In a new twist to the ongoing effort to secure Jonathan Pollard’s freedom, a prominent European Jewish leader has written to President Obama and asked that he commute Pollard’s sentence to time served (the full text of the letter appears below and a copy is attached).
Although the calls for clemency for Jonathan Pollard have grown louder and stronger in recent months, the letter by Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, the President of the European Jewish Congress, is especially noteworthy, in that it sends a clear message to President Obama that European Jewry joins with Jews in the United States and Israel in their quest to see Pollard released from prison. Kantor’s letter has been has been remitted to the American mission to the European Union for President Obama’s attention.
Jonathan Pollard has spent more than 26 years languishing in a federal prison for passing classified information to Israel, an ally of the United States.
Moshe Kantor, an international philanthropist, entrepreneur and investor who is well-known for his extensive involvement in community life, has greatly contributed to revitalizing Jewish life in Europe and beyond. Since 2007, Kantor has served as President of the European Jewish Congress, which is a leading Jewish secular umbrella organization that coordinates 40 national Jewish communities in Europe, encompassing approximately 2.5 million Jews. The European Jewish Congress’ goal is to address the world’s most pressing issues; namely, protecting human rights, fighting xenophobia and anti-Semitism, promoting interfaith dialogue, implementing cultural and educational programs, and remembering the Holocaust and other tragedies that claimed millions of human lives throughout the world.
“Jonathan Pollard’s continued imprisonment is an injustice,” wrote Moshe Kantor in his letter to the President. “Only you, Mr. President, can put an end to this injustice by commuting Pollard’s sentence to time served.”
“As we approach the Jewish New Year, a time considered an opportune moment for confession, forgiveness and new beginnings, I humbly ask you, Mr. President, to show mercy for a fellow human being and to serve the cause of justice,” continued Kantor.
Kantor’s letter comes in the wake of a surprising win by Republican Bob Turner in a special election in New York’s Ninth Congressional District. Turner, who came out publically for Pollard’s release during the course of the campaign, scored an upset victory over the Democratic candidate in a heavily Democratic district that has a large Jewish population. The win by Turner was widely viewed as a referendum of sorts on President Obama and a clarion call that the President needs to be more attuned to the interests of the Jewish community. The idea that the Jewish community overwhelmingly supports clemency for Jonathan Pollard is something that the President should be cognizant of as he gears up for his re-election campaign.
Kantor made a number of salient points in his letter, including the fact that Pollard did not disclose information to any country other than Israel, a friend and ally of the U.S.; his intention was not to harm the United States; and Israel did not make any use of the disclosed information to harm the security or the interests of the Unites States. He also noted that Pollard is the only person in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally.
In his correspondence to the President, Kantor also noted that the information disclosed by Pollard revealed to Israel information critical to its safety and security, including the details of Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare capabilities, of ballistic missile development, and on planned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian targets. Kantor pointed out that “former National Security Advisor Bobby Ray Inman has publicly admitted, after resigning in 1994, that this critical information had been deliberately withheld from Israel in retaliation for Israel’s 1981 strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.”
In addition, Kantor stated that although Pollard’s conviction was justified, “his sentence was disproportionate and out-of-line with sentences imposed for similar offences.”
Kantor also reminded the President that the United States government broke its promise that it would not seek life imprisonment and then breached the plea bargain when “it submitted a perjured affidavit by then Secretary of Defense Weinberger demanding life imprisonment and overstating the damage that Pollard had caused.”
“There is no other case in American jurisprudence in which a plea bargain has been so blatantly violated,” wrote Kantor. “If Pollard had served the sentence agreed upon in the plea bargain, he would no longer be in jail by now.”
In addition to serving as President of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor has served as President of the Russian Jewish Congress, a leading Russian secular organization that represents the interests of the whole spectrum of modern Russian Jewry. He is also the Co-Chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, a non-governmental organization that was established to monitor European countries’ adherence to the principles of tolerance, develop practical initiatives and make recommendations for promoting mutual understanding between cultures.
