WNWR Radio Interview of Esther Pollard
On the role of the American Jewish Leadership
The Barry Reisman Show - Originally aired July 24, 2001
Justice4JP Release - August 29, 2001
Barry Reisman: It is 3 minutes after 4:00 o'clock at WNWR 1540 all over the world and on the internet at WNWR.com We are delighted to welcome to the air Esther Pollard, who is the wife of Jonathan Pollard. Esther, good afternoon!
Esther Pollard: Hi Barry!
Barry Reisman: Esther, let's get right down to the point. Jonathan Pollard has been in Federal penitentiary for how long?
Esther Pollard: He is completing his 16th year of a life sentence and starting his 17th year in the Fall, with no end in sight.
Barry Reisman: Okay. What is the length of his sentence?
Esther Pollard: Forever!
Barry Reisman: (confused, surprised) Oh! He's in prison...he's in prison for life?
Esther Pollard: He's got a life sentence with a recommendation that he NEVER be paroled. This is the harshest sentence in the history of the United States ever meted out to anyone charged with a similar offense. The median sentence for such an offense is 2 to 4 years.
Barry Reisman: All right, let's back up, and tell us what the offense is, that he is in prison for.
Esther Pollard: Jonathan is in prison for one count of passing classified information to an ally. That ally is Israel. No one in the history of the United States but Jonathan has gotten such a harsh sentence for this offense. Again I repeat, the median sentence is two to four years.
Jonathan received his life sentence on the basis of secret evidence, which to this day he has never been allowed to challenge in a court of law. He received his sentence without benefit of trial. He gave up his right to a trial as part of a plea bargain that he had entered into with the government. Now Barry, if you are looking at the median sentence for this type of crime, 2 to 4 years, would you plea bargain for a life sentence? Of course not! Neither did Jonathan.
Barry Reisman: Ahh... You're saying there was no trial... this was a plea bargain?
Esther Pollard: Jonathan plea bargained. But he certainly did not plea bargain for a life sentence! The life sentence he received was in complete violation of the plea agreement.
And by the way Barry, we often hear people conjecture that since there was a plea bargain that there must have been other charges against Jonathan that were dropped as a result of the plea bargain. This is utterly false. The only indictment against him was the one count of passing classified information to an ally (with no intent to harm the US). There were no other charges against him and no other charges were dropped as a result of the plea bargain. He is the only one in the history of the US to receive such a harsh sentence for this offense.
Barry Reisman: Well what was the deal that he made? If he plea bargained what was he supposed to get?
Esther Pollard: He was supposed to get a "substantial sentence" - which would be in keeping with sentencing precedents for others charged with similar offenses. That is the notion of equal justice - similar punishments for similar offenses. Let me give you a few examples so that this will make better sense.
Barry Reisman: Okay. Please do.
Esther Pollard: Let's start with Lcdr. Michael Schwartz, a non-Jew who spied for Saudi Arabia. Schwartz was indicted for the same offense as Jonathan - the only difference is that Schwartz was not Jewish and the ally was not the Jewish State, Israel. The ally was Saudi Arabia. What do you think Schwartz got?
Barry Reisman: I don't know.
Esther Pollard: Nothing! Zippo! Zero! Not a single day in prison! Schwartz confessed, he was indicted, and just as he was about to stand trial a quick deal was worked out behind the scenes so as to avoid offending the Saudi ally. Michael Schwartz was fired from his Navy job, lost his Navy rank and pension, and that was it - good-bye! Not a single day in prison. Compare and contrast that to the treatment that Jonathan Pollard and Israel received as an ally. Quite a difference!
Barry Reisman: Uhmmm.
Esther Pollard: On the other hand, take for example someone like Aldrich Ames, a top ranking American intelligence official who spied for the Soviet Union for many years. Ames is known to have caused the deaths of at least 11 American agents, and the loss of costly and valuable American programs. The country he spied for was not an ally of the US, but rather a hostile nation. Yet he received the same sentence as Jonathan.
Barry Reisman: Hmm! What is it that I am not hearing? Why...why is Jonathan's sentence so long, and Schwartz gets no prison time for doing the same thing. What's going on?
Esther Pollard: Barry, I will try to answer your question in a nutshell, but let me first say that we can't possibly cover everything in the very short time we have on the air today, so we want to invite you and your listeners to have a look at the Justice4JP web site at jonathanpollard.org - all the information is there, including a full page of articles on the Schwartz case.
