B’nai B’rith International condemns the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism. That event, in Durban, South Africa, was a forum overshadowed by rabid anti-Israel sentiment and deserves to be remembered as embodying the worst aspects of the United Nations. The vote results included 104 nations in favor of the resolution, 22 against, and 33 abstentions.
B’nai B’rith International commends those nations voting against the commemoration: Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Particularly disappointing was the near unanimous bloc of Latin American nations voting in favor of the resolution.
The proposal to celebrate the original Durban conference has been championed by Arab and other largely non-democratic states, many with records characterized by mistreatment of minorities that have used their collective numbers to push through many anti-Israel resolutions at the world body. Though it is now only in its early planning stages, the Durban commemoration has been scheduled for a time when world leaders are expected in New York in September 2011, and just after the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
“It is tragic that more nations don’t publicly recognize and condemn Durban as the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish free-for-all it truly was,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Our delegates joined other non-governmental organizations in walking out of the conference in 2000 and again during Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel diatribe during the 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva. The prospects for anything positive to take place at a 10-year commemoration are no better.”
The 2001 World Conference Against Racism, with its Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), implied that Israel alone is a racist nation. Even worse than the U.N. proceedings were the NGO forum and street scenes that saw horrific expressions of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
“The original Durban conference attempted to validate the perverse theory that Zionism is racism,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Durban’s legacy of hate, intolerance, and double standards should never be forgotten, and should certainly never be celebrated.”
Following the proposal to commemorate Durban, Canada was the first country to unequivocally state it would not attend such an event. B’nai B’rith is calling on all countries not to participate in “Durban III.”
Active at the U.N. since it was founded, B’nai B’rith closely monitors events at the world body.
B’nai B’rith welcomes the strong and clear denunciation by the Greek government and the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church of the hateful and dangerous statements Metropolite of Piraeus Seraphim made on Greek television. The clergyman’s anti-Semitic rant included statements linking Adolf Hitler to a Jewish plot to ensure the State of Israel’s establishment and the existence of a Zionist conspiracy to take over Greece and the Christian Orthodox Church.
B’nai B’rith had been deeply concerned about the remarks in light of the recent significant enhancement of Greece's relationship with Israel, and with the Jewish community worldwide. This association was evident in the official statement of a spokesman for Prime Minister George Papandreou which said the remarks “insult Greece. They insult our culture. They insult our very society of which the Greek Jewish Community is an inseparable part.”
In letters to B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, Greek Ambassador to the United States Vassilis Kaskarellis wrote: “The Greek Government and the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church have unequivocally condemned, by issuing public statements, these fanatical words as unacceptable and as an offense to Greece and its people.” The ambassador reaffirmed the friendship and enhanced cooperation between Greece and Israel. “Please rest assured that Greece will continue to leave no stone unturned in order to isolate those fanatics who preach hatred and intolerance.”
B’nai B’rith also welcomed the condemnation from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America of the language which expressed “its sadness that these hurtful words should have been spoken at all. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America considers the remarks to be gravely offensive and totally unacceptable.”
Glick said, “While we deplore the original remarks of the church leader, we are gratified that both the government and the church were equally appalled at the vitriol expressed. We look forward to continuing the close friendship that exists between the Greek and Jewish communities.”
Mariaschin added, “It is comforting to know that responsible leaders come forward to denounce those who would spew hatred toward another culture.”
B’nai B’rith International applauds President Obama for signing into law the bill repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces, dubbed “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The law, in place since 1993, required that gay and lesbians serving in the military not disclose their sexual orientation. While intended to protect privacy, the law marginalized the civil rights of gay men and lesbians.B’nai B’rith International has long opposed the discriminatory law and has advocated for its repeal, sending letters to legislators urging them to discontinue this legacy of intolerance sanctioned by the U.S. government.
B’nai B’rith urges the Defense Department to implement the new procedures as quickly as possible.