Moshe Kantor is the Founder and President of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, whose goal is to support Holocaust remembrance activities for the sake of preserving the historical memory of nations all over the world and preventing future tragedies. In addition, Kantor is the key founder and Chairman of the European Jewish Fund, which focuses on promoting Jewish life throughout Europe by supporting programs to reinforce Jewish identity and Jewish pride, especially by reconnecting people with their rich and vital Jewish heritage. The Fund also focuses on addressing pressing concerns threatening Jewish life in Europe, such as assimilation, anti-Semitism and racism.
Kantor is also the President of the International Luxembourg Conference on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe, which is the largest non-government expert institution of its kind uniting leading, world-renowned experts on non-proliferation of nuclear arms, materials and delivery vehicles.
A graduate of the Moscow Aviation Institute, Moshe Kantor has a PhD in Spacecraft Automatic Control Systems. After graduation, Mr. Kantor headed a leading Soviet laboratory engaged in developing spacecraft. A reflector satellite was designed using his research and subsequently launched into Earth orbit to illuminate the planet’s surface with reflected sunlight.
In 1993, Kantor took the helm at Acron agrochemical company. Under Kantor’s supervision, Acron has become one of the world’s leading fertilizer producers and distributors. From 1996-2000, Kantor served as an Economic Adviser to the Chairman of the Federation Council (the Upper House of the Russian Parliament) of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
Moshe Kantor’s letter to President Obama comes in the wake of numerous calls for clemency for Pollard from prominent government officials, high-ranking individuals in the national intelligence arena, leading professionals in the legal world, and renowned religious and communal leaders.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey, former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum, former Deputy Attorney General and Harvard Law Professor Philip Heymann, and former Senator and Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dennis DeConcini, each of whom had the opportunity to thoroughly review Pollard’s classified file and is fully familiar with the circumstances of his case, have called for Pollard’s release.
Henry Kissinger, who served as United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and who was a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board at the time of Pollard’s sentencing, sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he commute Pollard’s sentence to time served.
Lee Hamilton, a former U.S. Congressman from Indiana who served as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time of Jonathan Pollard’s sentencing, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and is currently member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, also called on President Obama to free Pollard.
In addition, a wide array of American leaders have called for a commutation of Pollard’s sentence, including former Vice President Dan Quayle, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Senator John McCain of Arizona, former Arkansas governor and former Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, former Senator and Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Arlen Specter, Senator Charles Schumer of New York, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, Congressman Allen West of Florida, former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, former New York City Mayor and former Republican Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani, Congressman Michael Grimm of New York, former Republican Senator Steve Symms of Idaho, former Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida, former Republican Congressman Matthew Salmon of Arizona, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, well-known conservative leader Gary Bauer, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame, well-known Christian leader Pat Robertson, Pastor John Hagee, and Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, who was President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama’s law professor at Harvard and remains friends with them today.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also sent a letter to President Obama calling for Pollard’s release.
In addition, several months ago thirty-nine members of Congress submitted a “Dear Colleague” letter led by Congressman Barney Frank in support of commuting Jonathan Pollard’s sentence. Further, a broad-based interfaith coalition comprised of more than 500 members of the clergy and community leaders sent a letter to President Obama in January 2011 in which they called on the President to commute Pollard’s sentence.
Jonathan Pollard recently wrote a letter containing a personal appeal for clemency to President Obama, which was hand-delivered to the President by Israeli President Shimon Peres. Peres also raised the issue of clemency for Pollard in a recent White House meeting with President Obama.
Despite numerous pleas by Israeli leaders and people throughout the United States and Israel, President Obama recently refused to grant Pollard “compassionate leave,” which would have enabled him to visit his ailing father, Morris, on his deathbed, and rejected countless appeals asking the President to allow Pollard to attend his father’s funeral following Morris Pollard’s death.
