A Meeting with "CITIZEN POLLARD"

by Member of Knesset Aryeh Eldad - Yediot Achronot - September 24, 2003

Translated by J4JP- Released in English October 13, 2003

"Federal Correctional Institute" read the signs directing travelers on the main road near the town of Butner, North Carolina. This description is the American whitewash for what was, many years ago, known simply as a prison.

There was a time 18 years ago - or more accurately, about six thousand five hundred days ago - that they put Jonathan Pollard in prison for the terrible sin of spying on behalf of Israel. The judges who sent him to prison and the American government which intended him to serve out the his life sentence exactly as written, for the rest of his life, fully expected him to die in prison. They never gave any serious thought to the meaning of the words "correctional institute." And they certainly never intended to "repair" Citizen Pollard or to return him to society once he was "fixed."

Jonathan Pollard, inmate number 09185-016, entered the Visit Room at FCI Butner wearing a knit kipa. The kipa had an Israeli flag embroidered into it, and in bright yellow against a black background the Hebrew letters "CITIZEN POLLARD" were embroidered.

We were five Knesset Members who came to meet with Jonathan Pollard: Michael Eitan, the head of the Knesset Lobby for Pollard who organized the trip; Deputy Minister of Trade, Commerce and Labor, Michael Ratzon; Likud MK Gilad Ardan; Labor MK Orit Noked; and myself. Esther Pollard, Jonathan's wife, also participated in the meeting.

The Israeli Consul General from Atlanta, Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, assisted us a great deal. Even though the Israeli Embassy in Washington is much closer to the prison in Butner NC, than the consulate in Atlanta, the Government of Israel has entrusted the Atlanta Consulate with the "care" of Pollard. As for the Consul General himself, this was his first visit to Pollard when he joined our group. On previous visits, he sent his deputy. Citizen Pollard has also never rated a visit from the Ambassador in Washington. Maybe it's because the State of Israel has so many citizens sitting in American prisons for 18 years that the Ambassador just doesn't have time to visit them all; or maybe it is just that the State of Israel doesn't consider Citizen Pollard important enough.

Pollard knows to tell us about one Robert Kim, an American of South Korean origin, who was indicted and convicted of spying on behalf of South Korea, also an ally of the United States, who received an 11 year sentence. Kim is visited by the South Korean Ambassador once a month. Likely this is how South Korea shows her concern for her agent. Kim is about to be released after serving several years, Pollard goes on to tell us, because the Koreans knew how to stand on their feet and demand, instead of begging on bended knee.

Prior to Sharon's last trip to the United States, 112 Members of Knesset signed a letter asking President Bush to release Jonathan Pollard. Sharon never even gave the letter to Bush. When one of his Cabinet Ministers asked Sharon why he failed to raise the issue of Pollard with the President of the United States, the Prime Minister replied "Beggars can not make noise."

We met Jonathan Pollard, a man firm in his convictions, clear, focused, who refuses to waste a single word on "idle conversation" describing his suffering over the years of his long incarceration; a man who wants no pity, and who is convinced that his release will never be secured on the basis of "humanitarian" considerations.

We met Pollard who tells us that as an Israeli citizen he is ashamed of a Government that relates to the People of Israel as a nation of beggars. Pollard spoke of the People of Israel as a nation that is waging a deadly battle against terror, that stands strong, still riding the buses, still visiting cafes, defending malls and commercial centers, carrying on with life, working night and day to defeat Arab murderers.

The twenty thousand demonstrators that recently packed Safra Square at a solidarity concert and rally for Pollard, caused him to be overwhelmed with emotion. Especially since they dared to come out and demonstrate for him in spite of the fact that such a large gathering might easily lend itself as a target for murderous terrorists. The People were not afraid, said Pollard, it is time for the Government of Israel to stop being afraid.

Pollard was sentenced to life on an indictment of espionage. He reminds us of the story of the spies that went to spy out the Land of Israel as emissaries of Moshe Rabbeinu. Ten of them returned and spoke ill of the Land. It's a land that consumes its inhabitants, said the spies. Its inhabitants are giants, and we were grasshoppers in their eyes. But, says Pollard, among the spies there were two of them who protested. Two who stood up to the others and said: No! The Land is good. And we can defeat the giants. But, in the Government of Israel, says Pollard, there is not even one. Not a single Cabinet Minister rose up in protest when Sharon described the People of Israel as a nation of beggars!

Apparently, I thought, but what is the sin of a Prime Minister who knows how much Israel is in dire straits and needs American dollars? But then I remembered how the Rebbi of Kotsk had interpreted this very issue, the sin of the spies, hundreds of years ago. He said that appearing as grasshoppers in the eyes of the inhabitants might have been the objective reality; namely that they were large and we were small. But the sin, said the Rebbi of Kotsk, was in the self-abasing words, "and we were as grasshoppers in their eyes." It is forbidden make decisions for the nation based upon an assumption of how we may appear in the eyes of another. When the Prime Minister of Israel doesn't even bother to present a petition signed by 112 Knesset Members to the President of the United States, then it is no wonder that the United States does not take Israel seriously.

Pollard does not want the Government of Israel to go begging favors from the United States. He wants them to demand in a loud clear voice, to collect his release which previous American Presidents promised it to previous Israeli Prime Ministers, and for which Israel has already paid an exorbitant price, freeing Arab terrorists and handing over parts of our homeland to the Arabs, as was the case, for example with the Wye Accords.

Pollard wants Israel to start behaving towards him in a manner befitting an Israeli agent who served the country and was captured. As far as he is concerned, it is up to Israel to demand his release just as it knew how to demand the release of members of an Israeli spy ring incarcerated in Egypt since the days of "The Lavon Affair"; and just as Israel saw fit to do for every one of her agents who was captured in recent years, whether by an enemy nation or by a friendly nation. Pollard also has no tolerance for the "shtadlanoot" of the American Jewish leaders.

In the week before our meeting with Pollard, many Israeli Members of Knesset - and among them the participants of this visit to Pollard - traveled throughout the US visiting various Jewish communities. We met with the heads of the Jewish Federations and with the leaders of Jewish communities. We learned about their political clout, and about their massive fundraising - for Israel (a small part of the funds) and for American Jewish institutions (most of the funds). We learned about intermarriage which is growing by leaps and bounds, and we learned that only about 1 in every 3 Jews in America has ever visited Israel. We learned that only a small segment of the Jewish population in America gives their children a Jewish education. We learned that most of the 2nd generation born to mixed marriages are lost to the Jewish people, because far more of the children of Reform and Conservative Jews naturally leave the Jewish religion than do the children of Orthodox Jewish marriages. Every place we went, when we raised the issue of Jonathan Pollard with the American Jews, we encountered fear and trepidation as if the struggle for Pollard's release threatened to cast a shadow on the standing of Jews in America, to raise accusations of dual loyalty against them and to endanger their entire enterprise.

From prison in North Carolina, Jonathan Pollard made the following prediction for us: "American Jewry, is a dinosaur doomed to extinction. The future of the Jewish People is not in the Diaspora, but in Israel. Israel does not need the "shtadlanoot" of the American Jews, nor should she follow their model. Long after American Jews disappear off the map in the US, the People of Israel will be thriving and flourishing in our own land. The future belongs to us, the Israelis!" said prisoner number 09185-016, speaking from the Federal Correctional Institute, near the town of Butner, which is in the State of North Carolina, in the United States of America.

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