Justice justice, shall you do: An interview with Farley Weiss

Soriya Daniels - Lifestyles Magazine - July 1, 2006 (Summer Edition)

It is a hot summer day in Arizona and Farley Weiss, president of the patent and trademark law firm Weiss, Moy &Harris, P.C., sorts his mail at his wood desk surrounded by pictures of his family. He pushes aside the usual stack of trademark filings and office correspondence and reaches for the envelope marked Israel's Prime Minister's Office. Yes, the practice of intellectual property law pays the bills, but that is hardly what gets Weiss out of bed in the morning.

It is moments like these, when he will learn the outcome of his strategies and maneuvers to help keep Israel and its citizens safe, that make Weiss who he is-"the salt of the earth"-as philanthropist Dina Reis once put it and "an important colleague in our continuous campaign against terror," as recently written by Israeli Cabinet Minister Uzi Landau.

Farley Weiss never believes that the cause is too cumbersome- not when it comes to Israel's survival, not when it comes to Jonathan Pollard, and not when it comes to bringing Palestinian terrorists to justice in the United States. "You don't stop trying until you succeed, however long that takes," he declares. It is a lesson he learned in his younger days as a former world-ranked professional tennis player: the lesson of perseverance. As he competed in Spain and Finland, he would often remind himself, "Until you've lost match point, you can still come back and win the match, no matter how far down you are."

This mantra accompanied him to North Carolina in June 2003, all the way to the medium-security prison in Butner, where Jonathan Pollard is serving a life term for passing classified information to Israel during the 1980s. The facts of the case suggest that as a Navy intelligence analyst, Pollard came across information concerning nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare capabilities of certain radical Arab regimes. He discovered that the information was not being shared with Israel as the U.S. was legally required to do under the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two countries. Pollard decided to take matters into his own hands.

Weiss followed the case from very early on, inspired by an article written by Alan Dershowitz criticizing the life sentence, given that the average sentence meted for similar crimes was two to four years. Dismayed by the anti- Israel editorials in the Phoenix Gazette in the '80s, Weiss met with the editorial staff and helped convince a writer for the paper to stop writing his regular anti-Israel editorials. Weiss also convinced the paper to allow him to write two articles on Jonathan Pollard and subsequently the paper itself wrote an editorial in favor of Pollard's release. That was just the beginning.

Today, Weiss is working behind the scenes to try to convince President George W. Bush to commute Pollard's life sentence to the 20-plus years already served.

It is the severity of Pollard's sentence, and more specifically, its disproportionateness to sentences given to others who passed on classified information to an ally, that has Weiss speaking out. "If anyone has access to people who could help achieve this goal of getting Pollard out, or know people that they think we should talk with who would be amenable to doing this, I'd be happy to speak with them."

Why did Pollard receive such a harsh sentence?

"At that time, there were U.S. agents in the Soviet Union being killed, and they didn't know why this was happening. And so, they blamed it on Pollard, believing he gave Israel the information that was later given to the Soviet Union," Weiss explains. "Now, (former Justice Department prosecutor) John Loftus has discovered that Jonathan Pollard could never have had access to this information because he was a fairly low-level naval intelligence analyst who did not have the Blue Stripe Clearance that was necessary for access to information concerning U.S. agents. What actually happened was that Aldrich Ames, who was with the CIA at the time, likely influenced and possibly wrote the CIA damage report on Pollard to help divert attention from himself because he was the one who was giving information to the Soviet Union," asserts Weiss. Later, FBI Agent Robert Hansen was also discovered to have exposed U.S. agents to capture. "Now they know why all the agents were killed!" remarks Weiss.

As a reason why Weiss keeps going in the Pollard case, he quotes an excerpt from Pirket Avot (Ethics of the Fathers): "When there isn't a man, be a man." He urges people to take action when they see an injustice. "Don't just complain and do nothing. Do something about it. If someone's guilty of something but overly punished for that action, that could be an injustice as well.

