IN­TER­ESTED PAR­TIES (AND THEIR LAWYERS) RE­SPOND TO OUR JNF STORY

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis -

I was ap­palled by your re­port on the JNF ( Re­vealed: the se­cret JNF cash trans­fers, Oc­to­ber 24) which, at best, can only be de­scribed as sen­sa­tion­al­ist jour­nal­ism. There were two ma­jor omis­sions. The ac­coun­tants’ re­port which formed the ba­sis of your ar­ti­cle was, as you cor­rectly pointed out, only a pre­lim­i­nary re­port. What you did not say (per­haps be­cause you were not told or did not en­quire) was that it had been writ­ten without any at­tempt to speak to, or ob­tain in­for­ma­tion from, the for­mer trustees. In ad­di­tion, you did not state that at­tempts by the for­mer trustees to ar­range a meet­ing with the ac­coun­tants to cor­rect the many in­ac­cu­ra­cies in their re­port have proved fruit­less.

Thus it can­not be re­lied upon and there is lit­tle doubt that, if the er­rors had been cor­rected and re­flected in a fi­nal re­port, the con­clu­sions reached would have been very dif­fer­ent.

As they were based on in­com­plete and in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion, the head­line and sub­se­quent re­port­ing, there­fore, gave your read­ers a to­tally mis­lead­ing view of the sit­u­a­tion.

I ap­pre­ci­ate you have an on­go­ing case with the for­mer CEO of JNF, but this should not be al­lowed to re­lieve you of what I hope is your duty for pro­vid­ing re­spon­si­ble, un-sen­sa­tion­al­ist jour­nal­ism. Head­lines such as that used by you last week can only ad­versely af­fect JNF’s fu­ture fundrais­ing ef­forts for Is­rael which had been taken to such heights un­der Gail Seal’s for­mer lead­er­ship. David Ki­bel For­mer trea­surer, JNF david­ki­bel@f2s.com

We act for Gail Seal, the for­mer pres­i­dent of JNF, and David Ki­bel and Jef­frey Zinkin, for­mer trustees of JNF.

We are writ­ing fur­ther to re­ports and to your leader ( JC, Oc­to­ber 24) re­lat­ing to JNF and re­fer­ring to our clients’ in­volve­ment with JNF. Our clients un­der­stand and re­spect that your pub­li­ca­tion has a le­git­i­mate in­ter­est in re­port­ing on the is­sues touched by the con­tents of the pre­lim­i­nary Smith & Wil­liamson re­port (which you state to have been dated July 21 2008, al­though the copy we have seen is, in fact, dated July 18 2008 with a sup­ple­men­tal re­port dated July 30 2008). None­the­less, they are con­cerned about the man­ner of your re­port­ing which is un­de­ni­ably se­lec­tive, tends strongly to­wards in­nu­endo and ne­glects to men­tion cer­tain key facts which, if in­cluded, would por­tray to your read­ers the con­tents of the re­port in a some­what dif­fer­ent light.

As you know, the re­port was pre­pared af­ter only a lim­ited ini­tial re­view of cer­tain is­sues high­lighted to Smith & Wil­liamson by Sa­muel Hayek. More­over, Mr Hayek ul­ti­mately re­fused to take up our clients’ re­peated of­fer to meet with Smith & Wil­liamson to as­sist them in the clar­i­fi­ca­tion of cer­tain is­sues in the re­port (which they had ei­ther mis­un­der­stood or in re­la­tion to which fur­ther in­for­ma­tion was re­quired). Such co­op­er­a­tion would have been de­sir­able be­cause, in its cur­rent pre­lim­i­nary form, the re­port con­tains a num­ber of er­rors and un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions.

Our clients are of the view that JNF has al­ready suf­fered as a re­sult of the le­gal wran­glings which have gone on be­tween var­i­ous par­ties to date and, for this rea­son, they are in­clined to let the mat­ter drop on this par­tic­u­lar oc­ca­sion. We have been in­structed, how­ever, to mon­i­tor closely the con­tent of any fu­ture ar­ti­cles you may pub­lish in re­la­tion to the con­tents of the re­port as our clients are, un­der­stand­ably, un­will­ing to sac­ri­fice their good names as a re­sult of shoddy and sen­sa­tion­al­ist re­port­ing on the part of your pub­li­ca­tion. Weil Got­shal & Manges 1 South Place Lon­don EC2M 2WG

Ed­i­tor’s note: Sa­muel Hayek dis­putes claims re­lat­ing to him in the above let­ter. He says that the range of is­sues which Smith & Wil­liamson ex­am­ined were de- cided by JNF in con­sul­ta­tion with its lawyers. He re­jects the sug­ges­tion that he had re­fused an of­fer from Mrs Seal and Messrs Ki­bel and Zinkin to meet Smith & Wil­liamson, and says he asked for any reser­va­tions they had about the pre­lim­i­nary re­port to be sent, in ad­vance of any meet­ing, in writ­ing. He says this was re­fused which is why no meet­ing took place.

I quote from the JNF UK web­site, Fe­bru­ary 1 2008: “Sa­muel Hayek, the re­cently ap­pointed chair­man of The KKL Char­i­ta­ble Trust, will as­sume the role of chair­man of JNF UK as this new post will pave the way for a… set­tle­ment of the re­cent dis­pute be­tween the two or­gan­i­sa­tions. The JNF UK board will be joined by Sa­muel Hayek and a num­ber of new trustees. The in­ten­tion is that the new board will be given full au­thor­ity to ne­go­ti­ate a fi­nal set­tle­ment of all out­stand­ing is­sues with KKL.”

I also quote the Hon­ourable Mr Jus­tice Hen­der­son giv­ing judg­ment in Win­ters v Mis­chcon de Reya on Oc­to­ber 15: “Un­for­tu­nately, how­ever, dis­putes arose be­tween the JNF and KKL… There were also dis­agree­ments about how JNF monies should be dis­trib­uted. There came a time when the JNF de­cided to stop us­ing KKL to dis­trib­ute its funds in Is­rael, and this ul­ti­mately led to a rup­ture. Ma­jor lit­i­ga­tion en­sued… Le­gal fees ap­proach­ing £4m had been in­curred by the two char­i­ties by the time a draft set­tle­ment was reached. This set­tle­ment in­volved a stay of the lit­i­ga­tion, but I was told that the set­tle­ment is still not fi­nal and the lit­i­ga­tion is cur­rently dor­mant rather than fi­nally re­solved.”

Can we now be in­formed by JNF or KKL whether the dis­pute has yet been re­solved; and, if not, why not; and whether the sum said to have been in­curred in re­spect of le­gal costs has been paid by the char­i­ties? If so, what ef­fect has this had on the core char­i­ta­ble pur­poses of each? Ju­lian Pol­lard Hutch­ings Walk, Lon­don NW11

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