The Betrayed Prisoner - A Visit With Jonathan Pollard
Moshe Feiglin - Manhigut Yehudit - July 22, 2004
"We must walk in line and remain on this side of the corridor", Esther Pollard explained to me when we first entered the prison, "the cameras have to monitor us all the time".
We advanced down the long corridor which leads to the visiting room at FCI Butner: Esther, Rabbi Pesach Lerner (Jonathan's American rabbi), Shmuel Sackett (of Manhigut Yehudit), Aviv Ezra (the Israeli Deputy Consul from Atlanta) and I.
We were accompanied by a prison guard and an American Intelligence officer, who had come from Washington to monitor the visit. The monitor was there to ensure that after 20 years in prison, Jonathan did not reveal any American state secrets to me, the Israeli. It was, of course, forbidden to speak in Hebrew.
Esther led the way down the hall. She is an intelligent and special woman who has devoted her life to Jonathan, whom we were about to meet.
When I recognized Jonathan at a distance, standing in the prison compound behind a glass separation and locked doors and smiling at us, tears came to my eyes; with difficulty I overcame them.
Jonathan was escorted into the visiting room. We greeted each other and shook hands warmly.
"I am so delighted to see you!" I said to him. "The same here!" Jonathan replied with a broad smile. "From what they write about you I expected to meet a frightening, tough guy weighing half a ton!" he added with a laugh.
Jonathan also welcomed the other visitors. "Please give my thanks to your son, Gavriel, for the letter he sent me", Jonathan said to Shmuel Sackett. "Tell him that I really appreciated it." Jonathan indicated that he receives a great deal of mail from Israel and all over the world. He reads all the letters. "I am not able to reply", he told us, " but I read every single card and letter that I receive. They are very important to me and deeply appreciated."
Most of the time Jonathan spoke and we listened, impressed. It was immediately clear that Jonathan knows all about Manhigut. He went into details, understood the ideology very well. I couldn't help being impressed by this person whom I had met in the Federal prison in North Carolina. He was analytical, clear, fluent, deep-thinking, and recalled the most minute details, while at the same time retained an overall view of the entire picture. A man of belief and a man of action, all this after twenty years of prolonged betrayal by his brothers - betrayal that left him a prisoner, subject to physical and mental torture that would have been enough to drive a normal person mad. Without doubt, this is one of the most impressive people I've met in my life, perhaps the most impressive of all.
He showed us a laminated card which features a special prayer which his rav, HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu composed, and he asked Manhigut Yehudit to print as many copies as possible of it, and to circulate it throughout Israel. Esther added that HaRav Eliyahu promised that any person who says this prayer for Jonathan is also answered in Heaven. Jonathan continued, "I would also like all Likud central committee members to receive a copy of this prayer card". We took this task upon ourselves with pleasure.
" Israeli politicians think that in order to succeed in Israel you have to show the public that you have good connections in America", Jonathan explained. "Some of them have good intentions, but no Israeli politician is prepared to risk incurring the displeasure of the Americans, so they just go around in circles. They make all the right noises when speaking to the Israeli public, but in practice do little or nothing to bring about my release. They talk a lot -all for local consumption - but take no meaningful steps to signal to the Americans that they really want to bring an end to this disgrace."
Jonathan pointed out that the Americans claim that Israel alone broke a long-standing gentleman's agreement by spying in the U.S. and that the Americans still use this excuse to justify his grossly disproportionate sentence and harsh treatment. "But the truth is", Jonathan told us, "there have been a number of Israelis who have been caught spying for the U.S. in Israel.
"One of them, Angie Kielczynski - ( mf: the traitor who fingered Pollard) - even served as a member of the Knesset Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defense. He was appointed by Ariel Sharon! When he returned to Israel, after years abroad working for the CIA, Kielczynskiwas never arrested, nor was he ever even interrogated about his espionage for the Americans - which he openly, publicly admitted to! He even gave an interview to Kol Yisrael about his espionage activities for the Americans. It is on our web site.
"Other Israelis who spied for the U.S., like IDF officer, Yossi Amit, were treated humanely and released after relatively short sentences."
Amit was arrested in Israel just months after Pollard was arrested in the U.S. Israel did not press for a spy swap. The most recently revealed case, Pollard pointed out, was that of an Israeli cabinet minister who spied for the U.S. around the time of the Six Day War. Newly released U.S. government documents exposed this. The U.S., of course, continues to spy in Israel.
"112 MKs have signed a petition calling for my release," Pollard told us, "but Sharon refuses to deliver it to President Bush."
"The behavior of Israel's leaders is the continuation of the Sin of the Spies - 'We were like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and in their eyes'," Jonathan quoted from the Torah portion, "Vayishlach".
"They (Israel's leaders) are grasshoppers in their own eyes. They have no faith in G-d, so America has turned into their g-d. They are afraid of the Americans and ashamed of me. I have remained in prison for twenty years not only because of the indifference of the Israeli Government, but also because of their complicity. My sentence is grossly disproportionate, and it was unjustly obtained, but the Government of Israel has never uttered a word of protest about it, nor about the harsh conditions I have been subjected to."
"Others who spied for allies of the U.S. received very short sentences, or no jail time at all. Even hostile spies who spied for enemies of this country - a far more serious crime - have received much lighter sentences. Many of these hostile spies were arrested after me but have long since gone free. Their governments protected and defended them, fought for them, and made it clear to the U.S. that they were not alone."
