Hillel Fendel - IsraelNationalNews.com - May 28, 2007
With the publication of a video of Ambassador Jones's remarks against Jonathan Pollard, calls increase for a retraction and correction - and for clemency for Pollard.
The Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization (J4JP) has circulated a
video link at which US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones can be seen and heard making his infamous remarks about Pollard. Speaking last week at a Bar Ilan University conference on US-Israeli relations, Jones said twice that Pollard committed treason against the United States. He added bitingly that "it came out clearly in the trial that Jonathan Pollard took money" and that he "sold out" his country.
While J4JP easily and quickly rebutted these claims, other accusations by Jones were less widely publicized. He implied that the Americans were punishing Israel itself when he said, "I know he was doing this [spying] for a friend [Israel - ed.], but that's what makes this even more emotional for Americans - that a friend would cooperate in aiding and abetting someone who is committing treason against his own country."
Jones's final biting comment, coming in the context of the above remark, was the most explosive of all: "The fact that he wasn't executed is the mercy that Jonathan Pollard will receive." The double implication that Pollard deserved to be put to death, (even though he was convicted on only one count of passing classified information to a friendly nation) and that he would never be freed, had Pollard supporters up in arms and demanding an apology.
The pressure was apparently strong enough to elicit an apology within a matter of hours. Jones said his remarks were "misinformed and misleading," and "did not reflect my personal views nor those of the Bush Administration."
Apology not Accepted by All
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations welcomed the apology the next day. Though it reiterated its call for Pollard's quick release, the organization said, "We accept Ambassador Jones' explanation and retraction and believe that it puts this matter to rest."
Other groups, however, were less willing to bury the issue. Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel, wrote, "I believe the case cannot be closed. The apology, as is, is still missing a correction of Jones' comments. His facts were wrong [and] he needs to admit that... We must demand a full retraction, correction and perhaps an official inquiry into the sources of his information, the source of his directive to respond with such lies, etc."
J4JP noted that though Jones apologized for daring to say that the US had shown mercy in not executing Jonathan - who never faced anything near a death penalty - he "did not apologize for falsely accusing him of treason or of having taken money. These false charges are soundly contradicted by Jonathan's indictment and by his sentencing transcript, and most important of all by Israel's formal recognition of him as her agent."
Some in the Israeli press, too, were unhappy with the apology - and with Israel's lukewarm response. Two major Israeli dailies, Yediot Acharonot and Haaretz, ran strikingly similar editorials saying that if Israel were "self-respecting" [Haaretz] or "well administered" [Yediot], it would have summoned Jones to the Foreign Ministry and demanded a clarification of his statements.
"It's difficult to accept or understand the American lust for revenge when it comes to Pollard," wrote Yossi Melman of Haaretz. "There's something irrational about it. Jones's remarks were rude and bereft of diplomatic tact, reflecting this American pathology that aspires to keep Pollard from ever being pardoned. Even though Jones has apologized, he deserves to be denounced. By essentially ignoring his comments, Israel is adding insult to the injury it has already done Pollard."
Chief Rabbi Metzger Takes up the Cause in the US
Israel's Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, currently on a short visit to the New York Jewish communities of Jamaica Estates and Great Neck, is making the most of the recent developments to ask American Jewry to redouble their efforts to work for Pollard's release. The rabbi said today that after he visited Pollard in prison over two years ago, he wrote a letter to US President Bush asking for clemency - and had it signed by every living past and present Israeli chief rabbi.
"I planned to give it by hand to the President," Rabbi Metzger said, "but we received a message that it would be better not to bring it because the subject was too [sensitive] - and so I gave it to the US Ambassador, and he promised that he would give it to the President, but as of now, I have not yet received an answer... We have only two ways to act: Jews all over the world must put a lot of pressure on President Bush as his term draws to a close, and we must pray to G-d that He will save Jonathan's life and rescue him."
Pollard's wife Esther, speaking on the Knesset television channel last week, said that Prime Minister Olmert should capitalize on the situation and make up for past government inaction by raising the matter quietly with President Bush and asking for the release of Pollard as an Israeli agent.