"The War of Independence"
Pollard's Battle for Freedom
October 6, 1995 - Ben Caspit - Ma'ariv
On the 25th of November, 1985, American FBI agents arrested Jonathan Pollard right outside the locked iron gate of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. The man who locked the gates was the chief administrative officer of the Embassy; he now occupies a position as a senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The most senior official in the Embassy who was present at that time in Washington (the Ambassador was out of the United States at the time) has since become a judge in Israel. The man who "ran" Pollard under the auspices of LAKAM (the Bureau of Scientific Intelligence) today is in private business. Those who gave the instructions to throw Pollard out of the Embassy, today occupy senior positions within the Israeli Government.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Pollard continues to languish in an American prison. He is 41 years old, he has no children, his health is deteriorating and his hope diminishing. Jonathan Pollard has no date for release. If he goes before the American federal Parole Board, his appeal for parole will be immediately denied.
* * *
Pollard worked out of dedication to his Zionist ideals. He wasn't a hired or paid spy. He asked for no money for his services, and he wasn't recruited for one particular mission or another. His concern for the State of Israel gave him no rest and he believed his activities were directly contributing to the national security of the State. Pollard did not act on his own initiative and he was not a freelancer. He was activated by Israel, and intensively so. The appetite of his handlers grew over time and they overwhelmed him with requests and demands.
Pollard believed that he was saving Jews, and did his best to comply. He received an Israeli passport for "emergency use", and was promised that in a time of need Israel would not turn her back, and that she would rescue him and his wife from the United States, as is accepted practice in the world of espionage.
Then he was arrested.
Israel did not rescue him, did not defend him, did not take any responsibility for him. When he and his wife arrived, out of breath, at the Israeli embassy in Washington to ask for refuge, they thought they had reached the Promised Land.
The Embassy officials allowed the Pollard couple to enter, and they called Jerusalem to get instructions. The telegram that arrived from Jerusalem shortly thereafter did not leave room for any doubt. Jonathan and Anne Pollard were thrown out of the Israeli Embassy, right into the outstretched arms of the FBI agents who were outside, waiting for them.
A senior official in the Foreign Ministry who knows the Pollard case up close told me, "Our greatest mistake began back then. If only we had had the courage. If only we had had the moral conscience. If only we have behaved as is accepted traditionally in the world and had given refuge to Pollard at the Embassy, then no-one would even remember this affair today. The scandal would have died down after a few months. We would have promised the Americans that it would never happen again and it would have been all over." But Israel preferred to dissociate herself from the man risked his own safety and that of his family, and who sacrificed his life for her security. Israel supplied the Americans with all the documents that Pollard had given her - with his fingerprints still on them. Israel dug the hole for Jonathan Pollard.
* * *
It is still not too late to make amends for the damage. The United States is leading the world in a new era. The Cold War is over, the Soviet Union no longer exists. The American flag now flies in North Vietnam, the Arab-Israeli conflict is showing signs of wear. And O.J. Simpson is free.
We must not forget Jonathan Pollard. He is one of ours. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's recent approach to President Clinton on the subject was a step in the right direction. But it's not enough. Somebody has to explain to the Americans that freeing Jonathan Pollard is an issue deep in the hearts of every Israeli citizen and a concern for every Israeli government. Somebody has to explain to the Americans that it is totally unacceptable to demand Israel release thousands of prisoners - among them terrorists and murderers - and in the same breath to refuse to show clemency to the spy who has now served ten years in prison.
That somebody is Yitzhak Rabin. And the first thing he can do tomorrow morning in order to advance the case is to grant Jonathan Pollard Israeli citizenship. Even if there are differences of opinion concerning the usefulness of such a move, Israel has a moral obligation to respond to the request of Jonathan Pollard and to officially recognize him through the granting of Israeli citizenship.
"The ball is now in Mr. Rabin's court, " said Pollard in conversations that he recently had with his wife, Esther. "I appreciate and am grateful to the Prime Minister for bringing up the matter with the President, but he must not stop now. It is critical to make it clear to the Americans how important this is and granting Israeli citizenship is the simplest, most effective way of doing that."
