YNET & Jewish Week coverage of WJC

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An Israel YNET interview on recent WJC developments follows.

I am also attaching the link to an overview of the WJC published today in The Jewish Week by Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher and Larry Cohler Esses, the editor-at-large. Esses is the journalist who, together with Ran Dagoni of Globes, exposed the March of the Living scandal. I wrote an op-ed covering this in yesterday’s Jerusalem Post. (see my Jerusalem Post Op Ed)

Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler, former VP of the World Jewish Congress says Bronfman’s resignation marks a ‘sad ending’

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is going through tough times, because it is prone to the same weaknesses associated with power and corruption which plague governments, Isi Leibler, former vice president of the WJC, told Ynetnews.

“This shows that Lord Acton’s dictum, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, applies to Jewish organizations no less than to governments,” Leibler said, speaking by phone from his home in Jerusalem.

Leibler said he was saddened by the nature of WJC President Edgar Bronfman’s departure.

Bronfman, a billionaire, has led the WJC since 1980, alongside his former right-hand man, Israel Singer. Together, the two steered the WJC through some its most famous campaigns, in which they shone the spotlight on Swiss banks accused of possessing assets stolen from Jews during the Holocaust, and helped expose former Austrian president Kurt Waldheim, who is a suspected Nazi war criminal.

The WJC leads efforts to recover funds stolen from Jews, and channeling it back to Holocaust survivors.

“There’s a sad aspect to Bronfman’s unhappy resignation because no body can deny that he contributed much to Jewish life,” Leibler said. “The saddest aspect is that Bronfman did make a historic contribution to restitution which may be overshadowed,” he added.

“Bronfman’s unique relationship with President Clinton at the end of the Cold War utilized a window of opportunity to bring this about. Had he not done so, a great historic injustice would have occurred in which the assets of those murdered would have remained with the governments concerned,” Leibler said.

‘Cover up was as bad as the crime’

“Bronfman’s failure occurred when he breached a cardinal principal: He did not supervise his professional executive director (Israel Singer  Y.L.) and enabled him to operate the organization as through it was his personal fiefdom. This led to corruption, and abuse of public funds,” Leilber continued.

“Bronfman resigned because he became totally fed up. He discovered too late what was happening and tried desperately to rectify the damage inflicted by Singer. But at the end he was unable to do so. There is a sadness that a man who gave so much of himself retired under such an awful cloud, and that a once proud Jewish international organization has been left in shambles.

Those responsible unfortunately try to shift the blame on one another instead of apologizing to the Jewish people for having been derelict in their duty,” he declared.

Leibler added that an early financial audit could have limited the “external scandal” without “providing ammunition to every anti-Semite and enemy of Jewish people. In a sense, the cover up was as bad as the crime. They spent millions of dollars of Jewish public money on lawyers and public relations to cover up their misdeeds. They virtually stopped all their mission activities. They demonized and expelled those seeking to reform the organization.

And finally, they brought upon themselves the (New York) attorney general (Elliot Spitzer’s) report which condemns Singer for breaching his fiduciary duties and forced him to resign as chairman. When they finally discovered that Singer was still misappropriating funds and sacked him, it was too late,” Leibler said.

Leibler reserves most of his wrath for Singer’s continued link with the Claims Conference  the world Jewish organization in charge of recovering assets looted from the Jews by the Nazis. “The fact that he still remains associated with the Claims Conference is absolutely mind boggling and people will not be able to understand how this could happen,” he exclaimed, adding: “This is after all the most important fund of the Jewish People.”

The former vice president said a new beginning was needed for the WJC. “Clearly a new leadership untainted by the scandals of the past should move in if the organization is going to survive,” he said.



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