\"The question at this point is where does just punishment end and something far less appetizing - something not normally associated with American values - begin?\" So asks AFSI Executive Committee member Bill Mehlman, in an open letter to President Bush regarding the continued imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard. Excerpts from the letter:

Dear Mr. President:

I have never been associated with any organized effort to gain Presidential clemency for Jonathan J. Pollard. Yet, with the passage of 16 years since his imprisonment for transmitting classified U.S. Navy Intelligence information to an agent of the Israeli government, certain observations have become increasingly clear to me...

However illegal, however misguided, Pollard’s act was not undertaken on behalf of a belligerent [country]... Whether or not the U.S., for whatever reason, reneged on a commitment to furnish Israel with this intelligence as part of the Camp David 1 peace agreement with Egypt, is a subject for the historians to ponder... He is not, and never was, a Robert Hanssen or an Edwin Walker. He did break the law. He did not betray his country to its enemies.

Jonathan Pollard has served 16 years for his crime, including some very hard time at the Federal Penitentiary in Marion, Ill. That’s more punishment than has ever been meted out to anyone in the history of the U.S. for transmitting classified information to a non-belligerent. The question at this point is where does just punishment end and something far less appetizing - something not normally associated with American values - begin?

Pollard is ill, very ill by all accounts. How much long he can sustain a life behind bars with no hope of release is an open question. Compassion aside, Pollard’s death in prison would leave an ineradicable stain on the character of American justice, an incomparable gift to a legion of American detractors ever on the alert for any opportunity to hold us in contempt of the humanitarian principles we avow. Is whatever suffering the bitter-enders think Jonathan Pollard still owes us worth that price?

...Harry Truman, whom I know you hold in high regard, wrote the book on how “expert advice” must sometimes be dealt with when he decided in 1947 to throw America’s support behind the creation of Israel over the impassioned objections of his own State and Defense Departments... Mr. President, after 16 years, the Pollard case cries out for a reprise of this exercise in Presidential courage - the courage to overrule the “experts,” the play-it-safers, the always ready dispensers of conventional wisdom, and to do what’s right.

It is right that closure be brought to the Pollard case. It is right that this man be granted his plea to spend his waning days in Israel with his wife. It is wrong, unworthy of this proud republic, to witness the permutation of American justice into a lingering, compassionless vendetta against a man who once allowed his concern for the survival of a beleaguered little Jewish state get the better of his reason.

In your hands and yours alone, lies the power to right this wrong. May the urgency of this petition be matched by the urgency of your response.



Executive Committee member, Americans for a Safe Israel

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