Fall 2014 Issue Also Tells the Story of Twin Brothers During WWI
Writer David Laskin’s Great-Aunt Itel was a Jewish immigrant from Belarus without a college education. Her story, featured in the fall issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine, is that of a rebellious, headstrong and fiercely intelligent woman who arrived in the United States nearly penniless and started the wildly successful Maidenform Bra Company.
Laskin chronicles his great-aunt’s remarkable life and the company’s rise under her stewardship. Itel’s company revolutionized the women’s apparel industry and created a highly-visible brand during the 1940s and 1950s.
In a similar vein, we follow the story of B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin’s immigrant parents who arrived in the United States with very little to their name. After years of working and raising a family in the New York area, they moved to a small town in New Hampshire and operated a women’s clothing store.
The fall issue then takes a look at ancestry through a different lens. In the spirit of L’Dor V’Dor (from generation to generation), B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs relays the story of the honeymooning grandson of former B’nai B’rith President Frank Goldman, connecting the trip to his grandfather’s role in the founding of Israel.
A century ago, France entered World War I. Writer Gerard Leval, an American Jew of French descent, recalls his family’s sacrifices during what was first known as the Great War. Leval’s grandfather suffered serious injuries and the loss of his twin brother André in the fighting.
Elsewhere in the magazine, George Johnson details his journey to Israel—discovering the story of his ancestor Reuven Lehrer, who founded the town of Ness Ziona in the late 19th century. The investigation led Johnson to a treasure trove of family history connecting him with his Israeli roots.
Beryl Benderly tells the story of Copenhagen’s Danish Jewish Museum, which recounts the country’s long history of tolerant relations with its Jewish citizens. Designed by famed architect Daniel Libeskind, it depicts, among other things, the daring rescue of 7,220 Jewish Danes by their fellow citizens who organized a nighttime boatlift to Sweden—saving them from deportation to the Nazi death camps.
B’nai B’rith International members and supporters gathered in Panama City, Panama for the 2014 B’nai B’rith Policy Forum, only the second time the forum has been held outside of the United States. Those in attendance were joined by a number of high-profile speakers, including Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, former Uruguayan President Julio Maria Sanguinetti and Israeli Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz, among others.
B’nai B’rith International also bestowed the Distinguished Humanitarian Award on Joseph E. Harari and Raymond, Morris and Sion Harari, for their outstanding commitment to B’nai B’rith International and the Jewish community in Panama and worldwide. The award was given at an Aug. 31 dinner at the Hebrew Club. It was there that Varela addressed Policy Forum attendees and the Panamanian Jewish community as a whole.
President Speaks to Panamanian Jewish Community, Honors Joseph E. Harari
A high point of this year’s Policy Forum was the Aug. 31 dinner at the Hebrew Club, where attendees dined with President Juan Carlos Varela, who was officially addressing the Panamanian Jewish community for the first time.
The president took to the podium and thanked B’nai B’rith for bringing the Policy Forum to Panama and that it was a great honor to host it, with this being only the second time the meeting has left the United States. Varela said he was impressed by the longevity of the organization and the work B’nai B’rith has done for 171 years. He conveyed respect for B’nai B’rith’s commitment to human rights and said Panamanians share B’nai B’rith’s principles of respect and tolerance. Varela also affirmed his country’s support for the State of Israel and its right to defend itself. He offered Panama’s support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the region.
Varela went on to honor Joseph E. Harari and his entire family, thanking them for their contributions to Panamanian society and the economy. The Harari family has been a strong pillar in Panamanian society for more than 100 years and are valued members of the community.
After his speech, B’nai B’rith President Allan J. Jacobs, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and B’nai B’rith Irving Zapp Lodge President Dovi Eisenman presented the president with a special menorah, as a thank you for attending the Policy Forum.
Additionally, Joe Harari and his brothers Raymond, Morris and Sion Harari received the Distinguished Humanitarian Award. Joe is a dedicated lifelong leader of B’nai B’rith and serves as one of the most active advocates on issues of Jewish interest and humanitarian rights, appearing at the forefront of B’nai B’rith advocacy.
