Snow in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Sorry, Judy Montagu (“Holier than thou,” The Jerusalem Post, December 31) and several other respondents to my “The Lupoliansky case – a test for Israeli society” op-ed of December 23, but you have your facts wrong, and hence misread my argument. I acknowledge that, in the context of today’s pervasive atmosphere of deep suspicion towards politicians and its corollary, the Crusade against Corruption, the truth of the Lupolianski case is hard for many to believe. But that truth is simply this: there is no evidence that Lupolianski was ever involved in receiving a bribe.
To be clear: Lupolianski was indeed not a Robin Hood; he was not a robber at all. My point never was that the superior value of hesed ought to trump the wrong of taking a bribe. Nor was it that this is a case of a religious value against a secular one. Both values are firmly entrenched in both societies.
My compelling point was that had the judge had a proper understanding of the circumstances and the genuine altruism of an Uri Lupolianski and the extraordinary Yad Sarah enterprise, he would not have assumed that the donations to Yad Sarah should have constituted bribes in Lupolianski’s eyes to begin with.
The facts of the case, as reflected in Judge David Rozen’s own explanations of his verdict, are these: Even as the wealthy Holyland investors apparently dispensed many actual bribes to other top city officials, receiving in return special favors for their project, they also made several large donations, directly and transparently, to Yad Sarah. The donations were presented at the time as regular philanthropy; Judge Rozen merely assumes – without factual evidence – that they were actually intended to bribe Lupolianski (who the investors obviously knew could not be bribed directly). That is assumption #1.
Assumption #2, also unsupported by evidence, is that Lupolianski surely knew that the investors were bribing other city officials and that the donations to Yad Sarah were similarly intended as bribes to him (which, presumably, he should have cruelly asked Yad Sarah not to accept in order to protect himself against suspicions of bribery). And assumption #3 is that this was such patent bribery that it simply must have influenced Lupolianski’s handling of the Holyland project – although the judge explicitly writes that he had no evidence of Lupolianski giving preferential treatment of any kind in return for the alleged “bribes,” as the prosecution has also recently admitted to the Supreme Court.
Nowhere is it suggested that the donations were explicitly negotiated with, or even mentioned to Lupolianski as bribes; the conviction is based entirely on conjecture and supposed deduction.
But all of the above assumptions are simply unfounded. They all derive from one warped perception, which Judge Rozen presents at length in his ruling: that for Lupolianski a gift to Yad Sarah is identical to a gift to his own pocket. It is not. Firstly, Yad Sarah is for him a public institution in every respect, in which he has no private stake at all (not even a nominal salary).
Secondly, Lupoliansky is not a political animal out for self-aggrandizement even in his good works, as shamefully asserted by Judge Rozen. The opposite is the truth: even his political activity was motivated purely by his selflessness and sense of responsibility for the public good, as all who know him know.
That Judge Rozen could not recognize all of this – even as a possibility! – is what led him to a disastrous conviction and to a totally unconscionable sentence, which, far from beating corruption, will serve instead to reinforce the crippling cynicism that has come to grip our society. And make no mistake: cynicism is what begets the real corruption. If there is no recognition of genuine altruism, the very foundation of ethical living is destroyed. That is what my earlier article focused on. (It can still be found on the JP website.) For the sake of all of Israeli society, I fervently hope the Supreme Court will have the wisdom, integrity and courage to acquit Lupoliansky of all charges and return him to the high pedestal of uprightness he so richly deserves to occupy. The author is a rabbi and was ordained a dayan (rabbinical court judge) at the Harry Fischel Institute in Jerusalem. He is the founder and dean of the The Harav Lord Jakobovits Torah Institute of Contemporary Issues (JICI).