B’nai B’rith condemns the reprehensible bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, near Nigeria’s capital, on Christmas Day.
Following the horrific attack, B’nai B’rith sent a letter to Professor Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, the Nigerian ambassador in Washington, D.C., saying: “We write to express our strongest condemnation of the vicious terrorist attacks on Sunday that killed at least 40 people and injured many more. We are especially horrified by the perpetrators’ decision to intentionally target Christian worshippers on Christmas…It eludes our understanding how any group assuming the mantle of religion can take pride in the barbaric and indiscriminate slaughter of innocent human beings.”
The letter continued: “Clearly, terrorism remains an acute challenge globally. At this difficult time, we offer the people of Nigeria our solidarity. Please convey our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of this week’s attacks, and our prayerful wishes for the recovery of the wounded.”
This attack, for which the terrorist group Boko Haram has claimed responsibility, follows another bombing that day in the central Nigerian city of Jos and a suicide car bombing on the military in Nigeria’s northeast. Similar bombings also occurred in Jos on Christmas Eve last year and at the U.N. headquarters in Abuja this August.
“We are appalled by this grievous bloodshed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to our Christian brothers and sisters in Nigeria,” said Allan J. Jacobs, B’nai B’rith International president.
“These attacks and others by similar terrorist groups are a threat to the region and to the world. We call upon the international community to remain vigilant and to condemn in the strongest terms such acts of violence,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
B’nai B’rith International denounces the targeted condemnation directed at Israel outside the United Nations Security Council earlier this week. This is but the most recent example of the use of the double standard and coordinated criticism of the Jewish state that only serves to undermine the peace process.
“Instead of addressing the plethora of critical issues on its slate, the Security Council unfortunately continues to engage in tunnel vision, focusing only on the settlement issue,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “This is detrimental to the peace process. UNSC determinations on matters of final status—and there are several—only leapfrog over the need for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Those representing various regional groups in the Security Council, as well as its four European representatives, reproached Israel, pointing to Israel’s settlement policies as the singular reason for the breakdown of peace negotiations, ignoring, for example, such issues as continued Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jews.
The number of anti-Israel resolutions and continued criticism such as this most recent manifestation of anti-Israel bias grows while the Palestinians continually fail to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and refuse to return to the negotiating table.
“Any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will be realized only through direct talks, not imposed through Security Council action,” said Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “Only without preconditions can the parties can outline a way forward.”
Druze Teenagers to Participate in First-Ever Leadership Seminar on Forest Safety in Northern Israel
From Dec. 27-29, nearly 50 Druze counselors and members of Bedouin Youth Groups (14-16 years old) from northern Israel will participate in the first-ever leadership seminar on forest safety and fire prevention. Co-sponsored by B’nai B’rith International and KKL-JNF (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael - Jewish National Fund), this is the next phase of B’nai B’rith’s Israel Emergency Fund project established in response to last year’s Mt. Carmel Fire.
This three-day seminar will be held at KKL-JNF’s Nes Harim Field Center where attendees will meet with Knesset member Hamad Amar, Chairman of the Zionist Council Igal Bibi, Chairman of the Zionist Druze Organization Yoseph Nassar Aladin, and several mayors of key towns.
“Since 1865, when B’nai B’rith responded to an appeal from Moses Montefiore for the direct relief of plague victims in pre-state Israel, we have remained committed to alleviating victims of natural and manmade disasters worldwide,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “We would not be able to co-sponsor this important seminar without our valued members and donors supporting our disaster relief work.”
On the first day of the seminar, participants will tour the Carmel Forest collecting tree trimmings from the green part of the forest near the area that was burnt last year. On Dec. 28, the youth will take part in educational activities and exercise independent forest navigation. On the final day, Dec. 29, the Druze youth will demonstrate what they learned from the seminar, and they will participate in a fire extinguishing simulation with the help of KKL-JNF’s professional team. They will also tour the Ben Shemen Forest.
“Though a year has passed since the Mt. Carmel Fire, there are still so many unmet needs. This seminar aims to mitigate that and provide valuable education and skills to the affected community,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
“B’nai B’rith sees great importance in educating forest preservation for future generations. This seminar has a national importance, as it is almost one year since the infamous tragic Carmel Fire. The seminar is the outcome of a fruitful partnership between KKL-JNF and B’nai B’rith International,” said Alan Schneider, director of B’nai B’rith International’s World Center in Jerusalem and the initiator of the seminar.
