B’nai B’rith International condemns five resolutions sponsored by Arab and Muslim states and the manner of their adoption by the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) during its 185th session.B’nai B’rith is concerned that UNESCO could become further politicized—thus deviating from its potentially vital role in fostering education, intercultural dialogue, and the promotion of peace. The resolutions adopted last week censure Israel on multiple fronts, including the issues of the Israeli blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza, other necessary counterterrorism measures, administration of cultural and historical sites within Palestinian-disputed territory, and construction by the Jewish state in sections of its capital.
Arab and Muslim states, with the support of a number of countries belonging to the Group of 77, railroaded the clearly one-sided decisions through UNESCO’s discussion process. These sponsors notably disallowed even nominal compromise and negotiations concerning the content of the drafts. B’nai B’rith commends the United States for voting against all five resolutions, which signify yet another instance of the singular demonization of Israel at U.N. bodies. Between 12 and 19 states, out of the board’s total membership of 58, abstained on the various decisions.
UNESCO never acknowledges the two-sided nature of regional disputes—Israel is always vilified and the need for protecting the rights of the Israeli people is never taken into account. Particularly, Palestinian teaching of anti-Jewish violence and hatred, neglect of responsibility for holy sites, and encouragement of boycotts even against Israel’s broadly inclusive academic, commercial, and cultural institutions all go unaddressed by UNESCO.
“The adoption of these resolutions again reveals the unbalanced nature of deliberations on the Arab-Israeli conflict within international policy-making forums,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Sanctioned discrimination against Israel is undoubtedly intended to isolate her from the global community.”
“I commend the United States for its opposition to these vitriolic attacks against Israel,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “UNESCO’s exploitation by hostile member states serves to undermine the very principles at the core of its purpose, as well as the peace process.”
B’nai B’rith International has long maintained active, accredited representation at United Nations bodies around the world, including UNESCO in Paris.
Upon the death of former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner, who died on Oct. 27 of a heart attack, B'nai B'rith International has issued the following statement:
B'nai B'rith International is deeply saddened to learn of the death of former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner. B'nai B'rith leaders sent a letter to Kirchner's widow, the current president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Néstor Kirchner was an impressive leader of the Argentine people and B'nai B'rith was fortunate to have had many positive encounters with him. B'nai B'rith commended his commitment to reinvigorate the stalled investigation into the July 1994 terror attack on the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building. The bombing, carried out by Hezbollah on orders from Iran, killed 85 and wounded 300.
In the letter to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, B'nai B'rith International President Dennis W. Glick and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin noted Néstor Kirchner's passing was a loss for Argentina and the entire region.
B'nai B'rith has deep ties throughout Latin America, with members and supporters throughout the region, and has had an office in Argentina since the 1930s.
B’nai B’rith International is deeply disappointed at retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s effort to encourage a cultural boycott of Israel. Tutu urged the Cape Town Opera to cancel a tour of Israel scheduled for November, condemning what he described in a statement as “discrimination” in Israel.Tutu also said Israel makes a “fallacious claim to being a 'civilized democracy.’”
“It is unfortunate that Desmond Tutu is ill-informed and misled about Israel,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Following his recent call for an academic boycott of Israel, he is working hard to delegitimize the Jewish state.”
This troubling campaign demonizes Israel and undermines peace efforts.
It is disturbing that Tutu fails to note that Israel is the most open and welcoming nation in the Middle East; a democracy where Israeli Arabs have full voting rights. Israel provides access in its capital to all religions to worship at holy sites.
In condemning Israel, Tutu ignores reality: Israel has pressed for peace with the Palestinians over and over, only to be met with excuses and stall tactics, as well as rockets, mortars, and savage terrorist attacks. Tutu’s failure to condemn the terror group that calls for Israel’s destruction, Hamas, is curious.
“His claim to being an advocate for peace is once again being brought into question. He should focus on engagement, rather than efforts to delegitimize one of the parties to the process,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “He should use his microphone to promote peace, not restrictions.”
B’nai B’rith commends the Cape Town Opera’s decision to reject the boycott calls and travel to Israel to perform as planned.
B’nai B’rith International is deeply concerned that the just-concluded Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops indicates unsettling views regarding Jews and Israel among Catholic clergy and laity in the Arab world. B’nai B’rith is greatly disappointed that rather than promoting reconciliation and self-reflection in the region, the assembly focused on amplifying Arab political positions and narratives on the Jewish state.
While efforts had been made to encourage the assembly to meaningfully address challenges Christians face in the Middle East, Israel was ultimately singled out for outsized and blunt opprobrium. The assembly failed to reflect papal celebration of Jews’ return to their homeland and recognition of Israel’s right to self-defense. It also neglected to acknowledge Israel’s diverse democratic society and protection of Christian life, in contrast with many of its Arab neighbors.
Diverting from a responsible Catholic approach, the polemical “Kairos Palestine” document was promoted on assembly sidelines by key Arab Catholic figures, one of whom even suggested the threat of a “one-state solution” to the conflict—the replacement of Israel.
Most offensive, at a concluding press conference, the head of the assembly’s communiqué drafting committee asserted that a notion of Jewish “chosenness” is an illegitimate basis for claims to the land of Israel. Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros said: “The Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation…We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people—all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.” Bustros’ regressive views negate Jews’ covenant with God. These sentiments baselessly accuse Israel of invoking spiritual distinctiveness as a foundation for government policy. On the contrary, Israel has repeatedly offered to divide sacred lands, even in the face of violent, often religion-fueled, political rejectionism.
We urge Pope Benedict XVI—who is now considering the assembly’s conclusions—to restore a fair, constructive voice in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. It is particularly in the Middle East that the church’s stated opposition to anti-Zionism must be actively shared.
