Time to Pardon Jonathan Pollard

1. Pollard did a terrible, terrible thing.

2. A terrible thing. Just terrible.

3. Horrible. And he messed up the position and status of Jews in American government. He fed into anti-Semites’ worst diatribes about Jews being of diverted loyalty to foreign powers. He had no right to imperil the Jewish position in this country and, thereby, to lend credence to haters elsewhere in the world who wonder about Jews and our loyalties in those countries.

4. He has been sitting in prison for more than twenty-three years.

5. He never had a trial. He entered into a plea bargain. Then, suddenly-and-unexpectedly at sentencing, CasparWeinberger (then the Secretary of Defense – a guy with a Jewish surname who opted for his mother’s interest in the Episcopalian Church) submitted a secret 46-page sentencing memorandum to the sentencing judge. No one knows what the memorandum said. Pollard’s lawyers were not allowed to see the secret memo. To this day, no one has ever been permitted to see what that guy wrote.

6. We know that Weinberger ultimately was found, in another context (Iran-Contra), to be one who would lie under oath. He ultimately was found guilty of perjury. The fact that someone swears to G-d to tell the truth one day and then lies that day does not prove that he lies under oath on another day. But it’s sure worse than gambling with dice. One may question whether Weinberger’s secret 46-page memorandum – which played a defining role in Pollard’s sentencing – contained pure truth or whether, as Rashi tells us about the cleverness of the m’raglim, the future-perjurous-felon began with the truth and then stretched it into falsehood. For nearly a quarter century, no one has been permitted to read the thing and dissect it.

7. Although charged with espionage (spying), Pollard never was charged with treason. Thus, he was guilty of passing classified info to an ally.

8. I am told that no one else in American history ever was sentenced to life in prison for passing classified info to an ally. I am told that the punishment for such behavior historically has been in the range of 2-4 years in prison. I have not independently verified this. I do note that theRosenbergs went to death for passing American atomic secrets to the Communists at a time when the Communists actually were allied with America. I leave it to the objective-minded to consider the difference between passing atomic-bomb secrets to Stalin and passing whatever Pollard passed to the Israelis.

9. Pollard’s trial attorney failed him miserably by not timely appealing from the sentencing. The rules of federal appellate procedure are very strict.

10. Later, Pollard got new lawyers who perceived the outrage that no appeal ever was filed by the original attorney . They filed what-might-be-called an “appeal requesting the right to file an appeal.” (The more formal term is habeas corpus.) Three federal appeals judges considered the motion. The non-Jewish judge on the federal appeals panel ruled that Pollard had suffered a grave miscarriage of justice and deserved to have his appeal from the sentencing filed and heard. The two Jewish judges (one of them, Ruth Bader Ginzburg) ruled avar z’mano, batelkorbano.

11. Israel has freed thousands of Arab terrorists, hundreds with blood on their hands, often under intense American pressure: “C’mon, Israel. Why can’t you take a chance for peace? Just free them already.” America itself has pardoned and freed FALN bombers. Also, a guy named – what is it? – Bill Ayers, I think – bombed American defnseestablishments, and got off the hook over time. Also his wife – uh, whats-her-name Dohrn.

12. When Clinton left office, he pardoned some crook named Marc Rich, a crook on the lam in Europe. Clinton later curiously wrote an op-ed in the NY Times that he pardoned this crook at the personal request of Israeli Prime MinisterEhud Barak. Time Magazine legitimately calls this one of the Ten Most Notorious Presidential Pardons in American History: http://www.time.com/time/2007/presidential_pardons/index.html Clinton’s pardon of Rich was an outrage.

13. Fittingly, another of the Ten Most Notorious Presidential Pardons in American History was the elder George Bush’s pardon of the perjurous Caspar Weinberger.

14. Clinton also quasi-pardoned (not a full pardon, just a reduced punishment) some other crooks affiliated with aChassidic group in Monroe, NY. By coincidence, even though many among their number do not even read English (only Yiddish), the Chassidic group bullet-voted for Clinton’s wife in her first U.S. Senate race against Rick Lazio. If Teddy Roosevelt had given Americans The Square Deal, and Franklin Roosevelt had given Americans The New Deal, Clinton had given the Jewish-American bullet-voters The New Square Deal.

15. Several prominent legal scholars and men of letters are among those who have filed amici curae (friends-of-the-court) briefs for Pollard. My favorites include: the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, President Emeritus of Notre Dame University; the ACLU, and a long list that can be found at: http://www.jonathanpollard.org/2000/122800.htm

16. I refer readers to a web page that lists comparative crimes and sentences: http://www.jonathanpollard.org/sentences.htm

17. Alan Dershowitz (of whom I am no Chasid, but he is a good gauge of whether it is an act of Jewish overreaching to seek Pollard’s pardon) has written why American Jews should be working for Pollard’s freedom: http://www.jonathanpollard.org/1999/030799.htm

18. Seymour Reich, a former chairman of the Presidents Conference, advocated a Clinton pardon seven years ago. More recently, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has called on President George W. Bush to pardon Pollard.

19. A final word: I cannot emphasize enough that Pollard did terrible, terrible stuff. I am not impressed with some people’s arguments that he needed to do what he did, that he gave Israel documents that America was obligated to share with Israel anyway, that he had to do it to save lives. But, for G-d’s sake, after 23 years in prison, his continued incarceration no longer is about him. It is about us — it is about Jews. It is a statement to American Jews that says to us every day: “We in Washington regard you differently from Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, German-Americans, Polish-Americans, Latino-Americans. You may need a reminder that other people don’t need. You need to remember what we do to people who are not loyal to this country, who have loyalties diverted elsewhere.”

Thus, Pollard’s continued incarceration is personally offensive to the Jewish community.