B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
A sharp increase in government-sponsored anti-Semitism in Venezuela is cause for great concern. The most recent incident featured radio host Cristina Gonzalez on state-owned radio reading selections from the infamous forgery, the anti-Semitic “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and urging her listeners to read it for themselves.
"The Protocols," long-proven to be a forgery, dates to the early 20th century. The book claimed to be a secret Jewish plan for dominating the world. This vile, hateful text was one of the main propaganda documents used by Hitler to demonize the Jews and “justify” the Holocaust. Unfortunately, it continues to be used today by all kinds of anti-Semitic and terrorist groups to justify persecution of Jews and to promote the destruction of Israel.
The recent uptick in anti-Semitic acts by the Chavez-controlled media is in direct violation of a promise Chavez made last year to reign in anti-Semitism in the country.
At its Board of Governors meeting in New York on May 22, B’nai B’rith International passed a resolution that it will “continue to monitor the situation in Venezuela and will provide as much assistance as possible to the local Jewish community.” The resolution also “calls upon the governments of the region to strongly condemn these manifestations of anti-Semitism and to urge the Venezuelan government to scale down its aggressive rhetoric.” And finally, the resolution notes “that B’nai B’rith will continue to denounce troublesome developments to the appropriate government officials, international agencies and the general public.”
The resolution points to a “hostile atmosphere for the Jewish community by demonizing Israel and by allowing not only anti-Israel but also pure anti-Semitic material to appear in state-sponsored websites and media outlets.”
The resolution also noted that “Jewish representatives have met on several occasions with government officials, including with President Chavez, which give them false hopes that the situation would improve,” and that “the intervention of foreign leaders have not had any tangible results.”
“[T]he demonization and delegitimization of Israel by government officials and Ministries have reached unprecedented levels, one example of this being recent exhibitions organized by the Ministry of Superior Education, the Ministry of Information and Communication, and the Ministry of Science and Technology, that compare Israelis to Nazis and denounces the alleged ‘ethnic cleansing’ committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinians.”
B’nai B’rith has asked its members and supporters in Latin America and throughout the world to send letters to the Venezuelan embassies or consulates in their own cities, expressing deep concern about the promotion of these xenophobic ideas and how these sentiments can dangerously affect the local Jewish community.
At a moment of intensifying political activity surrounding the Middle East, B’nai B’rith International representatives from around the world have mobilized to advocate for Israel at the United Nations.
In private meetings with nearly 30 ambassadors, other diplomats and U.N. officials, including Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos (who returned from a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories last week), B’nai B’rith leaders urged rejection of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, and undiminished focus on Iran’s nuclear program. B’nai B’rith leaders also appealed for rectification of anti-Israel bias at the world body, retraction of the Goldstone Report on Israel’s counterterrorism efforts in Gaza, as well as government non-participation in the commemoration of the tainted Durban conference on racism, scheduled for September.
During several days of advocacy in New York, dozens of B’nai B’rith delegates from around the world were briefed by key experts on global developments. At a B’nai B’rith diplomatic reception at U.N. headquarters, Under-Secretary-General Vijay Nambiar, the chief of staff to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, delivered a message from Ban repudiating anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
Nambiar said on behalf of Ban: “We are committed to speaking out against Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and hatred everywhere, since we know this can be one of the precursors to mass violence.”
Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, Meron Reuben, saluted B’nai B’rith as a vital partner in confronting systemic mistreatment of the Jewish state at the U.N. He referred to B’nai B’rith as “remarkable friends” and “an important partner for our mission and one of the great supporters of the State of Israel here in New York and around the world. B’nai B’rith has provided one of the most consistent voices for moral clarity in the U.N. since its founding, working to safeguard the rights of the Jewish State—and advance the timeless Jewish values...”
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin presented two awards at a lunch reception, where Mariaschin noted that B’nai B’rith could not fulfill its human rights goals without important partners dedicated to justice.
B’nai B’rith presented the Excellence in Diplomacy award to Ambassador David T. Killion, permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In October 2010, Arab states broke with the UNESCO tradition of consensus by advancing five blatantly anti-Israel resolutions. With Killion’s leadership, the United States decided to vote against each resolution and last week, a new session of the UNESCO Executive Board concluded in Paris with a return to consensus.
Accepting his award, Killion noted that the United States works tirelessly to ensure that Israel’s legitimacy is beyond dispute. He described UNESCO as a bridge for peace and described how UNESCO is “working to spread mutual tolerance and understanding as an answer to hate.” He promised that the United States would continue pushing back when Israel’s rights are violated.
The Champion of Human Rights award went to Ambassador Richard Schifter, former United States assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs. Schifter noted that it’s not all hopeless at the United Nations, but the challenge is to identify states that can and will support Israel and make the case for restoring the world body. He said with hard work, we can go forward to obtain a better tomorrow for the United Nations.
