Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The right of return and Rubashkin

A fairly dangerous precedent that could have ramifications for all Jews was just set in an Iowa courtroom on December 5. In a story filed by JTA recently, lawyers for Sholom Rubashkin, the former supervisor of the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking facility in Postville, Iowa, asked a judge to reconsider his decision to deny bail in the case. In Rubashkin's case, prosecutors have stressed the possibility that Rubashkin could avoid jurisdictional prosecution for hiring illegal workers and bank fraud by fleeing the country and seeking sanctuary in Israel. They cite Israel's Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to every Jew, as their primary concern. Apparently, the judge agreed, particularly when it was pointed out that two former Agriprocessors employees also suspected for illegal acts did, in fact, flee and are presumed to be living now in the Jewish State. To his defense, Rubashkin's attorneys have offered to provide additional measures, such as 24-hour monitoring and any other security measures as determined by the court. They argue that Rubashkin has deep roots and connections to his family and the Postville community and that he is unlikely to be a flight risk. Several of Rubashkin's family members also agreed to post bonds with the equity built up in their homes in order to guarantee his appearance in court. Where the arguments may seem plausible, the thin veneer behind the prosecution suggests that any high-placed Jew under suspicion or facing indictment for alleged criminal acts could be denied bail due to the Law of Return and the possibility of flight to Israel to avoid prosecution. "That means that 5,300,000 Americans would be viewed as heightened bail risks simply because they are Jews" wrote Rubashkin's attorneys in their pleadings before the judge. Ironically, they point out, the Law of Return, intended to be used to provide sanctuary for persecuted Jews, is now being used as the basis for detaining a Jew, who were he not Jewish, would probably be freed on bail. As Rubashkin's attorneys pointed out, two Supreme Court Justices and the current Attorney General of the United States could, likewise, be considered Israeli flight risks. This is a very dangerous precedent and smacks of unequal application of the law and a possible deprivation of Rubashkin's civil rights. Whether Rubashkin is innocent or guilty is of no import here. He should have his day in court to determine that. However, an Israeli law should not be used to keep him confined while preparing for his defense in a court of American justice.

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