Campaign To Free Pollard Gains Steam

Timothy Phelps - The Jerusalem Post - October 31, 1993

When Jonathan Jay Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst for the US Navy, was sentenced to life in prison for spying for Israel, Jewish groups in the United States refused to criticize the severity of the punishment.

But now, architects of a campaign to free Pollard, bolstered by a dramatic change of attitude by American Jewish leaders, hope President Clinton may be persuaded by the end of the year to release him from prison.

In 1987, when Pollard was sentenced, American Jewish groups, admittedly worried about suspicions of dual loyalty to the United States and Israel, remained silent on the prison sentence.

Israelis, meanwhile, heaped scorn on American Jews for what one former diplomat called their "cringing reaction" to the life term. In turn, American Jews were furious with Israel for jeopardizing their status by mounting a major spy operation against the United States.

But now, hundreds of Jewish groups, the city councils of New York, Los Angeles and Miami Beach and most prominent Jewish leaders have written letters to Clinton asking him to commute Pollard's sentence. Other prominent Americans, from Benjamin Hooks of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president emeritus of Notre Dame University, have joined suit.

Pollard's advocates, however, will have to overcome vehement opposition from Joseph DiGenova, a former US attorney in Washington, who prosecuted Pollard. DiGenova, in an interview with Newsday, emphasized the extent of the damage done by Pollard.

He said Pollard had provided a wide range of US intelligence to Israel on areas that had nothing to do with the Middle East, terrorism, or the vital interests of Israel. It was intelligence that was to be used "for other purposes" that he would not specify other than to say they were "strategic."

The former prosecutor also said that the American "blowback" (damage) assessment by US intelligence services indicated that some of the information given to Israel was passed to other countries.

Pollard, he maintained, had damaged US security more than any spy in US history except for John and Arthur Walker, convicted of spying for the Soviet Union in 1985-86 and sentenced to life in prison.

Last month, Pollard's cause won strong support when Melvin Salberg and Abraham Foxman, the chairman and national director, respectively of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote letters for Pollard even though their organization has not taken a stand. Foxman was one of the biggest critics of Pollard and of Israel's response to his arrest. And although Israel has tried to distance itself from the affair, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has also written to Clinton on Pollard's behalf.

Pollard's supporters attribute the change in attitude towards him to the passage of time, attacks on Israel by Iraq during the Persian Gulf war that underscored the value of his information to Israel about its enemies, and an alleged disparity between Pollard's sentence and those for other spies for "friendly" countries.

A formal request for commutation is at the Justice Department, which is expected to send it to Clinton with Reno's recommendation by late November.

A White House source said the decision is a "no-win situation" for the president.

Itim adds:

Amnon Dror, head of the Committee for Jonathan Pollard, said the intelligence information obtained by Pollard from the United States did not reach any other state. The timing of the story, said Dror, was meant to coincide with the approach of a decision on commuting Pollard's sentence. He also said that DiGenova has systematically tried to harm Pollard by lies that he gave information to the Soviets.

Justice4JP Note

Personal letters written to President Clinton by ADL Chairman Mel Salberg, and National Director Abe Foxman, were in fact more damaging to the cause of Jonathan Pollard than helpful. Each of their letters stressed that they were personal notes and not indicative of any position on the part of the ADL. This was a signal to the Administration that no offense would be taken by the ADL or its executive with regard to the Pollard issue.

These 2personal letters, as opposed to letters that could have been written on ADL letterhead, underscored theweakness of their support for Jonathan Pollard's release.

The ADL has never taken a position on the Pollard case. Its implausible excuse is that it cannot find any anti-Semitism in the case that would warrant it taking a position. The ADL supports numerous causes across a broad range of religious and political issues - many of them outside of the Jewish world. Its claim that the organization can intercede only on the grounds of anti-Semitism is stunningly dishonest.

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