… there is one act Obama could do that would at least partially redeem his
administration in the eyes of the Jewish people everywhere: let Pollard
spend the rest of his days in Israel.
Cruel and unusual
JPOST EDITORIAL 11/19/2016 22:01
Let Pollard spend the rest of his days in Israel.
After decades of arguments for and against the life sentence imposed on
Jonathan Pollard for spying on Israel’s behalf, followed by similar
arguments regarding the draconian terms of his parole after serving an
unprecedented 30 years, his current appeal of his parole terms did not seem
to hold much promise. This has all changed now, with the revelation that
these harsh release conditions were probably based on a staged “violation”
of his plea agreement.
US District Judge Katherine Forrest’s decision in August to keep in place
Pollard’s harsh parole conditions, now under appeal, was predicated on her
understanding that an interview Pollard gave in 1986 to then-Jerusalem Post
correspondent Wolf Blitzer was in violation of the plea agreement he had
The curious fact has now come to light, however, that Pollard was in federal
custody at the time, which clearly meant that he could have given such an
interview only after receiving permission. Indeed, Pollard had applied for
and received permission for the interview from the relevant US authorities,
which raises the question why.
It is unthinkable that these authorities were not familiar with their own
rules. The only possible conclusion is that this was a deliberate lapse,
whose existence was concealed from the court in order to bolster an argument
for unprecedentedly harsh parole conditions. A still unanswered question is
who told the relevant agencies what to do.
These conditions require him to wear an electronic ankle bracelet at all
times for GPS tracking of his whereabouts, which are limited by a strict
curfew – he cannot leave his New York City home between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The bracelet also impinges on his religious freedom by forcing him to
violate the Sabbath in order to keep it functioning. Any computers he uses –
whether his own or an employer’s – are subject to constant monitoring.
Pollard’s attorney, Eliot Lauer, said last week that “the commission also
claimed that Pollard has ‘a propensity to violate the terms of his plea
agreement and/or an order of the sentencing court,’ based on Pollard’s
alleged violation in 1986 of a gag order issued prior to his sentencing,
when Pollard, while incarcerated, was interviewed by journalist Wolf
Blitzer, who was admitted to the prison by federal authorities.”
The interview was published over several months in The Jerusalem Post and
reprinted in The Washington Post and The New York Times. Pollard’s wife,
Esther, has said that he had obtained written permission from the Bureau of
Prisons for the interview and restricted his remarks to the bureau’s
Adding insult to injury, Lauer noted that an unnamed parole official sought
it necessary to inform the court that “Pollard has ‘a propensity to violate
the terms of his plea agreement and/or an order of the sentencing court,”
citing his alleged 1986 violation of the gag order.
Esther Pollard quoted Blitzer as saying it appeared to him that the approval
for the interview was “part of a calculated scheme” by the prosecutors as a
pretext for later claiming that Pollard violated the plea agreement. She
said former government prosecutor Joseph diGenova later confirmed this by
telling The Village Voice that he had hoped the interview would be the
“rope” with which Pollard would hang himself.
Blitzer’s account of the issue may be viewed at length in his book Territory
of Lies: the Exclusive Story of Jonathan Jay Pollard: the American Who Spied
on His Country for Israel and How He Was Betrayed.
It is unlikely that those responsible for this apparent deception will come
forward to admit that their cruelly motivated, unseemly and bizarre attempt
to add to Pollard’s punishment was in fact an act of vengeance – as if 30
years’ imprisonment were not enough.
While another appeal by Pollard for a modicum of justice awaits decision,
there is one person who could end this sad saga at last in a timely manner:
President Barack Obama. Amid the endless speculation of what he might do
vis-à-vis Israel in the interim before handing over his office to Donald
Trump, there is one act Obama could do that would at least partially redeem
his administration in the eyes of the Jewish people everywhere: let Pollard
spend the rest of his days in Israel.