Jewish Ozzies' Inter.Net
The electronic voice of the Australian Jewish Community

MACCABIAH KNESSET INQUIRY INTO THE YARKON BRIDGE DISASTER
PROCEEDINGS UPDATE 10th June 1999

In April JOIN published a press release covering proceedings of the Knesset's Special Committee investigating the Yarkon Bridge Disaster. From this we learned of the dissatisfaction of Australian Community leaders with the attitude of the Maccabi World Union in relation to the culpability of its executives for the Yarkon Bridge Disaster.

In response to this posting Malvina Malinek OAM, a JOINer and Chairperson of the Australian National Council of Jewish Women (ex Vice.Pres ICJW) was in Israel and took the opportunity of soliciting the views of the Israeli professional community about the Maccabiah bridge disaster and its aftermath. This was the unequivocal response of a Project Management Engineer, now retired, who worked for many years on huge projects in Israel and abroad;

As far as the chain of responsibility goes:
1. The designing engineer will go to jail.
2. If there was proven corruption in the building process, obviously these people must be flushed out and convicted.
3. But the WMU leadership should have resigned *immediately*! The 'buck stops with them'.
Up till only last week the victims anger was no nearer dissipation. The MWU had taken months to provide usable claim forms. The original loan documents contained clauses which effectively released MWU liability and could have affected victims' rights.

Moreover the MWU had still only remitted US$172,000.000 of the US$500,000.00 loan fund to its agents in Australia thereby breaching MWU's commitment to its victims. To date not one of the victims has received one cent of these monies.

Commenting from Sydney, Colin Elterman, victims' spokesperson, said, "MWU has never lived up to its promises to us. It first agreed to the US$500,000.00 loan fund in September 1997. It has failed and continues to fail to honour this pledge. Some of the victims are in urgent need of funds. MWU should without delay remit a further US$328,000.00 to Australia and finalise the documentation. We are becoming accustomed to MWU's conduct which is damaging the Maccabi movement and the image of Israel - MWU has money for lavish congresses, international travel, expensive legal teams and PR firms, but no money to assist their victims!!"

Worse, the MWU has stated that gifts and loans transferred by "the Movement" to Australia total US$380,000.00. Colin Elterman's response was, "This is a grossly disingenuous attempt to again distort the facts."

With regard to the civil litigation, MWU applauded statements made by Judge Berliner, but Elterman went on to say: " MWU forgets that it together with Ronald Bakalarz, Uzi Netanel and Yoram Eyal are defendants in the litigation. It has been clear from the start that MWU expects to get off scott free, it be business as usual and that the State of Israel carry the whole can - we would welcome payment of just compensation, but at the same time are appalled by MWU's attitude and tactics. In their defences, the above defendants vigorously deny liability and make outrageous and unsubstantiated statements . We hear they now want to join some other parties - to again blame others for its failings".

Elterman concluded saying: "MWU are hopeless. It budgets for hundreds of thousands of dollars for public relations and trots out motherhood statements. The reality is that it has never helped us, primarily because of its refusal to admit any responsibility for what occurred. We urge supporters, sponsors and participants of MWU to pressure MWU for an honourable resolution of this matter. We also call upon the State of Israel to withhold all funding from MWU and take over responsibility for future Maccabiot so that competitors will have confidence that the Games will be safe, properly organised and will have the benefit of proper insurance cover"

There is understandable support in our community for Maccabi Australia not participating in any future Maccabi Games until the MWU leadership steps down.

[Want more information? Email <colin@physico.com.au> "Victims Support and Information". For discussion of this and other matters of Australian/Jewish interest please subscribe to and participate in jointalk@shamash.org]


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