Pollard protest outside president's residence 370.
(photo credit: Gil Hoffman)
The president of the United States recently sought the advice of 25 American Jewish leaders on how to reach out to the Israeli people. Not being Israelis themselves, the Jewish leaders apparently suggested touching words and ideas for the president’s speeches in Israel.
With all due respect, even the most heartfelt speechifying will never ease our pain when with every word the president speaks, we Israelis will be thinking of Jonathan Pollard languishing in an American prison for the last 28 years.
The storm brewing in Israel over the imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard shows no sign of letting up. Nor will it abate with President Barack Obama’s visit to this country. Israelis know too much to ever remain silent about Pollard again. A recently declassified 1987 CIA damage assessment puts the lie to American claims that have been used for over a quarter of a century to justify Pollard’s continued incarceration. A second 1987 government damage assessment by the US Justice Department also decimates the falsehood that Pollard damaged US national security. The only conclusion that can be drawn from both government damage assessments is that keeping Pollard in jail even a minute longer is an overwhelming injustice.
The Israeli response to the release of this information has turned Pollard into a matter of national consensus. If anyone would ask us what we most want from President Obama, we would all answer in two words: Jonathan Pollard.
It really disturbs the Israeli people that the US administration has repeatedly demonstrated amazing flexibility towards other allies, showing leniency to spies from China, the Philippines, Greece and Saudi Arabia, among others. No such consideration has ever been extended to us Israelis in Pollard’s case.
The Israeli PollardNow.org petition to President Obama – which has among its signees, renowned Israeli writers such A.B. Yehoshua and David Grossman; Nobel laureates such as Dan Shechtman, Aaron Chechnover and Israel Auman; and such notables as Prof. Amnon Rubinstein and former Israeli president Yitzhak Navon, as well as numerous Israeli officials and CEOs of major Israeli institutions, MKs across the political spectrum, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and dozens of other mayors, writers, artists and politicians – expresses the Israeli public’s deep attachment to and concern for Jonathan Pollard.
Approximately 175,000 Israelis have signed the Pollard- Now.org petition to President Obama and the numbers are swelling daily. The American equivalent would be over 35 million American signatures on a US petition.
Israelis take their cue from the strong support by senior American officials who are also calling for Jonathan Pollard’s release. Former CIA director James Woolsey, former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum and former senator and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dennis DeConcini, just to mention a few, in recent letters to the president have declared that keeping Jonathan Pollard in prison any longer is unjust.
President Obama’s visit to Israel is an opportune time to respond to the appeals of President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and send Jonathan home now, before the historic visit occurs. Whether as a gesture to the people of Israel, or simply as a matter of American justice that has waited a very long time for resolution, this is the one thing that unites all Israelis and to which we will all respond with gratitude and relief. This would set the tone for a constructive and deeply appreciated visit to our country.
He didn’t ask us, but if President Obama really wants to win the hearts of the Israeli people, it’s simple – let Jonathan Pollard go. The author is an Israeli hi-tech entrepreneur. He is a graduate of Bar-Ilan University’s School of Education.