Protesting Against American-Jewish Leadership

Arutz7 News - June 24, 2003

Several hundred protesters [J4JP: police and organizers counted more than 3,000 protestors] gathered yesterday outside the David's Citadel Hotel, where lay leaders of US Jewry and the Jewish Agency were meeting, to protest the failure of the American Jewish establishment to work for the release of Jonathan Pollard. [J4JP: the number of protestors is even more significant since they were not bussed in groups as is usually the case for large demonstrations. All protestors came on their own, as individuals since organizers did not have the funds to supply buses. In spite of this, people came in droves!]

The theme of the rally was that the Israeli and American-Jewish establishments had failed Jonathan Pollard - but that hope lies in the fact that so many youth and so many different organizations were present at the rally.

The police refused to permit the protestors to gather opposite the hotel entrance, and reined them in with barriers in the rear of the hotel. It is thus unlikely that any of the participants at the meeting were even aware of the Pollard protest. [J4JP: The protest was so vocal that Jewish leaders found their way to a balcony above the protest to see it. When invited to come down and address the crowd, they disappeared.] One participant told Arutz-7's Yosef Zalmanson, "Pollard? No, I wouldn't know. I have nothing to do with that issue."

"They cordoned us off to the side here, placing us in an enclosed prison like my husband Jonathan," cried Esther Pollard as she addressed the crowd. "What are they so afraid of that they won't even listen to our simple cries, calling upon them to use their influence to reopen Jonathan's case and ensure that justice is served this time?"

The rally was called and organized by Eli Joseph and his "Pollard Action Now", with the help of "Justice for Jonathan Pollard" and "The Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home." Over three years ago, when he waged a five-month hunger strike on Pollard's behalf, consuming only juice and light soup, Joseph told Arutz-7's Ron Meir what triggered this drastic step: "I read an interview with his parents in which they said that Israel had abandoned their son... As I am part of Israel, I felt very ashamed of myself, and of what we had done to that person who had only wanted to help Israel to prepare itself against any possible threat against its security. I have no guarantee that I will succeed, but I know that I have to shout in the only way I know how, in the strongest possible way that I can."

The protestors made the following demands: [J4JP clarifies: the following is a quote from a personal letter signed by Eli Joseph and Yosef Mendelovitch to Jewish leaders prior to the demonstration. When they received no response, they proceeded to stage the demonstration and a hunger strike. Mendelovitch and Joseph wrote:]

  1. American Jewish leaders must meet with US President George Bush to demand the immediate and unconditional release of Jonathan Pollard [as promised by the former US president].
  2. If this does not succeed, American Jewish leadership and the Jewish Agency must organize a national campaign for Pollard's freedom.
  3. All Jewish youth in the USA, as well as all participants of Jewish Agency programs in Israel, must be taught the vital story of our national hero Jonathan Pollard.

Asked what she feels when she sees the many youth who have become actively involved in the campaign to free her husband, Esther Pollard told Arutz-7, "It means that in spirit we have won! You see, when they put Jonathan in jail 18 years ago, the Israeli Govt. plan was that he would die in prison, a forgotten man. But this shows that he is not forgotten - and the youth of Israel, our future, has not forgotten him. Even more importantly, this shows our unity - our unity of purpose, which is exactly what will get him freed. I'm not counting on Sharon or Bush - if I were, I would have given up a long time ago. I know it's only up to G-d! And what He wants of us is to show unity - and what we see here today is the signs of that."

The rally was but one of many events that have taken place in recent months on Pollard's behalf. "Pollard Action Now" announced that today's rally would be followed next week with another hunger strike and other activities, in coordination with rabbis and other leaders in Israel.

Yosef Mendlevitch, who will conclude his three-day hunger strike outside the David's Citadel today, also spoke last night. [J4JP: Mendelovitch planned to speak, but was so taken by Mrs. Pollard's words that he insisted nothing more need be said and he did not speak.] Earlier this year, he said, "The American Jewish community at the time helped obtain my freedom [from 11 years of Soviet prison], but this time, it is a mark of shame for the American Jewish community that it has abandoned their brother. They have influence, but they are ignoring him. There is only a small group of rabbis who are working for him, but the World Jewish Congress and the Conference of Presidents and the rest of the establishment are afraid of being accused of dual loyalty."

Eli Joseph said, "Jonathan Pollard's actions on behalf of the security of the State of Israel were a rectification of the shameful silence and inaction of American Jewry during the Holocaust. But the silence that continues to allow him to languish in prison after 18 years is a repetition of that same horrible mistake."

Jonathan Pollard remains in a US maximum-security prison, serving a life sentence. Pollard, whom Israel has acknowledged was an Israeli agent, remains the only Israeli serviceman in captivity whose location is known. His betrayal began the day of his arrest in Washington, when he was turned back from the Israeli Embassy, where he tried to find refuge. [J4JP: Jonathan's orders were to seek asylum at the Israeli embassy in Washington. When he did, he was at first welcomed and then summarily thrown out into the waiting arms of the FBI.] He was subsequently found guilty [J4JP:without benefit of trial] of passing classified information to Israel, and then sentenced to life after the US government failed to honor a plea bargain agreement [J4JP: which Jonathan did honor.]

Former U.S. Prosecutor John Loftus recently wrote in Moment magazine that the Americans' extreme treatment of Pollard stems from the fact that he was believed to be responsible for the deaths of American agents in Russia - when in fact it was later learned that senior CIA official Aldrich Ames and FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen had betrayed the American agents. Esther Pollard said yesterday that it is important to disseminate this story and all of the new information it brings to public light for the first time. She noted that " the Israeli government knew as early as 1994 about Ames, and later about Hanssen, but did nothing with it."

Mrs. Pollard said that she cannot explain why her husband has not become a major topic in the Israeli school curriculum. [J4JP: Mrs. Pollard noted that Minster of Education Limor Livnat has done nothing for Jonathan Pollard since her photo op with him in prison in 1998. Livnat has consistently refused to put Jonathan on the school curriculum, though the other Israeli captives and MIAs are included.] She and Joseph said that they have been arranging talks in a number of schools about Jonathan, "but aside from that, most students - and many of their teachers! - barely know who Pollard is."

Mrs. Pollard also decried the fact that the same Jewish leaders who opened doors for Avital Sharansky when she sought her husband's release from Soviet prison refuse to do the same for her. She said that American officials told her straight out, "Why should we do anything about it if the American Jewish leadership [and Israeli officials] never even mention his name?"