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Photo by: Courtesy of Justice for Jonathan Pollard
Over our dead bodies
By BEN CASPIT
03/10/2011
Israelis are wondering what went through your mind, Mr. Biden, when you said Jonathan Pollard would be given clemency over your "dead body."
 
Honorable Vice President of the United States of America, Mr. Joseph Biden:

Shalom and a happy Jewish New Year!

Up until several days ago, you, Mr. Biden, were considered "Israel's closest and truest friend in the White House."

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As such, we here in Israel are wondering what exactly was going through your mind when you declared that Jonathan Pollard would be given clemency over your "dead body."

It's important to us, here in Israel, to understand. To all of us: to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's supporters and detractors, to the far right and the far left, to the rich and the poor, the Ashkenazi and the Sephardic.

Anyone with eyes in their head and hearts thumping in their chests would like to know what led you to issue that unhinged statement. Are there things that you know that the rest of the world does not? What has changed since 2007, when you declared that Jonathan Pollard’s bid for clemency was justified? I’ll tell you what has changed: Pollard has spent five more years in prison, in solitary confinement. His health has worsened (I recommend you use your influence to verify to what extent), his chances of starting a family have been decimated, his father died and he was barred from accompanying him on his final journey. In the meanwhile, more and more respectable people have stepped forward and declared that the time has come for his release.

That’s what has changed.

IS IT possible, Mr. Biden, that you know something that James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, and Dennis DeConcini, former chairman of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, do not? Because both of them are both in favor of releasing him. Do you know something that Henry Kissinger, George Shultz or John McCain don’t? All of them, esteemed American patriots, are in favor of clemency. How about former US Attorney-General Michael Mukasey? Do you know something he doesn’t? Have you got intelligence that Lawrence Korb, assistant defense secretary under Casper Weinberger, was not privy to? Korb was there, in real time, but Korb, an honest and decent man, felt his conscience claw at him, and today he leads the call to free Pollard, who next month will mark his twenty-sixth year in American prison.

On Wednesday, you, Mr. Biden, will host a Rosh Hashana party at your residence for American Jewish leaders. As I said, you are considered to be our closest friend among President Barack Obama’s inner circle. Now, as the race toward the presidential elections picks up pace, you have taken upon yourself to serve as the president’s ambassador to the Jewish community.

I suggest that during the festive celebration at your residence, you ask Abe Foxman, a man whose integrity cannot be called into question, or Malcolm Hoenlein, one of the most astute watchers of American politics and a man whose finger is always on the pulse of the American Jewish community, why they support Pollard’s urgent release.

Foremost, though, I ask that you examine your own conscience. Ask yourself, Mr. Biden, why Pollard has been in prison for 26 years for a crime that generally receives a two-to-four year sentence in America.

Ask yourself why spies who have committed far graver sins, betrayals that led to the killing of American agents on foreign soil, received far lesser sentences? Ask yourself why it is that the blood libel of attributing those murders to Pollard was circulated so widely. Ask yourself why, once those allegations were proven to be false, his sentence was not commuted.

Ask yourself why the United States of America, a society governed by law and order, did not honor its plea bargain with Pollard. Ask yourself where the limits of human suffering lie. Ask yourself about the nature of compassion.

What, in your eyes, are its dimensions? Mr. Biden, look at the list of honorable names, the American leaders and officials who are calling for Pollard’s release.

All of them believe that his continued incarceration is an outrage that flies in the face of American justice.

America, Mr. Biden, is regarded as the world’s preeminent superpower not only on account of your weapons and military might. You are the leaders of the free world also on account of your values: liberty, equality, human rights, justice and compassion. Where have those morals gone, Mr. Biden, when assessing Pollard’s case? Are 26 years behind bars, many of which have been served in solitary confinement, an insufficient punishment for what remains a relatively minor crime? Does a man who has expressed remorse and already paid a terrible price not deserve to live out his days in freedom? Until now, Mr. Vice President, you have made a name for yourself as someone with a quick tongue and a short fuse. No responsible parties have charged you with being cruel, evil, or bloodthirsty. Henceforth, Mr. Biden, the notorious slips of your tongue are the least of your problems. The message you conveyed to those rabbis in Florida, that if it were up to you, Pollard would “stay in jail for life,” put you in a whole different league. A league that you don’t want to be playing in and one I don’t believe you belong in.

We Jews, Mr. Vice President, have begun the Ten Days of Repentance leading up to the Day of Atonement. If what was said in Florida was merely a slip of the tongue, this is the time, Mr. Biden, to take it back. We will forgive and we will forget. All of us make mistakes. It can happen to the vice president, too.

But if you really stand by the statement that “over my dead body” will he be released, then it’s important to understand that the dead body is likely to be his. Jonathan Pollard’s release, after 26 years, is not a matter of politics, diplomacy or national security. It should not be linked to current events. We Israelis, along with many American Jews and other honorable Americans, believe that Jonathan Pollard’s release, in late 2011, is a matter of morality, justice and compassion.

Those values are at the heart of President Obama’s beliefs; they are also the very lifeblood of the great American democracy and of humanity at large.

And so, if justice is to be done, Joe Biden, help us make it happen now!

(This article was translated from the Hebrew and was first published in Maariv. It is reprinted with permission)
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