Falwell Planned to Visit Pollard

Mayer Fertig - The Jewish Star - June 21, 2007

Jonathan Pollard is having company next Tuesday, June 26, but one of his intended guests won't make it. The Reverend Jerry Falwell, the evangelist preacher who died suddenly last month, had set firm plans to visit Pollard at the federal prison in Butner, NC.

Dr. Ronald Godwin, Falwell's chief of staff and the Chief Operating Officer of Falwell's Liberty University, confirmed to The Jewish Star that Falwell had planned for a "visit of compassion" to the convicted Israeli spy.

Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst for the US Navy, is in the 22nd year of a life sentence for providing classified information to Israel.

"He was not unaware of the general outline of the case or in any way persuaded that this man was guiltless or anything of that extreme positioning," Godwin said. "He just felt that given all the circumstances and all the years of incarceration, and with all of the politics of that era cooled by time, it might be possible that he might shorten the length of the incarceration."

An e-mail from the prison to Rabbi Pesach Lerner of the National Council of Young Israel which was shown to The Jewish Star confirmed the planned visit and inquired if Pollard's other guests would keep the date despite Falwell's death.

Falwell, known for his outspoken support for Israel, had followed Pollard's case, said Godwin, with the help of a Jewish friend, biographer Gerald Strober who, with his wife Deborah, had written an oral history of Falwell.

"Dr. Falwellasked Gerry if, in his judgement, it would be useful if [he] made a compassionate visit without making any overtures beyond that," according to Godwin. Strober felt that it might, Godwin said, so "Dr. Falwell put it on his schedule and he fully intended to make the trip."

Falwell was discovered dead in his office on May 15.

"I think he probably would have come away with a more informed perspective on Jonathan Pollard," said Strober, who first met Falwell in 1978 and traveled to Israel with him on a number of occasions. "I had a good friendship with him over the years, a man, although much maligned by the liberal media, with a great heart."

Strober said, "We just feel that after 22 years [Pollard] deserves another chance, like a lot of other people. There is a basic inequity and unfairness to his situation that needs to be remedied. Obviously, there's just one person who can do this and that's President Bush, because he has exhausted his legal options."

"I have a strong feeling that knowing Jerry, he would have come away from it all with a feeling that something needed to be done." he said. "But we'll never know."

Gerald and Deborah Strober are the authors of oral histories of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Kennedy, the Dalai Lama and, most recently, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (Giuliani: Flawed or Flawless - John Wiley and Sons). Their upcoming book is titled "Israel at 60," coming out on February 1, 2008.