Former Uruguayan President Julio Maria Sanguinetti Speaks over Lunch
B’nai B’rith had the privilege of being joined by Julio Maria Sanguinetti, a former president of Uruguay. Sanguinetti discussed the issues and “evils” pervading the world today and the diametrically opposed worldviews between the West and the radical Islamist influence that is not only a force in the Middle East, but in Latin America as well. Sanguinetti spoke on globalization and the consumer and knowledge based society in which we live, and how the fundamentalist Islamic movement isn’t just a clash of ideas against the West, it’s a clash of civilizations.
Sanguinetti compared this ongoing “clash of civilizations” to the Cold War, where any friend of the United States or the Western World was an enemy of the Soviet Union. He noted we’re seeing something similar with some governments of Latin America attacking Israel and recalling their foreign delegations.
Sanguinetti reaffirmed that Western ideals of “freedom, schooling and capitalism” are worth standing up for, but said it will be difficult for societies and governments to face these new threats because people would rather ignore it and carry on with their lives.
“It’s a mix of fear, a mix of desire, not wanting to see,” Sanguinetti said. “It’s like people who don’t want to go to the doctor for fear of bad news. That happens with societies too.”
Following his speech, B’nai B’rith President Allan J. Jacobs, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and B’nai B’rith Irving Zapp Lodge President Dovi Eisenman, along with B’nai B’rith Uruguay President Morris Segal and Special Advisor to the President Jorge Stainfeld presented Sanguinetti with an award, thanking him for his support.
Opening session at the Panama Canal
The Policy Forum kicked off in exciting fashion at the Panama Canal, the eighth wonder of the world that was concurrently celebrating its 100 anniversary. Guests were greeted by Dovi Eisenman, president of Panama’s Irving Zapp Lodge, and Marcelo Burman of Costa Rica, president of B’nai B’rith District XXIII.
The U.S. Ambassador to Panama Jonathan Farrar also welcomed Policy Forum attendees, saying he is very familiar with B’nai B’rith’s work and wished everyone a successful weekend.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs delivered the annual “State of the Organization” address. Jacobs highlighted the organization’s role in defending and supporting the State of Israel during its defensive incursion into Gaza.
“This defensive operation has been used as an excuse by far too many around the world to ratchet up anti-Semitism and anti-Israel animus,” Jacobs said. “We cannot surrender our vigilance in recognizing the threats to Jews and to Israel. It is our job to call attention to it and work tirelessly to stamp it out.”
Jacobs also mentioned his recent visit to Cyprus, Israel and Greece with leaders of two American-Hellenic organizations to analyze and promote the emerging strategic relationship between the three countries, as well as B’nai B’rith’s policy and tolerance advocacy work in the United States.
Israeli Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz Joins the Policy Forum from Israel
Israeli Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz joined the Policy Forum from Israel via satellite. He started off by recapping the situation in Gaza and the ceasefire that has ended the recent hostility between Israel and Hamas. Steinitz also put the Gaza situation in larger context with what is occurring around the world. He was adamant that Hamas was part of the Islamic extremist network with the likes of ISIS and Boko Haram, despite fighting against different groups of people.
“The brutal tactics are similar, and the goals are the same,” Steinitz said, with the goal being to establish a fundamentalist Muslim state.
Steinitz also reacted to the constant accusation of Israel using “disproportionate force” when dealing with Hamas. He cited the United States and United Kingdom’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan as military actions that did not receive the same condemnation that Israel does. He also noted that Hamas tried to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible, firing thousands of rockets into Israel.
Before concluding, Steinitz told Policy Forum attendees, “I want to thank [B’nai B’rith] for your help, support and activities.”
“Challenges Facing Today’s Global Jewish Family”
B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin tackled the issues facing Jews worldwide, including the wave of anti-Israel sentiment during the latest Gaza conflict. Mariaschin took particular aim at the media and the constant biased, one-sided reporting on the conflict and B’nai B’rith’s role in calling out those who don’t report objectively.
Mariaschin also discussed B’nai B’rith’s work advocating for the fair treatment of Israel at the United Nations and its agencies around the globe, where the Jewish state is a constant target for abuse. In particular, he mentioned the U.N. Human Rights Council’s effort that castigated Israel and essentially absolved Hamas of any responsibility. Mariaschin discussed Iran’s infiltration into Latin America as it spreads it dangerous influence. He also expressed deep concern about the South American trading block Mercosur’s (Mercado Común del Sur) special release castigating Israel for “the use of disproportionate force,” as well as the danger of Iran’s still-unchecked uranium enrichment capabilities.
