(photo credit: COURTESY OF JUSTICE FOR JONATHAN POLLARD)
The US government’s justification for denying parole to Jonathan Pollard after nearly 30 years in prison is a lie, eight senior American officials, fully versed in the classified file, recently revealed.
The government’s claim that the information Pollard provided to Israel “was the greatest compromise of US security to that date” is “patently false” and “not supported by any evidence in the public record or the classified file,” they write in a letter to President Barack Obama. Yet the government used this “fiction” to deny parole.
The unjust, “deeply flawed” parole hearing that their letter describes joins a long list of failed legal processes that have denied justice to Pollard for three decades.
Over the years, there were only two occasions when Pollard came close to freedom – at the Wye Plantation talks in 1998 and last spring. In both instances, Pollard was a bargaining chip played by the US as a quid pro quo for the release of Palestinian terrorists. Both deals fell through and Pollard remained in prison.
In his book The Missing Peace (2004), senior US diplomat Dennis Ross explains that while Pollard’s sentence is excessive, he is apparently too valuable as a bargaining chip to be released simply as a matter of justice.
This explains why, for nearly three decades, consecutive American presidents have never officially denied clemency to Pollard. Instead, each successive president deliberately left Pollard’s commutation papers unsigned when he left office. Why? As long as his commutation papers were active, Pollard remained available for use as a bargaining chip, from one administration to the next.
Nearly a decade ago, he requested Israeli recognition as a Prisoner of Zion. His petition to the High Court of Justice revealed evidence that he was being excessively punished for reasons unrelated to his crime.
His petition furnished evidence of a grossly disproportionate sentence, a broken plea agreement, the use of secret evidence, a false charge of treason, a lack of due process, and a sentencing procedure infected by false allegations and lies.
The High Court agreed there was something wrong with the way the US was treating an Israeli agent, but it rejected Pollard’s petition, optimistically opining that the US as an ally would soon find a way to resolve the case. Another decade has gone by to prove the court’s optimism unwarranted.
It is time for the Israeli government to recognize that Pollard has been a de facto Prisoner of Zion in America for some 30 years. Openly, unabashedly recognizing this fact by granting Pollard’s request, albeit belatedly, would be effective in many ways.
Declaring Pollard a Prisoner of Zion would send a strong message to the US that Israel categorically rejects the false conclusions of a 30-year failed judicial process.
Prisoner of Zion status spreads a mantle of protection over the imperiled agent, informing anti-Israel elements, no matter where they lurk, that Israel no longer accepts the lies or the mistreatment of its agent. That we get it, that lies about our agent are lies about Israel.
Pollard as a Prisoner of Zion also allows Israel to defang the threat to its own security, by fending off false American accusations of betrayal and damage. If Pollard is, to this day, falsely accused of such immeasurable damage, what does that say about Israel?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been personally vilified by members of the US administration, should head off the next round of conflict by taking a principled step to recognize Pollard as a Prisoner of Zion. This not only pushes back the lies, it throws down the gauntlet to Washington to end this ordeal once and for all.
Furthermore, when Pollard’s release comes up again in diplomatic talks, domestically there must be no avoiding the fact that he is a Prisoner of Zion, held captive on a lie, and that negotiation is an appropriate way to seek his release.
Concluding their letter to Obama, the American officials rail at the way Pollard is being treated. They write: “Denying a man his freedom based on a claim of damage that is patently false while ignoring exculpatory documentary evidence and hiding behind a veil of secret evidence is neither fair nor just, nor is it the American way.”
The US president must discharge his constitutional responsibility, say the officials, by commuting Pollard’s life sentence to time served, and send him home to Israel.
Whether as a Prisoner of Zion in America or as the victim of an agonizingly long failed judicial process, Pollard must be released. Now.