'People of Israel should ask Obama to free Pollard'

Likud adviser goes on hunger strike to protest the American president’s refusal to pardon Jonathan Pollard.

Hunger striker for Pollard Michael Foa 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Hunger striker for Pollard Michael Foa 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Sitting peacefully at a fold-out table under Jerusalem’s Bridge of Strings with three young supporters on a sunny Thursday afternoon, Michael Foa launched a one-man hunger strike to protest US President Barack Obama’s refusal to pardon Jonathan Pollard.
“I came here as a human being, not as a politician,” said Foa, 52, a member of Likud and adviser to former communications minister Moshe Kahlon.
“Obama is coming to speak with the people of Israel. Therefore the people of Israel should ask Obama in a gesture of humanity, morality and justice to free Pollard.”
Foa, of Mitzpe Netofa in the Galilee, is the father of 12 and grandfather of 10, and has been active in Israeli politics since he was in his teens.
“I began my ‘political career’ as a teenager when I went to Russia to try to free Natan Sharansky,” he said of the current Jewish Agency chairman. “There I learned that when the people of Israel truly want something, even an iron wall can collapse.”
Foa continued, “When Israel wanted Gilad Schalit freed from Hamas, it was done. And if the Israeli people really want it, Obama will have to free Jonathan Pollard.”
Foa said his last meal was Thursday at 7 a.m. when his wife insisted he eat something before embarking on his one-man protest.
“I ate a piece of bread and one egg because she made me,” he said with a slight smile. “I didn’t want to eat but my wife said I had to.”
For the coming days, Foa said he will consume only water, but added that if his protest gains greater support, he will forgo that as well.
“If I see that people are joining in this effort and fight for [Pollard] by my side, I will even stop drinking water if it will finally help set him free,” he said.
A former tank officer in the IDF, Foa, a trim, religious, soft-spoken man, went on to become a teacher of Jewish studies in the Galilee. Years later, following the Oslo Accords, he said he partnered with Moshe Feiglin in 1993, to help found the Zo Artzeinu group in protest at the agreements.
The organization is probably most notable for its August 1995 demonstrations against the Oslo Accords, which blocked 80 intersections throughout Israel in a massive act of civil disobedience.
Feiglin, who was recently elected as a Likud MK, was sentenced to six months in prison in 1997 for sedition against the state by the Supreme Court. The sentence was later commuted to community service.
Foa said he has been active for the last 10 years in the Manhigut Yehudit faction in the Likud party, while advising Kahlon for the past year.
Meanwhile, Foa certainly is not alone in his demand for Obama to pardon Pollard.
On Wednesday, students from Ohr Torah Stone’s Jacob Sapirstein High School for Boys began a two-day march from the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem to the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, where they will present US Ambassador Dan Shapiro with a petition for Obama requesting freedom for Pollard.
“It would be most fitting for Jonathan to be released right before our Festival of Freedom, the festival of Passover,” said Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone, who accompanied the boys on their route along with school principal Rabbi Yoni Hollander.
Foa plans to remain stationary during his hunger strike and is well-prepared for a protracted stay.
A few meters from the table where he sat with a photo of Pollard pinned to his shirt, rested a small blue tent that contained no more than a liter of water and a small rolled-up green blanket.
“I have a pillow in my car,” he said when asked if he would include any other comforts.
Despite the dangerous nature of Foa’s protest, he said his family fully supports him and will visit him in the days to come.
“They know how important this issue is to me; therefore it is important to them as well,” he said. “I will remain here as long as it takes to finally free Pollard,” he said.