B’nai B’rith International condemns UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, for granting the Palestinians full membership. This move will be harmful to advancing the peace process and will have a severe financial impact on the cultural agency.
Until now, the Palestine Liberation Organization held observer status at the cultural agency. Now that it is a full member, the cultural organization is due to lose $70 million, or 22 percent of its annual budget based on two U.S. laws passed in the 1990s. These laws ban U.S. financing of any United Nations entity that grants the Palestinians full membership.
“The United States should be praised for its very active role in attempting to ward off this debacle, particularly through the diplomatic efforts of the U.S. delegation,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “Unfortunately, this has become yet another Palestinian attempt to side step peace negotiations with the Israelis.”
On Oct. 5, the Palestinians submitted an initial request to UNESCO’s executive board for full membership in the cultural agency. Of the board’s 58 members, 40 approved the Palestinian request; 14 abstained. Only the United States, Germany, Latvia and Romania voted against the proposal. Today at the 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris, 107—of the 173 voting members present—voted to admit the Palestinians as a full member. Only 14 voted “no,” including the United States, Canada, Germany and Holland, according to the Jerusalem Post; 52 abstained.
“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. “Seeking recognition at this international entity bypasses important decisions that can only be made directly between the Israelis and the Palestinians—including the very important issues of borders and security.”
Since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied for full membership to the U.N. Security Council on Sept. 23, the Palestinians have also sought influence in the World Trade Organization, and they recently obtained partnership status in Europe’s human rights body, the Council of Europe.
B’nai B’rith has been active in the United Nations since the world body’s inception, and is represented as a non-governmental organization at UNESCO in Paris.
B’nai B’rith International has joined the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief’s response to the Oct. 23 earthquake in Turkey.
The Coalition for Turkey Relief is collecting funds to help the victims of the 7.2-magnitude quake that has left at least 450 people dead.
In addition to B’nai B’rith, the coalition includes: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; American Jewish World Service; Anti-Defamation League; Global Jewish; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Jewish Reconstructionist Federation; Jewish Women International; Rabbinical Assembly; Union for Reform Judaism; Ve’ahavta; Women of Reform Judaism; and World Jewish Relief.
The coalition will work to fulfill the unmet needs of the people of Turkey impacted by the earthquake.
To donate, please visit: https://www.jdc.org/donation/donate.aspx?
Since 1865, B’nai B’rith International has provided aid to people affected by natural and man-made disasters around the world.
Interviews Available Before and After Meetings
B’nai B’rith Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David J. Michaels will attend a Vatican-organized interfaith conference today in Assissi, Italy, as a member of the invited Jewish delegation. The event, the third since John Paul II’s initial conference in 1986, will bring together representatives from various Christian denominations and more than a dozen other faiths.
Michaels is available for interviews to provide first-hand insight into the state of global interreligious affairs. This will be his sixth audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
Since it was launched in 2006, Michaels has led B’nai B’rith’s intercommunal affairs office. His diplomatic experience includes interreligious engagement both with this pope and with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Latest in the Post-Carmel Fire Disaster Relief Effort
On Oct. 23, nearly 11 months after the Great Carmel Fire in northern Israel, B’nai B’rith and the Haifa Fire Department inaugurated the B’nai B’rith Fire Scouts Clubhouse at the central Haifa Fire Station. About 100 people—50 of them fire scouts—attended the opening of the clubhouse, built in memory of 16-year-old fire scout Elad Riven, who was killed in the fire.
“You, represented here today—firefighters, police and Fire Scouts and the Riven family—all lost friends, comrades and loved ones [in the fire]. This tragedy was not lost on the Jewish communities of the Diaspora who suffered along with you and also sought to make its contribution to healing the wounds and rebuilding,” said B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “B’nai B’rith is proud to play its significant role in this process by funding the building of this facility.”
B’nai B’rith provided $80,000 for the clubhouse project from its Israel Emergency Fund which opened in December 2010 to support relief efforts after the nation’s worst fire. The clubhouse includes space for meetings, training and recreation.
Others who attended the inauguration included Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav; Fire and Rescue Commissioner Gen. Shachar Ayalon; Haifa Region Fire Department Chairman Brig. Gen. Rami Dotan; Fire Chief Arie Regev; Elad’s mother Tzvia Riven; and Fire Scouts comrades.
In his remarks, Yahav described Elad as a “real hero” who was extremely dedicated to his community as a fire scout. The mayor noted that the youth who volunteer to assist in positions that also pose danger should not be taken for granted. He said he is “very impressed, moved and touched that B'nai B'rith has joined forces with the people of Haifa to commemorate this wonderful kid who gave his life for the community in an inconceivable tragedy.”
Elad’s mother Tzvia Riven also addressed the attendees, noting that her son’s birthday was the day before the inauguration.
“Elad loved volunteering with the firefighters and providing assistance to those who help others. Elad did not waste time, and when he went for his shift he took books along so that he could study during free time, and the results showed in his excellent grades at school,” she said. “Therefore it is important that with the inauguration of the clubhouse, the scouts will have a place to study, rest and unwind.”
