by Joshua Mitnick and Stewart Ain
Congress must support President Barack Obama’s call for a limited military attack on Syria if Obama’s pledge to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear nation is to be believed.
That was the message from American Jewish leaders this week even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli leaders remained mum following Obama’s surprise Saturday announcement that he had decided to request congressional approval to bomb Syria for its use of chemical weapons against its own people.
Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, said the international community is “pretty certain that the Iranians are moving at full speed to create a nuclear weapon. Making a statement here — should Congress approve — I think will have an impact on the calculation being made in Tehran and other places, too.”...more
Approximately 1,400 members and guests from around the world, including over 600 students, came to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel for the Centennial celebrations and 100th anniversary convention of Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi).
The historic series of events opened on Thursday, August 8, at New York University, the site of the Fraternity’s founding in 1913. Dr. John Sexton, president of NYU, and Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York and honorary AEPi brother, addressed a capacity audience at the campus’ Skirball Auditorium. The evening ended with a dinner cruise around lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
On Friday, August 9, nearly $200,000 of money raised by AEPi students throughout the world was given away to the seven official charities adopted by the Fraternity. Representatives of Save a Child’s Heart, Friends of the IDF, the Jewish National Fund, Sharsheret, Elem, Keshet, and Leket Israel attended a luncheon at the Waldorf, sponsored by AEPi partner B’nai B’rith International (BBI), and received checks from those student chapters which raised the most money. David Suissa, President of Tribe Media Group, Editor of the LA Jewish Journal and AEPi brother gave the opening speech, focusing on the meaning and importance of brotherhood. BBI Executive Vice President and AEPi alumnus Daniel S. Mariaschin addressed the audience and praised AEPi’s peerless record of philanthropy. “When one speaks of Jewish continuity, you think of AEPi. In training the leaders of tomorrow, promoting pro-Israel advocacy, and civic responsibility, AEPi has a proven formula for the present – and for the future. B’nai B’rith is proud to partner with it, and in our 170th year, wishes AEPi on its 100th, many more years of success –and of making a difference...more
by Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International
The European Union seems to be going out of its way to shed any pretext of neutrality on the Israel-Palestinian peace process.
The latest affront is new guidelines from the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU. The measure would restrict funding, grants and overall cooperation by the EU with any Israeli institutions that operate in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that are beyond the lines established in the Six-Day War in 1967.
This ban impacts territories that should be discussed at negotiations between the two sides and is an attempt by the EU to pressure Israel to keep the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders.
Why now? Why would the EU go to such lengths to undermine recent movement in the peace talks?
US Secretary of State John Kerry has been back and forth to the region six times in the last few months trying to restart the stalled process. On July 19, the two sides agreed to meet to talk about the parameters for resuming actual peace talks. Though incremental, the attention greeting this step demonstrates the fundamental element in the entire peace process — two sides sitting down together.
If Kerry’s efforts are to succeed, then prejudging the outcome by the EU can only stiffen the backs of the Palestinians or lead them to believe they can talk to Kerry but always go to what has effectively become an “EU court of appeals” to make their case and change the outcome.
Even if Kerry is able to bring the Palestinians to the actual negotiating table, is the EU capable of an objective role, given its track record?
This EU effort undercuts his work, and leaves Israel out of the conversation entirely. The EU’s guidelines punish Israel and reward the Palestinians. We’ve seen a similar approach at the United Nations, where the international community continually holds Israel up to opprobrium and is not really interested in giving it a say in its future security, borders or other points that should be the subject of negotiation and compromise.
When the Palestinians know others will do the heavy lifting for them, they are much less likely to talk seriously with Israel. The EU and United Nations’ efforts provide a way for the Palestinians to continue to avoid confronting the notion of compromise with Israel. If they feel they can get what they want, without having to negotiate over it, it lessens their commitment to cooperate with Israel.
Seemingly, the EU and the United Nations have become spokesmen for the Palestinians—often representing their cause at the expense of pressing them to negotiate and compromise. This EU involvement raises Palestinian expectations to unreasonable and impossible levels—leaving them to believe that their demands will simply be endorsed in the court of global public opinion.
If the narrative is being laid out by the EU and the Palestinians, where does that leave Israel?
