Freed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard will be making his debut performance in front of major Jewish leaders next week — and has already won a fight to get a more Shabbat-friendly electronic monitoring bracelet, the Forward has learned.
Pollard, who was released from prison in November after serving 30 years of his life sentence, will speak to members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations in New York. One purpose of the meeting, according to two sources informed about the event, is to discuss the status of Pollard’s legal battle to further ease his parole conditions.
Also participating in the meeting will be Reps. Jerry Nadler and Eliot Engel, both Jewish New York Democrats who have been involved in efforts to secure Pollard’s release and to improve his terms of parole. Nadler and Engel wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch last November asking her to intervene to ensure Pollard receives fair and equal treatment once released on parole.
In an unusual move, the Conference of Presidents informed member organizations of the event with Pollard by phone, instead of the usual email exchange usually used to communicate with members. One official speculated this was done in hopes of preventing news of the meeting from being leaked, a tactic that failed.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the conference, did not responds to the Forward’s request for comment.
Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst, was arrested in 1985 and found guilty of spying for Israel. The court rejected a plea agreement which would have allowed him a reduced sentence, and sent him to life in prison. Last year, after serving 30 years, the parole commission approved his request for early release.
For the first five years after his release, Pollard is not allowed to leave the United States. He is required to remain in New York and is banned from entering certain places including airports and the embassies of Israel, China and South Africa. His parole terms also include a night curfew, limit his access to the Internet, and require Pollard to wear a GPS bracelet 24 hours a day.
Pollard’s lawyers asked the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York to ease his parole conditions. They argued that the requirement to allow government monitoring of all computers Pollard has access to will deter employers from offering him a job and that the curfew rules restrict his ability to observe the Sabbath as an Orthodox Jew. Among other issues raised, Pollard and his lawyers also complained that his GPS device requires charging every day, forcing him to use electricity during the Sabbath.
The probation officers agreed to extend Pollard’s curfew hours and offered him a GPS bracelet which does not require frequent charging. In a hearing last month the judge referred the case back to the parole board for further discussion regarding Pollard’s terms of release.
In response to Pollard’s petition filed to the court, the U.S. Attorney included Pollard’s parole hearing report which provides a rare glimpse into the accused spy’s reflections on his actions.
In a statement Pollard made to the parole board on July 7, 2015, he made clear he “has learned his lesson and does not want to return to prison.” According to the report, Pollard “acknowledged the seriousness of his crimes and made no excuses.” When asked about Israel, Pollard said he has no opinion.
He also acknowledged, according to the report, that his parole terms will include limitations on travel, but “indicated he has no intention to (travel).” This comment runs counter to the statements from his wife, activists on his behalf, and the Israeli governments, who all said Pollard is interested in moving to Israel.
The report also detailed the only episode in which Pollard was punished during his prison term. It was in 1992 after a warden refused to allow him to make a phone call to his attorney.
The warden told Pollard: “I run this prison.” To which Pollard responded: “No, God runs the world.”
Contact Nathan Guttman on Twitter @nathanguttman
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.