B’nai B’rith has led Jewish communal engagement with the United Nations since its 1945 founding conference in San Francisco. It maintains a dedicated Office of United Nations Affairs with accredited representation at multiple U.N. bodies around the world.
B’nai B’rith International presented an award to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to honor her work in establishing Jewish American Heritage Month. At a Capitol Hill ceremony on May 25, B’nai B’rith acknowledged Wasserman Schultz—the driving force behind the resolution that created Jewish American Heritage Month—which was first recognized in a presidential proclamation on April 20, 2006.
B’nai B’rith International Center for Jewish Culture Chair Gwen Zuares spearheaded the ceremony to celebrate and acknowledge the great contributions to society that Jews have made.
In introducing the congresswoman, B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin noted how this special month makes the Jewish community feel proud, but also allows others to hear our story.
Wasserman Schultz said that she was inspired to push for a month celebrating Jewish accomplishments because “in many instances we have not celebrated our success too loudly…and I said no more.” She said the impact of Jews in America is significant and we should be “shouting about it.”
B’nai B’rith presented Wasserman Schultz with a framed work of art with a quote from The Book of Micah: “Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with Your G-D”
In accepting the honor, Wasserman Schultz noted that sharing our achievements can reduce bigotry and promote tolerance and understanding.
B’nai B’rith International has extended its disaster relief fund to help the victims of the devastating tornado that decimated Joplin, Mo., killing at least 116 and destroying the hospital, high school and damaging more than 2,000 buildings.
This tornado follows on the heels of the multiple tornadoes and subsequent flooding that hit six states in the South and Midwest on the afternoon and evening of April 27 and continued into the morning of April 28. Flooding has wreaked havoc on the already devastated area, with record flood levels predicted to continue throughout the region.
“What the people of Joplin are dealing with is unimaginable,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this storm, as well as the many victims of tornadoes and flooding across the South and Midwest.”
The B’nai B’rith International Disaster Relief Fund has provided aid to populations affected by natural and man-made catastrophes domestically and around the world, including the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes of 2010 and the 2011 earthquake that recently hit Japan.
“For more than 150 years, disaster relief has been a vital part of B’nai B’rith’s mission,” B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Seeing the devastating pictures out of Joplin really brings home the need to band together to help fellow citizens.”
To help, donate online at our secure website:http://bbi.convio.net/site/Donation2?df_id=1540&1540.donation=form1
Donations may also be made by mail to: B’nai B’rith International Disaster Relief Fund, Attn: U.S. Flood and Tornado Relief Fund 2011, 2020 K Street, NW, 7th Floor, Washington, D.C., 20006
Israeli Prime Minister Addresses Joint Session of Congress
Appearing before a joint session of Congress for the second time in 15 years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said peace cannot be imposed at the United Nations, but instead must be negotiated. B’nai B’rith firmly endorses negotiations to achieve peace. Netanyahu urged the rejection of Palestinian plans to introduce a resolution declaring a Palestinian state at the United Nations in September. Netanyahu said such a process would circumvent negotiations and was unacceptable. Following proper negotiations and a peace agreement, Netanyahu promised that Israel would be the first to welcome a new Palestinian state into the United Nations system.
Addressing a broad range of issues, Netanyahu began by noting that “Israel has no better friend than the United States and America has no better friend than Israel,” and he said of the U.S. Israel relationship: “We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism.”
“The prime minister was right in calling for the Palestinian Authority to ‘tear up’ its pact with Hamas,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, calls for its destruction and calls for the murder of Jews worldwide, has no place in any talk of peace.”
Netanyahu said: “While Israel will be ever vigilant in its defense, we will never give up our quest for peace. We’ll give it up when we achieve it. Because we want peace, because we need peace.”
The prime minister issued a strong challenge to Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when he said: “Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people and said ‘I will accept a Palestinian state.’ “It’s time for Abbas to say ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’ Those six words will change history.”
“The prime minster summed up the conflict eloquently when he noted that the conflict has ‘always been about the existence of a Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about,’” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “This gets to the heart of the matter that Israel has never had a full partner in its quest for peace.”
Netanyahu noted the problems with any calls to return to 1967 lines in stating: “Israel will not return to the indefensible borders of 1967.” The determination of borders that will afford Israel full peace and security cannot be understated. B’nai B’rith was also supportive of Netanyahu’s directly addressing the issue of return. He said that Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to Israel and that the same must be true for Palestinians having the right to immigrate to a new state of Palestine. This means “the Palestinian refugee problem will be fixed outside the borders of Israel.”
The false hope of a Palestinian return has always served as an obstacle to peace negotiations and Netanyahu clearly stated the only viable alternative.
Regarding Israel’s capital, Netanyahu said “Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel,” a policy B’nai B’rith has always supported.
