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May 31, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 31 , 2013 PAGE 15A Berman From page 1A That probe was conducted by a paralegal in Berman's law office of Kaye Scholer and resulted in an eight- page report filed on Sept. 4, 2001. In the report, which was obtained exclusively by JTA, paralegal Ryan Tan recommends further ques- tioning of Domnitser and calls for more investigation. There is no evidence that its recommendations were implemented. In an interview May 22 with JTA, Berman refused to discuss the details of the 2001 episode, saying he'll withhold comment until the committee of Claims Conference board members he has assigned to look into the matter recommends a course of action. But he made clear that he believes he is not to blame. "Somebody dropped the ball. That's this issue," said Berman, 77. "My conscience is totally clean on the role I played." Berman said his role in 2001 as counsel, a pro bono position that required field- ing the occasional phone call and showing up to one-day-a-year meetings, did not make him privy to Foxman From page 2A there are laws all over the place, especially after the Sec- ond World War, against hate speech. There are laws against Holocaust denial, laws against racial epithets, etc. It creates a problem because if you cannot buy in Germany Mein Kampf, which is a hateful book, you can order it on the Internet from a U. S. website. Ironically, while they have laws against hatred andwe do not, the level of intolerance in Europe is much higher. Our constitu- tion says 'you have a right to be a bigot,' but also it says 'you need to take responsibility for bigotry.' Therefore what happens in our country, more thanwhat happens globally, is that there are consequences for being a bigot. Mel Gibson at one point in his life was the number one celebrity in this country. He was exposed to be a bigot and paid a price. It wasn't the laws that were used against him; it was social ostracizing. I think in terms of the Internet, that really is our first line of defense." In the book you discuss the fact that websites run by extremists are often ranked among the leading search the internal processes of the Claims Conference. After the report he oversaw was produced, Berman passed it along to the head of the Claims Conference, Taylor, who told JTA that he gave it to Brozik. Whatever subsequent ac- tions were taken were not enough to stop the fraud, which continued until 2009. All the while, the Claims Conference, which was established in 1951 to ne- gotiate Holocaust survivor restitution with Germany, continued its work review- ing claims and processing billions of dollars in Ger- man payments to survivors. Since its founding, the conference estimates it has handled more than $70 billion. In the May 22 interview, Berman stood by comments he made to JTA in late 2011 saying he felt "no fault at all" for the fraud, that the con- trols in place at the Claims Conference to prevent fraud were "reasonably adequate" and that the deception discovered in 2009 was as impossible to anticipate as the attacks of 9/11. "Until it happens once," he said at the time. "Then you're on notice that some- thing you never foresaw can happen." Asked last week if the 2001 episode qualified as the "one-time" warning that should have put the organi- zation-and Berman--on notice, he said it did not. "Once you set up a proce- dure you believe covers the situation, you usually don't go back and review it again and again," Berman said. "You may have to trust the people you trust. "Only as a matter of hindsight it becomes clear," he added. "If Y and Z are in cahoots, then you really haven't done anything." As chairman of the Claims Conference, Berman said it wasn't his place to investi- gate allegations of mishan- dled claims, nor was he privy to such complaints. Berman said the 2001 episode was the only time he was ever aware of allegations of fraud at the conference. "Do I know with any kind of authority one way or the other? I say no, I proudly say no," he said. "I can't get involved in that kind of minutiae." Berman did, however, ac- knowledge that the 15-year fraud scheme--which he said was first brought to his attention in November 2009 by the Claims Conference's executive vice president, Greg Schneider, who told Berman he had discovered a large number of suspicious cases--represented a failure for the organization. "There was a failure, yes," Berman said. Asked if the Claims Con- ference had apologized or should apologize for the fraud, Berman said an apology would have been misinterpreted by Holo- caust survivors who would have thought they had been injured by the fraud. In fact, the cost of the fraud was borne entirely by Germany, which paid out $57 mil- lion more in claims than it needed because of the Claims Conference's failure to weed out some 5,000 false petitions. The Germans were in- formed of the fraud scheme soon after it was discovered, when the fraud figure was approximately $300,000, Berman said. In the early part of the investigation, U.S. authorities had been concerned that if word leaked out, suspect em- ployees, whose actions were being monitored by the FBI, might obstruct the probe. Once the FBI began making arrests, it gave a green light for the Claims Conference to inform its board. "We immediately noti- fied the Germans, and the results for a topic on Google, such as for the search result "Jew." Has ADL ever tried to take up this issue, and what has been the response or result? "What we found is that bigots operate 24-7. They're out there all the time send- ing their messages of hate or defamation, and due to this [search engine] algorithm process, when you press the [search] button on 'Jew; first you're going to get anti-Jew [content] because the 'Jew' word is being bombarded by bigots rather than being em- braced by friends and loving people. You have the same thing with Holocaust denial. There are more people out there propagating hate and denial than understanding, learning and being sympa- thetic to the lessons of the Holocaust. The Google and Yahoo people's first answer [was] 'Why don't you tell your community to bombard Google with good stuff?' and