IDF Radio Interview: Pollards In Poverty
Galei Tzahal Interview with Esther Pollard
Host: Ilana Dayan with Kave Shafran
Originally aired August 13, 2003
Translated by J4JP - Released in English October 13, 2003
ILANA DAYAN: During the course of recent discussions about the freeing of security prisoners the name of Jonathan Pollard comes up again and again. Pollard was sentenced to life in the United States for spying on behalf of Israel. He has already served 18 years in American prisons. And even though he is recognized by Israel as an official agent, his wife Esther Pollard is living in Israel under conditions that are... that are not conditions, without receiving any financial assistance at all from the Government of Israel. Kave Shafran our political correspondent will update us. Kave.
KAVE SHAFRAN: Shalom Ilana!
ILANA DAYAN: Give us an update, Kave.
KAVE: Let's start, with your permission, with the dry facts. I have in my hand a copy of a legal document dated 1998 in which the Government of Israel states that Jonathan Pollard was a bona fide Israeli agent who was handled by government officials in senior positions of a legitimate, authorized Israeli bureau, LAKAM [which was disbanded after Pollard's arrest] and in light of this fact, the Government of Israel recognizes its obligation to him, and agrees to accept full responsibility for him and for all that flows from this.
In a quote from another letter dated 2000, the Government of Israel writes that it is willing to pay all reasonable and actual expenses for Mr. Pollard and his wife as it has stated in previous letters.
The courts were also involved with this issue. And in a document that was part of a legal proceeding, it states that the Government of Israel categorically recognizes its obligations to Mr. Pollard and his wife, past present and future.... (Ilana interrupts.)
ILANA DAYAN: And they gave him citizenship.
KAVE: Yes, a few years earlier the Government of Israel granted Jonathan Pollard citizenship, and his release was high on the agenda of public issues. And Prime Ministers Netanyahu and even Barak tried to secure his release from President Clinton. And the issue of his release was raised at the highest levels, seemed to be going somewhere, but did not actually materialize. Since then there appears to be lessening of Government attention to the issue. There are those who say that this drop in effort on the part of the Government is justified and correct since it is absolutely impossible to free Pollard. There are others who disagree strongly and say that the Government is making it into a self-fulfilling prophesy by doing nothing to secure Pollard's release. We won't get into that argument. But instead let's look into another issue. Is the Government of Israel doing enough, or anything at all , to alleviate the financial distress of Jonathan Pollard and his wife Esther? Esther spoke to us about their impoverished financial state yesterday. She invited us into her home. Actually to say her "home" is not accurate, because in fact Esther Pollard does not have a home.
ILANA DAYAN: Let's hear about it from her. Let's have her join us. Esther Pollard, shalom!
ESTHER POLLARD: Shalom Ilana! It is really important for me to point out that we did not ask for this interview and we did not seek out any publicity on the issue of our financial distress. Jonathan and I agreed to speak about this, only in order to shed light for our nation, on the depth of the abandonment and the extent of the betrayal which Jonathan has suffered at the hands of the Government of Israel.
ILANA DAYAN: Tell us about your living conditions. How long are you in the country?
ESTHER POLLARD: I am one foot here and one foot there. I have no home. I have no place that belongs to me.
ILANA DAYAN: Not even in the States?
ESTHER POLLARD: No. Nowhere. Nowhere at all.
ILANA DAYAN: (silent)
ESTHER POLLARD: We have no money. No money at all. I became ill with cancer in 1999. I have not been able to work since. But even so I still must do Jonathan's work, and I do, around the clock, 20 out of 24 hours a day.
ILANA DAYAN: What is your day like?
ESTHER POLLARD: It is always overwhelmingly packed. Whether with web work, or with legal matters, or PR work and news releases and contact with the media or meetings with various officials or contact with the attorneys or...
ILANA DAYAN: There are still meetings with government officials? Even though the government is supposedly doing nothing, and you are still meeting with government officials?