B’nai B’rith hosted four experts on anti-Semitism from three continents to give Policy Forum participants an idea of how this problem is still growing globally. To start the discussion, Director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and the founding Director of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism Charles Asher Small gave attendees a brief historical look at anti-Semitism and how it has evolved into what we see today. He emphasized the growing influence of Islamic extremist organizations in promoting anti-Semitism.
B’nai B’rith’s Director of Latin America Affairs Eduardo Kohn gave an overview on contemporary anti-Semitism in Latin America, delving into the Mercosur issue, as many South American countries focused on the conflict in Gaza. He commended Paraguay, which stood strong against the group’s special release against Israel and lectured the other countries on how such action was improper.
B’nai B’rith Venezuela leader and journalist Sammy Eppel spoke on state-sponsored anti-Semitism in his native Venezuela, the roots of it with the late president, Hugo Chavez, how it’s perpetrated in the country and his own personal experiences dealing with it on a day-to-day basis. He urged his fellow B’nai B’rith members and supporters to show no tolerance for it and urged an active approach in combating it.
B’nai B’rith’s Deputy Permanent Representative to UNESCO and Vice President of B’nai B’rith France Stephane Teicher brought the conference up to speed on growing anti-Semitism in France. He pointed out the rash of protests at synagogues and Jewish schools, with protesters often employing the “Heil Hitler”sign. Despite these troubles he assured attendees that the government is fighting anti-Semitism, but even it is having trouble because politicians worry about elections and alienating voters.
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Attacking Terror
Attorney and founder of Shurat HaDin – Israeli Law Center Nitsana Darshan-Leitner joined the Policy Forum to discuss her legal activism in fighting terrorism and collecting compensation for victims of terror. Darshan-Leitner shared with guests a number of stories in which she faced off with various terrorist groups from the Middle East, using the legal system to fight back against them.
She told attendees how her firm was able to stop a second flotilla from occurring through the use of maritime insurance, preventing boats from leaving Greece bound for the coast of Gaza.
“We are private lawyers with one goal,” Darshan-Leitner told attendees, “to bankrupt terrorism.”
Rights and Redress for Jewish Refugees
The Executive Vice President of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries Stanley Urman was the final speaker at the Policy Forum, informing attendees of his organization’s work seeking rights and redress for Jewish refugees forced from their homes in Arab countries.
He said that despite there being 800,000 Jewish refugees forced from their homes during the past 65 years, there has been a diminutive focus on these refugees, especially when compared to the avalanche of resolutions and initiatives for Palestinians.
“Why now? Why is it important now, 65 years after the fact?” Urman asked. “It’s because the narrative of Jewish refugees from Arab countries is essential for the legitimacy of the Jewish state.”
Arab countries claim Israel to be illegitimate, Urman said, and they say it’s a country where white Europeans parachuted into the Middle East. This is unequivocally untrue, as Jews have been living in the Middle East for more than 2,000 years, and thus deserve the same rights and respect as any other refugee population.
Board of Governors
The B’nai B’rith Board of Governors met during the Policy Forum to conduct organizational business. The Board considered resolutions on a number of topics, including:
Monitoring terrorist funding conducted in the private and public sectors throughout the European Union and encouraging European officials to pass legislation and apply political and legal pressure to prevent Hamas and Hezbollah from raising funds in Europe.
Encouraging close ties between Israel and Latin America.
Denouncing anti-Semitic incidents throughout Latin America to the appropriate government officials, international agencies and the general public.
Reiterating the organization’s condemnation of the attack on the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in July 1994. The resolution noted that B’nai B’rith remembers the victims of this heinous act, while urging the government of Argentina to move swiftly to fulfill its international obligations and its promise to the Argentine people by repealing its pact with Iran and finding legal ways to conduct the trial—even if Iran continues to refuse to cooperate with the investigation of all aspects of the AMIA case and to bring to justice the perpetrators of this terrorist attack.
The Board of Governors also discussed its commitment to promoting and protecting human rights and religious freedom around the world.
