Pollard Betrayed by Fears of "Dual Loyalty"

Avraham Weiss - Jerusalem Post - August 8, 1991

Half truths! Those are what fill the pages of the recent statement of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council's (NJCRAC) ad hoc committee on the case of Jonathan Pollard. Its conclusion that prejudices played no role in the determination of his sentence, and that the American government's handling of the case is beyond reproach, are calculated attempts to deceive the American Jewish community. They would like American Jews to swallow whole the assumption that the system can do, and has done, no wrong - not the Federal bureau of Prisons, not the Department of Defense, not the Department of Justice.

NJCRAC contends that the reason that Pollard is in solitary confinement in the Marion Federal Penitentiary is to protect him from the prison's hostile population. But it never questions why Pollard is in Marion - the toughest prison in the country, to begin with. In a lower level prison, Pollard would not have to be isolated for his own protection. NJCRAC also conveniently ignores that the Federal Bureau of Prisons placed Pollard in a hospital for the criminally insane for 10 months just prior to his being moved to Marion.

NJCRAC states that the Weinberger memorandum - which accuses Pollard of treason, a much more serious crime than the illegal transfer of classified material for which he was indicted - has been seen by Pollard's lawyers. It neglects to mention that it was only Pollard's first lawyer, Richard Hibey, who was allowed to see the full text. None of the attorneys selected by Pollard to seek relief from his life sentence - including Hamilton Fox, who has been responsible for Pollard's motion to withdraw his guilty plea - has been permitted to see the memorandum. NJCRAC pretends to see nothing suspicious about the government's refusal to allow Fox access to the memorandum, despite Fox's being granted security clearance precisely to see that document. In an act of gross negligence, NJCRAC never spoke to, or even contacted Fox. It's the Weinberger memorandum that makes parole for Pollard virtually impossible. Unbelievable, NJCRAC raised no questions about Weinberger's false accusations and their impact on the presiding judge, Aubrey Robinson.

NJCRAC acknowledges the possibility that Judge Robinson may have been influenced by highly prejudicial illegal ex-parte information relating to Israel's alleged military connection to South Africa. But incredibly, it is not disturbed by the fact that Robinson has refused to submit himself to a hearing.

NJCRAC states that Pollard's life sentence is on par with those of other spies. Half truth! Those spies who spied for enemies of the U.S. have at times received similar sentences. Those who did what Pollard did, spying for an ally in a time of peace pleading guilty and cooperating with the government, have been given a median sentence of four to five years. Pollard is completing his sixth year in prison.

NJCRAC's fear-driven agenda dictates that it must not offer even a word of criticism. Thankfully, there are others who place a higher value upon truth and justice.

CONGRESSMAN Lee Hamilton of Indiana challenged the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Pollard's placement in a hospital for the criminally insane. Michael Quinlan, head of the Bureau of Prisons, wrote to Hamilton admitting that Pollard was never treated as a psychiatric patient.

Lawrence J. Korb, a key adviser to Caspar Weinberger, wrote that while he, too, had not seen the Weinberger memorandum, he was convinced that Weinberger's "almost visceral dislike of Israel" contributed to the excessiveness of Pollard's sentence.

Prof. Alan Dershowitz, a Pollard lawyer, signed an affidavit challenging Aubrey Robinson on the ex-parte issue.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, just recently raised the inequity of sentence issue with the counsel to President Bush, C. Boyden Gray.

Pollard supporters want the president to commute Pollard's sentence to time served. At the very least, NJCRAC should be able to support Pollard's motion to vacate his plea, which would provide him with the trial he never had, and create a forum in which questions concerning prejudices and improprieties on the part of high government officials could be fully heard. There are certainly enough unanswered questions to allow support for this measure. NJCRAC's fear to do even this is frankly maddening.

Similarly maddening but somewhat enlightening, is the source NJCRAC chose to determine the truth in this case. The source they chose is none other than Joseph diGenova, the Federal prosecutor in the Pollard case - the man responsible for the sentencing of scores of rabbis and the imprisonment of several others for peacefully protesting within 500 feet of the Soviet Embassy in Washington during the difficult days of the Soviet Jewry movement. The U.S. supreme Court ultimately ruled that arrests for this "crime" were unconstitutional.

The sad truth that must be faced is that many in the Jewish establishment have not raised a voice of moral conscience on the Pollard case because they feared that the government was attempting to construct a conspiracy theory involving other members of the Jewish community. The government went so far as to promise Pollard leniency if he were to name names. There were no names, and to his credit, Pollard did not invent any in order to save himself.

The conspiracy threat as well as traditional anxieties about being accused of "dual loyalty", frightened many Jews into silence on the Pollard case. The Pollard case has nothing to do with dual loyalty. The inequity of sentence is a perversion of American justice. Other groups raise a noble voice of moral conscience when the civil rights of one of their own are violated. NJCRAC should take a lesson from them.

The timidity of NJCRAC flies in the face of support for Pollard by Jews and non-Jews across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Israel. The amicus brief supporting Pollard's attempt to vacate his plea reads like a Who's Who in America today. It is signed by the presidents of the three major Rabbinical Seminaries in America, Yeshiva University, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. Such notables as Elie Wiesel, Leonard Garment, Rev. Robert F. Drinan, (the former congressman). Rev. Paul Moore (retired Episcopal Bishop of New York) and Rev. Hesburg have signed on. Organizations such as the World Jewish Congress, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Agudat Israel of America have also signed. Numerous JCRC's around the country have defied their national office and expressed solidarity with Jonathan Pollard.

Perhaps in light of that last development, NJCRAC recently sent a desperate memo to its constituent agencies, urging that the information that they had provided be used to combat statements made by Pollard supporters. There is almost a temptation to pity the frightened members of NJCRAC, until one remembers that their fear is hanging a Jew who is in trouble. I visited with Pollard on July 10. I saw his eyes. He knew about the NJCRAC betrayal. His sense of abandonment is deeper than ever.

Enough. Jonathan Pollard has served his time. The NJCRAC ad hoc committee on the Pollard case does not speak for the grassroots Jewish community. In the words of Mordechai in the Purim story, "if you wish to help...fine. But if not, salvation will come from elsewhere."

The writer, a rabbi, is spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, New York.

See Also: