Pollard's Wife Seeks Help of First Lady
Steven Edwards - National Post (Canada)* - September 4, 2000
NEW YORK - The Toronto-based wife of a American Jew convicted of spying for Israel has written to Hillary Clinton, the United States first lady and a candidate for senator in New York, to seek a meeting to discuss clemency for her husband.
In a letter faxed to Mrs. Clinton's campaign headquarters in New York, Esther Pollard says she wants to talk "wife to wife" to the first lady "as soon as possible." She wrote the letter after news emerged on Friday that Mrs. Clinton had intervened to prevent Ms. Pollard's husband, Jonathan, from being transferred to a prison that his supporters said is dangerous.
"I wish to thank you for expressing humanitarian interest in my husband," says Mrs. Pollard. Her husband has served 14 years of a life sentence for handing secrets to Israel while he worked as a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst.
Israel and U.S. Jewish leaders have long called for his sentence to be shortened, saying it is heavy-handed and unprecedented for a case involving secrets that went to an ally.
Mrs. Clinton, meanwhile, has seen her support in New York's sizable Jewish community plummet in the wake of a series of incidents and statements that raised questions about her commitment to causes dear to Jews.
Political observers say Mrs. Clinton intervened in Pollard's transfer to try to win back some of the lost support.
Mrs. Pollard is seizing on the move to try to goad Mrs. Clinton into issuing a call for Pollard's clemency, which only Bill Clinton, the U.S. President, can grant.
Claiming she did not want the matter of her husband's transfer to be a public issue, Mrs. Pollard says in her letter: "If there is a silver lining to be found, perhaps it is that I am aware for the first time your humanitarian interest in my husband's welfare. I am hoping that now that it is a matter of public record, you will agree to meet with me as soon as possible to discuss my husband's case."
She concludes: "It is my hope that upon further discussion, wife to wife, your humanitarian concern for the fate of my husband may be publicly expressed in more specific terms as a concern for judicial equality, due process, and the rule of law."
Mrs. Clinton has not formally responded to the request, but Howard Wolfson, her spokesman, said: "We look forward to discussing this invitation with Mrs. Pollard or Mrs. Pollard's representatives."
Jewish leaders in New York told Mrs. Clinton last week about Pollard's imminent prison transfer.
Because of concern for his safety, he has been held for the last seven years in a small unit in Butner, N.C., alongside sex offenders, who also have to be separated from other prisoners.
For an undisclosed reason, prison officials planned to send him to a unit in Virginia, which houses violent prisoners. Pollard's supporters feared he may be subject to rapes, stabbings or beatings in the new facility.
Mrs. Clinton intervened by calling what her campaign office called "White House officials." Mr. Wolfson would only describe them as the "appropriate authorities."
By Friday, just one day after the transfer request, plans were cancelled.
"We hope that Mrs. Clinton is going to take a position on the clemency issue publicly in the coming weeks," said Dov Hikind, a Democratic member of the New York States Assembly and one of Pollard's leading supporters.
"I think it is a very healthy thing for her to meet with the wife of Jonathan Pollard."
Rudy Giuliani, the Mayor of New York, who had been slated to run against Mrs. Clinton, has long supported Pollard.
However, Rick Lazio, a Republican member of the House of Representatives who is currently running against her, says he wants more information about the case before he decides on his stand.
*NB - The National Post is a Candian national newspaper which is published daily from coast to coast in Canada. The National Post and the Globe and Mail are the two major Canadian newspapers which are also available in the US.