Honor Rabin's Plea for Pollard

Published on Web - February 14, 2000
Originally Published in Young Israel Viewpoint - Winter 1995
David Kirshenbaum, Esq.

There is a concept in Judaism known as Chesed Shel Emet, roughly translated as an act of true kindness. The classic example of a Chesed Shel Emet is the conferring of a benefit upon the departed, such as providing for, or assisting in their burial. The act is said to be true and genuine because there can be no question about the altruism behind the deed. There is no expectation of quid pro quo.

President Clinton, along with millions of people around the world, was visibly shaken by the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a man the President had come to know, respect, and genuinely like. He eulogized him as a Chaver - as his friend. To honor Mr. Rabin's memory, there is a Chesed Shel Emet the president can perform. Prime Minister Rabin asked the President on at least three occasions during visits to the United States to do something for him. All three times, President Clinton either ignored or turned aside the Prime Minister's entreaties. Perhaps now, President Clinton will do a Chesed Shel Emet for Yitzhak Rabin and honor his friend's memory by positively responding to Prime Minister Rabin's heartfelt request - made three times - that Jonathan Pollard finally be freed.

Heeding Prime Minister Rabin's plea would, however, be more than a genuine act of kindness, it would also be the honest and just thing to do. Honest, because the Government promised Jonathan in writing that it would not ask for a life sentence, but then proceeded to break that promise. Those who insist on keeping Jonathan in prison 10 years later are still seeking to enjoy the fruit procured from a poisonous tree. Commuting Jonathan's sentence now that he has served 10 years would simply be honoring a written undertaking made, then promptly dishonored by the United States Government.

And positively responding to Prime Minister Rabin's requests would represent an act of fairness and justice. One of the fundamental tenets of our judicial system is that people who commit similar crimes are supposed to receive reasonably similar punishments. It is well documented that Jonathan Pollard has served far longer than anyone else who passed classified information to an ally or even a neutral country. Indeed the 10 years that Jonathan has spent in prison is twice the median sentence imposed for a comparable crime.

The Government has yet to come forward with a single credible example of damage caused to the United States that would even begin to justify Pollard's aberrant life sentence. The argument that the government cannot disclose such information, even 10 years after the facts, is preposterous. After all, the day after the arrest of Aldrich Ames, we could already be told that he was responsible for the deaths of at least ten US agents. Soon after, we could even be told their code names. In marked contrast, 10 years after Jonathan Pollard's arrest, neither Jonathan nor any of his lawyers, nor an incredulous American public can be told why Jonathan has been set aside for punishment infinitely more harsh than that ever imposed in a comparable case of espionage.

Studies recently released, commissioned by newly-appointed head of the CIA John Deutsch reveal that over a period of years, intelligence officials knowingly concealed from Congress and successive administrations material information about the consequences and ramifications of the Aldrich Ames fiasco as it was developing. It is therefore especially troubling that Jonathan remains incarcerated largely on the basis of classified briefings from the same intelligence community that felt no compunction about misleading this country's political leadership. Of course, since these briefings about the Pollard affair are private and classified, every accusation goes unchallenged. No American should be forced to spend a lifetime in prison on the basis of secret proceedings.

The President thus has some very good reasons for commuting the sentence of Jonathan Pollard. By doing so, the President would honor the Government's written commitment to Jonathan and help restore the Government's reliability as a contracting party. And freeing Jonathan would also help remedy what President and Hillary Clinton's fellow Yale alumnus, Judge Stephen Williams of the Federal DC Court of Appeals, characterized as the "fundamental miscarriage of justice" in the Pollard case.

But now the President has yet another strong incentive to declare an end to Jonathan's imprisonment and put behind us a terribly unfortunate chapter in US - Israel relations. Freeing Jonathan would be an act of genuine kindness a Chesed Shel Emet to the President's friend, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. During the Prime Minister's lifetime when he sought freedom for Jonathan Pollard, he was turned down by President Clinton three times. Perhaps now, following Prime Minister Rabin's tragic death, the President will honor the memory of his friend by finally acceding to his request.

Justice4JP Note:

The above article published on the web for the first time February 14, 2000, was originally published in the Winter Edition of the Young Israel Viewpoint 1995. The article is as relevant today as when it was written 5 years ago.The passage of time has only made its arguments all the more compelling.
See Also:
  • Letter to President Clinton: Malcolm Hoenlein