Text of Pollard Speech at NYC Concert for Jonathan Pollard

J4JP Release - December 23, 2003

See photos from this event!

This is text of the speech that Esther Pollard presented at "A Night of Music for Jonathan Pollard Concert and Rally" held in New York City, December 23, 2003:

First of all, I would like to express our thanks to all of you who are gathered to participate in a concert in New York City tonight, the 5th candle of Chanukah, to rally for freedom for Jonathan Pollard and redemption for the Jewish People.

Jonathan and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your care and your concern, and especially for turning out tonight. Our deepest thanks go to the organizers of tonight's event, the Abadis and the Chesners and friends, who worked long and hard and with great devotion to pull this wonderful evening off.

Our deepest apologies to all, that urgent circumstances here in Butner where Jonathan is in prison, prevented me from being with you in person tonight. Our grateful appreciation to our beloved friend, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, and to our cherished attorney, Jacques Semmelman, for being there to represent us tonight.

A hearty "Yashar Koach!" to all of the musicians who gave freely of their time tonight in support of this great cause, the mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim, including: Ira Heller, Honorable Mentchen, Pay Dalet, Shimon Kugel, the Nu Radicals, Gideon's Sword and Ratzon.

I told Jonathan today that I regard you all as his Chanukah candles. He agreed, but added a caution. He said, " Our friends have to understand that they are Chanukah candles which have been lit in gale-force winds. To survive, to shed any light, to make a difference they will have to work hard to multiply the holy wicks, to transfer their flame to others, and to share their light far and wide, to conquer the overpowering darkness and the gale-force winds. They may not rest until the darkness and the storm threatening our People passes."

I agreed, and then I asked Jonathan what should I talk about tonight. I reminded him that the last time I spoke in New York, I spoke of his experience at USP Lewisberg. How he was taken to USP Lewisberg in the middle of the night and held there incommunicado, in a dungeon cell in sub-zero temperatures, naked, deprived of his clothes and glasses, and subjected to extreme sensory deprivation. How he was taken out of his dungeon cell periodically, chained to a shower stall and subjected to icy showers for extended periods of time. Jonathan said it took all of his stamina to will himself to stay alive as the freezing water beat down on his head.

As we relived the story of Lewisberg today, we avoided talking about how Jonathan was afflicted and mistreated during his recent incarceration in Washington prior to his September 2nd Court date. It is too raw and still upsets us deeply to talk about it. Perhaps the worst scar is upon our hearts. Israeli and American Jewish leaders have never protested the travesty of justice in Washington, or the mistreatment Jonathan endured.

Instead, Jonathan reminded me of how he "lit Chanukah candles" at USP Lewisberg. By some miracle Jonathan managed to get his hands on a discarded piece of cardboard at Lewisberg. This was a miracle since he was held in an empty cell with no reading material, no paper, no pencils, no radio, no TV - nothing but an open toilet and a metal slab to sleep on with no sheets or bedding. Of course he was not permitted a scissors, so he fashioned a Chanukia by tearing the shape out of the cardboard. Jonathan carefully tore candle shapes as well. Late at night, alone and shivering in the cold in his dungeon cell, he hid his nakedness, and did the best he could to "light" the cardboard Chanukia with his prayers and his tears.

This year at FCI Butner Jonathan will not light Chanukah candles. He will never light Chanukah candles again until he is free. Don't even bother to ask why. It is irrelevant. Ask instead, why he is not free.

Jonathan's plight has always been a test for the Jewish people. Not a trial, not a punishment or an embarrassment or an affliction ---just a test -- one that Israel and the Jewish leadership has failed over and over and over again for the last 19 years. The more time passes, the more obvious it becomes that Jonathan is the symbol through which Israel and the American Jewish community are humiliated and punished. The worse he is treated, the more he is slandered and afflicted, and the longer he is incarcerated, the more Heaven invites the Jewish People to respond, to unite, to participate and to seek their own redemption by redeeming Jonathan.

Jonathan's unjust life sentence was obtained largely owing to the intervention of former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Not so long ago, Weinberger stated in an interview, that the Pollard case was really insignificant, but that it "got made into something much larger." In essence, Weinberger was telling us that there was a conspiracy which exploited Jonathan's plight to serve some other purpose. He, of course, declined to say who it was that made it into something larger, or what the goal of the conspiracy was. But any self- respecting Jew can fill in the blanks.

What was the response of Israel and the American Jewish establishment to the Weinberger bombshell? Did they use it to lobby for Jonathan's release? Did they use their private channels and instruct their lobby offices in Washington to demand justice for Jonathan Pollard? Did they at least call for an investigation of the Caspar Weinberger statement? No. They just walked away.

