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News Analysis: U.S. Jewish Community Less Wary About Reaching out to the Pollards

The arms-length distance at which the organized American Jewish community has been holding the Pollard affair appears to be shrinking.

Reeling from the shock that an American Jew had spied for Israel, leaders of major Jewish organizations distanced themselves from the couple following their arrest and during the initial months of their imprisonment.

But recently, they have begun making inquiries and expressing concern about the treatment of Jonathan and Anne Pollard in prison, and they have even openly questioned the severity of their punishment.

“Clearly the sentences they received were discriminatory and excessive. One day, we’ll know why that happened,” said Seymour Reich, who is president of B’nai B’rith International and chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

A special committee of the Conference of Presidents met Thursday with Anne Pollard, who is in New York on a 12-day furlough from federal prison, her first in nearly three years. The committee was formed earlier this year to look into the Pollard affair.

MEETING WITH ISRAELI ENVOY?

According to sources both within the Jewish establishment and close to the Pollard family, Anne Pollard was also scheduled to meet Thursday with Johanan Bein, acting Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.

But Bein’s office denied such a meeting was taking place.

The American Jewish leaders approached their meeting with Pollard with what Reich called “cautious concern.”

Wary of aligning itself with convicted spies, the Jewish establishment as a rule describes its interest in the Pollard case as strictly humanitarian.

Its involvement in the case is limited to investigating charges that medical treatment has been denied Anne Pollard and that, for no apparent reason, her husband has been held in solitary confinement for the past four years, in a prison designed for the most dangerous of criminals.

After meeting with Pollard, Reich said that “she makes a compelling argument. It seems that greater leniency could have been afforded to her. She seems to be treated differently than others, and that’s disconcerting.”

But with the exception of the Zionist Organization of America, which is hosting a news conference by Anne Pollard on Friday, the major national Jewish organizations continue to steer clear of the open public advocacy and financial support requested by the Pollards and their grassroots support group, “Justice for the Pollards.”

Anne Pollard contends that neither she nor her husband broke the law. She and her family are ostensibly trying to raise funds in order to file suit to get her husband’s conviction set aside. She said that she “knows there was anti-Semitism involved” with the handling of their case.

During her furlough this week, she has publicly called on Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to ask President Bush to lighten her sentence and that of her husband’s.

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