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February 04, 1994 - Image 63

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-02-04

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Negative In fluences

ative, he saw it as a positive impulse that infused the movement
with much of its initial energy. It was, he said, "part of a move
toward the democratization of Jewish organizations in Ameri-
But other observers suggested that the movement's angry,
anti-establishment edge put off many moderate Jews, and
was a risky strategy for a movement that — given its failure in
the courts — now depends on a political judgment by the presi-
Mr. Pollard's situation and unsympathetic news accounts of
his actions pushed another hot button in the Jewish communi-
ty: anger over what many see as a lingering tendency in Amer-
ican society to bash Israel at every opportunity.
"The anger of the Pollard supporters comes not only because
they feel he has been wrongly treated, but because many feel Is-
rael is always being wronged," said Kenneth Lasson, a Baltimore
lawyer who wrote the friends-of-the-court brief in Mr. Pollard's
legal appeal. "It's tied into Israel, mostly. His situation crystal-
lizes the idea that Jews and Israel are always getting the short
That anger sometimes got out of hand. At a meeting in Cali-
fornia, one Pollard activist called ADL's Mr. Foxman a "Nazi" be-
cause of his organizations's refusal to press for commutation. Mr.
Baum, the AJCongress official, still is furious about his own vil-
ification by Pollard backers.
"They attacked me, and they engaged in misrepresentation of
our position," he said. "That extreme fervor exists. They see this
as a calling. I think it was harmful to their cause."
The lack of any central control within the Pollard movement
may have contributed to what Mr. Baum and others saw as its
Pollard proponents like to argue that theirs is a genuinely
grass-roots effort. That argument is only partially accurate; in
its initial stages, Jewish community relations agencies were tar-
geted by well-financed clusters of activists, primarily from Cal-
ifornia, and Israeli expatriates who pushed relentlessly to generate
support at the local level.
Still, it's clear that the Pollard movement gained a momen-
tum that no one — not even his family — fully controlled, and
that most national Jewish leaders, disturbed by the consequences
of Mr. Pollard's actions on Jews in public life and anxious about
the dual loyalty question, were dragged into the movement kick-
ing and screaming.
"Since there is no centralized control, people can say what they
want — and that sometimes causes problems," said Mr. Reich.
"Sometimes people get into areas that are not helpful to Pol-
lard — whether it's castigating Jewish leaders by name for fail-
ing to express themselves on the issue, or debating publicly
Jonathan's motives. These things are not helpful."
Sometimes, it seemed, the compassionate motives of many Pol-
lard activists were lost in the noise generated by extremists.
"There has always been a case [for Mr. Pollard] on the hu-
manitarian issue, as promoted by people like Elie Wiesel and
Seymour Reich," said David Luchins, a top aide to Sen. Daniel
Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and a longtime Orthodox activist.
"But they were shoved aside by those who were demanding jus-
tice and not mercy. That was a major strategic error."
Mr. Pollard, he said, "is a victim, in some ways, of some of
his most ardent supporters who have in their fury made it im-
possible for calmer heads to prevail."

Pollard Myths And Facts


he lack of control, along with the movement's raw emo-
tionalism, also nurtured a style of public communication
that often led to exaggeration and outright distortion.
Last year, NJCRAC, under fire from Mr. Pollard's backers and
from a number of its own community relations councils, was
moved to publish a report on "Myths and Facts About the Pol-
lard Case," which took aim at the inaccuracies that NJCRAC of-
ficials claimed were presented as truth by Pollard backers.
Among those cited were the persistent belief that Mr. Pollard
had been sentenced to life without parole, and that Mr. Pollard
had been systematically mistreated in prison.
In fact, the NJCRAC publication concluded that his treatment
did not differ significantly from that meted out to other well-
known spies and that his solitary confinement came at the re-
quest of his lawyers, who were worried about his safety in the



A Father's Pain

David Gad-Harf:
"There is a small cadre
in Detroit for which the
Pollard issue has been

Morris Pollard
says portraying
his son as a hero
has hurt his chances
for commutation.

Oritical examinations of the effort to free Jonathan Pol-
lard tend to dwell on the hidden agendas and the con-
flicting theories about his crime and punishment. But those
tend to evaporate when you talk to Morris Pollard— the hu-
man face of the highly controversial pro-Pollard movement.
What emerges in an interview is a man grieving for a son
who made a terrible mistake and who seems to be struggling
to remain upbeat in the face of life imprisonment becoming
a literal reality for Jonathan.
Five minutes into a telephone interview, Morris Pollard,
an internationally known biomedical researcher at Notre
Dame University in South Bend, Ind., finds a way to bring
home to a reporter the real bottom line of this movement
-- at least for him.
"Do you have children?" he asked.
When the answer was yes, he sighed heavily and then said
"I hope they never have to go through something like this."
Other pro-Pollard activists talk about the recent campaign
to discredit the convicted spy with a kind of barely concealed
To them, it proves an important point about the hidden
motives of Jonathan's tormentors.
But Morris Pollard just expresses puzzlement and hurt.
"I just can't figure out how the public is willing to accept
allegations without proof," he said "The whole issue smacks
of McCarthyism. They're retrying the case hi the press."
Although he believes that some Pollard activists have
sought to unduly cast his son as a modern Jewish hero, he is
unswervingly loyal to the movement that has provided him
with a measure of hope that his son will someday be freed.
"Without this movement, I don't think Jonathan would
ever get out," he said.
"Without strong support
from outside, I don't think
he would have survived the
institution for the crimi-
nally insane where he was
kept for ten months."
Mr. Pollard's stay in that
institution continues to
haunt his father. "Out of all
this, it's the one thing that
gives me a nightmare —
not just for Jonathan, but
for others who may be held
in the some manner."
Other Pollard activists
express great bitterness at
the slow response of major
Jewish groups to their
pleas. The elder Mr. Pol-
lard, characteristically,
steers a more moderate
"It was our fault," he said. "We were told, initially, not to
talk to the press. When all kinds of wild allegations came out,
we didn't refute them. If you don't refute a lie, it's accepted
as fact."
In talking to Morris Pollard, the stress of the years since
Jonathan's arrest in November 1985 is evident.
"We've been at this for eight years," he said. "I'm now 77
years old. It has fragmented my professional life, my research
in prostate cancer. We're exhausted. But we [he and
Jonathan's mother, Molly] will never abandon our son. We
used to wake up in the middle of the night, look at each oth-
er, and say: 'Is it possible this has happened?' We hope we
can get him out before we die." CI


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