The things that Jonathan said did not surprise me. I have always felt that his release was prevented by the Israelis and not by the Americans. What really surprised me was the clarity with which Jonathan explained the issue".
It was obvious that Jonathan knows better than anyone else what has to be done to bring about his release. But there are those in Jerusalem who prefer to sabotage and undermine him by misrepresenting him and falsely characterizing him as a wretched person who, after so many years in prison, has lost his stability. I have never met a person more stable than him.
"I am a little familiar with the feeling", I told Jonathan. "About a month ago Yediot Aharonot published my picture next to that of Hitler".
Pollard was thunderstruck. "They really did that to you?" This was the first time that he stopped smiling.
"Three simple things are required in order to secure my release", said Pollard. "These are the things that Israel has repeatedly done in the past any time she wanted to secure the release of an agent. In nearly 2 decades, Israel has never done them for me. They are the immediate formalization and implementation of the following:
a) a government policy on my case
b) my captivity status
c) prison visits from the Ambassador
"Let me explain:
"First of all, a clear government policy is the
sine qua non for any Israeli effort to secure my release. It is a declaration of fact and a statement of intent. I even mapped out all of the points that were needed in such a government policy. These are simple statements of fact including the following: (Pollard reads the points to us from a paper.)
" (i) Jonathan Pollard was a bona fide Israeli agent who acted in good faith at the
behest of his Government superiors;
"(ii) The Government of Israel has taken full responsibility for the operation and has formally apologized to the United States;
"(iii) The Government of Israel is outraged at the sentence and treatment of her agent, Jonathan Pollard, which has been unjustified by the facts and circumstances of his case. In particular, the Government of Israel draws attention to the recent admission of Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger in which he concedes "the Pollard matter was comparatively minor. It was made far bigger than its actual importance." [Excerpted from: Caspar's Ghost.]
"(iv) The Government of Israel expects the United States to honor all prior commitments made to free Mr. Pollard;
"(v) The recent Knesset resolution signed by 112 Members of Knesset calling for the repatriation of Mr. Pollard underscores the fact that Mr. Pollard's release is viewed as a national priority by both the Government and people of Israel.
"Secondly", Pollard continued, " the formalization and implementation of my captivity status is essential. It gives substance to the Government's 1998 declaration that I am an Israeli agent and that the Government accepts full responsibility for me. It takes that declaration from out of the air where it hangs, and defines the Government's specific obligations towards me and my wife. It defines my treatment and the kinds of efforts to be made for my release according to Ministry of Defense standards, and it provides the Ambassador with the tools that he needs in order to ease my daily suffering.
"Thirdly, regular prison visits by the Ambassador for the duration of my incarceration sends a clear message to the Americans that Israel is serious this time about securing my release. Moreover, the Ambassador is the only official in a position to assist me for as long as I remain in prison. To do so, he needs to be empowered by a clearly articulated government policy and by the formalization of my captivity status.
"That's all - three simple points that every other Israeli agent in my situation received automatically in the past: a clear policy, implementation of my status of "captive", and visits by the Ambassador - that's all I ask for."
Pollard also pointed out that, as an Israeli agent, he is by definition a captive, and that all that remains is to for the Government to implement that status. He dismissed those MKs who are uninformed and think that it is not possible to be a captive in a friendly country. "Even the Geneva Convention", he explained, "allows for the status of captive in a friendly nation".
When Jonathan finished speaking, he gave me his full attention.
"You know", I said to Jonathan, "I'll explain why I decided to come here. First of all, I wanted your image to always be before my eyes. Manhigut Yehudit means responsibility for every Jew, loyalty and not treachery.
The second thing that I wanted from you" The tears choked me, and for a long moment I couldn't continue to speak.
"The second thing that I wanted from you was that you should pray for our success. There is no Jew in the world today that has sacrificed and suffered so much for the Jews as you have. I believe that your prayer must be answered. Pray for our success, the Jewish people need it."
"You know, twenty years ago, when you were thrown out of the Israeli Embassy, I was a young officer who had just finished my army service and was starting my life. Your imprisonment came as a shock to me. The State of Israel, which I then believed was the Jewish State, took pains to rescue and return Aviam Sella to Israel - the Israeli Air Force officer who had run you. It hit me then that they had rescued the Israeli but threw the Jew (you) to the dogs. I understood then, for the first time, that the State of Israel may be the State of the Israelis, but it is not the State of the Jews - and it certainly is not a Jewish State. I think that everything I have experienced since then, right up until the establishment of Manhigut Yehudit, began at that moment."
Jonathan was visibly moved. He controlled his feelings much better than I did. "Wait", Jonathan requested. "Before you go on, what you know is just the tip of the iceberg."
We continued to talk for another hour. We had to finish. We embraced one another. It was hard to leave.
"You know", I said to Esther when we finally left, "Jonathan's story encompasses the crisis of identity, the flight from ourselves, the entire complications and tragedy of Zionism, of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel."
"You're right", Esther told me in fluent Hebrew, "Jonathan is the mirror of all of the values and principles that our current leaders have either forgotten or are trying very hard to ignore."
She then returned to her tiny room in a run-down motel near her husband's jail.
* * *
You can send letters to Jonathan to the following address:
Jonathan Pollard - 09185-016
PO Box 1000
Butner, North Carolina 27 509-1000
You can write to Esther Pollard c/o Justice4JP at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
For information on the Pollard Case visit jonathanpollard.org