Death In Prison

by Esther Pollard

SPECIAL TO IMRA - November 12, 2000

May be reprinted with appropriate accreditation

Last week another inmate was brutally murdered in the prison. Jonathan and I were in the visiting room at the time of the murder and we witnessed the slain body being carried out. That evening, I wrote privately to Jewish leaders to express my fears for Jonathan. Not a single one responded.

November 21, 2000 will mark the end of Jonathan's 15th year in prison and the beginning of his 16th year of a life sentence. In a recent letter to a prominent Jewish leader I wrote in frustration, "Does Jonathan Pollard have to die in prison (G-d forbid) for our people to understand the urgency of his predicament - that he is in mortal danger every single day?"

Every time I hear Jewish leaders say, "But his case is now before the courts. There is nothing more to be done until the court rules," I am ready to tear my hair out. They are dead wrong. This is just one more excuse in a fifteen-year litany of excuses by the Jewish leadership to absolve itself of any responsibility. Now, more than ever, is the time for strong advocacy on behalf of Jonathan. We have 15 years of experience to prove that unless his case is maintained as high-profile and unless political pressure is galvanized to keep it on a front burner, it can easily be subverted and buried again.

I routinely receive email messages from good Jews criticizing me for not leading a march on Washington or organizing a mass rally on behalf of Jonathan. But these good Jews do not want to hear that such public events require massive funding, and a high degree of organization - the kind of funds and organization that the Jewish leadership possesses but steadfastly refuses to expend on Jonathan.

It is also clear that the American Jewish newspapers are now following the leadership and are taking the same tack which the Israeli media took some time ago. We have been bluntly told by the Israeli press that the only thing they consider "news" and worthy of printing is either Jonathan's death (G-d forbid) or his release, but please not to bother them with anything else. Now that the American Jewish media has taken the same attitude, it is like pulling teeth to get anyone to write about Jonathan's new legal case or even to get them to print what little is written.

This week 4000 Jewish leaders will meet in Chicago at the plenum of Jewish Federations. Imagine how much it would have elevated the profile of Jonathan's case if the Pollard name were on the speakers list. Ironically, even those who organized a protest rally outside of the Chicago plenum never thought of including Jonathan, or of inviting me or his attorneys to speak on his behalf. In 15 years, Jonathan has never been included on any serious agenda by the Jewish leadership. Not even now, when a new lawsuit powerfully demonstrates how he was railroaded and unjustly sentenced to life in prison.

For 15 years, Jewish leaders in America and in Israel have made a concerted effort to keep the Pollard case peripheral to everything that is going on in the Jewish world, when in fact the case is central. It is the litmus test of Jewish equality in America and of the integrity of the US-Israel special relationship. Ignoring the plight of Jonathan Pollard does not change this reality.

By accepting and tolerating the Israeli Government's long-standing abandonment of one Jew, Jonathan Pollard, the Jewish People have established a paradigm for and the acceptance of a government policy of expendability that effectively abandons Israel's five million Jews, one by one. Five million, after all, is just a multiple of one.

What will it take to make the Jewish People understand that every single day in prison Jonathan stares death in the face and dares not blink. How long will Jonathan be forced to rely on miracles? What is the Jewish leadership waiting for? For Jonathan Pollard to die in prison? G-d forbid!