B’nai B’rith International condemns the Nov. 29 vote at the United Nations General Assembly to grant non-member observer “state” status to the Palestinians. The Palestinians’ unilateral effort to upgrade their status is a violation of signed agreements with Israel. Furthermore, it defies insistence by the international Quartet for Middle East peace, of which the U.N. itself is a member, that progress be made through direct negotiations between the parties.
The vote was 138 in favor and 9 against in the 193-seat General Assembly, with 41 abstentions. This could further allow the Palestinians to advance their goal of “internationalizing” the conflict with the Jewish state and initiating judicial scrutiny of Israel’s efforts at self-defense in the face of relentless terrorism. The Palestinians will be accorded the same degree of recognition as the Vatican.
B’nai B’rith especially commends the United States for its consistently strong position on this issue, and the other countries that voted against: Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama. These nations clearly recognized that this is not an appropriate way for the Palestinians to create a new state. In bypassing negotiations the Palestinians are making it clear they have no intention of dealing directly with Israel in good faith.
“So many issues need to be resolved between the parties, including not only borders but security, yet this vote leaves Israel on the sidelines,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel for nearly four years despite Israel’s offer to meet at any time without pre-conditions. This U.N. move demonstrates not only how Israel has been marginalized by this resolution, but also how much more difficult this move has made the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.”
With backing from countries that included Austria, France and Italy, the Palestinians are shirking the difficult but vital work of bilateral negotiations and compromise, while asking the United Nations to deliver their political goals. The abstentions of Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom are also deeply disappointing.
“This unilateral move will only hurt any chance of moving peace talks forward,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “As it is, recent events should have reminded the world that there isn’t even unified control over the Palestinian territories. Hamas, which is committed to Israel’s destruction, continues to control the Gaza Strip. Even the Palestinian mission to the U.N., which brought today’s motion, features on its emblem a map of ‘Palestine’ that encompasses the entire State of Israel.”
For decades, B’nai B’rith has worked to erode systemic abuse of Israel at the world body through active engagement with U.N. officials, ambassadors and other key players in the international community.
Last year, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, recognized “Palestine” as a state.
B’nai B’rith will continue to work within the U.N. system to urge a far more just and constructive approach to global challenges.
B’nai B’rith is outraged over a Hungarian politician’s proposal to compile a list of Hungarians with Jewish ancestry to be evaluated for what he describes as their level of threat to national security. This is a new low for the Jobbik party, a group that is already rife with anti-Semitism. Hungary and the rest of Europe should look at this as a serious matter and take action against this political entity that endorses ultra-nationalist policies.
A leader of the far-right Jobbik party, Marton Gyongyosi, suggested on Nov. 27 to the Hungarian parliament that those of Jewish descent be listed and evaluated as to whether they pose a national security threat.
“This blatant anti-Semitic effort is an unacceptable outrage,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Gyongyosi must resign from parliament. His actions reveal the bigoted intentions of the Jobbik party. Mainstream politics and responsible political actors in Europe must take this seriously and denounce it.”
The Jobbik party is the third largest party in the Hungarian parliament. It is known for making controversial statements on the Holocaust and displaying vehement anti-Israel hatred.
“It is flatly unacceptable that there are members of the Hungarian parliament who demonize Jews,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The Jobbik party is an embarrassment to Hungarian politics and should be repudiated.”
During the Holocaust between 500,000 and 600,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered.
B’nai B’rith remembers Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which took place in Germany and Austria on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938. During that horrendous time, at least 91 Jews were killed and innumerable synagogues, Jewish-owned stores, community centers and homes were attacked, looted, and destroyed. B’nai B’rith Paraguay, Chile, Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Uruguay held remembrance events throughout November.
B’nai B’rith Paraguay hosted President Federico Franco and Foreign Minister José Félix Fernández Estigarribia, among 500 others who turned out for the commemoration on Nov. 6. The keynote speaker was Emilio Cardenas, a former Argentinean ambassador to the United Nations and a prestigious professor of international law. Cardenas warned about the dangers and threats of anti-Semitism in Latin America and emphasized that when liberties are cut and freedom of expression is limited, democracy is in serious danger. He reminded the attendees that they must always remember what may happen when democracy vanishes and authoritarianism prevails. Holocaust survivors and their families were invited to light the candles of the B’nai B’rith menorah.