ESTHER POLLARD: Yes, but not necessarily, here! Not necessarily with government officials in this country! I work here, I also work in America. I also interview in both languages at all times of night and day. I also take care of legal issues for my husband. It is a full time job, times three. But whatever I do, I am doing it without support, without assistance, without help, and without money.
ILANA DAYAN: How do you pay for your flights between Israel and the US?
ESTHER POLLARD: Gifts. Help from...
ILANA DAYAN: (interrupts) Gifts?!
ESTHER POLLARD: Wait a second, let me finish. We do not do fundraising, and we do not ask for donations. I want to stress that very emphatically, we do no fundraising and collect no donations. We do have a few good friends, very good people, not millionaires, who from time to time help us out. Sometimes this one helps us with a plane ticket, sometimes another one does, sometimes they assign us their free travel points. My last plane ticket was paid for with airline points. These are people who are so devoted to Jonathan that..
ILANA DAYAN: Are they from here? Are most Israelis?
ESTHER POLLARD: Most? It's really a small group of people. A few are here. People like Bella Amiram. She is the lady who provides me with a room in her house.
ILANA DAYAN: Who is she?
ESTHER POLLARD: She is a kindly widow who heard about our financial distress and offered me a room in her house.
ILANA DAYAN: That is where you live? She is your hostess? Is that where Kave visited you yesterday.
ESTHER POLLARD: Yes, that is correct. I live in a room in Bella Amiram's house.
ILANA DAYAN: She is doing you a favor?
ESTHER POLLARD: She says that it is not a favor; she feels strongly that all of Israel should be doing something to help Jonathan. She says that everyone has something to offer and that everyone can be doing something. She is quite astonished that that is not happening.
ILANA DAYAN: Who exactly do you expect to help you financially?
ESTHER POLLARD: I do not expect anything from anyone and I have never asked for anything from anyone. The only thing that I have ever asked for is for the Government of Israel to bring Jonathan home. Nevertheless, morally and legally the Government of Israel has a social contract with every agent that she sends out into the field. It is not that Israel suddenly recognized Jonathan as an agent in 1998 as something new. He always was her agent, she simply stopped lying about it in 1998 and publicly acknowledged the truth.
ILANA DAYAN: But why then...
ESTHER POLLARD: Wait a minute! Why do the families of other Israeli agents not have to - I am afraid to use names, because some of them are still in captivity - why do their families not have to go begging for funds and other assistance? Why is it that these agents and even just plain citizens of Israel, their families are receiving financial support quietly behind the scenes which they did not have to ask for or fight for?
And no one has ever slandered them in the media as if they are receiving funds, the way that the Government has done to Jonathan over and over again. Just a year ago the Government announced to the media (via the office of Dani Naveh) that Jonathan will receive a million dollars, and that Jonathan and I are receiving government funds - a complete lie!
When the Government does in fact assist families of captives, they do it quietly. They are careful to do so, so as not to do damage to the one in captivity. Only in Jonathan's case has there been such blatant disregard for his welfare and such lies in the media!
ILANA DAYAN: I want to ask you another question: if as Jonathan Pollard's wife, as a result of that standing you receive any other benefits from the State of Israel? For example, I as a citizen of the State have a right to State Health Care (Kupat Cholim). Do you have any rights?
ESTHER POLLARD: Nothing.
ILANA DAYAN: Nothing?!
ESTHER POLLARD: Nothing at all!
ILANA DAYAN: And if tomorrow you need medical treatment, you won't be able to get it?
ESTHER POLLARD: Right! I do in fact require medical attention now, and that is why I am flying out on Saturday night. I will fly to Canada, where I am also a citizen, to receive medical care there. Then I will travel to the US to see Jonathan. Any time I need medical treatment, the only place I can get it is in Canada because I have no rights here at all. It is terrible. Really terrible.
ILANA DAYAN: Yes.
ESTHER POLLARD: It is not that I expect anything from anyone. I reiterate that I only agreed to do this interview in order to shed light on the extent of the Government's abandonment of Jonathan.
ILANA DAYAN: Let's talk about the Prime Minister's recent trip to the US. He took a petition to President Bush signed by 112 members of Knesset...
