INTERESTED PARTIES (AND THEIR LAWYERS) RESPOND TO OUR JNF STORY
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 email@example.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