Supporters of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard jammed the White House’s switchboard over the weekend, demanding his temporary release so that he could attend his father’s funeral today. Morris Pollard died at the age of 95 in South Bend, Ind., on the morning of Saturday, June 18.
Angry that President Obama did not heed requests to grant Pollard “compassionate leave” to visit with his dying father, activists overloaded the White House phone system with calls to say that Pollard should at least be allowed to part with his father at the funeral. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in response to more than a week of pressure from the pro-Pollard lobby, agreed Sunday to issue a formal diplomatic request through Israel’s embassy in Washington, asking for Pollard to be allowed to attend the funeral.
Two hundred people protested over the weekend outside America’s embassy in Tel Aviv, calling Obama heartless. Facebook pages were also the locus of protest and the venting of frustration toward the lack of action taken by America’s government on the issue.
Ronit Tirosh, a Kadima Knesset member, spoke on Army Radio, calling for a commutation of Pollard’s sentence to time served. She also said that she would boycott the embassy’s upcoming Independence Day party if Pollard were not granted permission to attend the funeral. Tishosh’s Kadima colleague Nachman Shai initiated a petition signed by 75 Knesset members, calling for the compassionate leave. He also made a public statement admonishing the American Jewish community for not speaking up on Pollard’s behalf. “With all due respect, after 25 years, they can say something. They are able to put a lot of pressure on the White House. It is time for them to do it,” he said.
Pollard’s wife, Esther, flew to Indiana from Israel to attend the funeral.