Interview: Jonathan Pollard Out in the Cold... Again
IMRA Interview of Esther Pollard
Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA November 5, 2003
IMRA interviewed Esther Pollard, Jonathan Pollard's wife, in English on November 4, 2003.
IMRA: Yesterday, an hour before the Knesset plenum session, the Knesset Spokesperson's office told IMRA: "Jonathan Pollard's name is on the list of MIAs and captives that will be read in Knesset by MK Ruchama Avraham today. His name is on the list. His name was always on the list." But when the list was read, it was not there. What's going on?
ESTHER POLLARD: We were told the same thing by [Knesset Speaker MK] Ruby Rivlin's office, a day before the official reading.
IMRA: So what happened?
ESTHER POLLARD: It was never true. We were all lied to, to stop the Pollard activists and quiet things down.
IMRA: Isn't that kind of cynical?
ESTHER POLLARD: No, Aaron. Not at all. If we take a look at the whole sequence of events from the time this Knesset roll was announced to the time it actually occurred and Jonathan's name was NOT on the list, you will see the same pattern of deceit that was used by Israel 19 years ago (November 21, 1985) to throw Jonathan out of the Israeli Embassy, where he had been instructed to seek asylum by his Israeli handlers.
IMRA: Again, Esther, isn't this a bit of a stretch comparing the exclusion of Jonathan from a Knesset roll of captives with the trauma of being thrown out of the Israeli Embassy 19 years ago?
ESTHER POLLARD: No Aaron. They are remarkably similar. You might even say that they are both points in an unbroken continuum of betrayal and deception that has endured for nearly 2 decades.
In both cases, Jonathan was cast out, and in both cases lies and deceit were the means to that end.
Also in both cases, Israel's shutting Jonathan out has been deeply damaging to Jonathan's case. No one in the American administration missed the significance of Jonathan being thrown out of the Embassy back then. No one in America has missed the significance of Jonathan being excluded from the Knesset list of MIAs and captives now.
Just as IMRA was told one thing about the Knesset roll while the opposite was true - namely that Jonathan was on the list, when in fact he was not on it - when Israel threw Jonathan out of the Embassy, they also did it deceitfully.
ESTHER POLLARD: First of all Jonathan was ordered by his Israeli handlers to seek asylum at the Embassy. When he got there, the first words he heard were: "Welcome home!"
Then a phone call was made to Jerusalem and after getting instructions, the Embassy official turned to Jonathan and said, "You are welcome to remain in the Embassy, but we need you to go back out the door you just came in (the rear door adjacent to the driveway) and to come in the front entrance instead.
IMRA: And both the Israelis and Jonathan knew that FBI were waiting out front to arrest him?
ESTHER POLLARD: Exactly!
IMRA: Now let's talk about Jonathan being left off of the Knesset roll.
ESTHER POLLARD: When the Knesset roll was first announced, MK Avraham's spokesperson defended the decision not to include Jonathan by saying that while the list included those who had served Israel as part of the armed forces, a decision was made not to include those captives who had served in the intelligence branches of the Ministry of Defense.
IMRA: How many known agents were affected by this decision not to include those who served in the intelligence forces? [IMRA: The Government of Israel is on record that Pollard served as an agent for Israel].
ESTHER POLLARD: Only one. Only Jonathan was excluded.
IMRA: In an interview with Arutz7 Hebrew News, MK Avraham's spokesperson also justified her refusal to include Jonathan on the list by insisting that the list of MIAs and captives included only those whose capture occurred during "wartime activities". Wouldn't that exclude Jonathan?
ESTHER POLLARD: Absolutely not.
IMRA: How so?
ESTHER POLLARD: Aaron, the intelligence services of any country operate as if in a constant state of war to protect the country from its enemies and from the threat of war. So for anyone in intelligence, the country is in a perpetual state of war, even when the country is ostensibly at peace. If that were not the case, the country would have no need of their services. So Jonathan met that requirement too.
There is a parallel here to the soldiers who were abducted at Har Dov who are on the Knesset roll. They were taken captive on a routine patrol and the country was not in a declared state of war.
IMRA: Did you protest Jonathan's exclusion?
ESTHER POLLARD: Yes, we did. Many faxes and phone calls went to Speaker of the House Ruby Rivlin. We pointed out that no distinction should be made between Jonathan and the other MIAs and captives; that Jonathan just like the others had served the State, had worked for the LAKAM - a branch of the Ministry of Defense and had fallen captive in the line of duty.
IMRA: So they put him on the list then before the first reading?
ESTHER POLLARD: Well, that was what we were told. Just like you, we received assurances from Speaker Rivlin's office that Jonathan was on the list and that he was always on the list and that his name would be read in Knesset every week, starting November 3, for the duration.
