Stuart Rothenberg, political pundit and expert on the House and Senate candidates and elections, gave an in-depth analysis of the midterm elections as the featured speaker during the kick-off luncheon session of B’nai B’rith International’s annual policy conference held at the Washington Marriott in Washington, D.C. Rothenberg, editor of The Rothenberg Political Report, began the discussion with his findings on the demographics of the 2010 electorate. The reason for the large number of Republican elected officials, both in federal and state races, was due to an increase in older and white voters, and a decrease in younger and black voters, from the 2006 and 2008 election cycles, he said. He cited this trend as being part of the difference between midterm election voters and presidential election voters, noting the significant increase in young and black voters during the last presidential race.
Rothenberg stated the key voting group in this race was the independents, who often vote based on how effectively the government is working for them. During the previous midterm cycle in 2006, the independents voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, while in this cycle, the same 18 point majority voted for Republicans.
He then focused discussion on the nature and background of this year’s pool of candidates. Rothenberg interviewed more than 150 candidates for Congress, including more ideologically-motivated candidates who had little or no previous political experience.
Rothenberg noted that the emergence of these apolitical candidates, winning with lower name recognition than party recognition, signified the dissatisfaction among voters for the leadership of the Obama administration. Even moderate or conservative Democrats who served in previously Republican-held districts and who voted against health reform, increases in government spending, and bank bailouts were still voted out of office.
Following his remarks, Rothenberg accepted questions from the audience, including a request for insights into how Republicans could lose the footholds gained in this election.
“The Republicans could overreach. They could decide their mandate is too big, too strong, too conservative,” Rothenberg said.
The cuts to Medicare and Social Security proposed by the leaders of the deficit commission represent a misguided and dangerous starting point to reforming these vital programs for America’s seniors. The proposed draconian cuts would have a direct, negative impact on our aging population. The starting point for negotiations should not be the most extreme view.The Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, tasked with reducing the federal deficit, is the wrong body to recommend reforms to these social programs. The commission leaders are targeting numbers, and the people behind the numbers will suffer under this plan.
B’nai B’rith International, a long-time advocate for seniors, is concerned the burden of these proposals will fall disproportionately on the aged, the poor, and the middle class.
“We are dismayed that these programs, essential to the well-being of so many seniors, are in the chairmen’s cross hairs,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Social Security does not contribute to the deficit at all, so including it in a deficit-reduction plan is flat-out wrong and should be a non-starter.”
To be sure, the federal deficit is out of control. But the approach of the chairs is inequitable. On the surface, some of the proposals look plausible. But digging deeper, it’s apparent the plan would drastically reduce benefits over time.
“An appropriate starting point is agreeing on a goal—solvency, equity, and sufficiency for Social Security and Medicare—not cramming cuts to these programs into a deficit reduction scheme that appears to focus more on cuts than their ramifications,” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said.
We urge the commission to reject this blueprint. Fiscal controls are needed, but they won’t be accomplished through cuts in Medicare and Social Security benefits.
A possible new misunderstanding between the United States and Israel on the issue of settlements once again points to the very real need for Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate directly, without preconditions.President Obama, speaking in Indonesia on Nov. 9, said that Israeli construction in Jerusalem “is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations.”
B’nai B’rith International has long-called for full negotiations without preconditions. The construction around Jerusalem is in already built-up, populated areas which would most likely remain part of Israel in any agreement with the Palestinians. This most recent concern surrounding settlements relates not to a new government announcement, but to a municipal notification process for possible construction. Preconditions, particularly when it comes to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, puts Israel in an untenable position.
“Assigning Israel the responsibility for whether or not the peace talks proceed ignores Palestinian obfuscation and intransigence in getting back to the peace table,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “By focusing on settlements, Israel is held to a separate set of standards than the Palestinians.”
“We hope that the meeting scheduled between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will focus on getting bi-lateral talks back on track,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “A strong U.S.-Israel relationship is vital to any sustainable peace in the region.”
B’nai B’rith has released the following statement:
B’nai B’rith decries the horrific attacks against Christian and Muslim worshippers recently in Iraq and Pakistan.
In Iraq, attackers targeted Iraqis attending Mass at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad on Oct. 31, killing 58 and wounding 78 worshippers.
The attack, perpetrated by a group linked to al Qaeda, involved gunmen taking churchgoers hostage, using suicide vests, grenades, and car bombs before and during the hostage situation, leaving a devastating scene of death and destruction within the church and the surrounding neighborhood.
In Pakistan, the Taliban killed 64 Muslims praying at two different mosques on Nov. 5.