This new ruling defining how the Europeans are favoring the Palestinians will surely lessen Israeli confidence at a time when Israel’s neighborhood is torn by chaos, disarray and uncertainty. This is precisely the wrong impression to leave with Israel, which now faces increasing instability on its borders and is being asked to take ever-greater risks as a result of it.
If the EU is serious about its responsibilities as a member of the Quartet - together with the United States, Russia and the United Nations - it would be encouraging the Palestinians to move to the negotiating table, compromise and reach an agreement, rather than exacerbating the effort to get there.
On July 21, the EU designated the “military wing” of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, but determined that Hezbollah has a separate “political” section. This revelation underscored the unevenness of the EU’s efforts and approach when dealing with the Middle East situation.
Though acknowledging Hezbollah’s terrorist activities is a significant step, any talk of a distinction between Hezbollah’s “military” and “political” sides is contrived. With this dual—and misguided—designation, Hezbollah will continue its terror business as usual. The EU should be willing to do more.
The Venice Declaration of 1980 was an early expression of European preferences in this contentious dispute. Nine European nations concluded they needed to elevate the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)—known for its terrorist activity—as a legitimate entity, while suggesting limits be placed on Israel’s security needs. This declaration took place at the height of the PLO’s central role in the control of a terrorist state-within-a-state in Lebanon.
The new EU guidelines continue in that tradition.
Brussels tips its hand to its true agenda by singling out for boycott specific non-governmental organizations, and also describing Gaza on a list of “territories occupied by Israel since June 1967,” despite the fact that Israel withdrew all presence from Gaza in 2005. These aspects of the document add evidence to the folly that the guidelines are balanced. The EU bias is clear.
A two-state solution can only be achieved when Israel and the Palestinians sit together to negotiate it, without preconditions. This move by the EU effectively eliminates that step and, in the process, annuls Israel’s right to have a say in its own future.
The EU should step back and re-evaluate its approach. It needs to decide whether it wants to be a mouthpiece for one side or a body which supports a peace process that has any chance of succeeding...more
Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International, is quoted in the Shalom TV story about the 19th anniversary of the AMIA bombing in Argentina.
La organización B’nai B’rith Internacional recordó a las víctimas del atentado a la AMIA, en víspera de 19° aniversario al tiempo que transmitió su preocupación por el memorándum de entendimiento que la Argentina firmó con Irán en relación a la causa que investiga el brutal ataque terrorista.
A través de un comunicado de prensa enviado a la Agencia Judía de Noticias (AJN), B’nai B’rith Internacional consideró que el acuerdo transformado en ley por el Congreso argentino llevará a que “no se pueda hacer justicia jamás”.
“En enero del corriente año, Irán y Argentina acordaron crear una ‘Comisión de la Verdad’, un ‘grupo independiente’ que investigará el atentado donde murieron 85 personas y otras 300 fueron heridas, todo ello, a pesar que los lazos de Irán con la masacre son conocidos y están documentados”, apuntó la organización.
B’nai B’rith Internacional señaló que “en 2006, luego de una exhaustiva investigación, el fiscal Alberto Nisman detalló cómo conocidas autoridades iraníes dieron la orden a Hezbollah de cometer un atentado masivo contra la comunidad judía en Buenos Aires, y entre esas autoridades: Hashemi Rafsanjani, presidente de Irán entonces, y Ahmad Vahidi, hoy ministro de Defensa”...more
by Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International
Despite efforts to revive the peace process, the Palestinians are once again making their way through the U.N. machinery to demonize, delegitimize and undermine Israel. From the U.N. Human Rights Council, to the World Health Organization, to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) the Palestinians seem to be returning to their time-worn way of avoiding the opportunity to negotiate.
Even as the Obama administration, through Secretary of State John Kerry, has revitalized its efforts in the region, the Palestinians continue to press at the world body for the castigation of Israel. Kerry has met with both sides in order to pave a path back to direct negotiations—the vital element for peace to have a chance at succeeding.
The U.S. secretary of state has concluded his fifth trip to the region in four months. Yet while Israel has offered its cooperation with these efforts, for the Palestinians it’s business as usual. They continue to dip into the U.N. tool box for any possible means to forestall going to the negotiating table, notwithstanding reported efforts to dissuade them from internationalizing the conflict.
Each time the Palestinians use the United Nations to avoid direct negotiations by ratcheting up pressure on Israel, it’s a direct repudiation of the new effort to get the process moving. Each time they turn to the U.N. to make their case, they’re renouncing any real chance of meaningful peace talks.