B’nai B’rith International hails the vote by the U.S. Senate to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces, dubbed “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The law, in place since 1993, required that gay and lesbians serving in the military not disclose their sexual orientation. While intended to protect privacy, the law marginalized the civil rights of gay men and lesbians.B’nai B’rith International has long opposed the discriminatory law and has advocated for its repeal, sending letters to legislators urging them to discontinue this legacy of intolerance sanctioned by the U.S. government.
After the bill is finalized, B’nai B’rith urges President Obama sign it into law to correct the current situation as quickly as possible.
B’nai B’rith International lauds Congress for passing a bill that will vastly improve the ability of sponsors of affordable housing for seniors under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program, to update their existing facilities and improve their services to senior residents. B’nai B’rith has strongly advocated for passage of this bill on behalf the Senior Housing Network.“This law will allow us to continue to provide and to improve the high-quality environment seniors living in our facilities experience,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “The new provision to improve our ability to provide access to additional care services will allow many residents to stay in their homes longer.”
In addition to improving access to health services, the law will also allow owners to more easily refinance properties in need of renovation and convert studio apartments into more accommodating one-bedroom apartments. The new law will also provide rental assistance for seniors need help if refinancing results in payment increases.
“We’ve been involved in the housing field for almost 40 years,” B’nai B’rith International Director of the Center for Senior Services Mark Olshan said. “This bill will allow us the flexibility to maintain our existing properties and to rehabilitate and upgrade the facilities that have served our communities so well over the years.”
The B’nai B’rith Senior Housing Network consists of 38 apartment buildings in 26 communities and is home to more than 7,500 seniors of limited income without regard to race, religion, or country of national origin.
B’nai B’rith has partnered with the Today Show to donate 600 books about tolerance and diversity to needy children across the country as part of the show’s yearly giving campaign.The books were written and illustrated by high school students competing in the B’nai B’rith Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge. They are aimed at kids between the ages of 5 and 10 and teach them about the importance and benefits of a diverse society and to promote tolerance. The books will be distributed to children in schools and local Boys & Girls Clubs of America branches throughout the month of December in Maine, Connecticut, Indiana, and New Jersey.
“It has truly been a joy to provide the gift of an insightful and creative book to school children at this time of year,” said B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick. “The invaluable lessons shared in Diverse Minds books embody the goals of explaining and commending diversity perfectly.”
The contest, now in its fifth year, is an education and awareness initiative created in conjunction with B’nai B’rith programs that promote acceptance and communicate a message of equality among all citizens. The program aims to enlighten, inspire, and educate America’s young people and their families in an effort to destroy prejudices and strengthen the future of our youth. This year’s contest will take place in Memphis and New York City. The winning authors and illustrators in each city receive a $5,000 college scholarship and have their book professionally published.
“The Diverse Minds writing challenge serves the dual purpose of engaging young minds to apply the values of tolerance and diversity to a story for young readers, and to provide elementary-age children with creative and appealing books containing essential lessons for growing up in our diverse society.” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “We are so proud of these books and the lessons they teach.”
B’nai B’rith’s collaboration with the Today Show continues our long history of assisting those in need through community service projects such as clothing, toy, and food drives held across the United States each year.
B’nai B’rith International condemns a reported declaration made by the Syrian-born leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Gregorios III (Laham), that recent terrorism against Christians in Arab countries was part of a “Zionist conspiracy.” The statement was made at an archdiocesan ceremony in Lebanon meant to emphasize interreligious coexistence.Gregorios’ demonizing and blatantly false claim represents classic scapegoating of Jews, and is unacceptable. It is most disturbing that a Christian leader would make such a baseless and hateful accusation against Jews, in clear violation of contemporary church teachings against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
In October, Catholic bishops’ Special Assembly for the Middle East, whose stated focus was the welfare of Middle Eastern Christians, was overshadowed by regional prelates’ highly critical focus on Israel. The Vatican event was followed by Islamists’ massacre of parishioners at an Assyrian Catholic church in Baghdad, and further threats against Christians there. The Melkite Catholic patriarch's libelous comments highlight the problem of some Middle Eastern Christian leaders’ mimicry of Arab animus against Israel.