"One of my most significant achievements for Jonathan Pollard was when I ran into [former Arizona Senator] Dennis DeConcini, who was on the Intelligence Committee when Pollard was arrested and later became the head of the Senate IntelligenceCommittee. He is one of a few people, along with (Senator) Arlen Spector and Angelo Cordevella, who know the extent of the damage Pollard is alleged to have done, and who have since come out in favor of Pollard's release." (Former CIA director James Woolsey, who reviewed the entire classified Pollard file, has now recently said that he would no longer oppose Pollard's release. Woolsey believes that the information Pollard gave Israel was not damaging to the U.S. Woolsey had earlier been concerned that such information would go to an enemy of the U.S., but there is no evidence that that ever happened.)

Weiss spoke to DeConcini about Pollard, pointing out that Pollard had already served far more time than anyone else who had committed a similar crime. DeConcini did not seem fazed. He was opposed to Pollard's release and Weiss was not going to sway him with his unjust sentencing argument.

Switching approaches, Weiss pointed out that Pollard has expressed remorse and regret. DeConcini responded more favorably this time, saying that he didn't know that and asked Weiss to send him information on the case, including the information concerning Pollard's expression of remorse and the information on the disparity in sentences.

"I sent him the information and he sent a letter to the president of the United States supporting Jonathan Pollard's release from prison," exclaims Weiss, despite DeConcini's earlier, repeated stance to the contrary. Excerpting from that letter, the former head of the Senate Intelligence Committee writes, "During my term of office, I carefully reviewed Mr. Pollard's case . . . and concluded at the time that it was not appropriate for a parole for Mr. Pollard. I am convinced that Mr. Pollard has expressed the appropriate remorse and served adequate time and should be considered for parole or pardon."

Weiss notes that DeConcini referred to both the fact that Pollard expressed remorse and the disparity of sentences when he wrote to President Clinton. This taught Weiss that even if one initially rejects an argument, they could later be persuaded on the issue as long as one remains friendly in discussing the issue and uses other arguments as well so that one's best argument is not one's only argument.

Weiss has written and lectured extensively on the Pollard issue. In the Phoenix Gazette, now defunct but formerly the second largest newspaper in Phoenix, Weiss wrote, "It is important to note that Pollard was not charged with harming or having reason to know that his actions could harm the United States." He also counters allegations that Pollard continues to pose a security threat. "Plainly, if there was substance to the allegation that Pollard continues to represent a security threat, he wouldn't have been transferred to a medium-security prison where it would be much easier for Pollard to release sensitive information."

Believing that each person makes a difference, he urges people to be proactive. "You don't know what one phone call or letter could do. Editors respond. If you don't like something in the newspaper, send a letter to the editor of the newspaper, but first try to learn about the issue."

Weiss does just that. In 2003, he publicly confronted, in a newspaper article, former U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross for his ongoing newspaper editorials supporting of Abu Mazen's Palestinian leadership. Weiss specifically questioned why people give forums to people like Ross, who openly admits that he was the main person who helped stop President Clinton from freeing Jonathan Pollard during the Wye negotiations, and who has belatedly admitted that during his role at the U.S. State Department he failed to properly hold Arafat accountable for his violations of Oslo. At that same time, Ross continually pushed Israel to make more concessions.

"Ross's support for Mazen was a continuation of his mistaken suggestions concerning the Middle East, as Mazen was not a man of peace," says Weiss. Rather, as Weiss publicly pointed out in newspaper articles, Mazen was the financier behind the 1972 Olympic Munich massacre when 11 Israeli Olympic athletes were murdered, and actually kissed mastermind Abu Daoud and wished him luck on his way to commit this mass murder. Weiss also recalled that Abu Mazen wrote a book in 1982 entitled The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism in which he maintained that only 800,000 (not 6,000,000) Jews were murdered in the Holocaust because there were no gas chambers. After Ross surprisingly responded in writing that Weiss "made up out of whole cloth" that Abbas financed the Olympic Munich massacre, an independent third party was able to prove Weiss's point by citing Abu Daoud's memoir, Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich, in which Daoud confirms that Mazen funded the attack.

