Poor Pollard?


Other than Donna Hanover, does anyone have a more difficult job picking between Senate 2000 candidates than Brooklyn assemblyman Dov Hikind?

Dov, you see, comes from a conservative Jewish district that has little use for Hillary Clinton (and seems enamored of Rudolph Giuliani). On the other hand, Hikind blames City Hall for getting him indicted on federal criminal charges. And while Dov was eventually acquitted, such an unpleasant—and expensive—trip through the system can leave a guy vindictive.

So, as he tries to work out these kinks, Hikind arrived in Herald Square Sunday to demand that Clinton lobby her husband to free imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. Standing in front of Clinton’s campaign headquarters, Hikind told a crowd of 200 that clemency is the “right thing,” since Pollard, a former navy intelligence analyst, already has served 14 years in jail—more time than other turncoats who have been caught spying for U.S. allies.

Pollard, of course, was arrested in 1985 and later sentenced to life in prison—which means that the 45-year-old inmate has several more years to go before his release, horizontally. Since his imprisonment, Pollard has made it a point to stress that he is unrepentant about his crimes.

In September, Giuliani announced that he supports clemency for Pollard, a position he claims to have held for “a couple of years.” This previous stealth stance has nothing, of course, to do with the mayor’s desire to appease his conservative Jewish base (which is surely a similar consideration for Senator Charles Schumer, who recently came out in favor of Pollard’s release).

Giuliani’s pro-Pollard position is in opposition to anticlemency stands taken by the GOP leadership, Pat Moynihan, William F. Buckley Jr., and officials with the CIA, FBI, and Justice Department. Some of these officials believe that U.S. intelligence information Pollard handed over to Israel for cash may have found its way to the Soviet Union, according to a January 1999 report by Seymour M. Hersh in The New Yorker.

And while the New York Post has carefully walked the Pollard tightrope, avoiding a concrete position, a recent editorial announced that the paper would “lose no sleep if Clinton decides that Pollard stays in prison.”

For her part, Clinton says that she will wait until the completion of a White House review of the Pollard case before deciding whether the spy should be sprung. In the wake of Clinton’s FALN flip-flop fiasco, this might seem prudent, but is far from decisive. Outside of a few conservative Jewish neighborhoods—which already are Giuliani territory—are there really that many undecided voters for whom Pollard’s fate is a crucial issue?

A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted in late October showed that voters statewide opposed a Pollard release 53-22. In New York City, the spy’s support rose only slightly, to 49-26. Upstate is not Pollard country—voters there oppose clemency by a whopping 57-16.

Perhaps Hillary should consider risking future verbal bouquets from Ehud Barak by quickly announcing her opposition to Pollard’s release. She would find herself aligned with many conservatives, law enforcement officials, and the intelligence community (if she could stand it).

Then Giuliani would be the only candidate required to explain to the good folks in Watertown why he wants a treasonous felon sprung from prison. Mr. Crimebuster may have a hard time selling that one north of Williamsburg.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 7, 1999

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