Esther Pollard: Rich Pardon Shames Jewish Community

Melissa Radler - The Jerusalem Post - March 6, 2001


- Calling former president Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich "tainted," Esther Pollard, the wife of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, harshly criticized American Jewry and the government of Israel for concentrating their efforts on pardoning Rich and for failing to support her husband's cause.

"The deep involvement of the American Jewish leadership and the government of Israel in those tainted pardons has become a source of embarrassment and shame for the Jewish community," said Pollard in a speech at the National Council of Young Israel's 89th annual dinner, held Sunday evening at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

Some of the 176 clemencies and pardons granted by Clinton during his last hours in office "had little to do with compelling legal and moral issues and much to do with political favors and payoffs," she said.

Pollard called on the American Jewish community to unite to work for the release of her husband. "What troubles Jonathan the most is all the finger-pointing that is now going on in the Jewish community," she said. "The Jewish leadership is so preoccupied with scapegoating one another that they appear to have forgotten that he is still in prison, still in mortal danger and urgently needs help."

"There is much that can be done to secure Jonathan's immediate release and much that needs to be done. So far, with the exception of Young Israel in the person of [executive vice president] Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Jonathan and I are carrying on the fight for justice virtually alone." Among the legal and moral reasons Pollard listed for seeking to have her husband's sentence commuted are the disproportionate sentence Pollard received for spying for an ally, which generally carries a prison term of between two and four years; Pollard's failing health, which is greatly exacerbated by prison conditions; evidence that Pollard's release was promised by Clinton as an integral part of the Wye Accords, and a new case currently before the courts in the US.

"What troubles me the most in people that I've been meeting and speaking to, is their failure to grasp the seriousness of Jonathan's physical situation, and their failure to understand their obligation to rectify the role of the Jewish community and the government of Israel," Pollard told The Jerusalem Post.

"I think the American people are disgusted and embarrassed" by the pardons, said Pollard, "because this is a country whose standard of justice is held up as a model to the rest of the world. Nothing could be more reassuring than to have the current administration move in and show what a clemency is supposed to do," she said.

See Also:
  • The Jewish Pardon Scandal Heard Round The World
  • An Unusual Snapshot of American Justice As Seen Through the Lens of the Pollard Case
  • The Clemency Page