(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
(Video: Eli Mandelbaum)
Thousands of people chanted “Free Pollard now” and “Enough is enough” in a demonstration for the release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard opposite the US Embassy in Tel Aviv Sunday night.
“Today, after nearly 30 years [that Pollard sits] in prison, there is no one who does not know that Jonathan’s life sentence is grossly disproportionate and unjust,” his wife, Esther Pollard said to an estimated crowd of 3,000. “Indeed, many senior American officials are now calling for Jonathan’s release as a matter of simple justice, and as a humanitarian issue.”
“In Israel there is wall to wall consensus: the nation wants Jonathan home, now,” she added, echoing the demonstrators’ chants.
Speaking to a crowd that was overwhelmingly teenaged and dressed in skirts and crocheted kippot, Pollard commented that, “The Americans are leaning heavily on Israel. They demand that Israel make painful gestures to our enemies. Israel keeps on bending over backwards to respond positively to the American demands.
“How is it that in spite of all the gestures that Israel is making at the request of the US, the Americans are not willing to make the smallest, most minimal gesture toward Israel, the release of one prisoner?” she asked. “We are talking about a prisoner who never murdered anyone and never hurt anyone.”
Pollard added: “If Israel cannot rely upon the US to deal fairly with one Israeli agent, how can we rely them for the fate and future of all of Israel?” Knesset Caucus for Jonathan Pollard’s Release co-chairman Nachman Shai (Labor) mentioned the petition signed by 106 of 120 MKs calling for Pollard’s release, saying that no other cause has so united the Knesset.
“[US President Barack Obama] is not an enemy of Israel, so we ask him: It’s been almost 30 years already. Let him go. Show human sympathy for Pollard. We won’t stop making this demand until he is free,” Shai stated.
Politicians from coalition and opposition parties – Likud Beytenu, Labor, Yesh Atid, and Bayit Yehudi – attended the demonstration and spoke in support of Pollard’s release, with some disagreeing on how to criticize the US for holding the agent.
“It doesn’t look good, Mr.
Obama, that only the Jew has been kept in jail for such a long time,” MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beytenu) said.
Immediately after, MK Hilik Bar (Labor) said, “We won’t accuse our greatest ally of anti-Semitism” before leading the crowd in a chant of “enough is enough” in English and calling for Obama to “end the injustice.”
MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud Beytenu) referred to the demonstrators’ youth, saying, “There were no laptops or iPhones when Pollard was put in prison. Most of this young crowd wasn’t born yet.
“Three million Israelis were born since then, but Pollard can’t start a family. He isn’t allowed to bring one child to the world. His dream is to breathe the air of the Land of Israel. I hope we see Pollard return to his homeland this year,” Hanegbi stated.