B’nai B’rith Chile commemorated Kristallnacht on Nov. 9 at the Jewish Hebrew Institute. The students of the institute, mainly middle schoolers, along with students from six other schools attended the ceremony. German Ambassador to Chile Hans Blomeyer spoke to the students about the importance of memory, the value of Germany’s friendship with Israel and its commitment to fighting anti-Semitism. David Dadon, the Israeli ambassador to Chile, also spoke and referred to the plight of the Jews during Nazi rule to current situations in which minorities have their rights violated without receiving attention from a democratic society. Survivor Enrique Schocken who lived in Berlin during the Night of Broken Glass, recalled that night and the subsequent events.
The B’nai B’rith lodge in Cuba held a ceremony on Nov. 10, inviting diplomats and leaders of the Jewish community to remember that fateful evening. Samuel Zagovalov, lodge president, spoke as did lodge member Fidel Babani, who gave a brief overview of the events of that evening. Lodge member Alejandro Herrera also recounted the Night of Broken Glass.
On Nov. 12 hundreds of people attended B’nai B’rith Argentina’s commemoration at the Cathedral of Buenos Aires. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio attended the event as did high-level representatives of the Methodist, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. Rabbi Alejandro Avruj from the conservative synagogue Congregation Emanu-El joined the ceremonies, lighting the menorah with Bergoglio and presenting him with a siddur.
B’nai B’rith Venezuela commemorated Kristallnacht on Nov. 12 in conjunction with Venezuelan Jewish groups: Sobrevivientes del Holocausto Yad VaShem, el Espacio Anna Frank and la Confederación de Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela. The event was attended by various diplomats, community leaders and the general public. The keynote speaker of the night was Daniel Rafecas, a federal judge in Argentina. The event was very successful considering the complicated circumstances Venezuelan Jews live under.
On Nov. 15 B’nai B’rith Costa Rica organized a commemorative event for Kristallnacht at the main synagogue in San Jose with a congregation of about 600 people. Many of those who attended were non-Jews from various governmental offices, diplomatic service, civil institutions, friends of Israel and of the local Jewish community. Following tradition, each year the commemoration is dedicated to a different subject. This year the main subjects were the children during the Shoa. Real cases and emblematic stories were developed to pay tribute to the 1.5 million children murdered by the Nazis. The two keynote speakers at the event were Elizabeth Odio, former vice president of Costa Rica and former judge and vice president of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, and Alejandro Toledo, former president of Peru.
Five hundred people packed the B’nai B’rith Hall in Montevideo, Uruguay for the Nov. 20 commemoration of Kristallnacht. Vice President of Uruguay Danilo Astori and three former presidents all attended, as did Foreign Minister Luis Almagro, congressmen and presidents of many political parties. The event was broadcast on live television and streamed over the Internet. B’nai B’rith District President Rafael Hodara addressed the group, presenting a strong message of remembrance to the horrors of the Holocaust.
Within the last week, fans of a London soccer team with historically Jewish ties have endured verbal and physical assaults during games in London and Rome. B’nai B’rith International has released the following statement:
B’nai B’rith condemns the anti-Semitic actions of West Ham United fans, an East London soccer team, while visiting their cross-town rivals Tottenham Hotspur for a Nov. 25 match. Tottenham is located in North London and is a club with historically Jewish ties.
During the game, West Ham fans reportedly made references to Adolf Hitler in their chants. They also made hissing noises to imitate the sound of a gas chamber.
B’nai B’rith is repulsed by reports of this behavior and commends West Ham United management for pledging to issue lifetime bans for those supporters found to be guilty of such despicable acts.
