In the 1970’s, there was a concerted effort by American Jews to protest the “Prisoners of Zion,” the Soviet Refusniks who were not allowed to leave the Soviet Union and immigrate to Israel. As soon as they applied to the Soviet government for exit visas, they lost their jobs, and in some cases, like Anatoly Sharansky, thrown into prison. Their only crime was that they were Jews and they wanted to immigrate to Israel. As an American Jew, with our great freedoms, it shocked and offended me that my brethren in the Soviet Union, whose only crime was being a Jew who wanted to return to our homeland were not free to do so. I signed petitions and protested along with many other Jews. Eventually the day came when Anatoly Sharansky was freed and allowed to immigrate to Israel, where he lives today and serves as a politician.
As an American Jew, I feel I owe an apology to the now defunct Soviet Union, because our government’s handling of the Jonathan Pollard case is unfair, embarrassing, and anti-Semitic. Jonathan Pollard was guilty of spying for Israel, our ally. He passed information to the Israeli government that was not harmful to the United States, but he was framed by US State department officials for passing harmful information that put US agents at risk. The fact is, that information, which was harmful, was passed by other US spies to the Soviets who served four to six years in prison. Pollard, who passed innocuous information to our ally, was given a life sentence. He has been in prison since 1985. Appeals have been made repeatedly over the years. He was not allowed out of prison to attend his mothers and fathers funerals. His health is failing. Despite repeated requests for his release by the State of Israel, his family, Jewish and Christian religious leaders, and countless petitions, the Government of the United States of America refuses to release him.
President Clinton promised to release him but reneged on his promise. President Bush did not release him. In the last 24 months, many top US former state department personnel have come forward to admit he was railroaded and should be released. Humanitarian organizations have requested his release. The Prime Minister of Israel has formally requested he be released. Yet for some reason, President Obama refuses to release him.
The problem is that President Obama sees this issue as an Israeli issue, not a human rights issue, and perhaps sees Pollard as a bargaining chip for his political meddling in the Middle East. I wonder why he can’t see it as an issue of justice. When people with far greater infractions against our country were given much lighter sentences and released, and a man who spied for our ally was given a sentence usually reserved for mass murderers, it makes you wonder about what kind of justice we really have in this country.
According to a July 15th article in the World Tribune, Lobbyists addressed this issue to Obama.