Unabridged, unedited text of interview: Esther Pollard won't give up
Originally published in JPost List of 50 Most Influential Jews in the World
J4JPnews Release - May 28, 2012
Esther Pollard was one of four persons highlighted in special interviews for the JPost list of "The 50 Most Influential Jews in the World", published in a special Shavuot supplement in the Friday edition of the paper.
Esther Pollard was interviewed by Gil Hoffman. An abbreviated version of the interview appeared in the article "Esther Pollard Won't Give Up" (JPost, May 25, 2012).
The unabridged, unedited text of Esther's responses to the Post follow below.
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Questions and Answers: An Interview with Esther Pollard
1) How do you feel about being named to the Post's list of the top 50 most influential Jews?
Jonathan and I take special pleasure in my being named to the Post's list of the 50 most influential Jews in the world. We understand that this great honor, in fact, says far more about a deeply moral struggle for justice and for equality before the law than it does about Esther Pollard.
We believe that this extraordinary honor reflects the fact that Jonathan's plight has touched the hearts and minds of millions of people in Israel, in America, and around the world.
2) What message does this honor send to Washington?
If there is a message for Washington that this honor sends it is that the fate of Jonathan Pollard matters to millions of people. His freedom is a matter of great concern to the people of Israel, and to all those in America and throughout the world who care about justice.
Jonathan is serving the longest, harshest sentence of anyone in the United States ever convicted of a similar offense. The median sentence for this offense -passing classified information to an ally -- is 2 to 4 years. He is now in his 27th year of a life sentence with no end in sight.
Caspar Weinberger, the former US Secretary of Defense, the man who drove Jonathan's unjust life sentence, admitted before he died that the Pollard case was in fact "a minor matter" blown out of all proportion to serve another agenda.
Jonathan's plight has captured the attention and concern of millions of people because, as the late Dr. Martin Luther King cautioned, "Justice denied anywhere, diminishes justice everywhere."
3) How has the effort to bring about your husband's release gained such momentum and become such a consensus issue?
Truth, hard work and perseverance are key words for us. We believe that if you work hard, tell the truth, and never give up, it is possible to overcome any obstacle. In the words of America's first President, George Washington, "Truth will always prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."
Truth acts like a magnet for like-minded individuals. Over time, the cause has attracted and maintained some of the most devoted, caring, hard-working volunteers who have enabled us to amplify our message and reach many more people.
Our core team which leads the struggle for Jonathan's release is comprised of a diverse group of people. Each one came to us with unique skills and talents, and each one is utterly devoted to doing an unpaid job which has demanded their undivided attention, day in day out, 24 hours a day, for years on end. Our volunteer team is our treasure and truth is our currency.
The more people learn the truth about Jonathan's case and about what he is enduring now, the more the momentum for his release keeps growing. The more people know the truth, the more quickly Jonathan's release has become a matter of consensus.
4) How hopeful are you that president Peres will return home accompanied by Jonathan and not just a medal?
President Peres promised me personally that he would use "every means at [his] disposal" to press President Obama for Jonathan's release. He made it clear to me that he was putting the full weight of his reputation as a senior statesman on the line to ensure that Jonathan comes home now.
President Peres' close, collegial relationship with President Obama is well known. The injustice of Jonathan's continued incarceration and his failing health are also well known. Jonathan's remorse is a matter of record. This is not a complicated issue. It is a matter of simple justice and a morally compelling humanitarian issue.
President Peres' appeal is supported by the appeals of a slew of senior American officials who are also urging President Obama to release Jonathan, Those who know the case best have been very clear in their publicly-stated opinions and in their letters to the president that keeping Jonathan in prison any longer is a travesty of justice. They include among them: former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, White House Legal Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Deputy Attorney General Phillip Heymann, former US Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence J. Korb, former Senate Intelligence Chair Dennis Deconcini and former CIA Director James Woolsey, as well as many others.
5) How symbolic would it be if Peres out of all people succeeds in bringing him home?
It is rare that history presents a golden opportunity such as this one, for one man to rectify the past - to correct an injustice in which he himself participated. Mr. Peres was the prime minister at the time of Jonathan's arrest. He cooperated with the US by providing the documents that were used to indict Jonathan and to sentence him to life. This was the first and only time in the history of modern espionage that a country has cooperated in the prosecution of its own agent. Jonathan's release through the direct intervention of President Shimon Peres would not only be the crowning glory of Mr. Peres' long and illustrious career, it would be the right and moral thing to do.
6) Why do you think Obama out of all presidents could succeed where others failed?
There is a moral imperative compelling intervention on the part of President Obama now that all other avenues of relief via the American justice system have been exhausted.
The numerous appeals to the president for executive clemency for Jonathan which are now pending - many of them submitted by high-ranking American officials who previously opposed Jonathan's release -- are Jonathan's last hope of resolving a 27-year-long injustice which now threatens to end his life in prison.
It is precisely for cases like this which the system cannot or will not address that the American Constitution confers upon the president virtually unlimited powers of executive clemency.
The sublimely moral task of saving Jonathan's life, while at the same time safeguarding the American public by correcting this injustice, sits squarely with the president of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama. In this case, executive clemency is not merely the president's privilege. It is his solemn duty.
7) Do you think Jonathan's release has any implication for the the US - Israel Special Relationship?
Jonathan's release is a matter of simple justice which has been ignored for too long. People who value the US - Israel special relationship now point to Jonathan's unjust sentence and his continued incarceration as a reflection of the real state of relations between Israel and the US. Media reports and commentary confirm this unfortunate perception.
Simple justice -- a mere stroke of the pen to finally set Jonathan free -- would reassure people that the ends of justice have been served.
There is no other gesture nor verbal reassurance that can so easily and effectively disengage the Pollard issue from the public's perception of the US - Israel special relationship, other than Jonathan's release.
8) Why did Jonathan say he doesn't want to write a book?
Jonathan and I are painfully aware of all the years that have been taken from us by this nightmare. We are anxious to get on with our life together. We long for the time when we can do very ordinary things and take pleasure in just being together. To retell the story of Jonathan's years in prison by writing a book means reliving the experience and rehashing it. Neither of us has any interest in reliving the past. We want to move forward, to build a good, productive, private life in Israel together. Jonathan has scientific projects dealing with alternate energy that he is hoping to realize in Israel. He has a great many projects that he wants to accomplish when he gets home. Writing a book is not one of them.
Similarly, Jonathan has no interest in running for public office or in holding public office of any kind. He has no interest in movies or plays or anything in the public arena. After so many years of being in the spotlight, we both long for a quiet and private life.
9) What are your thoughts about Shavuot as a time that leads to redemption?
We had so hoped that Jonathan would be home for Passover, the Holiday of Freedom, and we were crushed when that did not occur.
However, knowing that Shavuot is actually the fulfillment of the holiday of freedom which began at Passover; and that historically the promise of freedom at Passover only culminated in full freedom at Shavuot, we are hopeful that this will be our lot as well.
We therefore raise our eyes expectantly, praying that President Peres' appeal to President Obama to gain Jonathan's release which began at Passover will, with G-d's help, culminate in his full freedom on or around Shavuot.
Jonathan's release is the living embodiment of a medal of freedom for all of Israel which will bring honor to both presidents and relief to the people.
May G-d bless Mr. Peres and Mr. Obama and strengthen their hands in this deeply moral and absolutely just cause.
10) What happens if Peres's effort with Obama fails?
There is no such thing as failure. We have been at this for 27 years. We will never give up.