The B’nai B’rith Board of Governors also considered a measure noting the organization stands with the State of Israel and the people of Israel as it justly defends its territory and its citizens from Hamas' rocket attacks and kidnapping attempts, as well as its use of tunnels and other means to carry out attacks against Israel.
The Board of Governors called for the release of Alan Gross on humanitarian grounds. Gross has been held in a Cuban prison for nearly five years.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International condemns the American Studies Association’s (ASA) continued one-sided criticism of Israel and its distorted views of Hamas as the organization demanded the United States withdraw its support for Israel and asserted that “the U.S. is complicit in the ongoing siege of Gaza, Israeli war crimes, and Palestinian suffering.”
This is the second time this year that the ASA has censured Israel after unanimously voting for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in December 2013. In a recent press release, the organization condemned Israel for “attacks on identifiable academic institutions are part of its campaign of collective punishment that has already claimed more than 1,650 lives”—referring, in part, to Israel’s targeted strike on Gaza’s Islamic University.
The ASA continues to place blame solely on Israel for its incursion into Gaza and ignores not only Hamas’ incessant rocket fire at the Jewish state, but also the organization’s widespread use of human shields. The ASA takes issue with the Israel Defense Forces’ targeting of a university, but does not mention that it was used as a weapon’s production facility. The ASA also fails to mention that Hamas’ use of academic institutions as human shields for armaments and personnel is a routine, encouraged practice.
In keeping with its earlier academic boycott in response to the Israel’s supposed human rights violations against Palestinians, the ASA continues to exercise selective memory and bias when evaluating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This latest demand is just another showing of its complicity with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
In the wake of the naming of partisan “experts” to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) “independent, international commission of inquiry” on Gaza, B’nai B’rith International reaffirms its clear expectation of bias on the part of the probe. The UNHRC selected William Schabas of Canada, Doudou Diène of Senegal, and Amal Alamuddin of Britain.
B’nai B’rith considers the commission itself illegitimate as it was born of a UNHRC resolution that stridently excoriated Israel in advance of the “inquiry” it launched and didn’t so much as mention Hamas by name. It was specifically designed to scrutinize not years of cross-border terrorist attacks against Israelis, but rather Israel’s defensive response to them. Any suggestion that there is equivalence between terrorism and a state defending its civilians from that threat is both outrageous and unacceptable.
Naming individuals with prior, public positions harshly critical of Israeli policy reinforces strong anticipation that the Gaza probe’s conclusions are foregone. Schabas, for example, was quoted in 2013 as saying, “my favorite would be [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu within the dock of the International Criminal Court.”
Alamuddin—who is engaged to actor George Clooney—has now said she is unavailable to sit on the UNHRC commission. Nonetheless, she specified in a statement that she was “horrified” by what she called the “crimes” committed in the “occupied Gaza Strip.” Gaza, however, saw all Israeli military personnel and civilians depart in 2005, and it has been the origin of relentless, criminal violence against the civilians of Israel by Palestinian terrorist groups led by Hamas. Her intended appointment reveals not only the inherent bias of the UNHRC commission and its dispatchers, but also a deplorable attempt to garner publicity for yet another exercise in anti-Israel bias.
B’nai B’rith International wrote to a key official in the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Matthias Behnke, expressing concern over the lack of transparency in civilian-casualty figures released by the United Nations during Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza.
Though Behnke told The New York Times that the United Nations uses human rights groups to calculate and categorize casualties and claimed it was “not that complicated” to obtain the data, he declined to identify the human rights groups the United Nations has consulted and the methodology being used.
In their letter, B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs Director David J. Michaels wrote: “During times when the United Nations cannot establish the veracity of its ‘estimates’ – or cannot provide assurances that data is uninfluenced by ‘local authorities’ controlled in whole or in part by belligerents – we expect U.N. bodies to desist from circulating information that can impair defensive efforts and irresponsibly embolden those committed to recurring conflict that ensnares Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike.”
The letter can be read in full here.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
When it comes to Israel, Jimmy Carter continues to distort the facts on the ground. In his latest anti-Israel screed, the former U.S. president rebukes Israel for the current situation in Gaza. In an op-ed for Foreign Policy’s website, co-written with former Irish President Mary Robinson, they write: “there is no humane or legal justification' for Israel’s actions,” and say that Israel has “pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools, and hospitals.”
