Isn't It Rich? Charge Pardoned Tycoon Never Assisted In Yemeni Jewry Rescue

Steve K. Walz - Jewish Press - Week of March 9, 2001

Two former U.S. diplomats who helped rescue Yemenite Jews in the late 1980's and early 1990's have disputed the notion that pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich played a role in the operation.

The men David Ransom, who at the time was director of Arabian Peninsula Affairs at the State Department, and Charles Dunbar, the then Ambassador to Yemen were directly involved with Yeshiva University Professor Hayim Tawil in the delicate efforts to spirit remnants of the ancient Jewish community out of Yemen and into Israel.

Avner Azulai, a former member of the Mossad who heads Rich's various charitable foundations in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post last month that the elusive tycoon had assisted in rescuing Jews from Yemen and Ethiopia. Azulai's "revelations" about Rich coincided with the fallout from former President Clinton's pardon of the Swiss-based businessman and the controversy over Rich's links to members of former Prime Minister Barak as well as senior members of Israel's Labor Party.

When Prof. Tawil, who as chairman of the International Coalition for the Revival of the Jews of Yemen (ICROJOY) spearheaded the attempt to free the Yemenite Jews via the offices of Ambassadors Ransom and Dunbar, read the newspaper accounts of Rich's supposed involvement, he was dumbfounded.

"This is utter nonsense," he told The Jewish Press. I never heard of Marc Rich and I am sure that Ambassadors Ransom and Dunbar ever heard about him either."

For his part, Mr. Ransom was emphatic about the so-called Rich input. "I do not know how he (Rich) would have been involved, and I certainly never heard of him being involved in any way," he stated flatly to The Jewish Press. "Who knows what really happened, since this information is coming from someone who used to work for the Mossad. I tend not to believe it and even if they were involved they came into the picture very late.

"For years," Mr. Ransom continued, "the Mossad did nothing to help the Jews in Yemen. Professor Tawil, myself and Mr. Dunbar put together our scheme that in the end helped free Yemenite Jews. If the Mossad did get involved at some point they didn't put much money into it. I think this all part of a turf war and partisan politics in Israel which is always accompanied by chest-beating in the press. In fact, the Israeli authorities have given shabby treatment to a man (Prof. Tawil) who deserves nothing but praise."

Former Ambassador Dunbar was in full agreement with his old colleague, telling The Jewish Press that although he "worked closely with Professor Tawil and Ambassador Ransom, I had not heard the name of Marc Rich until President Clinton pardoned him. I don't remember him being involved with helping Yemenite Jews at all."

Prof. Tawil, who chronicled the Yemenite rescue in his book "Operation Esther" (Belkis Press, 1999) is unyielding on Mr. Dunbar's latter point.

"It was the hard work of ICROJOY from 1989 through 1991, together with help from the U.S. State Dept., the Congress and the Executive Branch, that helped gain the freedom of Jews in Yemen," he said. "Mr. Rich, as far as I am concerned, was not involved in this operation, and, as I've said, I'd never heard of him."

See Also:
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