IMRA: Why didn't you put out a press release announcing the reading of the list?
ESTHER POLLARD: Everyone was a little nervous about J4JP announcing that Jonathan was on the Knesset Roll before it actually occurred. Past experience, I guess.
Rivlin's office was unequivocal with us, telling us that Jonathan IS on the list, and was always on the list. But when Rivlin himself was asked by Arutz7 he equivocated.
The Arutz7 report about Rivlin's remarks was titled: Will Pollard Be Mentioned? And By Whom? The story noted that it was unclear who would read out Jonathan's name, if at all. That is when we knew that something was up.
IMRA: And your worst fears were confirmed when the list was actually read?
ESTHER POLLARD: Unfortunately. It seems that great effort was expended to make it appear that Jonathan's name would be included in the official reading of the roll, when we now know that that was never any intention.
IMRA: What about the statement Avraham made when she actually read the list? She indicated that this was about our love and concern for our boys "being held in enemy lands." How could they have included Jonathan according to that definition?
ESTHER POLLARD: Aaron, the criterion of "being held in enemy lands" was only introduced at the last minute after they realized that Jonathan met all the rest of the criteria and ought to be included on the official list.
IMRA: So this was contrived as an excuse to still exclude him?
ESTHER POLLARD: Yes. There was no reason to exclude him, so they invented an excuse.
IMRA: So are you are saying Rivlin set up a situation where he could deny accusations that he and his office lied about Jonathan being on the list?
ESTHER POLLARD: Yes. After Avraham read the official list, Rivlin thanked her and added, "Of course we also want to remember, Jonathan Pollard and Azzam Azzam who have not yet returned home." It was very clear that Jonathan was not on the official list.
IMRA: What about Rivlin's mentioning Jonathan together with Azzam Azzam? How do you read that?
ESTHER POLLARD: The intention was to diminish Jonathan's service to the State by mentioning him in the company of an ordinary citizen in captivity. This linkage was very damaging to both. It endangers Azzam Azzam and demeans Jonathan's contribution to Israel's national security.
Mentioning Azzam Azzam was reckless and irresponsible. Moreover, by mentioning him together with Jonathan, Rivlin has reinforced the Egyptians' conviction that Azzam Azzam is an Israeli spy. It is natural for them to assume that since Israel lied blatantly for more than a decade about Jonathan being an agent, now Israel is lying about Azzam Azzam, and if they just hold Azzam Azzam long enough, Israel will come clean.
IMRA: Couldn't one argue that Azzam Azzam was included in Rivlin's remark because he is the only other Israeli Israel wants out who didn't fit into the list?
ESTHER POLLARD: But Rivlin never mentioned Tannenbaum, an Israeli civilian now being held captive in Lebanon.
Instead he mentioned only Jonathan and Azzam Azzam, which only reinforces the Egyptians' notion that Azzam Azzam is a spy, like Jonathan.
IMRA: So what do you make of make of all this?
ESTHER POLLARD: It was patently dishonest of Rivlin and his office to repeatedly assure everyone that Jonathan was on the official list of MIAs and captives when in fact Rivlin knew that neither he nor MK Avraham had any intention of including him.
IMRA: Was anyone else involved in putting Pollard and Azzam Azzam together?
ESTHER POLLARD: MK Uri Ariel - who is part of the Knesset Lobby for Jonathan Pollard - was one of the people who asked Ruby Rivlin to include both Jonathan and Azzam Azzam on the official roll. His heart was in the right place but the request to include Azzam Azzam was misguided. I heard from our attorney today that Uri Ariel is furious. He says Rivlin lied to him and set him up.
IMRA: Set him up? Was he also told that Jonathan would be on the official Knesset list?
ESTHER POLLARD: Yes. He too was given assurances by Rivlin that Jonathan was on the list and that he had always been on the list. MK Mickey Eitan was also told this lie.
IMRA: What about Ariel's requesting Azzam Azzam ?
ESTHER POLLARD: If Rivlin or Avraham had been honest about this whole initiative to begin with, they would have told Ariel that Azzam Azzam did not belong anywhere near this roll; that it would be endangering his life to even hint that Azzam Azzam had worked for the State of Israel. That this list was only about those who have served the State of Israel and the Ministry of Defense. But honesty was never a part of this initiative.
IMRA: What do you think it was about?
ESTHER POLLARD: I believe that it is about a new Member of Knesset [Ruchama Avraham] posturing and pandering to the public with a no-cost, no-investment, heart-rendering, feel-good initiative: remembering our MIAs and captives every week at the opening session of every Knesset. Rivlin apparently supported her request to do this, because it is equally as good for his PR machine and costs virtually nothing.
