IMRA Interview with Esther Pollard
Tenet's Resignation; Kurtzer's Instructions; Pollard's Court Victory and Other Recent Developments
Aaron Lerner Date: June 14, 2004
IMRA interviewed Esther Pollard, Jonathan Pollard's wife, via telephone, on 14 June:
IMRA: How does George Tenet's resignation affect Jonathan's release? Does the recently published story that Tenet never threatened to resign at Wye make any difference?
Esther Pollard: If Malcolm Hoenlein, (Executive VP of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations) had come forward years ago - immediately after the Wye Summit - with the bombshell that George Tenet had personally told him that he was not the obstacle to Jonathan's release and that he had never threatened to resign, it would have made all the difference in the world. Today, that news is irrelevant. But by remaining silent all these years, Hoenlein has been complicit in the lie that President Clinton used to justify reneging on his commitment to free Jonathan at Wye.
IMRA: How so?
Esther Pollard: Without a doubt, Hoenlein's duplicity has effectively devastated organizational support for Jonathan Pollard since 1998, and completely obviated both public and private action on his behalf by Jewish leaders, and by Christian leaders who followed their cue.
It has also prevented anyone from ever confronting Clinton then, or President Bush now, with the spuriousness of the excuse used to renege on the American commitment made to free Jonathan at Wye - a commitment which was an integral part of the Wye Accords, and which remains legally binding upon the U.S. to this day.
IMRA: Given Prime Minister Sharon's controversial role in the Tannenbaum affair - where he pulled all the stops to gain his release, has Prime Minister Sharon taken any new interest in making an effort to gain Jonathan's release?
Esther Pollard: That is a painful question. Let me answer it this way: in an 1990 interview cited by The Los Angeles Times, Ariel Sharon expressed outrage at then-Prime Minster Shamir's refusal to rescue Jonathan. Sharon quoted Shamir at a meeting of cabinet ministers saying, "You need to know how to sacrifice the man for the greater goal."
It pains me to say that in his own 2 terms in office as prime minister, Sharon has institutionalized and perpetuated this policy of abandonment towards Jonathan, a bona fide Israeli agent.
It is appalling that in the 14 years that have elapsed since Sharon voiced his sharp criticism of Prime Minister Shamir for his abandonment of Jonathan, he himself has done nothing to bring Jonathan home. This stands in marked contrast to the exaggerated efforts Sharon recently made to rescue Elchanon Tannenbaum, a scoundrel and traitor, for whom he paid an exorbitant and immoral price.
IMRA: Robert Kim, a Korean American who spied for South Korea was released from prison last week. Does his release have any relevance for Jonathan?
Esther Pollard: Yes. The release of Robert Kim underscores the utter injustice of Jonathan's continued incarceration. If the Prime Minister and the American Jewish leaders were proactive they would be protesting at the top of their lungs now.
Kim, who spied for South Korea was convicted of virtually the same offense as Jonathan, spying for an ally. But, note the gross disparity of their sentences! Kim got 9 years; and for the same offense, Jonathan got life! Kim served only 7 years and was released last week. Jonathan is in his 19th year of a life sentence with no end in sight.
IMRA: Do you think President Bush would be receptive to a bid for Jonathan's release?
Esther Pollard: Mr. Bush is a God fearing man, with a stated belief in truth and justice. If we could reach him personally, and bring to his attention the massive injustice that this case represents, we feel certain he would want to do the right thing.
Jonathan's rabbi, Rabbi Mordecai Eliyahu, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, has repeatedly offered himself to the White House as Jonathan's guarantor. He would be glad to make the case for Jonathan's release to President Bush, but has been repeatedly frustrated in his efforts to secure a meeting with the president.
IMRA: Tenet is gone now, but what about Caspar Weinberger? What role does Caspar Weinberger play in a possible resolution of this case?
Esther Pollard: In an interview in 2002, Caspar Weinberger was asked why he omitted any mention of Jonathan from his memoirs. Weinberger casually replied, "Because it (the Pollard case) was, in a sense, a very minor matter but made very important."
When he was asked to explain, Weinberger repeated, "As I say, the Pollard matter was comparatively minor. It was made far bigger than its actual importance." This is a stunning admission!
IMRA: How is Jonathan's health?
Esther Pollard: As IMRA reported some months ago, Jonathan was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in Washington for two weeks prior to the September 2, 2003, oral arguments, including extreme isolation, humiliation, physical degradation, and sensory deprivation. The orders to treat him this way came from "higher up." (See A Portrait of American Justice.)
The abuse which was inflicted upon him, coming after enduring nearly 2 decades of some of the harshest treatment that the federal penal system can mete out, had a severe impact on Jonathan's already-poor health. It is because his health is so poor that I have remained here in North Carolina for a prolonged period, following his ordeal in Washington.
IMRA: Did Israel ever protest?
Esther Pollard: There has been no official word of protest to the Justice Department by any official - American or Israeli - about the way that Jonathan was treated in Washington, even though we have made it widely known.
IMRA: Has the appointment of Minister Sharansky to oversee the Pollard case made any difference?
Esther Pollard: Yes, it has made difference, but not to us. It has been a boon for the Prime Minister.
Sharansky, unfortunately, has devoted his efforts to providing the Prime Minister with cover for his inaction on behalf of Jonathan. He has aided and abetted the Government's on-going policy of burying Jonathan alive, while posing as some sort of advocate.
