NEW YORK (Jun. 19)
The major policymaking arm of U.S. Jewry decided Tuesday not to call for new action in support of Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew convicted of spying for Israel.
According to Phil Baum, chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Pollard Case, the committee will continue to monitor the case.
The NJCRAC committee last year supported a call for an inquiry into Pollard’s sentencing, but declined to recommend that member agencies file friend-of-the court briefs on Pollard’s behalf.
Pollard’s supporters have long been trying to mobilize the American Jewish community to take a stand on what they say was the influence of anti-Semitism in Pollard’s life sentence.
Pollard, a former civilian employee of U.S. Navy intelligence in Washington, was arrested in 1985 on charges of passing hundreds of classified documents to Israel.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment despite a plea bargain under which he agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Pollard’s supporters argue that the sentence was disproportionately heavy for someone who spied for an ally.
The case shocked and embarrassed the Jewish community which feared charges of dual loyalty and was angered that Israel would use an American Jew as a spy.
One member of the NJCRAC committee, who asked not to be named, said that NJCRAC member agencies generally do not believe there is solid evidence that anti-Semitism played a role in Pollard’s sentence.
‘THE SYSTEM IS WORKING’
“The case is in the courts and the system is working,” said Baum, who is associate executive director for the American Jewish Congress.
A motion filed by Alan Dershowitz, Pollard’s lawyer, to withdraw Pollard’s guilty plea and hold a trial is scheduled to be heard September 10 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Some committee members said another factor in their decision not to call for new action was the perception that Pollard had not yet shown true remorse for his activities.
In a recent letter to his parents — which Pollard’s supporters sent to Jewish organizations and interested individuals — Pollard calls his decision to spy an “error in judgment.”
“The feeling at the meeting was that he didn’t do a very good job” at expressing regret, and “the letter itself was not really what was needed,” said one committee member.
But Seymour Reich, a past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a Pollard supporter, said the letter “should be helpful to those who are looking for another reason to assist Jonathan to commute his sentence.”
Those attending the meeting stressed that the organized Jewish community is not “turning a deaf ear to Pollard,” as some of his supporters have claimed.
The committee decided to clarify what the Jewish community has done over the years on behalf of Pollard, and they will continue to follow events in the case closely, members said.