In an age of five second sound bites and quarter hours of fame, fresh news stories sour literally overnight. The Jewish People, however, are a nation of memory; realizing that history repeats itself, we recall past experiences. Our holidays commemorate the miracles and challenges of our history, as our fast days reflect moments for lament and introspection. Through it all, our collective memories remain sharp and focused; the good times as well as the times of affliction and hardship remain as clear as any contemporary experience.
Why, then, have we forgotten Jonathan Pollard? Jonathan made grievous errors against his country, he spied on behalf of Israel and he has paid a price. His punishment has far exceeded the normal parameters of similar crimes. He has languished in years of solitary confinement, struggled to maintain his sanity in a psychiatric hospital that Mr. Pollard can only compare to “Dante’s Inferno,” and now continues his incarceration in North Carolina. Eleven years of a life sentence without parole have passed. He spied for Israel, a trusted ally, and plea bargained in good faith only to be double-crossed. He received assurances from his fellow Jews that, “we will never forget you,” only now to be forgotten.
Senator Dennis Deconcini, the retired Ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee recently wrote to President Clinton urging him to commute Pollard’s sentence on humanitarian grounds to time served. He joins the chorus of voices across the political and religious spectrum who have spoken out. We have heard from Father Hesburgh, a Catholic, and Pat Robertson, a Protestant; from Elie Weisel, a Holocaust survivor, and Mrs. Raoul Wallenberg, wife of the Holocaust hero; and from City Council resolutions and foreign government declarations. Many who have wanted to speak out were encouraged to wait. Wait for what? Wait for whom? Our collective memory continues to fade as we face the crises of each new day. Shall we wait for a newly elected administration that will almost certainly be as non-responsive on this issue as it had been to date? Or perhaps for Pollard to break under the anguishes of incarceration?
Mr. Clinton speaks of the need for remorse. Let us ask the President – what more can Jonathan do? He has written statement after statement of apology. In any discussion he is quick to express regret, remorse and sincere contrition. What must he do – renounce his love for Israel? He may be a broken man, but he remains a proud Jew. He wrongly violated our laws and misguidedly aided the State of Israel. However, if denying his love for Zion is the price of freedom, then Jonathan Pollard will surely languish forever.
Let us engage President Bill Clinton, Vice-President Al Gore, Candidates Bob Dole and Jack Kemp in a public dialogue as we press Pollard’s case. This case can act as a test of their commitments to justice, fairness, and compassion. Let us be true to our nature and show Jonathan and the world, that we have not forgotten him or the lessons of inequality, nor will we, so long as justice remains unserved.