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Jewish Journal

Both Pollard and Milken merit pardons

by Dean Rotbart

December 28, 2008 | 11:13 am

A Jewish Journal reader, Daniel E. Goodman of Valley Village, contends in this week’s Letters to the Editor that the paper and I are shameful for writing about a presidential pardon for Michael R. Milken when Jonathan Pollard “is actually rotting away in jail and really does need our help.”

Goodman is correct that I used my opinion column in the current issue of The Journal to argue on behalf of Milken, without mentioning a word about Pollard.  He is wrong, however, on several important points.

“Pollard deserves a write-up for a presidential pardon more than Michael Milken ever will,” Goodman argues. 

But the two cases are linked and prioritizing one over the other misses their common, inextricable elements. 

Both Pollard’s conviction and Milken’s involve selective punishment; both call into question the very fairness and objectivity of the U.S. justice system; both are unprecedented in the severity of their prosecution and both involve men who one can fairly argue were singled out, at least in part, for being Jewish.

If President Bush can hand out only one pardon before he leaves office, then I agree with Goodman that Pollard’s need is more pressing than Milken’s, especially given that Pollard remains incarcerated in the most squalid conditions.

But Goodman should understand there is no need for the President to make a choice between two deserving applicants.  Both men deserve pardons and deserve them now.

For those who are genuinely curious, the main reason that I didn’t write a ‘Pardon Pollard’ column instead of my ‘Pardon Milken’ column is that I didn’t know what more I personally could say about the compelling case for Pollard that hasn’t already been eloquently expressed by so many others.  For a solid sampling, please visit www.jonathanpollard.org.  At least in the case of Milken, I have seen a positive side of him that few others have documented in the press.

My closest encounter with Pollard came in November 2006, when I had the opportunity to interview his wife, Esther, for a live Sunday night radio show I hosted on Los Angeles’ 870 KRLA called Israel This Week.  I was joined in that conversation by Dr. Donald Salem, a Los Angeles Zionist who has closely tracked the Pollard case from the very beginning.  Those of you who know Dr. Salem know him to be a walking encyclopedia on Israel and its enemies.

Although it has been more than two years, the show still serves as a good refresher on the Pollard case. You can hear the entire Israel This Week program by clicking on this link.

If Dr. Salem’s and my interview of Esther Pollard makes one core point, it is that justice for Jonathan goes well beyond justice for one man.  It goes to the heart of America’s relationship with Israel, a key strategic ally.  As Esther notes, anyone who cares deeply about Israel and its future must also become an active advocate for Pollard’s freedom.

To learn more about ways you can help free Pollard, please visit www.freepollardnow.com.

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Dean Rotbart’s take on the Jewish world and Israel.

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