Upon the death of U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, who died on Dec. 13 from complications from surgery, B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International grieves the death of U.S special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke.
During a career in government service that spanned more than 40 years, Holbrooke was a supremely competent U.S. foreign policy advisor and his invaluable work in helping to end the war in Bosnia through the Dayton Accords of 1995 stands as a testament to his commitment to peace.
In his capacity as special envoy, Holbrooke skillfully managed international policy and domestic security issues throughout his tenure. Holbrooke worked tirelessly to provide lasting solutions to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Richard Holbrooke’s special attention to the concerns of Israel within the United Nations and his support of the Jewish state throughout his long and influential career will be sadly missed.
In 2000, B’nai B’rith honored Richard Holbrooke with its Excellence in Public Policy Award.
B’nai B’rith extends its deepest sympathies to his family. May his memory be for a blessing.
As Congress and the White House hold increasingly contentious conversations about a package of tax cuts, B’nai B’rith International expresses its deep concern about the impact some of the proposed changes could have on the vital senior safety net, Social Security.The White House and Congressional Republicans are working on a tax plan that could include reducing Social Security payroll taxes—which are worker Social Security contributions—for one year, undermining the steady and reliable worker contribution as a Social Security funding source. This system has worked well—experts agree Social Security is solvent until at least 2039.
“Removing a dedicated funding source for Social Security puts the future of the program in grave jeopardy,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Once the dedicated funding source is slashed, and people are used to lower taxes, they could easily blame Social Security for any changes. This could endanger future benefits and recreate the severe elderly poverty the system was created to address.”
The idea behind this payroll tax holiday is to stimulate the economy—people could use the extra money they bring home each paycheck to make big purchases.
The Social Security payroll tax may be a convenient way to provide this stimulus, but jump-starting the economy has nothing to do with Social Security and will create an unacceptable risk to an essential program.
As we learn over and over, Congressional “temporary” fixes have a way of becoming permanent. And the real possibility of losing forever part of this dedicated funding is not a risk we can afford Social Security to take.
Once the tax holiday year expires, long-time opponents of Social Security could cast the return to normal payroll tax rates as a major tax hike, instead of the restoration it truly would be. This in turn could lead to unnecessary resentment of a program that millions of older Americans rely on as their only source of income. Social Security could be portrayed as a deficit-buster that we have to tame, when in reality the program does not contribute to the deficit and has nothing more to do with this rate change than being a convenient vehicle for implementing a temporary stimulus.
“Social Security does not add to the deficit, period.” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said. “We have very real deficit problems and a stalled economic recovery to tackle, but tampering with this program is not the way to address them. We cannot afford to get used to this tax rebate, and we cannot afford to let the tax holiday threaten the future of Social Security.”
As a long-time advocate for senior citizens, B’nai B’rith International is carefully monitoring the various plans to decrease taxes and reduce the deficit.
In letters to the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, B’nai B’rith International said their decisions to “prematurely recognize a Palestinian state” is appalling.The letters are a response to the three Latin American nations declaring separately they would recognize what was described as a “free and independent” Palestine, using 1967 borders.
In the letters, B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin stressed that a Palestinian state can only be created through negotiations between Israel and Palestinian representatives.
The letter noted: “Unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood discourages the Palestinian side from engaging in meaningful negotiations, as it provides false hope that resolution of all of the complicated final status issues will simply be imposed on Israel by the international community. The Palestinian Authority’s requests for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state also have the consequence of severely undermining the trust of the Israeli public that the Palestinian side is serious about negotiating a settlement.”
B’nai B’rith International stresses in the letters to Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Uruguayan President José Mujica, such a declaration by outside parties will only create deeper divisions in the peace process as the primary players are pushed to the sides. “For this reason, the past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority proscribe unilateral actions on final-status issues that would bypass negotiations.”
B’nai B’rith supports direct negotiations as the only option for a successful outcome to the peace process.
The letters conclude, “We implore your government to reverse course on this matter, and insist that the Palestinian Authority end its obstructionism and return to the peace process. Only when Palestinian authorities and Israel have agreed upon a compromise can we seriously expect a two-state solution to be effectuated.”
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
Helen Thomas has revealed her true colors. Her raging anti-Semitic statements from May were not just a one-time slip of the tongue. On Dec. 2 at a speech in Dearborn, Michigan, the former White House correspondent said, “We are owned by the propagandists against the Arabs. There’s no question about that." She explained, "Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists. No question in my opinion. They put their money where their mouth is."
