Jonathan Pollard was arrested on November 21, 1985, in Washington DC, and was later sentenced to life in prison on one count of espionage, for providing classified information to Israel – a close ally of the US. My goal here is not to retell the story; more details can be found on the Internet. My point is to ask “Where is the Jewish-American community?” Shouldn’t they be outraged that Pollard has been punished far more severely than others accused of espionage-related crimes since Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (also Jewish) were executed in 1953?
Some 20 years ago, I went to Marion, Illinois – to visit the high security prison where Pollard was being held at the time, in full solitary confinement. Together with a handful of young American Jews, we held a three day vigil calling for Pollard’s release. Major American Jewish organizations were not there then. 20 years later, mainstream American Jewish organizations are still not leading calls for Pollard’s release.
Pollard has been in prison for the past 27 years. His health has deteriorated, and many in Israel are concerned for his life. Can liberal American Jews who elected Barack Obama as their president twice use their influence to express some compassion for a fellow Jew who admitted to breaking the law nearly 30 years ago?
The Bible tells us that Joseph recognized his brothers many years after they had sold him into slavery, but they did not recognize him. When he finally did reveal his true identity, they hugged and agreed to put past grievances behind them. Can American Jews forgive Pollard?
Aside from his being indicted by the American government, Pollard was silently convicted by the Jewish American society. This is hard for Israelis to understand because Israelis believe that American Jews have a pact with Israel and will stand at our side, come what may. But American Jews find it very hard to forgive Pollard for his dual loyalty. Pollard reminds them that their own loyalty to their country of the USA might be suspected to be incomplete. If they call for his release, they, too, might be thought to have a conflict of loyalties, and not be totally dedicated to America first.
I hope that American Jews will find room in their hearts to show compassion for a fellow American Jew, who broke their code so many years ago, and has paid a very dear price. It is time that American Jews turn to their president and beg him to pardon Jonathan Pollard.