B’nai B’rith International joins leading American and British researchers in calling for the United Nations to open a vault of records that reportedly includes information on 10,000 cases against accused World War II criminals. The United Nations should have provided public access to this information, involving nearly 40,000 people, from the beginning.
The vault, which holds crucial records that could be used to prosecute those responsible for the Holocaust and other World War II atrocities, is only partially available to select researchers and historians on a confidential basis and at governments’ request. The vault was the property of the 17-nation United Nations War Crimes Commission from 1943 until it was shut down in 1948. It then became available only to governments, and later to select researchers and historians.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, B’nai B’rith International called on the United States to “employ the wherewithal of the United States to secure the vital and long-overdue opening of archives at the United Nations documenting many thousands of cases against individuals believed to have committed atrocities during the Second World War and the Holocaust.”
The letter concluded: “We urge the U.S. to ask the Secretary-General and fellow member states to swiftly do away with any and all barriers to public access to the U.N.’s war-era files.”
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said, “These records should finally be open and available to anyone. Had these vaults been opened earlier they could have made much more of an impact on successful prosecution of war crimes.”
Not only could the vault help the United Nations provide more detailed information for Holocaust scholars, governments and others concerned with international criminal law, but they can help prosecute modern-day criminals.
“Where has the United Nations been for the last six decades? Hopefully U.N. officials will finally take these requests to heart and make these crucial historical records open to the public,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
This topic was discussed at a recent B’nai B’rith Global Round Table event in New York City.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem calls on the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem to withdraw all connection and support for “Christ at the Checkpoint,” a conference that will take place in Bethlehem March 5-9, because of the clear anti-Israel and anti-Jewish posture of the event.
The conference will host a number of prominent anti-Zionist commentators—including author Professor Gary Burge, Anglican Rev. Stephen Sizer, film producer/director Porter Speakman, Jr., and journalist Ben White—who all have a troubling history of demonizing and delegitimizing Israel, downplaying the misdeeds of Israel’s adversaries and deriding Jewish historical claims. Additionally, the conference will promote the anti-Israel Kairos Declaration.
On Feb. 14, World Center Chairman Haim V. Katz and Director Alan Schneider wrote to Van Leer director, Professor Gabriel Motzkin about the nature of the conference, noting that the conference and its organizers seek to move Christian support from Israel to the Palestinians while demonizing and delegitimizing the State of Israel and deriding Jewish history. In his response, Motzkin insisted the conference is an academic exercise and argued the Kairos Declaration is a “fascinating document” for educational reasons.
Motzkin’s response indicates at the very least insensitivity and at worst a rationalization of the efforts being waged against Israel by elements in the Christian world who seek to demonize Israeli policies seemingly at every turn and downplay the misdeeds of its adversaries.
The issue at hand is why the Van Leer Institute is facilitating and legitimizing such a gathering. “Christ at the Checkpoint” claims it is committed to promoting peace. The presence of these commentators indicates otherwise.
B’nai B’rith International denounces in the strongest terms the ongoing anti-Semitic attacks perpetrated by the Venezuelan state-run media against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, who will face President Hugo Chavez in October’s presidential elections.
Governor of the Venezuelan Miranda state, Capriles, who is a Roman Catholic, is the grandson of Holocaust survivors. He has been attacked in the past because of his Jewish roots but now that he has positioned himself as Chavez’s contender in the presidential race, things took a turn for the worse. Government-sponsored anti-Semitism in Venezuela has escalated by employing classical anti-Semitic canards.
“The Venezuelan media’s continual hateful rhetoric against Capriles has focused on his Jewish heritage which is a clear appeal to hatred,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “Unfortunately, the Chavez government not only permits but encourages and endorses this widespread use of anti-Semitism in the Venezuelan media and will seemingly continue to do so during this current presidential campaign.”
Immediately after Capriles won the Feb. 12 opposition primary, the onslaught of condemnation of Capriles from the Chavez government and media began. Chavez called him a “low-life pig.” There has also been a flood of messages on Twitter from government officials and journalists in state-owned media charging Capriles as a hypocrite who hates Jesus, equating Zionism with Nazism and expressing delight that so many people are attacking Zionism. One Twitter message, from Enrique Remlawi, the director of a Venezuelan government agency, used vulgar language to convey that Jews should thank Hitler for today’s “opinion that calls them victims.”
A Feb. 13 article on the state-run Venezuela National Radio titled “The enemy is Zionism,” conflates Zionism and Judaism in a disparaging manner while simultaneously portraying Capriles’ platform as contrary to the interests of the Venezuelan people. It called on voters to reject “international Zionism, which threatens the destruction of the planet we inhabit” and instead choose “the Bolivarian revolution which claims the Latin American unity.”
