How can alleged ‘sex abuser’ have Right of Return?

By Nathan Jeffay, October 4, 2013
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He fled England where he is due to be tried for child sex offences. He entered Israel on a fake passport. Now, Todros Grynhaus is appealing to the Israeli courts to claim that he has been unfairly treated.

Grynhaus is claiming that the State of Israel was wrong to refuse him citizenship under the Law of Return, which gives automatic citizenship to Jews and people of Jewish descent.

Israel’s Justice Ministry said that his grievance was heard by the High Court last Sunday and is being considered.

Grynhaus, a former teacher, cited the Law of Return after his arrest in February in what appeared to be an attempt to deport him. In May, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar decided to withhold citizenship from him, and the High Court is now deciding how to respond to his appeal.

This is not the first time that Israel has had to grapple with how to handle an alleged paedophile fleeing legal proceedings. In 1985, Avrohom Mondrowitz, an American Orthodox rabbi and psychotherapist, fled the US just after an indictment was filed against him in Brooklyn. The charges included five counts of first-degree sodomy, eight counts of first-degree sexual abuse, and one count of endangering the welfare of a minor.

Mondrowitz avoided extradition because Israel’s definition of rape at that time did not include sodomy. But even when the definition changed, Israel still ruled against his extradition.

It is believed that Mondrowitz applied for citizenship in 1986, but had his request declined or delayed while extradition was under discussion. A decade later, when the possibility of extradition seemed to have been exhausted, citizenship was granted.

Grynhaus faces an Israeli legal system which has a far clearer and more condemnatory line on child sex offences than that which Mondrowitz first faced. Attitudes in society, as well as within the political and legal establishments, have changed.

This puts Israel’s High Court in a situation where it must consider whether the alleged violation of one of modern society’s ultimate taboos should negatively impact on a citizenship request. Or, more accurately, whether the alleged crime followed by entry to Israel on a fake document to avoid trial should be a barrier to citizenship.

The Law of Return empowers the state to refuse citizenship to certain criminals and criminal suspects, but it is a right that it has used sparingly. The law was enacted to give all Jews a shelter, but the question that the High Court needs to answer is: what happens when it is employed to avoid the long arm of legitimate law?

Last updated: 9:55am, November 1 2013