“I believe it is necessary to deeply examine fundamentalism… and terrorism that are masked by religion, along with violence and disturbances against Christians here and there and on an increasing level. All this behavior has nothing to do with Islam," Gregorios said in his remarks. “But it is actually a conspiracy planned by Zionism and some Christians with Zionist orientations and it aims at undermining and giving a bad image of Islam."
“It is outrageous and frightening that Gregorios wholly disregards the truth in making his statements,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “These sentiments expressed by a religious leader only serve to worsen interreligious relations in the already volatile situation in the Middle East.”
Gregorios III had already asserted in the past that Israel aspires to an exclusively Jewish society, though the democratic Jewish state stands out in the region with its free, and growing, Christian citizenry.
“The patriarch’s statements demonizing Jews and Zionism are reprehensible,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Attributing anti-Christian violence to ‘Zionists’ is inestimably damaging to peace and to the cause of addressing real persecution of Christians.”
B’nai B’rith calls for the retraction of these detestable statements, and for the refutation and condemnation of them by global Christian leaders.
B’nai B’rith International commends the more than 750 rabbis from around the world who signed a petition against a ruling by some municipal rabbis in Israel that opposes the leasing of property to non-Jews. Such discriminatory measures are unacceptable and do no justice to the diverse population and social landscape of the State of Israel.B’nai B’rith International deplores the ruling of 50 Israeli chief municipal rabbis forbidding the sale or rental of homes and land to non-Jews. As state employees and spiritual leaders, these rabbis should not endorse discrimination against non-Jews.
B’nai B’rith was gratified to see the unequivocal rejection of this effort by government leaders including President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin.
B’nai B’rith calls on all 50 signatories to the ruling to withdraw their support for the statement.
B’nai B’rith urges U.N. member states to vote against the General Assembly resolution mandating "commemoration" of the 10th anniversary of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, whose Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) cited Israel alone for implied characterization as racist and whose non-governmental organization (NGO) forum and outside street scenes saw horrific expressions of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.The draft resolution, scheduled for a vote on Dec. 20, calls for a high-level event that would feature addresses by heads of state and government, to commemorate the DDPA. This program would take place during the opening session of next year’s General Assembly in New York, in close proximity to the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The vitriolic attacks made against Jews and the Jewish State during the 2001 conference, and again in 2009, when the Durban Review Conference in Geneva featured the hate speech against Israel and Holocaust denial of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, prove that these events do exactly that which they purport to act against: inciting racism.
“Such a racist and venomous conference should not be celebrated, but repudiated,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “The Durban legacy is one of hate and discrimination, and should be remembered as such.”
B’nai B’rith International mobilized the largest Jewish delegation to monitor and respond to the anti-Semitic attacks at Durban, and encouraged many countries to walk out during Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel diatribe at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva in 2009.
“The impact of celebrating such a destructively discriminatory conference, and its effect of producing widespread and violent attacks against Jews, is incalculable.” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Any reaffirmation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action is not compatible with a genuine fight against racism.”
B’nai B’rith praises Canada for declaring that it will not participate in any commemoration.
A new free trade agreement linking some Latin American nations with the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) and Syria, among other nations, is particularly worrisome.In addition to the P.A. and Syria, the Southern Common Market, known as Mercosur—a nearly 20-year-old union between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay—will also begin negotiations for free trade agreements with Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
These agreements will “open, promote, and expand markets,” according to a statement by the foreign offices of the two largest countries of Mercosur, Argentina and Brazil.
These deals come soon after Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay announced they will recognize a Palestinian state.
“The agreement with the Palestinian Authority and Syria flies in the face of Mercosur’s stated commitment to democracy,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said.
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin added: “These new trade lines could be viewed as importing the Middle East conflict directly to Latin America.”
Mercosur signed a free trade agreement with Israel, but it has not yet been implemented because all agreements must be ratified by the four congresses of Mercosur founding members.
B’nai B’rith has a strong and long presence in Latin America and closely monitors activities throughout the region.