to litigate several difficult issues in order to determine
whether or not he was guilty. One of those issues might have been the
embarrassing question of whether or not a person could be convicted of
espionage for supplying an allied nation with information that was
improperly withheld in violation of mutual defense agreements.
(Semantical disputes about whether or not Israel can technically be
considered an "ally" of the United States are for practical purposes
resolved by Israel's acquiescence to US requested restraint during the
Gulf War.) Jonathan Pollard saved the Government the embarrassing
exposure of having to litigate this and other issues in both lower and
appellate courts and forfeited his appellate remedies in the process.
For all the sacrifice that Jonathan Pollard has made, including
precious years of his life in maximum security federal prisons, with his
health severely depleted, Jonathan Pollard was shown no mercy by the
Court or by succeeding presidential administrations that have been in a
position to review his case.
The political argument promoted by some for Pollard's continued
confinement that somehow his freedom could result in further harm to the
national security, is such laughable falsity that it is not even
seriously set forth by the Pentagon. Even assuming that Pollard's
outdated knowledge could somehow compromise some aspect of military
security, his guilty plea and his willingness to avoid any type of legal
forum to which the media would have access, without a doubt shows that
his desire is not to further compromise the security of the United
President Clinton has now had almost 6 years to consider the issue
of Pollard, and still his heart has been unmoved. Perhaps he, like
others, considers the fact that Pollard confessed and surrendered his
guilt, only technicalities, in that his guilt would have inevitably been
established anyway. If he does, it would have to be the utmost irony
since Clinton himself is now seeking to have his own confession play a
part in his exoneration from political liability for his actions - which
some consider to have risen to the level of High Crimes and
Misdemeanors. In addition, President Clinton himself seems to now be
relying upon certain technicalities involved in legal definitions in
order to escape legal charges.
Perhaps an affirmative action that might demonstrate President
Clinton's true contrition for his sins against G-d and against the
American People would be for him to do something which finally
recognizes the unfair price that somebody else has paid and continues to
pay despite an unequivocal demonstration of sincere regret.
That action would be the granting of a full and immediate pardon
for Jonathan Pollard for the crime of espionage in the United States,
which has been long overdue.