And in a recent televised speech, Chavez once again compared Capriles to a pig and accused him of hiding his ideological leanings. Chavez has also portrayed Capriles as a foreigner, not suited to represent the interests of Venezuelans.
“This is a deeply troubling and blatant attempt to utilize age-old anti-Semitic canards to cast the opposition candidate as someone behind a Zionist conspiracy set to disparage the Venezuelan people,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “We will continue to monitor the situation as the elections approach and speak out against these state-endorsed attacks.”
B’nai B’rith International is concerned about shortages in the pharmaceutical market, including a critical shortage of the children’s cancer drug methotrexate. This is part of a longstanding concern about the potential for shortages in the pharmaceutical market, a problem which can be solved if Congress, consumer groups and pharmaceutical companies work together. Having reliable supplies of critical important prescription drugs is essential for millions of older adults.
Many drugs (mostly brand name) are manufactured by a single company, making the community entirely dependent on that company. The federal government already requires such companies to provide notice if they anticipated a production problem that could result in a shortage. However, 80 percent of drug shortages in this country are of sterile injectable drugs (including methotrexate) which have necessarily high sterility standards for production and therefore production problems are more difficult to address. Many of these drugs are generic, made by multiple manufacturers and not covered by current federal shortage notice requirements.
“This is an area of particular concern because it takes longer to get a new facility approved by the FDA. Many of these drugs are made by multiple manufacturers, but because of the complexity and sterility standards, it is not easy for one manufacturer to ramp up for increased production to compensate for a production lag at another facility or manufacturer,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “But we believe solutions are available and this potential crisis can be averted if Congress continues to pursue reasonable solutions by working with consumer groups as well as the pharmaceutical and generic pharmaceutical industry.”
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association has proposed a solution which would involve a requirement of generic manufacturers to report potential problems to a third party which would be able to track the manufacturing process. As it stands, manufacturers are unaware of one another’s production schedules and would not know to ramp up production if there was a shortage.
“Telling a third party instead might allay a company’s concerns about sharing too much information with competitors while still giving those competitors the lead time they need to get more facilities online to prevent shortages,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has also proposed legislation that would require manufacturers to notify FDA of potential shortages even when they are not the only company making a drug, as is the case with generic drugs which usually have multiple manufacturers. While this is a promising idea, there are potential pitfalls. Manufacturer problems are sometimes sudden and making potential production problems public record could result in market manipulation or stockpiling which could lead to regional shortages.
As a steadfast advocate for access to quality and affordable health care as well as seniors issues, B’nai B’rith International will continue to monitor this subject to ensure any potential drug shortages have limited consequences for those relying on specific medications.
In Knesset Address, Croatian President Also Commits to Strong Israel Ties
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the Feb. 15 Knesset address of Croatian President Ivo Josipović, where he apologized to Croatian Jewish victims of the Holocaust and called for restitution for Croatian Holocaust survivors. He also acknowledged Croatia’s complicity in carrying out the Holocaust in that country.
“And here I am, standing before the Parliament of the Jewish State, and more important, before the children of Croatia, and with no ambiguity, I apologize, and I ask Holocaust survivors’, your and all the victims’ forgiveness,” Josipović told the Knesset.
All but about 5,000 of Croatia’s pre-war Jewish community of approximately 30,000 perished in the Holocaust.
Later, the Croatian president noted: “I am firmly convinced that amendments to the restitution law that would soon ensue should also include the Holocaust victims, either individuals or their heirs or local communities, and that the most appropriate ways of restitution or just compensations should be granted to them too.”
B’nai B’rith is a founding member of the World Jewish Restitution Organization.
Josipović also made a firm commitment of Croatia’s continued friendship to Israel when it joins the European Union (E.U.) in 2013.
He concluded: “We offer our friendship and partnership for the future benefit of our countries and peoples.”
B’nai B’rith looks forward to a constructive relationship with Croatian officials on Holocaust restitution issues.
B’nai B’rith International is pleased that President Obama’s new $3.8 trillion spending plan includes funding for senior housing and other aging programs, as well as a robust international affairs budget that includes aid to Israel. However, some of the Medicare and Medicaid proposals and proposed cuts in global health and humanitarian and refugee assistance raise concerns.
“We hope to work with Congress to improve on the numbers in the president’s budget for new affordable senior housing construction and make sure that other savings associated with the program do not translate into unaffordable rent increases for low-income seniors,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “We are also reassured by the president’s stated commitment to protecting solvency of Social Security and Medicare. Benefits simply cannot be cut to ensure solvency. Solvent programs with insufficient benefits fail to meet the objectives, and the promise these earned benefit programs represent to American workers.”