Weiss's dedication is no wonder, considering he is the son of the only immigration judge who is the mother of seven children. He works with his father and three brothers, all attorneys. His ambition is coupled with a strong sense of justice, often citing a quote from Parshat Shoftim in the Torah in which the Almighty commands "Justice, justice thou shall pursue."

This was precisely on his mind in December 1997 while on a conference call with then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "I said [to Albright], 'The United States has a policy on terrorists, which is that you can run but you can't hide. But why does the United States change that policy when it comes to Palestinian terrorists like Mohammed Deif [the orchestrator of the murder of American-Israeli Nachshon Wachsman and many others], who resides in a safe haven in the land formerly controlled by Yasser Arafat?'" Albright replied that she did not know anything about this issue, a response that Weiss found peculiar and disturbing, given that President Clinton had visited the grave of Wachsman the year before and pledged to his grieving parents that he "would personally pursue Deif" and would bring their son's killer to justice. "By this time," says Weiss, "nine Americans had already been killed by terrorists and many more were injured."

During a subsequent conversation two months later between Albright and Weiss, the secretary of state posited that President Clinton and she brought up the issue to Arafat, and that they would actively pursue the matter, but that Deif is presently a fugitive. "So, a year and a half after she said that, Deif was arrested by the Palestinian authorities and, publicly at least, Albright made no effort to have him transferred to the United States. She didn't cut off any funds to the Palestinian Authority. Nothing to my knowledge was done [by the United States] to bring him to justice and as usual, Arafat released him." Today, Deif is the head of the Hamas Military Wing. The American death toll from terrorists like Deif is now 52 and the Israeli death toll is now over 1,000.

Unlike members of the Clinton Administration, Weiss immediately took action. Congressman Matt Salmon's (RAZ) original letter went out with the signature of 31 congressmen and four senators, calling for the transfer to the U.S. for trial any Palestinian terrorist who murdered an American. Salmon wrote about Weiss's assistance with that letter, writing, "During my days in Congress I considered you an unofficial political strategist for my staff and myself. Since then you have continued to give me valuable political advice in Congress in making a national issue of the need to bring to justice Palestinian Arab terrorists who have murdered Americans. I feel that your idea to pursue this issue of fundamental justice was the right thing to do and I am very proud of the fact that I authored with your help the first Congressional letters on the subject."

After the initial letter and follow-up letters and Salmon's direct questioning of Albright in the House International Relations Committee, a unanimous resolution was passed by the House calling for the transfer of Palestinian-Arab terrorists who have murdered Americans. Salmon personally flew to Israel to meet with Arafat to give him a copy of the resolution and demand that these terrorists be turned over to the U.S. Salmon then helped convince the Israeli government to be more cooperative with the FBI to help bring indictments against these terrorists. In February 2003, Abd Al-Aziz Awda became the first, and so far only, terrorist who murdered an American to be indicted by a U.S. grand jury. Awda is the founder and spiritual leader of Islamic Jihad and currently heads the Al Qassam Mosque in Gaza-yet he remains at large for the murder of many Israelis and at least two Americans, namely, Alisa Flatow (20) and Shoshan Ben-Yisha (16).

His friend Sarah Stern furthered the issue with the Zionist Organization of America's-sponsored Kobe Mandel Act, which became law in 2004. The act sets up an office in the Justice Department to pursue Palestinian-Arab terrorists who have murdered Americans. The act is named after Kobe Mandel, an American-Israeli, and his friend who were walking in the foothills near their home when they encountered several Palestinian Arabs. The two boys were beaten to death to the point that their bodies were unrecognizable. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez stated upon the opening of a new Justice Department Office as mandated by the Act that that this "new office guarantees a voice for victims and their families in the investigation and prosecution of terrorists who prey on Americans overseas."

The idea behind Weiss' efforts was to try to find a way to force the U.S. Administration to go after these terrorists. "The way to end terrorism is to deter terrorism, and if terrorists know that instead of being released in a prisoner exchange that they are actually going to be in jail for the rest of their lives, or face the death penalty, that deters terrorism," says Weiss. "The fundamental idea behind the issue is that, first of all, it is an outrage that terrorists can murder Americans and live freely."

