A Rosh HaShana Interview with Esther Pollard
Hosted by Meir Gross - Arutz7 Radio - September 10, 2001
[Translated from Hebrew]
Meir Gross: Shalom, Esther Pollard!
Esther Pollard: Shalom, Meir!
Meir Gross: Where have we reached you, Esther?
Esther Pollard: I am now in Butner, North Carolina with Jonathan.
Meir Gross: Are you actually in the prison at this moment?
Esther Pollard: No. No phone calls are permitted in the prison. It is forbidden. But I am not far from there now - about 3 kilometers away.
Meir Gross: Did you see Jonathan today? Will you be seeing him?
Esther Pollard: No. I did not see him today...
Meir Gross: When will you be seeing him again?
Esther Pollard: I'll be seeing him tomorrow. I saw him on Thursday and Friday of this past week. When this program airs tomorrow I will be with Jonathan then. That, by the way, is the reason we are taping now instead of doing this live.
Meir Gross: How often do you see him? And for how long?
Esther Pollard: It is very complicated. There is a whole system of "prisoner points" and specific visitation days and so on. The system consists of numerous rules and regulations and visits are restricted according to those rules and regulations. The fact that I must come from so far away and that this is an expensive trip to make has no bearing. It is frustrating and nerve-wracking but it is not worth the time to go into the details. Let's just say that it is not easy.
Meir Gross: In general can you tell us how Jonathan is doing?
Esther Pollard: In general, Jonathan really misses Israel and his people and he really wants to come home. He is very disappointed that he is still rotting in prison instead of being home. There is absolutely no reason in the world why he should still be in prison.
Meir Gross: And his health?
Esther Pollard: It is not good. That is one of the reasons that I have been spending more time in North Carolina lately. I remain here for longer stretches of time these days because of his poor health.
Meir Gross: Esther, about a week ago there was a news story that Israel had brought to Jonathan or had offered Jonathan a million dollars. According to the reports he or both of you refused the money. What is the story?
Esther Pollard: The story was just a cheap publicity stunt. Nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt. I'll explain. First of all the Government of Israel never did make any offer whatsoever to Jonathan. From the time that the story hit the press until this very day, no one - not Jonathan, not me, and not our attorney Larry Dub - no one has ever been officially contacted by any Israeli Government official with any offer or any explanation. Clearly the media reports were just publicity for the Government.
Meir Gross: Someone just casually threw this out into the media for no reason? Just like that?
Esther Pollard: It wasn't just casually thrown out into the press. It was a hand grenade or a bomb that was thrown at Jonathan. Designed to do damage. It wasn't casual at all. It was very well-aimed and intended to do damage.
Meir Gross: Damage? In what way?
Esther Pollard: Here in the U.S. , the issue of money is quite complicated and there are numerous repercussions for Jonathan. I will give you a few examples.
Meir Gross: Please.
Esther Pollard: When the Government of Israel abandoned Jonathan after his arrest they assisted the US in slandering him with numerous leaks to the media which falsely characterized Jonathan as a mercenary. For years Jonathan suffered the consequences of these lies. It took us a long time, and a very hard battle, including filing several cases in the Supreme Court of Israel to stop the lies and to force Israel to admit that Jonathan was a bona fide Israeli agent. But the damage had already been done in America and it was a slow process here to get people to stop calling him a mercenary and to recognize that Israel was the address for his activities. But now, by throwing a million dollars at Jonathan - very loudly and very publicly in the press - Israel revived all the old lies about the mercenary issue. This is extremely damaging for Jonathan. Reviving the mercenary image has a devastating effect on his two cases which are currently before the courts in America. It also puts him at risk in the prison itself. That is why Jonathan and I had to come out loudly, clearly and unequivocally rejecting this bogus offer.
Meir Gross: In other words, even though no offer was officially made to Jonathan - only in the press - you still had to reject it publicly.
Esther Pollard: Yes. There are other repercussions for him as well. For example, American tax law is not as it is in Israel. Here, the Government's Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is not required to prove that you have received any money in order to demand the taxes on it. On the contrary, if the IRS merely suspects that you have money they can demand the taxes, and the onus is on you to prove that you did not receive it - which would entail a complicated and expensive legal battle.
The IRS is very powerful. It has its own police and its own courts and its own prison system. Jonathan could be freed tomorrow and because of this false story in the media he could walk out of prison and find the IRS police waiting at the gate to re-arrest him for the taxes on the money - even though he never received a cent! Thank you very much to the Government of Israel.
