Sometimes, religion isn’t directly responsible in the crime, but is a factor in the prosecution or prevention thereof. An Ultra-Orthodox Jew, who has been accused of the sexual molestation of children in the UK, is attempting to claim his right to Israel’s Law of Return so he can avoid prosecution for his crimes. Of course, no case is this simple, if this can be called simple at all, the man, known only as T, aged 48, had fled to Israel using a fake passport. He was arrested as he got off the plane and Israel attempted to deport him back to England to face his charges, but he’s filed a case with the High Court via Attorney Amit Hadad from the law firm of Attorney Jacob Weinroth. T seeks the right, due to his Jewish heritage and religious standing, to remain in Israel as a citizen under the Law of Return. Israel is pushing to see him sent back to England to face his crimes, they are understandably upset that he not only tried to sneak in under a fake passport, but that he’s now trying to use a religious law to keep from being prosecuted for a secular one.
Now I’m not blaming Israel, I think they’re totally in the right for this one. The fundamental blame belongs to T, who is trying to keep from paying his due for the crimes he committed, but maybe, if it wasn’t for Israel’s law, he wouldn’t have had this potential “out”. It makes me wonder just how many other people have used this route to avoid legal problems. As it turns out, he’s certainly not the only one who has ever tried this.
In 1962, American Robert Soblen fled to Israel after being convicted of espionage in the United States. He was returned to the U.S., but committed suicide on his way back to pay for his crimes. Another high profile case, that of Reuben Pesachowitz, was sought in Switzerland for fraud. Under the then-current Israeli laws, they would only extradite people if the requesting nation also had an existing extradition policy. Swiss law did not allow for the extradition of it’s citizens, therefore Pesachowitz demanded that Israel could not extradite him. This caused a major furor in Israel and prompted Menachim Begin to strongly criticize extradition laws. At the same time, Shmuel Flatto-Sharon published a paper in France that argued that every Jew on the planet ought to be provided with an Israeli passport so they could flee to Israel in case of persecution. This received widespread support and in 1978, the Knesset passed the Offenses Committed Abroad Act. It said that crimes committed abroad could be prosecuted in Israel, but no Israeli citizen would be extradited to another nation, except for crimes committed before they became a citizen of Israel. This meant that Israel became a true Jewish haven and, of course, a haven for Jewish criminals who could go abroad, commit crimes, and then return to Israel with little chance of ever paying the price for their crimes. In September 1997, this all changed with the case of Samuel Sheinbein, a teenage murderer who killed Enrique Tello Jr. in Maryland and then fled to Israel. He was born of an Israeli father and an American mother, but had never previously visited Israel, but because of the 1952 Nationality Law, Sheinbein was automatically a citizen of Israel and he demanded that he not be extradited to the United States. Sheinbein instead insisted on being tried in Israel since Israel doesn’t have the death penalty and Maryland does. In 1999, Sheinbein pled guilty to murder in a Jerusalem Central Courtroom. This case strained relations between the United States and Israel, to the point that Congress threatened to cut off foreign aid funding. Eventually, Israel returned Sheinbein to the U.S. for punishment and modified their laws, such that there are two categories of Israelis: those that are citizens at the time an extradition request is made and those who are not. Those who are citizens can be extradited back to the requesting nation, but they must be returned to Israel to serve their sentence. Those who are not citizens can be extradited and can serve their sentences either in Israel or abroad.
So in reality, T, who had no actual citizenship in Israel at the time, was really screwed, he had no shot at remaining in Israel and avoiding his fate. However, legal experts in Israel note that there are still loopholes that can allow criminals who commit crimes abroad to be protected by Israel’s legal system and are working to close them. Still, the very fact that there is a county out there that arbitrarily grants citizenship to any who belong to a certain ethnic and religious group is problematic, especially when that country doesn’t play very well with others. Jews aren’t special, they don’t deserve special treatment, regardless of what happened to them in the past. It’s about time we stopped granting them, or anyone else, preferential treatment because we feel sorry for their ancestors. It’s about time we stopped making the case for Horror Show Sunday.