Friday, September 4, 2009

The Empty Chair

It seems like forever since Jay Jonathan Pollard has been imprisoned by the United States Government.  His entire case, from beginning to end the present, is totally unprecedented in American judicial, security, etc.  Periodically, his wife, lawyers etc protest anew with some pr statements or campaigns.

When he was first arrested, he had a wife named Anne, and my husband was then working as an aid to then MK (Knesset Member) Geula Cohen.  As I remember, Geula, one of Israel's most sincere, dedicated, honest and idealistic public figures, was the first to adopt the Pollard cause.  Geula and my husband were in contact with his family, and my husband even visited him in jail.

The basic story is (from my memory) of an idealistic American Jew, who was working in a sensitive position in the American Government, saw/was purposely allowed to see documents proving that the United States was ignoring signed promises to Israel concerning Israel's security.  In response, Pollard began feeding information to Israel.  When he was caught he tried escaping to the Israeli Embassy.  The Israelis turned him over to the Americans.

Pollard's family hired lawyers who made a deal with the Americans, in which Pollard would confess and get a "lighter punishment."  Instead the Americans renegged and gave him the heaviest punishment, short of execution, much, much worse than any Communist or enemy spy ever got for anything even worse.  That is besides the Rosenbergs... who were also Jewish.

I left out a very basic element of the storyThe charge against Pollard was spying for an ally, a friendly country, not for an enemy and not to destroy/damage American security.

Our family custom used to be to set extra places at our Passover Seder for missing and imprisoned "Prisoners of Zion" Jews.  I can't remember all the names, but I do remember Ida Nudel and Natan Sharansky and of course Jay Jonathan Pollard.  We're not the only people who did that, and I'm happy to say that it proved a positive experience for almost all.  Almost everyone has been released, freed.  The one exception is Pollard.

Pollard's chair is still empty.


Keli Ata said...

It's appalling that he remains in prison. In essence a life sentence for a non-violent "crime."

The empty chair at Pesach is very touching. It reminds me of the tradition in the US military to have a POW/MIA table at all official dinners. It reminds me very much of a Pesach sedar. Salt to represent bitterness and tears etc.

Anonymous said...

Keli, a crime like true treason, is deserving of a firing squad.

But Pollard was no Benedict Arnold, not in the severity and motive of his crime and not according to the standards of sentencing meted out to others who were found guilty by the US justice system of espionage in recent decades. None of the others convicted were imprisoned anywhere near the amount of time Pollard has served to date for a lesser crime.

Justice for Jonathan Pollard

Batya said...

Yes, Keli, it's appalling. Different standards for Jews.

Shy, it's more than just the length of the sentence, the conditions have been the worst American "justice" has to offer.

Anonymous said...

I agree. My main point is he's done his time.

Keli Ata said...

Agree. He's done his time and more.

Kind of disgusting that he remains in prison yet the sentence of a domestic terrorist like Patty Hearst was commuted by the president.

Sorry but I never did by the kidnap/victim of the Stockholm syndrome in the Hearst case. But the point is, why was her sentence commuted and Pollard's not?

Anonymous said...

oy. once again you have simplified a complex issue. first off, spying in general is a dirty business, and you can never know whom to trust. by its very nature there is misinformation disseminated. also, because of its dirty nature, a country will not want to actively try to get a spy out of trouble; i imagine spies know this going in [think mission impossible]. second, a lot of the problem was in pollards first set of lawyers, who totally bungled the job. third, he committed a crime, and spying on a friendly country arouses mistrust, anger, etc. even more than spying on an enemy country, which kind of expects it. fourth, if a haaretz article is to be believed, it is a standard dicussion point at every prime minister to president meeting. all this being said, we should do we can to get him out.

Batya said...

shy, keli, yes, I agree

a, of course this is simplified, main idea. It's a blog post and not a well-paid for feature article in a big magazine. but most important is the bottom line, that according to american standards and history, his punishment is totally out of proportion to the crime.

Hadassa said...

We should all remember and remind others that the information that Pollard gave to Israel was information that America had agreed to give Israel in a signed treaty. If America had kept her side of the agreement, Pollard wouldn't have had to do what he did.

Batya said...

Hadassa, yes, Americans are at fault and maybe Pollard knows even more about it.