In response to these odious sentiments, Thomas’ alma mater, Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., announced it was dropping the annual diversity award named for her, the “Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in the Media Award.” In a statement announcing the decision Wayne State officials said the school "strongly condemns the anti-Semitic remarks made by Helen Thomas."
Wayne State was right to challenge Thomas and her fueling an old, hateful, and damaging stereotype of Jews.
In May, Thomas told a rabbi, visiting the White House for Jewish American Heritage Month, that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and they should "go home" to "Poland, Germany and America, and everywhere else." At the time, B’nai B’rith called for her employer, Hearst, to fire her immediately. Thomas resigned shortly after.
B’nai B’rith urges other schools that have awards honoring Thomas to follow Wayne State’s lead. Her comments have gone beyond speaking her mind, and she does not have a right to be honored for such views.
The deficit commission failed to get the necessary votes to report recommendations to Congress for a plan which if passed, would have included deep cuts to Medicare and Social Security according to a Chairman’s report introduced in November and finalized this week. The plan would have left American seniors at a great disadvantage in the wake of a slow economic recovery and continued high health care costs. Especially troubling aspects were suggested caps on Medicare spending and increased premiums, combined with Social Security cuts that placed vital care and services for older adults out of their reach.
The Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform had delayed voting until Dec. 3 in hopes of securing the 14 votes needed to send the recommendations to Congress for a vote. B’nai B’rith is encouraged that the proposal lacked widespread endorsement, as these draconian cuts imperil the health and welfare of millions of Americans who rely on Social Security and Medicare benefits for the income support and fundamental health services they need. However, it is likely that many severe cuts to health and senior services will emerge in future plans to reduce the deficit.
B’nai B’rith International has long been invested in the welfare and concerns of aging adults, and is concerned about continuing efforts to place the burden of repairing America’s growing deficit on those who can least afford to pay by targeting Social Security and Medicare benefits for unrealistic cuts.
“We are encouraged that they couldn’t get the votes for these harmful proposals,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Seniors depend on Medicare and Social Security; we should be protecting these programs, not gutting them.”
B’nai B’rith shares President Obama’s concern about the deficit, but firmly believes the approach of the Commission was inequitable, and its focus on Social Security and Medicare was inappropriate. On the surface, some of the proposals look plausible. But digging deeper, it’s apparent the plan would drastically reduce benefits over time.
“I have no illusions that the failure to get the votes means that these attacks on Medicare and Social Security will go away,” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said. “We will remain vigilant and prepared to protect these programs during the next Congress.”
We support the effort to achieve fiscal responsibility and we recognize that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve that goal without shared sacrifice. However, we do not believe it can or should come at the expense of the most vulnerable Americans.
As Israel suffers from the worst fire in the nation’s history, B’nai B’rith International has opened its Israel Emergency Fund to raise money to relieve the human suffering and property losses of this catastrophe. So far, 41 people have been killed, many injured, and thousands displaced, as the devastating blaze ravages northern Israel and threatens the country’s third largest city, Haifa.
In response to Israel’s rare appeal for international assistance, an unprecedented international convoy of firefighters has answered the call and have either already arrived or are enroute. Nations that have put aside tensions to assist Israel include countries as diverse as the United States, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, Greece, Spain, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Croatia, and many more.
B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick, in launching the campaign, said, “The B’nai B’rith record of assistance to Israel dates back to 1865 when we raised $4,522 for the victims of a cholera epidemic. We must do everything possible to assist the victims of this catastrophe.
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin added, “It is gratifying to see so many nations around the world responding to Israel’s plea for assistance, just as Israel has done with disasters in other countries. In times of crisis, nations put aside differences and deal with the humanitarian needs. We look forward to members and friends of B’nai B’rith responding generously to this campaign.” Tax deductible donations to the Israel Emergency Fund can be made online using a secure online contribution form
or sent by mail (checks payable to the B'nai B'rith Israel Emergency Fund)to:
Israel Emergency Fund
B'nai B'rith International
2020 K Street, NW, 7th floor
Washington, D.C. 20006
B’nai B’rith Welcomes Resignation Of U.N. Panel Leader Overseeing Implementation Of Goldstone Report Demands
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the resignation of Judge Christian Tomuschat—as reported in the online edition of the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth—from the U.N. panel monitoring the implementation of the Goldstone Report.
In July, as it became increasingly clear that Tomuschat was far from a neutral arbiter, B’nai B’rith called for his removal from the panel.
