In commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, B’nai B’rith International held a cross-generational discussion at the German consulate in New York, and multiple memorial events throughout Latin America.
The New York program, titled “Zachor: Holocaust Memory Across Generations, An Inter-Generational Dialogue on the Shoah and its Legacy,” focused on the role children and grandchildren of survivors play in teaching future generations about the Shoah.
“No one is better equipped to debunk the lies of so-called revisionist ‘historians’ than those who witnessed first-hand, and survived the most systematic and documented genocide in history,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said in his opening remarks. “No less: with the coming of new generations, it increasingly falls to the progeny of the survivors, and to all of us, to bear witness.”
Ambassador Busso von Alvensleben, consul general of Germany, said that Germans “feel united with the Jewish people and the survivors of the Shoa in particular in our common mission of ‘never again.’ Israel’s security has become part of Germany’s raison d’etre.”
Sam Widawsky, who was deported to Auschwitz and a series of labor camps connected to Dachau, spoke at the event. He learned after the war that his entire family was murdered by the Nazis. His oldest son David also spoke, saying that children of survivors wore their status as a badge of honor and distinction. While only survivors can speak with authority about the Holocaust, he said, children, grandchildren, educators and all Jews must partner to continue Holocaust education and remembrance when survivors are no longer alive.
Leora Klein, grandchild of four Holocaust survivors, shared her childhood story of learning about her grandparents’ trauma, which led to her formation of 3GNY (Third Generation New York)—an educational non-profit organization that brings together grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.
This program preceded the official United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, which B’nai B’rith representatives also attended. B’nai B’rith played an active role in the United Nations’ adoption of the Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005.
Throughout Latin America B’nai B’rith held Holocaust commemorations, including in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
In Ecuador, the commemoration honored Manuel Antonio Muñoz Borrero, the former Ecuadorian consul in Stockholm, for his contribution in saving the lives of Polish Jews who were persecuted during World War II. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was the keynote speaker at one of the events in Brazil.
Since 2006, B’nai B’rith Latin America has conducted Holocaust remembrance programs to teach the larger society outside the Jewish community about the Holocaust. Due in part to B’nai B’rith’s efforts such programs have gained national and regional prominence.
B’nai B’rith International sent a letter to organizers of the Deutscher Medienpreis (German media prize) cautioning that the Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, should be reconsidered as a recipient of the 2011 prize, which is scheduled to be awarded Feb. 24 in Germany. Raheb has a longstanding reputation for promoting anti-Israel theology and narratives.
In the letter, also sent to former German President Roman Herzog, who is slated to make this year’s presentation, B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin wrote: “B’nai B’rith is profoundly committed to bridge-building, not least in the Middle East, and particularly to relations between Christians and Jews. However, Dr. Raheb is distinguished by an extensive record of highly offensive statements that, any positive work notwithstanding, make him ill-suited to receive the endorsement implied by a prestigious German honor that has been bestowed on the likes of Helmut Kohl, Hillary Clinton, Rudolph Giuliani, Angela Merkel and the Dalai Lama. Experts have seen in Dr. Raheb’s views an echo of the widely eschewed replacement theology maintaining that Christians have superseded Jews in the Divine plan and have inherited God’s promises to Jews.”
According to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the prize is awarded to “individuals who show exceptional performance, leadership qualities, and visionary work.”
At the 2010 “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference—an overtly anti-Israel gathering—Raheb said that “Israel represents Rome of the Bible, not the people of the land,” asserting that he would have a DNA link to King David and to Jesus, but that with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.” Despite this, Deutscher Medienpreis had said it was honoring Raheb’s path as “the alternative to violence and radicalization.”
B’nai B’rith’s letter notes that Raheb’s public assertions “represent delegitimization of Israel through denying or trivializing Jews’ historic roots in the land of Israel. This conflicts squarely with modern Christian abandonment of teachings of contempt for Jews’ faith convictions and rights as a people, and stands firmly in the way of regional reconciliation. Needless to say, such an approach would not be tolerated if directed at Palestinians.”
B’nai B’rith appeals to organizing leader Karlheinz Koegel to withdraw any tribute to Raheb and urges Herzog to not participate in the event.
B’nai B’rith International’s Office of United Nations Affairs has revealed that an Arab cartoonist with an extensive and open record of trading in virulently anti-Semitic imagery lists among his clients multiple U.N. agencies and major corporations.
The artist, a Jordan-based Palestinian named Emad Hajjaj, routinely publishes work in leading international Arab newspapers, including Al-Quds Al-Arabi, printed in London. His cartoons regularly feature anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement, equating Israel with Nazism, crudely caricaturing Jews (distinguished by religious garb and symbols) as bloodthirsty murderers and monsters, portraying menorahs as weapons and showing the “crucifixion” of Palestinians on a cross marked by a Star of David. The cartoons also often target the United States; a typical example supplanted a burning “Iraq” and “Palestine” (using a map negating Israel’s very existence) for the smoldering Twin Towers in the 9/11 attacks. Click here to view a selection of Hajjaj’s cartoons.