Recently, Ma'ariv obtained a letter written by Pollard to his lawyers, Larry Dub and Gidi Frishtik, on the subject of citizenship. His lawyers have recently prepared papers to file in Supreme Court on the matter. They will file these papers if they get a final refusal on citizenship.
The letter reads:
"Dear Larry and Gidi:
I have stressed repeatedly, to all who would care to listen, that Israeli citizenship alongside my American citizenship would give me the standing and rights of an Israeli citizen. It would signify Israel's willingness to take responsibility for me and for my actions, and would grant Israel a legal basis for her efforts to bring about my freedom. And perhaps most important of all, the granting of Israeli citizenship would make it clear to the American Administration that I am not alone any longer.
After ten years of asking for Israeli citizenship through quiet channels and being refused 'for fear of harming my chances', I came to the conclusion that one of the few ways left to me in order to try and save myself, was to file officially, legally and publicly for Israeli citizenship.
A short time before I instructed my wife, Esther, to file the request for Israeli citizenship, I learned that the Government of Israel had received notification
from one of its own appointees, indicating the almost certain likelihood that the Parole Board would refuse my request for freedom and would rule that any further discussion on the matter be delayed for
another fifteen years - this would be the case unless the Government of Israel undertook immediate, strong initiatives on my behalf. The response of the Government of Israel was apathy and indifference."
In his letter, Pollard refers to notification that the Government of Israel received from
"one of its own appointees". That reference is to a letter sent by Pollard's former attorney, Nancy Luque, to Amnon Dror, head of the Public Committee for Pollard. Luque, an ambitious Washington lawyer who took her Pollard projects seriously, was appointed by the Public Committee under the auspices of Dror, who also paid her salary. Pollard had reluctantly accepted the appointment.
In her letter of June 26 of this year, Luque writes,
As you are already aware, after working for almost ten months on this matter, I have reached a point where I feel as though the Government of Israel has truly abandoned Jonathan. Although time is very short, there is no sense of urgency in the efforts of the Government ... He has heard "later" too many times. He feels despair, rotting in prison ... Israel must put all of its weight behind this matter for the next few months. They must make their position "official". If they do not, Jonathan will be there for fifteen more years. None of these things can or will happen without the Government of Israel. The Prime Minister must make crystal clear that is is important to the people of Israel that the Government resolve this.
Last week Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin took the first step in the right direction. In his meeting with President Bill Clinton, he raised the issue of Pollard. For the first time, Clinton seemed receptive, but indicated that he could only weigh the request for clemency when all other avenues had been exhausted; that is to say, when the request for the release on parole fails.
And here's the catch: the soonest date that Jonathan Pollard can go before the Parole Board is January. The Parole Board will turn him down. Then, in February or March, it will be much more difficult for the President of the United States to grant clemency to Pollard in opposition to the recommendation of the Parole Board, the Justice Department, the Intelligence community, the Navy and the Army. The American elections will be on the horizon and Clinton, who will enjoy the Jewish vote regardless of whether or not he frees Pollard, isn't going to be looking to make trouble for himself.
That is why it is critical that the problem be solved now. The only way is direct contact between the heads of government of Israel and the United States. "The legal avenues have all been exhausted. They are hopeless," said Amnon Dror in an interview with Ma'ariv. "I say this all the time. Only a political decision at the level of the heads of state will bring this sad affair to an end." Dror founded the Public Committee for Pollard nine years ago. Since then he has traveled between Washington and Israel trying to advance the tragic case of Jonathan Pollard.
Lately Dror sees himself as an injured party because of certain statements that have been made by Jonathan Pollard about him. There's no longer any point in trying to hide the open rift between Pollard and his wife Esther, and 'the rest of the world' - family members, the Government of Israel, the Public Committee and the American Jewish establishment in the United States. In recent weeks, Jonathan took off the gloves, fired lawyer Nancy Luque and announced that Amnon Dror's activities served other interests but not Jonathan's own.
Question (Ma'ariv): You believe that he will be freed?