Jonathan Pollard has repeatedly expressed his remorse publicly and in private in letters to many Presidents and others. His health has deteriorated significantly during his two-and-a-half decades in prison.
Pollard’s life sentence is grossly disproportionate when compared to the sentences of others who have spied for allied nations. Despite the fact that Pollard entered into a plea agreement and fully cooperated with the prosecution in his case, he nonetheless received a life sentence and a recommendation that he never be paroled, which was in complete violation of the plea agreement he had reached with the government.
The following is the text of Moshe Kantor’s letter to President Obama:
To the President of the United States of America
Mr. President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Geneva, 13 September 2011
Dear Mr. President,
I am writing to you as President of the European Jewish Congress, the democratically-elected body representing European Jewry. I would like to express my utmost concern over the fate of Jonathan Pollard.
Jonathan Pollard has been sentenced for life because of the classified information he disclosed to Israel, a friend and ally of the United States. Pollard did not disclose information to any other country, nor was he charged for doing so. His intention was not to harm the United States, and indeed Israel did not make any use of the disclosed information to harm the security or the interests of the Unites States. Pollard is the only person in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally.
The information disclosed by Pollard revealed to Israel the details of Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Iranian nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare capabilities, of ballistic missile development, and on planned terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian targets. Former National Security Advisor Bobby Ray has publicly admitted, after resigning in 1994, that this critical information had been deliberately withheld from Israel in retaliation for Israel’s 1981 strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.
While Pollard’s conviction was justified, his sentence was disproportionate and out-of-line with sentences imposed for similar offences. Such is the opinion of prominent American officials and legal experts, such as former CIA Director James Woolsey, of former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Denis DeConcini (both of whom are familiar with the information disclosed by Pollard), of former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and of Harvard Law Professors Alan Dershowitz and Philip Heymann.
Indeed, no life sentence has ever been imposed in the United States for offenses similar to Pollard’s. The average punishment for Pollard’s offence is a two to four year prison term. Such sentences have been imposed on Americans who spied for Egypt, for instance. The life sentence imposed on Pollard ignored the plea bargain reached between the defense and the prosecution. Pollard was not accused of treason, or of intending to harm the United States. He pleaded guilty under a plea bargain, and was thus convicted and sentenced (without a full trial) to life imprisonment, despite the US Government’s promise not to seek such a penalty.
Pollard waived his right to trial by jury in exchange for a promise by the government that it would not seek life imprisonment. The US Government broke that promise. It submitted a perjured affidavit by then Secretary of Defense Weinberger demanding life imprisonment and overstating the damage that Pollard had caused. This was a breach of the plea bargain. There is no other case in American jurisprudence in which a plea bargain has been so blatantly violated. If Pollard had served the sentence agreed upon in the plea bargain, he would no longer be in jail by now.
Jonathan Pollard has served more than 25 years of his life sentence (seven of which have been served in solitary confinement). He has consistently expressed remorse over his actions, and his health is declining. In light of the disproportionate sentence imposed on Pollard, of the fact that he has already served over 25 years in jail, and in light of the fact that both Pollard and the Israeli Government have expressed regret over his deeds, many respected leaders and public figures have asked you, Mr. President, to commute Pollard’s sentence.
Among the long list of people who have implored you to commute Pollard’s sentence are Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, John Mc Cain, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, as well as hundreds of leaders from the United States and from around the world. I have the honor of adding my name to this respectable list and to ask you, Mr. President, to use your constitutional powers in a way that would serve justice and show compassion.
Jonathan Pollard’s continued imprisonment is an injustice. Only you, Mr. President, can put an end to this injustice by commuting Pollard’s sentence to time served. A commutation is not a pardon, in that it does not erase the conviction. Commutation only reduces the sentence without suggesting that the defendant is not guilty.
As we approach the Jewish New Year, a time considered an opportune moment for confession, forgiveness and new beginnings, I humbly ask you, Mr. President, to show mercy for a fellow human being and to serve the cause of justice.
With my highest esteem,
President, European Jewish Congress