Thursday, January 6, 2011

Case in Point: Jonathan Pollard

On this blog, I often mention that if we don't unite under our own volition, we will be forced to do so under less than ideal circumstances. Unfortunately, the predicament of Jonathan Pollard is a prime example. As Pollard enters his 26th year in prison for a crime that usually receives 2 to 4 years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many other leading Jewish figures have made a public plea for clemency. Jews from all major denominational and political backgrounds are uniting in their call for Pollard's release. Indeed, over the past two decades, Jews of all walks of life have pleaded for mercy from American presidents on Pollard's behalf.

Recently, a short video was put together on this issue:

Just to be clear, Pollard did commit a crime by passing classified information (albeit to Israel, a democratic ally) and did deserve to receive a minor prison sentence. However, he has been there - often in solitary confinement - above and beyond what any comparable criminal has received, and he most certainly does not deserve a life sentence. We must continue to do our best to achieve his release via a presidential pardon. This is about pursuing justice and trying to alleviate the suffering of Jonathan and his devoted wife, Esther, who tirelessly makes the case for his freedom. Sadly, her husband continues to deteriorate physically.

There are those who wonder whether or not Jews asking for Pollard's release are simply having an ethnocentric, knee-jerk reaction for someone who actually deserves a severe sentence. However, the more objectively one looks into the details of the incident and compares it to other spying cases, the more unsettling this situation becomes. There is something very disturbing about the fact that thousands of murderers and child molesters - not to mention those caught spying for America's enemies - have been released after only a few years in prison, while a man who did nothing comparable rots in a lonely cell.

It's important to strive for justice on behalf of anyone who has been the victim of injustice. As Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Yet, while helping Pollard should be done simply because it is right, there is another issue at play here. In a larger sense, this case affects us all because of its anti-Semitic undertones (even though it might be uncomfortable coming to the conclusion that Pollard is being singled out because he is Jewish). Hopefully, we will figure out a way to achieve a pardon for Pollard before it is too late, and finally achieve some semblance of unity before another Jew has to go through a similar ordeal.

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