Interview: Esther Pollard: Israel Has Not Protested Brutal Treatment of Jonathan
Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA - November 16, 2003
IMRA interviewed Esther Pollard in English November 16, 2003.
IMRA: In a J4JP November 14 release, "A Portrait of American Justice", you write that Jonathan was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in Washington for two weeks prior to the September 2nd oral arguments, including extreme isolation, physical degradation, and sensory deprivation.
Has the Government of Israel protested?
Esther Pollard: What do you mean?
IMRA: Has the American Ambassador been called in? Has Israel voiced its displeasure to America over its treatment of an Israeli agent?
Esther Pollard: No. There has been no protest, that we know of.
IMRA: Does the Government of Israel know how Jonathan was treated?
Esther Pollard: Yes. We let this be known to Israeli Government officials immediately after it occurred. Jonathan also described the brutal treatment he had suffered in Washington to the MKs who visited him in North Carolina on September 22nd. As well, our latest release (14 November) which described Jonathan's ordeal was faxed to Israeli Government officials, including the Prime Minister.
IMRA: Has anyone responded? Has any Government official been in touch with you or Jonathan?
Esther Pollard: No.
IMRA: Are you aware of any intention on the part of the Government of Israel to protest the way Jonathan was treated?
Esther Pollard: No.
IMRA: Esther, why did you wait so long to go public about this?
Esther Pollard: Aaron, all of our key people knew. Israeli officials knew. Everyone who needed to know was made aware. But we could not go public as long as Jonathan's case was still before the court.
IMRA: Was the judge aware that Jonathan was being handled in such an inhumane way?
Esther Pollard: Yes.
IMRA: How do you know?
Esther Pollard: Jonathan saw a document which showed that the judge had signed off on the orders for his "special treatment." I believe our attorneys have recently obtained a copy of that document.
IMRA: So the judge had no objection to Jonathan being treated so brutally?
Esther Pollard: Obviously not.
IMRA: Can you tell us where the explicit instructions came from? Who are the "higher ups" who ordered that Jonathan be treated this way?
Esther Pollard: Aaron, it makes no difference who "they" are specifically. What difference would it make to know if this came from the Justice Department or from the Justice, Intelligence and Defense Departments?
IMRA: People could write to them to protest.
Esther Pollard: The point is not that we need Israel or the Jewish leadership to protest two weeks of brutalization that Jonathan has endured, but to protest the 18 years of unjust incarceration that Jonathan continues to endure with no end in sight.
IMRA: Are you suggesting that everyone overlook this outrageous treatment?
Esther Pollard: Not at all! But one must understand that the decision the judge made to reject Jonathan's legal cases and the cruel and unusual treatment that Jonathan endured while in Washington are organic parts of the same whole picture. Each part accurately reflects the other. Jonathan was brutalized physically, emotionally, and mentally while he was attending the September 2nd oral arguments, and then he was brutalized judicially by the decision handed down when it was over. Neither happened in a vacuum. Nor is this a one-time occurrence. Rather the brutalization of Jonathan Pollard is the hallmark of a case that cries out for relief, but which for the last 18 years, has been brushed aside and kicked to the curb by Israel and the Jewish leaders, like some odious, ownerless dog.
It is not only Jonathan's treatment in prison that should cause people to get up in arms, but the fact that he is still in prison at all! That is the issue which Israel and the Jewish leadership completely ignore.
IMRA: Is that why you and Jonathan responded to the court's decision by going public with how he was treated?
Esther Pollard: Yes. They are one and the same. The same system that sent a message to Israel and the American Jewish Community by keeping Jonathan isolated, dirty, hungry, cut off from the world and completely deprived sensorily, was also communicating a message about how his legal case would be treated.
IMRA: And was it?
Esther Pollard: Yes. Look, I am not an attorney and I would not presume to explain this with the kind of depth or clarity that our attorneys can, but all you have to do is look at how these motions were turned down. The judge never even addressed the merits of the motions. He used superficial and technical excuses to just dismiss the cases. He never looked at the injustice of Jonathan's sentence or the manner in which it was obtained or at the blatant legal missteps made by previous counsel. In effect he mostly just said, tough luck, technically you have no right to talk about any injustice now, so stay in prison forever because it is too late to talk about it. Judicially, that is not any less brutal and immoral, than the kind of physical and emotional deprivation and degradation that was visited on Jonathan.