Tottenham fans were also attacked in Rome, in another violent outburst linked to anti-Semitism
On Nov. 23, a group of Tottenham supporters gathered at a bar in Rome before a match against the Italian team Lazio, when a mob stormed the establishment brandishing bats and knives. Ten people were injured in the attack including one fan who underwent surgery for a severed artery in his leg as a result of a knife wound.
The alleged perpetrators are fans of Lazio and another Rome squad, A.S. Roma. Witnesses told the media that the attackers shouted “Jews, Jews” as they invaded the bar.
The sixth B’nai B’rith Europe Young Jewish Adult Forum, organized in association with B’nai B’rith United Kingdom, was held in London Nov. 16 to 18 and was highlighted by special guest Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas terrorists and held captive for five years.
About 200 delegates from more than 20 European countries, Israel and the United States shared a memorable event under the theme “Disobedience.” The idea was for attendees to think about Jewish traditions, self-criticism and thinking outside the box and how all of these factors have played a part in Jewish survival.
The spotlight was on Shalit, who was freed last year. While attending the forum, Shalit was awarded with an honorary B’nai B’rith membership.
The Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom Daniel Taub received Shalit at his residence, along with B’nai B’rith leaders. Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was also present at the highly emotional meeting.
Shalit then visited the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, meeting with the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt, President of B’nai B’rith Europe Ralph Hofmann, President of B’nai B’rith United Kingdom Jean Etherton, Director of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem (which played a big role in ensuring Shalit’s presence at the forum) Alan Schneider, and International Vice President and Chair of the Young Adult Commission of B’nai B’rith Europe John P. Reeves.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs attended the forum and spoke at the gala dinner about the vital importance of the rejuvenation of B’nai B’rith around the globe. B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin also spoke about the Gaza situation and its potential consequences for Israel and the Middle East.
During the conference, Etherton and Hofmann greeted the participants and distinguished speakers. Ishmael Khaldi, counsellor for Civil Society Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in London, was one of the distinguished speakers, giving a fascinating account of his experiences as an Israeli diplomat, a Bedouin and a Muslim.
The Forum was very successful, not only because of the turnout and the speakers, but because of the primary organizers Simone Hofmann and Reeves.
Rebecca Saltzman, the International Chair of the B’nai B’rith Young Professional Network and recent recipient of the Label A. Katz award, was present at the forum and extended an open invitation for all young professionals to seek her out and discuss ways to connect B’nai B’rith communities across the globe. Saltzman noted how enthusiastic the attendees were about getting involved in their communities and bolstering the Young Professional Network.
Margaret Brearley, Ph.D. an expert on Jewish-Christian relations; Rabbi Andrew Steinman, writer and publicist; and Hagai Segal, specialist on Middle East affairs, all tackled the “Disobedience” theme of the forum.
The panel speakers on the B’nai B’rith Workshop “From Theory to Practice” included Honorary Life President of B’nai B’rith United Kingdom Sylvia Lewin, Raoul Beck of Geneva, Hofmann and Schneider.
The co-chairs of the forum, Valerie Achache and Simon Weinstein, moderated various discussions with help from Nuno Wahnon Martins, B’nai B’rith director of EU affairs.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith welcomes the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. We hope that the message to Hamas is clear—the rocket attacks into Israel cannot continue.
Since Hamas instigated this latest confrontation through a relentless barrage of rocket attacks into Israel, there has been widespread international condemnation of the terrorist group.
Announcing the cease-fire, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “The people of this region deserve the chance to be free of fear and violence and today's agreement is a step in the right direction that we should build on.” Clinton also called for the end of Hamas rocket attacks and said she hoped to see a “broader calm.”
Israel cannot be expected to endure Hamas rocket attacks every few weeks or months. The Jewish state exhibited utmost restrain as it endured 700 rockets fired upon its people. When it finally launched a defensive campaign, Operation Pillar of Defense, the Israel Defense Forces successfully carried out targeted attacks against Hamas operatives.
Israel rightfully wants and deserves a permanent period of peace and calm.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International condemns the latest terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.
About noon Israel time, a terrorist bomb blew up a bus just yards from the Israel Defense Forces headquarters, injuring 27. The attack is a clear and provocative escalation of violence against the Jewish state.
