Latest posts by Varda Epstein (see all)
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Last Thursday, in a fit of holiday goodwill, President Obama gave 21 people their freedom. Jonathan Pollard was not one of them.
Drug dealers and armed bank robbers alike, these 21 men will be home tonight with their families for Christmas Eve, eating fruit cake and making merry. But not Jonathan Pollard.
I noted this holiday largesse by the President, even as I went about my work, blogging about education at Kars for Kids. One of the men rewarded with clemency had been jailed for the “use of a minor to distribute cocaine base.”
Pollard, on the other hand, gave classified information that according to the 1983 Memorandum of Understanding, was information to which Israel, a U.S. ally, was entitled.
No less than the former Secretary of Defense, Dr. Lawrence Korb has said the omission of Pollard from the President’s pardon list was “absurd” and a “moral embarrassment.”
“The lack of proportion of Pollard’s sentence and his weakening medical condition in any case demands his release by any measure of justice,” said Korb.
Two days before the President issued get-out-of-jail-free cards to those who, for instance, used kids to peddle cocaine, a letter was sent to the President by Prof. Angelo Codevilla, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time of Pollard’s arrest. Codevilla wrote, “Pollard is the only person ever sentenced to life imprisonment for passing information to an ally, without intent to harm America, a crime which normally carries a sentence of 2-4 years. This disproportionate sentence in violation of a plea agreement was based not on the indictment but on a memorandum that was never shared with the defense. This is not how American justice is supposed to work.”
A week earlier on December 10, the former governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson also wrote to the President, asking him to commute Pollard’s sentence to time served. Richardson is considered a close ally of the President, having endorsed him after dropping out of the 2008 presidential race, when he, Richardson, might have instead supported Hillary Clinton. Richardson’s support was considered a major assist in the President’s election to office. Richardson also has stellar credentials, having been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize and having served as a UN ambassador.
In his communiqué to the President, Richardson wrote, “Virtually everyone who was in a high position of government—and dealt with the ramifications of what Pollard did at the time—now support his release.”
It’s no surprise that in spite of these very credible voices clamoring for Pollard’s release, the President refused to do so. After all, when he was in Israel back in March he said he wouldn’t do it. You know what else he said?
“One of the strengths of the Israeli people is that you think about your people wherever they are.”
Now why did that stammered presidential phrase catch me up short?
Because it sounds like a classic anti-Semitic trope; a slur. You just know that when the President says “Israeli” he means “Jewish.” I mean, you don’t know of any Israeli Arabs clamoring for Pollard’s release, now do you?
He’s saying Jews don’t think about the wider ramifications to society in begging for Pollard’s release. He’s saying that the Jews only think of themselves.
“You think about your people.”
It’s a backhanded compliment. It’s like saying, “You’re a credit to your race.”
It kind of reminds me of the whole Kanye West thing about how President Obama keeps failing because he doesn’t have the same “connections” as the Jews. Now West wants to take it back, but oopsie, sticks his foot in it again.
“I thought that I was giving a compliment, but it came off more ignorant. When I said this comment about Jews having money and blacks not having money, I think it was, like, a ‘ignorant compliment.’”
“I don’t know how being told that you have money is, like, an insult.”
Therein lies the rub—and the insidious nature of West’s anti-Semitism in which he suggests that the Jews have all the money so no one else can get ahead and in which he blames the failures of the President on the Jews, and then backpedals as fast as he can by giving new meaning to the words after the fact.
It doesn’t wash. He can’t wash his intent clean.
Neither can President Obama, and all the anti-Israel people who swear they can criticize Israel without being anti-Semitic.
Past presidents also denied Pollard clemency, but with the current widely held position that the man should be released, we know that the only possible reason he’s still in jail is because he’s a Jew. “They” are sticking it to us because “we” have all the money and connections.
Funny isn’t it, how we Jews have all these connections and money yet we can’t get this one, very sick man, out of prison. Not for Christmas Eve.
And maybe not ever.