Former Prisoners of Zion to Obama: Your silence on Pollard worries us

Justice4JPnews - February 20, 2011


Former Prisoners Of Zion Appeal To President For Pollard's Release

In the latest development in the ongoing effort to gain clemency for Jonathan Pollard, 19 former Soviet Prisoners of Zion [PoZ] have written to President Obama and asked him to release Pollard (the full text of the letter appears below).

Jonathan 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 2 to 4 years.

All of the PoZ signatories of the letter to President Obama served hard time in the Gulag or in Soviet prison camps. Yet none of the signatories 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 their letter to the President, the PoZs note the many American officials and leaders who have recently called for Pollard's release and indicate that they are worried by the President's continuing silence on the matter. "Your silence worries us," they write to Obama. "We, former Prisoners of Zion in Soviet Russia, know the danger of silence."

They decry the length of Pollard's "unjust sentence" and note how every day that he remains in prison adds to the injustice. "We know the terrible suffering that comes with each passing day in prison. Therefore, we appeal to you with a heartfelt cry - end this Jewish prisoner's prolonged and terrible ordeal!"

The signatories include many well-known former Soviet PoZs who have become symbols of the Soviet Jewry movement. Among them: Yosef Mendelevich, who was imprisoned in the Soviet Gulag and served more than 10 years before he was released to Israel in 1981; Yosef Begun, who served nearly 10 years in the Gulag and now lives in Israel; Ida Nudel, who survived a murder plot by the KGB and 4 years in exile in Siberia before being released to Israel; and Silva Zalmanson, who survived 4 years in a Soviet labor camp and was released to Israel in a spy swap in 1974.

All of these PoZs 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. All of the signatories to the letter have similarly compelling stories and sentences that were cut in the wake of vigorous public appeals for justice.

It should be noted, by way of background, that the Prisoners of Zion were the most harshly treated amongst the thousands of Soviet "refusniks" who applied to emigrate to Israel, mostly after Israel's victory in the 1967 Six-Day war and were refused permission by the authorities - hence the general name "refusniks". While all Soviet "refusniks" faced discrimination and hardship in their daily lives after applying to emigrate, only a relatively small number of "refusniks" were jailed and subjected to the harshest of conditions, torture and affliction in the Gulag or Soviet Prison Camps. Those who were jailed are known as Prisoners of Zion (PoZ).

The PoZs count Pollard as one of their own and refer to him as a Prisoner of Zion. Their letter to President Obama comes in the wake of numerous calls for clemency for Jonathan Pollard.

Among the prominent American leaders who have recently appealed to the president for Jonathan Pollard's release are: US Former Vice President Dan Quayle, Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey; Former White House Legal Counsel Bernard Nussbaum; Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee; Head of International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein; Former Secretary of State George Shultz; Former Head of Senate Intelligence Committee Dennis Deconcini; Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb; Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey; Former Deputy Attorney General Phillip Heymann; Republican Leader Gary Bauer; more than 500 American Religious and Communal Leaders; Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree; Rabbi Capers C. Funnye Jr; and Congressman Barney Frank along with 39 congressional colleagues.. A common theme expressed in their appeals concerns the disproportionate nature of Pollard's sentence. Expert opinions - Woolsey, Deconcini, Nussbsam, Mukasey and Heymann, amongst them-- state that while Pollard deserved to be convicted, his sentence is grossly disproportionate to the offense committed and he has served far more time than others convicted of similar offenses. Another common theme is the urgency of Pollard's release in light of his failing health. After more than a quarter of a century in harsh conditions in prison, Jonathan Pollard's health has dangerously deteriorated.

The PoZs urge the president to respond favorably not only to the numerous calls by senior American officials for Pollard's release, but also to the formal request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the release of Jonathan Pollard at this time would be a welcome gesture of friendship and solidarity with a long-time ally of the United States. Now a diminishing population, the PoZs are largely frail and elderly and many of their numbers have already died. For that reason, their latest letter on behalf of Pollard was executed via electronic media and signatures were collected by telephone and email.

The following is the text of the letter to President Obama:

February 16, 2011

To the Honorable President of the United States

Dear President Obama:

We, former Soviet Prisoners of Zion, spent many long years in Russian prisons because we fought for the right of Jews to live in their own Jewish Land.

We appeal to you on behalf of a Prisoner of Zion who has been imprisoned in your country for 26 years - Jonathan Pollard. Several top U.S. Government officials who served office during the initial years of Mr. Pollard's arrest and imprisonment have written to you, asking you to grant clemency to Mr. Pollard. They emphasize that Mr. Pollard's prison sentence was unwarranted in its severity, and that he is wasting away in a United States penitentiary without just cause.

The Prime Minister of Israel and the members of the Knesset also appealed to you to grant clemency to Mr. Pollard, who has already suffered greatly for his deeds. All of the people of Israel look to you in the hopeful expectation that you will act in the best tradition of American justice and free Jonathan.

Your silence worries us. We, former Prisoners of Zion in Soviet Russia, know the danger of silence. We know the terrible suffering that comes with each passing day in prison. Therefore, we appeal to you with a heartfelt cry - end this Jewish prisoner's prolonged and terrible ordeal!

You are the only one who can do so. Please, Mr. President, free Pollard now!

May God bless you from Zion.

Respectfully yours,

Former Soviet Prisoners of Zion:

Yosef Mendelevich

Ida Nudel

Yosef Begun

Silva Zalmanson

Dov Shperling

Felix Kochubivsky

Anatoly Altman

Aaron Spilberg

Alex Kholmiansky

David Maayan

Lassal Kaminsky

Lazar Lubarsky

David Mazur

Roald Zelichonok

Alex Halperin

Shimon Shirman

Vladimir Kislik

Shimon Levit

Areje Khanoch

  • See Also: Noam Schalit calls on Obama to release Pollard; 19 Former Prisoners of Zion join the effort for Pollard: The Jerusalem Post