The death of civilians is always a tragedy. But no army in the world has been more careful in preventing and limiting civilian casualties than the Israel Defense Forces. It is widely known that the IDF warns residents in built-up areas through the use of texts, emails, phone calls and leaflets. Carter and Robinson fail to note that the terrorist entity that rules Gaza, Hamas, hides among civilians, using human shields to draw fire to its own civilian population. Hamas rocket launchers and stockpiles of rockets and other weapons have been found in schools, at United Nations facilities and in residential neighborhoods.
Robinson has a similar history to Carter when it comes to bias against Israel. She presided over the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, now commonly known as Durban I, which is infamous for degenerating into an anti-Israel hate-fest. As high commission of human rights for the United Nations, Robinson lost control of that conference and allowed anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric to overwhelm the proceedings.
The Carter and Robinson op-ed also suggests that Israel lift Gaza sanctions as well as remove a blockade that they say prevents goods from entering Gaza. But when the crossings were open and cement was freely brought in for the ostensible purpose of construction, it was directed to the building of a massive tunnel network meant to support Hamas’ military infrastructure.
It also bears noting that even during the fighting, some 1,800 trucks have entered Gaza from Israel carrying medicines, food and other humanitarian supplies.
By highlighting the disparity in the number of deaths on each side, Carter and Robinson miss an important distinction. Hamas should not be lauded for its inability to kill more Israelis. Its goal—with more than 3,000 rockets fired into Israel—is to kill as many civilians as possible.
In his usual myopic reading of the situation in the Middle East, Carter characterizes Hamas as a “legitimate political actor.” This terrorist group, with its mission to destroy Israel written into its charter, is anything but legitimate.
In this piece, as in others, Carter continues to go out of his way to burnish his anti-Israel credentials.
B’nai B’rith International demands that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and those in the government complicit with his expressions of hatred, cease making inflammatory and derogatory remarks against Israel, which has led to incitement and a fear of violence against the Jewish community of Venezuela.
While the Venezuelan government has consistently stoked fear within the country’s Jewish community in the past, Maduro has heightened the anxiety and uncertainty in recent weeks. He has used the conflict in Gaza as a chance to aggressively denounce Israel, reportedly accusing the Jewish state of “a war of extermination against the Palestinian people,” and reportedly comparing Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip to the Nazis at Auschwitz. As a result, anti-Semitic graffiti has appeared in Caracas, vitriol against Jews on social media is raging and a Jewish newspaper’s website was hacked.
“B’nai B’rith, and the Jewish community as a whole, has always been concerned with the Venezuelan government’s incendiary statements and actions against Israel. But in recent weeks we’ve seen Maduro promoting a whole new level of hatred,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The climate he has created is dangerous to the Jews in his country and wholly out of line with a government’s duty to protect its citizens.”
Maduro also called on the Jewish community to stand against “Israel’s policy of extermination of the Palestinian people.” President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello also echoed Maduro’s anti-Israel sentiments, reportedly saying “In Israel, there’s a smell of sulphur, the devil is there.” These statements are then repeated incessantly across state-run media platforms, thus perpetuating this hatred to the masses.
Unsurprisingly, Maduro and members of his government are willfully overlooking the rain of rocket fire Hamas unleashes on Israeli civilians, as well as its use of Palestinian civilians to shield terrorists and armaments.
B'nai B'rith deplores the loss of human life and believes strongly in peace as the only route for progress.
“The comparison of Gaza to Auschwitz alone is a dangerous trope and an outrageous falsehood. When Maduro combines these explosive comments with his own state-media machine and a dangerous political agenda, it creates an alarming situation for the Jewish community in Venezuela,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “B’nai B’rith expresses its solidarity with the Venezuelan Jewish community. We will continue to call attention to and monitor the hate-filled environment that Maduro is intent on fostering.”
B’nai B’rith International wrote to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today to express deep concern about his “choice of language in addressing the ongoing hostilities between Hamas and a United Nations member state, Israel, compelled again to protect its citizens from that Palestinian terrorist organization.” While Ban separately condemned an “upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks, particularly in Europe,” he deplored military shelling outside a U.N. Relief and Works Agency school in Gaza as “a moral outrage” and even “a criminal act.”