The “Religious Liberty” statue, a fixture in Philadelphia since it was dedicated in 1876 as a gift to the American people by B’nai B’rith International, has moved from its previous location at the National Museum of American Jewish History at 55 North 5th Street to the museum’s new site a block away. Both locations are on Independence Mall.B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., visited the new museum to meet with President and CEO Michael Rosenzweig, and receive a tour of the museum’s new 100,000-square-foot building.
Commissioned by B’nai B’rith and dedicated to “the people of the United States,” “Religious Liberty,” created by Civil War veteran and famous American Jewish sculptor Sir Moses Jacob Ezekiel, was unveiled on Thanksgiving Day 1876, at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia as part of the year-long national festivities commemorating the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
“The inspiring National Museum of American Jewish History is the ideal spot for the ‘Religious Liberty’ statue,” Glick said. “The statue, like the museum, represents the highest ideals of this nation of immigrants.”
The 25-foot marble statue features a woman wearing a 13-star crown (representing the 13 original colonies), clutching the U.S. Constitution rolled in her left hand, and with her right, sheltering a young boy who holds a lantern that symbolizes religion. The eagle clutching a serpent below her feet represents democracy vanquishing tyranny. Rededicated numerous times through the years, “Religious Liberty” was moved to the grounds of the National Museum of American Jewish History in 1986.
At the new location, “Religious Liberty” will be paired with a newly commissioned LED sculpture, “Beacon.” Both sculptures symbolize freedom, the central theme of the museum, which stands directly across from the Liberty Bell, a block south of the National Constitution Center and one block north of the birthplace of American liberty, Independence Hall. The sculptures will serve as a testament to what all free people can accomplish, for themselves and society at large.
"It's so consistent with the story that we tell at the museum.” Rosenzweig said. “The story we tell, at its core, is a story of freedom, a story of the freedoms Jews sought coming to this country, and of what American Jews have been able to achieve, for themselves, the nation, and the world, given those freedoms.”
The new museum’s grand opening weekend is Nov. 12-14. It opens to the public on Nov. 26.
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin spoke to an audience of BBUK leadership in London about the continued and disturbing attacks and accusations against the Jewish state throughout the world. In his compelling talk, Mariaschin highlighted the Goldstone report and recent flotilla “fact-finding mission” facilitated by the U.N. Human Rights Council as biased and vilifying Israel.“These episodes illustrate a growing phenomenon—that the demonization and delegitimization of Israel has become a daily occurrence. Israel’s enemies repeatedly accuse it of being a Nazi-like occupier and an apartheid state that disenfranchises the Palestinians. Falsehoods about Israel are repeated so often that they become widely accepted in the popular culture and sometimes impact government policy.” Mariaschin said during his speech.
Mariaschin also focused on the Iranian infiltration of Latin America and the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. He also discussed the efforts of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to combat anti-Semitism and define a blueprint for fighting anti-Israel statements and demonstrations.
Mariaschin closed by emphasizing the need for an unrelenting stance in the fight to defend Israel: “As we gauge our progress in this battle, we must commit ourselves to sustaining the forward momentum of the global fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. All of us who cherish pluralism and human rights must dedicate ourselves to a simple imperative: that complacency and passivity in the face of bigotry can no longer be tolerated.”
As part of his London visit, Mariaschin met with the BBUK public policy branch, the London Bureau for International Affairs, leaders of the British Jewish community, and for meetings at the British Foreign and Commonwealth office.
B’nai B’rith International, the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income senior housing in the United States, will hold its annual Conference on Senior Housing in Tucson, Ariz., at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort from Oct. 15 to Oct. 18. The conference agenda features informational workshops and peer-to-peer learning opportunities for housing management professionals, members of the facilities’ boards of directors and residents, as well as a young professionals’ development roundtable. About 100 people are expected to participate. “This is a critical meeting for B’nai B’rith housing,” said Marvin Siflinger, chair of the Senior Housing Committee of B’nai B’rith International and president of B’nai B’rith Housing New England. “The folks who come to this meeting have significant contributions—they are dealing with the day-to-day issues of our residents. It’s not just us talking to them, we will exchange views.”
This year’s four-day conference includes appearances by top-level Tucson community leaders and senior housing professionals such as Arizona State Senator Paula Aboud; Jim Murphy, president and CEO of the Pima Council on Aging; and Candy Atkins, a nationally recognized property management consultant. The attendees will have many opportunities to network in formal and informal settings, and share ideas in a variety of inventive and informative sessions.
“B’nai B’rith has been sponsoring affordable senior housing and providing training to the leaders and managers of their projects for almost 40 years,” Vice Chair Seth Riklin said. “Those attending will leave Tucson on Monday with numerous ideas to improve the lives of their tenants, and solutions to many of the problems that face them. With an acute shortage of low income senior housing in the United States, B’nai B’rith continues to be a leader in planning new communities and finding creative ways to fund their development.”
The Tucson area is home to three of B’nai B’rith’s senior housing communities: B’nai B’rith Covenant House of Tucson I and II, which opened in 1995; and the Gerd and Inge Strauss Manor on Pantano, dedicated in 2006. Attendees of the conference will visit these communities to view their successful operations and top-notch facilities.
The B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network consists of 38 apartment buildings in 26 communities and is home to over 7,500 seniors of limited income without regard to race, religion, or country of national origin.
B’nai B’rith International condemns the burning and vandalism of a mosque in the village of Kfar Beit Fajar in Hebron in the West Bank. B’nai B’rith views violent and destructive action of any religious institution or place of worship as utterly unacceptable.
There is no excuse and there can never be a pretext for violent action by any party against religious institutions. B’nai B’rith supports the actions of the Israeli Civil Administration and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in aggressively investigating this despicable act.