Barry Reisman: Okay. That's onathanpollard.org
Esther Pollard: Now to go back to your questions: "What is it that I am not getting?" and "What is going on here?" The answer is that basically you have a situation where the Joint Chiefs of Staff - and this has been documented in an article by JJ Goldberg who is now the Editor of The Forward- decided to use the Pollard case as a means to send an end. Goldberg's high-level Washington source told him that according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pollard sentence had little to do with Jonathan's guilt or innocence, and everything to do with their decision to use the case to send a message to both Israel and the American Jewish community.
Barry Reisman: Uhumm...
Esther Pollard: It is clear after the nearly 17 years that Jonathan has spent in prison, that neither Israel nor the American Jewish community want to hear this message or to know it, much less to challenge it, so the Pollard case goes on and on.
Furthermore, no less a person than the current Solicitor General of the United States, Ted Olson - Olson was at one time Jonathan's attorney, today he is the Solicitor General of the United States - Olson himself writes in a 1992 letter to Jerome Chanes, head of NJCRAC, and to Phil Baum, that while anti-Semitism isn't provable on the basis of hard evidence, that it rarely is, nevertheless he himself has been told by various officials in the American Government that they do believe that anti-Semitism is an important factor in Jonathan's sentence.
Barry Reisman: Jonathan is now in a Federal prison in North Carolina?
Esther Pollard: That's right.
Barry Reisman: How is he being treated?
Esther Pollard: He is very ill. He has been in prison for nearly 17 years. He is the only one who was held for 7 years in solitary confinement in the harshest of conditions. You remember I mentioned earlier the case of Aldrich Ames? And that Ames received the same sentence as Jonathan for far more serious offenses involving espionage for an enemy and the deaths of American agents?
Barry Reisman: Yes.
Esther Pollard: I want to point out that while Ames got what superficially appears to be the "same sentence" as Jonathan, even Ames was never treated to 7 years in solitary confinement. Nor was he held in the harshest conditions in K-Unit at UPI Marion, as Jonathan was.
Barry Reisman: What does this mean for Jonathan?
Esther Pollard: Because of the kinds of brutality in incarceration that Jonathan has been subject to over long periods of time, his immune system is shot. What this means is that he is sick all of the time. He no longer has the immunity to fight off even the slightest infections or illnesses. He is suffering from a host of very serious medical problems - many directly related directly to the environment he is in - including high blood pressure and high cholesterol; nasal cavities filled with unbiopsied growths that make it difficult for him to breathe and routinely cause him severe prolonged headaches, nausea, and vertigo; severe chronic arthritis; gall bladder attacks - I could go on and on but I think you get the picture, he is truly not well.
Barry Reisman: Yes. When you visit him - and I know you do visit him as often as you can - what do you talk about? What is his outlook? What does he have to say to you? Does he talk about getting out? Does he talk about staying in? What kind of conversations do you have?
Esther Pollard: There are many things that we talk about, and always always to do with what initiatives, what we can do, who we can turn to to get help, how we can get help. And we talk about the overwhelming weight of the crushing disappointment of 17 years of the American Jewish community sitting back and watching this travesty happen, letting it happen....of the American Jewish leadership turning its back over and over and over again.
Barry Reisman: Are you getting any help from them now?
Esther Pollard: No. Not at all. Since President Bush took office the Jewish leaders have gone into the White House twice. On both occasions, they came back and reported that they discussed all of the matters of importance to Israel and to the Jewish community with an openness and a candor that they found quote "enchanting". But Jonathan Pollard was never one of those issues.
Barry Reisman: How does this affect you?
Esther Pollard: For me, as a wife, to watch my husband in such dire straits, in such poor health... to watch him suffering so and to see so clearly the massive injustice that has been done to him, and there is nobody willing to help. Everyone who is posturing - you have a Jewish leadership which POSTURES (to Jewish audiences only) how much they care about Jonathan, but when it comes down to "tachlis", to doing something, they go into the White House and forget Jonathan's name.
Barry Reisman: Esther Pollard is our guest here on WNWR Radio 1540 AM.
Esther weren't there some possible deals on the table to get Jonathan out?
Esther Pollard: Absolutely. And what is so stunning is that one of those deals, which was brokered at the Wye River Summit, was an explicit commitment on the part of the United States to Israel to release Jonathan as an integral part of the accords. President Clinton committed in the name of the United States to then Prime Minister Netanyahu to release Jonathan.
This commitment has been confirmed and reconfirmed by eye witnesses who participated at Wye, and even as recently as February 28th of this year as part of the Knesset record in which Minister Dani Naveh (who was Netanyahu's Cabinet Secretary) indicates that the commitment to free Jonathan which Clinton made was part of the Wye accords and that it was not a commitment between two specific leaders, but rather two nations and that it has yet to be honored.
