by Stewart Ain, New York Jewish Week
In a legal argprosecutor ument called “astounding and very troublesome,” a federal prosecutor has argued that Israel’s Law of Return makes American Jews a flight risk and therefore ineligible for bail.
The claim, believed to be unprecedented, came in the bank fraud case of Sholom Rubashkin, the former Jewish head of the embattled Iowa kosher slaughterhouse, Agriprocessors, Inc.
And the federal judge in the case, Magistrate Jon Stuart Scoles, cited the Law of Return in his Nov. 20 decision denying Rubashkin bail.
“Under Israel’s Law of Return, any Jew and members of his family who have expressed their desire to settle in Israel will be granted citizenship,” the judge wrote, adding that the government had claimed that at least one other Agriprocessors’ defendant had already fled to Israel.
Rubashkin’s lawyers wrote in their appeal filed last Friday: “It is ironic that a law designed to provide refuge to persecuted Jews has now become the basis for detaining a Jew who might otherwise have been released pending trial.”
Deborah Lauter, director of the civil rights office of the Anti-Defamation League, said the prosecution’s “referencing the Law of Return is highly unusual.”
Marc Stern, acting co-executive director of the American Jewish Congress, called the move “very troublesome.”
“All Jews are suspect because of the Law of Return?” he asked. “It’s a very astounding and troubling argument. It’s different from saying he might run to Israel — whether or not there is a Law of Return.”
In last Friday’s legal papers, defense attorneys for Rubashkin asked Scoles to reconsider his decision. And, in order to preserve their right to appeal, they also filed papers with federal District Court Judge Linda Reade in the event Scoles does not grant Rubashkin bail.
In their request to deny bail after his second arrest in November — he had been arrested in October on charges alleging that he hired illegal workers for his plant — prosecutors noted that Rubashkin had $20,000 in his home, much of it in a travel bag that also contained his birth certificate and his children’s passports; he has 10 children. He and his wife surrendered their passports after Rubashkin’s first arrest.