In calling for his resignation B’nai B’rith noted:
It was recently revealed that in 2002 Tomuschat, a law professor and jurist, reportedly said Israel’s retaliation against “presumed terrorists” was, in effect, another form of terrorism. Compounding this, according to a Jerusalem Post report, in 1996 Tomuschat prepared an advisory analysis for Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. Furthermore, he wrote in 2002 that states are fundamentally unable to investigate themselves effectively.
It is impossible for him to review and evaluate how Israel is conducting its own investigation into its Gaza actions when he has already concluded that Israel commits acts of “state terrorism.”
The Goldstone report was meant to offer an assessment of events during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s defensive operation in the Gaza Strip that ended in January 2009. Undertaken with a biased mandate, the report’s controversial conclusions quickly became discredited. Under Tomuschat’s distorted lens of judgment the implementation panel also discredited itself.
The report, and the ensuing panel, were each convened with a predetermined outcome. Tomuschat’s resignation is a welcome development.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement: B’nai B’rith International commends the U.S. State Department and its spokesman P.J. Crowley for a vigorous defense of Israel in the face of an outrageous Palestinian Authority report claiming Israel has no connection to the Western Wall.
Crowley said on Nov. 30: "We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of delegitimization of Israel, including denying historic Jewish connections to the land.” And he also noted: “We strongly condemn these comments and fully reject them as factually incorrect, insensitive, and highly provocative."
If the Palestinian Authority, which is deemed to be Israel’s partner in peace efforts, disregards the Jewish place in the history of Israel, then how can one expect to have a negotiation that will produce a resolution to the real conflicts in the region? This endless disrespect for accepted history demonstrates a blatant and dangerous disregard for the Jewish connection to the land. This revisionist history dismisses thousands of years of historically documented Jewish connection to the land.
Unfortunately, this historical dismissal of Israel represents a dangerous trend on the part of those who would delegitimize Israel. Just weeks ago, the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) executive board overwhelmingly decreed that Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs should not be included on Israel’s list of national heritage sites. UNESCO’s resolution read that “the two sites are an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories.”
At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, responding to the UNESCO decision, said: "The attempt to separate the nation of Israel from its cultural heritage is absurd." Netanyahu’s statement could very well apply to this move by the Palestinians.
Like Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Western Wall is an uncontestable Jewish holy site.
B’nai B’rith commends the U.S. government for denouncing the Palestinian report.
The United Nations once again allowed an anti-Israel agenda to dominate proceedings at its annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Nov. 29. B’nai B’rith International is deeply disappointed, but not surprised, that the world body has been commandeered by those who seek to do Israel harm.Speaker after speaker condemned Israel. Among the most disturbing were comments by Judith Le Blanc, a member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s national steering committee. Supposedly speaking on behalf of civil society organizations, Le Blanc implored the world body to “help break the deadlock of more than 60 years of Israeli Occupation.” Le Blanc’s reference to six decades of “occupation”—extending beyond the territorial disputes following the Six-Day War of 1967—betrayed a radical view that Israel is illegitimate within any borders. She also reiterated the myth that a “powerful, moneyed pro-Israel lobby” is a nefarious influence on U.S. foreign policy.
She received applause for her assertions, though they were usually free of facts and context.
“The fact that the United Nations continues, not just to permit, but to spearhead, this event year after year demonstrates how far the world body must still go to live up to its principles,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “It is incumbent on U.N. leaders to counter the myths, half-truths, and outright lies about Israel that are present each year at this event.”
The presentation of the play “The Gaza Monologues,” aptly demonstrates the blatant disregard for reality in its depiction of the situation in the Gaza Strip. Watching this production, viewers would not learn about the eight years of rocket and mortar fire Israeli civilians endured from Gaza.
Nowhere during the events did participants learn that suicide attacks on Israelis were all but halted by the construction of a security fence in the West Bank.
The U.N. tacitly endorses anti-Israel biases by allowing these unsubstantiated views to be presented on the international stage.
The General Assembly overwhelmingly passed six biased resolutions, half of which fund anti-Israel bureaucratic offices and committees within the U.N. system. A vote on perhaps the most worrying resolution, a proposal by Libya for a “one-state” solution, was delayed.
“Condemning Israel is always the focus at this event,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The revisionist history on display is appalling.”
Present at the United Nations since it was established, B’nai B’rith continues to work toward the U.N. goals of protection of human rights and promotion of tolerance and peace.