Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel and a long-time activist on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, explains why Pollard has not applied for parole.
A recent Arutz-7 article on Pollard, reporting the National Council of Young Israel-sponsored call-the-White House campaign and reasons why Jonathan Pollard must not be abandoned by the Jewish community, provoked one reader's curiosity regarding Pollard's chance for parole. The reader wrote a talkback as follows: "I followed [the National Council of Young Israel] request to send a letter to President Bush. The response from the White House was that Mr. Pollard was eligible for parole, but had not requested parole. Does anyone reading this understand this response? Why would Mr. Pollard not request the parole?"
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, who has visited Pollard in prison four times, [J4JP Correction: Rabbi Lerner has visited Jonathan Pollard numerous times; 4 times in recent weeks alone!], responded with a lengthy comment of his own. Rabbi Lerner wrote that though it's true that Pollard is eligible for parole, "the implication that there is a possibility that he would receive parole is totally incorrect."
Parole is Impossible
Pollard's "pro-bono attorneys have done and continue to do everything that can be done, within the legal field, to gain Jonathan's freedom," Rabbi Lerner wrote. "They are outstanding professionals, stymied only by a judicial system that is strongly biased against Jonathan... The [relevant] law enforcement and intelligence agency officials... have indicated that they would oppose parole... Parole is a virtual impossibility under those circumstances. Every legal expert the Pollard camp has spoken to, and there have been many, told them that the parole board would reject Jonathan's request out of hand."
However, even worse than the rejection itself is the fact that it could lead to a 15-year delay before the next parole request can be submitted. This 15-year "set aside" means "the case cannot be revisited for another 15 years," the rabbi writes, which would be "catastrophic for any clemency request that might be made within that time period. In short, a parole request is absolutely the wrong avenue to follow."
In addition to asking for Divine intervention, Rabbi Lerner writes, "the only 'human' chance is for the president [Bush] to be approached by the right people, with the right documentation, at the right time, and we are working in that direction. The moment we feel there is a chance for clemency, a request will be filed."
Noting that Pollard's health is not good and that he suffers from numerous illnesses, Rabbi Lerner states the importance for "everyone to continue to call the White House, daily, 202-456-1414 or 202-456-1111, and request that the president release Jonathan Pollard; 22 years in prison is enough! The calls have been noticed. The president is aware that Pollard is an issue the community cares about, and that is important."
Regarding requests for clemency, Pollard's lawyers have explained that the government has refused to allow them - even though they have top security clearances - to see the documents that were submitted to the sentencing judge prior to sentencing in 1987. "Without access to that file," the lawyers write, "people... know that they have free reign to say absolutely anything about Mr. Pollard without any risk that they will be contradicted by the documents. Applying for parole without access to the court file and in the face of unremitting hostility... in the intelligence community, would be significantly less effective than an application on the basis of the complete court record."
Despite the above, there are those in the Jewish community who continue to insist that Pollard deserves his punishment. To them, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Dean of Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim in the Old City of Jerusalem, has responded as follows:
Jonathan mourns... not for himself, but for [the Biblical] Joseph who was thrown into the pit, and for all the subsequent "Josephs" who were thrown into all kinds of pits. Jonathan is the current "Joseph" through which our nation is being tested. He is mourning for his brothers' still-unrectified sin of selling the original Joseph.
Jonathan ... has been there for almost 22 years. That is a long time for reflection. He still asks the same questions that remain unanswered. Why is his sentence so much more severe than anyone else who committed a similar offense in the U.S.? Why is he the only one in the history of the U.S. to get a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally? And why is his life sentence more severe than even those who spied for enemy nations? ... Why are his security-cleared attorneys not permitted to see the classified portions of his own court docket? Why is such a terrible injustice being perpetrated against him? Why?
Jonathan... is aching for his brothers who threw him into it. He remembers that they promised him: "You are our brother. We will protect you. If you ever need us, just go straight to the Israeli Embassy in Washington and let us handle everything." Yet when he sought refuge at the Embassy, as he recalls all too well, they threw him out - right into the waiting arms of the law. Not only did his brothers deliver Jonathan up, they also provided the documents that were used to incriminate him.