Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, has called the American government’s continued refusal to release Jonathan Pollard “a vendetta” not only against him but “against the American Jewish community.”
Responding to a magazine poll of leaders of Jewish organizations, Foxman revealed that his thinking about the Pollard case has changed over the years, especially in light of the long list of senior former U.S. officials, including members of the security establishment, who have in recent years publicly stated that Pollard has been punished unfairly.
“When the Jonathan Pollard affair surfaced 28 years ago, there were claims by some that the sentencing of Pollard, life imprisonment, was tinged with anti-Semitism. We at the Anti-Defamation League took that charge seriously, made our own investigation, and concluded there was no basis for such an accusation.”
“Pleas for his pardon are raised on a regular basis, but go unheeded. The whole thing at this late date makes no sense. There surely is no information that Pollard possesses after all these years that can be harmful to American interests. The fact that Pollard shared information with an ally — Israel — was no reason for him not to be punished. But after this long imprisonment, the fact that it was such a close ally who received his information should have influenced a positive response when the subject of parole arose.
“I am not one to equate what Pollard did, to betray his country, to the recent revelations that the United States has been spying on top Israeli leaders. Here too, however, these revelations add further context to the absurdity of the ongoing vendetta against this one man.
“Yes, I use that word because that’s what it seems like at this point. If it were only a vendetta against one individual it would be bad enough. But it has now become one against the American Jewish community.
“In effect, the continuing imprisonment of this person long after he should have been pardoned on humanitarian grounds can only be read as an effort to intimidate American Jews. And, it is an intimidation that can only be based on an anti-Semitic stereotype about the Jewish community, one that we have seen confirmed in our public opinion polls over the years, the belief that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own country, the United States.
“In other words, the underlying concept which fuels the ongoing Pollard incarceration is the notion that he is only the tip of the iceberg in the community. So Pollard stays in prison as a message to American Jews: don’t even think about doing what he did.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, reviewed the unflagging efforts on Pollard’s behalf:
“Look at the record and tell me what we haven’t tried that would have been effective. We do things six, seven or more times a year. We’ve gone to see every president on his case. “We have visited Pollard in prison a couple of times. We’ve lined up experts, we’ve engaged in advocacy of every kind, we’ve done many public activities. We went to see the legal counsels at the White House and any official or expert we thought could help.
“For example, I raised it with President Clinton before he left office and he indicated he would follow through on it, but he was not able to deliver. We met President Bush about it many times and we’ve been pressing President Obama on it. We press all the time. In December, we did an appeal to the President. Before Pesach and Rosh Hashanah, we made public appeals to the President for Pollard’s release signed by almost all of the Conference’s member organizations, as we have done in former years. We pursued legal and other approaches, including letter writing campaigns.
“Also, I can attest to the fact that Prime Ministers of Israel raised it in White House meetings, including Yitzchak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Binyamin Netanyahu. Our activities have been going on for decades. There’s nothing — literally nothing — that I know of that we haven’t tried. You can check — there’s a public record for much of this activity.
“It is indeed frustrating and each day the injustice grows.’
The poll was conducted by Tablet Magazine which ran an editorial “arguing that Jonathan Pollard’s continued imprisonment sends a chilling message to American Jews that they are all potential traitors to their country, evincing a distinct odor of political anti-Semitism.”
The editors noted, as well, that most of the Jewish organizational head invited to comment declined to do so on the record, “an indication of the issue’s continued untouchability.”