Editorial: A United Cry

Hamodia - Editorial Page - April 18, 2012 - [Print Edition]

"I am the wife of Jonathan Pollard. I am appealing to you because I do not want to be the widow of Jonathan Pollard, G-d forbid."

With those chilling words, Mrs. Esther Pollard began her emergency meeting with Shimon Peres, the president of the State of Israel on Chol Hamoed Pesach, pleading with him to issue a new request of President Obama to release her husband from federal prison on humanitarian grounds.

Jonathan has suffered from a myriad of serious medical conditions for years, but in the days before Pesach it was clear that his situation had taken a sharp turn for the worse.

After intervention by Jonathan's lawyers and longtime advocate Rabbi Pesach Lerner, prison officials agreed that the deterioration in Jonathan's health was serious enough that the medical facility on prison grounds would not suffice, and he was taken to an off-site hospital on Erev Pesach.

The Israeli president is due to be awarded the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest civilian award that can be presented by a U.S. president - by Obama in June. Peres invited Mrs. Pollard to a meeting after tens of thousands of Israeli citizens signed a petition pleading with him to "take advantage of your unprecedented diplomatic standing in order to work for Jonathan's immediate release before you are given the medal.

"Otherwise, receiving the medal would make a mockery of Israel," the petition concluded.

"I live in daily terror that the phone will ring to inform me of yet another medical crisis for Jonathan. He is only human. His strength has run out. With every medical crisis he survives, it is just a matter of time before the next one occurs," Mrs. Pollard emotionally declared.

Peres heeded the call of the people and promptly sent a letter to Obama on Jonathan's behalf.

The American president - who in announcing the award hailed Peres as a "friend" and "powerful moral voice," and declared that "in many ways, this award is a symbol of the broader ties that bind our nations" - did not directly respond to the request by Peres.

In an a conversation with Hamodia, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel, whose organization has been at the forefront of efforts to secure the release of Pollard for decades, stressed that this isn't a question of a request by an individual political leader.

"This is no longer a Shimon Peres issue; this is about the people of Israel, who have requested, through their president, a favor for humanitarian reasons. To a certain extent, this is being viewed as an insult to the people of Israel - you want to give Peres a medal of freedom and you don't even answer his letter?"

When asked by a reporter whether the United States formally rejected the request by Peres, Press Secretary Jay Carney responded: "I'm not aware of that request being formally received, but I know that our position has not changed on that case."

It is high time that this position does indeed change.

Some have claimed that there is still opposition to Pollard's release in the defense and intelligence communities.

In an article that appears in this issue, Dr. Lawrence Korb, an individual with inside knowledge of the Pollard case, addresses that assertion.

"As a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and naval intelligence officer, I can say unequivocally that there is no reasonable basis for such opposition - if indeed it exists," he firmly states.

Most of the major decision-makers who were intimately involved in the case have issued public calls for clemency. That list includes Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor at the time of Jonathan's arrest, Robert "Bud" McFarlane, who has called Pollard's sentence "disgraceful and mean-spirited," and a "great injustice."

Through their petition, the people of Israel, ranging from the far left to the far right and those in between, have spoken out in support of Jonathan. This is the time for American Jewry to rise to the obligation of the hour and unite in behalf of the singular case of pidyon shvuyim.

There is broad agreement - across the spectrum of U.S. Jewry and across the political divide - that the continued incarceration of Jonathan Pollard is an indefensible travesty of justice. The obligation to act lies on all of us as individuals.

In discussing the Pollard case, Rabbi Lerner refers to a Gemara (Shabbos 67a) which states that a tree that sheds its fruits too early may be dyed with red pigment, and this act isn't forbidden as part of the prohibition against Emorite practices.

Why is this permissible? What healing process does such red dye initiate?

The Gemara explains that the tree is dyed for the purpose of drawing the attention of the public, so that the passerby should take notice and pray on its behalf!

At every opportunity we must write about and discuss Jonathan Pollard. All of must continuously daven for Yehonasan ben Malkah, who is now back in prison, although doctors have yet to discover the root cause of his newest painful and serious ailment. We must also undertake all requisite hishtadlus, and in this election year, continue to repeatedly call the White House, your senator and congresspersons, and other elected officials and let them know just how crucially important his plight is to us.

Our brother's life is in danger. We dare not remain silent.