Freedom for Jonathan Pollard is a matter of urgency – opinion

The Pollards are not only US citizens, they are also Israeli citizens; and lest we think that Israel has been there for the Pollards throughout their tortuous travails, think again.

Jonathan and Esther Pollard outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York City (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jonathan and Esther Pollard outside the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York City
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Gil Hoffman’s concise Jerusalem Post article “Jonathan Pollard’s parole restrictions to expire next week unless extended” makes us acutely aware of the immediate challenge facing Jonathan Pollard. While Hoffman has written multiple articles urging us not to forget Pollard, at this very moment, it must motivate us not to remain complacent, to sit idly by without exerting maximum effort to support Pollard at this critical juncture by urging US President Donald Trump to use his presidential executive pardon power. Specifically, if the Parole Commission chooses to extend the restrictions, the president must use his legal power to lift those restrictions so that Jonathan, and his very ill wife Esther, can finally, come home to Israel to live their lives among us, unrestricted, in peace, better health, and be able to find and regain some level of normalcy and happiness by establishing a home in Israel. Such must be the focus of our vigorous efforts, hopes and prayers for them.
It is understandable that in the midst of this fear-ridden time of the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbated by a “zig-zagging government,” as referred to in the Post, that we feel overwhelmed by anxiety, grieving, confusion, bewilderment, and economic worry; which cause our attention, efforts, and energy to be focused on self-survival, with little time for much else. The US presidential election has only added to life’s current distractions. But, justifiably pained as we are by all the above, it would be unconscionable if we do not vigorously act, right now, on behalf of Pollard, who spied on the US for Israel at the behest of “spy-master” Rafi Eitan. He spent more than 30 years in US incarceration, suffering horrendously emotional anguish, physical pain, high-security solitary confinement, years of total lockdown and, when paroled in 2015, was placed in highly restricted parole, under constant electronic surveillance, strict curfew and limited employment possibilities for an additional five years – tragically during which time, his wife, Esther, developed life-threatening breast cancer.
I raise Pollard’s case, with great urgency, because as noted in Hoffman’s article, in a matter of days his future freedom and the possible coming home to Israel will be decided by the US Parole Commission. Since August 2020, two articles concerning the Pollards’ plight have appeared: one, a Post article by Hoffman on September 18: “Pollard, not the ‘very important person’ Trump will pardon on Tuesday.” Not Edward Snowden nor Michael Flynn, either. Trump that week pardoned Susan B. Anthony, an 1873 historical women’s suffrage figure, for illegal voting. The second significant article appeared that same month in the Hamodia newspaper discussing possible freedom at last for Pollard: “In a footnote to one of their legal briefs, in this case, the US government noted that ‘there is the statutory presumption that five years after a parolee’s release, the commission shall terminate supervision over such parolee unless the Parole Commission makes a showing that there is a likelihood that the parolee will engage in conduct violating any criminal law.’” As Hoffman noted, that five-year mark is coming up next week, but sources close to the Pollards told Hamodia that, so far, the Parole Commission is refusing to say whether they will finally lift these restrictions at that date, and has rejected pleas by Pollard’s lawyers for an answer.” So, freedom at last for Pollard, is not a given, it’s no slam dunk.
Indeed, Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz forewarned this possibility in his June 20, 2019, “Editor’s Notes: A visit to Pollard’s Manhattan” saying, “While Pollard’s parole is supposed to be finished at the end of 2020, which might not happen. Just as the court has refused to ease the parole restrictions until now, it can just as easily extend them for years to come.” Katz’s warning is substantiated in the Hamodia article, “the same government officials who have insisted on these irrational, oppressive restrictions will be the ones making the decision whether or not to lift them in 2020, and they have the legal (though not the moral) ability to keep them in place until 2030.”
Our voices must be heard here at home by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by President Reuven Rivlin, and by US President Donald Trump. The Pollards are not only US citizens, they are also Israeli citizens; and lest we think that Israel has been there for the Pollards throughout their tortuous travails, think again. We unfortunately have been deceived into believing that the government of Israel has been helping and supporting the Pollards. Sad to say, not true! To quote Esther Pollard in Katz’s article “in fact, they are doing nothing to help, and absolutely nothing to get us home.” A close friend of Pollard, Rabbi Avraham Heschel, reiterated “the Israeli government has abandoned its own agent, something no self-respecting country would ever consider doing.”
This unfolding reality is frightening because it portends life-threatening possibilities for Pollard, who has multiple serious illnesses acquired from his long years of imprisonment, and for his wife Esther, ill with cancer. Trump, who has shown so much support for Israel has, to date, left Pollard off the commutation of parole list, thereby joining the list of all US presidents who have done the same since Pollard’s imprisonment. If the Parole Commission doesn’t abide by the “five-year statutory presumption” and if at that point, Trump doesn’t take action to commute Pollard immediately, his fate and that of his wife, God forbid, maybe sealed for years to come.
Sad to say, I do not believe that if the Parole Commission does not follow the “five-year statutory presumption,” and if Trump doesn’t step to the plate, that the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden and US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take up Pollard’s cause. I fear that if any objection to commutation is raised from within the Democrat Party’s progressive wing, Biden may just throw the Pollards under the bus. Of greater concern is that it was Biden, as US president Barack Obama’s vice president, reported in a Post article “Column One: Justice for Jonathan Pollard,” by Carolyn B. Glick on October 7, 2011, that according to a New York Jewish Week report, Biden “in a meeting with 15 rabbis in South Florida on September 23, 2011, provided an unsolicited monologue about Pollard’s case. Repeatedly referring to Pollard as a “traitor,” Biden said, “It would take the Third Coming before I would support letting Pollard out.”
At the time it was also reported “according to The New York Times, in making the statement, Biden, who is considered a friend of the US Jewish community and of Israel, served as Obama’s fall guy. Biden’s job was to deflect criticism of Obama’s unstated decision not to release Pollard, away from the president.” We need to also recall that there was no known objection from Biden to a callous action by then-president Obama, “When Pollard’s father, Morris, was on his deathbed in June (2011), Obama did not respond to formal requests to permit Pollard to visit him in the hospital. He similarly failed to respond to formal requests for Pollard to attend his father’s funeral.” Reinforcing Obama’s Pollard doctrine, Hillary Clinton, Obama’s secretary of state, while in Israel, responded to a question about Pollard, “With respect to Mr. Pollard, he was convicted of spying in 1987, he was sentenced to life in prison, he is serving that sentence and I do not have any expectation that that is going to change.”
Can we honestly believe that the Third Coming has arrived so that Biden will now be true to his word and show compassion and empathy toward Pollard in the event the Parole Commission or Trump do not let 30-plus years of incarceration, five additional years of severely restricted parole and serious illnesses and a wife stricken with breast cancer as being enough punishment for an ally who spied on an ally, when such lengthy sentencing has never taken place before. Will Trump, if the Parole Commission extends Pollard’s parole restrictions, come to his aid, to bring an end to the suffering? If Biden is called upon to declare “enough is enough,” will he show the empathy that he claims is so much part and parcel of his being, or will he acquiesce to the policies of Obama, whose influence looms large on Biden and the Democratic Party?
Now is the time to contact Trump via email by going to the website, utilizing the “Contact the White House” form to reach the president. In addition, as we know from past Pollard history, US secretaries of state (Weinberger and Clinton) can have an impact in such cases. We must pressure Netanyahu while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Israel this week to raise the Pollard case, requesting of him to urge Trump to use his executive power to fully demonstrate that “there is a statutory presumption that five years after a parolee’s release, the Commission shall terminate supervision over such parole.” We need to bring the Pollards home to Israel NOW.