Violence against any religious denomination is intolerable and B’nai B’rith is grieved at the destruction and needless loss of life wrought by these vicious extremists.
B’nai B’rith urges the strictest vigilance against the activities of these terrorist groups and the ideology of hate shared by extremists.
As Hurricane Tomas pummels Haiti, B’nai B’rith International is continuing its program of relief to residents of the beleaguered nation. Our partner, The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsraAID), an Israeli relief organization team already stationed in Port-au-Prince, Leogane, and Jacmel has quickly mobilized to lend assistance to refugees overwhelmed by flooding and mud slides. IsraAID, of which B’nai B’rith is a founding partner, has been rendering assistance to thousands of refugees since January’s earthquake.The hurricane has gained momentum in recent days at sea, bringing strong winds and heavy rains to the already devastated island nation.
B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider, B’nai B’rith’s representative to IsraAID, is in Haiti as part of a previously scheduled visit to assist in long-term relief efforts. He said, “Disturbances broke out in a number of refugee camps housing thousands of displaced people from the January earthquake. The refugees were fearful that they would be left with no shelter and refuge at all.”
Where possible, children were transported from IsraAID-operated community centers and schools to safe areas. The Israeli team is working with other international aid agencies to coordinate relief efforts to transport handicapped refugees, who could not be moved safely, to centers and schools in the relatively safe Leogane area.
The B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund has raised $250,000 for relief.
B'nai B'rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin was quoted in the following article published by the New York Times:
An Honorary Oscar Revives a Controversy
By Michael Cieply
LOS ANGELES — Late last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was still coming to terms with that most deeply confounding of European filmmakers, Jean-Luc Godard.
No one had yet signed on to present an honorary Oscar to Mr. Godard, who has said he will not be on hand anyway at the academy’s awards banquet in Hollywood a week from Saturday. But there was also the touchy question of how to deal with newly highlighted claims that Mr. Godard, a master of modern film, has long harbored anti-Jewish views that threaten to widen his distance from Hollywood, even as the film industry’s leading institution is trying to close the gap.
Over the last month, articles in the Jewish press — including a cover story titled “Is Jean-Luc Godard an Anti-Semite?” in The Jewish Journal — have revived a simmering debate over whether Mr. Godard, an avowed anti-Zionist and advocate for Palestinian rights, is also anti-Jewish. And this close examination of his posture toward Jews has put a shadow over plans by the academy to honor him at the Nov. 13 banquet, along with the actor Eli Wallach, the filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and the film historian and preservationist Kevin Brownlow. (The separate Oscar telecast is scheduled for Feb. 27, on ABC.)
The academy is doing its best to sidestep the issue. For one thing, don’t look for the touchier aspects of Mr. Godard’s work in the five-minute tribute reel being assembled around New Wave masterpieces. Probably missing will be a much-discussed sequence in the 1976 documentary “Here and There,” about the lives of two families, one French and one Palestinian. In it, alternating images of Golda Meir and Adolf Hitler have suggested to some that Mr. Godard, the narrator and one of the directors of the film, sets them up as equivalents.
“I can imagine it might not be there,” Sidney Ganis, who is producing the ceremony, said on Friday. He also said he had a prospect in mind to present the award.
Mr. Godard, 79, has inspired directors as diverse as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino with his technique, sophistication and exuberant use of pop culture in 70 feature films. That work, however, had never been honored by the academy until a decision this year to present Mr. Godard with an honorary governors award, given not at the main event in February but at a separate black-tie ceremony for entertainment industry insiders.
To date, there has been no surge of opposition to match the protests that greeted a decision to give Elia Kazan an honorary Oscar in 1999, despite his having named colleagues before the House Un-American Activities Committee investigating Communist influence in Hollywood during the red baiting era.
But Mr. Ganis and others in the academy have fielded queries from members who question the propriety of an award that is drawing attention not just to Mr. Godard’s well-known disregard for Hollywood but also to positions and statements in which he has mingled his mistrust of the mainstream movie world with a wariness of traits he associates with Jews.
In one of the more striking such statements, in a 1985 interview in Le Matin quoted in Richard Brody’s 2008 biography, Mr. Godard spoke of the film industry as being bound up in Jewish usury.
“What I find interesting in the cinema is that, from the beginning, there is the idea of debt,” he is quoted as saying. “The real producer is, all the same, the image of the Central European Jew.”