On June 19, in a statement that seemed directed at Kerry’s efforts, an advisor for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Fatah “affirmed its rejection of the pressures on Abbas and the leadership.” Those are not the words of willing negotiating partners.
The United Nations has proven to be a handy megaphone for Palestinians to broadcast their distorted worldview of Israel. Why negotiate when you can use various U.N. agencies to make a case for you?
By exploiting the United Nations system instead of sitting down to negotiate with Israel without preconditions, the Palestinians have consistently sought to find aid and comfort with their willing friends in the international community. Bringing complaints and charges against Israel at every turn and in every U.N. venue allows the Palestinians to send a message that they can get their way without sitting down at the table with Israel. As the Palestinians become ever more adept at exploiting the United Nations for their own gain, they move further and further from the prospect of peace.
On Nov. 29, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted to grant non-member observer “state” status to the Palestinians. This new designation affords the Palestinians expanded access to the complex U.N. structure to launch complaint after complaint against Israel.
This new status has unleashed Palestinian enthusiasm to go to the U.N. wishing well to get their way. It seems to be working.
The very act of seeking the upgraded status was a clear rejection of all efforts aimed at convincing the Palestinians that real progress can only be made through negotiations between the parties. Israel has long been a victim of systemic abuse at the world body. The Palestinians are once again defying efforts to resolve the conflict by pursuing punitive actions against Israel.
At the World Health Organization assembly in May, Israel was specifically singled out on its agenda, with opprobrium aimed at health conditions in the “occupied” territories. Instead of focusing on such global health issues as influenza control, the World Health Organization capitulated to a political agenda pushed by the Palestinians.
The Palestinians have also made productive use of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s anti-Israel bias. The council already maintains a permanent agenda item aimed at criticizing Israel and the majority of its condemnations—nearly 40 percent—are directed at Israel. Now the council notes that Israel could be tried for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, a U.N. body the Palestinians repeatedly threaten to use against Israel.
The Palestinians have made several attempts to use the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO to deny the historic link of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. In late June at the World Heritage Committee annual session in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a Palestinian-led effort once again questioned Israel’s bond to Jerusalem. There is no acknowledgment of Israel’s ongoing, successful commitment to ensuring free access to all religions to holy sites in Jerusalem.
The Palestinians, as usual, are speaking in two languages. While they sit with Kerry, who is seeking a two-state solution, they exploit the U.N. system to avoid talking to Israel and to avoid taking concrete steps to bring about peace.
The new peace initiative is presumed to be based on confidence building measures. But recent Palestinian actions at the U.N. don’t inspire any confidence that they are committed to a real and lasting peace...more
B’nai B’rith International bestowed Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig with the Distinguished Humanitarian Award on June 27 at the St. Regis New York.
The B’nai B’rith Distinguished Humanitarian Award recognizes personal and professional commitments to improving the lives of others at the community and global levels.
“I am truly honored to be here, as all of us at Major League Baseball join you in the celebration of B’nai B’rith International’s 170th anniversary. I didn’t think anything was older than baseball, but you guys are,” Selig said. “On behalf of Major League Baseball and our 30 clubs I am deeply humbled to accept the Distinguished Humanitarian Award from B’nai B’rith International, whose mission I have always admired and whose ideals are shared by so many of the men and women who are fortunate enough to work in the game of baseball...more
by Adam Kredo
A controversial United Nations body that granted Palestine member status has falsely claimed that Israel is intentionally destroying holy sites in Jerusalem, prompting complaints from the United States, the Israeli government, and American Jewish groups.
The U.N.’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, otherwise known as UNESCO, issued the report last weekend just days before Secretary of State John Kerry made his fifth trip to Israel...
“If they [the Palestinians] really had any intention of coming to the table without preconditions to discuss the issues that separate Israelis and Palestinians they wouldn’t be resorting in the middle of this effort to business as usual,” Daniel Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International (BBI), told the Washington Free Beacon.
BBI, a world aid organization, has had observers stationed at the United Nations for decades and has closely tracked the Palestinian’s abuse of the world body.
BBI petitioned UNESCO to explain why it permitted the latest resolution, but has yet to receive a response...more
by Ron Kampeas
Samantha Power brings to foreign policy an activist impulse that many in the pro-Israel community wish was more prevalent among American diplomats.
