Sorry Jonathan - You Never Had A Chance

Assemblyman Dov Hikind - Jewish Press (NY) - February 23, 2001

The list reads like a "Who's Who" of the Jewish establishment - all the Establishment and non-Establishment players who lined up to endorse the pardoning of Marc Rich. Abraham Foxman of the ADL, Hadassah Women, Shulamit Aloni, Ehud Barak, Zubin Mehta, Roni Milo, and so many others - the "machers" the "nouveaux machers" and the self-anointed "machers" were tripping over themselves to call in all their favors. To them Jonathan Pollard was at best an also-ran. Sure he was languishing in prison, in his 16th year in a maximum security federal facility. Sure he had served a term longer than any other individual convicted of a similar crime. And there were legitimate issues regarding due process and equity, but when it came right down to it, these machers traded what Jewish collateral they had for Marc Rich and left Jonathan Pollard out in the cold.

In his lengthy eight-point op-ed in The New York Times attempting to extricate himself from the quagmire of possible misconduct in the Rich pardon, former President Bill Clinton makes a sweeping indictment of all "the beautiful people" when he catalogues the intense overtures of the international Jewish community on behalf of Marc Rich: "...finally, and importantly, many present and former high-ranking Israeli officials of both major political parties and leaders of Jewish communities in American and Europe urged the pardon of Mr. Rich because of his contributions and services to Israeli charitable causes, to the Mossad's efforts to rescue and evacuate Jews from hostile countries, and to the peace process through sponsorship of education and health programs in Gaza and the West Bank."

The rank and file of "macherdom" laid it all on the line for Rich, whose pardon is not the issue. And I hope they will not be offended if I wonder out loud about the real issue - why couldn't they mount a reciprocal offensive to pressure the President to free Jonathan Pollard?

I hope they can find it in their beautiful hearts to forgive me for questioning their motives. Granted they issued the perfunctory press-releases and composed the obligatory letters calling for clemency and such for Jonathan Pollard, but mingling in these circles at this level, they all knew - this was an either/or proposition. There was no way that the Jewish community would get both the Rich and the Pollard pardon. No way. No how. More than any of us - the "beautiful people" knew that and they gambled because somehow in the broader Jewish Establishment scheme of things, Jonathan Pollard just doesn't rate as high as Marc Rich. Jonathan Pollard rates a press release; he may even rate a letter, but when it comes right down to it, what can Pollard offer the Jewish community? Jewish organizations live and die by the dollar, and Marc Rich has got an awful lot of those dollars that he spread around quite magnanimously. So Marc Rich merits an outpouring of passion and compassion on behalf of his case, and there just isn't enough left to go around for Pollard. He's left high and dry.

What a shame that Pollard's prolonged incarceration in a cell in which he can only walk a couple of feet could not arouse the same compassion as a man who enjoys unimpeded luxury, and whose playground is all of the world, except for the U.S. This was not an analogous pardon petition - Rich has not spent a day incarcerated, has never spent any time in solitary confinement, is not in poor health, and his life is not in jeopardy on a daily basis. The contrast is clear - Rich is in exile; Pollard is in prison. And Rich, through no fault of his own received a pardon that Pollard did not. The fault is not Rich's; I put fault squarely at the feet of the Jewish leadership who knew exactly what they were doing.

Still and all, I applaud those who remained above the fray an refused to be drawn into the chorus, who refused to sell out, because they knew what the ramifications would be for Jonathan Pollard. My regard for Elie Wiesel has risen inestimably for his forthrightness in declining to inject himself in the Rich debacle. He stood on principle and would not ininvolve himself in the force to lobby Bill Clinton for a pardon for the fugitive financier, saying that he was concerned about diverting attention from the person he really wanted pardoned, Jonathan J. Pollard. Wiesel said, "I saw him twice in prison and I condemn what he did. Nevertheless, he suffered enough, and I thought if I did anything else it would affect Jonathan Pollard."

Even with Wiesel, staying out of it, we didn't stand a chance. How could we possibly compete with all that money, with all that clout, with all the machers who put Bill Clinton's feet to the fire? The Jewish leadership and the Establishment sent the message to Bill Clinton loud and clear that they wanted Marc Rich pardoned. They never sent that message as loudly or as clearly for Jonathan Pollard. Jonathan Pollard never had a chance, and neither did we.

See Also:
  • Expose: Using Pollard To Get Rich - Yediot Achronot Exclusive
  • The Clemency Page