IMRA: Do you have an example?
Esther Pollard: Yes. A couple of weeks ago, Sharansky was informed by one of our close contacts that the American Ambassador, Daniel Kurtzer, had indicated in a private conversation that now is the time for Israel to make an official request for Jonathan's release.
When Sharansky heard this, he picked up the phone and called Kurtzer. Our contact was sitting there, and witnessed the conversation as Kurtzer confirmed: 'Now is the time for Israel to make an official request for Pollard.'
This was very significant. American diplomats do not speak off the cuff about matters of such importance. This statement by Kurtzer was meant to be taken very seriously.
IMRA: What did Sharanksy do about it?
Esther Pollard: Nothing at all. He did not inform the Prime Minister. He did not take the most minimal steps to act upon this. And when we found out, we contacted him, but he did not respond - not to Jonathan or to his attorney.
In fact, Sharansky has not responded to any letter or fax that Jonathan has sent him since he was appointed to oversee the Pollard Case. It took him no time at all to adopt the same policy of indifference and abandonment as all of his predecessors.
IMRA: Why doesn't Jonathan ask him to resign from his Pollard assignment?
Esther Pollard: He did. More than once, Jonathan has written to ask him to stop being a fig leaf for Sharon, and to resign.
Esther Pollard: Sharansky ignores all of Jonathan's faxes, messages and letters. He learned his "job" quickly.
IMRA: Given the dramatic nature of Kurtzer's instructions to Israel to ask for Jonathan now, have you tried to get the Prime Minster to act on this through other channels?
Esther Pollard: Yes. We brought Kurtzer's instructions to the attention of the Prime Minister, and the Foreign Minister.
IMRA: How did you do this?
Esther Pollard: Jonathan wrote to the PM and to the FM and we faxed the letters to them. His attorney also sent a fax to the Prime Minister. We repeated the same messages and sent them via the Consulate in Atlanta. In addition, we also used high level contacts of our own to ensure that the message was duly registered with the Prime Minster.
IMRA: It is certainly a very dramatic development that the American Ambassador gave the instructions not once but twice - even repeating them to the Minister in charge of the case. This is very serious. Did you get any response from the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister?
Esther Pollard: No. No response.
IMRA: Given the timing of Kurtzer's instruction to Israel on Pollard - in the midst of all the political turmoil surrounding the disengagement plan - did you expect Sharon to act?
Esther Pollard: Absolutely. Even in times of turmoil, there are always important unrelated issues that require immediate attention, and they get it. In this case, the amount of attention and effort required on the part of the Prime Minister to respond to the American instruction to submit a formal request for Jonathan, was really minimal. At very least Sharon ought to have called in Kurtzer and followed through on his recommendations.
IMRA: Did he?
Esther Pollard: No. He just blew it off completely. Dismissed the opportunity to ask for Jonathan's release, as if it had never occurred. Another lost opportunity.
IMRA: What about the new US Appellate Court ruling on Jonathan's legal case?
Esther Pollard: It is a wonderful development. Truly a victory. And a clear sign that eventually the truth will prevail.
IMRA: Was it expected?
Esther Pollard: Not at all. The American government's subversion of the judicial process in this case had succeeded in all but killing any chance that Jonathan's case would ever be heard. Thankfully his attorneys, Lauer and Semmelman, persevered. They filed an outstanding, and compelling brief with the appellate court asking it to reverse the lower court's refusal to grant Jonathan a certificate of appealability. The appellate court did more than that; the court order invited the attorneys to present the merits of Jonathan's case to a special panel of judges. This is the first time that the merits of the case will be addressed, rather than just procedural issues.
IMRA: Are you hopeful that the American legal case will do it for Jonathan this time?
Esther Pollard: Let me answer firstly as a Pollard advocate and secondly as Jonathan's wife.
As a Pollard advocate, I am always hopeful that by taking the case up the chain within the judicial system we will eventually reach a level that has not been tainted by its predecessors. When we took the case back to court a decade after Jonathan's last try, we certainly hoped that this would be true. Unfortunately that was not the case, and we have seen once again how the merits of the case have been buried on technicalities. Nevertheless, Jonathan has a very strong case, and as we go to appeal once again, we again hope for the best. (See The Court Case Page.)
As Jonathan's wife, I must answer a little differently. The American judicial system has failed Jonathan repeatedly for nearly two decades, and we are out of time. Jonathan is now in his 19th year of a life sentence. He has already served many more times as long as anyone else in the US convicted of a similar offense. The establishment's vested interests in keeping Jonathan in prison, even after so many years, keeps tainting the judicial process for us. This is a case where the system appears to be either unwilling or incapable of correcting itself. Moreover, the process of appeal will take a very long time - time that we simply do not have. It is precisely for cases like this, that the President is granted the powers of executive clemency. His direct intervention is now essential not only to grant Jonathan relief from an unjust and excessive sentence, but also to restore the integrity of the American justice system which has been badly tainted by its handling of this case.
IMRA: Is it a good time to ask the President to release Jonathan, right before a Presidential election?
Esther Pollard: It is the best time. After the elections, there will be no need for a new president to be responsive to the Jewish community's appeal for equal justice. Freeing Jonathan Pollard is the best way to reassure Jewish voters that the system works for all Americans, and now is the right time to do it.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(Mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel. 972-9-7604719 Fax 972-3-7255730
Email: [email protected]