Bigs Press Veep Pick on Pollard

The Forward - August 18, 2000 - Forward Staff

With Senator Lieberman on the Democratic ticket, Jewish leaders across the religious spectrum are renewing calls to commute the sentence of Jonathan Pollard, the former Navy analyst who is serving a life term for funneling American military secrets to Israel.

Mr. Lieberman was among 61 senators who signed a 1999 letter urging President Clinton to resist "political intervention" in the criminal case. In a letter to NY State Assemblyman Sam Colman this past April, Mr. Lieberman maintained that Pollard's actions constituted "serious breeches of law and morality" and "strained relations between Israel and its most important ally, the United States." [Justice4JP Note: See all of the Colman - Lieberman letters on the Lieberman Page.]

"Nevertheless, Mr. Lieberman is in an enviable position now to end this," said an advocate for Pollard's release, the Executive Vice President of the National Council of the Young Israel, Rabbi Pesach Lerner. "He can solve the puzzle."

"But the senator is not going to change his position just because he is on the Democratic ticket," said Mr. Lieberman's press secretary, Mr. Dan Gerstein.

Pollard was sentenced in 1987 for delivering classified defense information to Israel, including satellite photographs and documents pertaining to Arab armies. He is currently serving his sentence in a federal prison in North Carolina.

The calls for Mr. Lieberman to agitate on Pollard's behalf intensified recently after Senator Schumer reviewed Pollard's file and pronounced that there was nothing in it warranting the harsh sentence. The discrepancy in the two senators' interpretation of the facts demands an explanation said religious leaders.

"I doubt that people saw different things than Senator Lieberman did, but I have no way of knowing that," Mr. Gerstein said. "Senator Lieberman completely stands by his position, and is prohibited from revealing what is in the file because it would be a breech of national security." [Justice4JP Note: Gerstein implies that Lieberman has seen the classified Pollard file, but that simply is not true! Lieberman has repeatedly confirmed, publicly and privately, that he - unlike Schumer - has never seen the classified Pollard file and that his negative position on the case is based solely on briefings he received from the CIA - a far from neutral body.]

"I don't think we will see any flexibility ," said the President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Rabbi Eric Yoffie. He said Mr. Lieberman's position "lets (Vice President) Gore off the hook. It provides cover. If an observant Jewish candidate is opposed to Pollard's release, why shouldn't Gore be?"

"You have to assume that part of his thinking on this matter is that he doesn't want to be accused of dual loyalty." Rabbi Yoffie said. He thinks that pressure from Israel is Pollard's best chance for release. "Spy exchanges transcend judicial process. It happens all the time," he said.

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