Shortly after Riven’s tragic death, B’nai B’rith World Center director Alan Schneider, who had been charged with implementing aid projects following the fire, learned that Haifa Region Fire Scouts officer Captain Avi Cohen had long wanted a clubhouse for the fire scouts in Haifa. B’nai B’rith’s World Center and the Haifa Region Fire Department cooperated for a year to see this project to fruition.
“We hope this clubhouse will serve both to remember those who died in the fire and to provide a center for Fire Scouts to convene and continue their important work protecting northern Israel,” Mariaschin said before the event. “B’nai B’rith’s assistance to Israel dates back to 1865 when we provided vital support to the victims of a cholera epidemic. We will continue to provide whatever disaster relief is needed to our brothers and sisters in the Jewish state.”
The clubhouse is the second Israel Emergency Fund-sponsored post-fire project to be completed. Soon after the Carmel Fire, when disruption of cellular service made relief efforts difficult, B’nai B’rith supported the purchase of satellite phone kits and contracts to the 10 civilian search and rescue teams operating under F.I.R.S.T. (Fast Israel Rescue and Search Teams). These phone kits, at a total cost of $25,000, guarantee emergency communication. F.I.R.S.T., which along with B’nai B’rith is a founding member of IsraAID-The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, has been a major partner in emergency relief efforts around the world.
Additional projects in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority are in the works. Funding for these projects came from donations all over the world, including major contributions from B’nai B’rith Europe.
These ventures follow extensive assistance from the Israel Emergency Fund and B’nai B’rith World Center surrounding the 2006 Second Lebanon War when Hezbollah attacks crippled the lives of many Northern Israel residents. B’nai B’rith worked with six municipalities across northern Israel to provide $200,000 in aid which provided children’s play areas, computers, electronic equipment, air conditioning units and other amenities for families in shelters. It also funded the Sifrut for Soldiers project that provided Hebrew-language best-selling books to Israel Defense Force combat soldiers. Additionally, it funded the establishment of an advanced Command and Control Center for the Kiryat Shmona Municipality. Elbit Systems designed the system at a cost of $100,000.
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who Hamas kidnapped and held captive for more than five years.
The return of the Israeli soldier after more than five years in captivity is certainly long overdue and should be celebrated. But the circumstances of the kidnapping, and Shalit’s long imprisonment, cannot be forgotten.
Gunmen from the Hamas terrorist group kidnapped Shalit June 25, 2006, in a border raid launched from Gaza.
Defying all international laws, Hamas did not allow the International Committee of the Red Cross, or any other group, to visit Shalit during his captivity. Hamas released a video of Shalit in early October 2009—the first time he’d been seen since he was captured.
“Though we are thankful that Gilad Shalit has been returned safely to Israel and his family, we are outraged at his treatment over the last five years,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The terrorist group Hamas ignored all international entreaties for proof of Shalit’s wellbeing over the years. The group should not be praised for this much belated and cynical action.”
In exchange for Shalit, Israel released more than 1,000 terrorists, many of whom have led or been involved in carrying out terrorist acts killing hundreds of Israelis.
The released terrorists are being met with celebrations in Gaza and the West Bank. The continued call for Israel's destruction by Hamas, and the failure of the Palestinian Authority to educate its population for peace, speaks volumes about the challenges Israel has, and is facing, as it seeks to live in peace.
B’nai B’rith initiated a petition to the International Committee of the Red Cross, urging the committee to press for visits with Shalit.
“The safe return of Staff Sgt. Shalit is being celebrated,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “But his captivity once again underscores the brutal nature of Hamas terrorism. To kidnap and then hold an Israeli all these years, not even allowing medical personnel to check on his health, is despicable. We must remember that Hamas finally released Shalit only when it was politically advantageous to them.”
B’nai B’rith commends U.S. law enforcement and intelligence for foiling an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, at a Washington, D.C., restaurant.
Iran and its Quds Force, part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards, have been accused of supporting this plot using hit men from a Mexican drug cartel, Los Zetas. The plot also included plans to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Argentina, according to reports in The New York Times.
“Iran must be held accountable for these actions which represent a blatant disregard for international law,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “We are grateful to U.S. authorities for thwarting what could have been a major act of terror on our shores.”
Two Iranians have been charged, one of whom, a U.S. citizen, was arrested in New York. The other suspect remains at large. Both have direct links to the Revolutionary Guards.
This news comes only weeks after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended the U.N. General Assembly, showcasing his repudiation of international norms of behavior. At the commemoration session of the biased 2001 World Racism Conference in Durban, South Africa, the Iranian foreign minister spoke of a “racist Zionist regime” in Israel, evoking age-old anti-Israel and anti-Zionist expressions. Recently, Iran also claimed it planned to move its naval vessels from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean near the United States.