Except Power, a former White House national security council staffer nominated this week by President Obama to represent the United States at the United Nations, has at times directed her interventionist inclinations at Israel.
A former journalist and Harvard-educated lawyer known for her work on human rights and genocide, Power presents a rare and polarizing dilemma for the pro-Israel community: Enthusiastically embrace her proclivity for tough U.S. intervention and hope it never manifests in her dealings with Israel? Or block her?
Notably, two groups that maintain a regular U.N. presence, the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International, had no comment. B’nai B’rith’s said it was withholding approval of Power’s nomination until she addressed her earlier remarks under oath during Senate confirmation hearings.
“Israel has few real friends at the United Nations and at the top of the list is the United States, and it is really incumbent on the representative to be prepared, willing and able to rebuff and repel that kind of language,” said the group’s executive vice president, Daniel Mariaschin...more
by Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International
Each time I hear “There’s a place for us” – the stirring plea for tolerance and acceptance sung by the ethnically mismatched lovers of “West Side Story” — I am reminded that it pinpoints a Jewish sensibility that influenced the show’s composer and lyricist. Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s musical about prejudice transformed Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet into an American classic.
May marks the observance of Jewish American Heritage Month, launched in 2006 by acts of Congress and a presidential proclamation. It’s a time to call out the many contributions Jews have made to this country from its very inception. Unless you know the origin of those who have contributed, you wouldn’t know or be aware of the Jewish connection that is so much a part of the American experience.
The first musical to address real life problems was “Showboat.” Its composer, Jerome Kern, was born in New York City, the son of an immigrant German-Jewish father, and a first generation Czech-Jewish mother. The father of “Showboat” lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II was also Jewish. They would produce hundreds of songs and shows over a period of several decades, but it was “Showboat” that changed the way Americans thought about Broadway musicals: its subject matter was serious, addressing racism, alcoholism and other issues. It melded music with real life situations, which put it way ahead of its time.
While it was an immigrant from Russia, Irving Berlin, who set in motion the great era of Tin Pan Alley, it was a succession of first generation Jewish American musicians and wordsmiths who “fine tuned” it and gave America its treasured 20th century songbook. The list is a long one, but George and Ira Gershwin would have to be at the top, followed by Richard Rodgers (Hammerstein’s longtime collaborator on so many Broadway shows), E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (“Over the Rainbow”), Irving Caesar (“Tea for Two”), Sammy Fain (“Love is a Many Splendored Thing”), Cy Coleman (“The Best is Yet To Come”), Sammy Kahn and Jule Stein (“Three Coins in the Fountain”) and of course Bernstein and Sondheim – to name just a few.
To that list, one could add songwriters of the rock/pop era, including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (who wrote so many of Elvis Presley’s hits); Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus (“Save the Last Dance for Me”); Carole King (“You’ve Got a Friend”)—who fittingly this month was awarded the 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song—and Neil Diamond (“Sweet Caroline”). As they say, if I’ve left anyone out, please accept my apologies.
Much of what’s been written has dealt with love and heartache, those two emotions that affect us all. But hundreds of other subjects have been given their due, including many patriotic tunes, from Berlin’s “God Bless America,” to Rogers’ “Victory at Sea.”
Was there something inherently Jewish in all of this? Surely the immigrant experience had some impact (Yiddish theater and musicals thrived in New York and other cities); the Klezmer tradition; and even cantorial influences are reflected in the work of many of these songwriters. But it’s not only that: the same composers and lyricists absorbed and incorporated musical styles, especially jazz, blues and folk, that we consider home-grown here in America.
There was something else at play here that found its way into so much of this music: the horn-of-plenty optimism that permeated the American Century. True, personal yearning and disappointment marked the lyrics of thousands of songs, but Berlin’s “Blue Skies” and Diamond’s “Coming to America” – and so many others – literally overflow with a cheery worldview that distills the essence of modern life.
No one expects that the next time someone hums along with “Rhapsody in Blue” or even sings along with “Hound Dog” one will think of who wrote the song or his or her near-immigrant origins. But during this month dedicated to Jewish-American heritage, when looking at the body of work of so many American songwriters with Jewish roots, it’s good to note the immense contribution they’ve made to the great American tapestry of culture and art...more