One in 60

(A Wake Up Call to Senator Lieberman)

From the "What's going on .....Around the Beltway" Column
The Washington Jewish Week, March 19, 1999

The leaders of the National Council of Young Israel, which represents more than 150 Orthodox synagogues across North America is urging fellow Orthodox Jew Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) to remove his name from a letter to President Clinton opposing the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.

Lieberman and 59 other senators wrote to Clinton in January urging him to "deny clemency in the interest of justice and in the interest of national security."1 During the Wye negotiations in October, Clinton agreed to review Pollard's case.

In a letter to Lieberman, the leaders of the group said Lieberman's decision to sign the letter was an "inversion" of the Talmudic principle of Echad B'Shishim, which means that any one element in a mixture of 60 parts is overwhelmed by the majority.

"In this case the one was not lost in the 60," the leaders wrote, who praised Lieberman for publicly rebuking Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky and urged him to use his moral voice to speak out for justice, which they say Pollard has been denied.

Dan Gerstein, a spokesman for Lieberman, said the senator received the letter and is "preparing a response."


February 17, 1999

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman
Senate Hart Building; Room 706
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Lieberman:

The talmudic principle of Echad B'Shishim means that any single element mixed in a ratio of one part in sixty is nullified, overwhelmed by the majority and indistinguishable from the rest. This ratio may satisfy kosher standards in cooking, but not kosher standards in politics. An inversion of the law of Echad B'Shishim occurred when one name, Joseph I. Lieberman, was appended to a chorus of fifty-nine other senators who signed the letter from the Senate Intelligence Committee imploring the White House to deny clemency to Jonathan Pollard. In this case the one was not lost in the sixty.

The National Council of Young Israel is compelled to speak out against the injustice endured by Jonathan Pollard. We are proud to add, that our voice is Echad B'Shishim, not alone but blended in a chorus formed from the breadth of Jewish organizations, secular to religious. This unanimity within our often fractious community reflects the genuine and pervasive belief that the treatment of Jonathan Pollard is unjustified and vindictive. Weaknesses, both legal and moral, abound in the government's handling of this case, literally from A-Aldrich Ames concealing his treason by attributing Soviet leaks to Pollard, to Z-the anti-Zionist bias of those spearheading the govenment's case, starting with then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and continuing to the present.

Virtually all the Torah leaders of our generation have signed a document calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard on the grounds of the Torah imperative, "Redemption of a Captive," Pidyon Shevuyim. The Senators' letter, predictable in content and recommendation, stands in angry contrast to the Rabbis' compassionate entreaty. Based upon unverifiable emotional claims, the letter is at best inaccurate, at worst wrong. It is easy to challenge its claims. What is difficult is determining the animus motivating elements within our government. Though spying against the United States cannot be condoned under any circumstances, our federal laws clearly discern a difference between spying for an ally and spying for the enemy: the former is espionage; the latter is treason. This is not merely a semantic distinction. The penalty for treason exceeds espionage, unequivocally establishing a difference between these two reprehensible crimes.

To suggest that our international standing would be diminished by releasing Jonathan Pollard is fundamentally wrong. For the United States to address the wrongs it committed against a citizen would only enhance America's standing as an honest broker in the forum of international politics. By demonstrating an inviolable commitment to the rule of law, the United States proves it has great confidence in its moral strength.

The argument that the morale of the intelligence community would be effected by the release of Jonathan Pollard is irrelevant. Does it justify sacrificing a citizen and his rights in order to assuage the fragile psyche of certain members of the intelligence community? Certainly compromising the honor and integrity of the United States and its commitment to justice and fair play is a greater challenge to our nation's reputation than the release of Jonathan Pollard.

Jonathan Pollard has unequivocally stated remorse for his actions countless times. To condemn the sincerity of his remorse is not only presumptuous but offensive. It is also contrary to the reports of his visitors and our National Council of the Young Israel office which speaks with Jonathan, often several times a day. His recognition that the emotional and physical hell of his punishment are a consequence of his regrettable actions has inspired him to contrition so intense and sincere that all who have contact with Jonathan are moved and somehow genuinely enriched by the experience.