IMRA: What about the secret documents case?
Esther Pollard: There, too, the judge never addressed the issues, such as the fairness and rightness of Jonathan's attorneys being allowed access to the classified portions of Jonathan's court docket, unlike Government employees who freely access the classified docket in order to oppose clemency.
In his decision the judge stated that the current President is not any more likely to grant clemency to Jonathan than his predecessors, so there is no need for Jonathan's attorneys to access the secret portions of the court docket.
The reason previous Presidents could so easily turn down clemency for Jonathan is precisely because his attorneys were prevented from seeing these portions of the record, which the opponents of clemency were using against Jonathan. That is why Jonathan's attorneys went to court over the documents, so that a strong, informed petition could be presented to the current President. But the judge jumped the gun, presumed to answer for the President, and dismissed out of hand any possibility of clemency. He had no right to do this, but it was his excuse to deny the attorneys' request to see the secret documents. It is twisted reasoning.
IMRA: Why was Jonathan brutalized for two weeks before the actual court date? Why wasn't he brought to Washington the same day as the oral arguments?
Esther Pollard: In fact Aaron, the plan was to humiliate and degrade him for far longer than two weeks. The original plan called for Jonathan to be taken out of FCI Butner a month before the September 2nd hearing. We found out about this plan and stopped it. At the time, we had no idea of all of the afflictions and deprivations that were to be visited upon Jonathan. Now we know that if we had not stopped the original transfer in August, he would have had at least a month of this despicable treatment. Imagine going a month in the same dirty underwear, no soap, no showers, no phone calls, no visits, no reading materials, no television, no radio, no exercise, no fresh air, just the endless monotony and complete sensory and emotional deprivation.
IMRA: Do you see this treatment as simply an expression of hatred towards Jonathan?
Esther Pollard: They don't hate Jonathan. In fact his tormentors often showed a great deal of respect for him personally.
IMRA: So what was this treatment all about?
Esther Pollard: Jonathan is a symbol. The rest of the world does not recognize that any gap exists between Pollard and Israel, or Pollard and the American Jews, and the worse Jonathan is treated with no word of protest from the Jews, the more they draw the appropriate conclusions about the Jewish State and the Jewish Community.
Jonathan is also a means to an end. Persecuting Jonathan is a convenient way to degrade Israel, to call into question her reliability as an ally, and to hold the American Jewish community in contempt. Those in the American administration who feel this way will continue to exploit Jonathan's plight as a means of debasing Israel and the Jews.
IMRA: The way Jonathan was treated in Washington, you say, let you and Jonathan know from the outset more or less how the judge would decide the case.
Esther Pollard: Yes. Let me go one step farther. I am quite certain that if things had gone according to the plan from "higher up", Jonathan would have said or done something to discredit himself in court and concurrently the judge would have ruled against him on both cases on the same day, September 2nd. That was the plan.
IMRA: So what happened?
Esther Pollard: A miracle. The miracle of Pollard and Lauer and Semmelman. First of all Jonathan behaved with perfect dignity. Next and more importantly, the performance of Jonathan's attorneys was so brilliant and their arguments so cogent, and so compelling that it made it difficult, if not impossible, for the judge to turn them down out of hand.
If you read the transcript of the oral arguments you will see that every attempt was made to shut Lauer and Semmelman down before they really got started. And it did not work. They both overcame the initial offensive and they both presented brilliantly. If they had not been so effective and so competent, I am sure that the decision to deny Jonathan's motions would likely have occurred at once.
There is no question that Eliot Lauer demolished every argument the Government ever presented in opposition to allowing the attorneys to see the secret portions of the docket. And Jacques Semmelman clearly made the case for how the gross ineffectiveness of Jonathan's original legal counsel not only resulted in a life sentence for Jonathan, but also effectively removed forever Jonathan's legal right to appeal the sentence.
IMRA: So if their performance was so good, why did the judge deny the motions?
Esther Pollard: That's just it, Aaron, in his decision the judge never even addressed the issues they presented. He never even looked at the merits of the case. He simply used technicalities to deny Jonathan the right to have his case for resentencing heard and to prevent his attorneys from seeing the secret portions of the court docket.
