Jonathan Pollard is entering his 26th year in prison, and there’s a minor buzz in Washington about what JTA Washington correspondent Ron Kampeas called “the biggest push in years” to free the Israeli spy (See story on page 35). That effort includes a letter signed by 39 House Democrats calling for his release and a similar statement by former Assistant Defense Secretary Lawrence Korb. There are also wispy rumors his release could be part of the U.S. incentives package offered to Israel in return for a 90-day extension of its settlement moratorium.
As we’ve said in the past, Pollard’s espionage activities in the early 1980s were wrong, and we reject claims that his efforts were justified, however well-intentioned they may have been. We also continue to believe supporters who glorify his actions are a major impediment to his release through presidential clemency. What president is likely to release a spy who will be immediately hailed as a hero by worshipful admirers? The Pollard spy case continues to make life more difficult for Jews in sensitive defense and intelligence positions.
All that said, we believe Jonathan Pollard should be released, and released now.
The interests of justice have long since been served; whatever the role of his supporters and his own comments in making commutation politically unpalatable, the amount of time he has served clearly has been disproportionate. The Cold War is now a distant memory. It’s hard to imagine there are any national security reasons for his continued incarceration.
There is also a strong element of human tragedy in the Pollard saga — the story of a young and idealistic man who made a terrible mistake and was cruelly misused by those who recruited and then abandoned him.
We applaud the actions of groups including the National Council of Young Israel, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism on Pollard’s behalf, and commend the lawmakers, led by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn), who are beginning to speak out more forcefully.
We call on President Barack Obama to release Jonathan Pollard — not because what he did was justified, not because America was wrong in imprisoning him, not as part of any diplomatic deal but out of simple compassion. And because keeping him in jail is no longer a matter of justice or national security.