B’nai B’rith International has elected Allan J. Jacobs as the new president of the 167-year-old organization. The election took place at a Board of Governors meeting in New York on May 22.
Jacobs, who most recently served as the chairman of the executive, has been an active B’nai B’rith member for more than 45 years, beginning with AZA (the boy’s youth branch of B’nai B’rith Youth Organization). From leadership of his lodge, Louie Pickus Waukegan Lodge #933, Jacobs has advanced within the organization and has served as the international treasurer and a senior vice president.
“This is great opportunity to lead the organization I’ve been involved in for 45 years,” Jacobs said. “I am deeply committed to the core values of B’nai B’rith, and will continue to work to advance our mission advocating for the global Jewish community and the State of Israel, providing humanitarian aid and promoting human rights and senior advocacy initiatives.”
A CPA by training, Jacobs works as counsel to Evoy, Kamschulte Jacobs and Co., LLP Certified Public Accountants. He is also chairman of the board of Northern States Financial Corporation and NorStates Bank, a member of the American Institute of CPAs, past president of the Lake County Estate Planning Council, and he currently serves as chairman of the audit committee of the city of Lake Forest, Ill., where he resides.
Gary P. Saltzman, of Centennial, Colo., was appointed chairman of the executive of B’nai B’rith International by newly elected President Allan J. Jacobs at the Board of Governors meeting on May 22.
The chairman of the executive is the number two volunteer leadership position in the international organization. It is the COE’s responsibility to serve as chairman of the executive committee, be the direct liaison with volunteers and carry out other internal and external responsibilities.
An active member of B’nai B’rith for more than 25 years, Saltzman first served as a leader in 1986 as the president of Denver Lodge and remains a member of the Denver Lodge board. In 1989, he received the prestigious Label A. Katz Young Leadership Award, given to leaders who embody the goals of B’nai B’rith and advance the aims of the B’nai B’rith Young Leadership program. Saltzman has also served on the International Board of Governors and the Executive, Budget and Strategic Planning Committees and most recently as senior vice president.
Saltzman is a Certified Public Accountant with Wenner, Silvestain & Company, LLC—a firm he joined 37 years ago and of which he became a co-owner 1980. He is also a Registered Investment Advisor with WS Investment Advisors, LLC, which he co-founded in 1999.
After President Obama’s speech on the Middle East, B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International commends President Obama for clearly reiterating U.S. support for Israel. The president noted the relationship between the United States and Israel is rooted in shared history and values and he strongly asserted that the commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable, while he affirmed that Israel is a Jewish state.
It was also encouraging that the president spoke against unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, a measure the Palestinians are planning to bring before the United Nations in September.
The president rightfully called the recent partnership between Fatah and Hamas unacceptable, and he made it clear that Hamas cannot be part of any negotiations as it refuses to recognize Israel and continues to call for its destruction. Israel’s security needs are legitimate and must be respected. We fully agree with the president’s call that any Palestinian state must be non-militarized.
B’nai B’rith is concerned that the president is prejudging the outcome of the peace process by publicly calling for pre-1967 borders as a basis for a Palestinian state, with land swaps. Discussion about this difficult issue should be reserved for direct negotiations between the parties.
Though he noted the issue of Palestinian refugees, B’nai B’rith is disappointed that the president failed to mention the one million Jewish refugees created at the same time. The issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is often overlooked.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins his visit to Washington on May 20, B’nai B’rith will carefully monitor developments.
A senior B’nai B’rith International leadership delegation met privately with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on May 12. The papal audience is the latest encounter between B’nai B’rith and successive leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, intended to advance positive Catholic-Jewish relations.
While in Rome, the B’nai B’rith delegation met with Gianfranco Fini, president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies and plans to meet with Ambassador Stefano Stefanini, diplomatic advisor to President Napolitano. The group met with Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and will meet with other prominent Vatican officials, among them the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone; Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and its Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews; and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The B’nai B’rith delegates attended an Israeli Independence Day reception hosted by Israel’s Ambassador to the Holy See Mordechay Lewy in the Jewish Museum adjacent to the Great Synagogue, and met with leaders of the Italian Jewish community and B’nai B’rith in Rome.
The B’nai B’rith delegation—led by B’nai B’rith International Interim President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin—raised concerns over unprecedented upheaval in the Middle East and ongoing challenges there to Jews and Christians, including the continuing cruel captivity of 24-year-old Gilad Shalit. Underscoring Iran’s illicit nuclear program and support of terrorism, B’nai B’rith leaders pointed to the role of religious and political extremism in preventing regional peace.
In his remarks to Pope Benedict, Jacobs thanked the pontiff for his important past statements on Israel’s legitimacy and right to self-defense. Jacobs also asked the pope to make clear that the acute scrutiny of Israel at last year’s Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops did not reflect the church’s approach to the Jewish state and that the church will powerfully encourage only fairness and care in addressing the region’s complexities, while opposing narratives and measures that single out Israel or Israelis for targeting.
