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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Libel?

Interesting new development in the WJC case that has been receiving coverage in the J-blogosphere for a while now. Isi Leibler, the failed whistleblower behind the allegations that began the whole saga, has apparently backtracked on many of his cries of foul on the part of the WJC's leadership. Evidently, as Krum points out, one of Leibler's e-mails was posted last week at Mentalblog. A few hours later, the post with the text of the e-mail was apparently taken down by the siteowner, with no explanation. Within days, Leibler sent out a retraction in a new mass e-mail. Seems to me like a case of damage control. After Leibler realized that his first, clearly libelous e-mail, was made public on Mentalblog, especially in the wake of the $6 million libel lawsuit filed against him by the WJC, he shifted gears into reverse - and fast.

How much do you want to bet that Gary Rosenblatt, who as Krum points out, had been treating Leibler as a reliable source well after he had been discredited by the OAG report (and now discredited himself by his very own admission), will not publish any part of this e-mail. What's Gary's excuse going to possibly be for not reporting on this e-mail? That he doesn't publish stories based on e-mails of mysterious provenance? Oh, right. He does.

What really galls me is this line that Leibler put into his latest e-mail:
I apologize for intruding on you regarding this matter - but you will appreciate that when confronted with a $ 6,000,000 libel suit, I must ensure that any communication I make is unequivocal and not open to any possible factual error or misinterpretation.
I'm glad he is being so careful these days. Or, as Krum so brilliantly put it:
As opposed to times when I am not confronted with a $6 million libel suit, when I have no problem lying my ass off.
This point from his e-mail is troubling as well:
I trust it is clearly understood that being at the brunt of a vicious $ 6 million libel suit, I am not being vindictive when I am obliged to expose the behavior and motivations of those initiating this unseemly libel suit, even if it provides additional grist for the media mills.
Is the implication that he withheld information when testifying before the Attorney General? That would only serve to further discredit Leibler as a source, if it is even true (which seems extremely unlikely).
And this point:
It is also clear that despite their bitter recent experience, the WJC has yet to appreciate the sanctity of public funds. The mere filing of such a flamboyant law suit incurs court costs of $150,000, excluding legal fees and other associated expenses.
I cannot begin to estimate how much the investigation and concurrent trial in the press cost the WJC, which was instigated solely by the machinations of this man. I am sure that he will claim that it was done for the good of the public, though I have difficulty agreeing that an expensive and very public inquiry into an organization that was already years deep into working to improve their governance is a slam-dunk use of taxpayers money. It is clear, however, that the same mindset that allowed Mr. Leibler to justify causing the WJC to have to spend obscene amounts of donors money to defend itself against his allegations - which he now admits to have been exaggerated, should allow the WJC to attempt to recoup some of those lost funds by making their case against Leibler in the courts.

All this development goes to show is that even though we've thankfully come a long way from sweeping every scandal that affects our community under the carpet, each whistleblower's claim must be examined both on merit and on the credibility of the accuser. I think we can do better than "shooting first and asking questions later".

Related: Full text of Leibler's e-mails and subsequent retraction at Canonist.

3 Comments:

Anonymous REReader said...

It is also clear that despite their bitter recent experience, the WJC has yet to appreciate the sanctity of public funds. The mere filing of such a flamboyant law suit incurs court costs of $150,000, excluding legal fees and other associated expenses.

Now, now, he shouldn't worry that they are incurring all these outrageous costs from public funds. I believe that in libel cases the loser would have to pay the court costs, so it won't ultimately be public funds paying for the suit, it will be him.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it really cost $150,000 in court costs, excluding legal fees, I can't imagine how anyone could ever file a lawsuit in Israel. Obviously, this number is GROSSLY exaggerated (by around $149,800).

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tzemach has been a mouthpiece for Leibler from the very beginning of this mess:
http://www.mentalblog.com/2004/09/wjc-imbroglio.html

http://www.mentalblog.com/2004/10/wjc-imbroglio-in-swiss-jewish-press.html

http://www.mentalblog.com/2005/02/meltdown-at-world-jewish-congress.html

It seems that all Leibler had to do in the past was email Tzemach Atlas. But it also seems that that habit has finally gotten Leibler into trouble. Good post, OM!

11:42 AM  

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