By Rabbi Pesach Lerner
Dear Ambassador Shapiro,
Jonathan Pollard began his 29th year in prison this week for his activities on behalf of Israel, a staunch ally of the United States. The usual sentence for this offense is two to four years.
Mr. Ambassador, you were recently asked, at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, held this year in Jerusalem, about presidential clemency for Jonathan Pollard. Your response? “Unusual circumstances are required for President Obama to get involved in the matter … There is no reason to expect that the [Pollard] matter will be handled differently.”
The president, prime minister and Knesset of an allied nation, Israel, ask the president of the United States to release their citizen, after Israel’s public apology – and that’s not unusual?
Former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz, who was the sitting secretary at the time of Pollard’s arrest, says it’s time to release Pollard – and that’s not unusual?
Former directors of the FBI, CIA, NSA and Department of Justice, who have all seen the Pollard file, say it’s time to release Pollard – and that’s not unusual?
Dennis Ross, Special Envoy to the Middle East for President Clinton, writes in his memoirs that even though he believes that Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence is disproportionate and that Pollard deserves to go free, unconditionally, he still strongly advised the president not to free him. Why? Because Pollard is far too valuable as a bargaining chip with Israel to be released as a matter of simple justice. And that’s not unusual?
Mr. Ambassador, a recent editorial in the Jerusalem Post stated:
“Pollard long ago used up all of his legal remedies pursuing justice, but the American justice system failed to provide any relief. This is incomprehensible, since the conduct of the case blatantly violated every concept of justice that America holds dear.
“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,
“A sentencing procedure infected by false allegations and lies.”
Any one of these reasons would be sufficient grounds for presidential intervention; how much more so when there are eight! And that’s not unusual?
Recent revelations inform that the American National Security Agency has been spying on its Western Allies, including Israel, for years; while Israel’s spy remains in prison for almost three decades for spying in the United States on behalf of Israel, a friendly country – and that’s not unusual?
Former Director of the CIA James Woolsey, speaking at a security conference in New York this month, when asked about Pollard, and when asked what he would tell President Obama, responded that he would tell the president to forget that Pollard is a Jew and just release him – and that’s not unusual?
Mr. Ambassador, this entire situation is unusual!
I, too, was in Israel for the General Assembly.
After your comments, Yuli Edelstein, former Russian refusenik and current Speaker of the Knesset, opened the session of Knesset with a public request for his release.
Nir Barkat, the recently re-elected mayor of Jerusalem, welcomed the delegates of the General Assembly to Jerusalem, and commented, “There is one special person missing from this event, Jerusalem’s honorary citizen, Jonathan Pollard. We want him home, in Jerusalem, very soon.”
Natan Sharansky, former Russian refusenik, former Israel MK and Israel Government Minister, and current chairman of the Jewish Agency, speaking at the closing ceremony of the General Assembly, said 29 years is far too long; Pollard must be released; this gross injustice must end.
Mr. Ambassador, the entire Pollard case is unusual and, as such, requires that President Obama respond. Pollard’s petition for executive clemency has been sitting on the president’s desk since October 2010. All it requires is the president’s signature. It’s time!
A Postscript to Hamodia Readers:
It’s up to us, as well.
We must continue to daven for Yehonoson HaLevi ben Malka, for his immediate release and for a refuah sheleimah.
We must insist that our Jewish leadership, Rabbinic and lay, speak out and lobby in support of Pollard’s release.
We must demand accountability and involvement of every government official, American and Israeli, to bring about Pollard’s immediate release.
Jonathan is counting on us.
HaKadosh Baruch Hu is expecting it of us.
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President Emeritus of the National Council of Young Israel and Co-Chairman of American Friends of the International Young Israel Movement, Israel Region, has been active in Jewish communal service for over 30 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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