According to KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, “The purpose of the leadership seminar is to share forest knowledge with Druze teenagers ages 14-16 in all that has to do with forest maintenance, how to contribute to the forest land and prevent forest fires. The seminar will expand their sense of personal responsibility towards the forest, and over the years they will be our future ambassadors, forest fighters and maybe even cooperate with the KKL-JNF. This seminar is experimental and we intend to expand it throughout the country.”
(Washington, D.C., Dec. 22, 2011)—B’nai B’rith welcomes the cut-off of funding from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the Palestinian children’s magazine Zayzafuna after a deeply disturbing story came to light that glorified Hitler. We also praise the U.S. mission to UNESCO for taking swift, strong action in its condemnation of this hateful publication, one which UNESCO should never have funded in the first place.
Since August 2011, UNESCO has financially supported the magazine. Once this hateful message was revealed, UNESCO issued a statement saying: “UNESCO is shocked and dismayed by the content…UNESCO strongly deplores and condemns the reproduction of such inflammatory statements in a magazine associated with UNESCO’s name and mission and will not provide any further support to the publication in question.”
In a statement today from the U.S. mission condemning the story’s blatant anti-Semitic nature, Ambassador David T. Killion, U.S. permanent representative to UNESCO said: “The decision that UNESCO took today to condemn this magazine’s hateful content will, I hope, be a strong signal to the Palestinian leadership that its messages to the international community and the messages it teaches to its young must be the same, and must move towards peace.”
As reported in the Palestinian Media Watch’s new book “Deception: Betraying the Peace Process,” the Palestinian children’s magazine Zayzafuna included an essay by a teenage girl who portrays Hitler as a role model. In her dream, the girl asks Hitler, “You’re the one who killed the Jews?” Hitler says: “Yes. I killed them so you would all know that they are a nation which spreads destruction all over the world. And what I ask of you is to be resilient and patient, concerning the suffering that Palestine is experiencing at their hands.” The girl responds: “Thanks for the advice.”
While the Palestinian Authority touts its readiness to be a member of this U.N. agency, it simultaneously violates the organization’s founding principles through appalling actions like this magazine article.
“We praise U.S. mission officials for swiftly bringing this to the attention of UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and welcome the U.N. agency’s announcement that it will cut off the funding to this publication,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “This is yet another promotion of hate-filled messages that only serve to undermine the peace process. Not only is the story itself despicable, but equally deeply disturbing is the fact that the magazine found it a suitable message to publish.”
B’nai B’rith also calls upon the director-general to fully investigate the situation to ensure that procedures are in place to prevent a repetition of such hateful behavior.
“This is an extreme example of contemporary anti-Semitism. Notwithstanding the promises Palestinians made 18 years ago when they signed the Oslo Accords, incitement against Israel and Jews continues. UNESCO should never have funded this to begin with, and we urge it to look into all other Palestinian publications that they may be funding,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
B’nai B’rith, accredited as a non-governmental organization at the United Nations since 1947, swiftly raised this issue with officials of both the U.S. mission and UNESCO as soon as we became aware of the article in the magazine.
B’nai B’rith International strongly condemns the free trade agreement that was signed yesterday between the South American trade bloc Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay) and the Palestinian Authority.
This free trade deal, intended to mirror the one signed between Mercosur and Israel that came into force this March, was initialed in Ramallah in October and was signed yesterday at a Mercosur summit at its headquarters in Montevideo, Uruguay. Mercosur’s members have already prematurely recognized a Palestinian state and this is just another step in that direction. Given that trade between the Palestinians and Mercosur is virtually non-existent, it is clear that this agreement is intended to send a political message.
“By signing this agreement, the countries of Mercosur are once again favoring the Palestinian unilateral approach of avoiding negotiations with Israel by instead seeking support from the international community,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “This approach is highly detrimental to the peace process since peace can only come through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”
“The countries, all democracies in the region, should be playing a more constructive role by sending the message to the Palestinians that they cannot get a state without making peace with Israel,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
With an office in Montevideo, B’nai B’rith International has been speaking out on this issue throughout the region and the world. B’nai B’rith will continue to monitor these developments.
Ceremony Will Be Broadcast Live Via Streaming Video
The B’nai B’rith World Center and the Israeli non-profit organization Bridge of Gold will co-sponsor a festive menorah-lighting ceremony at the historic Hurva Synagogue in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City Jewish Quarter. The ceremony, marking the sixth day of the eight-day Chanukah holiday, will take place on Sunday, Dec. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in Israel (12:30 p.m. in Washington, D.C. and 9:30 a.m. in Los Angeles). The ceremony will be streamed live on the B’nai B’rith International website at www.bnaibrith.org
to allow Jewish communities, synagogues, institutions and families around the world to incorporate the ceremony into their own festivities.
