I Beg Your Pardons

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Mohamed Khodr’s Column

In the annals of Presidential history Bill Clinton’s life and legacy has been stained for posterity, not that it matters to him on a personal level Bill and Hilary decided a long time ago to fulfill their hunger and greed for ambition and power in an Anti-Machiavellian path—-the means justifies the ends. To them stains can be washed, errors can be spun, and sins can be forgiven. Hilary knows that our nation is a nation of short thought span and superficial understanding and thus in six years all will be forgotten when she approaches the alter of Queen/President. It’s hard for any rational person who lives outside the Harry Potter world of the Clinton’s to comprehend the last minute pardons issued by President Clinton. Senator Hilary Clinton herself in a news conference was at a loss for words to justify the pardons, especially of the four Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn.

The controversial pardons that gave rise to the stinking smell of a quid pro quo payback were all for Jewish Americans. None more controversial than the last minute pardon for the Billionaire Jewish American Marc Rich. Mr. Rich was indicted in a Manhattan federal court in 1983, shortly after he fled the country, on charges of tax fraud and illegally buying oil from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. Bill Clinton would have us believe that his last minute decision to pardon the "rich" Rich was based totally on the merits of the case as presented to him by Rich’s lawyer and his former counsel John Quinn. Obviously it had nothing to do with Rich’s ex-wife, Denise Rich’s donations of more than $1 million to the Democratic party over the years or her last minute gifts of chairs and tables to Hilary totaling more than $7,000. Both Denise Rich and Jack Quinn deny any relation between the money and Clinton’s clemency of a fugitive who fled to avoid trial and then renounced his American citizenship.

For his $200 million generosity to Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak asked President Clinton to pardon Mr. Rich along with the perennial request for Jonathan Pollard. The New York Times reports that "the list of people who wrote letters for or about Mr. Rich in the last two months of 2000 is a virtual who’s who of Israeli society and Jewish philanthropy," including former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit, former finance minister Ya’acov Neeman, and former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat.

This pardon has incensed many in the Justice Department, the Congress, and most of the media, including William Safire and Richard Cohen. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, criticized Mr. Clinton for bypassing the Justice Department and the Prosecutors who prosecuted this case. U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White of Manhattan’s southern district said her office had been "bypassed" by the Clinton White House in this case and were not consulted.

Despite the wide condemnation of Clinton’s clemency of Marc Rich we can assume that given Clinton’s teflon conscience he is unfazed. I can just see him now dancing with Denise Rich while singing "Isn’t it Rich, Are we a Pair" from the song "Send in the Clowns" which is an apt description of Clinton’s administration.

Who were the next pardoned Jewish Americans that Clinton looked upon so favorably? Why of course they are the Hasidic Jews from New York—-Hilary country. Seven clever Hasidic Jews in the exclusive Hasidic community of New Square in New York city concocted a most devious plan to defraud the federal government of upwards of 40 million dollars by claiming that the money was for a religious school. The money was needed for educational scholarships, housing, and school expenses. Only one problem, the school did not exist and had no students or faculty. The seven mentors who developed this fraudulent scheme to defraud the American taxpayer were not suspected for over twenty years due to their religious affiliation. They even had an official name for the school "The Toldos Yakov Yosef Seminary".

The seven men responsible for this fraud were Chaim Berger, the chairman of the directors of the fictitious school, a Holocaust survivor, his son Benjamin Berger, Nathan Adler and Avrum David Friesel (whereabouts unknown), Kalmen Stern, David Goldstein, and Jacob Elbaum. After a long investigation into the existence of this school and a college that received hundreds of Pell educational grants it was discovered that neither school existed and that the federal money was looted to benefit the men and community. The seven men were indicted on various charges, including conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering. Chaim Berger is in Israel fighting extradition but his son, Benjamin, Stern, Goldstein, and Elbaum were indicted, sentenced, and ordered to pay restitution.

President Clinton commuted the sentences of these four men. Many Clinton critics saw this as the President’s way of rewarding the Hasidic Jewish community for their support of his wife’s Senatorial campaign, although she and the Hasidic community have denied this. The lawyer for the gang of four defended their actions by saying that they did not act out of greed but out of a misguided effort to help their community and schools. He claims that the community received most of the money. The Jewish community has used this same benign argument to free Jonathan Pollard: he wasn’t doing this for himself (although he didn’t mind the thousands of dollars from Israel), he did it out of a misguided religious belief that he was helping our closest ally, Israel.

Another case of Clinton’s largesse to the Jewish community was the case of Mr. Al Schwimmer, 83, who flew U.S.air force planes in Europe during World War II. Mr. Schwimmer’s crime was that he was recruited by Israel in 1947 to smuggle planes to Israel in preparation for it’s 1948 war with the Arabs. He then recruited other air force pilots to smuggle valuable planes to Israel. At the time Israel was under an American Arms Embargo and thus needed Mr. Schwimmer’s help in obtaining American aircraft. Mr. Schwimmer was eventually caught by the FBI, stood trial and lost some of his civil rights. He later emigrated to Israel.

Mr. Brian Greenspun, a lawyer and classmate of Bill Clinton’s petitioned the president to pardon Mr. Schwimmer, as long as Mr. Schwimmer did not have to apologize for his actions against his country. The President agreed and pardoned Mr. Schwimmer unconditionally, meaning no need for an apology to the United States for breaking its laws.

As an Arab American and Muslim I wondered why President Clinton did not pardon the two dozen Muslims who languish in American jails for years without any charges or ability to mount a defense since they were held under the Israeli inspired "Secret Evidence", an unconstitutional practice in America and Israel. They committed no crimes and some were eventually released by Judges who found the "secret evidence" against them paltry and flimsy. In fact one of the last acts of Janet Reno adding insult to injury was to deny the asylum of an Algerian Muslim freed from jail (jailed under secret evidence) who was already granted asylum by a panel of judges. Apparently the "secret" against these victimized men persecuted by "secret evidence" is that they are simply Arabs and Muslims.

It seems in our democratic and free society that pardons like everything else depends on your ethnicity, your political connections, and your campaign donations. I can just hear the song from "Fiddler on the Roof" sung by Marc Rich: "If I were a ‘rich’ Jew… Ya bada bada bada bada bada….."

Mr. Mohamed Khodr is an American Muslim physician and a native from the Middle East. He has worked in Academic Medicine and Public health with national and international health experience. He is a freelance writer who often writes columns on the Palestinian cause, Islam and on America’s Foreign Policy in the Middle East. He lives in the Washington DC area.

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