Is Pollard Different Than Other Israeli Captives?

Arturtz Sheva - Israel National News - November 4, 2003

The plight of Israeli citizen Jonathan Pollard, imprisoned for 18 years in the United States on charges of espionage, was mentioned in the Knesset yesterday, but it is not totally clear in what framework.

The story began when MK Ruchama Avraham (Likud) initiated the reading aloud of the "captives and missing soldiers" prior to the start of each week's Knesset sessions. Supporters of Jonathan Pollard protested the fact that he would not be included on the list. MK Avraham's spokesman Nir David explained to Arutz-7 that Pollard was not included because the initiative was meant to "focus exclusively on MIAs and soldiers who were taken captive in the course of their wartime activities." David acknowledged that working on behalf of Pollard's release is "worthy," but said that there was concern that including those who worked for Israel's intelligence agencies might sidetrack the initiative.

Arutz-7's Yosef Meiri then turned to Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin for his opinion. His office confirmed that MK Avraham had been granted permission to read the names aloud, and added, "Similarly, the citizens Jonathan Pollard and Azzam Azzam, who have not yet returned home, will also be mentioned." The response left unresolved the question of *who* would mention the latter two names, and a subsequent phone call to Rivlin's office was met with the reply, "Our answer seems self-explanatory."

There was nothing left to do but to wait for the 4 PM opening of yesterday's session. At that point, Rivlin opened by explaining the new initiative and calling on MK Avraham. She then read aloud the names of Zechariah Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Tzvi Feldman, who have not been seen since the Sultan Yaaqub battle in Lebanon in 1982; Ron Arad (1984); Guy Hever, who disappeared in the Golan Heights in 1997; and the three soldiers killed by Hizbullah three years ago and whose bodies have not been returned to Israel. She sat down, and Speaker Rivlin himself then added the names of "citizens Azzam Azzam and Jonathan Pollard" who are "still incarcerated."

The Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization announced that it "vigorously protests" the manner in which Pollard was remembered, saying that he was purposely "shut out" from the list of captives and MIAs. The organization announced that it "strongly deplores the efforts of MK Avraham to establish a distinction between Jonathan and the rest of the MIAs and captives... Other than the location of their respective incarcerations, no distinction whatsoever exists."

The Israeli Activist Movement for Jonathan Pollard had earlier insisted that reading some names and not Pollard's would create a situation "in which Pollard will be thought of, G-d forbid, as one who is not worthy of being remembered."

Arutz-7's Meiri called Avraham's spokesman Nir David once again, and asked for his response to the Pollard supporters' accusation that the distinction causes harm to the Israeli agent's cause. "So they say, so what?" he responded. "We have also had complaints from Elchanan Tenenbaum's family. Our goal was to mention only IDF soldiers." MK Avraham can be reached at

The Pollard organization also objects to the linkage of Pollard with Azzam Azzam, who has been imprisoned - apparently with no justification - on charges of espionage in Egypt for over seven years. J4JP states, "Unlike Azzam Azzam, an Israeli civilian who did not serve the State, Jonathan Pollard is in captivity as a direct result of his service to the State of Israel" and was recognized as an Israeli agent.

J4JP writes, "It is deeply troubling that Jonathan's name has been omitted from a distinguished Knesset roll of captives designed to show the rest of the world the concern that the Knesset has for their return. J4JP calls upon Speaker of the House Ruby Rivlin to correct this blatant omission before the next weekly reading of this roll by restoring Jonathan Pollard's name to his proper place on it." Arutz-7 has asked for, and is awaiting, Rivlin's response to this call.