Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Eric Holder for Attorney General: Good and Bad for the Jews?

Per CNN, Eric Holder is President-Elect Barack Obama’s choice for Attorney General.

My gut instinct is that this is, as they say, “bad for the Jews.” Not because of Holder, personally, but because his confirmation hearings are bound to include the infamous pardon of Marc Rich.

The Rich pardon is a perfect example of the tarring ethnicities undergo when one of their own is involved in wrongdoing. I can’t imagine that any responsible party in the Jewish community would have endorsed this pardon - a trader who cheated the financial system, then wrapped himself in the Israeli flag by getting himself an Israeli passport (along with a Spanish passport) in trying to avoid extradition. But when Bill Clinton pardoned him, it was viewed as an example of Jewish malfeasance and influence.

Holder, at the time, was the deputy attorney general, and through a series of events described well here by the Washington Post, he allowed Jack Quinn to push the pardon through. So we are pretty much guaranteed that anti-Obama Congressmen will bring up this pardon as a way to harrass Holder’s appointment. And we will have to endure Marc Rich/Jewish/Israel-oriented headlines.

But, on the other hand, Holder might have a positive impact in another case - the AIPAC trial. The accused AIPAC officials relayed - to the press, to other AIPAC officials and to an Israeli diplomat - information US government officials gave them (in a sting operation), regarding anti-Israel operations in Iraq. The AIPAC guys argue that they had thought they were permitted to speak of the information they had been given.

As noted a couple of days ago in The Forward, Holder is known to be strongly in favor of First Amendment liberties, including free speech. This may help the AIPAC defendants.

So I am split on what to expect with a Holder nomination, but, ultimately, all of this points to a more central point: Realistically, Jews must accept that our kin are so involved in so many ways in so many different parts of American society, that any nominee is going to raise similar issues. Whether it’s Pollard or Rich or AIPAC or Abramoff or Agriprocessors or any other Jew or Jewish institution involved with the wrong side of the law, the bottom line is that we are going to have to get used to headlines like those we’ll be seeing during Holder’s confirmation hearings.

Such is Jewish life in the USA. The only antidote of which I am aware is to make sure we have plenty of positive Jewish examples, so that whenever someone brings up a Marc Rich, we can respond with a kiddush HaShem (sanctification of Gd's Name), “That’s not a representative. Look, instead, at…,” citing numerous examples of ישראל אשר בך אתפאר, Jews of whom Gd can be proud, and we can be proud.


  1. Bush needs to stick it to MacCain one last time and pardon Abramoff.

  2. That would definitely be interesting. And a way to really drag the Jewish community through the mud all over again. One more favor we don't need.

  3. "I can’t imagine that any responsible party in the Jewish community would have endorsed this pardon (of Marc Rich)..."

    ummm... how 'bout Ehud Barak? Oh, sorry, you said "responsible party"!

  4. Indeed, LochNess. "Responsible" is not one of his strong suits.