Pollard Versus Barak

Hatzofeh Feature Article - Yaffa Goldstein - October 22, 1999
[Translated from Hebrew]

Esther Pollard is here again - and not for her annual vacation. She hasn't let up for even a fraction of a second in her fight for freedom for the man that she has tied her fate to, and whose company she has not yet had the pleasure of, outside of prison walls.

G-d only knows where this woman draws her strength from to continue to fight, almost single-handedly, in the face of the excruciatingly slow pace that wheels of justice have turned in this case - for no good or apparent reason - and in spite of vicious and sensationalist articles that dig for dirt in the extended Pollard family - as if this kind of garbage has any relevance whatsoever to the long, drawn-out travesty of justice that continues to devastate the life of our Israeli agent.

The question of how Esther does it becomes even more compelling when one realizes that the woman has just recently undergone surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her body, and then underwent a series of radiation treatments - all this while still traveling back and forth on her husband's case, flying to visit him in prison North Carolina, and in between, rushing to take care of her desperately ill mother in the hospital in another city. But Esther's story, and the trials she has faced in her unending fight for freedom for the man she loves, will have to be told another time, in a volume of its own.

For now the only thing at the top of her agenda - and it ought to be at the top of all of ours as well - is the unequivocally unjust case of her husband, Jonathan Pollard.

In the middle of our interview the phone rings. It is Jonathan calling Esther from prison. After talking business for a few minutes, updating each other, and getting advice and instructions from Jonathan as she usually does, Esther's voice softens and she lovingly asks "How's my Babe?"

After the exchange of intimacies, Esther puts the phone on "Hands-Free" mode and I can hear Jonathan's voice. It is strong and full of energy. No way is it the voice you would expect from someone who has been languishing in prison for 15 years, and who has been repeatedly rejected by the State that he served and that he has loved without reservation since he was a child.

Somehow or other Pollard realizes that that someone else is listening, and he obliges by pointing out some of the features of the Request for an Emergency Hearing that he recently filed in Supreme Court (October 13, 1999) and which contains his rebuttal of the Government's response to his Petition against Prime Minister Ehud Barak which is currently before the court. A response that Pollard calls " an insult to the moral conscience of the State" and "its badge of shame."

One of the central issues in Pollard's Petition No. 6029/99 is his request to receive a compete copy of his service file from the Ministry of Defense and all the documents that relate to his case. Among these documents is a master list of all the documents he gave to Israel - a list that clearly shows not only what he did transmit to Israel, but also what he did not transmit. Pollard had expected that at some point during the last 15 years, the Government of Israel would have come to his defense, either publicly or even just quietly behind the scenes - after all Israel had all the documents need to defend him, most of them in his own file.

But Israel never once spoke or acted in Pollard's defense, rather, just the opposite. That is why Pollard is now trying, via the Supreme Court, to get the documents from his own file and those related to his file, so that he can defend himself against all the false charges being leveled at him by American officials in the media (never in court) in the United States.

Yes, it is true that Pollard passed classified information to Israel. But he did not reveal names of American agents, he did not do damage, and he did not commit treason. When the documents Pollard has requested are in his hands, he will have ample proof that such charges against him in the media are both patently false and absurd. As the head of the New Jersey State Legislature, Paul DiGaetano, recently wrote in a letter to President Clinton, Pollard was never accused of or indicted for treason, and yet he was sentenced as if he had been, and unfairly received a life sentence.

Indeed there are many troubling questions about the Pollard case. Until there are some good answers to these questions, they can't just be waved away as if they were some annoying fly buzzing around. For example:

  • Why is Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli agent, still in prison, in the hands of Israel's closest ally, after 15 years?

  • Why is it that other Americans who have spied for enemies of the United States have received much lighter sentences than Pollard?

  • Why is it that President Clinton has no problem freeing criminals have murdered and maimed scores of Americans, and he is unwilling to free one Israeli agent who harmed no one?