Meir Gross: What is the source of this story?
Esther Pollard: This is the interesting part. Clearly the story was leaked by the Israeli Government. And they wanted to be sure that people believed it so they took great pains to leak it in the most credible way possible. They made sure to publish the fact that this alleged offer of a million dollars to Jonathan Pollard had been approved at the highest levels of both the Ministry of Defense and the Prime Minister's office. They even named the officials involved at those levels. They also took pain to leak the story to extremely credible Israeli journalists, and they used Minister Dani Naveh as their front man for the leaks. Dani did not even know he was being used. Had he consulted with us first, he would have known. It is disappointing that he lent himself to such a nefarious scheme. This whole episode was intended to bring nothing but trouble for us.
Meir Gross: So what can you do about it?
Esther Pollard: Well, thank G-d, we responded at once. We did not waste a moment before publicly declaring that we would not touch a cent of this blood money - which in fact did not even exist! Remember, we never received any official offer or explanation from any Government official. So even though officially the offer never occurred we still had to reject it publicly for our own protection.
Meir Gross: Has anyone contacted you since then?
Esther Pollard: No. There has been no contact. No offer. No apology. No explanation.
Meir Gross: How does that make you feel?
Esther Pollard: Meir, think about it. After rotting in prison for nearly 17 years, not only does Jonathan receive no assistance from the Government of Israel, no efforts to free him, but he also has to defend himself against the Government of Israel. Instead of helping him, they slander him. They try to ruin his reputation in the media. How low can they sink?
Meir Gross: It is astonishing. But tell me, why would the Government of Israel want to do something like this? Why would they want to have him remain in prison? Why do they want to make more trouble for him?
Esther Pollard: That is a good question. And you should know that this is a terrible affront to Heaven that becomes an indictment against all the Jewish people, not just in Israel, but around the world. The fact that Jonathan does not receive any assistance from the Government of Israel is bad enough. But the fact that they also still try to hurt him is even worse. That he has to defend himself against the Government of Israel is so shocking that it is beyond words.
Meir Gross: Are you sure that the Government is not planning something for Jonathan?
Esther Pollard: Unfortunately, yes. I'll give you an example. Here we are on the eve of Rosh HaShana. Two days after Rosh HaShana, there is a giant rally in support of Israel that is scheduled to take place in New York. 100,000 people are expected to attend. Numerous Ministers and MKs are scheduled to fly to New York and Prime Minister Sharon will give the keynote address. Similar rallies will take place at the same time in Memphis, Toronto and in other places as well.
If Sharon had any desire to get Jonathan out and bring him home, this rally would be the perfect opportunity. All he has to do is open his mouth and pronounce the name Jonathan Pollard at this rally, backed by all the Jewish leaders in America and attended by 100,000 American voters and the Bush government would know and understand that the time has come to release him.
However, there are no plans to include Jonathan as any part of this rally.
Meir Gross: Do you think that the Americans would release Jonathan if Sharon presses the matter now?
Esther Pollard: Definitely. The Americans all know that Jonathan's release was promised at Wye and that this was a US commitment that has yet to be honored. Sharon was an eyewitness to that commitment, but to date he has never called it in. The Americans also know that the judicial process was subverted in Jonathan's case and that he has been severely over-punished. They know that they will have to release him sooner or later. But as long as Israel remains silent and does not press for his release, the Americans will do nothing of the sort. So if all of these Israeli officials and the Prime Minister of Israel come to New York and attend a rally along with 100,000 American voters and they do not even mention Jonathan, they are effectively burying him alive again.
Meir Gross: What do you mean?
Esther Pollard: Look, this is already the case. Recently a number of Israeli officials have visited the US - everyone from Minister Uzi Landau to Minister Limor Livnat to Minister Dani Naveh to Cabinet Secretary Gidon Sahr to Knesset Speaker Avrum Burg and a whole list of others. They were all here. Not a single one ever mentioned Jonathan's name at any official meeting they attended or even in an unofficial capacity. The net result is that when our American attorneys seek support and assistance from American lawmakers in resolving Jonathan's case, they are told, "What can we do, if the Government of Israel does not care about Pollard? We'd really like to help you but such-and-such an Israeli Minister was just here, and they never even mentioned him. If Pollard is not a concern of the Government of Israel, there is nothing we can do. Sorry." And this keeps on happening.
Meir Gross: But Esther, in his time, it is said, Bibi Netanyahu raised the issue of Jonathan Pollard with the Americans; so did Ehud Barak and others...