In cataloguing and assessing such pronouncements, Mr. Brody, who is generally admiring in the biography, titled “Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard,” attributed what he called “the hardening and sharpening of Godard’s anti-Semitic attitudes” to factors that included his childhood in war-torn Europe, a turn toward pro-Palestinian radicalism in the 1960s and a complicated view of history in which Mr. Godard has blamed Moses for having corrupted society by bringing mere text, in the form of written law, down from the mountain, after having encountered an actual image, the burning bush.
Neither Mr. Godard nor his associates could be reached for comment on Monday, which was a holiday in France.
“If Hollywood wants to honor his work, great, I’m fine with it,” said Mike Medavoy, a film producer and academy member who was born in Shanghai after his parents fled the Holocaust.
But Mr. Medavoy added that he was less than charmed by what he characterized as Mr. Godard’s “narrow mind” when it comes to Jews and the film business. “I’m not fine with that,” he said.
Mr. Godard once complained that Steven Spielberg had misused the image of Auschwitz in the making of “Schindler’s List.” In 1995, Mr. Godard turned down an honorary award from the New York Film Critics’ Circle, in part, he said, because he had personally failed “to prevent Mr. Spielberg from reconstructing Auschwitz."
Mr. Spielberg never responded publicly to that complaint, according to Marvin Levy, his spokesman. Mr. Levy said Mr. Spielberg had not decided whether to attend the awards ceremony but that his absence, in any case, would carry no message about Mr. Godard.
For whatever reason, the gap between Mr. Godard and the academy appears to have run deeper than the occasional snub of a director, like, say, Alfred Hitchcock, who never won a directing Oscar, but was finally given the academy’s Irving G. Thalberg Award, for a lifetime of producing, in 1968.
Researchers at the academy’s Margaret Herrick Library turned up no sign that any aspect of a Godard film had ever been so much as nominated for an Oscar, despite awards and festival recognition abroad.
The absence of recognition by the academy may have less to do with Mr. Godard’s well-known antagonism toward Hollywood than with the fact that many academy members were simply looking elsewhere when his career erupted in the 1960s as a leader of the French New Wave with films like “Breathless” and “Band of Outsiders.” The producer Walter Mirisch, for example, said, “During the time of his films, I was occupied with my own.” Mr. Mirisch, 88, served a number of terms as the academy’s president and won a best picture Oscar in 1968 for “In the Heat of the Night.”
In preparing for this year’s governors awards, the second in a planned annual series separate from the televised Oscar ceremony, Phil Alden Robinson, an academy vice president and a governor, proposed Mr. Godard for recognition that was supposed to close a gap with people like Mr. Mirisch.
“Godard speaks to a generation that’s only now getting voting weight in the academy,” said Mr. Robinson, who is both a writer and a director, and had an Oscar nomination in 1990 for his “Field of Dreams” script. “The older generation didn’t have the same regard for him.”
Inadvertently, however, Mr. Robinson pried open a debate that has raged around artists as august as the poet Ezra Pound and as popular as the actor and filmmaker Mel Gibson: Is the work somehow tainted by the attitudes of the man?
Daniel S. Mariaschin, an executive vice president at B’nai B’rith International, strongly denounced the academy’s decision to honor Mr. Godard.
“They have set up standards for art, but they take a pass on standards for decency and standards for morality,” Mr. Mariaschin said on Monday. “How could one possibly derive enjoyment or pleasure from this, knowing that the individual holds these views?”
Mr. Mariaschin said he was surprised to see, based on recent news reports, that Mr. Godard had not back-pedaled when challenged regarding his view of Jews. “He’s not even contrite,” Mr. Mariaschin said.
For Mr. Robinson, the art and the artist are separate. “D. W. Griffith got an honorary Oscar in 1936,” he said, “and the man was horribly racist.”
Besides, said Mr. Robinson, whose “Field of Dreams” was a fantasy about the disgraced members of the Chicago White Sox team that threw the World Series: “You’re talking to someone who believes Shoeless Joe Jackson should be in the Hall of Fame.”
Scott Sayare contributed reporting from Paris.
B’nai B’rith International stands in solidarity with the Chicago Jewish community in the aftermath of the investigation that uncovered package bombs addressed to two Chicago synagogues.We strongly condemn the al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists who targeted these American Jewish institutions, and strongly encourage efforts to pursue and bring to justice the perpetrators of these and all other acts of terror.
B’nai B’rith International commends the diligent efforts of international law enforcement agencies that resulted in the interception of the two bombs that originated in Yemen.
It is an unfortunate fact of our times that the Jewish community is viewed as a target. But the thwarting of this terror plot demonstrates that vigilance and international cooperation are vital.