In the wake of the recent growing calls to release Jonathan Pollard, Attorney Marc Zell, co-chairman of Republicans Abroad in Israel, claimed surprisingly on Thursday that there are American Jews, including influential ones, who do not support Pollard’s release. (INN apologizes for its translator, who originally erroneously wrote that Mr. Zell is chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Israel),
He did not claim his views are the policy of the Republican party.
“As an Israeli Jew I’m obviously sorry he’s still in prison, but as an American Republican and an American citizen I do not support Pollard’s release,” Zell told Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew-language news service. “Knowing the issues inside out and knowing the background, what he did was very serious. I’m sorry he did what he did and hurt the interests of the United States, but I understand the White House.”
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel and a long-time activist on behalf of Pollard, disagreed strongly with Zell’s statements, saying that “Marc Zell’s comments might have been true 15 years ago.”
Rabbi Lerner explained that while it was in fact argued for years that Pollard had caused terrible damage that cannot be disclosed, these claims have become baseless after those who were most opposed to Pollard’s release have called for his immediate release.
Lerner was referring to well known individuals such as former Vice President Dan Quayle, U.S. Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross, former CIA director James Woolsey, former Secretary of State George Shultz, and even Senator John McCain (once vehemently opposed to the idea), all of whom have publicly supported Pollard’s release.
Zell, however, said that while he understands the struggle of Israeli politicians for Pollard’s release, he would rather tell what he feels is the truth about the case.
“It may not be popular to say so here and if I were an Israeli politician I would join the fight to release Pollard,” he said, “but what is not understood here in Israel is that Pollard did a terrible thing, particularly since he was part of military intelligence.
“I understand the White House and it’s not just Obama,” he added. “Every administration since Pollard’s arrest in 1985 has treated this case similarly. There’s a clear message there.”
He claimed that it is possible that Pollard would never be released.
“It’s quite possible,” he said. “My heart is with all those who wish for humane reasons that he be released, but there are things I know that go beyond the humane side. I spoke to officials in Washington, some of them are Jews who are supporters of Israel, and they say that what Pollard did is very serious. I cannot describe the anger that still exists about what he did.”
Zell also claimed that other American Jews oppose Pollard’s release.
“I cannot begin to describe the anger. There are many reasons. First of all he hurt American interests, but Jews are opposed to his release because they are angry that he hurt the status of American Jews in the eyes of the American public and administration.”
Other officials involved in the campaign for Pollard’s release also rejected Zell’s claims, and noted that particularly in light of this week’s events, when the U.S. Administration refused to allow Pollard to attend his father’s funeral, there has been an increase in the support for him among American Jews.
“Several months ago hundreds of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform leaders signed a letter calling on President Obama to free Pollard, but now there is an even bigger rage against his imprisonment,” the officials said.
They added, “Indeed, there was once great anger towards Pollard by Jews who had to suddenly deal with a case where there is a conflict between loyalty to Israel and loyalty to the United States, but today, when government ministers, heads of the judicial system and top security officials in the United States have already agreed that Pollard’s sentence is disproportionate and unjust , it is clear to everyone that this tragedy has to end.”