Among those that the firm where Hajjaj is identified as partner and creative director, Abu Mahjoob Creative Productions, claims as clients are the United Nations Development Fund for Women (now merged into U.N. Women), the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Children's Fund, known as UNICEF; several Jordanian government bodies; the British Council; and the companies Visa, Orange, Ferring Pharmaceuticals and German industrial giant Siemens. IREX, a Washington-based nonprofit whose stated objectives include “conflict-resolution,” also had dealings with the firm.
B’nai B’rith has written to officials at these institutions noting that Hajjaj’s longtime engagement in incitement and the most dangerous anti-Semitic libels and stereotypes makes it unlikely that the patrons he boasts would not have been aware of these before engaging his firm, thus “effectively legitimizing and rewarding its output.”
In response to the letter from B’nai B’rith, IREX’s president said his organization wasn’t aware of the offensive cartoons and didn’t plan to work with Hajjaj or his creative firm again. U.N. Women, in response to B’nai B’rith’s letter, wrote that it is investigating the matter. “Hajjaj’s consistently disturbing record of anti-Semitic cartoons over more than a decade should have precluded him from working with the United Nations and multinational corporations,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
While noting B’nai B’rith’s consistent support for the free expression of legitimate, diverse perspectives, B’nai B’rith wrote in the letters to the organizations engaging Hajjaj’s firm: “incitement to violent, abiding bigotry is fundamentally unacceptable and should not be proactively afforded encouragement by responsible actors, particularly corporate and public institutions. Not least in the Middle East, trading in the crass, skewed and inflammatory imagery used by Mr. Hajjaj is a foremost impediment to a future of peace and coexistence. The kind of demonization he directs at Israel and Jews would rightly not be tolerated against other groups.”
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said: “Hajjaj’s extensive record and his client list reflect how pervasive this crude, dangerous venom is in the Arab world, and how utterly ignored it is by the international community.”
B’nai B’rith has urged the institutions contacted to urgently clarify their relationship to Hajjaj, publicly disassociate from his firm’s work and offer consumers assurance of commitment to vigilance in choosing future business partners.
B'nai B'rith Director of U.N. Affairs David Michaels also wrote an op-ed on this subject that was published in JTA. Read it here.
The World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), of which B’nai B’rith International is a founding member, conducted a briefing for members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from across the political spectrum on the issue of Holocaust-era assets that have not been repaid. B’nai B’rith International’s Office of European Union Affairs organized the event along with B’nai B’rith Europe. It was hosted by MEP Ioan Enciu of Romania, and moderated by B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
The program speakers addressed various aspects of the restitution issue, stressing the importance of the European Union in treating the matter as a region-wide problem. Attendees also received an up-to-date briefing on the status of negotiations in many E.U. member and other European countries.
Among the issues raised were E.U. Human Rights Charter articles relating to the right to property, the right to be treated equally before the law and the right to an effective remedy and a fair hearing. Also mentioned was the relevance of current E.U. discussions of standards for the treatment and rights of war crime victims, including the right to compensation without delay.
Creating an informal European Parliament working group on this issue was among the proposals offered for future activity.
Speakers at the event included Ambassador David Peleg, the WJRO director general; Julius Berman, chairman of the Claims Conference; Herbert Block, assistant executive vice president of the Joint Distribution Committee; and Ambassador Douglas Davidson, the State Department’s top official dealing with Holocaust issues.
Serving as resource experts for the meeting were Arie Bucheister, senior restitution specialist of the Claims Conference, Wesley Fisher, director of research of the Claims Conference, Michael Thaidigsmann of the World Jewish Congress and Nuno Wahnon Martins, director of the B’nai B’rith Office of European Union Affairs.
B’nai B’rith has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith is encouraged by President Obama’s State of the Union commitment to “take no options off the table” to “prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, has ignored international entreaties to cease its quest for nuclear weapons. B’nai B’rith commends the world powers that have united behind the United States to implement sanctions against the Tehran regime.
We also welcome the concrete support the president gave Israel when he stated unequivocally that the ties between the United States and Israel are strong: “Our iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history.”
On the domestic front, the president indicated he will seek comprehensive immigration reform measures this year, will work to lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil and will continue to work to ensure health care reform measures help those Americans who need it most—all issues B’nai B’rith strongly supports.
It was encouraging that the president noted the precarious situation in Syria, stating: “I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied.”
As an organization committed to human rights, B’nai B’rith paid special attention to the president’s declaration of the need for global tolerance: “We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings…We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.”
B’nai B’rith supports the president’s call for a nationwide investment in and overhaul of our current energy policies, touting alternative energy programs instead. The nation’s current dependence on foreign oil undermines our security and in some cases, forces the United States to deal with countries that may not share our commitment to democracy and freedom.
B’nai B’rith supports legislation that would help pave a smoother path to citizenship upon high school graduation for foreign–born children raised in the United States without documentation. We were pleased to see the president endorse this important measure. B’nai B’rith also supports the president’s call for women to earn “equal pay for equal work.”
The president’s reiteration of his commitment to health care reform was also welcome: “I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women differently from men.” B’nai B’rith has long supported comprehensive health care reform and is an advocate of the legislation that gives all Americans equal access to medical care.