  • Why does Jonathan Pollard have to continuously file appeals in Supreme Court to get the basic relief that is owed to him as a matter of course as an Israeli agent?

  • Why has the Prime Minister completely cut all contact with Pollard and ignored 15 separate requests from Pollard for contact and for information until he finally had to file a petition in Supreme Court?

  • Why does the Prime Minister continue to insist that "quiet diplomacy" is the only way to deal with the Pollard issue - as if the case has not already been discussed loudly and publicly at the highest levels and was even a part of the Wye Accords?

  • How can the Prime Minister publicly refer to Pollard as "an internal American issue" when Pollard is an Israeli agent and also an Israeli citizen? Isn't this legitimacy enough for the Israeli Government to seek his release?

  • Why did the Prime Minster appoint a committee head, Mr. Moshe Kochanovsly, only after Pollard's petition was filed? Additionally, why did he appoint someone to the task who is so unsuitable that he resigned from the same job 2 years ago when he came to the conclusion that he had neither the authority nor the standing in Washington to secure Pollard's release?

  • And an even more troubling question: why does Israel play along with President Clinton's excuse that he can't free Pollard because his hands are tied? Yet according to the American constitution, the president has the exclusive right to grant executive clemency to whomever he wishes to, for any reason he wishes to, without consultation, and without approval from any other individual or agency.
Clinton recently offered executive clemency to 16 terrorist, members of the FALN, who were responsible for 130 bombings in the US and the deaths and injuries of scores of Americans. He did so in spite of the opposition of the CIA, FBI, and all his government advisors and agencies. It is said that this was a move on the president's part to boost his wife's chances with the Hispanic community in the New York Senate elections.

It has taken Pollard many years and several court cases to force the Government of Israel to recognize him as an Israeli agent who worked for the State and who provided information vital to the survival of the State. The reason that Israel was prepared for the Gulf War, and knew to instruct its citizens to construct sealed rooms, was because of the information Jonathan Pollard provided. Israel bent over backwards to appease American anger over the information that Pollard provided - information that America as an ally should have readily provided to Israel regardless. And if by withholding such vital information America wants to cast itself in the same role as Israel's enemies, we still do not abandon a soldier in the field.

Even supposing that the initial embarrassment over the case was great, what has happened in all the years that have elapsed since then? What can possibly explain the continuing silence of one Israeli government after another? Only with the help of the Supreme Court was Pollard finally able to force the State to admit that he worked for Israel. Esther Pollard recalls how even the definition of Pollard as a bona fide Israeli agent was a hard-won battle that followed intensive tooth-and-nail-negotiation. The initial offer by the Government was some twisted statement to the effect of "Jonathan Pollard can see himself as if he were an Israeli agent." Pollard himself rejected this nonsense out of hand, and single-handedly negotiated an honest definition of his role as an Israeli agent in accord with the facts in his file at the Ministry of Defense.

Pollard's first mistake was to give up his right to a trial and to trust the American government in a plea agreement which should have earned him a relatively short sentence - two to four years perhaps. Yet, here it is 15 years later and Pollard is still sitting in prison serving a life sentence with no end in sight - a much longer term than any other spy who committed the same offense and even longer than those who did worse and spied for enemies. What is going on here?

I am meeting with Esther right after she has worked through the night on paperwork critical to his current court case, and right before she goes off to a meeting with her husband's attorney, and from there to do the work that needs to be done to get new material ready for posting to their web site at jonathanpollard.org. She shows no sign of weariness and she makes every effort not to show impatience or irritation as she explains this or that issue about the case. Esther explains how Jonathan has fought and won so many battles against all odds. It is true. Everyone is against Pollard - the Government of the US, our government in Israel, and even his own family who continue to publicly oppose the way he is running his case. In spite of all this opposition, Pollard has succeeded in forcing the Government to officially acknowledge him as an agent and to accept responsibility for him. The media and the courts have been the avenues that Pollard has successfully exploited in gaining these hard-won victories.

