Text: Esther Pollard's Speech at Book Launching "L'Shira Nolda"
July 12, 2007 - Beit Avi Chai, Jerusalem
Esther Pollard's remarks were delivered in Hebrew. This is an English rendition of her speech.
Jonathan and I are honored to be here tonight to participate in this happy occasion. We want to wish Sarah Gargi a hearty mazal-tov on her new and exceptional book of poems, "L'Shirah Nolda".
The story of how we came to be invited tonight is an interesting one - certainly a matter of Hashgacha Prateet (Divine Providence) and miracles, which I would like to share with you.
Sarah made contact with my husband, Jonathan, when she sent him a copy of her new book, "L'Shirah Nolda". As you know, the book is written in Hebrew. Jonathan is forbidden from receiving any mail in Hebrew. However, he did receive the book! The fact that he actually received the book is a complete and utter miracle! I will tell you all about it, but first, a little background so that you can appreciate the miracle.
My husband Jonathan Pollard is currently completing his 22nd year of a life sentence in an American prison for his service to the security of the State of Israel. Jonathan was a civilian analyst for the American Navy. He worked in a special unit, the Anti-Terrorist Alert Center or ATAC for short. His job was to receive reports from all of America's operatives around the world and to interpret them, to prevent terror attacks in the United States and in the world. In the course of his work, Jonathan discovered that after Israel's destruction of the nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981, certain American officials - among them, former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and former Deputy Director of the CIA Bobby Ray Inman --- decided to retaliate by imposing an illegal intelligence embargo against Israel. The decision to do so was intended not only to punish Israel for having the chutzpah to blow up the Iraqi nuclear reactor without asking the US for permission, but also to weaken Israel before her Arab enemies.
As a result, information vital to Israel's existence was being systematically and deliberately withheld by the Americans. Jonathan did everything in his power to get this information legally released to Israel, and went all the way up the chain of command to the under-secretary of Defense at the Pentagon. Again and again, he was told to mind his own business. Jonathan tried and tried to release the information legally. But all of his efforts were in vain, so he approached the Israelis and offered to supply the information himself, because he feared a second holocaust.
The information Jonathan supplied to Israel concerned chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and weapons systems obtained by Syria, Libya, Iraq and Iran, all intended for use against Israel. It concerned the procurement and development of ballistic missiles by these countries for use against Israel. The information also concerned up-coming terrorist attacks against civilian targets in Israel. At first Jonathan was simply a volunteer and he provided all of this information to Israel on a voluntary basis. Later Israel insisted that he become a bona fide agent of the State.
After Jonathan was arrested, Israel lied and denied all connection with him. Israel's leaders, (among them Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, and Rafi Eitan) lied and said they did not know anything about the operation in Washington. They claimed that Jonathan was a freelancer, a rodef betzah (soldier of fortune), who had carried out the operation entirely on his own. This was of course, an utter lie, and the Americans knew it was a lie. They took their revenge out on Jonathan.
Why did Israel's leaders throw Jonathan to the dogs? Their motivation, then as now, was self interest, not national security. The same corrupt individuals who were in power when Jonathan was arrested are, for the most part, still active in government today. Then as now, they cast Jonathan off solely to protect their own careers, their own reputations, and their own personal fund-raising abilities in the US.
Initially the Americans did not have enough evidence to indict Jonathan or try him. So then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres came to the 'rescue' and arranged to return all of the documents to the US which Jonathan had provided to Israel, with Jonathan's finger prints still on them! Without these documents, the US had no case against him. Israel thus became the only country in the history of modern espionage to assist in and participate in the prosecution of her own agent!
Israel also sabotaged Jonathan's legal case. Israel paid for Jonathan's first attorney who made deliberate "errors" to ensure that Jonathan's defense would fail: and worse still, to ensure that Jonathan would forever be prevented from appealing his grossly disproportionate life sentence. Jonathan is the only person in the history of the US to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. The median sentence for the offense Jonathan committed is 2 to 4 years.
Jonathan received his life sentence without benefit of trial, as the result of a plea bargain which Jonathan honored and which the US government completely abrogated.
