We Are With You, Jonathan

Hamodia - June 20, 2011

Languishing behind grim prison walls in Butner, North Carolina, is a shattered soul in precarious physical health. As these words are being written, he waits to learn whether he will be allowed to attend the funeral of his father, which is scheduled to take place this morning in Indiana.

Is there anyone who can possibly understand the torment he is experiencing right now? Is there anyone who can possibly fathom the pain of a son who was not allowed to bid his father farewell?

As we noted last week in these pages, and on many other occasions, the tragic story of Yehonasan ben Malka Pollard seems almost too horrific to be true.

It seems almost impossible that these United States of America, a land that prides itself on being a bastion of justice and fairness, should be guilty of such a travesty of justice.

Jonathan Pollard never intended to harm the United States. In fact, he was never charged with treason, and pleaded guilty only to "passing classified information to an ally, without intent to harm the United States."

The information passed was material that Israel was legally entitled to, according to a 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries. Furthermore, the classified information that was given to Israel was crucial to its defense.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that Mr. Pollard made a terrible error when he passed classified information to Israel more than twenty-five years ago. On numerous occasions, he has expressed his deep remorse.

In a recent letter to President Obama, Pollard wrote: "Let me take this opportunity to once again state unequivocally that I am genuinely and sincerely sorry for the offense that I committed in passing classified information to Israel. My actions were wrong, and I deeply regret that I did not find a legal way to act upon my concerns for Israel."

But Pollard is hardly the first to spy on behalf of an American ally.

Consider the case of Samuel Morison, who spied on behalf of Great Britain. Sentenced to two years, he was released after only three months.

Or consider the case of Geneva Jones, who spied for Liberia and was sentenced to three years and one month.

The most anyone other than Pollard ever got for this type of crime was 14 years, meted out to Steven Lalas, who spied on behalf of Greece. He committed his crime some seven years after Pollard and has already spent the last four years back home in Greece.

Today, the maximum sentence for such a crime is only ten years, the median sentence, two to four years. But Jonathan Pollard received an unprecedented and unparalleled life sentence. He is the only individual in the history of the United States to receive such a punishment for this crime.

Even many of those who spied on behalf of our enemies received far less. Amarylis Santos, Joseph Santos, Carlos Alvarez, and Mariano Faget spied for Communist Cuba. They got between three and a half and five years each.

Brian Horton spied for the Soviet Union. He got only six years.

Even Hassan Abu-Jihaad, a Navy sailor who praised the 2000 terror attack on the USS Cole, received only a ten-year sentence for leaking classified information to terrorist sympathizers.

The sharp contrast among the sentences is so striking that it has prompted a long list of former and current government officials - including former secretaries of state and a head of the CIA - to write to President Obama and urge him to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard.

Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh. Each of us has a sacred duty to do everything we possibly can on Jonathan Pollard's behalf. We are all equally obligated in the mitzvah of pidyon shevuyim, and we must make every possible effort, including continuing to reach out to the president and exhorting him to commute Pollard's sentence to time served.

In his time of grief, we must let Pollard know that we, the united Jewish community, stand with him. His name is on our lips and in our hearts as we daven and recite Tehillim.

For twenty-five long, bitter years, Jonathan Pollard has suffered immeasurably. May the King of kings, Who frees captives and liberates the humble, grant freedom to Yehonasan ben Malkah, and console him among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim.

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