Major Jewish Organizations Issue Renewed Plea for Pollard

Hamodia Staff - Hamodia (Print Ed.) - April 18, 2012

NEW YORK - As part of a broad, ratcheted-up effort to end what is now widely seen as a travesty of justice, major Jewish organizations from across the spectrum have released statements and sent letters to President Obama on behalf of an ailing Jonathan Pollard.

Agudath Israel of America and the Orthodox Union wrote letters to the president this week urging clemency on humanitarian grounds, joining previous released statements by the National Council of Young Israel and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

In his letter to the White House, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, noted that he had received a letter dated April 4 from Ronald L. Rodgers, Pardon Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, responding to a December 15, 2011, letter written by Rabbi Zwiebel to the President regarding Pollard.

In the letter, Rodgers wrote, "Mr. Pollard's application for commutation of sentence is under consideration. The processing time for an application for commutation of sentence can be lengthy, and we can give no assurance that final action will be taken by the President within a particular time frame."

"I fully appreciate that an application for commutation of sentence requires time for processing and careful deliberation," Rabbi Zwiebel wrote to the President yesterday.

"However, I would respectfully point out that Mr. Pollard's formal application for commutation of sentence was submitted in October 2010, well over a year and a half ago. Indeed, the issue of presidential clemency for Mr. Pollard has been raised a number of times, both formally and informally, over the course of the many years Mr. Pollard has been imprisoned. This is a case that is by now quite familiar to the White House.

"More importantly, whatever the ordinary protocol and timetable for the processing of commutation of sentence applications, humanitarian considerations dictate that Mr. Pollard's dire health status should prompt an expedited review of his application. As you may be aware, less than two weeks ago on April 5, Mr. Pollard was hospitalized due to an emergency condition. He was released from the hospital this Sunday, April 15, and is now back in prison. Still, his medical condition is serious and has been deteriorating for some time, as many people who have visited him recently have testified. Under these circumstances, allowing the review process on his commutation application to stretch on indeterminately seems particularly cruel," Rabbi Zwiebel noted.

On Monday, Dr. Simcha Katz, president of the Orthodox Union, transmitted a letter to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden urging clemency for Jonathan Pollard.

"As the Vice President is aware, I joined with other American Jewish leaders to discuss this delicate matter with him in depth on November 21, 2011 ... While I do not excuse or dismiss the grave transgressions Mr. Pollard committed ... I do, however, believe clemency on humanitarian grounds is warranted," Katz argued.

Following Pollard's hospitalization on Erev Pesach, The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) renewed its call for clemency for Jonathan Pollard and urged the White House to immediately release him in light of his deteriorating medical condition and the disproportionate nature of his sentence. The organization also noted the appeal by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

"After more than a quarter of a century languishing in a federal prison, it is time for the United States to allow Jonathan Pollard to go home," said NCYI Executive Vice President Rabbi Pesach Lerner. "We sincerely hope that President Obama will promptly heed President Peres' call for Jonathan's immediate release and do the right thing before it is too late. Jonathan's medical condition has worsened considerably, and absent White House intervention on humanitarian grounds, he faces a frightening and uncertain future."

"When one considers the disproportionate nature of Jonathan Pollard's sentence, his continued expressions of remorse, and the multiple calls for his release from respected members of the national intelligence community, his ongoing incarceration defies logic and is a glaring miscarriage of justice," continued Rabbi Lerner. "Every day that passes that Jonathan Pollard remains in prison is a terrible injustice and an absolute tragedy."

Richard Stone, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, upon hearing of Jonathan Pollard's worsening medical condition, reached out to President Obama with a renewed request to commute Pollard's sentence.

Their letter to the President read, in part, "A few months ago we visited Jonathan Pollard in prison and came away concerned about his health and the medical challenges he faced. The news of his hospitalization has augmented those concerns. We join President Shimon Peres and scores of American intellectual, religious, political, and civic leaders in appealing for his prompt release. Given his clear expressions of remorse and pledges regarding his activities upon release, we believe the commutation of his unprecedentedly long sentence to the 27 years he has already served is warranted."

Also urging Pollard's clemency in light of the hospitalization was the Union for Reform Judaism, which released a statement saying, "In studying precedents, no other individual convicted of similar crimes has served such a lengthy sentence. Further, the humanitarian justification is intensified by his deteriorating health condition."