in fact about two years we did that. The Jewish community sent out word to 'go out there and bombard with 'I love Jews' and nice stuff about Jews.' It worked, but it's crazy. You can't expect to wake up in the morning and your job becomes to defend the Jewish people, the African-American people, the Hispanic people. So far what happens is that when there are egregious abuses, I would say seven out of 10 times, the major companies that run these websites do respond and do remove 'the content.' But there is another problem: That stuff never dies on the Internet. You can take it off but it finds its way back, and it always exists somewhere in the stratosphere." What can regular Inter- net users do to mitigate the prevalence of anti-Jewish material? "They should be alert to it, complain to us [at ADL], to the providers, share with the legislators. First of all it's awareness. Number two is to use the [online[ vehicle for good speech. We can also ask the providers to put disclaim- ers on some of the stuff out there. A couple of months ago a [Facebook page] appeared about the third Intifada. The providers said, 'This is like a conversation; it's freedom of speech,' and we said to them, 'Intifada is not a conversation piece, it's a call for violence, and therefore you should not permit it.' We complained to Facebook, Facebook analyzed it and came back to us say- ing 'you're right,' and they removed it." What are some unusual examples of online hate, or examples that people might easily recognize? "There are some websites, one called Martin Luther King Jr. that masquerades [as a harmless website]. In- nocently, you may want to find out what Martin Luther King said, what he was about, and you log on and all of a sudden you realize, or you may not realize, that it's a white supremacist website. What many of the hate orga- nizations did early on was to purchase and protect website domains. Many people in the beginning of the Internet weren't aware of the value of this. If you buy a domain for the Holocaust Institute, it could become anything, but it becomes Holocaust denial. You have to be aware. Every great invention in our history had two sides to it. There was also a dark side, and we need to understand it. That's basically what [my new] book says." Germans said thank you for informing us and keeping us informed," Berman re- called. "The Germans were informed in the appropriate contrite fashion." Asked if the Claims Con- ference owes an apology to anybody else for the affair that has sullied the reputa- tion of the Jewish organiza- tion representing survivor interests--whether survi- vors, the Claims Confer- ence board or the Jewish community--Berman said the thought never occurred to him. "I never sat down and considered whether there was a need to make some public contrition," he said. "I think the best contrition is to make sure [survivors[ receive more than ever and we do whatever's necessary to ensure the pipeline con- tinues." As for his own role, Ber- man said now that he's coming under increased fire from critics, there's no question about staying the course. "I have no choice what- soever but to continue on because of this. It would look to the world and to posterity and to myself that I was driven out because of this stupidity, and I am not going to do it," he said. "Every once in a while I say, 'What do I need this for?' And what picks me up? An- other column by Isi Leibler. I refuse to buckle in to that kind of nonsense." On May 22, Leibler, a for- mer Jewish organizational leader from Australia who now lives in Israel and writes a column for the Jerusalem Post, published a piece head- lined "Claims Conference leaders must resign now." Leibler noted it was his 21st column calling for reform of the Claims Conference. Berman, who is also a member of JTA's board, said he'd be happy to spend time on other things, but now is not the time to step down. "It's not really on my agenda today because I would only focus on whether I've had enough when this is over, this is behind us and we're moving forward," he said. "I'm a fighter. And I'm proud to be a fighter. I make mistakes, too, but if people blame me for making mistakes, I'm certainly not going to cave." Sudoku solution from page 7 695347821 274819536 813526947 947235168 362198754 581674293 736951482 458762319 129483675 HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man & General Maintenance Air Conditioning Carpentry Electrical Plumbing Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 Tweeted From page 5A should never be extended to expressions that come at the physical expense of the other. Without entering into legal discourse that is far too com- plex for this forum, there is no disputing that hate speech on the Internet and in social me- dia has the very real potential to inspire acts of violence. This has been proven countless times since the advent of the Internet and is realized every day through the examples of young and impressionable people who turn to the web for inspiration for all sorts of devious ideologies and beliefs. In order for the Internet to sustain its openness, all responsible parties must com- mit to guarding against the use of online hate mongering. This new medium is so different from anything faced previously by the civilized world that it requires re- evaluated understandings of what is and is not acceptable. Itwill be a challenging process and requires an underlying commitment to protect the interests of all viewpoints, all the while rooting out those messages that cross the fine line between valid speech and toward dangerous incitement. The success of this effort will require the participation and involvement of the relevant commercial players who allow the Internet to flourish along with national governments and international law enforcement. Itwill notbe achieved overnight. If the past has taught us anything, however, it is that the stakes are far too high to do nothing. This time the world must be sure to respond. Gideon Behar is the direc- tor of the Department for Combatting Anti-Semitism of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the chair of the Global Forum for Combat- ting Anti-Semitism beginning May 28 in Jerusalem.