Weiss also joined efforts with Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona, calling for an end to aid to the Palestinians since they have not transferred to the United Statesthe terrorists who murdered three Americans traveling in a diplomatic car in Gazaon October 15, 2003. The bill, HR 3460, was introduced in 2004 and had around 15 cosponsors but failed to become law.

"Recently, David Satterfield of the State Department said that the PA has made a political decision to do nothing about the terrorists who murdered the American diplomats. Yet a discontinuance of aid is not threatened. The argument made is that it is humanitarian aid that goes to television shows and the like," Weiss rails. "Their economy is in shambles because of terrorism. It is like the orphan asking for aid after killing his parents because no one is supporting him!"

Weiss also cites what has become known as The Bush Doctrine, whereby the United States has pledged to treat terrorists and those countries and places that give safe haven to terrorists as equally culpable. "Well," says Weiss, "the Palestinian Authority gives safe haven and supports terrorists. I'm not saying we have to go in there and clean them out (Israel should do that), but at least stop giving them aid!" Weiss elaborates that we should learn from the famous Talmudic statement that those who are merciful to the cruel are destined to become cruel to the merciful.

A bit surprisingly, Weiss does not harbor any American political aspirations himself. "I'm happy being an advisor. Most of what I do is quiet, behind-the-scenes work with congressmen and senators."

Weiss, who spent a summer while in a U.S. law school as a law clerk for Menachem Elon, then deputy president of the Israeli Supreme Court, recently advised Israeli Cabinet Minister Uzi Landau on a strategy to convince Likud members to oppose the Unilateral Disengagement Plan. Weiss coined the idea of the slogan used throughout the campaign, "Vote Yes, Get Peres." It worked. The Likud members voted 60-40 against the Disengagement Plan, after polls a month earlier predicted a 60-40 vote for the plan.

As the national vice president of the Zionist Organization of America, an associate vice president of the National Council of Young Israel, and a senior fellow of the Center for Advanced Middle East Studies (CAMES), Weiss has been given opportunities to participate on conference calls with important American and Israeli political figures. Weiss feels fortunate that he was able to organize two dinners honoring Arizona Senator Jon Kyl for being the originator and cosponsor of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.

Weiss is also a monthly radio talkshow guest on a program called "The Middle East Radio Forum," which is hosted by attorney William J. Wolf. The Sunday noon broadcast in Arizona can be heard live on the Internet atmiddleeastradioforum.org. Past shows can also be found in the archive section at the website.

Weiss's knack for success derives from his view that everything is an opportunity, equally in his personal life, as well. He recounts meeting his wife, Jessica (an immigration attorney), seven years ago. The time was Simchat Torah on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, which hosts the biggest crowd of Orthodox Jewish singles gathered together in any one place in the world.

"Most people would feel, 'How could you find someone in such a crowd?' But to me, it was mathematically the best chance that the woman who I would want to marry would be in that crowd. And I met her then," reminisces Weiss with a smile. They now have four children and live in Phoenix.

Revealing his approach to tackling any task, Weiss relates that he looks at everything as an opportunity for good. When he found out that there was an opportunity to bring to Phoenix the famous children's concert performer Uncle Moishy, Weiss stepped up and made it happen. The concert was a success as Uncle Moishy performed to about 400 people and brought much joy to the Jewish children in Phoenix.

Weiss is in the midst of writing his first book and, surprisingly, it is a sports book that somewhat reflects his professional tennis career and the fact that he grew up as an avid sports fan. He is currently hoping to find a publisher for the book presently titled, The Fans Are Right, The Coaches Are Wrong. It is hard to imagine how he will find the time for a book tour with all that he already does, but Weiss remains undaunted.

Weiss thrives on challenges and adheres to two guiding principles established by Israel's founders. As said by Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, "If you will it, it is no dream," and the other poignantly put by Menachem Begin, "Faith is stronger than reality. Faith itself creates reality." Weiss has plenty of will and plenty of faith.

Farley Weiss can be contacted through the law firm Weiss, Moy &Harris, P.C., in Phoenix, Arizona. His email address is fweiss@weissiplaw.com.