Editorial: A Plea for Mercy

Hamodia Weekly Editorial - November 28, 2012

Dear President Obama:

As you are well aware, a month ago the East Coast suffered devastating damage, as a powerful hurricane destroyed entire communities, bringing mayhem and upheaval to the lives of thousands. The sea surged past its natural borders, engulfing entire homes with corrosive saltwater.

As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican and a staunch supporter of Mitt Romney, remarked at the time, you and your staff fully extended yourselves during those most stressful days. Twice you personally visited the afflicted areas and expressed your empathy for the victims. You praised the compassion shown by the first responders and the many volunteers who gave time and resources to help those in need.

In your recent visit to Staten Island, you urged the insurance companies and others in the private sector "to show some heart and some spirit in helping people rebuild."

As millions of Americans come to terms with a new reality as they continue to struggle to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of this terrible storm, it is a time for reflection and contemplation. It is a time to rethink what has long been accepted, and to forge a new path ahead.

Mr. President: We respectfully ask you to adopt a new approach towards an individual in deteriorating health, a man who nearly three decades ago made a serious mistake - but has repeatedly expressed his sincere remorse, and has more than paid his duties to society.

There can be no doubt that what Jonathan Pollard did was wrong, and as he has himself stated, there is no justification for breaking the law.

But after 27 years behind bars, there is no longer any justification for keeping him in prison either.

Jim Woolsey is considered a hardliner on matters of national security. When he served as Director of the CIA in the early 1990s, he opposed granting clemency to Pollard. A decade later, he announced that the time had come to release him, pointing out that all other individuals charged with the crime of spying for an ally, without intent to harm the United States, had served far shorter sentences. A few months ago, Woolsey went so far as to imply that the fact that Pollard is Jewish may help explain his continued confinement.

"For those hung up for some reason on the fact that he's an American Jew, pretend he's a Greek- or Korean- or Filipino-American and free him," Woolsey wrote in a letter to the Wall Street Journal.

As you are aware, under the terms of his plea agreement, the prosecution promised not to seek a life sentence. It was a classified memorandum submitted by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger that convinced the judge to ignore the agreement and give Pollard a life sentence.

In his letter asking you to grant clemency to Pollard, Dr. Lawrence Korb, who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense at the time of Pollard's arrest stated, "Based on my first-hand knowledge, I can say with confidence that the severity of Pollard's sentence is a result of an almost visceral dislike of Israel and the special place it occupies in our foreign policy on the part of my boss at the time, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger."

Mr. President: In recent days, in your public statements during the Gaza crisis, you reaffirmed the deep friendship that exists between the United States and the state of Israel. You showed compassion to those injured by the terrorist rocket fire and empathy to the multitudes of civilians living in fear, and suffering deep trauma from the relentless blitz of short- and long-range missiles from Gaza.

The time has long come to undo the damage caused by Weinberger's "visceral dislike" of Israel.

As you are an expert and former professor in constitutional law, we respectfully request that you take note of the fact that neither Mr. Pollard nor his attorneys - who have top-secret-level security clearance - have ever been allowed access to the Weinberger memorandum; they are therefore unable to dispute its contents. Furthermore, Pollard is the victim of gross malpractice by his first attorney, who failed to file a timely appeal to his sentence.

The President and Prime Minister of Israel have publicly pleaded with you to grant clemency to this broken, long-suffering soul. Organizations representing large segments of American Jewry have done so as well.

In ten days the Jewish nation will begin to celebrate the holiday of Chanukah. At a gathering marking the occasion at the White House last year, you remarked that for the past 2,000 years, the story of Chanukah "has given hope to Jews everywhere who are struggling."

In the name of fairness and justice, we beseech you to show your compassion and use the powers granted to you in the United States Constitution and commute Mr. Pollard's sentence to time served.

Allowing Mr. Pollard to light the candles this year as a free man would not only be a great kindness to an individual, it would be a greatly appreciated gesture to American and world Jewry.

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