A Rich Lesson In Ethics

Stewart Ain - The Jewish Week (NY) - January 18, 2002

(See J4JP Note below.)

Marc Rich, the pardoned billionaire fugitive financier, is back.

He surfaced earlier this month at a gala in Jerusalem at which he and other major supporters of birthright israel were honored. It is believed the first time Rich has appeared at a public event - yet alone honored - since he received a controversial presidential pardon during Bill Clinton's final hours in office.

As birthright participants looked on at the Binyanei Haumah theater on Jan. 5, Rich was called to the stage with seven others and given a plaque from birthright israel for committing himself to donate $5 million over five years.

Marlene Post, who was also called to the stage to receive a plaque in behalf of Hadassah's support of birthright israel, said it was the third year in a row that Rich had attended birthright's annual gala in Jerusalem. This was the first year, however, that he and the organization's other benefactors, were honored.

Asked the reaction of the young people in the audience, Post said: "I don't think they were aware of who is." The birthright program provides free trips to Israel for Jews ages 18-26.

But Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Reform movement's Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said he was "saddened" that birthright had chosen to honor Rich, who fled the U.S. when he was indicted in 1983 on charges of evading $48 million in corporate taxes and illegally buying oil from Iran in 1979 during the hostage crisis. He was one of the FBI's most wanted men when Clinton pardoned him, an action still under review by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan.

Although Rabbi Yoffie said he saw no reason for birthright not to accept Rich's money - and he said the Reform movement would still support the program - that money "should not be used to buy respectability, and certainly not from the Jewish community. By bestowing an honor on him, it creates a suspicion that it was done in return for his monetary largess."

Asked about the propriety of honoring Rich in front of nearly 3,000 young people, Rabbi Yoffie replied: "That just makes it worse. We send young people to Israel to love the land and the people and we also teach them about the grandeur of Jewish ethics. You can't teach that message at the same time that you honor people who break the law, flee from justice and have a record of questionable and arguably criminal and immoral activities."

Asked about the propriety of honoring Rich at the event, Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, executive vice president of birthright israel USA, said simply, "No comment."

Justice for JP Note:

Jewish leaders in both Israel and the US lobbied intensively for a pardon for Marc Rich, a billionaire fugitive from the law who never stood trial, much less ever spent a day in prison. The Jewish establishment did more to secure a pardon for Rich in 6 weeks than it has ever done for Jonathan Pollard in 16 years in prison for his activities on behalf of Israel. The article below describes how the Jewish leadership now flaunts its "rich ethics" by honoring the former criminal fugitive. They continue to ignore Pollard,now in his 17th year of incarceration - the longest, harshest sentence ever meted out to anyone in the US for spying for an ally. For further information on how the Rich pardon was bought at the expense of Jonthan Pollard, see
the Clemency Page.

See Also: