World Jewry Debates the Pollard Struggle

With one day left until the worldwide Thursday protests on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, activists around the globe are debating the best way to obtain his release.

Baruch Gordon , | updated: 2:17 AM

Pollard, a former civilian American Naval intelligence analyst, has been in US jails since his arrest in 1985 for "passing classified information to a US ally," namely Israel. Former CIA Director James Woolsey who once supported the continued incarceration of Pollard, recently told Arutz-7 that he now favors clemency for the Jewish prisoner.

Woolsey recently told Arutz-7's Alex Traiman, "Now that he has served 20 years of a prison sentence, my view is that a 20-year sentence, I think, is enough... I think the close relationship between United States and Israel as fellow democracies is also a consideration so, at this point, I think Pollard has served a long enough sentence."

Recent worldwide initiatives aimed at obtaining Pollard's release were reported here. These include, amongst others, a national US-based campaign to call the White House (202-456-1414) until the Passover holiday to request/demand freedom for Pollard, and a Russian Jewry declaration that the current month of Shvat is a month of struggle for the release of Jonathan Pollard with a hunger-strike planned for February 11th.

However, a worldwide debate is currently raging over the third and more controversial initiative calling for civil disobedience.

The US-based Bnei Elim organization announced a series of simultaneous stormy protests including traffic-blocking street sit-ins to escalate the plight of Jonathan Pollard to the headlines. The rallies are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 8, at 6 PM EST, and 3 PM on the west coast of the U.S. Pollard supporters were asked to sit in streets at the designated locations, to draw the media to pass the "Free Pollard!" message along to President Bush.

Seven hours before the US target time, a Jerusalem road-blocking is scheduled for Zion Square in Jerusalem (6:00pm, Israel time).

Upon hearing the announcements of the above organized civil disobedience, Esther Pollard, Jonathan's wife, released a statement denouncing the plan.

The Pollard statement, issued late Tuesday night, sparked off a raging debate on forums and blogs about the best way to bring about Pollard's release.

Arutz Sheva quotes below the Pollard plea to their supporters and the counter arguments of those who respectfully disagree with the Pollards in favor of stormy protests. Readers are invited to participate in a "Quick Poll" on the issue, posted on the Arutz Sheva homepage (lower left column).

The Pollard statement:

Please Honor Jonathan's Call to Refrain from Anti-Social Protest

Speaking from prison in Butner, North Carolina, Jonathan Pollard has issued a call to all supporters worldwide to refrain from any form of anti-social protest on his behalf.

The Pollards and their executive team are gratified by the out-pouring of popular support for Jonathan's immediate release from prison. They are thankful for the massive participation in the Nationwide White House Call-In Campaign and other related activities.

However, Jonathan and Esther Pollard denounce, decry and distance themselves from all calls to violence, hooliganism or civil disobedience as a means to protest Jonathan's continued incarceration. The Pollards do not support the sit-in rally to block traffic, regardless of the locale. This tactic is not only undesirable, it is counter-productive and damaging to Jonathan's cause. We ask all those who truly care about Jonathan to refrain from promoting or participating in any acts of civil disobedience or of an anti-social nature.

The Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home, Justice4JP, the National Council of Young Israel and Jonathan's attorneys in Israel and in the USA urge all supporters to honor Jonathan Pollard's expressed request to refrain from anti-social forms of protest. We urge everyone to become united and actively involved in the many positive, constructive initiatives that are now on-going for Jonathan's release. We need your support; we want your support. Let's do it the right way!

Counter arguments issued by the Jerusalem-based Mishalot Yisrael group [Posts authored by Yekutiel ben Yaakov]:

For obvious reasons it is unlikely to expect Jonathan, from jail, to call for people to break the law on his behalf.

For the record: the Talmud says, "ein chavush meitir et atzmo m'bet haasurim," which means that a prisoner does not free himself from prison. [Talmud, Brachot and Nedarim]. Basically, it is our task to free him. Inevitably the prisoner is in no position to free himself due to physical and psychological reasons of dependency on the mercy of others.

No struggle ever got anywhere without attention and civil disobedience or worse.

Pollard's position, if it is true, is understood, and our position is understood.

Nobody has called me claiming to represent Jonathan and explaining why this struggle should be any different than a million other struggles. I don't understand how people taking to the streets could hurt. Quiet diplomacy has failed for 22 years, as it always does until people step up the struggle and until it gets coverage and embarrasses those who could do more to take action.

When Rabbi Meir Kahane started the campaign for Soviet Jews which, by the way, included bombings and crazy stuff, he never asked the Russian Jews about their philosophy and ideology, and many Rabbis such as the Lubavitcher Rabbi told him he would "kill Russian Jews" with violent protests. We have heard these arguments before from greater detractors, with all due respect. It was these tactics of the JDL, his group, that escalated the struggle to the headlines.

We are doing much less than that, and logic dictates that after 22 years the time has come to step up the level of intensity in this struggle.

I am not thrilled to possibly have to spend the night or a few days in a hospital bed after getting smashed by some sadistic cop or in a smelly jail cell, and I am not thrilled that Pollard is unhappy, if this is in fact the case. But the obligation to do and to try something new is quite obvious.

When we had blocked traffic at Marrian, Illinois when he was in prison there in '91 or '92, I heard that Jonathan was very, very happy that people cared enough to go out and risk arrest for his sake. Actually we had been told that he was very depressed, and that this gave him inspiration.

So I have no idea if what has been said in his and Esther's name is in fact true, and even if it is, for obvious reasons they can't come out and openly back this type of stuff and thereby risk support of more established people and groups. It is a game, probably, more than anything else. Similarly, Rabbi Kahane would not condone the JDL bombings. People with hearts and brains should understand this, and do that which their hearts and brains tell them to be the right thing to do.

Vote in the poll on the above issue [scroll to lower left column of homepage].