Jonathan Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy who was recently freed from prison, met with top Jewish leaders Monday — but blamed his failure to deliver a full speech on the Forward’s scoop about the meeting.
The meeting, convened by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, was held as Pollard fights to ease the terms of his parole.
Aaron Troodler, a spokesman for Justice for Jonathan Pollard, said Pollard briefly introduced himself and then asked his wife, Esther, to read from his notes.
News of the meeting, which was off the record, had been leaked to the Forward last week. Troodler said in his release that Pollard’s lawyers feared that anything more expansive than a few remarks could be used against the former spy and send him to jail. Pollard remains on parole.
“He was unable to present his address at this historic event because of his Draconian parole conditions,” Troodler told JTA.
Pollard served 30 years in federal prison for spying for Israel while working as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy. His release in 2014 was subject to conditions, including a five-year ban on leaving the United States.
The Forward first reported on the planned Conference of Presidents meeting with Pollard on January 20. The meeting had been announced via telephone rather than email in an attempt to keep it secret from the press.
Troodler said Esther Pollard outlined parole conditions “in which Pollard is not only prevented from working and from exercising his religious rights, but also effectively prevents him from ever reintegrating into society.” He said Esther Pollard also revealed that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin handed President Barack Obama a letter regarding Pollard’s parole conditions during a White House meeting last month.
The conditions for Pollard’s five-year parole include wearing an electronic ankle bracelet with GPS tracking and surveillance of his and any employer’s computers. He also is confined to his New York home between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. — a condition, Pollard’s attorneys have argued in requesting an easing of the restrictions, that has interfered with his ability to observe the Jewish Sabbath and certain holidays, and could preclude him from holding a job.
The Forward reported that federal officials sought to accommodate Pollard’s demand for a Shabbat-friendly electronic monitoring device. Troodler denied that claim to JTA even though federal court documents unequivocally confirm it.
“(Parole officials) identified and ordered a new GPS device….(which) will come with two batteries, each of which can hold a 24 hour charge,” wrote Rebecca Tinio, a federal prosecutor, in a affadavit dated December 11. “If for example, (Pollard) fully charges the batteries before the Sabbath, he should be able to switch the batteries if one expires.”
Most traditionally observant rabbis generally consider the act of inserting a battery into an electric device, thereby completing a circuit, to be a violation of the Sabbath. Such an act could, however, be performed by a non-Jew on Pollard’s behalf to comply with Sabbath rules.
U.S. Reps. Jerry Nadler and Eliot Engel, New York Democrats who have advocated for an easing of Pollard’s parole conditions, were to have been present. Engel could not make it because of inclement weather, but Nadler was on hand, according to a photo supplied by Troodler. Nadler did not respond to a request for an interview.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Presidents Conference, confirmed that a meeting had taken place, but questioned Justice for Jonathan Pollard’s decision to put out a release.
“The publication of the details cannot but harm his case,” Hoenlein told JTA. “The members of the Conference observed their restrictions, it’s regrettable that” JFJP “did not.”
Additional reporting by Nathan Guttman
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.