Pollard’s Impending Release Met Here With Cautious Optimism

After serving 30 years of a life sentence, Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was granted his release on July 28 and will leave federal prison in Butner, N.C., on Nov. 20. Pollard, who has long expressed his desire to move to Israel, is not allowed to leave America for five years. The decision, made by the United States Parole commission, brings to an end one of the longest-running points of contention between the United States and Israeli governments.
Pollard was an intelligence analyst in the Navy when he was arrested in 1985 for delivering classified documents to his Israeli handlers. He was convicted in 1987 and given a life sentence for handing over information about Soviet arms shipments to Arab countries and details of Iraqi and Syrian chemical weapons programs. His continued incarceration has caused tension between the U.S. and Israel for decades, with several administrations considering, but ultimately rejecting Israeli pleas to free him.
Yaron Sideman, the consul general of Israel to the mid-Atlantic region, commended Pollard’s release.
“We welcome the news on Pollard’s impending release, which in no way should be linked to the deal struck with Iran and the disagreements surrounding it,” Sideman said.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who spoke at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colo., on July 25, said there is no link between the Iran deal and Pollard’s impending release. Additionally, she explained, Pollard is one of the few prisoners still serving time under old sentencing rules, which mandated life terms for certain crimes with the possibility of parole.
“It would have been extremely far-thinking of people 30 years ago to sentence Mr. Pollard and set this mandatory release date to coincide with the Iran deal,” Lynch said at the forum. “And if they were able to pull that off, I would be quite impressed.”
Adam Kessler, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Philadelphia, said the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia supports Pollard’s release, but doesn’t see any connection between it and the Iran nuclear deal.
“From what we understand, he was punished in accordance with the law and we think that is as it should be,” Kessler said. “He was due for parole after 30 years, again in accordance with the law, and the timing with the Iran deal is probably just coincidence.”
Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the national correspondent for The Jewish Press in Brooklyn, N.Y. Marcus is a member of the Israel Advocacy Task Force of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the Israel Campus Initiative, the Israel Campus Coalition and is on the board of the Philadelphia Hillel.
Marcus said Pollard deserved to be punished, but the punishment did not fit the crime.
“The punishment he was given was way beyond what it should have been, given that he spied for an ally, and those who have spied for enemy countries were given far lighter sentences,” she said.
She does not believe his release is linked to the Iran nuclear deal.
Rabbi Howard Alpert, the chief executive officer of the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia supports his release, but thinks it will not impact college campuses.
“I think his parole will give them [students] the opportunity to open a conversation regarding the conflicting relationship between the U.S. and Israel,” Alpert said.
Joseph Puder, the executive director of StandwithUs, an international nonprofit organization supporting Israel around the world, issued a statement about Pollard’s release.
“Jonathan Pollard has more than paid his dues,” Puder said. “Freeing Jonathan is justified. Having kept him in prison for 30 years is not.”
jcohen@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0747


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