Death In Prison
by Esther Pollard
SPECIAL TO IMRA - November 12, 2000
May be reprinted with appropriate accreditation
Last week another inmate was brutally murdered in the prison.
Jonathan and I were in the visiting room at the time of the murder and
we witnessed the slain body being carried out. That evening, I wrote privately
to Jewish leaders to express my fears for Jonathan. Not a single one responded.
November 21, 2000 will mark the end of Jonathan's 15th year in
prison and the beginning of his 16th year of a life sentence. In a recent
letter to a prominent Jewish leader I wrote in frustration, "Does Jonathan
Pollard have to die in prison (G-d forbid) for our people to understand
the urgency of his predicament - that he is in mortal danger every
Every time I hear Jewish leaders say, "But his case is now before the
courts. There is nothing more to be done until the court rules," I am ready
to tear my hair out. They are dead wrong. This is just one more excuse
in a fifteen-year litany of excuses by the Jewish leadership to absolve
itself of any responsibility. Now, more than ever, is the time for
strong advocacy on behalf of Jonathan. We have 15 years of experience to
prove that unless his case is maintained as high-profile and unless political
pressure is galvanized to keep it on a front burner, it can easily be subverted
and buried again.
I routinely receive email messages from good Jews criticizing me for
not leading a march on Washington or organizing a mass rally on behalf
of Jonathan. But these good Jews do not want to hear that such public
events require massive funding, and a high degree of organization - the
kind of funds and organization that the Jewish leadership possesses but
steadfastly refuses to expend on Jonathan.
It is also clear that the American Jewish newspapers are now following
the leadership and are taking the same tack which the Israeli media took
some time ago. We have been bluntly told by the Israeli press that the
only thing they consider "news" and worthy of printing is either Jonathan's
death (G-d forbid) or his release, but please not to bother them with anything
else. Now that the American Jewish media has taken the same attitude, it
is like pulling teeth to get anyone to write about Jonathan's new legal
case or even to get them to print what little is written.
This week 4000 Jewish leaders will meet in Chicago at the plenum of
Jewish Federations. Imagine how much it would have elevated the profile
of Jonathan's case if the Pollard name were on the speakers list. Ironically,
even those who organized a protest rally outside of the Chicago plenum
never thought of including Jonathan, or of inviting me or his attorneys
to speak on his behalf. In 15 years, Jonathan has never been included on
any serious agenda by the Jewish leadership. Not even now, when a new lawsuit
powerfully demonstrates how he was railroaded and unjustly sentenced to
life in prison.
For 15 years, Jewish leaders in America and in Israel have made a concerted
effort to keep the Pollard case peripheral to everything that is going
on in the Jewish world, when in fact the case is central. It is the litmus
test of Jewish equality in America and of the integrity of the US-Israel
special relationship. Ignoring the plight of Jonathan Pollard does
not change this reality.
By accepting and tolerating the Israeli Government's long-standing abandonment
of one Jew, Jonathan Pollard, the Jewish People have established a paradigm
for and the acceptance of a government policy of expendability that effectively
abandons Israel's five million Jews, one by one. Five million, after all,
is just a multiple of one.
What will it take to make the Jewish People understand that every single
day in prison Jonathan stares death in the face and dares not blink.
How long will Jonathan be forced to rely on miracles?
What is the Jewish leadership waiting for? For Jonathan Pollard
to die in prison? G-d forbid!