“We must remain vigilant and prevent any Iranian threat to the United States and Israel,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “These actions should only strengthen our resolve to pass additional sanctions to prevent the radical regime from developing any nuclear-weapons capabilities. With this plot, Iran—the largest and most-active state-sponsor of terrorism around the world—has once again demonstrated its disregard for human life.”
Iran is widely believed to have perpetrated the 1994 bombing of the Argentina-Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires. The blast killed 85 and wounded 300. That attack was Iran’s second on the heart of Latin America’s largest Jewish community. Officials have also concluded that Iran was responsible for the 1992 truck bomb attack on Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 and wounded 242.
B'nai B'rith International decries the Oct. 9 massacre of Coptic Christian protestors in Cairo who were marching to demand an end to the unrelenting anti-Christian agitation. Nearly 30 deaths and more than 200 injuries, mostly Copts, were reported from yesterday's violence.
"This carnage is horrifying. The world must not turn a blind eye to this heinous atrocity," said B'nai B'rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. "The Egyptian leadership must prove its intention to ensure the protection of religious minorities by bringing those responsible to justice and enacting procedures to bring an end to the rampant abuse of the rights of minorities."
In recent years interfaith tensions and assaults against Coptic Christians, who comprise 10 percent of Egypt's population of nearly 80 million, have persisted including this year's attacks on Coptic churches and clashes between Muslims and Copts in Tahrir Square. But this massacre, ahead of the scheduled parliamentary elections Nov. 28, represents the worst violence since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February.
Religion-based crimes have been on the rise over the last few years. Coptic Christians cite ongoing persecution and discrimination regarding interfaith romantic relationships, concerns over freedom of practicing their religion and rules that hinder church building.
"The Coptic protestors were demonstrating for their rights as a religious minority. Instead, their call was answered by an alarming wave of mob violence," said Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. "We must all continue to be vigilant to ensure such violence does not continue."
B’nai B’rith International calls for the immediate release of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor from Rasht, Iran, who was sentenced by the Iranian Supreme Court to death by hanging for apostasy—“turning his back on Islam” and “converting Muslims to Christianity.”
Earlier this month, Iranian state media declared for the first time since Nadarkhani was charged, tried then sentenced to death in September 2010, that the ruling was instead for other reasons, including violent crimes, Zionism, traitorous behavior and extortion.
“This state-sponsored cruelty is reprehensible,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “We stand with the international community to insist on his swift and judicious release. We must ensure that justice is carried out for religious minorities and the persecuted in Iran and throughout the world.”
While Iran’s representatives travel and speak out on the world stage under the pretense of respecting its citizens’ rights, Iran continues to persecute, torture and imprison its minorities.
“Once again, the Iranian government’s hypocrisy has been exposed,” said Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “Iran maintains its façade of concern for human rights while simultaneously meting out unjustified punishment simply for expressing freedom of religion.”
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement after singer Hank Williams, Jr.’s talk show comments that President Obama’s golf outing with House Speaker John Boehner was comparable to “Hitler playing golf with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
B’nai B’rith International strongly objects to the use of Nazi symbolism in commenting on contemporary social issues.
ESPN, which quickly removed Williams’ musical introduction to this week’s Monday Night Football, was right to condemn the singer for his clumsy analogy. The singer subsequently issued an apology.
Nazi imagery should never be used to describe persons or things we don’t like. Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust are associated with the unique, horrific genocide of the Jewish people. Misuse of these terms dilutes the magnitude of the murders of more than 6 million people.
B’nai B’rith International decries the Palestinians’ latest bid for international recognition at UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and strongly urges UNESCO’s General Conference to reject its proposal for full membership.
The Palestinians submitted a request on Oct. 5 to UNESCO’s executive board for full membership in the cultural agency. This tactic of seeking statehood recognition represents a complete disregard of the need for direct negotiations.
Of the cultural agency’s 58-member executive board, 40 approved the Palestinian request; 14 abstained. Only the United States, Germany, Latvia and Romania voted against the proposal. The board can now recommend the request go to a vote at the upcoming UNESCO General Conference, at which a two-thirds majority of its 193 nation-members is needed for approval.
“UNESCO, or any international organization for that matter, is not the place to grant recognition of a Palestinian state. Seeking such recognition ignores and delays the necessary discussions about what shape proposed borders would take; the very recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; security concerns, and many other issues,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “All such determinations can only be made directly between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
Since President Mahmoud Abbas announced his application to the U.N. Security Council for full U.N. membership on on Sept. 23 before the General Assembly, the Palestinians have also sought influence in the World Trade Organization, and they recently obtained partnership status in Europe’s human rights body, the Council of Europe.
“There cannot be a two-state solution without a peace plan, whose terms can only be determined through direct, bilateral talks between the Israelis and Palestinians without any preconditions,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “It is unacceptable that the Palestinian diplomats continue to pursue international support despite continuing, firm opposition from both the United States and Israel.”
B’nai B’rith has been active in the United Nations since the world body’s inception, and will continue to monitor these developments.