Luchins' Latest Gambit - Editorial

Jewish Press (NY) - March 10, 2000

Blaming the Victim And Promoting the Red Herring of Parole

Our readers will recall, how recently, over a period of several weeks, The Jewish Press took David Luchins, a Vice President of the Orthodox Union and a Senior Aide to U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to task for the public positions he took on the issue of Jonathan Pollard.

As we noted, although

Mr. Pollard has consistently sought a review of the judicial process

which led to a particularly Draconian sentence for spying for Israel, an ally of the U.S., Luchins forcefully argues that Pollard should rather seek release on humanitarian grounds.

In the course of our observations, we noted that it was not so much the justice versus humanitarianism issue Luchins raised which concerned us - in the abstract, there are many thoughtful people who believe that the humanitarian approach has much to commend itself.

But what concerned us was that Luchins very publicly took a position that was contrary to what Pollard himself wanted to do.  But equally as important, in his presentations,

Luchins typically denigrated Pollard's approach in an extraordinary way.

This is not the time to retell the painful story, but suffice it to say, that according to Luchins, there was no way that a review of the judicial process would be availing simply because the heinousness of Pollard's crimes doomed that approach. Thus, among other things, Luchins spent the bulk of his presentation describing the CIA and other governmental agency's contention that Pollard grievously damaged American security and that because of his spying, American agents stationed in the Soviet Union began "dropping like flies." To be sure, he prefaced these claims and the rest of his litany with the observation that he didn't really know if they were true, but this is what the government says. Luchins had his deniability,

but the message to his listening audience and beyond was that as a matter of justice, Pollard got what he deserved.

Of course, the flaw in Luchins' position is that Pollard was never charged with any of this. Indeed, as if acknowledging this problem, Luchins took to speaking of "fair inferences" that should logically be drawn even if they were not proven in court or Pollard did not admit them - and held against Pollard.

He sounded totally oblivious to the criticism that this is America and not the dark days of the Star Chamber or Stalin's Soviet Union.

Interestingly, from a transcript of his most recent lecture at the OU's Israel Center - within the last two weeks - it appears that Luchins has modified his approach. Thus, though he did not intentionally set out to address the Pollard issue, nevertheless, in the course of a question and answer period, the Pollard issue came up.

Luchins began by saying that he has to be careful about what he says because the Jewish Press will "beat up" on me. He then went on to castigate Pollard for not applying for parole which he says, for a variety of reasons, would be forthcoming.

And it is this refusal to apply for parole that Luchins claims is key to Pollard's remaining in jail.

Extraordinary. Once again, Luchins points to the victim as the culprit.

But equally as important, we did some research and consulted the advice of legal experts in the parole process. And what we got back as the overwhelming consensus was that

the parole approach would not only be unsuccessful, but would be counterproductive.

We were told that the Pollard file that the parole board would review contains overwhelmingly negative statements from governmental officials from President Clinton on down. For this and other reasons, he would be sure to be turned down.

In addition, integral to the parole process is the "set aside." That is, following an unsuccessful application for parole, there is a period during which a new application may not be made. And in Pollard's case, given the length of his sentence, the set aside period would be 15 years!

And, the experts say, their experience in these things tells them that presidents and others would simply refuse to get involved, referring conveniently to the decision of the parole board.

We call upon Luchins - who after all, is not a lawyer and who has never represented anyone seeking parole - to come forward with the source of the expert advice upon which he bases his belief that Pollard's salvation lies in starting an entirely new process of parole with its own dynamic of timetables and delays. [See Justice4JP Note below]*

It will also be recalled that The Jewish Press published a letter to the editor from Irwin Katsof, the Executive Director of The Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah, in which he chastises us for our criticism of David Luchins on the Pollard matter. Rabbi Katsof said in his letter that Luchins' lectures at Aish HaTorah belied our characterizations of him and invited us to listen to the tapes of the lectures. Rabbi Katsof sent his letter December 30, 1999 and since that time we have been earnestly trying to get hold of the tapes. We wrote to Rabbi Katsof several times - and although in a January 13, 2000 letter to us he said he would facilitate our securing the tapes, we still have not received them. In truth, we have secured tapes of other Luchin's lectures wherein he speaks of Pollard and his comments more than support our criticisms and we plan to share summaries of them with our readers. Certainly, in the interests of fairness we would like to have at our disposal as many tapes as there are around. We hope Rabbi Katsof soon comes through on his commitment.

*Justice4JP Note:

David Luchins' most compelling argument for the parole process is that such notables as Eli Wiesel, and Coretta Scott King would testify for Jonathan at his parole hearing. Contrary to what Luchins claims, a parole hearing is not a court hearing. As a rule, the parole board examines the prisoner's file well in advance of the hearing, and their decision - based on the contents of the file - has already been made before the hearing begins. Jonathan Pollard's parole file contains nothing but negative recommendations from those government agencies with vested interests in keeping him in prison.

See Also:

  • Transcript of David Luchins' Remarks at the Israel Center
  • David Luchins Page
  • Parole Page