It is not every day that the President of the United States of America graces the Biennial of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) with his presence.
It would be nice to think that President Obama had decided to attend, in order to pay tribute to outgoing URJ President, Rabbi Eric Yoffie. It would be nice to think that he chose to pop in because the Biennial is taking place outside Washington DC. However, most people recognize that Obama is fighting for his political future with elections around the corner and needs to take advantage of every opportunity to win votes.
There are no free lunches and the URJ must not allow itself to be flattered into silence by hosting President Obama without voicing its concerns.
Jonathan Pollard has been languishing in an America jail since March 1987. Since that time over 24 years have passed. The US government callously refused to allow him to visit his father on his death bed and denied him the right, in spite of Israeli requests, to attend his father’s funeral.
On November 18, 2010, 39 members of Congress submitted a Plea Of Clemency to the White House on behalf of Pollard, asking the president for his immediate release: “Such an exercise of the clemency power would not in any way imply doubt about his guilt, nor cast any aspersions on the process by which he was convicted”.
Numerous public figures have gone on record calling for Pollard’s release.
According to American intelligence expert John Loftus, former US government prosecutor and army intelligence officer, Pollard could not have revealed the identities of American spies as Pollard lacked the security clearance to access this information. In the opinion of Loftus, “Pollard’s continued incarceration is due to horrible stupidity.”
Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State, wrote in a letter to Barack Obama: “I believe justice would be served by commuting.”
Lawrence Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, has called on the Obama Administration to grant clemency, stating that “Pollard has already served far too long for the crime for which he was convicted, and by now, whatever facts he might know would have little effect on national security”, but Jonathan Pollard continues to be incarcerated in an American prison.
In a world in which Israel’s arch enemy Hamas has released Gilead Shalit and the Jewish State has freed hundreds of Palestinians with blood on their hands, it is unthinkable that the American government should continue to hold Pollard in captivity and stubbornly resist all calls to release him.
Vice President Joe Biden has gone on record as stating that “President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life’.” However, it is not up to Biden. Obama is president.
We are part of a people that are rachmanim b’nei rachmanim. Therefore, Rabbi Yoffie needs to take advantage of the unique opportunity that he will have at the URJ Biennial to tell the President of the United States that enough is enough. Jonathan Pollard, now approaching sixty years of age, should finally be released and given the opportunity to spend the rest of his days in freedom.
I was first made aware of the intricacies of the Pollard case and situation by two men for whom I have the highest regard and respect, Mr. John Loftus and Rabbi Barry Dov Schwartz. I then began my own research of the case using publicly available materials, and historical information of past cases of similar nature. There is no doubt in my mind, that simply on the basis of precedence Mr. Pollard should be set free; on a broader level I believe that given a proper examination or hearing there are many other reasons which would warrant his release. It is time enough, It is the right thing to do.