IMRA: Can the attorneys appeal?
Esther Pollard: Yes. They are planning to.
IMRA: Do you hold out hope for the appeal process?
Esther Pollard: Let me answer firstly as a Pollard advocate and secondly as Jonathan's wife.
As a Pollard advocate, I am always hopeful that by taking the case up the chain within the judicial system we will eventually reach a level that has not been tainted by its predecessors. When we took the case back to court a decade after Jonathan's last try, we certainly hoped that this would be true. Unfortunately that was not the case, and we have seen once again how the merits of the case have been buried on technicalities. Nevertheless, as we go to appeal once again, we again hope for the best.
As Jonathan's wife, I must answer a little differently. First of all, the time factor. Only the secret documents case has the automatic right of appeal. The other case still needs to go through another judicial process to gain a certificate of appealability. The process of appealing both cases and making a dent in Jonathan's situation can take years - three to five years or more.
The American judicial system has failed Jonathan repeatedly for nearly two decades, and we are out of time. On November 21, 2003 Jonathan will enter year 19 of a life sentence. He has already served many more times as long as anyone else in the US convicted of a similar offense.
The establishment's vested interests in keeping Jonathan in prison, even after so many years, keeps tainting the judicial process for us. This is a case where the system is either unwilling or incapable of correcting itself.
It is precisely for cases like this, that the President is granted the powers of executive clemency. For Jonathan to even stand a chance of executive clemency, both Israel and the American Jewish leadership have to stop running away and pretending that his case has nothing to do with them. Up until now, they have never protested the brutal treatment that Jonathan has endured both physically and judicially for 18 years. The American administration drew the appropriate conclusion, namely that there would never be any consequences for the harsh treatment of an Israeli agent. If anyone is to blame for prolonging Jonathan's suffering it is the Jewish leaders in Israel and in America who have allowed this case to fester for 18 years.
That has to end. Israel and the American Jews have to make it clear to the President that this is a matter of National priority for Israel and for the American Jewish Community. They have to insist that Jonathan's attorneys be given access to the secret portions of the court docket, so that they can properly prepare an informed petition for executive clemency. Once it is filed, Israel and the American Jewish leaders have to throw their full weight behind the petition - just as they threw their full weight behind a petition for billionaire fugitive Marc Rich. Without that, the mud that continues to be slung at Jonathan will continue to stick to Israel and the Jews forever - and there is no escape for anyone.
IMRA: Mabat, Channel One Television News this evening, covered the large prayer rally and demonstration calling for the UJC General Assembly meeting now in Jerusalem to press for Jonathan's freedom. When Mabat asked Steve Hoffman, UJC President and CEO, for a reaction, he responded that the Pollard issue is "for the Israeli Government."
Esther Pollard: And Israel says the opposite, that it is America's problem. So while each points a finger at the other, they both abandon Jonathan to his fate.
Only our enemies understand that Jonathan represents the soft underbelly of the Jewish State and the Jewish community. It is tragic that no one else gets it.
Let me share with you an email that I received today. The author, a Christian American, wrote to us after reading "A Portrait of American Justice," saying that if Israel and the Jews do not want to recognize that the plight of Pollard is the plight of all Jews, then our enemies will continue to use this fact to good advantage, and to the detriment of all Jews. Ironic isn't it, that a righteous non-Jew can see so clearly what Jewish leaders have missed by a mile. Aaron, how much more tragedy will be visited upon us as a nation before our leaders wake up?
IMRA: Is there anything readers can do?
Esther Pollard: Yes. Faxes and phone calls should go to the Prime Minister of Israel and to cabinet members to demand that Israel protest the Americans' inhumane treatment of Jonathan Pollard. Israel's failure to protest the mistreatment of her agent in a US prison is an indictment of Israel, not America. The Americans will do to Jonathan whatever Israel is craven enough to let them get away with.
Also, the grassroots in Israel and America must press Jewish leaders to demand the release of Jonathan Pollard, now. The judicial charade is over. It is time for our leaders to act.
Enough is enough!
Contact Numbers for Israeli PM & Government Ministers:click here.
Faxes, Letters and phone calls recommended, not emails. (Courtesy of Women In Green)