Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Slow Beheading of Jonathan Pollard

The shocking news that the US government website has erased the 2015 date for the release of Jonathan Pollard portends a most dreadful outcome to this terribly tragic affair, and compels us all to review its long history, in the hope that it can awaken the need for a concerted effort to call for his immediate release.

A sobering discussion revolving around Natan Sharansky's lengthy imprisonment and his ability to maintain hope during his ordeal took place more than a year ago in Jerusalem. The participants included Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Jerusalem Post Editor in Chief Steven Linde, and two very well known Americans, Dr. Mahmet Oz and Rabbi Shmuel Boteach. During the question period, the inevitable query arose about the adamant refusal by the Americans to release Jonathan Pollard after being imprisoned for almost three decades. Not one of the four participants was able to offer a logical or convincing argument to help understand 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 the Americans wanted Jonathan to die there!

The news that Jonathan Pollard's health has now so deteriorated that he required hospitalization comes as no surprise considering his long 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 for this lengthy, cruel, and unusual prison term. Up to the present, no such explanation has been forthcoming, and in its absence, the question 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 anti-Semitism. This latter charge has recently been made by no less a personage than former CIA director Woolsey, who noted that others convicted of spying for allies of the U.S. have received sentences of no longer than eight years, while Pollard still languishes in prison.

The extraordinarily harsh life sentence imposed on Pollard leaves the indelible impression of having been born in sin. A plea bargain which was accepted by the government, commuting his sentence to only ten years in prison, was effectively abrogated when then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger submitted a secret affidavit purportedly containing charges of such severity that they warranted the life sentence. The details of that affidavit have never been revealed to the public and therefore continue to raise suspicions about the merit of its contents.

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. But ultimately Clinton, citing opposition from public officials, never honored his promise. After President Obama's unequivocal rejection of Prime Minister Netanyahu's request for Pollard's release made at the start of the peace negotiations between Israel and the P.A. – despite its obvious legitimacy at the time when America was pressuring Israel to release hundreds of convicted terrorist murderers to the Palestinian Authority – seriously increased our perplexity.

It must be noted that Pollard never sought to betray the U.S. or bring harm to any of its institutions. His only crime was wanting to aid Israel by supplying it with information he felt was vital to its security and yet being withheld from it. He transferred the pick of U.S. intelligence on Arab and Islamic military activity conducted by both "friendly and unfriendly" Arab countries. The data included essential details about Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan, and Iranian nuclear, chemical, and biological-warfare capabilities, as well as planned terrorist attacks against Israel.

The list of prominent personalities who now declare their support for the release of Jonathan Pollard includes 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. They were joined by Israel's two Chief Rabbis and by an overwhelming majority of Israel's Parliament. They were joined by the vote of the umbrella group representing the 50 largest American Jewish organizations that 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 Pollard, we are confronted by a September 2011 report in the New York Times that is totally vexing. We are informed about a meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and a group of rabbis in south Florida. When the rabbis raised the question about possible clemency for Jonathan Pollard, the Vice President's vehement response was "Over my dead body"! And indeed Pollard continues to languish in prison!

A fresh wind blew into the picture in December 2013 when Governor Bill Richardson, a former UN Ambassador and a confidant of Pres. Obama, wrote to the president and suggested that Pollard should 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."

Pollard's immediate release was also recommended in a letter to President Obama by former National Security Advisor Bud McFarlane, who unequivocally blamed Weinberger's "anti-Israel agenda" for Pollard's disproportionate sentence and called it a "great injustice." Similarly, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb stated that the sentence was entirely due to Weinberger's "visceral hatred of Israel."

The pathological animus that surrounds the Pollard affair is evidently still potent enough to keep him in prison and to contribute to his slow beheading!