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One of the many curious revelations in the increasingly bizarre saga of the presidential pardon of Marc Rich in the twilight hours of the Clinton administration is especially fascinating to the student of international human rights law. Former President Clinton, in justifying the pardon, explained that Mr. Rich was an unheralded human rights activist. Among his apparently numerous, but unacknowledged, good deeds, one stands out for its carefully crafted hypocrisy. Mossad, the Israeli covert action agency, arranged for Mr. Rich secretly to transfer $400,000 to the Egyptian government, which then established a fund to compensate the families of Israeli victims of a shooting attack by an Egyptian soldier who had run amok in a tourist area near the Egyptian-Israeli border. Thanks to Mr. Rich's anonymous generosity, Egypt could appear to be making voluntary payments to the families, thereby seeming to acknowledge the grave human rights violations that had occurred, while expressing Egypt's contrition for them. Israeli public opinion, which had been aroused by the murders, would be assuaged, while those who viewed events through a human rights lens could take satisfaction in the "fact" that, though horrible things continue to happen, the world as a whole is increasingly sensitive and responsive to human rights claims. We would all feel good, and only Mr. Rich, the Egyptian government, Mossad, and Mr. Clinton would be any the wiser.
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