Is Time Running Out?

Jonathan Pollard during an interview with Hamodia.

The news since Jonathan Pollard broke his silence on Israel’s Channel 12 interview, August 5, and in the Hamodia Prime discussion with him on August 21, “appealing to PM Netanyahu to call President Trump for termination of his parole,” has tragically gone silent.

It is incredibly heartbreaking that pleas for immediate parole commutation on behalf of, and by, Jonathan and Esther Pollard, go unheeded. Even more devastating is to also sense that, with each passing day, their cause is seemingly slipping into a deep hibernation. If we sit on the sidelines, ultimately, we fellow Yidden will, by default, become partially culpable in a gross travesty of justice, exacerbated by an outrageously low-key response from us as fellow Jews, from acclaimed Jewish organizations, and from the government of Israel.

In March of this year, adding insult to injury, was the “Mensch Award” posthumously presented to Rafi Eitan, Israel’s “spymaster,” who was Pollard’s handler and who threw Jonathan Pollard under the bus as Jonathan stood at the gate of Israel’s Washington, D.C., Embassy by ordering the guards, “Don’t let him in! Throw him out!” Being let in would have possibly saved him from all the years of incarceration during which he suffered horrendous emotional anguish and physical pain.

While Hamodia is to be highly commended for numerous Pollard-related articles and editorial comment, shame on us, after reading these articles, if we do not immediately move beyond reading updates to grassroots, hands-on personal action before it is too late for the Pollards, chas v’shalom.

It is shameful that during the current lengthy do-over Israeli election, only one Israeli candidate, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, has been reported to have called out to Netanyahu, “Bring Pollard home!”

Similarly, only one Israeli organization has joined in the call, the southern chapter of Bnei Akiva, saying, “It is time to bring Jonathan Pollard home.” In the States, there has been one notable and prominent spiritual leader, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, who is the Executive Vice-President Emeritus of the National Council of Young Israel, and who is co-chairman of the American Friends of the International Young Israel Movement (IYIM), Israel region, who has not shied away. He has been a passionate activist on behalf of Jonathan and Esther Pollard, both during Pollard’s prison sentence and the challenges of Pollard’s life following his release. He has consistently and constantly reminded us of the Pollards’ dire circumstances. Are there others? No doubt there must be. But seemingly they have yet to stand front and center, in the current crisis, to raise the cry, “Let the Pollards come home!”

We cannot ignore and simply lead ourselves to believe that all we can do is read well-written articles, and wring our hands, only to eventually raise them in despair and in surrender to the injustice that has been done to Pollard. And make no mistake, it has been gross injustice at the highest level of what continually, in the past and present, is cruel and unusual punishment of monumental proportions. No one else convicted in the U.S.A. of spying for an ally has ever been given a life sentence or even served a sentence of this length. His terrible suffering and that of his wife Esther have included vilification, slander, gross neglect, and abandonment. As if this were not enough, he served over 30 years of harsh incarceration — including physical abuse — much of which was spent in isolation, leading, for a number of years and currently, to his crisis-level failing health. And to date, in addition to his prison time, he has served over 1,373 days in highly restrictive, electronically monitored, untenable curfew parole, which has become aggravated by the frustration of being unable to be an active caregiver, properly providing for his devoted wife who is now critically ill.

Alan Dershowitz has said regarding Pollard’s incarceration and restrictive parole, “When is enough enough?”

Indeed, when will those anti-Israel, worried-about-dual-loyalty, perhaps even anti-Semitic, bureaucrats in the State Department, Intelligence Services, and the DOJ’s Treaty Transfer office — many of whom are holdovers from the Clinton and Obama administrations — finally accept that enough is now enough and finally acquiesce to Pollard coming home to Israel?

The possible answer is thinking about the unthinkable. …

The court could possibly extend the restrictions for years to come. How many more? After 2020, in the opinion of some, an additional 10 more years — which would have been the end of his sentence.

And make no mistake, if commutation is not granted now by President Trump, and the Democrats win the presidency, the chance for Pollard’s parole termination will be slim at best. The future for the Pollards could be bleak.