In an 11 page submission to the court last week requesting an emergency hearing of his Petition No. 6029/99, which he filed in September, Pollard states that his long drawn-out incarceration has established a dangerous precedent whereby the government permits itself to pick and choose, according to political or personal interests, which agent/soldier to rescue immediately, and which one to leave in the field indefinitely.

The Pollard submission also logically points out that now that negotiations for his release have been elevated to the highest political levels at Wye, they must be resolved at that level. The only one with the authority and the standing in Washington necessary to complete the negotiations for Pollard's release is the Prime Minister and Defense Minister himself, Ehud Barak.

The submission also points out that instead of the Prime Minister's offer to fund Pollard's "personal expenses in prison" such as chocolate bars and shampoo - things that he can buy in the cantina - Pollard is demanding that all of his expenses, including legal fees and full support for himself and his wife should be granted. He is troubled that his ill wife is struggling to pay all of the expenses related to his incarceration and his fight for freedom on her own.

Pollard rebuts the Prime Minister's excuse that nothing can be done to secure his release while the issue is still being reviewed by the President. The reference is to a "speedy review" that the President promised to carry out a year ago, when he reneged on his commitment to free Pollard at Wye. Pollard points out that the President is just using this review as an excuse to stall long enough to duck the problem and hand it over to his successor. The Prime Minister, he says, is playing along with this farce.

Pollard has been a bargaining chip that Clinton has used over and over again every time that the US wants to pressure Israel for more concessions. The concessions are made, and Pollard is still not freed. The way that Barak freed the Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands and got nothing in return. He himself wrote Pollard out of the deal!

Esther Pollard speaks of recent meetings with members of Knesset, and other government sources. One of them, a source close to Barak, told her of a private meeting he had with the Prime Minister. Barak told him, "Any time I want Pollard I can have him. The minute I decide to get him, he'll be out. No problem."

Barak, says Esther, is the first Prime Minister who refuses to meet with her and/or any of her husband's legal representatives. He has completely cut off all contact with Pollard. In the past, Barak used to tell his people that he would not do less than Netanyahu - who was then Prime Minister. Even though Barak knew that Netanyahu met with Esther many times, before during and after his time in office, Barak still refused to meet with her. His attitude towards Pollard, says Esther, became known to them even as far back as when Barak was Minister of the Interior and he did everything he could to avoid affixing his signature to Pollard's citizenship. He was finally ordered to sign by the late Prime Minister Rabin z''l .

Is the naked and hard truth simply that the current Prime Minister simply does not want Pollard home? It is hard to accept that. Some answers about the Prime Minister's indifference to Pollard and lack of initiative on his behalf need to be forthcoming.

Pollard's recent submission rejects the Government's claim that the Washington Embassy will begin to take care of Pollard's medical needs. Pollard points out that the Embassy has ignored similar orders to help him for the last four years, and that there is no reason to presume that any change will take place in their attitude.

Pollard's submission also rejects the Prime Minister's claim that any public discussion, which includes the recent court case, only harms Pollard's case. It is simply a fact that after all the public discussion of the Pollard case, especially after Wye, nothing about the case will ever be low-profile again.

Pollard's health is deteriorating and the atmosphere he lives in is violent and anti-Semitic. The Government has cut all contact with him, and is not doing anything to help him or to free him, and that is why he has literally been left with no other choice but to turn to the Supreme Court again for help.

At the end of the phone call between Esther and Jonathan that I am listening to, Jonathan says: "Esther, tell them. You know that I would do anything to be free to come home to you. Anything - except one thing. I have been offered "incentives", if I would say certain things to hurt Israel. I know that most people in Israel would not even blame me if I did so, after all, what has Israel ever done for me? But I simply cannot say or do anything to hurt Israel. Even though it might be the fastest way home to you, I just couldn't do anything to hurt Israel.

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