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Israel: A Safe Haven for Pedophiles

Israel: A Safe Haven for Pedophiles

The Law of Return has been an integral law in the establishment of an Israeli state. However, such a law has also been a source of exploitation for Jewish sex criminals globally.

Israel: A Safe Haven for Pedophiles

The Law of Return has been an integral law in the establishment of an Israeli state. However, such a law has also been a source of exploitation for Jewish sex criminals globally.

Writer: Sara Salimi | Copy Editor: Zainabrights | Design: Fatima El-Zein

Since 2014, more than 60 people accused of child sex abuse have evaded justice in the US and fled, making the Israeli regime a sanctuary for sex offenders.

In 2020, a CBS News investigation found that many accused American pedophiles were fleeing to Israel because it would be difficult to be prosecuted. These cases have been documented by the Jewish Community Watch (JCW), a US-based organization that aims to track accused pedophiles attempting to flee, and tries to bring them to justice.

Many of the accused pedophiles go on to abuse children in Israel, such as the case of Jimmy Julius Karow. Karow sexually assaulted a 9-year-old girl in Oregon in 2000, but before being indicted in the US, he converted to Judaism and fled to Israel. Two years later, he was convicted of child molestation in an Israeli court for a separate case, and was released from prison after serving time. In 2021, Karow was sentenced to 13 years in prison in Israel for raping an Israeli child, but he is yet to receive justice for his assault on the 9-year-old American girl, whose family has demanded for him to be extradited to the US with no luck thus far. Karow had been successfully evading authorities in the US and Israel for over two decades, and he is not alone.

Another example is a Brooklyn Rabbi who sexually assaulted three young relatives as young as five years old, and was able to evade justice in Israel for over a decade. Rabbi Gershon Kranczer, who was also a former Yeshiva school principal, abused the young girls from the 1990s through the late 2000s, and fled to Israel the same day his abuse was reported in 2010. He also changed his name and managed to evade capture for 10 years after which Israeli authorities located and arrested him.

CW said it was dismayed at how long it took to bring Kranczer to justice, adding that “the authorities in both the US and Israel have much to answer for.”

Criminals such as Karow, Leifer, and Kranczer have exploited the Law of Return which holds that any Jewish person can move to Israel and automatically gain citizenship. Child rights activists have long warned that the dark loophole in this law has allowed Jewish pedophiles to flee court-mandated supervision in the US and move to Israel with a clean record.

Dozens of convicted Jewish pedophiles in the US have taken advantage of this law, avoiding retribution, and continuing to engage in child sex abuse in Israel. 

This devastating reality begs the question: how have so many Jewish pedophiles engaged in child abuse for so long?

Jewish sex offenders who obtain Israeli citizenship through the Law of Return, are not under any restrictions in Israel despite the restrictions they face in the countries where the sexual offenses were committed. Precariously, Israel also has a private national sex offender registry which only the Israeli police and prison services can access. 

This list, however, only documents convictions in Israel, and does not show their previous convictions. Therefore, pedophiles can still obtain a “Letter of Good Standing” from the police, clearing them to work in schools with children. In addition to this, there is no obligation in Israel to even warn residents about the presence of sex offenders in the community, making it easier for child abusers to find sanctuary there.

This is how another Jewish child sex offender, Yona Weinberg, ran from a federal investigation in the US and found safety in Israel. Weinberg was a bar mitzvah tutor in New York convicted of sex abuse against two young boys in 2009, and sexual assault on an 11-year-old in 2014.

He served 13 months in a US prison for his first charge, but before the police could arrest him the second time in 2014, he flew to Jerusalem with his wife and children. Since then, Weinberg has been living in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem without any sex offender monitoring. He reportedly notified the NYPD about his address change to Israel, but the police did not pass that information to the Division of Criminal Justice Services, which manages the Sex Offender Registry.

It is only because of community activism that this issue has come to light in recent years.

The Israeli regime, and its law enforcement officials have effectively turned a blind eye to incoming sex offenders due to lax criminal background checks that cannot bring charges against individuals not yet convicted or subject to criminal proceedings in the country they came from. Even further, the Israeli interior ministry is not required to deny status to incoming Jewish immigrants even if they disclose a criminal background. 

According to Shana Aaronson, director of Magen for Jewish Communities, “to say there is a crack in the system is an understatement.” She claims that the US government has not aggressively pursued extraditions, and Israeli authorities have failed to prioritize the hunt for suspects. Consequently, the responsibility has fallen on activists and organizations like JCW to track sex offenders down and make enough noise so that the US and Israeli governments are forced to take action. While Israel is known for its cutting edge technology due to unwavering US financial support, such technology is not being used in its local law enforcement.

While the Law of Return is partly to blame for the escape of Jewish pedophiles to Israel, the larger issue concerns the US and Israeli legal systems, specifically how authorities recognize and supervise sex offenders. In Israel, the interior ministry has no legal right to start an investigation into someone who has no charges against them, and the fact that the regime does not have a public sex offender registry further complicates the issue. Even when another country demands the extradition of a convicted sex offender who fled to Israel, the legal proceedings take years to complete.

The problem with escaping sex offenders does not stop with child abusers either. There has been a documented trend of Jewish sexual predators, fraudsters, money launderers, and war criminals in the US fleeing to Israel in order to seek refuge and avoid punishment. 

This past October, Jewish-American Hollywood director Brett Ratner, who has multiple sexual misconduct allegations against him since the #MeToo movement, relocated to Israel. Ratner’s move to Israel came just days after he was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special guest at the UN General Assembly in New York.

The list does not stop with Ratner. Several other sexual predators who achieved significant fame and wealth in the US have fled to Israel in recent years, including Bryan Singer, another famous Hollywood director who moved to Israel years ago after being accused of rape and sexual assault of minors. In fact, Singer has been treated so well there that he is planning a “comeback” that would include making movies based in Israel.

Much of the mental ease that Jewish sex offenders and other criminals have when fleeing to Israel has to do with the systemic protection of Jews in a state that calls itself the “only democracy in the Middle East.” The reality in Israel shows that its ultra-Orthodox politicians go as far as supporting sex offenders and facilitating their entry into other countries. A recent example is Meir Porush, the minister of Jerusalem Affairs, who helped convicted sex offender Rabbi Eliezer Berland enter Ukraine in August by contacting the Ukrainian ambassador to facilitate his entry. 

Another example is former Israeli Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who reportedly helped at least ten serious sex offenders obtain improved conditions by pressuring psychiatrists and prison service officials. He later resigned from the parliament after pleading guilty to breach of trust.

It is no secret that sex offenders are in desperate search of a way to escape punishment for their crimes. For the past several decades, Israel has become that safe haven for them. 

Documented cases show sexual predators going as far as converting to Judaism so they can obtain legal status in Israel, and evade law enforcement. With the Israeli regime’s lax extradition laws, loose background checks, and the highly-advertised Law of Return, sex offenders have found it increasingly convenient to settle down there – and for some, continue their prestigious careers in a new land that ignores their criminal past. 

While activists are hopeful that pressuring the US government for the extradition of sex offenders and reforming Israeli law to make it harder for criminals to gain status will help, it remains to be seen how effective activism will be in bringing sexual predators who have long escaped justice to trial. As Aaronson put it, “If the police don’t investigate, or a minister can give someone a visa, then what’s the point?”

Writer: Sara Salimi | Copy Editor: Zainabrights | Design: Fatima El-Zein


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