The most surprising element of the letter is that you, a dedicated friend of Israel, would attach your name to the claim that clemency would appear to be an "acquiescence to external political pressures." This phrase seems lifted directly from "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." It deserves condemnation, not your signature.

At this point the case of Jonathan Pollard is far less glamorous, yet more dramatic and compelling than elements within the government and the press would lead one to believe. Lost in sleight-of-hand rhetoric meant to distract the jury of public opinion is the real issue: the violation of the legal rights of Jonathan Pollard, a citizen of the United States. He had his government tendered plea bargain agreement rescinded after his full compliance; he has been denied legal due process by not having the opportunity to confront his accusers and their ever-more fantastic accusations; and he has been outside the privileged cabal which has read the last-second secret "fact filled" memo from then Secretary of Defense Weinberger to the presiding judge.

Due process demands that Jonathan Pollard be able to consult the new claims echoing behind the closed doors and corridors of Capitol Hill. If there is new information then your conscience should compel you to demand that he confront it and it confront him.2 If there is no new information, considering the intense vindictiveness of the government, why did the government in the original indictment not pursue the most severe measure of the law available, instead offering him a plea bargain? Did they think that his crime would be punished appropriately by the terms of the plea bargain, or with a nudge and wink between agreeing offices, was everyone but Pollard and his team aware that the fix was in and the government never had the genuine intention of honoring their end of the plea bargain, knowing it could take the proverbial "pound of flesh" whenever it wished?

Your speech delivered on the Senate floor this past September has entered the corpus of American thought, framing the discourse of our nation's numerous moral contracts, specifically the moral obligation the President has to our country, and the analogous contract between the government and its citizens. The government should be held to the higher moral standard because it is infused with the moral authority of the Constitution, a document designed to protect individuals and their rights from the potential tyranny of government. Recognizing an actual legal confrontation is not in its best interest, the government continues to prosecute Jonathan Pollard in a supra-legal manner with orchestrated and venal leaks to the press and politicians.

It is unknown whether the evidence and information presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee is the same that Mr. Pollard was confronted with at trial. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the government is presenting fabrications and exaggerations to sway opinions. It is therefore unconscionable that the government, in apparent coordination between its branches, should perpetuate this travesty of justice against Jonathan Pollard and deny requests that would safeguard his rights and the integrity of this process.

This case should not be considered merely through the parochial prism of a "Jewish Issue," but rather argued as an historic violation of legal rights. It would be no less repugnant if this epic breach of civil liberties were perpetrated against any American citizen. Law is to be fair and impartial, predictable and consistent for every citizen. This is a sacrosanct value to the United States. To compromise justice is to embrace vindictiveness and favoritism, "placing partisan or personal interest" above "the common good."

Senator Lieberman, your courage to speak these words without regard to personal consequence and your desire to restore the moral compass of our country is manifest in the public rebuke you proffered a dear friend. You inspired the nation, and the nation in turn raised you by acclamation to the role of the moral voice of a morally challenged period. Call upon this strength emanating from your commitment to the values illuminating the world since the revelation at Sinai and remove your one name from the sixty, nullify Echad B'Shishim. Defend America's national trust, the Constitution and the rights inalienable it endows to every American citizen. Tsedek, Tsedek Tirdof-- "Justice-- Justice you shall pursue."

(signed) Gerald L. Kaufman, President
Chaim S. Kaminetzky, Chairman of the Board
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President
Meir Solomon Editor, NCYI Viewpoint Magazine

cc: Jonathan Pollard

See Also:
  • The Connecticut Jewish Ledger on Lieberman's claim of "new" information.
  • The Senators' Letter.
  • Assemblyman Sam Colman's Open Letter To Senator Lieberman.

  • Return to Lieberman page