An Unusual Snapshot of American Justice
As Seen Through the Lens of the Pollard Case
Text of Esther Pollard's Remarks to The National Council of Young Israel 89th Annual Dinner
March 4, 2001 - Justice4JP Release
Let me begin by extending our profound thanks and appreciation to the The National Council
of Young Israel and to its director Rabbi Pesach Lerner. Young Israel has the unique
distinction of being the only Jewish organization in America which has translated its concern
for Jonathan Pollard into practical, hands-on action. This is the first time that any Jewish
organization has invited me to speak at an event such as this. Jonathan and I are deeply
I want to share with you tonight a story that I think will give you a quick and unusual snapshot of American justice as seen through the lens of the Pollard case:
It was 3:00 am when the prison guards came and shook Jonathan awake.
"Get up!" they ordered.
"What is going on?" Jonathan asked,
"Get dressed,!" he was told, "You are going home!"
"What!?" said Jonathan.
"The Israelis have made a deal for your release," replied the guards," We have orders to get
you to Andrews Air Force Base. A plane is waiting there to take you home."
Jonathan dressed quickly, overjoyed that Israel had finally kept its word and he was going
home. The guards shackled his wrists and ankles and led him to a prison van waiting outside.
From the window of the van Jonathan watched the highway flying by as they sped up I-95
towards Washington. All the way there, the guards talked and laughed with Jonathan and
asked him about his plans for when he got home.
After some time, Jonathan saw a sign indicating that the next exit was Andrews Air Force
Base. When the van sped past the exit, Jonathan nearly jumped out of his seat. "Hey!" he
cried, "Stop! You guys just missed the exit for Andrews Air Force Base!"
The guards started to laugh at Jonathan. "You fool!" they sneered, "Did you really think that
you were going home? The only place you're going is to another prison!" And the van sped on
- to Lewisberg, Pennsylvania.
They arrived at USP Lewisberg. It was December and it was cold. Jonathan was thrown into a
dungeon cell in the basement. His clothes and his glasses were taken away. He was left
naked. No bedding, no blankets, - no bed at all - just a hard metal slab to sleep on. Other than
that the cell was empty except for an open toilet that could not be flushed from the inside. No
diversions, no books, no paper or pens, no television, radio or newspaper - just the bitter cold
chilling him to the bone.
Periodically the guards would take Jonathan out of his dungeon cell "to shower". They chained
him to the shower stall, and in the dead of winter turned on the cold water full blast. They left
him there, chained to the shower stall with the ice cold water beating down upon him for what
was perhaps an hour, but what felt to Jonathan like an eternity. Jonathan said it took every
ounce of strength he possessed to will himself to stay alive.
Jonathan was held at Lewisberg - incommunicado - for a month. No one knew where he was.
His attorneys filed in court to find him. The sentencing judge, Aubrey Robinson, shocked by
Jonathan's sudden disappearance, issued a court order to force the Justice Department to
return him to Washington.
When I told Jonathan that this was the story that I wanted to share with you tonight to provide
an unusual snapshot of "American Justice", Jonathan said, "But Esther that episode pales in
comparison to what I experienced at Springfield!"
Jonathan was referring to the the year and a half that he spent in a
prison facility for the criminally insane in Springfield Missouri. He was not there as a patient. At Springfield as well he was deprived of his clothes and his eyeglasses and held in conditions so appalling that to this day he breaks out in a cold sweat when he talks about it. Once a month, Jonathan was hauled out of his cell at Springfield, a blanket thrown over him to cover his nakedness. He was given a pencil and shown
a list of prominent American Jews. His government interrogators
told him that putting an "x" beside any one of the names as his co-conspirator would be his
ticket out of Springfield. Jonathan of course refused.
Again, this is not your usual American justice story. But in fact, there is nothing "usual" about
the Pollard case. And the treatment that Jonathan Pollard has experienced at the hands of the
American Justice system for the last 16 years has been anything but "just".
Jonathan Pollard did not spy against the United States.
Jonathan is a Jew who spied for Israel, America's closest ally. He warned Israel that Saddam Hussein was planning to scorch
the Jewish State. This vital information was being withheld from Israel by her American ally.
Because of Jonathan,
Israel was ready with gas masks and sealed rooms during the Gulf
Yes, Jonathan broke the law to warn Israel. He deserved to be punished. But
has to fit the crime. The usual sentence for spying for an ally is 2-4 years. Jonathan is now
serving his , with no possibility of parole. He received the life
sentence, as the result of a broken plea bargain.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you, who plea bargains for a life sentence?
