Monday, August 19, 2013

Pollard’s return to Israel is long overdue

Any solution that does not free Pollard immediately, without restrictions, and allow him come home to Israel only compounds the injustice.

JPost Editorial..
18 August '13..

Friday’s powerful opinion piece by Jonathan Pollard in The Jerusalem Post (“Restoring Israel to greatness”) caused quite a sensation.

At great personal cost, Pollard penned the piece out of love for Israel and a genuine concern for its future. His words, whether you agree with them or not, were intended to sound a clarion call for an end to moral ambiguity and a restoration of sound values.

He writes, “No political process devoid of these fundamental values will ever end the agony or the fear for the State of Israel. It is clearly time for an historic restoration.”

Pollard enumerates with striking clarity a continuum of morally bereft decisions taken by successive governments of Israel out of “political expedience,” which have earned the country a series of “unenviable world records.”

Among them, writes Pollard, Israel is the first and only country in the world to expel its citizens, destroy their homes and uproot graves in order to hand the land over to its enemies.

Pollard also gives examples of the world records held by Israel for betraying those who have served the state, including his own case.

He summarizes the Jewish state’s record of “firsts,” declaring that “Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world so befuddled by moral ambiguity that it is willing to dishonor its dead, betray its bereaved and disgrace its citizens for the sake of political expedience.”

Pollard’s thesis is that these kinds of actions, which no other country has ever taken against its own citizens, have led Israel down a morally slippery slope to last week’s unconscionable release of the first 26 of 104 Palestinian murderers and terrorists. He fears where this will lead to next.

He deftly cuts through all of the arguments for and against the prisoner release, declaring “No Israeli official has advanced a single compelling reason in support of the wholesale release of these murderers and terrorists. The claim that it ‘serves national interests’ is spurious. There is no national interest that supersedes morality.”

But he ends on a hopeful note by spelling out what is needed. “Only a reawakening of national resolve and a rebirth of ethical politics rooted in national self-respect, moral rectitude and courage of conviction can guarantee the future,” he writes.

Pollard, a US intelligence analyst, was arrested in 1985 and sentenced to an unprecedented life sentence in 1987 for providing classified information to an ally, Israel.

In 1998, after years of implausible denial, the government of Israel admitted that Pollard was a bona fide Israeli agent and accepted responsibility for him.

Many American officials, including those who know the case first-hand, have for some time been urging US President Barack Obama to release Pollard because his sentence is “grossly disproportionate.” Similarly, Israel has made repeated official requests for his release on humanitarian grounds.

Obama has dismissed all requests to free Pollard, intimating that Pollard should wait another two years to apply for parole in 2015.

Suggesting parole as a solution to this travesty of justice is as disingenuous as it is unjust.

Parole – even if the US government decides not to fight it in 2015, which is unlikely – would leave the balance of Pollard’s 45-year life sentence intact, and would not set him free.

On the contrary, parole would mean that for another 15 years (the balance of his sentence) the US would severely restrict his freedom of movement, travel, speech, employment and even domicile. He certainly would not be free to come home to Israel, the country to which he has devoted his life.

Any solution that does not free Pollard immediately, without restrictions, and allow him come home to Israel only compounds the injustice and is a severe affront to Israel.

The only legal remedy that can address the unjust life sentence Pollard is serving is presidential commutation, the exclusive privilege of the president of the United States. Only the president, not the parole board, can commute a sentence to time-served.

Pollard’s commutation papers have been sitting on the president’s desk since October 2010. It is time for President Obama to sign them and send Pollard home in time for the High Holy Days. Whether as a confidence-building measure for Israel or a gesture to its citizens, Pollard’s return to Israel is long overdue.


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