Should we not be outraged by what has been brought to bear upon the Pollards at the hands of elected officials, including “duck-and-hide” congressmen and senators, past and present; U.S. presidents and Israeli prime ministers; multiple federal government agencies (State Department, CIA, DOJ, NSA, White House Advisors); and leadership in both countries? Given the reliance that has been placed on PM Netanyahu to be the one to influence and convince previous U.S. presidents to commute Pollard’s parole, do we honestly believe that Israel’s PM, in the midst of a heated, tumultuous, nasty election, really has Pollard on his mind? Or that even after the election, with his own legal problems, he would even give Pollard a thought? Or, if there is a new PM and political party in charge, engaged in trying to form a coalition, that they will pay timely, urgent attention to the Pollards’ suffering?

The time to act is now. Think of how dramatic and meaningful it would be as we approach the Yamim Nora’im, if successful. What an incredible Rosh Hashanah gift this would be for the Pollards, for Israel and for world Jewry. It would be the fulfillment of one of the most critically important tenets in Judaism, “Anyone who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world.”

What indeed can we do?

1) Call upon PM Netanyahu and President Rivlin to urge that the Knesset unanimously call for Pollard’s parole commutation, now, by President Trump, reaffirming Pollard’s Israeli citizenship (which, parenthetically, the U.S. Judge used against him in not easing his parole restrictions because as an Israeli citizen, he was a high-risk candidate of flight to Israel) and finally pass the Knesset resolution, that was previously introduced in the Knesset in 2015 but withdrawn in 2016, regarding lifetime financial support, housing arrangements, and health benefits for Pollard by Israel.

2) Call upon President Rivlin to meet with the Chief Rabbis of Israel to urge their personal involvement, as did Harav Mordechai Eliyahu, zt”l, in formulating a written petition to President Trump to be signed by all members of Israel’s Rabbinate calling for Pollard’s parole commutation.

3) Call upon Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz to launch a nationwide school teaching moment campaign dealing with pidyon shevuyim, to have school administrators and teachers work with their students to write simple but signed postcards in Hebrew or English saying: “Please, President Trump, Let the Pollards Come Home to Israel Now! Wishing you and yours a Shanah Tovah,” to be sent or delivered to President Donald J. Trump, c/o USA Ambassador to Israel, Mr. David M. Friedman, U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, 14 David Flusser, Jerusalem 9378322. In the U.S., Torah Umesorah could undertake a similar campaign.

4) Communicate with President Donald J. Trump as per item 3 above or directly via email by going to www.whitehouse.gov, where there is a simple email “Contact the White House” form, as well as U.S. telephone numbers for either Comments, 1-202-456-1111, or for the White House Switchboard, 1-202-456-1414.

5) For Israeli citizens: Call upon the leadership of the political parties that they support to issue statements of support to the president of the United States, President Donald J. Trump, to commute the parole of Jonathan Pollard in order to allow him and Esther to come home to Israel now.

6) Call upon Israel’s PM and President to request of Peace Envoy Jason Greenblatt, before his imminent departure, to use his good offices and relationship with President Trump to request the utmost consideration of the commutation of Pollard’s parole.

7) Call upon the major Jewish organizations in the U.S., their Rabbinic and lay leadership, and members at large, to write President Trump asking for Pollard’s parole termination and to link this effort to Rosh Hashanah and the humanitarian purpose that will be served due to both Jonathan’s and Esther’s serious health conditions.

8) Most importantly, pray for their well-being, their health, and success in the granting of the commutation of Jonathan’s parole: Yehonatan ben Malka and Esther Yocheved bat Rayzel Bracha.

Time is of the essence. We must not let a moment go by without making a meaningful start on actualizing at least one of the possible suggestions or others that we learn of to bring the Pollards home.

“Righteousness! Righteousness! You shall pursue!” Let’s pursue righteousness together by freeing the Pollards. Let’s set a goal of doing everything we can to have them with us to start the new year 5780 in the Land of Israel.