In their letter, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David J. Michaels wrote that they join the secretary-general in distress over any civilian casualties. However, they also had questions for Ban: “Why is the most strident of language reserved only for reported Israeli defensive actions? Has nearly a decade-and-a-half of rockets from Gaza into Israel – now subjecting nearly all Israeli civilians, of all backgrounds, to incessant air raid sirens and bomb shelters – not constituted ‘a moral outrage and a criminal act?’ Does a multi-million-dollar network of underground, cross-border terrorist infiltration tunnels not constitute ‘madness’ that must be definitively ended? Is the storing by Palestinian terrorists of heavy munitions in UNRWA schools – repeatedly uncovered by UNRWA itself over recent weeks – not eminently relevant to the current situation and demanding of your personal intervention of the most urgent kind?”
Noting that the consideration of counterterrorism to be a “criminal act” incentivizes the continued taking of human shields by groups like Hamas, B’nai B’rith advised Ban to concentrate on curbing the flow of arms to Gaza: “We urge you, accordingly, to focus your vital efforts on ensuring the full and immediate demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. It is especially critical that your words and deeds do not contribute to reinforcing the unconscionable behavior of terrorist organizations standing in the way of calm and of peace.”
Click here to read the full letter.
Urges International Community to finally recognize Hamas’ True Intentions
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
Hamas has no interest in peace with Israel. The terrorist organization broke the latest internationally brokered cease-fire hours after it took effect, with a string of offensive actions, including using its terror tunnel system to launch a suicide bomber at Israeli soldiers—killing two—kidnapping an Israeli soldier and continuing to fire missiles into Israel.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry strongly condemned Hamas for shattering the cease-fire. Kerry said the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier and the murder of two others is “an outrageous violation of the cease-fire negotiated over the past several days, and of the assurances given to the United States and the United Nations.” Kerry also noted the international community must commit to ending “the tunnel and rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israel.”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a kidnapping by Hamas would “constitute a grave violation of the cease-fire, and one that is likely to have very serious consequences for the people of Gaza, Israel and beyond.” Ban also noted that the kidnapping would “call into question the credibility of Hamas’ assurances to the United Nations.”
This cease-fire violation should once and for all demonstrate to the international community that Hamas’ only goal is the destruction of Israel.
B’nai B’rith supports Israel as it continues to defend itself.
Expresses Deep Disappointment with Latin American Ambassador Recall from Tel Aviv
B’nai B’rith International condemns the special release issued by four of the five Mercado Común del Sur (MERCOSUR) members, castigating Israel for “the use of disproportionate force” during its defensive military incursion into the Gaza Strip and insinuating Israel might be guilty of violating international humanitarian law.
The presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela all signed the special release that echoed and endorsed last week’s anti-Israel resolution adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council, calling for an investigation into what it termed “human rights violations.”
B’nai B’rith salutes Paraguay, the fifth member of MERCOSUR, and its principled stance in refusing to sign the special release and thus denying it resolution status.
Though the special release does condemn attacks against Israeli civilians, it does not once mention Hamas by name or its deplorable tactics, including using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
The statement also calls for ending the blockade around Gaza while ignoring Hamas’ armament and terrorist infrastructure, including tunnels leading into Israel. This is clearly not the solution to ending the conflict because removing blockade measures potentially allows for further, unfettered mobility of weapons, tunnel building construction materials and Palestinian terrorists.
Overall, the special release ignores Hamas’ indifference to human life among Palestinians themselves. Combine that with an open-ended accusation of Israel of violating international law, and it shows an indifference to the complexities of the conflict as a whole.
Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador Withdraw Ambassadors from Israel
B’nai B’rith International leaders also wrote to the presidents of Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru expressing deep disappointment in recalling their respective ambassadors from Tel Aviv for “consultations” in their home countries.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin wrote of the ambassador recall: “Such actions do not contribute to promote calm and stability in the region, but rather serve to encourage the internationally recognized terror group, Hamas.”
They continued: “Recalling your ambassador from Israel is at odds with your stated commitment to oppose terrorism in all its forms. We ask that you address this concerning issue in order to once again restore our faith in your position among the community of democracies.”
Click here to read the full letter.