Answer (Dror): Yes, certainly. The fact is that we have known for a long time that the Americans had no intention of ever discussing any possible release until he had completed ten years of incarceration. They said this consistently to all who approached them. But neither I nor his family were willing to accept this as a final answer. And we continued to knock on all possible doors and to use all possible means. Now, after ten years, both sides have softened their position. I believe that both sides have come closer together and that Jonathan will yet see the light of day."
Dror tells about meeting with the Prime Minister before Mr. Rabin's last visit to the United States, and how he asked him to bring up the subject of Pollard with Clinton. He says he armed Rabin for this purpose with a long list of appeals that have been made on behalf of Pollard to date. According to Dror, there is a good chance that Rabin will continue to bring up the issue of Pollard even at his upcoming meetings with Clinton, and that the issue will be advanced.
Dror denies all allegations that he works for the Government. "Who me? I've been shouting for years that the Government isn't doing enough. Our committee was founded in a spontaneous way nine years ago. We decided to fight for principle, we represent individual conscience, national conscience. We were not willing to live in a state which uses people, puts their freedom in danger and their lives in danger, and when they're caught, simply abandons them. On this principle I shall fight until Jonathan goes free. And for that reason I don't need any appointment, whatsoever. I have often worked in opposition to the Government's opinion; and I am proud of it because, in many cases, we have succeeded in convincing the Government to do more. And we have the Government paying for our activities."
Question (Ma'ariv): What about citizenship for Jonathan?
Answer (Dror): "I was the first one years ago to tell the Ministers of the Interior that they should give Jonathan Pollard Israeli citizenship. We got a negative answer and we refuse to be satisfied with it. We asked for other opinions. Top American lawyers, legal advisers and the Secretary of the Cabinet at that time opined firmly that such such a step would not advance his freedom but rather would harm it. When I told this to Jonathan, it seemed to me that he accepted it. Later on again he brought up the issue via his wife. I think that whoever demands citizenship and publicizes it before first receiving a positive response is harming Jonathan and is destroying his morale. Nevertheless, now that the subject has been publicized, I would be happy if Jonathan were granted citizenship simply because it will make him happy and I hope, with all of my heart, that it won't hurt him. I think that if the Minister of the Interior and the Prime Minister felt that giving Jonathan citizenship would advance his case even by one day, bring him closer to freedom, I'm sure they would do it immediately.
In any case, Dror is satisfied with himself. "We've tried everything. There's nobody that we haven't approached. We've signed petitions, sent letters, made connections. We've pressured the Government, we've met with tens of members of Congress. I hope that these efforts will bear fruit some day."
But in the meantime, there are no encouraging signs. Dror helps to shed light on the obsessiveness of the Americans with regard to anything connected to burying Pollard in prison. He released for publication a letter written by the former American Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, the man who is most responsible for Pollard's life sentence.
Weinberger writes: "As a result of the espionage activities of Mr. Pollard and the passing of documents and top level information to foreign country, activities for which he was handsomely paid, the security of the United States was placed in great and real danger. Not only because the information was sold to Israel, but also because of the possibility of leakage from Israel to our principal enemy.
"Too many lives have been put in danger by the activities of Mr. Pollard. I fear that certainly it is possible, from our point of view, that in the event Mr. Pollard is freed he would be capable of doing similar things again."
Today it is clear that most of the facts that Mr. Weinberger stresses were allegations totally without any basis in fact whatsoever. The information that Pollard passed was not leaked to the Soviet Union. The damage that Pollard caused to American national security - if there was any - was marginal. What's more, it has become clear that the enormous damage that the Americans refer to was, in fact, never caused by Jonathan Pollard but rather by Aldrich Ames, who was recently caught. The fact is, however, that both of them received the same punishment: life imprisonment.
To conclude, the fear expressed by Weinberger that Pollard, if freed, would return to his espionage activities is nothing more than utter paranoia, in the best-case scenario; and virulent anti-semitism in a less than best-case scenario. This kind of letter was the trademark of Josef Stalin in his time. But this one was written by Caspar Weinberger on the 30th of March, 1985.