"My problem, Mr. President, is that after serving ten years in jail, longer than any other spy, Jonathan Pollard's sentence is no longer reasonable and no longer defensible."
Rabbi Marvin Hier to President Bill Clinton 2/01/96
In a recent article "Clout!" (4/21/00) NYC Councilman, Noach Dear, defined the power of a community as its ability to access to key government officials. He pointed to the Pollard case as a reflection of the Jewish community's lack of such access. In spite of its intensive involvement in American politics as both fund-raisers and voters, the Jewish community is not taken seriously by the Administration.
The exchange of correspondence between Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles and the White House on the Pollard issue shows just how serious the gap actually is that exists between the perception of Jewish access and the reality. Rabbi Hier's February 1, 1996 letter to President Clinton, which raised the Jewish community's concern about the unequal treatment of Jonathan Pollard, was carefully-drafted and personally delivered to President Clinton. At the time, the letter was not released publicly in anticipation of a serious, personal response from the President - nothing less was expected.
More than 3 months later, on May 21, 1996, Rabbi Hier received a form letter reply from the President ducking the issue - the same form reply that had been sent to thousands of others since the President turned down clemency for Jonathan Pollard in May of 1994. [Pollard's attorney, Larry Dub, had received the same form letter from the President, dated October 26, 1995 - more than 6 months before Rabbi Hier received his copy.]
Nearly half a decade after Rabbi Hier's personal appeal to the President, Jonathan Pollard continues to languish in prison in his 15th year of a life sentence - continuing testimony to American Jewish political impotence.
Unlike other American communities which become more vociferous when rebuffed, the American Jewish community is docile, not willing to admit that its access to power is less than what it appears to be. Rather than intensify its efforts to secure justice for Jonathan Pollard, it has diminished its initiative - which does nothing to resolve a case that continues to cast a shadow over both the American Jewish community and Israel.
Rabbi Hier's letter follows:
The Honorable Bill Clinton
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
February 1, 1996
Dear President Clinton:
After much thought and deliberation I felt it very important to communicate to you my feelings regarding Jonathan Pollard.
First let me say up front that, for me, Jonathan Pollard is no hero. He committed a serious crime against the United States and was sentenced for that crime. He himself has acknowledged that fact in a letter to his parents later made public and in his pre-sentencing communication to the court.
My problem, Mr. President, is that after serving ten years in jail, longer than any other spy, Jonathan Pollard's sentence is no longer reasonable and no longer defensible. Simply put, after we have released Russian spies and Israel has released Palestinian terrorists, our country continues to hold Pollard for handing over secrets to a friendly power not an enemy. Every time a consensus builds that he is being treated unfairly, a new twist is presented as to why he should be kept in jail - the latest being not for what he did, for which he was correctly sent to prison, but for what damage he can do to the United States once he is released. This seems petty and vindictive and a tactic designed to keep him in jail forever.
Mr. President, American Jews do not regard Jonathan Pollard as a hero, but nor can they sit silently and do nothing nothing about a sentence that simply is not fair and equitable.
I must say I was deeply offended by the October memo issued by the Defense Department Security Office which once again raised the anti-Semitic dual loyalty question on American Jews. Although that memo was later withdrawn, it makes one wonder whether some officials in the defense and intelligence community are obsessed about the loyalty of American Jews.
I think, Mr. President, that the time has come for you to commute Jonathan Pollard's sentence on the grounds that he has already been adequately punished for the crime that he committed. Letting him languish in jail on the recommendation of certain security officials seems like like a playback to the days of the Cold War and not the days of the new world community that you are working so hard to develop.
I urge you to take that step.
Rabbi Marvin Hier
Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center
Defense Memo Warned of Israeli Spying
Jonathan Pollard's Letter of Remorse to His Parents