This morning, looking at Failed Messiah – a blog dedicated to exposing corruption in the Orthodox world – a certain headline sent the alarm bells ringing: “Kosher deli owner flees federal indictment, runs to Israel.”
This links to an article in the Rocky Mountain News, and yes, ladies and gentleman, the kosher deli owner referred to is indeed referring to our very own Arnie Zaler.
Denver’s kosher scandal has gone national. Of course, with Zaler facing federal charges, this was bound to happen.
Reading Sara Burnett’s depiction of Zaler, he comes off almost as a small town Madoff, a “smooth operator” with a long history of swindles and cons.
This latest installment involved Zaler’s kosher concession at Denver sports venues, and due to the alleged scam, Zaler faces 30 charges of bank and wire fraud. The FBI has also learned that earlier this year, after posting bail in the amount of $25,000, Arnie Zaler boarded a flight to Israel. He has not been heard from since.
So the question is, why is Zaler allegedly wandering the streets of Jerusalem a free man?
To be fair, even according to Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office, extradition is highly complicated, requiring coordinted efforts by the Dept. of Justice, US State Dept., the US Embassy in Israel – and, finally, the Israeli government.
But there’s something deeper at play here. After spending some time in the Jewish blogosphere (Failed Messiah, Unorthodox Jew, Godol HaDor, though the latter is now defunct), one quickly realizes that this is not the first case in which a Jewish American under legal accusation has used Israel as a safe haven. And while Israel was established to provide a homeland for persecuted Jews, Rocky Mountain Jew is far from convinced that the definition of “persectued” includes those under US federal indictment.
Why is the Holy Land being hijacked for such sordid purposes? Why do the local communities and the Israeli government support this?
Most of us react in disgust when speaking of Marc Rich, who, facing charges of tax evasion and illegal oil deals, fled to Switzerland and was later pardoned by Bill Clinton.
But when it comes to Israel taking in law dodgers, the Jewish community keeps schtum.
Why the double standard? Why is Israel immune from criticism?