After paying for the lawyer who torpedoed Jonathan's legal case and secured a life sentence for him, Israel refused to pay a cent for any of the lawyers who tried to help Jonathan. Even though Israel has formally recognized Jonathan as a bona fide agent, neither he nor his wife have ever received any assistance whatsoever (financial, legal, medical, moral) from the State.
In the 22 years that have passed since Jonathan's arrest, Israel has never taken the most basic steps required to secure Jonathan's release. On the contrary, she has done everything she could to cooperate with the Americans to ensure that the original plan for Jonathan Pollard would be realized - that is, that he should die in prison (G-d forbid). There is not time tonight to detail all the ways that this plan was implemented, nor all of the miracles that have thwarted the evil design. Suffice it to say that Jonathan's physical survival in prison for 22 years, in a hostile, violent, anti-Semitic environment is a complete and utter miracle. Every single day that he survives is a miracle! An even bigger miracle is his mental and emotional survival. After 22 years of the harshest conditions, in the worst prisons, and after enduring severe afflictions and torture, against all odds Jonathan remains whole and sane, clear and focused, and absolutely brilliant! This is an amazing miracle!
So while we are on the subject of miracles, let's go back now to the miracle which occurred when Jonathan received Sarah's book, "L'Shira Nolda". As I have mentioned, Jonathan is not permitted to receive books or letters in Hebrew. (Arab prisoners in the US are permitted to receive mail in Arabic, but Jonathan is not permitted to receive anything in Hebrew!) Mail that is sent to Jonathan in Hebrew is returned to the sender or destroyed. But in this case, a miracle occurred and Jonathan actually received "L'Shira Nolda". It came with a note in English from Sarah in which she directed him to page 44 and the poem she had written about him, "Forgive Us."
The same day Jonathan called me and told me about the miracle of receiving the book. His phone time is very limited so he could not read the whole poem to me. He read me the beginning of the poem and the end --- and I burst into tears. The words of the poem are very powerful and deeply touched my heart. I longed to hear the whole poem but there was no way. Jonathan could not mail it to me, nor was he able to write it to me, nor was there time for him to read it to me.
Jonathan asked me to try to find Sarah and to call and thank her. Thanks to Bezeq directory assistance 144, I found Sarah's number and I called her. I thanked her profusely and let her know the impact that the few lines of her poem had had on me. She offered to send me a copy of her book as well, and I happily accepted! When I received it, I finally read the whole poem, and once again I burst into tears.
The poem is relatively short, but it captures so accurately the past 22 years of our experience. The poem, in relatively few words, describes the total contrast between what the State of Israel was morally obliged to do for Jonathan, and how instead Jonathan was abandoned and left for dead. The poem expresses the anguish, suffering, and the cruelty that Jonathan has endured and continues to endure. Of course, worst of all is the pain of betrayal - the rejection, abandonment, and indifference - by the State which Jonathan had faithfully served. In 22 years, there has been no change of attitude on the part of the Israeli establishment. No remorse. The preference of the Israel establishment remains what it has always been from the time that Jonathan was first arrested: that Jonathan should die in prison.
The poem aptly captures this, and reaches the obvious and correct conclusions. What has occurred is not the problem of Jonathan and Esther Pollard alone, but a test for all of the Jewish People. As a nation, we have sinned grievously against Jonathan. We have failed him, betrayed ourselves as a people and disappointed our Father in Heaven. The poem begs forgiveness from Jonathan, but points out, that even if Jonathan does forgive us for what we have done, how can Heaven ever forgive us?
Thank you Sarah for understanding the deep moral lessons that Am Yisrael has yet to learn from the Pollard case. Thank you for teaching us our moral responsibility. Thank you for calling to our attention how grievously we have sinned against Jonathan. Thank you for trying to wake us up!
Your words are precious and your poems are, too. Jonathan and I want to wish you great success! We bless you and "L'Shira Nolda", with abundant blessings! May the book be read with interest by all of Am Yisrael. May we learn well the lessons it has to teach us. And may we yet hear good news, very soon, for Jonathan, for all of our shvuyim (captives) and ne'edarim (MIAs) and for all of Am Yisrael.
Yishar Koach, Sarah! Hatzlacha rabba!