Speaking an an interview with FNA, Richard Silverstein said Israel passed the Law of Return allegedly to protect Jews in distress who flee persecution in their native countries, but in action it has used it as a "new offer of refuge to the world's Jewish criminal”.
"There have been pedophiles as well who entered Israel on the run from authorities in their home countries," the writer added.
Richard Silverstein writes Tikun Olam, a weblog dedicated to resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict. His work has appeared in the Middle East Eye, The Nation, Jacobin, the New Arab, the Guardian, and the Los Angeles Times. He has contributed essays to many major media outlets, including Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, The Guardian and Middle East Eye.
Below is the full text of the interview:
Q: Why does Tel Aviv allow criminals who flee other countries in Israel, even when they are wanted in the country where they have committed a crime?
A: Israel has a peculiar relationship with Diaspora Jewry. It prides itself on being a haven for Jews in distress who flee persecution in their native countries. The Law of Return was meant to give such Jews a haven and permit them to gain Israeli citizenship. But somehow this phenomenon has transformed itself into offering Jewish criminals under investigation or charged with serious crimes in their home countries, refuge in Israel. The most famous of these was Meyer Lansky, the infamous mobster, who sought citizenship in Israel under the Law of Return. When Meir Kahane was wanted by US authorities, he fled to Israel, where his racist ideology took root. There have been pedophiles as well who entered Israel on the run from authorities in their home countries. The original concept that Israel was meant as a place for the Ingathering of Exiles has been debased by this new offer of refuge to the world's Jewish criminals.
Q: Why does Israel not extradite some of those who are wanted in their own countries?
A: In some cases, criminals come to Israel bringing suitcases full of cash. Israel welcomes such dirty money from foreign sources. In one case, an ultra-Orthodox government minister protected an Australian Jewish pedophile wanted there for crimes against schoolchildren. He permitted her to hide in Israel so she would not have to face prosecution back home. It has now been four years since Australia first demanded her extradition. She remains in Israel.
Q: Israel is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), then how come Israel goes unpunished so simply as it provides a safe haven for the most notorious criminals wanted for money laundering in their home countries?
A: While I do not know the specific rules under which this organization operates and what obligations member countries undertake, Israel does not honor international commitments unless it must do so. If Israel feels it is in its best interest to ignore or violate such regulations, it does so as long as it can get away with it.