Meroz and Federbush

Claims Conference sues filmmakers for libel

Organization working to assist Holocaust survivors counters blow received from controversial documentary by suing directors for 'promoting their own personal interests through an unprecedented smear campaign'

The Claims Conference, a US-based organization responsible for recovering and distributing Jewish assets plundered by the Nazis during World War II, filed a libel suit on Thursday against creators of the documentary "Musar Shilumin (The Morals of Restitution) - the fight goes on", Orly Vilnai Federbush and Guy Meroz.


In the suit, filed with the Jerusalem District Court, the Claims Conference demands a public act of contrition from the filmmakers, as well as just under $1.5 million in compensation, which the organization says will be transferred to Holocaust survivors.


"'Musar Shilumim' is a false and manipulative movie," the conference's representatives claim in the suit. "Federbush and Meroz have desecrated their journalistic obligation to the truth from beginning to end.


"The defendants' film is a libel, an evil, twisted, contemptible libel contrived to promote their own personal interests through an unprecedented smear campaign… The potential damage caused to Holocaust survivors as a result of this charlatanism is hefty."


It seems the conference's timing is not coincidental. On Monday, September 8, the Knesset is scheduled to convene a parliamentary investigative committee summoned by MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor), which will probe the Claims Conference's conduct.


The controversial documentary premiered during the most recent Holocaust Memorial Day. It harshly criticizes the Claims Conference's methods and underwrites a claim that the organization is actually delaying the restitution meant for many Holocaust survivors currently living in impoverished conditions.


In the suit, the Claims Conference accuses the film's directors of promoting "colossal lies and tampering with evidence. The documentation gathered by the defendants during their travels (to Moscow) is not the least bit relevant to the activities funded by the Claims Conference, and they know this well.


"The atmosphere of the film, its graphics, terminology, soundtrack editing, and direction – is a bad atmosphere, anti-Semitic at times."


Federbush 'can't wait for indictment'

The organization further claims that, so far, 600,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide have received over $50 billion. Another $600 million has been used to fund organizations providing welfare for survivors working towards education, research, and documentation of the Holocaust, they say.


The Claims Conference has been working with Holocaust survivors since 1951. It is responsible for filing claims against countries such as Germany and Austria, as well as different industries worldwide, in order to secure funds and retrieve property for survivors and their families.


Orly Vilnai Federbush responded to the allegations by stating: "We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of
the indictment, and especially the day in which we file our defense plea, which will include thousands of unanswered questions we have collected during recent months, which the Claims Conference will have to answer in court.


"This is an important day and the country should rejoice, as the Israeli courts will finally be able to assess the activities of the Claims Conference, which until today has not allowed any other Israeli institution to do so… The trial will clarify that our film even spared the Claims Conference."


פרסום ראשון: 09.04.08, 22:01
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