Daily Israel Report

Holocaust Reparations Libel Case Settled

The Claims Conference and two Israeli journalists, sued for libel over film "Moral Reparations- The Struggle Continues," reach agreement.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 3/20/2012, 9:54 PM

Holocaust survivors
Holocaust survivors
Flash 90

An agreement was reached between the Claims Conference, an organization that seeks reparations and justice for Holocaust survivors, and the two Israeli journalists who were sued for libel in September 2008, over their film, “Moral Reparations - The Struggle Continues.”

Orly Vilnai and Guy Meroz, of Shamayim Productions Ltd., issued an apology in which they stated that their intention is “to correct the impression that may have been left regarding the Claims Conference in the hearts and minds of those who saw the film ‘Moral Reparations – The Struggle Continues.’”

The film, which was broadcast on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day of 2008, portrayed the Claims Conference as corrupt, exploiting and cheating the survivors they claim to protect.

They claimed that, “As investigative journalists who view their work as a social mission, we try to engage in critical analysis of various bodies involved in assisting Holocaust survivors. As part of this work, we made this film, which addressed the activity of the Claims Conference.”

The journalists committed to pay the organization NIS 150,000 ($40,000).

“We regret that, in the course of our struggle to correct what we saw as an historical and human injustice, the Claims Conference was wronged due to the fact that we failed to present the whole picture and to accurately reflect all the details as they should have been presented. It was not our intention to cause this outcome,” read the apology.

“For 60 years, the Claims Conference has acted tirelessly on behalf of the Jewish people in order to assist Holocaust survivors and to engage in education, commemoration and documentation of the Holocaust,” the statement continued. “Through [their] work, the Claims Conference has made an unparalleled contribution to the successes of the Jewish people in rehabilitating and rebuilding its life in Israel and in the Diaspora.”

Vilnai and Meroz noted, “No one disputes the fact that were it not for the Claims Conference the condition of Holocaust survivors around the world, particularly in Israel, would be much worse.” Yet, they also noted that they believe there is a  “frustrating gap between the desire to help Holocaust survivors, which is shared by the entire Jewish people, and the actual condition of Holocaust survivors requires criticism – on occasion harsh if deserved, directed at those who set policy in this area, as well as of those who implement it, since this is a sacred task.” 

“We cannot abandon our loyalty and commitment to such criticism. Neither can we abandon the truth,” they affirmed.

The journalists continued to state that their “intention was and is to assist Holocaust survivors and to advance their well-being, so that in their twilight years they may enjoy the best and most appropriate living conditions possible. We feel proud and happy to have the opportunity to act to promote this objective.”