Gil Hoffman - The Jerusalem Post - February 20, 2011
Kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit's father Noam and a group of former Soviet Prisoners of Zion joined a long list of public figures in Israel and the United States Sunday calling for US president Barack Obama to release Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.
In his first public statement about Pollard, Schalit said that "he served his sentence and the time has come to free him." Schalit equated Pollard with Israeli prisoners abducted by terrorist organizations, saying "we want all the prisoners and missing to return home in peace."
The Jerusalem Post reported exclusively in December 2009 that Pollard came out against a proposed deal with Hamas in which Israel would release 980 Palestinian prisoners in return for Schalit.
Pollard has also opposed Israel releasing terrorists from prison to bring about his own release.
The Committee Working for Pollard's Release issued a statement Sunday night saying that "everthing possible needed to be done in order to bring Shalit home."
Meanwhile, 19 former Soviet Prisoners of Zion wrote to Obama that he must address Pollard's fate. The signatories referred to Pollard as a Prisoner of Zion.
"Your silence worries us," they wrote to Obama. "We, former Prisoners of Zion in Soviet Russia, know the danger of silence."
Pollard has languished in America prisons for more than 25 years for passing classified information to an ally, Israel. The median sentence for the offense he committed is two to four years.
All of the signatories of the letter to Obama served hard time in the Gulag or in Soviet prison camps. Yet none of them served even half as long as Pollard in prison. The longest-serving Prisoner of Zion, Yosef Medelevitch, spent a little more than 10 years in prison. All the rest served less than 10 years.
In the letter, they decried the length of Pollard's "unjust sentence" and said that every day that he remains in prison added to the injustice.
The signatories include many well-known former Soviet prisoners who became symbols of the Soviet Jewry movement, including Mendelevich, Yosef Begun, Ida Nudel, and Silva Zalmanson. All of them were sentenced to significantly longer sentences than they actually served, but were released thanks to the awareness generated by the public outcry in the US and Europe.
"We know the terrible suffering that comes with each passing day in prison," they wrote. "Therefore, we appeal to you with a heartfelt cry - end this Jewish prisoner's prolonged and terrible ordeal!"
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