Of particular significance to this holiday—which marks the victory of the Maccabees over the Hellenists in 165 B.C.E. and the rededication of the Second Temple—the Jewish community of Salonika, Greece, nearly decimated by the Holocaust, will participate in the ceremony. Via video-conferencing, Salonika residents will light an antique menorah along with the participants at the Hurva.
Israel Defense Force soldiers, B’nai B’rith members, government officials and invited guests will also participate in the ceremony. Minister of Transportation and Road Safety Yisrael Katz will represent the Israeli government at the event. Scenes from the Jewish struggle for Jerusalem from antiquity to modern times will be showcased during the hour-long ceremony. The ceremony will include performances by the Jerusalem Cantors Choir and the Israel Police Band Wind Quintet.
“This ceremony provides a rare opportunity for Israel and Diaspora communities to share a joyous festival together. The striking setting of the Hurva Synagogue, just yards from the Temple Mount, is a perfect setting for celebrating together the triumph of few against the many, of Jewish self-determination and freedom in antiquity and today,” B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider said.
B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim V. Katz will address the ceremony.
The Hurva Synagogue was first inaugurated in 1864. Known also by its full name, The Beit Ya’akov Synagogue in the Courtyard of the Ruin of Rabbi Yehuda Hassid, it became the largest, most magnificent and most important synagogue in Israel and the center of life in the Jewish Quarter. Two days after the Jewish Quarter fell to Jordan’s Arab Legion in May 1948, the synagogue was dynamited along with 57 other synagogues and yeshivot (Jewish religious seminaries) that functioned in the Old City. After Israel conquered Jerusalem in 1967, a commemorative arch was erected at the site to mark the destruction, itself becoming a prominent landmark of the Jewish Quarter. The plan to rebuild the synagogue in its 19th-century style received approval by the Israeli Government in 2000, and the newly rebuilt synagogue was dedicated on March 15, 2010.
B’nai B’rith recently concluded its annual holiday donation of books from its Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge.
The contest—held this year in Memphis and New York—is an annual education and awareness initiative created by B’nai B’rith International that asks high school students to write and illustrate a children’s book that discusses the topics of tolerance and diversity. The contest winners receive a college scholarship and publication of the book. To date, B’nai B’rith has published 17 winning books from seven cities.
B’nai B’rith distributed 600 books among three sites—two in New York and one in Detroit—for the TODAY Show’s 18th Annual Holiday Toy and Gift Drive. B’nai B’rith staff also presented copies of this year’s New York winning book, “The Mystery Gift,” on live television for the TODAY Show’s gift drive. You can view the distribution here
, in the first section of this clip.
“The Mystery Gift,” written and illustrated by Gidget Irizarry, takes place in a classroom where students learn about various celebrations, from Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa to the Hindu holiday Dwali, the pre-Christmas Las Posadas holiday celebrated in Mexico and more.
B’nai B’rith also donated copies of “The Mystery Gift” to PS 186 Elementary School in Brooklyn, enough for each teacher/classroom at the school. Upon receipt of the books, the school’s principal commented in a letter: “We are a multicultural school and a story like the one told in The Mystery Gift is one all our children can relate to...Thank you once again for your generosity and for helping us spread holiday cheer!”
For more information on the B’nai B’rith Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge and to read about this year’s winners, click here
Received B’nai B’rith Presidential Gold Medallion Award for Human Rights Work
B’nai B’rith mourns the loss of Vaclav Havel, who brought attention to injustice through his work as a writer, activist, dissident and eventually first president of post-communist Czechoslovakia.
In 1991, B’nai B’rith awarded Havel its highest award, the Presidential Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism, for his decades of work calling attention to injustice and inequality. The honor is awarded to a select few recipients who practice outstanding international leadership and service to their communities.
“Vaclav Havel lived his beliefs,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Jailed numerous times for speaking against the injustice of Czechoslovakia’s communist regime, Havel showed the world that words and convictions can make a difference.”
Havel’s work with Charter 77, a human rights group that forcefully and at great risk spoke against the communist party’s violations of human rights, is especially noteworthy.
The 1989 “Velvet Revolution” that peacefully ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia cemented Havel’s place in history. Elected president of Czechoslovakia in December 1989, and later serving a decade as president of the newly created Czech Republic, Havel remained a tireless supporter and champion of human rights.