Since its inception, the Pollard case, has been riddled with judicial inequities which include the
- a grossly disproportionate sentence
- a broken plea agreement
- the use of secret evidence
- totally ineffective assistance of counsel
- a lack of due process, as well as other judicial flaws
which prompted Appellate Court Justice Steven Williams to describe the Pollard case as "."
The Constitution grants the President of the United States special powers to intervene in such
cases as Jonathan's where
a clear injustice is evident and the circumstances demand
special intervention to
safeguard the integrity of the American justice system. The
president's powers of clemency allow him to remain
above the fray of interested parties and to act swiftly to rectify legal and judicial issues that might otherwise take years to wend their way through the courts and run the risk of being subverted in the process.
There were strong legal and moral reasons why the American Jewish community expected that
Jonathan's life sentence would be commuted to time-served when President Clinton left office
on January 20, 2001.
new legal case which is now before the American courts:
It documents a travesty of justice that has gone unchallenged for 16 years.
grossly disproportionate sentence:
He has now done 16 years of hard time in prison.
failing health, as a result of
unusually harsh conditions of incarceration makes a strong humanitarian case for his release.
- Jonathan's release was promised to Israel by President Clinton, as an integral part of
the Wye accords.
On January 20, 2001, Jonathan and I were deeply disappointed that his name did not
appear on the list of granted by President Clinton in his last
hours in office. As it now appears, those pardons had little to do with compelling legal
and moral issues and much to do with
political favors and payoffs.
deep involvement of the American Jewish leadership and the Government of Israel in
those tainted pardons has become
a source of embarrassment and shame for the Jewish
community. The Jewish leadership and the Government of Israel lobbied more
convincingly to obtain a pardon for Marc Rich - a man who was not in prison nor in
mortal danger - than they did for Jonathan Pollard, who stares Death in the face every
day (G-d forbid) and dares not blink.
What troubles Jonathan the most is
all the finger-pointing that is now going on in the
Jewish community. The Jewish leadership is so preoccupied with scapegoating one
another that they appear to have forgotten that
he is still in prison, still in mortal danger
and urgently needs help.
There is much that can be done to secure Jonathan's immediate release, and much that
needs to be done. So far, with the exception of Young Israel in the person of Rabbi
Jonathan and I are carrying on the fight for justice virtually alone.
For example, Jonathan has a new legal case that is before the Courts. He is represented
pro bono by two outstanding American attorneys,
Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman.
But, there is not a single American Jewish Defense organization that is willing to stand
with us or to assist our attorneys in any way - let alone to lobby on Capitol Hill, which is
the sine qua non of Jonathan's release.
The ADL, for example, claims that it has no position on the Pollard case because it
cannot see any anti-Semitism in the case. Would someone please tell me where the ADL,
which interceded with the President on behalf of Marc Rich, found anti-Semitism in the
The Jewish community is blessed with
talented attorneys, legislators, and
well-connected individuals with access to people and places where the decisions are
made. Where are they on the Pollard case? We need them now more than ever to take
our case to Washington!
Where are Jewish social action committees, Jewish lobbyists and Jewish lobby groups?
The Conference of Presidents, for example can open doors on Capitol Hill. We invite
them to work with our attorneys to move beyond "humanitarian appeals" and onto
Where are the bold opinion-makers -
the William Safires, the A.M. Rosenthals, the
Charles Krauthammers, the Richard Cohens, the William Kristols and the Cal Thomases -
to sound the alarm about the gross injustice of this case? Even if they choose not to
meet with our attorneys, as has largely been the case, Jonathan's new legal documents
are publicly available on the Justice for Jonathan Pollard web site. No one can read
these documents and remain silent, in good conscience.
In a few days it will be Purim. My namesake is Queen Esther and I have a wonderful
tradition to follow. But I want to remind you that when Queen Esther went before the king
to plead for her people, she did not do it alone.
She cried out to her people to work with her, to act from below to bring salvation from above.
And that is what I ask of you tonight. I appeal to you to get involved, to get the leadership
involved. NOT JUST YOUNG ISRAEL, BUT ALL JEWISH LEADERS MUST ANSWER TO
THE PEOPLE. The American Jewish community must act intensively and at once to
secure the release of Jonathan Pollard, and in that way - equal justice for all.