Don't Murder Pollard!

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner - B'Ahava U B'Emunah - November 30, 2007

J4JP Introductory Note and Bio

The author, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, is the Chief Rabbi of Beit-El and Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Cohanim in the Old City of Jerusalem. This article was published as part of a nationwide campaign in Israel this week for Jonathan Pollard. The campaign was planned to coincide with the Sabbath Torah portion "Vayishev", which describes the sale of Joseph by his bothers. Numerous rabbis and their congregations in Israel dedicated their Shabbat speeches, Parsha publications, and their learning to Jonathan Pollard, who they consider to be "Yosef shel dorainu" (the Joseph of our generation). The article below was originally published in Hebrew and translated to English by J4JP.

* * *

Jonathan Pollard has written: "The Americans sentenced me to

life in prison

, but Israel turned it into a death sentence."

How so? By deliberately ignoring him to death for twenty-two years. Even worse, not only has the Israeli Government shown no interest in securing his release, but rather, demonstrates an interest in his not being released. There appear to be some high-placed officials in this country who are (for their own self-serving reasons) determined that he remain in prison.

In any event, it is a fact: For 22 years, nothing has been done to free him. Notwithstanding one attempt in 1998, as part of the Wye Accords. Despite a deal and the commitment of the American President, 750 murderers -- the price for Pollard's release -- were freed by Israel, while Jonathan remained in the "pit".

Perhaps any one of the failures or missed opportunities can be rationalized and an excuse found, but not an evil 22-year-long succession of failures. And if you do not believe me, here are the facts:

First of all, who is Pollard?

Pollard was a civilian intelligence analyst for the United States Navy. He became aware, in the course of his work, of a tremendous amount of information regarding plans by enemy nations to harm Israel. These plans concerned the development of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons for use against Israel, as well information about up-coming terror attacks against Israeli civilian targets. According to an agreement signed between Israel and America, America was obliged to transfer this information to Israel. However, America betrayed us, a consequence of the pro-Arab tilt of senior officials in the American Government. Pollard repeatedly brought this betrayal to the attention of his superiors, but when he received no effective response, he acted to transfer the vital information to Israel over a period of a year-and-a-half.

Pollard was told (by his Israeli handlers) that if anything should go wrong, he should take refuge in the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Indeed, he sought asylum there when he was exposed, but was thrown out of the Embassy into the waiting arms of the FBI. This was the first time the Government of Israel openly refused to take responsibility for someone who had put himself in harm's way while in the service of the State of Israel.

The Israeli Government hired and paid for a lawyer for Pollard, who through calculated "errors" caused him to receive a life sentence, instead of the usual 2 to 4 year sentence usually meted out in similar instances of espionage on behalf of an ally.

That same lawyer did not submit a notice of intent to appeal (within the 10 day time limit after his sentencing hearing); and this has prevented Pollard from ever appealing his life sentence.

The plea bargain reached between Pollard and the United States was honored by Pollard and abrogated by the US, to Pollard's detriment. He was sentenced to life without benefit of trial.

The Israeli Government handed over to America the documents that Jonathan had transferred to Israel, with his fingerprints on them, providing the evidence needed to prosecute him. Without these documents, the Americans had no evidence against him and would have been compelled to free him.

Israel hired a top lawyer, former legal advisor to an American president, to represent Pollard's Israeli handler, Aviam Sella. That same lawyer visited Israel at the time and explained to Israel's top officials that if the Israeli Government told the truth about Pollard, that he had been working on their behalf, he would be freed or would receive a minimal sentence. That lawyer was then fired, and another lawyer was hired, who lied at Pollard's sentencing hearing, denying any connection between Israel and Pollard, and claiming that Pollard had operated on his own.

Moreover, until this very day, when dealing with the Americans, Israel still denies any connection to Pollard and has never formally informed them that he is an Israeli agent.

For the first seven years, Pollard was thrown into a solitary confinement, first in a confinement cell in a prison for the criminally insane, and then in a dungeon cell at USP Marion, cut off from the world. Israel never protested even once.

USP Marion was the harshest, most violent prison in the entire United States. Still there was no protest from Israel.

The Israeli Government appointed a secret agent of the Mossad to supervise the case and to make sure that Pollard would rot in prison. That agent later bragged about this to the media when his term of service ended and he retired.

More than once, Israel sent Mossad agents to visit Pollard with an official request that Pollard commit suicide in prison so that the "problem" could be solved once and for all.