Again, this deal that was brokered at Wye would be a very strong point for the American Jewish leadership to go to Capitol Hill to lobby on. It would be a strong point to take to the President when they Jewish leaders go into the White to attend these meetings with him. But again, all that the leadership has presented to the President on the Pollard issue is their deafening silence.
Barry Reisman: How do you feel about this?
Esther Pollard: It is crushingly disappointing that there is no awareness that what happens to Jonathan Pollard - as a Jew - is what is in effect being done to all of us, as Jews. Unless and until Jonathan's plight is resolved, unless the injustice is addressed and resolved, if there is no justice in America for Jonathan Pollard, then equal justice for all simply does not exist.
Barry Reisman: So what is it that you are doing, Esther? What can you do to move this along? What is in your power?
Esther Pollard: Let me give you an example and a little anecdote. I work hands-on on this case 20 out of 24 hours a day - the other 4 hours have to suffice for everything else including eating sleeping and breathing. As part of my work, I wrote an open letter to the American Jewish leadership in June of this year - after they had gone into the White House yet a second time and again had not mentioned Jonathan's name. I asked them: why is it you claim to care so much about Jonathan, yet when you go into the White House and you have the opportunity to address the issue with the one man who could actually release Jonathan, you say absolutely NOTHING? One of the Jewish leaders was quite upset by my letter and he wrote back to Jonathan - and this is the anecdote that I would like to share with you.
Barry Reisman: Go ahead.
Esther Pollard: Barry, how would you feel, if you were President Bush, and you got a letter from a very preeminent Jewish organization asking you to release Jonathan Pollard. You and your office read this letter with great interest because it is sent by a major Jewish organization that represents I-don't-know-how-many- hundreds-of-thousands-of-Americans.
As you read the letter, you realize that the letter was not even written to you, it was written to your predecessor, Bill Clinton. The letter makes reference to "as your term in office is ending" and yet Bush's term has just begun, and it points out "your release of the FALN terrorists" which again is Clinton's action - not something Bush had any part in.
In other words, as you read the letter it becomes clear that the letter you are reading is just a recycled version of a letter sent to your predecessor.
If you were the President, Barry, how much importance would you attach to this case if all you have received is a recycled letter and not a word is ever said to you about the issue by the prominent Jews you have been meeting?
Barry Reisman: Not much. It is clear.
Esther Pollard: And by the way Barry, I have no shame to tell you what the organization is that sent this recycled Clinton letter to Bush. We have copies of the letter.
Barry Reisman: Go ahead! What organization was it?
Esther Pollard: B'nai Brith International. But please understand that I am not singling out B'nai Brith for criticism. At least B'nai Brith sent a letter! No other organization had even that much to respond to my open letter to the Jewish leadership!
Barry Reisman: What do you mean?
Esther Pollard: On April 25, 2001 B'nai Brith International sent a letter to President Bush signed by 3 of its presidents, 2 past presidents and the current one. They sent Jonathan a copy of this letter and they sent him a cover letter in which they rebuffed my open letter and stated how committed they are to seeking his release. They offered the copy of their letter of April 25th as proof of that commitment.
Barry Reisman: Esther, who would you say is the highest person up the ranks that you have spoken to in the administration about this case?
Esther Pollard: Can I again give you an analogy? People often draw the comparison between me and Avital Sharansky. They often ask if the Sharanskys are assisting us, and they point to the Sharanskys as inspiration for us. The fact of the matter is Barry, the people in America- particularly the American Jewish leaders - who opened doors for Avital Sharansky are the same people who slam the doors in my face. There are many people with access to the places where decisions are made, places we would like to go to lobby. But those doors remain slammed shut.
Barry Reisman: If you could, who would you want to speak to?
Esther Pollard: Not me. Not Esther Pollard, per se. But Jonathan's attorneys. Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, Jonathan's attorneys, are the ones who can most compellingly present the facts of the case that clearly demonstrate that a travesty of justice has taken place. The attorneys speak credibly and factually on the case, and have documented evidence to support what they are saying. But the doors are simply not being opened. Not for us, and not for them. Not by those who have the access to the halls of power, in terms of their organizational structure; and not by those who have the access in terms of the fact that they fund the President, his party and various law-makers.
Barry Reisman: Aren't there other ways to get in to see the President?
Esther Pollard: The Administration watches very closely to see if the Jewish organizations and the voters that they represent are backing a legal initiative. The American Jewish organizations make no secret of their indifference to the fate of Jonathan Pollard. Recycled letters, or letters that they write and then walk away from, simply reinforce this impression.
Barry Reisman: Who do you blame for Jonathan's situation?
