Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Here's a few excerpts from "Bush pardons man who helped Israel during wartime" by Deb Reichmann:
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a gesture of forgiveness for a decades-old offense, President George W. Bush on Tuesday granted a pardon posthumously to a man who broke the law to supply aircraft to Jews fighting in Israel's 1948 war of independence.Here's a report of Clinton's remarks on Greenspun:
Charles Winters, a Miami businessman considered a hero in Israel, was listed in a batch of 19 pardons and one commutation that Bush issued before leaving for Camp David to spend the holidays. No high-profile lawbreakers were on the list. ...
Members of the Jewish community, who adorned his father's funeral with blue and white flowers symbolic of the Israeli flag, filled in details about his father's past. His obituary in The Miami Herald read, "Charles Winters, 71, aided birth of Israel."
In the summer of 1948, Winters, a Protestant from Boston who exported produce, worked with others to transfer two converted B-17 "Flying Fortresses" to Israel's defense forces. He personally flew one of the aircraft from Miami to Czechoslovakia, where that plane and a third B-17 were retrofitted for use as bombers.
"He and other volunteers from around the world defied weapons embargoes to supply the newly established Israel with critical supplies to defend itself against mounting attacks from all sides," New York Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Gary Ackerman, Jose Serrano and Brian Higgins said in a Dec. 15 letter urging Bush to pardon Charlie Winters. "Without the actions of individuals like Mr. Winters, this fledgling democracy in the Middle East almost certainly would not have survived as the surrounding nations closed in on Israel's borders."
The three B-17s were the only heavy bombers in the Israeli Air Force. It is reported that counterattacks with the bombers helped turned the war in Israel's favor. In March 1961, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir issued a letter of commendation to Winters to recognize his contributions to Israel's survival as an independent state.
Winters, a Protestant from Boston, was convicted in 1949 for violating the Neutrality Act for conspiring to export aircraft to a foreign country. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Two others, Herman Greenspun and Al Schwimmer, also were convicted of violating the act, but they did not serve time. President Kennedy pardoned Greenspun in 1961. President Clinton pardoned Schwimmer in 2000.
"Rules are rules, but it's interesting that my dad was the low man on the totem pole in the operation, but he's the only one who had to serve time," said Jim Winters, 44.
Reginald Brown, an attorney who worked on the Winters pardon, said Bush's action "rights a historical wrong and honors Charlie's belief that the creation of the Jewish state was a moral imperative of his time. ... Charlie Winters helped shape human history for the better."
Film director Steven Spielberg wrote a letter to Bush appealing for a pardon for Winters.
"There are probably many unsung heroes of America and of Israel, but Charlie Winters is surely one of them," wrote the director of "Schindler's List," his Oscar-winning movie about the Holocaust. "While a pardon cannot make Charlie Winters whole, and regrettably he did not live to see it, it would be a fitting tribute to his memory and a great blessing to his family if this pardon is granted." ...
Bill Clinton said U.S. citizens who broke the law smuggling guns to the nascent Jewish state proved there are times when it’s acceptable to break the law.Schwimmer was a career criminal serving two criminal states. Here are some excerpts from "Pardoned American served Israel in 1948" by the JTA in 2001:
“Once in a while it’s worth risking your neck to make sure nobody sinks just because the rules are rigged against them,” the former U.S. president said Wednesday to raucous applause at a Washington dinner honoring Jimmy Hoffa, the legendary Teamsters leader who facilitated such smuggling.
U.S. authorities at the time banned the sales of guns to any parties to the conflict, placing the struggling Jewish state at a disadvantage over enemies that had standing armies.
The fund-raising dinner for the Yitzhak Rabin Center raised over $2 million and showered honors on the children of Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975, and the children of his associate in the arms-smuggling enterprise, Hank Greenspun, a Nevada real estate and newspaper magnate who died in 1989.
Clinton remembered Rabin as a leader who understood that Israel would not achieve security “unless a just and lasting peace could be achieved for the Palestinians and their children too.”
As an adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres in the mid-1980s, Al Schwimmer traveled to the United States often and met with former Presidents Reagan and Bush.
He served as an intermediary between the United States and Iran in the arms-for-hostages scandal.
It never seemed to matter that he was a U.S. felon, convicted for his role in smuggling airplanes from the United States to Israel as it fought its War of Independence in 1948.
Now, a half-century after his conviction, Schwimmer has been exonerated, one of the many pardons granted by President Clinton on his last days in office.
It was a pardon he never asked for and is less than enthusiastic about.
“I appreciate it,” said the 83-year-old Schwimmer, who lives in Israel and holds dual American and Israeli citizenships. ...
Schwimmer, the founder and former CEO of Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd., was convicted in 1950 of violating the United States Neutrality Act for his role in aiding Israel. ...
A veteran of World War II originally from Connecticut, Schwimmer – known then as Adolph – joined TWA after the war as a flight engineer and was recruited through friends to help bring airplanes to the Middle East to aid the Jews in their war for independence.
He set up dummy airline companies that were supposed to be flying charter flights, and purchased airplanes from the United States, which was selling surplus planes no longer needed after the war.
In all, Schwimmer and his crew brought 30 planes to Israel, flying them through either Italy or South America and to Czechoslovakia, from where the planes were sent to the Middle East.
They also recruited men, mostly World War II veterans, to go to the Middle East and fight. ...
After the War of Independence had been won, Schwimmer came back to the United States to face the music.
“I decided I didn’t want to be a fugitive the rest of my life,” Schwimmer said.
He pleaded not guilty but was convicted in 1950 – along with his colleagues – and received a $10,000 fine.
The fine, and his court costs, were paid for by the Jewish Agency for Israel, he said.
Schwimmer returned to Israel and founded Bedek, the precursor to Israel Aircraft. After nearly 25 years at the helm of the military and commercial airplane manufacturer, Schwimmer retired.
But that did not end his life in the spotlight.
For one shekel a year, Schwimmer joined Peres’ government in the mid-1980s as a special adviser to the prime minister for technology and industry.
He would once again find himself in the midst of controversy.
On his role in the Iran/Contra affair, Schwimmer would not reminisce. He would say very little about the role he played.
“We used the connections we had, which were perhaps better than the United States had, to try to get the hostages out,” he said, but would not elaborate.
According to the 1993 Independent Counsel report on the Iran/Contra Affair, Schwimmer played a key role as an Israeli intermediary between the United States and Iran in the weapons-for-hostages plan.
The Reagan administration sold weapons to Iran, using Israel as an intermediary, in an effort to secure the release of American hostages being held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon.
Some of the proceeds from the sale of weapons to Iran was diverted to the contras, who were waging war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
According to the report, Schwimmer introduced Robert McFarlane, Reagan’s national security adviser, to Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iranian businessman who would lay the Iranian’s demands on the table.
He also helped secure El Al planes to transport the weapons from Israel to a mediating country. ...