B’nai B’rith is also pleased that the administration’s international affairs request is a robust figure. At $56.2 billion, U.S. foreign aid represents just over 1 percent of the overall fiscal year 2013 budget. This money represents an important investment in U.S. interests overseas. B’nai B’rith is satisfied that aid to Israel will remain at current levels.
“We welcome the inclusion of foreign aid, as this money keeps the U.S. engaged in key areas abroad by supporting tools of diplomacy and development that strengthen our national security,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “We hope Congress takes this commitment to worldwide diplomatic and economic development seriously.”
B’nai B’rith International will continue to analyze the budget in the coming days and weeks to ensure the interests of seniors, retirees and Israel are protected.
Disappointment Over Upgrade of Palestinian Mission in Berlin
B’nai B’rith International sent a letter to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressing “deep concern over the German government’s decision to upgrade the Palestinian diplomatic presence in Berlin from a delegation to a mission headed by an ambassador,” and asked the German government to reconsider its decision.
The letter continues: “Actions by the international community that confer the privileges of statehood upon the Palestinians before they have negotiated a peace agreement with Israel will only undermine stability in the region and further delay the day when Palestinian statehood will become a reality…
“The move is particularly unsettling in light of Germany’s longstanding role as Israel’s closest ally in Europe. B’nai B’rith views Germany’s leadership as indispensable to ensuring Israel’s security and affirming the crucial importance of peace through direct negotiations. We feel strongly that this latest move will hinder those objectives.”
The Palestinians have been working to garner international recognition to help their bid for U.N. membership as a sovereign state. By doing so, they are attempting to delegitimize Israel and are displaying a blatant disregard for direct negotiations.
“Germany has been a strong friend of Israel, but this is a discouraging development that sends the wrong message: that the Palestinians can gain international recognition without sitting down at the negotiating table,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs.
“This move demonstrates mounting Palestinian resolve to disregard the necessity of direct talks,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “Upgrading the Palestinian representation in Berlin is a boost to the Palestinians but bypasses discussion of important issues such as borders and security.”
Committee Tasked with Developing Faith-Based Security Initiatives
B’nai B’rith International Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield has been invited to serve on a new Department of Homeland Security Advisory Committee. The Faith-Based Homeland Security and Communications Advisory Committee is a subcommittee of the Secretary’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.
Over the next several months, the committee’s members—representatives of a cross section of U.S. faith-based organizations—will discuss issues surrounding the security of these communities. The committee will develop recommendations for implementation and will deliver its final recommendations to the Department’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.
“We are pleased that Eric has been named to this important position, and we know he will be an asset to the committee,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “Working groups such as this one are crucial to establishing policies and strategies that keep our communities safe from those who wish to do us harm.”
“This is a significant opportunity to directly influence the policies that ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community and other religious communities throughout the country,” Fusfield said. “Improving communication between Homeland Security and faith-based communities is critical in preventing hate crimes and terrorism.”
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano directed the creation of the advisory committee to discuss improvements to security information-sharing between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and faith-based communities. The group will also discuss how DHS can best support local security efforts to ensure the safety and security of faith-based communities, how local communities can best provide immediate feedback, and how time-sensitive threats can be efficiently disseminated.
B’nai B’rith has issued the following statement:
The latest sanctions announced by the White House against the Tehran regime are another positive step in further isolating Iran’s government as it continues its efforts to create nuclear weapons.
Under the executive order signed by President Obama on Feb. 6, U.S. financial institutions are required to freeze Iran’s assets they come in contact with. This new round of sanctions is meant to close loopholes in existing legislation. Before, American financial institutions were required to reject Iranian investments. Now, the U.S. banks must actually seize Tehran’s assets already invested in the United States.
Recently implemented U.S. and E.U. sanctions seem to be having an impact on Iran’s lucrative oil industry.
In a letter to Congress, the president wrote: “I have determined that additional sanctions are warranted, particularly in light of the deceptive practices of the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian banks to conceal transactions of sanctioned parties, the deficiencies in Iran’s anti-money laundering regime and the weaknesses in its implementation, and the continuing and unacceptable risk posed to the international financial system by Iran's activities.”
Iran, the largest state-sponsor of global terrorism, has ignored international appeals to cease its nuclear weapons program. Sanctions such as these help unite the global community in a cohesive effort to isolate Iran and pressure the Tehran regime to abandon its nuclear program.