Hamas praised the bombing, though at this time no group has claimed full responsibility. This is the first terror strike on the city since 2006, when a suicide bomber killed 11.
No nation should have to endure and constantly defend itself against terrorist attacks. Because it is a government’s primary responsibility to protect its citizens, disrupting terrorist activities is a responsible and called for measure. B’nai B’rith supports the IDF’s Operation Pillar of Defense, aimed at those groups perpetrating attacks against Israel.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the bombing.
B’nai B’rith International is launching an Israel Emergency Fund in response to events in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Its goal is to raise funds to assist Israeli residents who are dealing with a barrage of rocket attacks from Hamas. Funds could also be used to help with the personal needs of Israel Defense Forces soldiers.
“We must support Israeli residents who have been subjected to an unimaginable life as Hamas continues its terror attacks into Israel,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
After days of Hamas rocket attacks into southern and central Israel, sending a million Israelis scrambling for bomb shelters, The Israel Defense Forces responded with a campaign to disable Hamas terror cells.
“Every government has as its primary obligation to protect its citizens,” B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “We support Israel as it seeks ways for its citizens to live in peace.”
B’nai B’rith has opened its Israel Emergency Fund in the past to assist with previous Gaza situations and to help in the wake of the devastating Mt. Carmel fires. Some of the past funds helped B’nai B’rith purchase Hebrew-language best sellers for Israel Defense Force combat soldiers through the “Sifrut for Soldiers” program. In other cases, funds were used to buy computers, electronic equipment and inflatable playgrounds to help improve the lives of those trapped in the bomb shelters, and to purchase upgraded communications equipment for fire fighters.
To donate, please click here.
Donations can be received by mail at: B’nai B’rith Israel Emergency Fund, B’nai B’rith International, 2020 K Street, NW, 7th floor, Washington, D.C. 20006.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ plan to present an official bid to upgrade the Palestinians’ status at the United Nations from a non-member observer to non-member observer state on Nov. 29 clearly demonstrates a lack of commitment to bilateral peace talks. This end-run freezes Israel out of the process and a chance to achieve an agreement which results in a safe and secure Israel.
Abbas’ latest attempt to boost the Palestinians’ stature in the international community comes a year after he failed to attain full member state status within the U.N. Security Council. Because there are no vetoes at the General Assembly, this latest effort has a real chance of passing. It’s even more likely considering many countries—especially from the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation—automatically vote for the Palestinians, anyway. If this measure passes, the Palestinians would have the same status as the Vatican.
The expanded status could allow the Palestinians to join other U.N. bodies, where it could pursue punitive actions against Israel.
This move by the Palestinians demonstrates a blatant disregard for the peace process by bypassing direct negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian National Authority continues to circumvent the process by leveraging support from countries that have blindly and one-sidedly embraced its position in the conflict. Peace can only come from direct negotiations between the two parties.
Moving forward with these initiatives will only further sour—if not completely spoil—efforts at renewed relations between the Israelis and Palestinians and continue to destabilize the region.
It is unclear at this time if the Hamas rocket attacks into Israel, and Israel’s defensive response, will impact the Palestinian plan for the United Nations.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
In the wake of the Israel Defense Forces’ “surgical strike” that targeted the commander of Hamas’ military wing, Ahmed Jabari, B’nai B’rith International stands in solidarity with Israel and supports the country’s right to defend itself.
The IDF attack on the well-known terrorist comes days after more than 100 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, damaging homes, factories and injuring Israeli citizens.
The missile fire on Jabari appears to be the first move in a campaign by the IDF called "Operation Pillar of Defense." The operation’s purpose is to single out operatives and damage military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip that pose a security risk to the Jewish state.
No nation should have to endure and constantly defend itself against terrorist attacks. Because it is a government’s primary responsibility to protect its citizens, disrupting terrorist activities is a responsible and called for measure. For these reasons, B’nai B’rith supports the IDF for commencing military operations that focus on damaging those groups perpetrating violence against Israel.