Esther Pollard: Barry, it is not about blame. It is about responsibility. It is an unfortunate fact that the apathy of the American Jewish community and the callousness of the Jewish leadership is now as responsible for Jonathan's continued incarceration as the moral indecency of the Israeli government that willfully abandoned its agent leaving him to rot in an American prison for nearly 17 years.
Barry Reisman: What would the attorneys present if they were to be heard?
Esther Pollard: Jonathan now has 2 legal cases that are before the courts. Again, I invite listeners to have a look at the Court Case Page on the web at jonathanpollard.org ; and to have a look at Jonathan's legal documents.
Barry Reisman: What are the two cases about?
Esther Pollard: One is the case to release the secret portions of Jonathan's court docket. These documents are at the core of the grossly disproportionate sentence that Jonathan received. Since he was sentenced in 1987, neither Jonathan nor his security-cleared attorneys have ever been allowed to access these documents to challenge them in a court of law.
Barry Reisman: And the other case?
Esther Pollard: The second case demonstrates how Jonathan was shafted and railroaded into a life sentence on the basis of falsehoods and lies and without effective assistance of counsel. It asks the court to vacate his sentence and to have Jonathan resentenced on the basis of the truth. This case has yet to be ruled on. The secret documents case is currently under reconsideration.
Barry Reisman: Esther you are talking to thousands of people in Philadelphia and New Jersey now. What would you like our listeners to do?
Esther Pollard: Hold the Jewish leaders accountable. They posture. They say that they care. They say that they are doing things behind the scenes. There is no evidence of any such activity.
Barry Reisman: Which Jewish leaders?
Esther Pollard: All of them. For example, if I am not mistaken, I understand that the ZOA is based in Philadelphia. If I had a nickel for every person that has told me how deeply the ZOA cares and how involved the ZOA is in Jonathan's case, I'd be rich today. But there is no evidence. I don't see anything - nothing tachlis - to support these claims.
Barry Reisman: The ZOA is not involved?
Esther Pollard: You know Barry, when we appealed to President Clinton to commute Jonathan's sentence before he left office, we did not have the reams of letters of recommendation from all of the Jewish organizations that billionaire criminal fugitive Marc Rich was able to produce, because the Jewish leadership did not respond to our appeals for such letters with the same kind of zeal that they responded to Rich.
For example, no matter how hard we pleaded or how often we asked, Mort Klein, the head of the ZOA, would not produce a letter to support clemency for Jonathan. He would not even sign a form letter! Absolutely ignored our pleas. And of course Klein is nobody and nothing in the Administration's eyes when compared with someone like Abe Foxman of the ADL. Foxman it appears was the inspiration behind the scandalous Marc Rich pardon. Foxman was instrumental in orchestrating the scheme to obtain a full pardon for a criminal fugitive from justice - a man who had never even stood trial - and to this day, Abe Foxman and his ADL will not support clemency for Jonathan Pollard because they claim that they cannot find any anti-Semitism in the case. Pray tell, Barry, where was the anti-Semitism in the Marc Rich case?!
Barry Reisman: Troubling.
Esther Pollard: I'm sorry, I hope that no one will think that I am singling out any of the people whose names I have mentioned today. I have mentioned just a handful but if we had more time I could tell you endless details of the crushing disappointment that we have experienced at the hands of the American Jewish leadership. Organizationally, they have failed, and they have failed bitterly in a case that appellate justice Steven Williams termed "a gross and complete miscarriage of justice."
Barry Reisman: Esther what would you like them to do?
Esther Pollard: If the American Jewish leaders and their organizations want to demonstrate their commitment to securing the release of Jonathan Pollard, let them take out full page ads in every newspaper of record, as they do for every other issue under the sun. Every Rosh HaShana, there is a proliferation of ads in every major American newspaper - the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post - paid for by the Jewish Organizations on every fickle, frivolous, and irrelevant topic under the sun - things like "How good it is to be a Jew in America today". Well if it is so good to be a Jew in America today, how about an ad calling for equal justice? How about a little bit of lobbying for equal justice for all Jews in America? Barry, there is no one left any more who can claim not to know that Jonathan is being treated unfairly. No one who can claim today that there is any rational or reasonable explanation for why Jonathan is still in prison. There is simply no excuse for the apathy and indifference to his plight that the Jewish leadership continues to demonstrate.
Barry Reisman: Esther, unfortunately we are out of time. We will check that web site: jonathanpollard.org Esther, good luck! What can I say? Esther Pollard, thank you very much! Esther Pollard, wife of Jonathan Pollard.
Esther Pollard: Thank you, Barry.