Campaign Confidential (Re: Kerry and Pollard; Bush and Pollard)

E.J. Kessler - The Forward [N.Y.] - September 23, 2004

J4JP Preface

The Forward's "Campaign Confidential" by E.J. Kessler [09/23/04] contends that President "Bush has rebuffed numerous calls to free Pollard". That contention is misleading and incorrect. In his 4 years in office, President Bush has never rebuffed any appeal for Jonathan Pollard. Indeed, no appeal to free Jonathan Pollard - official or unofficial - has ever been made by Israel or by any Jewish leader for the president to rebuff.

It should be noted as well that President Bush has never turned down any official request for clemency. Jonathan Pollard's attorneys have deferred filing an official request for clemency until they can gain access to the secret portions of Pollard's own court docket. Government opponents of clemency have access to those files and use them to fight Pollard's release. Pollard attorneys appealed to President Bush more than a year ago to seek his assistance in gaining access to the secret portions of the file so that they can submit an effective request for commutation. There has been no response. The issue of access to Pollard's own court docket remains before the Appellate court. (See the newly filed legal brief on the J4JP web site:

A final note on this issue: In an Erev Yom Kippur interview on Israel's IDF Radio today Prime Minister Sharon studiously avoided saying that the Pollard issue has been brought up with the President. In his numerous meetings with President Bush, Sharon has never once made any mention of Jonathan Pollard. There is ample evidence of this failure, including Sharon's continued refusal to relay an historic petition to the president. The petition, which was signed more than a year ago by 112 Members of Knesset, calls for Pollard's release. In his radio interview today, Sharon dismissed questions about the petition, implausibly declaring that he didn't really know who gave the petition to him or what they expected him to do with it. When the interviewer pointed out that Sharon himself had signed the appeal to Bush, Sharon responded that he not know he was supposed to deliver the appeal to the President.

As for the report in the same article of Senator John Kerry's promise to review the sentence of Jonathan Pollard if he is elected president, this is a promise to do nothing. The empty promise "to review" the case was made only to a select group of Orthodox Jewish leaders. It gives them immunity with their own constituents, making it appear as if they have actually done something for Pollard. The same rhetoric has been used effectively by presidential candidates for the last 20 years. However the candidates are well aware that Jewish money and Jewish votes are never conditioned on Pollard's release, as they are on so many other less compelling issues, such as school vouchers. Jewish leaders have never held any American President accountable for failure to deliver on promises of justice for Jonathan Pollard, and the candidates know it.

The text of the Forward article follows:

Campaign Confidential

E.J. Kessler - Forward [NY] - September 24, 2004

Oh Brother: Cameron Kerry is pledging his brother John would review the sentence of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, who received a life sentence in 1985 after pleading guilty of passing classified documents to Israel.

"It does seem like [Pollard] got a disparate sentence. I'm sure a President Kerry will take a look at it," the younger Kerry said at a lunch with reporters from Jewish newspapers Wednesday in Manhattan. "I can guarantee you that if he looks at it he'll spend longer than George Bush did looking at the death penalty clemency case in the state of Texas," he added, taking a swipe at the president, who notoriously spent only minutes reviewing each case when he was governor.

The remarks seemed pitched to curry favor with Orthodox Jews. Bush has rebuffed numerous calls to free Pollard, who has many defenders among Orthodox Jewry.

A convert to Judaism, Cameron Kerry was back in town for another meeting with Orthodox Jewish communal leaders and others after an awkward meeting with some of the same folks August 26. Then, he got off on the wrong foot by criticizing Attorney General John Ashcroft for, among other things, starting his day with a prayer. That antagonized the Orthodox leaders, who start their day the same way. The Wednesday meeting, brokered by New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, went much better.

A relaxed Kerry, chatting in a Lower East Side kosher restaurant over pastrami on rye, said the assembled communal officials had asked him to discuss his brother's commitment to Israel's security, "the mess in Iraq" and domestic issues such a healthcare and the budget deficit. He said he had brought up his brother's commitment to religious freedoms. John Kerry is co-author of a Senate bill of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act with Senator Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican and his brother's plan for energy independence, which the candidate casts as a national security as well economic and environmental issue.

Cameron Kerry also took the occasion to rap Bush for neglecting the issue of Iran's aspirations for a nuclear weapon.

"President Bush gave a speech [at the United Nations] just yesterday and there was no mention of Iran," he said. "Here is the greatest threat to the security of Israel, the security of the U.S. and the world and he had an opportunity to make a statement with the world community that this is an important priority and an important threat. We heard nothing. We need to press forward with making Iran accountable for its nuclear development and make sure it's a peaceful use."

Cameron Kerry rebutted Senator John Kyl's contention that John Kerry's plan to engage with Iran over its nuclear program amounted to the kind of deal President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright did with North Korea on its own nuclear program, which the North Koreans flouted.

"That's absolutely wrong," he said. "Bush has gone full circle from walking away from North Korea while the North Korean threat got worse, until we woke up and started engaging. North Korea is a great example of how we can't ignore the threat. We've got to deal with it."

On a more gossipy note, Kerry said his brother's favorite Jewish food was "probably lox." Sounds fishy to us.

Communal officials at the meeting include the head of the Jewish Communal Relations Council of New York, Michael Miller; three officials of the Orthodox Union, Matthew Maryles, Rabbi Menachem Genack and Betty Ehrenberg; the general counsel of Agudath Israel of America, David Zwiebel, and the chief of Ohel Children's Home, David Mandel.