IMRA: So why didn't she want to include Jonathan on the list?
ESTHER POLLARD: Her spokesperson told Arutz7 that they feared including Jonathan would "sidetrack" the initiative.
IMRA: How do you read that?
ESTHER POLLARD: Cowardice. Cravenness. There are two issues here. One is fear of America. Israeli MKs live in abject terror of saying or doing anything that might anger the Americans. Especially a new MK like Ruchama Avraham. Secondly, by telling the media that they feared mentioning a bona fide Israeli agent in captivity might "sidetrack" the initiative, one has to wonder what the initiative was. If it was about getting cheap, easy, effortless publicity on the blood of MIAs and captives without risking any fallout or feedback, they are right.
IMRA: Well then, why not Pollard?
ESTHER POLLARD: Firstly if they were to include Jonathan on the roll, it might mean that Avraham and the Knesset Speaker would have to put their money where their mouth is and to actually do something for Jonathan. For the other MIAs and captives who are not visible nor vocal, empty words in Knesset are enough to get media attention in Israel.
And then there is the perennial fear that doing anything all for Jonathan - including just mentioning his name - might anger the Americans and the MK daring to do so may risk missing out on perks, like side trips to the US to fundraise for their next campaign.
Put simply: Jonathan is the only one of the boys who is confirmed to be alive and we know where he is being held. If Avraham adds him to the roll, she might actually have to do something for him. And since he is held by our closest ally, that is not too comfortable a thought for her or for the Knesset. To add to that she also may be concerned that Jonathan is not necessarily going to be quiet and let her just do her thing in Knesset without holding her to account.
IMRA: That's a pretty dim view of an MK. Perhaps she really doesn't know Jonathan's record of helping Israel or the seriousness of his plight?
ESTHER POLLARD: Aaron, does the name Ruchama Avraham ring a bell for you at all? I mean in her previous incarnation?
When Bibi Netanyahu was Prime Minister, Ruchama Avraham was his personal secretary. This woman KNOWS up close and real personal who Jonathan is, what he has done for Israel and what he has gone through. She knows first hand that he is an Israeli agent; her boss signed the papers!
Some people might wonder why we are so distraught about this Knesset roll issue. The fact is, it is part of a much larger picture - 18 years of betrayal and deception.
In 1998 the Government of Bibi Netanyahu reversed years of lies and falsehood by officially recognizing Jonathan as an Israeli agent.
Government of Israel announcement, May 11, 1998: "Jonathan Pollard was an Israeli agent who was handled by high-ranking officials in an Israeli authorized bureau - LAKAM.... In light of this fact, the State of Israel acknowledges its obligation to Mr. Pollard and is ready to accept full responsibility accordingly."]
IMRA: I remember that at the time there was great hope and expectation that this declaration would pave the way for the speedy negotiation of Jonathan's release. That never happened. Does this document represent any advantage for Jonathan? What has this declaration done for Jonathan in the all the years since then?
ESTHER POLLARD: In the US or in Israel?
ESTHER POLLARD: There are always advantages to bringing the truth to light. Israel was compelled to stop the lies and to stop pretending that Jonathan was a freelancer and a rogue operator. It also put the lie to claims that Jonathan was a mercenary or had ulterior motives. And it forced Israel to admit that she bears full responsibility for the operation and for Jonathan.
IMRA: But in practical terms? In practical terms how has this helped him? In other words, has the Government of Israel dealt with him honorably ever since it declared him an agent? Is he receiving the treatment an agent in captivity is entitled to?
ESTHER POLLARD: Not at all. We dropped a Bagatz (a lawsuit in Israel's Supreme Court) in return for Jonathan's official recognition as an agent. We assumed that it would be implemented at once. It never was. There is a complete disconnect between the declaration the Government made recognizing Jonathan's agent status and the implementation of that status by the Ministry of Defense.
IMRA: By implementation you mean?
ESTHER POLLARD: Implementing the official Ministry of Defense policy guidelines that define the rights of an agent in captivity and the obligation of the Government towards him.
IMRA: Do such guidelines exist? Is there a set policy?
ESTHER POLLARD: There is a set policy and there are guidelines, governing everything from the Ministry's financial obligations to the captive and his family; to medical treatment and insurance; to the payment of legal fees and even governing the obligation to engage in intensive efforts to secure his release. We never understood why Jonathan was so cut off from any support whatsoever all these years, now we do.
IMRA: Why is that?
ESTHER POLLARD: A source at the Ministry of Defense recently checked and discovered that Jonathan's name does NOT appear on the official list of captives at the Ministry of Defense. We were very shocked to learn this. We now are trying to verify this officially. If it is true, then it explains why the Government has been able to ignore Jonathan so thoroughly.