“Havel must always be remembered as a great friend of the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “He spoke of the horrors of the Holocaust and vehemently denounced anti-Semitism. Vaclav Havel was one of the most important figures of the last century.”
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
A new document approved at “Kairos for Global Justice Encounter,” a conference that concluded Dec. 10 in Bethlehem, adopted the language of a prophetic call for justice, and of “compassion,” while virulently demonizing Israel alone and urging mobilized action against the Jewish state.
The conference was organized by the coordinators of the greatly polarizing document known as “Kairos Palestine,” issued by a group of Palestinian Christian figures in 2009.
Several Christian groups abroad have publicized the new document, “The Bethlehem Call.”
B’nai B’rith unequivocally rejects this document.
The Bethlehem Call asserts that “The government of Israel claims to have and indeed enjoys an exceptional status within the international community,” and that it is guilty of “evil designs,” “ethnic cleansing and the geo-cide of Palestinians and Palestine,” “crimes against humanity,” “apartheid,” and the “crime and sin” of occupying Palestinian-claimed land. It neglects to similarly deplore, or even mention, the Palestinian terrorism and radicalism that perpetuate regional conflict. At the same time, it pointedly rejects “any argument aimed at convincing Palestinians and the international community that the problems are caused by Muslims rather than the Occupation.”
It positively cites the “deligitimization [sic] and criminalization of the Israeli government” and, also, “its local and international support base.” It demands that a “Right of Return for all Palestinian refugees be enforced,” a vision that conflicts with mainstream international commitment to Israel’s preservation as a Jewish state alongside a future, peaceful Palestinian state. Its authors pledge to “challenge and boycott” all travel agencies that do not utilize a separate document, “Come and See: A Call from Palestinian Christians for Ethical Tourism,” as guidance for travel to the Holy Land.
That document says of some current visitors to Israel: “Reflecting the pious practices of the Pharisees, they search for a personal blessing, seeking to renew an egocentric, individualistic faith. What they choose to see and do only reinforces their prejudices, preconceived notions, and limited understanding of a complex situation. Yet true faith requires more from a Christian….” The same guide to “ethical tourism” recounts an “expulsion of around 750,000 Palestinians, including 150,000 Christians” by Israel in 1948, a wildly irresponsible and unfounded assertion; another site linked as a resource to the tourism document, the Alternative Tourism Group, goes farther, blaming Israel for the exile of “between 800,000 and 900,000 Palestinians,” and describing Zionism alternately as “Jewish colonization of Palestine” and as an “agent” of global “imperialist interests.”
Finally, the Bethlehem Call affirms prayer for a change in the policies of Israel and “those governments that support it,” concluding: “If this does not happen, we pray in trembling and hope if it is God’s will.... for these governments to fall.”
Israel has repeatedly endorsed a two-state solution, appealed for direct peace talks with Palestinians and even uprooted Jewish settlements and security infrastructure. In contrast, the vilifying narrative and belligerent approach reflected in a polemic like the Bethlehem Call only move the parties further away from justice, reconciliation and a better future.
Senate Also Urged to Vote on Additional Sanctions Bills Already Passed in House
B’nai B’rith International applauds the Senate and the House of Representatives for their overwhelming bipartisan support for new sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran and urges President Barack Obama to swiftly sign them into law. B’nai B’rith also commends the House for passing two other crucial sanctions bills and urges the Senate to follow suit.
Both the House and Senate have passed the Kirk-Menendez amendment, named for its authors Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). This piece of legislation—which the Senate passed unanimously with a vote of 100-0—strengthens existing sanctions and penalizes foreign banks for doing business with Iran.
The House also passed the Iran Threat Reduction Act (H.R. 1905) and the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Modernization and Reform Act (H.R. 2105). These bills, which would bolster current sanctions, passed by votes of 410-11 and 418-2, but have yet to be passed by the Senate. B’nai B’rith urges senators to pass these crucial sanctions when they return from break.
These measures would financially weaken Tehran and deter its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Iran’s belligerence to the world community and indifference to international appeals to end its nuclear weapons program provide strong evidence that these sanctions are necessary.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs noted: “Sanctions against Iran’s central bank are another powerful tool to bring into sharper focus the danger Iran poses to the world. As the largest state sponsor of terror, Iran is a global menace.”
“We applaud this incredible show of bipartisan support. These tough sanctions should serve notice to Tehran that its defiance of international norms will not be tolerated,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “We continue to support Congress in its call for unilateral action against Iran.”
Because of the clear global danger Iran poses, B’nai B’rith has long advocated for the toughest possible sanctions against the Tehran regime.