B’nai B’rith hopes the president maintains his stated commitment to protecting the promise of retirement security for America’s seniors. But we will be vigilant as we ensure Medicare and Social Security continue to serve those who most need these vital safety nets.
Regarding the payroll tax holiday that the president referenced, B’nai B’rith appreciates the president's focus on keeping more wages in workers’ pockets.
Recognizing that the annual address is meant as a framework for the president’s priorities, B’nai B’rith will analyze the details as they emerge and work to ensure action on our key priorities.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
In the wake of his ill-conceived and highly misguided, damaging editorial, Atlanta Jewish Times publisher and owner Andrew Adler is stepping down as publisher and will try to sell the paper after his recent editorial suggesting Israel might consider assassinating President Obama. In the piece, he also gave options for how Israel could deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
B’nai B’rith International was deeply appalled by Adler’s words and hopes the swift calls for his resignation, and his subsequent announcement that he will step down, will demonstrate that such despicable and inflammatory comments should not be tolerated.
The damage inflicted on Israel and perhaps on U.S.-Israel relations is incalculable. We hope that Adler’s swift resignation will help quell any fallout from his outrageous scenario.
Comic Strip Portrays Dance Party at Concentration Camp, Hitler Appearance
B’nai B’rith International condemns in the strongest terms possible an anti-Semitic cartoon strip, “FieSSta,” (the capitalized “SS” referring to the Nazis) by Gustavo Sala published in the Argentine paper Página 12 and calls on the country’s government to denounce the daily newspaper under the country’s anti-discrimination law.
The cartoon strip’s main character, DJ David Gueto (a caricature of the French DJ David Ghetta) plays music in a concentration camp. At first, the prisoners don’t want to dance because they feel there’s nothing to celebrate, saying: “do you know that they kill us in gas chambers and make soap with us?” Hitler then appears and convinces them to dance because “life is short.” Hitler then thanks the DJ, saying: “If they are relaxed, the soap will be better.”
B’nai B’rith expresses its deep outrage and revulsion toward this cartoon, its creator and the newspaper that chose to publish it.
“We hope the Argentine government swiftly and strongly utilizes its anti-discrimination law to take the appropriate route to quell this and any further anti-Semitic behavior,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs.
“This cartoon strip is beyond offensive—it is frightening. It epitomizes the blatant, ongoing anti-Semitism that still exists, in 2012, throughout the world,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “We hope the Argentine government will quickly speak out against this unbridled anti-Semitism.”
To view the cartoon in Spanish, click here
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
The Wannsee Conference, where the Nazis originated and planned the Final Solution, took place 70 years ago on Jan. 20.
With the passage of so much time, we must continue to work to ensure the nefarious plotting at that gathering—which ended in the murder of 6 million Jews—must never be forgotten.
The well-documented 1942 conference provides important evidence to repudiate today’s Holocaust deniers. The well-preserved documents from the conference are clear and undeniable blueprints for exterminating the Jews of Europe.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a 2009 address at the United Nations, used copies of the minutes of the meetings to note that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denying should not be tolerated, pointing to the uncontested evidence the Nazis themselves proudly left behind.
On Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, B’nai B’rith is hosting a program titled Zachor: Holocaust Memory Across Generations, An Inter-Generational Dialogue on the Shoah and its Legacy. Ambassador Busso von Alvensleben, consul general of Germany and Allan J. Jacobs, B’nai B’rith International president, will lead an informative discussion about the role of the children and grandchildren of survivors in teaching future generations about the Shoah.
B’nai B’rith International is deeply troubled by what now looks like an ongoing campaign targeting Christians in Nigeria. Attacks in the last few days by the Islamist group Boko Haram have killed more than 50 Christian Nigerians. This is the same radical Muslim group that murdered 40 Christians on Christmas Day and promises more attacks as it tries to install Islamic law in Nigeria.
B’nai B’rith sent a letter to Nigeria’s ambassador to Washington after the Christmas bombings, expressing horror at the attacks on worshippers. Among the latest atrocities were a Jan. 5 assault on the Deeper Life Church in Gombe, attacks on Jan. 6 targeting the Christ Apostolic Church in Jimeta-Yola as well as Christian mourners in Mubi, and an attempted car bombing at the Living Faith Church in Kaduna on Jan. 8.
“The international community must stand in solidarity with the people of Nigeria and strongly condemn attacks targeting a religious community,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
“It is outrageous that one radical group is trying to bend such a multi-cultural nation as Nigeria to its narrow view through violence,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
We warmly congratulate New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan on his selection by Pope Benedict XVI to be a cardinal. Dolan, who previously served as episcopal moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations and is also current president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be elevated on Feb. 18.
“Cardinal-designate Dolan, despite uncommon responsibilities, has brought great vigor, warmth and spirit to his relationship with Jews in New York and beyond. With his consistent focus and accessibility, he has indeed strengthened the Catholic-Jewish bond that is so vital,” said B’nai B’rith International Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels.
B’nai B’rith looks forward to continuing to work with Dolan.
Cardinals under age 80, such as Dolan, are eligible to join in electing a new pope.