A fake public committee for Pollard (whose real job it was to keep the Pollard case under wraps) received three million dollars from the Israeli Government to make sure that he never left prison.

By contrast, the lawyers who were truly working for Pollard's freedom never received a penny from the Government of Israel.

In 1995, Pollard found his own lawyer who appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court, and ultimately Pollard received Israeli citizenship. Nevertheless, nothing has resulted from this victory. Nothing has been done since then. It was all just lip service.

In 1998, Pollard once again turned to Supreme Court, suing Israel to recognize him as an official Israeli agent, and again he ultimately won. This too has brought no results, because the change in his status was never reported by Israel to the United States. Similarly, he was never included in Israel's Ministry of Defense's list of agents in captivity, thus depriving him of all of his rights as an agent in captivity. Consequently, the change in his status resulted in nothing, and was only a publicity stunt on the part of the government.

Even today, that same prominent lawyer who was originally hired to represent Pollard's handler claimed (in a recent conversation with Yediot Achronot) that if Israel would finally admit to the US that Pollard was an agent working on their behalf, he would be freed (See Leonard Garment: If Israel stopped its implausible denial of Pollard he'd be free.)

In 2003, when a hearing took place in the American courts to determine if the Pollard case might be reopened, no representative of Israel was present. Moreover, a top Israeli consular representative in America slandered Pollard on American television the night before the hearing. The message to the Americans was thus loud and clear.

In 2003, 112 members of the Israeli Knesset signed a petition-request that Pollard be freed. To this very day, the Israeli Government has not passed the petition on to the American president.

In 2006, the heads of Israel's political parties held a meeting and signed a joint letter to the Prime Minister demanding that he submit an official Israeli request to the President of the United States to free Pollard. No action was taken.

All of Pollard's petitions to Judge Lindenstrauss, Israel's State Comptroller to investigate why his case has never been dealt with by Israel have gone unanswered, and previous State comptrollers declined the case as well, one after the other.

In the Fall of 2005, the State Controller, Lindenstrauss, finally received all the documents and promised to investigate. A year and a half later he suddenly decided that it is not within his authority to investigate. It took him a year and a half to figure that out?! (See

The Lindenstrauss Materials


Now the head of the Knesset State Oversight Committee is initiating a committee vote on whether to instruct the State Controller to examine the Government's conduct in the Pollard case. Let us hope that a majority can be mustered in the committee and that they will stand strong against government pressure. [J4JP note: This announcement by Zevulun Orlev, the head of the Oversight committee was just a cheap publicity stunt designed to distract attention from the blockbuster interview with Jonathan that appeared in Yediot Achronot concurrent with this so called "development." All the media hype about this alleged initiative has never been followed up by action.]

Those interested in further information should visit the J4JP web site:

In conclusion: For twenty-two years the Israeli Government has done nothing for a man who risked his life for the sake of the State. Israel has never formally informed the US of its recognition of Pollard as an Israeli agent, neither has any official request ever been submitted for his release. Indeed, high-level American officials are themselves more than puzzled by that.

In the meantime, Jonathan is very ill. All the years of sustained affliction he has undergone have resulted in numerous illnesses: the deterioration of his immune system; high blood pressure; diabetes; rheumatism; glaucoma; gall bladder attacks; undiagnosed growths in his sinuses; severe sinusitis accompanied by profuse bleeding; attacks of dizziness and agonizing headaches.

Here in Israel the Government is giving us the run-around, claiming that they are "working for him quietly". It's so quiet, in fact, that for the past twenty-two years, indeed, nothing has moved. The facts lead to the awful, but inevitable conclusion that our government really has no plan but for Jonathan to die in prison, and then, the ultimate, final "quiet" will be obtained. What's happening here is a tale right out of Chelm or out of Sodom. Unfortunately, it is apparent that the latter is the case.

We are stunned. After all, the Israeli people clearly want his release. Among them 112 Knesset members - an unbelievable record for the Knesset! We all want his release, but still, the government refuses to act!

Where is our conscience? Where is our gratitude to a man who saved Israel? Where is the Jewish heart for a man whose life hangs by a thread? Is there not a shred of decency to be shown towards a man who behaved so humanely towards us? Do we repay his kindness with murder?! By burying the man alive?!

I quote no Talmudic source here, and not one single Biblical verse. There is no need.

All that is needed is to behave like decent human beings.

See Also: