Al Schwimmer, Founder of Israel Aircraft Industries, Dies at 94

Schwimmer, an American citizen born in New York, was convicted in 1950 of violating the Neutrality Act for smuggling planes to Israel during the 1948 War of Independence.

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Adolph William ("Al") Schwimmer, founder of Israel Aircraft Industries and winner of the Israel Prize died on Friday at Tel Hashomer hospital on his 94th birthday.

He is survived by his wife, Rena, a son, Danny, his daughter, Daphna and grandchildren. His funeral will be held on Monday.

Al SchwimmerCredit: Reli Avrahami

Schwimmer, an American citizen born in New York, was convicted in 1950 of violating the Neutrality Act for smuggling planes to Israel during the 1948 War of Independence. He was stripped of his civil rights, but not imprisoned.

The American Jew was able to covertly bring the aircrafts to Israel by establishing false companies, one of which was purportedly the official airline of Panama. Schwimmer was in the Air Transport Command in World War II, providing him with many contacts that were pilots and in the airplane industry. He was able to use his contacts to transport the planes to Israel.

Schwimmer was pardoned in 2001 by then outgoing U.S. President Bill Clinton. The pardon was awarded without any formal request from Schwimmer.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Report in 2001, Schwimmer said he never applied for a pardon, calling it is a "complicated process". The expatriate added that "you have to express regret for what you did, and I didn't feel that way."

However, the eldest son of Hank Greenspun, a close friend of Schwimmer's who worked with him when he was smuggling arms into Israel during the Independence War, is an attorney and a friend of Clinton.

The younger Greenspun sent all the paperwork to the Justice Department and told Schwimmer, "I'm not asking you. I'm telling you, I sent in your application for a pardon."

After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Schwimmer joined the nascent Israel Air Force, after which he established an aircraft company that evolved to become the Israel Aircraft Industries during the 50's. Schwimmer ran the aircraft company for over 20 years, during which he became close with current President Shimon Peres.

After disagreements with former Defense Ministers Moshe Dayan and Ezer Weizman, Schwimmer left Israel Aircradt Industries, becoming a "special adviser" for the Israeli government for which he was paid a symbolic one shekel a year.

Schwimmer was awarded the Israel Prize for his contributions to Israeli society in 2006.

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