Friday, March 28, 2014

Why the Case of Jonathan Pollard is a Murder Mystery

Sir - The news that Jonathan Pollard's health has now so deteriorated that he requires hospitalization comes as no surprise when considering his 29 year imprisonment, several years of which were spent in solitary confinement. At this critical juncture, it seems absolutely vital not only for Jonathan, but also for the many fair-minded and decent people all over the world who have tried unsuccessfully to penetrate the iron wall of mystery that surrounds his incarceration, to be provided with some rational accounting and understanding for this lengthy, cruel, and unusual imprisonment. Up to the present, no such explanation has been forthcoming and we are all left feeling utter frustration and helplessness in regard to this enormously tragic affair. Pollard is still languishing in prison, while the mystery remains a mystery.

jonathan pollard murder mystery

The absence of an intelligible understanding as to why Pollard has been singled out for this exceptional treatment naturally invites a wide spectrum of theories and accusations, including those of overt discrimination and thinly veiled antisemitism. This latter charge has recently been made by no less a personage than former CIA director James Woolsey, who noted that others convicted of spying for allies of the U.S. have received sentences of no longer than eight years.

President Obama's unequivocal rejection of Prime Minister Netanyahu's request for Pollard's release made at the start of recent peace negotiations -- despite its obvious legitimacy at the time when America was pressuring Israel to release hundreds of convicted terrorist murderers to the Palestinian Authority -- leaves us all completely perplexed. The mystery continues!

The extraordinarily harsh life sentence imposed on Pollard leaves the indelible impression of having been born in sin. A plea bargain agreed to by the government for a maximum sentence of 10 years was completely disregarded when the then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger submitted a secret document purportedly containing charges of such severity that warranted this maximum sentence. This rather outlandish sequence emerges as even more bizarre due to the fact that neither Pollard nor his attorney were ever given access to this document or were able to learn of its contents. This type of behavior in a court of law not only does violence to the most basic principles of justice but is normally found only in the most totalitarian of societies.

Pollard's imprisonment played a prominent role in the 1998 Wye River negotiations when Bill Clinton, in order to obtain Netanyahu's agreement, made a commitment to release Pollard. This in fact was the deal-maker that won over a reluctant Netanyahu, who agreed to the deal despite distrusting Arafat for his long history of agreement violations. After the signing, however, Clinton did not honor his promise because he claimed there was opposition from public officials. This concern was notably non-apparent at the end of Clinton's adminstration, when with seeming alacrity he granted pardons to well-known criminals, some of whom until the pardon were barred from entry into the United States.

The list of prominent personalities that now declare their support for the release of Jonathan Pollard include statesmen, Noble Laureates, clergymen, intellectuals, scientists, senators, congressmen, and members of the Intelligence community, some of whom originally opposed his release. The register begins with two former Secretaries of State (Kissinger and Schultz) followed by former Vice President Don Quayle, Senator John McCaine, Dennis Ross, former Director of the CIA James Woolsey; Director of the FBI at the time of Pollard's arrest William Webster; former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb; former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at the time of Pollard's arrest Senator David Durenberger; former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum; and former Deputy Attorney General Philip Heyman -- the last three of which reviewed the classified intelligence reports on Pollard's case and nevertheless chose to add their names to those who call for Pollard's release.

PM Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres have made personal appeals for Pollard's release. They were joined by Israel's two Chief Rabbis and by an overwhelming majority of Israel's Parliament. And if Israeli Jewry isn't enough, the American Jewish umbrella group representing 50 national Jewish organizations under the title The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has added the voice of American Jewry to those who seek Pollard's freedom.

When considering the evident crescendo of support in favor of freedom for Jonathan Pollard, we are confronted by a report in the New York Times of September 2011 that leaves us completely dumbfounded. We are informed of a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and a group of rabbis in south Florida. When the rabbis raised the question of possible clemency for Jonathan Pollard, the VP's vehement response was, infamously, "Over my dead body!"

Skip to December 2013. A fresh wind blew into the picture when Governor Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador and a confidant of Pres. Obama, wrote to the president and recommended Pollard be freed immediately. Richardson stated, "In my view there is no longer a need for a discussion today. Virtually everyone who was in a high position of government and dealt with the ramifications of what Pollard did at the time - now supports his release."

Shortly before Richardson's letter, there was a very sobering panel discussion that took place at the Jerusalem Press Club. The participants consisted of Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Jerusalem Post editor Steven Linde, and two very well known Americans, Dr. Mahmet Oz and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. The discussion revolved around Sharansky's imprisonment in the Soviet Union and his ability to maintain hope during his long ordeal. During the question period, the inevitable query arose about the Americans' adamant refusal to release Pollard after 29 years. Not one of the four participants was able to offer a logical or convincing argument to help comprehend this refusal, and none were able to offer any suggestion as to how to help facilitate his release. On the contrary: Rabbi Boteach, who visited Pollard in prison and lobbied for his release, expressed his solemn belief that America wants Jonathan to die there!

The mystery of Jonathan Pollard, my friends, is not one of espionage -- it is one of murder!

Zev Chamudot
Petach Tikvah