It means that no one is responsible for implementing the Government policy that recognizes him as a bona fide Israeli agent. No one has to do anything for him, and there is no one to answer for it.
IMRA: So in 1998 Israel finally admitted the truth that Jonathan was an Israeli agent, but has never done anything about it since then?
ESTHER POLLARD: That's right.
IMRA: How is Jonathan taking all of this? What was his reaction to being excluded from the Knesset roll?
ESTHER POLLARD: He was disgusted. He said, "They are trying to distinguish between blood and blood! How low can they sink?!"
IMRA: When was the last time you saw Jonathan?
ESTHER POLLARD: I saw him yesterday, after the Knesset roll was read, and I told him what had gone on. The lying, the deceit, and so on.
IMRA: How did he react?
ESTHER POLLARD: He was devastated. It was very hard for me to see him so anguished. I returned from the visit, hours later, and sat down and wrote a confidential memo about Jonathan's reaction to Larry Dub, Jonathan's attorney. Today, both Larry and Jonathan gave me permission to share the memo with you. I can email it to you.
IMRA: Is it very long? How about if you just read it to me?
ESTHER POLLARD: No, it is not very long. Here it is. It reads:
I saw Jonathan today. He was eagerly awaiting a detailed update re the Knesset roll. As always he was hoping for the best, but should have known to expect the worst. I told him all that had transpired. How Avraham had suddenly changed the definition of the roll in order to exclude only him; how Rivlin and his people lied to our people and to Arutz7 to make everyone think Jonathan was going to be on the list; how Rivlin got out of deceiving everyone about Jonathan being included by mumbling his name AFTER the list was read and while he was thanking Avraham. How Rivlin lumped Jonathan with Azzam Azzam. This freaked Jonathan out, he cried out something to the effect of, "Those fools! They endangered Azzam Azzam's life mentioning him in Knesset this way - as if he too were an agent! Is there no end to their evil?!"
Larry, I do not have words to describe how this whole thing has affected him. It had a devastating effect on his morale. It was in a large sense the straw that broke the camel's back. 18 years of Israeli government indifference to his plight; no support; no concern; no efforts to assist legally, morally and financially, and it all culminates in this low, sleazy sleight-of-hand stunt by the Knesset to exclude him once again - even from public remembrance.
This was very hard to swallow. Not only what was done, but especially how it was done. It filled Jonathan with a kind of disgust that I have never seen before, and a revulsion that is beyond description. He said that what worries him most is what this kind of duplicity, ingratitude and double dealing on the part of those who pose as our leaders means in terms of our nation. He fears very much for the people of Israel, and has grave doubts about what is going on there and where it will lead.
You know, I am sure, what he means. It was very very hard for me to watch the hurt, the anguish, the disappointment, the disgust and the revulsion Jonathan went through today. I believe that this is the kind of soul-felt disgust that there is no surmounting. Some real damage was done. Jonathan wanted me to speak to you again soon to share with you some thoughts. Please call when you can. Thanks. (Signed) EYP"
IMRA: How can anyone help?
ESTHER POLLARD: They can phone and fax Speaker Ruby Rivilin's office to let him know that it is unacceptable that Jonathan, an Israeli agent in captivity for 18 years should be excluded from the Knesset roll of captives; that it is immoral to distinguish between blood and blood just because Jonathan happens to held by an Israeli ally, not an enemy; and that the list should be amended immediately to include Jonathan on it in time for the next reading of the roll, at the opening session of the plenum next week.
IMRA: And MK Ruchama Avraham?
ESTHER POLLARD: The same thing. Faxes and phone calls to both. (I do not recommend emails; emails are not effective in registering concern to MKs.) They have to hear from the public that their treatment of Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli agent in peril, is unacceptable. That the only acceptable treatment is to show Jonathan the respect that he deserves as an Israeli agent and to put his name on the official Knesset roll with all of Israel's MIAs and captives, just like they told everyone they were going to do!!!!
Here are the contact numbers:
Contact Numbers for Speaker Ruby Rivlin and MK Ruchama Avraham:
RUBY RIVLIN: From Israel: 02-675-3444
From the U.S.: 011- 972-2-675-3444
From Israel: 02-649-6193
From the U.S.: 011- 972-2-649-6193
RUCHAMA AVRAHAM: From Israel: 02-675-3206 or 02-675-3280
From the U.S.: 011-972-2-675-3206 or 011- 972-2-675-3280
From Israel: 02-675-3360
From the U.S.: 011-972-2- 675-3360
J4JP Note: This interview may be copied, translated, recirculated and reprinted, as is, without additions or deletions, with appropriate accreditation to IMRA
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
See Also: Tannenbaum demotion process starts: The Jerusalem Post