With Friends Like These...
Ben Caspit - Ma'ariv - August 9, 1995
Translated from Hebrew by J4JP.
After ten years in prison, Jonathan Pollard has decided to change strategy. It's about time.
When he was arrested in 1985, it seemed that Jonathan Pollard would sit five or six years in an American prison and would then be sent on his way. After all, he was only accused of working on behalf of an ally, he co-operated fully with the investigators, and he signed a plea agreement. Israel, by the way, also co-operated with their investigating American authorities, and quickly and obediently turned over most of the information that the Americans needed in order to create a case against Jonathan Pollard. The main thing was not to make the Americans angry.
Ten years have passed since then. At the beginning of this week, Jonathan Pollard celebrated his 41st birthday in prison at FCI Butner, in North Carolina. To this very day, Pollard still doesn't have a release date. The parole board, which he is supposed to appear before in a short whill, in a best-case scenario, will reject his request or, in a worst-case scenario, delay any further discussion on his release for another 15 years.
Last month, Pollard's wife Esther visited Israel in an effort to advance the fight for his freedom. She brought with her a power-of-attorney signed by her husband, and a legal request for Israeli citizenship. This initiative, which had been weighed by the Pollard couple for a long time, was to signal a change in strategy: no more quiet diplomacy behind closed doors. According to the couple, the time has come for an open campaign. After ten years, Israel should finally be able to permit itself to stand up and support the man who risked his life on its behalf; to admit that it was the one on whose behalf he operated; and to demand his release.
As it turns out, the Americans are not the only problem Pollard has. Lately the couple has been forced to defend themselves against strong attacks from unexpected quarters: the Israeli Public Committee that is working on behalf of Pollard, under the auspices of Amnon Dror, and some of Pollard's family members. In an extensive article in Yediot Achronot and in radio and television interview that Dror gave, Pollard's initiative to receive citizenship has been described as "harmful to his case". In a conversation I had with him two weeks ago, Dror said "I am very sorry, but Jonathan is not in a position to know what is going on in his case outside the prison walls." In another interview, Dror declared that he, unlike Esther Pollard, "knows exactly what angers the Americans."
This represents the latest in an ongoing series of attacks designed to silence Jonathan Pollard one more time. As someone who has been following the case closely for the last four years, I have no doubt that Pollard is not going to be silenced any more. He has been silenced long enough.
About two weeks ago, Pollard fired his lawyer who had been appointed by the Israeli Public Committee. This hasn't bothered Dror at all, and he continues to describe her, in all the interviews he has given since then, as Jonathan's "official lawyer". In a parallel move, Pollard has demanded an official investigation into the activities and recent statements made by Amnon Dror, and has dissociated himself completely from the Public Committee. This also doesn't bother Dror, who continues business as usual.
Esther Pollard does not "speak on his behalf", said Dror. Today, by the way, Esther is at the prison in Butner with her husband. She visits him at least once a month, talks to him every day, and has invested both her whole life and her life savings on his behalf, advancing the campaign for his release. For the last five years, Esther is the person who has been closest to Jonathan. For most of this time the couple has kept silent. They gave Dror and the others a free hand and waited patiently for the end of the long nightmare.
But the end never came and there is still no end in sight. This course of quiet diplomacy has been an abject failure. The Pollards have come to the conclusion that it is time for a change in strategy. It is Pollard's right, after ten years in prison, to initiate activities on his own behalf. Dror says that he, Pollard, isn't in a position to know what is going on in his case. Why not? After all, it is Dror's job, and that of the others, to update Pollard on his case. And if he believes Pollard isn't updated, Dror has no one but himself to blame.
Jonathan Pollard has been betrayed many times. In the beginning, Israeli passports were issued for Jonathan and his former wife, Anne. Then, when they tried to seek refuge there, both he and Anne were thrown out of the Israeli Embassy. Subsequently, he was betrayed in the plea agreement which he signed with the Americans. And now he is being betrayed once again by the refusal of the State of Israel to stand behind him and grant him Israeli citizenship without further delay.
As opposed to cowardly allegations about him, Pollard is not losing his mental stability. He is sharp, focused, brilliant, talented and quick-witted. Yes, he has been ten years in prison, a large part of the time in the harshest conditions. Yes, he does have moods; and sometimes, even, sharp exchanges. But the attempt to strangle his current outcry, to sabotage his independent initiative, or to silence his voice - which is being relayed to the world through his wife, Esther - won't work this time. Or ever again.