Latest update: July 3rd, 2012
Jonathan Pollard is dead. He died in Butler maximum security prison after 27 years of incarceration. Although many top US security officials joined Israeli efforts for the release of the Israeli operative, Pollard’s health had deteriorated markedly in the last few years resulting finally in his death.
The above headline is not true yet, but it may be weeks, days, or hours away from being true. Don’t avoid the thought of Pollard’s death, look it squarely in the face and ask yourself how you will feel when you hear the news.
If Jonathan Pollard dies in prison then our whole generation will die just a little. We will all bear the stain of having not helped the man who risked his life to protect Israel. When our children will ask us: “Were you around when Jonathan Pollard was alive? Why did he die in prison?” The shameful answer will be: “Yes I was around, and I did not do enough to help him…”
To remind you: Pollard was a US Naval intelligence analyst who passed information to Israel, an ally, about its own self-defense. He was caught and agreed to a plea bargain, and instead of getting 2-4 years like agents who spied against the US for enemy states, Pollard got life in prison without parole. This harsh sentence came about as a result of affidavits written to the court by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Weinberger has been discredited by the likes of Robert “Bud” McFarlane, Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor at the time, who has written to President Obama stating that Weinberger had a history of “unbalanced reasoning” when it came to Israel. But Pollard is still in prison and if he dies, Israel’s relationship with the US will be forever marred. The ugliness of this whole affair will surface, and it will not sink away like some people would like it to. The stain will grow darker and uglier.
The US presents itself as the global champion of liberty, yet this miscarriage of justice goes on and on. How many more US leaders must stand up so that this torture ends? As Lawrence Korb has written: “Most of the major decision-makers who were intimately involved in the case have issued public calls for clemency. They include former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Senator David Durenberger (R-MI) (who served as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at the time of Pollard’s conviction), and former Congressman Lee Hamilton (R-IN) (Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time of Pollard’s sentencing)… Key figures who viewed the classified damage assessment years later also favor Pollard’s release. They include former head of Senate Intelligence Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ), Deputy Attorney General Philip Heymann, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, as well as James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA. Mukasey, who was attorney general for George W. Bush, stated it well when he wrote that no one alleges Pollard intended to harm the United States with his actions – nor was he ever charged with harming the US.”
I am calling on Israel’s gentile friends: This is the hour of your test – will you let this Jew, who is serving an immoral life sentence for defending Israel, die? Do you want this on your conscience? What will you say to those Jews who ask you: “With all the love you show Israel, did you raise your voice to defend a man who languished – and died – in your prison for attempting to save the Jewish State?” It is your time to stand up and use the democratic channels of which America is so proud. Pull out all the stops. You already have top brass behind the cause, but now the voice of the people must be heard. Make sure your congressmen, senators, and president know that this will not stand. Because without justice and liberty, what is America?
That being said, it is easy to pass the buck. We can blame the US all we want, but have we Israelis made it clear that we demand Pollard’s freedom? No. We went to work, and sent our kids to school, we had a Pesach Seder and some of us mentioned Jonathan’s name, even left a chair for him.
But we did not disrupt our lives, and we did not do enough to disrupt our government’s life and the life of Jewish organizations who represent us. We certainly did not do enough to disrupt the US government’s daily business. In other words, Pollard’s slow death did not matter enough for us to shake things up.
There are efforts being made, for sure: Shimon Peres was handed a letter by the Pollard lobby chairman MK Uri Ariel who said: “Mr. President, I submit to you a letter for President Obama that has been signed by 81 MKs and which calls on him to release Jonathan Pollard. We would be very grateful if you would deliver this letter at your meeting with President Obama in June. We are asking the President of the State of Israel not to wait until the Presidential Medal of freedom award ceremony and even now present this official request to the US President that he pardons Jonathan Pollard on humanitarian grounds forthwith.” President Peres did issue a quick letter to President Obama calling for Pollard’s immediate release on health and humanitarian grounds. But the answer, so far, has been disappointing.
After news of Pollard’s hospitalization, PM Netanyahu’s Media Advisor communicated the following: “The time has come to release Jonathan Pollard. The Festival of Freedom of all Jews needs to become Jonathan Pollard’s private festival of freedom. I have done much, and will continue work, for his release.”
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu: If you keep ‘working’ for his release, Pollard will soon be dead. There is no more ‘work’ for his release, no more finessing, no more cajoling, no more games. For your own sake, for your legacy, you need to get him out, now. Place the weight of Israel behind this issue: call in the friends, make some threats, throw some muscle around. Mr. Prime Minister: Make this a priority. Now.
I do not want the stain of Pollard’s ugly death in prison to be on my conscience. I do not want his death to be on my nation’s conscience. I do not want it on the conscience of PM Netanyahu or President Peres. I do not want it on the conscience of Israel’s gentile friends, or even the US administration. I do not want the ugly stain to be a permanent scar on the historical record and the collective memory of this generation. But it’s all about to happen. Unless something changes, Jonathan Pollard will die in Butler prison in the next few weeks, days, or hours.
But this is not the hour of despondency. Jonathan is still alive. Everything else has to stop until we fix this. For Jonathan’s sake, as much as ours.
About the Author: Yishai Fleisher is the Contributing Editor and PR manager at the JewishPress.com, and Israel's only English language broadcast radio show host (Galey Yisrael 106.5FM). Yishai is an Israeli Paratrooper, a graduate of Cardozo Law School, and the founder of Kumah ("Arise" in Hebrew), an NGO dedicated to promoting Zionism and strengthening Israel's national character. Yishai is married to Malkah, they have two children, and they live on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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