ESTHER POLLARD: No he did not! He did not take the petition. You are mistaken.
ILANA DAYAN: He did not take the petition?
ESTHER POLLARD: The Prime Minister's office not only confirmed that he refused to take the petition for Jonathan's release to President Bush, but also tried to justify his refusal by saying that he wanted to "focus on more important issues". That's a quote.
ILANA DAYAN: What I really meant to ask is in the light of what appears to be a renewed public interest in your husband, are you hopeful? Do you have any hope that something good may occur? Do you have any hope that something will happen?
ESTHER POLLARD: Yes. But "Ahl apam v'al chamatam" - in spite of, not because of the Government of Israel, which continues to undermine and sabotage every opportunity for Jonathan's release. Over and over again. We have reliable sources in high places in Washington. They update us after every trip that the Prime Minister takes to the US, and to date Prime Minister Sharon has never once raised the issue of Jonathan Pollard with President Bush. And he even admits it! Look, he took an historic petition, signed by 112 Members of Knesset - every single member of every single Jewish faction, including Arabs and Jews in those factions - and dumped it in the trash. He never even delivered it to the President.
ILANA DAYAN: Or perhaps the Prime Minister has simply learned from his predecessors that at this point, the issue of Jonathan is a lost cause. The closest they ever got to securing Jonathan's release was with President Clinton but then the head of the CIA, George Tenet threatened to resign, and even Clinton removed his support. Therefore, perhaps Jonathan is just a lost cause.
ESTHER POLLARD: Please! Excuse me! Excuse me! First of all, the fact that Israel is willing - at the request of the United States - to free murderers, over and over again; and Israel has freed murderers with blood on their hands; and Israel only recently freed a murderer who took 14 lives - and she freed them all at the request of the United States. And yet our government hasn't got enough national self-respect to stand on its feet and to demand what has already been PROMISED to Israel - I repeat, PROMISED to us. Jonathan's release was promised to Israel as an integral part of the Wye Accords. And I quote both the former Prime Minister and the current Minister of Health who are on record that Jonathan's release, promised to Israel by the former US president, was a commitment made between two countries not between two individuals and that commitment is still in effect. Israel has lived up to her end of the bargain, and now it is up to the US to fulfill its part of the deal.
Even in recent media broadcasts where they are discussing further prisoner releases, Israeli Intelligence sources have repeatedly stated openly that Jonathan Pollard's release was promised at Wye and that the US has yet to deliver.
Ilana, this is no different than the Oslo Accords, where Prime Minister after Prime Minister disparaged the Accords but then insisted they had to be fulfilled since Israel had made a deal and could not go back on its word. Well the US gave Israel its word to release Jonathan and it is simply up to Israel to collect. And there is no need to go into details about what Jonathan did or did not do. When Israel frees terrorists and murderers, she just frees them because the US asks her to. Now it is up to Israel to collect Jonathan from the US as promised, without any further discussion or debate. A promise is a promise.
ILANA DAYAN: Esther, let me ask you another question. You were wed to Jonathan... You married Jonathan when he was already in prison. He is serving a life sentence. Was there any point at any time in all of the difficult and stormy years that you have been his wife that you have regretted your decision to tie your fate to his?
ESTHER POLLARD: Never! Not even for a second! This man is absolutely wonderful! He is one of a kind! He put himself on the line for our nation. You look at him and all you see is the life sentence and the terrible situation. I look at him and I see the man. And he is simply wonderful! As a husband, he is the best! And as a faithful son of Israel, as one who loves Israel and supports Israel, he has no equal.
ILANA DAYAN: Esther Pollard, thank you very much! - Kave, can we have the Government responses?
KAVE SHAFRAN: The responses are really confusing, since we have not been able to find any official body willing to respond to us about the issue of financial assistance to the Pollards. The Ministry of Defense directed us to the Prime Minister's office, and the Prime Minister's office directed us back to the Ministry of Defense. We continue to wait for someone to respond to us about financial assistance for the Pollards.