Jacobs noted especially the pontiff’s affirmation of Israel’s “legitimate need for security and self-defense,” and statement that the Holy See joins in “giving thanks to the Lord that the aspirations of the Jewish people for a home in the land of their fathers have been fulfilled.”
In discussions with church officials, the B’nai B’rith delegation noted a number of points of contention in Catholic-Jewish engagement, such as the Good Friday prayer “for the conversion of the Jews” in the Latin-language Tridentine Mass, and the still-unopened Vatican archives from the Holocaust period. The delegation also praised positive steps by the church, such as the pope’s recent reaffirmation of Vatican repudiation of the centuries-old anti-Jewish “deicide” charge, and noted the beatification this month of Pope John Paul II, who prioritized friendship with Jews.
“It’s a great honor to engage directly, and substantively, with Pope Benedict XVI,” Mariaschin said. “Discussing points of agreement, as well as issues of concern, affords a vital opportunity for understanding between two faith communities of unique importance to each other.”
At the conclusion of their audience, the B’nai B’rith delegation presented Pope Benedict with a dove-and-olive branch memento symbolizing peace—crafted by Haitian women from communities devastated by the massive earthquake of January 2010. The gift was created through an income-generating project to help Haitian women support their families, established by Israeli non-profit partners including IsraAID, a humanitarian relief coalition of which B’nai B’rith is a key member. The project, operated by the Israel non-governmental organization “Tevel b’Tzedek” is named “Dam Dam” (women) and employs 90 women in three rural villages who are making paper mache crafts under the direction of an Israeli artist utilizing recycled and reclaimed materials.
In addition to Jacobs and his wife Jodie, and Mariaschin, the delegation members included: Dr. Yves Kamami, B’nai B’rith International senior vice president (Paris, France); Ambassador Joseph and Joyce Harari, chairman of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy (CHRPP) (Panama City, Panama); Ralph Hofmann, president of B’nai B’rith Europe (Frankfurt, Germany); Paolo Foa, member of the B’nai B’rith International Executive Committee (Milan, Italy); Sandro di Castro, president of the B’nai B’rith Rome Lodge (Rome, Italy); and Claudia Bagnarelli, president of the B’nai B’rith Milan Lodge (Milan, Italy). Also present were Alan Barry, CHRPP board member (Commerce Township, Mich.); Dr. Steven Horowitz, CHRPP board member (Chicago); Michael Nachman, CHRPP board member (Washington, D.C., and New York); Rene Braginsky (Zurich, Switzerland); Gary Cohen (Kinnelon, N.J.); Alan and Susan Fuerstman (Laguna Beach, Calif.); Daniel Citone, vice president of the B’nai B’rith Rome Lodge (Rome, Italy); and David J. Michaels, B’nai B’rith International director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs (New York).
U.N. Must Address Flaws of System that Could Consider Syria as Human Rights Watchdog
Amid reports that Syria is likely to withdraw its candidacy for a position on the United Nations Human Rights Council, B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International is encouraged to learn that Syria is likely to drop out of the May 20 election for a seat on the Human Rights Council. It is unthinkable that Syria could sit in judgment of other nations when it comes to their commitments to human rights.
During the ongoing uprisings in Syria, the government has attacked its own people as they sought more freedoms. Hundreds are reportedly dead and scores have been arrested with uncertain outcomes.
In a March opinion piece protesting Syria’s candidacy, B’nai B’rith wrote, “Syria is a one-party state with no free elections….Syria is a major supporter of international terrorism—backing Hezbollah and hosting some of the leaders of Hamas.” And later: “The independent Freedom House, which for 70 years has observed global human rights and democracy issues, in its 2010 annual ‘Freedom of the World’ survey, included Syria near the bottom of the rating scale for both political rights and civil liberties issues. Does this sound like a government that should be determining which nations are committed to universal human rights?”
“There are very serious and compelling human rights issues in the world today. By admitting offender after offender, the United Nations is demonstrating that perhaps actually protecting human rights is not as important as talking about protecting rights. In the council’s five years, as a rule, politics trump human rights.”
B’nai B’rith has long opposed the election system for the council where notorious human rights abusers can sit on the world’s premier body overseeing universal human rights.
In countless U.N. forums, B’nai B’rith has called attention to the deep faults in a system that allows nations such as Syria to even be considered for a spot.
Amid reports that Syria may run again in the future, B’nai B’rith will continue its efforts in Geneva and New York to reform a system that lambastes the democracy of Israel at every turn—there have been about as many resolutions condemning Israel as there have been against the other 191-members of the U.N.—while turning a blind eye to human rights abusers such as Syria.