Sharansky, Barkat Clash with Shapiro over Pollard
Hamodia Staff - November 13, 2013
YERUSHALAYIM - Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called Tuesday for the urgent release of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard a day after US Ambassador Dan Shapiro appeared to end hope that he would be freed any time soon.
Sharansky, Barkat, and Shapiro spoke to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Jerusalem.
Speaking at the assembly's closing ceremony at Safra Square, Sharansky asked all attendees to get involved in the struggle for Pollard's release.
"Twenty-nine years is far too much," Sharansky said of Pollard, who began serving the 29th year of his life sentence Tuesday. "He must be released!"
Sharansky called passionately for an end to the "gross injustice" to Pollard and pointed out that the Jewish people have accomplished so much when they unite for a cause and that that same unity must now be harnessed to ensure Pollard's immediate release.
Barkat called on GA delegates and world Jewry to speak with one united voice on the Pollard issue.
"On the issue of unity, there is one person I want to mention who is missing here today," he said. "He is an honorary citizen of Jerusalem. He should be here today. His wife Esther is here with us today. The person who is sorely missing is Jonathan Pollard."
The crowd applauded at the sound of Pollard's name.
Barkat continued: "Jonathan Pollard, we want him home! We need him home! We want him to be sitting here with us in Safra Square! 29 years! He has paid the price! Enough! All of Israel want him home!
"Please," Barkat implored the delegates, "Go back to America and take this message with you. Tell your president, Israel wants Jonathan Pollard home now!"
After his speech, Barkat approached Esther Pollard, who was sitting in the audience, to greet her personally. He gave her a personal message of encouragement and strength to relay to her husband.
When Shapiro was asked about presidential clemency for Pollard at the GA Monday, he said: "Unusual circumstances are required for President Obama to get involved in the matter," and that "there is no reason to expect that the [Pollard] matter will be handled differently."
Esther Pollard said she was profoundly disappointed and greatly surprised by Shapiro's remarks.
"The 'unusual circumstances' are so compelling that people like Natan Sharansky, along with so many leading former American government officials, and world-class notables have repeatedly, personally, and publicly appealed to President Obama to release Jonathan," she said.
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive VP emeritus of the National Council of Young Israel, an official delegate at the GA and a close associate of the Pollards, pointed out that the ambassador's remarks stand in marked contrast to a Post editorial that appeared last Sunday that enumerated the irregularities of the Pollard case, including: "a grossly disproportionate sentence; a broken plea agreement; the use of secret evidence; a false charge of treason; ineffective assistance of counsel; ex parte communication between prosecutors and judge; a lack of due process; and a sentencing procedure infected by false allegations and lies."
Lerner said, " Any one of these reasons would be sufficient grounds for presidential intervention; how much more so, the whole list!"