Esther Pollard: Excuse me please, Meir. Please excuse me. There is an English expression: Gimme a break! Just gimme a break!
Meir Gross: No Esther, how do you explain...
Esther Pollard: I will explain it.
Meir Gross: Go ahead.
Esther Pollard: Just a few days ago I was interviewed on Arutz7 [in Hebrew] by Beni Toker. I read to him an excerpt from the Knesset Record of February 28th 2001. And what I read was an excerpt from a speech by Minister Dani Naveh who at the time was severely criticizing then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Approximately what Dani said was:
"During the time that I was Cabinet Secretary in the Netanyahu Government the release of Jonathan Pollard was secured as an integral part of the Wye Accords. Clinton was acting in his official capacity as President of the United States when he made that commitment and the commitment is still binding upon the US until it is fulfilled. It was not a commitment made to a specific Prime Minister. It was a commitment made by the US to the Government and the People of Israel. All that Ehud Barak had to do was to stand firm and demand the release of Jonathan Pollard which was owed to us. That he did not do so is deplorable indeed."
Well Meir, if Dani Naveh is so willing to criticize the former prime minister for failing to collect on Jonathan's release which is still owed to us, then where is he, and where are his fellow Cabinet ministers to demand that his boss, the current Prime Minister Arik Sharon - who was an eyewitness to this commitment at Wye - demand that the US honor its end of the bargain and free Jonathan at once? Israel has fulfilled her end of the bargain. It is time for the US to honor its end. So in effect Meir, the fact that Jonathan's release is owed to Israel and can be had for the asking yet Israel isn't making the slightest effort to collect it speaks volumes about all these bogus claims that they "tried" to get Jonathan and failed.
Meir Gross: So you want the Government of Israel to make a big fuss and get Jonathan home?
Esther Pollard: Meir, all we want is the Government to stop the charade and to do whatever they have to do to bring this case to resolution. We couldn't care less how they go about it. They can do it as quietly as they want or as publicly as they want.
We are not telling the Government how they should go about collecting on this debt that the US owes us. All we are saying is that Prime Minister Sharon has no right to "forgive" the debt
- Jonathan's release - which Israel has already paid for so heavily in Israeli blood, territory and self-respect. Jonathan did not agree to the price Israel paid for his release at Wye. He was never even asked because he would never have agreed to the lopsided deal that was made. But the fact remains that Israel secured Jonathan's release by paying a price in a currency that was mutually agreed upon by the US and Israel. Now it is up to Israel to collect what she has already paid for.
Meir Gross: In other words, just do it.
Esther Pollard: Exactly. Instead of these empty gestures of pretending to throw money at him and all the other nonsense the Government puts out, let them just go and collect on Jonathan's release which has long since been bought and paid for, and they know it.
Meir Gross: And if the Government of Israel fails to do so?
Esther Pollard: Meir, so far they have failed to do so, and here is the thing: if we as a nation fail to insist that the Government of Israel live up to its obligations towards one Israeli agent - if we cannot as a nation find the stamina and the courage to demand that the Government save Jonathan Pollard as it is obliged to do, then how in the world do we expect to save ourselves? If 5 million Jews cannot exert themselves to save one Jew, then how can we hope to save a nation of 5 million Jews who are currently in mortal danger? After all, 5 million is just 5 million times one.
Meir Gross: Esther I want to go back for a moment and talk about Minister Dani Naveh, and also it seems to me, Minister Rechavaam Ze'evi who supports Jonathan's release, as well as a number of other Knesset Members who are very pro Jonathan. Especially now that the two of them are Cabinet Ministers in the Government, do you mean to tell me that there is not a single practical step that has been taken to secure Jonathan's release? Is there no evidence at all that the Government is doing something? Anything at all?
Esther Pollard: [Sighs] As long as Jonathan continues to sit in prison...
Meir Gross: ...then the answer is obvious.
Esther Pollard: It is absolutely clear...absolutely clear... and I want to repeat myself on this... we are but days away from Rosh HaShana, days away from the Day of Judgment, and it is a terrible indictment of the Jewish people, an unbearable indictment, that we as a nation allow this to continue. It is as if we as a nation cast Jonathan into the pit. He is still rotting in the pit nearly 17 years later. As long as he remains in the pit, how do we as a nation- with all our Rosh HaShana prayers and with all our Yom Kippur Prayers - expect that G-d in Heaven will forgive us?
