Report: U.S. State Dept. Blocked Pollard From Attending Father's Funeral

Avraham Weissman - Hamodia - July 11, 2011

NEW YORK - In a decision that aroused shock and condemnation on both sides of the Atlantic, the Bureau of Prisons ignored a plea from Jonathan Pollard to be allowed a "24-hour compassionate leave" to be able to attend the funeral of his father on June 20.

It is now being reported that the decision was actually made by the U.S. State Department in consultation with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

The Jerusalem Post, quoting unnamed American officials in Washington, said that the State Department, not the Department of Justice or the Bureau of Prisons, was behind the refusal.

While these types of requests are handled by the Department of Justice, other governmental departments are consulted. Although they usually do not object to a compassionate leave request, strong opposition is the equivalent of a veto.

This revelation was at odds with a comment made by outgoing U.S. ambassador to Israel James Cunningham during an interview published Friday.

When Cunningham was asked by The Jerusalem Post why Pollard was not allowed to attend the funeral, he said, "Those kinds of issues are ... really fenced off from outside considerations, so I can't answer that. It is really in the hands of the Justice Department, the people who run our legal system."

Jonathan Pollard's wife, Esther, declined to comment specifically about the role of the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

"It remains a very bitter pill for us to swallow that Jonathan was not permitted to attend the funeral of his father or to say goodbye to him in his final moments on earth," she said.

"Many people point out that Jonathan's dad was an American national hero who served his country with distinction in the armed forces and who repeatedly endangered his own life to save American lives.

"It is hard for everyone to understand how, even for Morris's own sake, this small gesture was not made to his son. Now the only thing left to ask for as a matter of justice and humanitarian concern is Jonathan's release - while he is still alive."

The news of the successful effort of the State Department to block what would have been interpreted as a positive gesture toward Israel is expected to cause further anguish to members of the Jewish community, who have long seen Pollard's continued incarceration as a travesty of justice.

  • See Also: US Officials: Ambassador James Cunningham was consulted on Pollard funeral: The Jerusalem Post