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Behind the Headlines; Support for the Pollards Grows As Doubts Linger About Fairness

July 10, 1990
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Jonathan Pollard’s family and supporters are meeting with increasing success in bringing their case to the American Jewish community, as a federal court reviews his move for a withdrawal of the guilty plea that resulted in his life sentence in prison.

Winning recognition from mainstream Jewish groups has been a long-sought goal for supporters of Pollard, a U.S. naval intelligence analyst who was convicted of spying for Israel.

But despite these victories, there appear to be growing tensions within the Pollard clan.

Pollard and his wife, Anne, have been estranged for the four months since she was released on probation, after serving two-and-a-half years in prison, according to Dr. Morris Pollard, Jonathan’s father.

Dr. Pollard said Anne had not visited her husband in prison nor written him since her release, though she has had permission to do both. “It’s disturbing to Jonathan and disturbing to us,” he said.

Anne is currently a patient at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. She was admitted after an attack of pancreatitis, which is related to the digestive disorders that plagued her in prison.

As a result of the attack, she postponed a trip to Israel, which had been set for Tuesday.

Dr. Pollard credited the recent flurry of activity related to the Pollard affair in the Jewish organizational world to the involvement of high-profile attorney Alan Dershowitz in his son’s case.


Dershowitz, who has taken on Jonathan Pollard’s cause pro bono, contends that his life sentence for spying was grossly disproportionate to that received by spies who have pled guilty to similar crimes. He believes a key reason Pollard received unfair treatment was his Jewishness and the fact that he was spying for Israel.

In the wake of Pollard’s conviction in 1985, most of the organized Jewish community avoided involvement in the case. But last month, after its Commission on Law and Social Action heared a presentation by Dershowitz, the American Jewish Congress cautiously advocated a re-examination of Pollard’s sentence.

“It has been brought to our notice,” reads a resolution approved by the group’s governing council, “that substantial allegations have been made that the fairness of the sentence imposed upon Jonathan Pollard and the manner in which the government has dealt with his case were affected by the fact that Pollard is Jewish and the nation he is charged with aiding is Israel.

“Because such allegations raise questions of concern to the American Jewish Congress, we support the call for full, open and fair hearings before appropriate tribunals on these issues,” the statement said.

A resolution containing even stronger language was passed July 4 at a convention of B’nai B’rith’s District Four in Long Beach, Calif. District Four covers the western United States.

The resolution declared unequivocally that Pollard’s treatment “was unduly harsh and excessive in that his sentence was unprecedented and far more severe than those historically meted out to most persons convicted of espionage.”

The convention resolved that it would present a resolution at the B’nai B’rith International convention in Dallas at the end of August that, like the AJCongress measure, would call for a review of the case before “appropriate tribunals.”


Robert Lifton, national president of AJCongress, said the resolutions represent a general belief in the Jewish community that questions over the severity of Pollard’s sentence will not go away.

“There is a lingering doubt in the Jewish community that is not healthy,” Lifton said. “We’re not saying (Dershowitz) has proved his case. But he presented enough material to say it’s worth looking into.”

Phil Baum, AJCongress associate executive director and chairman of a committee on the Pollards organized by the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, stressed that the passage of the AJCongress resolution in no way implied his group’s approval of the Pollard couple’s espionage activities.

“I think the Pollards are abhorrent,” Baum said. “What they did is indefensible and totally wrong.”

But such sentiments have recently appeared to be overshadowed in the Jewish community by doubts over why he was sentenced so severely in comparison to other spies.

It has not been a purely spontaneous shift, but one fed by pressure from a vocal and tireless cadre of supporters, led by Pollard’s family.

Pollard’s father said he has traveled throughout the country, speaking to a number of Jewish community federations and community relations councils, as well as lobbying national organizations.

“I’d like to get Hadassah to come around. But they say they are not political,” Pollard said.

Support from Jewish groups is important, Dershowitz wrote in the summary of his presentation. “Indeed, efforts by grass-roots Jews to engage in a dialogue with government officials about the Pollard case have been hindered, because such officials have noted the apparent lack of concern by the major Jewish organizations,” he said.


But from parts of the American Jewish community, open sympathy for the Pollards, particularly Anne, has been forthcoming.

After her release from prison, Anne Pollard was invited to address audiences as a guest speaker at AMIT Women and the Women’s Council of Young Israel. Emunah Women presented her with its “Women of Valor” award at a luncheon that also honored a U.S.” congressman, Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Shirley Singer, Emunah’s executive vice president, said the group “separated the issues” of the Pollards’ activities and what she perceived as Anne’s bravery during her prison ordeal.

“It was like what people underwent in concentration camps,” she said.

Ironically, as sympathy for the Pollards has grown since Anne’s release, discord between her family and Jonathan’s has grown worse.

Dr. Pollard said that the falling-out occurred when he refused to let Anne’s father, Bernard Henderson, who works in public relations, coordinate the efforts to free Jonathan from prison. Instead, he put the task in the hands of his son’s attorneys.

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