7. CONTEMPORARY EXTEMPORE 2 - TWO
GoalDifferentiation and evaluation of implications; commitment
MaterialsArticles below in sufficient copies
- Four members of the group receive the Shcharansky document ahead of the meeting and study roles, paying particular attention to the final two paragraphs.
- Play out the Shcharansky trial and debate it using the following questions:
a] In both the Dreyfus and the Shcharansky trial the Defence did not receive all the documents; in both cases, the verdict and sentence bear similarities of public disgrace, exile etc. What are your im- pressions of similarities or differences in the characters of both men?
b] Who are the plaintiffs in each case?
USSR: the State via the KGB and the Courts France: a particular military corps, often supported by the Ministry of War.
c] What do you think was the reaction of other Jews in the USSR and of the Soviet public in general? Did the seriousness of the accusations alienate some or all of Soviet Jewry from Shcharansky or even have the effect of affirming loyalty to the State?
d] Shcharansky was the victim of a monstrous conspiracy and totally innocent; do you remember, however, that he was released in exchange for a Soviet spy in 1986?
e] At this point, review attitudes within Diaspora Jewry, their loyalty to their country of birth or residence and their commitment to the Jewish community locally and generally. Where is there overlap? Where is there conflict?
- Review the Jonathan Pollard case in the light of what has already been said. How do facts differ? How do feelings differ? Is there a divergence of Jewish public opinion here?
THE CASE OF ANATOLY SHCHARANSKY
In 1973, Anatoly Shcharansky, a physicist, had met Avital (Natalya) and the two decided to marry and apply for a visa to Israel. This put them in the questionable category of "dissidents" and Anatoly was risking his job, his livelihood and even prison if he became unemployed - when he would have been branded a social parasite under Soviet law. He had already renounced his Soviet nationality (more a rhetorical than a real gesture). The couple did not manage to register their marriage locally after the religious ceremony, so they could not request joint exit visas; it was decided that Avital should apply alone. When she received her visa, Anatoly was taken into "preventive" arrest (temporarily) and they did not see each other for the next 13 years.
In 1976, Anatoly joined the Surveillance Group for the Helsinki Accords, found legal assistance, went on demonstrations for human rights, spoke to foreign journalists. Many of the Jewish activists who worked with him were taken into preventive arrest; others were sent to psychiatric hospitals as the Soviet machine went on the offensive. In this atmosphere of oppression and fear, Anatoly was the voice of Aliya and the voice of hope.
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Avital kept in contact with her husband by phone and letter. From early 1977, the Soviet situation changed drama- tically for the worse and Avital began her race against time to save her husband: press conferences, interviews, world-wide travel to meet important people - statesmen, scientists, clergy - and organizations who could exert and enhance the pressure from the West on the USSR...
While others were already in prison, Anatoly was being subjected to a vicious Soviet press campaign and KGB harassment, with the aim of isolating him from his friends and his support. On March 15th 1977, he was arrested and kept incommunicado for 16 months. He received no letters, no visitors; the authorities hoped to break him. 200 others were interrogated under threat; no-one would say a word against him.
Avital and her friends moved the campaign into high gear. In June 1977, she had been informed that there would be a trial for "espionage and treason" under article 64 of the USSR Penal Code. The entire Jewish world was affected by the events and a nucleus of activists began working from Israel. As Avital travelled to enthusiastic receptions, she sought a lawyer who would represent her husband in court - but then failed in her attempts to gain a Soviet entry visa for his legal counsel.
Anatoly's trial began on July 10th and lasted five days. His brother reports him being calm throughout, confident and dignified in the face of his accusers. He defended himself but was deprived of access to essential documents. His social activism was interpreted as anti-Soviet behaviour and his links abroad as the essence of espionage. On the 14th of July, he was convicted and given a 13 year sentence (3 years in prison and 10 years of forced labour). The request for appeal was rejected. After his transfer to the Shistopol prison (a facility for common law criminals) he began his series of hunger strikes, weakened and fell seriously ill but refused to break, keeping going on the occasional visits he received, letters and his Hebrew studies. His health took a serious turn for the worse when he was moved to a prison camp, but he was never despondent.
It was 1986 when Anatoly finally walked free, accepting the necessity of being exchanged for a Soviet spy so that he could leave for Israel, rejoin Avital and establish his own family.
THE POLLARD CASE
Jonathan Pollard "borrowed" dozens of secret US intelligence documents which he then copied and passed on to the Israel Embassy. These included spy satellite photos of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons industries in Iraq, Lybia, Syria and Pakistan; photos of the PLO Headquarters in Tunis; documents of US Naval movements and a wealth of information on the PLO and the Arab armies.
He was arrested in 1985 together with his wife by the FBI, as they tried to gain entry to the courtyard of the Israel Embassy in order to escape arrest - a request which Jerusalem refused to grant. In 1987, Jonathan Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment; his wife, Ann, received 5 years in a closed prison. She was released because of poor health in 1990 and lives today in Israel; they are divorced and Pollard has remarried.
His case has been going back and forth in Israeli discussions with the American administrations for over a decade, once Israel admitted that Pollard had indeed been spying on her behalf. The CIA oppose any commuting of his sentence, although convicted spies and terrorists from other countries have been released after shorter periods.