This week a story was published in the Washington Post about how Donald Rumsfeld was sent to Iraq in 1984 - a year before Jonathan was arrested - to reassure the Iraqis that they need not take the US condemnation of the use of chemical weapons personally. That the condemnation was all for show and that Saddam Hussein could continue to count on the US for "support."

US "support" consisted of money, chemicals, hardware, technology and scientific expertise which America covertly supplied to assist Saddam Hussein's build up of unconventional weapons of war for use against Iran. In the process, America helped to create the situation in Iraq which is now costing the lives of American soldiers every day.

It was this build up of unconventional weapons of war by Iraq that Jonathan shared with Israel. It was thanks to Jonathan that Israel was ready for the Gulf War and for the recent US - Iraq war. It is because of Jonathan that Israel has gas masks and chemical antidotes. And it is because of Jonathan that today, by law, every home built in Israel must have a sealed room.

Are Israel and the American Jewish leaders aware that the US armed Iraq? Yes.

Do they know about the American subversion of justice for Jonathan? Yes.

Are they aware that it was fear of American complicity being exposed that drove the Administration to trump up charges against Jonathan in a smear campaign; to subvert his legal case; to secure a plea agreement and then abrogate it while Jonathan honored it; and to bury him alive with an unprecedented life sentence? Yes.

Do they understand how Jonathan has been scapegoated and buried alive for warning Israel? Yes.

And their reaction? They just walk away.

If you ask Israeli and/or American Jewish leaders what they are doing, 19 years later, to secure justice for Jonathan Pollard, they will tell you, "We are working on it."

If you ask what they are doing, they will tell you, "It is too secret to share. Trust us."

And if you press hard enough, they will tell you, "We could have had Pollard out years ago, except for his or his wife's bad behavior. They say crazy things. They do crazy things."

No one ever asks these Jewish liars - pardon me, Jewish leaders: "What crazy things? What could be crazy enough to justify allowing a man to rot in prison for the rest of his life?!"

If the Pollard case were only about Jonathan Pollard, then one might try to understand the cowardice and the duplicity of the Jewish leaders as some kind of political expedience. But the Pollard case is also about Jews. It is about how Jews are treated in America and about whether or not Jews deserve to be treated equally before the law. It is about whether or not Jews can be trusted, whether or not they are first class citizens in America and whether the American dream applies to Jews -- or just the nightmare?

The Pollard case is about Jews, and it is about Israel. It is about whether Israel has the right to be treated fairly and equally as an ally. It is about whether Israel has the right to stand up for fair treatment for one of her own. It is about whether or not Israel can depend on its leaders to look out for its own national interests, or whether American national interests will drive Israeli policy-- even to the extent of betraying and abandoning those who serve the Jewish State.

There is no excuse for the failure of Israel and the American Jewish leaders' abandonment and betrayal of Jonathan Pollard. They DO know how to lobby; they DO know how to fight for what they want. They have proved it time and again. For example, in the case of Marc Rich, Israel and American Jewish leaders spearheaded an intensive campaign to gain a pardon for this billionaire fugitive from the law who never sat a day in prison, but gave generously to their causes and organizations. In 6 weeks, Jewish leaders did more for Marc Rich than they have ever done for Jonathan Pollard in 19 years. It goes without saying, that Rich got the pardon. Pollard still rots in prison.

So why am I tell you all of this? After all, you are not the bad guys. You care. You are here tonight. You came out to show solidarity with Jonathan. To rally on his behalf.

Yes, dear friends, in being here tonight you are the rays of light in a very dark time. But Jonathan is right, just participating in a concert is not enough to overcome the tremendous evil that has been visited upon us as a People through his case. So let me also caution you, now that you have taken this first step, more have to follow. Now that you have demonstrated to Heaven your understanding and awareness of the injustice of this case and of the mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim, there is no stopping, there is no turning back. Your participation tonight must be the beginning of intensive action to bring justice for Jonathan Pollard and redemption to the Jewish People. It is up to you to decide how to go about this. There are many ways, from holding the Jewish leadership to account, to flooding the White House with phone calls, to writing op-eds and articles, to withholding dues from Jewish organizations, to organizing more demonstrations and rallies, to holding prayer vigils, to establishing regular minyanim for Jonathan, to bombarding elected officials and so on. It is up to you to decide what you can do, and to do it!

It has been our experience in Israel that the more you wake people up to the Pollard case, the more you wake them up to solid Jewish values and the richness of our tradition which stresses the supreme value of Jewish unity and the ultimate responsibility of each Jew to every other Jew. May tonight be the start of a major awakening in America! May all of you who have sowed the seeds of this awakening tonight be abundantly blessed in the merit of the mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim! May our unified and combined efforts bring Jonathan from darkness to light, from sorrow to joy and swiftly home in time to light the next Chanukah lights at home in Jerusalem! Amain Ken Yihi Ratzon!

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