How in the world do we expect anything good to happen for us as a nation as long as we continue to turn a blind eye to Jonathan Pollard who is rotting in prison in the US - in the hands of our "best friends"?
Meir Gross: May I ask you a question?
Esther Pollard: Excuse me?
Meir Gross: May I ask you a question? How do you do it? How do you keep going?
Esther Pollard: [pauses] Only with G-d help. Every single day, with G-d's help.... [sighs deeply]
It is hard for us - for both of us, for Jonathan and myself to hang in there. Neither of us is in particularly good health. Our financial situation is desperate at best...[ small bitter laugh] ... impossible, in fact. We have no official support - not morally, and not in practical terms. It is very hard. But everyday, we just pray to G-d to sustain us, to keep us going until the miracle occurs. There has to be a miracle. There just has to be. Because what is happening now is in fact a terrible chillul HaShem [a desecration of G-d's name].
Meir Gross: So your whole life now is tied up coming and going to the prison. Your whole life revolves around Jonathan in prison?
Esther Pollard: Of course. Absolutely. I do not have a private life or a social life or a life that is divorced from Jonathan's daily suffering. I do not go out. I do not socialize. I am completely focused on Jonathan. It is not easy, but he is more than worth it.
Meir Gross: Any other activities at all?
Esther Pollard: From time to time I have to return to Canada for medical treatment for myself. My health is a cause for concern for Jonathan. It is not easy for him either.
Meir Gross: Any parting thoughts?
Esther Pollard: I guess the hardest thing for us to understand is how it is that after nearly 17 years that Jonathan has been in prison our Government in Israel can't find even a drop of compassion - not the slightest sympathy, a single drop of mercy, to spare for Jonathan.
Meir Gross: Please continue.
Esther Pollard: Look, I know we have a number of other MIA's and captives that we all long to bring home. Their plight pains us deeply. We fear for them, we pray for them and we want them home. But the sad fact is our other captives are held in the hands of our enemies. We have no address for them. It is complicated and difficult. We don't even know who to turn to. We have to go through middlemen and we still can't even pin down exactly where they are or who to talk to.
But in Jonathan's case, he has been sitting in captivity for 17 years in the hands of the Americans, our closest ally and dear friends. We know exactly where he is, and who to talk to. And what is more we know that they promised his release. They committed to free Jonathan at Wye. And what is even more, every one knows without any doubt that the Americans subverted justice in Jonathan's case and that his sentence is grossly disproportionate and unjust. The median sentence for the offense that Jonathan committed is 2 to 4 years. So with all of these considerations it is simply not credible that Israel continues to tolerate Jonathan's continued incarceration without any initiative whatsoever to secure his release.
Meir Gross: A lack of decency on our part...
Esther Pollard: Yes it is. Look, the Israeli Government was so full of mercy for the traitor Marcus Klingberg that it bent over backwards to release him. Klingberg betrayed the nation and did inestimable damage to Israel's national security, but the bleeding hearts in our Government could not bear his suffering in prison any longer so the Knesset exerted itself until the Government found a way to free him on compassionate grounds. How is it that they can work so intensively to free a traitor but they can't find an ounce of compassion for the interminable suffering of an Israeli agent in captivity? It really is disgusting. They just can't find a way to free Jonathan who warned the nation about Saddam Hussein so that it could be prepared for the Gulf War. But they can find a way to free a traitor.
Meir Gross: Go on.
Esther Pollard: Many people are not aware that Jonathan's great 'sin' was warning Israel that Saddam Hussein was manufacturing unconventional weapons of war and preparing to scorch the Jewish State. Because of Jonathan, Israel was ready with gas masks and sealed rooms. If not for Jonathan, Israel's very existence would have been at stake.
Meir Gross: Esther I thank you for taking the time to speak with us. We are all praying along with you that Jonathan will soon be released - perhaps even in time to be home for Rosh HaShana.
Esther Pollard: Thank you. With G-d's help and some initiative on the part of the nation to demand that the Government live up to its obligations to an Israeli agent, perhaps we can indeed have glad tidings in time for the holidays. If the nation forces the Government to do right by Jonathan, then the Government may yet do right by the nation. Right now we are all at risk. The big problem is no fear of Heaven. This Government is so afraid of our enemies and so beholden to the United States that it simply has no fear of Heaven, and that is the worst state of affairs for the nation.
Meir Gross: Esther, you are right and we pray for a change. Thank you again. Be well. And let's speak again soon.
Esther Pollard: Thank you, Meir!