On the heels of a Middle East tour last week by Laura Bush to promote women’s rights in the region, the female members of Israel’s Knesset have petitioned the first lady to lobby for the release of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, in part citing Pollard’s inability to have children while jailed.
In Israel Sunday, Bush visited holy sites to honor Israel’s three major religions. Upon arriving at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the first lady was besieged by dozens of protesters shouting, “Free Pollard now,” prompting Secret Service agents and Israeli police to physically restrain the crowd as Bush approached the holy site. Bush also toured Egypt and Jordan.
The women of Israel’s Knesset recently sent a personal letter to Bush asking her to intercede on Pollard’s behalf.
The letter, obtained by WND, states, “We are writing to you regarding an important humanitarian issue. Jonathan Pollard has been serving a sentence in a U.S. prison for almost 20 years now for passing classified information to Israel, information that … assisted the state of Israel in preventing serious harm to its citizens. There is no doubt that Jonathan’s actions contravened U.S. law, but the fact that he caused no actual damage to U.S. security and the average penalty for the offense with which he was charged is two to four years must be taken into consideration.”
Appealing to Bush’s drive to promote women’s rights and family values, the female Knesset members stressed, “Jonathan and his wife were also prohibited from having conjugal visits throughout all the years of his incarceration, and they have thereby been prevented from establishing a family with children. … The extended imprisonment of Jonathan Pollard greatly troubles the Israeli public, in particular because the punishment imposed upon Jonathan and the conditions of his incarceration are similar to those of individuals who spied for the benefit of a country which is the enemy of the United States; and in all of U.S. legal history there is no precedent for a person who has been convicted of spying on behalf of a country friendly to the U.S. having suffered so long a sentence of imprisonment.”
The letter lamented “grave descriptions of the torment that Jonathan has undergone throughout the years of his imprisonment have been published.”
WND reported a recent petition to Israel’s Supreme Court to grant Pollard special prisoner status, which he had been previously denied, outlined years of abuse and torture Pollard says he suffered in American imprisonment, details of which shocked many in Israel.
The legal appeal, filed in Hebrew and obtained by WND, stated Pollard was subject to anti-Semitic violence; underwent torture treatments in which he was repeatedly chained to an iron chair, bolted to the floor of a shower stall and blasted with torrents of ice water for long periods of time; was electrified with a high-voltage cattle prod; was subject to public anal exams; and spent many years in solitary confinement in a small cell that was once sprayed with toxic gas, among other claims.
Pollard’s life sentence was largely thought to have been driven by a last-minute secret memorandum from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, in which he accused Pollard of treason – a crime for which he was never indicted – and claimed Pollard harmed America’s national security.
But even Weinberger now says the sentence may be about something else.
Weinberger said in a recent interview that the Pollard issue “is a very minor matter, but made very important. … It was made far bigger than its actual importance.”
Pollard previously told WND the information he passed to Israel forewarned the Jewish state about the buildup of unconventional weapons of war in neighboring Arab countries, including the buildup of arms by Saddam Hussein for use against Israel.
In an interview last month with Caroline Glick, a Jerusalem Post columnist, former CIA Director James Woolsey said it may be time to commute Pollard’s sentence.
“Pollard,” Woolsey said, “may not have been a prime candidate for commutation, but 20 years is a very long time. At a certain point, it is time to ask if enough is enough. … There is an obligation to have a different approach to spies for friendly countries.”
Some have claimed information Pollard passed to Israel may have been leaked to enemy countries, which could have penetrated Israel’s security establishment. But Glick says Woolsey told her claims that information Pollard gave Israel were leaked to other countries such as China or the Soviet Union are not true.
Turning to Laura Bush, Israel’s female lawmakers requested “[that you] act on behalf of the immediate release of Jonathan from prison. You must certainly be aware that recently the prime minister of Israel granted an American request to release Palestinian prisoners as a gesture to Abu Mazen and to strengthen his position. We are certain that you also believe that particularly at this time, when Israel is undergoing a period of great tension and fears [over] a split in Israeli society due to the impending disengagement, the time has come to extend a gesture to the people of Israel and to release Jonathan Pollard from prison.”