Pro-Pollard activists shut down White House switchboard
Facebook campaign floods Washington with calls for agent's release to attend father's funeral; hundreds protest outside US Embassy in TA.
Gil Hoffman - The Jerusalem Post - June 19, 2011
The White House's switchboard was shut down on Sunday after receiving an overload of calls urging US President Barack Obama to release Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard from prison for 24 hours to attend the funeral of his father.
Morris Pollard died on Saturday morning at age 95 at Memorial Hospital and Health System in South Bend, Indiana.
Jonathan's wife, Esther, arrived from Israel to attend the funeral, which will be held on Monday morning in Indiana.
A campaign on Facebook urged people to call the White House switchboard because the White House comment line is not open on Sundays. After receiving an overload of calls, the White House switchboard automatically shifted to a message saying that the comment line was now closed.
After more than a week of pleading, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's advisers agreed on Sunday to issue a diplomatic request via Israel's embassy in Washington asking for Pollard to be able to attend the funeral.
Two hundred people protested outside the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, urging Obama to allow Pollard to attend the funeral and accusing Obama of being heartless for not allowing Pollard "compassionate leave" to be able to say good-bye to his father before he died.
"Free Pollard - yes we can," the protesters shouted at the rally, which was attended by MKs.
The Facebook page of the US Embassy also became a focal point for protests. A page with a promotion asking people to describe what America meant to them in order to enter a lottery to attend the embassy's Independence Day celebration, was filled with messages saying that America is cruel.
"The United States' reputation as a just society has been severely damaged by the unjust handling of the Pollard case from beginning to end," wrote Devora Shem-Tov. "World confidence in the American Way has been eroded as a consequence.
Isn't anyone there at all interested in damage control? All thinking people call for Justice for Jonathan Pollard - commutation of his sentence to time served without any further delay!" MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) told Army Radio she would boycott the American Independence Day party at the ambassador's house if Pollard's request to attend the funeral was not granted.
Kadima MK Nachman Shai, who initiated a petition of 75 MKs calling for Pollard to be granted leave, said that in addition to the government communicating clear messages to the administration about Pollard's release, the Jewish community in the US should also put pressure on Washington.
"Five million Jews live in the US and they are silent." Shai said. "A clear statement needs to come from them. With all due respect, after 25 years, they can say something. They are able to put a lot of pressure on the White House. It is time for them to do it."...
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