Massive Pollard Rally in Jerusalem

Several Pollard events are taking place this week, including a mass rally Wednesday afternoon, a special Knesset session, school classes, and a rare televised interview with Esther Pollard.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 1:33 PM

This afternoon (Wednesday), a mass demonstration is planned in Jerusalem, demanding Pollard's release from U.S. prison. The participants will first chain themselves with handcuffs, forming a human chain from the American Embassy to the Prime Minister's Residence several hundred meters away. At the rally to be held afterwards, Pollard's wife will read aloud a speech written for the event by her husband.

A special Knesset session on Pollard was held yesterday (Tuesday), at which the Knesset resolved by an 84-0 vote to demand that Prime Minister Sharon officially request a Presidential pardon for Pollard. The Knesset also recognized Pollard as a "Prisoner of Zion" - though Pollard supporters emphasized that efforts continue to convince the Government to officially grant him this status.

MK Uri Ariel said at the session, "The Knesset has made many resolutions over the years regarding Pollard, but they have not brought results. The Israeli public is united in its wish to see Pollard free. 112 MKs signed a request to President Bush to release him, but Prime Minister Sharon 'forgot' to bring it to him, and in fact never submitted it."

MK Ariel noted that Israel had "freed Elchanan Tenenbaum from Hizbullah captivity, and Azzam Azzam from Egypt, but Jonathan Pollard remains in prison in the United States. Today is a day of reckoning for all of us to see if we did enough to have him released."

MK Ariel also read aloud a letter from Pollard, in which he expresses his pride at having saved many Jews with his actions, and a prayer for his release written by former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu.

On Monday, public schools all over Israel dedicated an hour to learning about Jonathan Pollard. The instruction was issued by Education Minister Limor Livnat, who said it was "appropriate to do so because Israel's obligation to Pollard is not controversial." Livnat said, "The education system [should] bring his contribution to the State of Israel to students' attention."

On Monday night, Pollard's wife Esther was granted a rare television interview, with Ya'ir Lapid on Channel Two. Lapid played recordings of Jonathan Pollard speaking from prison on the occasion of last week's 20th anniversary of his incarceration. Jonathan spoke of the constant sense of danger he feels: " with the fear of imminent death - because violence occurs very quickly, and from out of the blue."

Pollard was also heard sharply attacking Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz for the fact that his name is not on the official Ministry of Defense list of captives. Saying it was a "calculated refusal to keep my name off the list," Pollard said, "Every Knesset Member that I've talked to about this has been shocked and disgusted when they realize what has been done. And I blame Mofaz himself, personally, for this. Mofaz has knowingly abandoned a soldier in the field."

An agent whose name is on the list is entitled to rights and benefits as an Israeli agent, including the fact that the Israeli Government would be obligated to seek his immediate release. It would also enable Pollard to receive financial benefits, which he has in fact never received.

During the interview, Mrs. Pollard also noted the ongoing struggle to have Israel recognize her husband as a Prisoner of Zion: "We made an official request, but the government did not agree, and so we brought it to the Supreme Court, where the issue currently stands."

She noted that this is just another struggle that the Pollards have had to wage in the Supreme Court against the government: "To receive his citizenship, we also had to go to the Supreme Court, and also to receive the recognition as an Israeli agent. We always have to struggle against the State."

Lapid asked if she accepts the explanation that the government has been working for his release "via secret channels," Mrs. Pollard said,
"How is it possible to have 20 years of secret efforts, without even one centimeter of progress? It cannot be... There are some things that the government of Israel can do, but it is just not doing. For instance, it can officially inform the U.S. Justice Dept that he is an Israeli agent - but it has not done so, and he is therefore treated as a common criminal. The Americans also understand from this that Israel is not so serious about wanting him."

"Israel has not done the most essential and basic things to free this agent, as it did with its other agents in Switzerland and Cyprus," Mrs. Pollard said.