A 20-member multinational B’nai B’rith International leadership delegation has concluded a mission to India featuring an array of meetings with senior government officials, religious leaders, foreign diplomats, civil-society figures and Jewish community representatives. Coming as India's relations with Israel and the United States continue to deepen significantly—and on the heels of a first-time visit to the Jewish state by an Indian president, in advance of one expected to follow by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi—the mission was organized to further strengthen ties with a vital and singularly diverse emerging global power and to encourage India's blossoming friendship with key fellow democracies.
B'nai B'rith is distinguished by a record of engagement with India going back to 1966, when it first established a branch there. Since then, B’nai B’rith has promoted awareness of historical intercommunal coexistence in the Indian city of Cochin, cosponsored holiday celebrations with the embassy of India in Washington, D.C., urged religious freedom for Hindus and others, dispatched humanitarian aid after natural disasters in south Asia, engaged with the Indian-American and other Diaspora communities and honored prominent Indian figures including businessman and philanthropist Ratan Tata. Last year, B’nai B’rith joined in meeting Modi on the sidelines of his first visit as prime minister to the United Nations.
While in India, the B’nai B’rith delegation met with key members of parliament as well as senior foreign ministry and other government officials; preeminent Muslim and other religious leaders; members of the royal families of Udaipur and Cochin; the ambassadors of the United States and Israel; leaders and members of Jewish communities in several cities; and prominent business and think-tank leaders. The visit of the group, which paid tribute to victims of the 2008 terrorist attacks at the Chabad House and other sites in Mumbai, has been reported by major Indian news outlets including The Times of India, The Hindu, Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi.
Among the issues discussed by B’nai B’rith leaders with officials in India were international terrorism, Israel's search for peace with its neighbors, the Iranian nuclear program, the United Nations’ posture on the Middle East and the need to promote interreligious tolerance globally.
Those participating in the mission were B'nai B'rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Judith B. Jacobs, Lake Forest, Ill.; Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and Michal Mazal Mariaschin, Washington, D.C.; Honorary President Kent E. Schiner and Barbara L. Schiner, Baltimore, Md.; Senior Vice President Charles O. Kaufman and Jennifer R. Kaufman, Austin, Texas; Center for Human Rights and Public Policy and the Office of United Nations Affairs Chairman Joseph E. Harari and Joyce Nazli Beyda de Harari, Panama City, Panama; Executive Board of Directors Member Eric T. Engelmayer, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; B’nai B’rith Panama Members Sion George Harari and Frida Abadi de Harari, Panama City, Panama; Executive Board of Directors Member Irving Silver and Frances G. Silver, Mobile, Ala.; Midwest Region President Steven L. Horowitz and Sandra W. Horowitz, Chicago, Ill.; Executive Board of Directors Member Jorge Elias Stainfeld Lieblein and Miriam Link, Montevideo, Uruguay; as well as staff facilitator and Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David J. Michaels, New York, N.Y.
B’nai B’rith International is pleased that an agreement benefiting Holocaust victims who were deported from France to Nazi concentration camps entered into force Nov. 1.
Negotiated between the French and U.S. governments in 2014, the pact will make available $60 million in French government funds, to be distributed by the U.S. Victims or heirs of victims who were transported from France to Nazi concentration camps by SNCF—France's national railway company—are eligible to apply.
Yesterday the State Department began accepting applications online to receive compensation not previously offered those living outside of France.
SNCF transferred more than 70,000 Jews to Nazi concentration camps. Few of those victims survived the Holocaust. Those in the United States and around the world have sought redress for years.
Once again, B’nai B’rith would like to commend the U.S. negotiators, led by Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, and their French counterparts for ending the lamentably long impasse over reparations for Holocaust victims transported by SNCF.
B’nai B’rith also recognizes the French government for its acknowledgement that there are still survivors and family members who were unable to gain access to its earlier compensation efforts. It is part of the continued process of providing a small measure of justice to those who suffered through the Holocaust.
B’nai B’rith International is a founding member of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) and continues to work with an array of governments and organizations to secure reparations for Holocaust survivors and their families.
Mostly Avoids Troubling Benefit Changes
B’nai B’rith International is pleased to see a bipartisan budget deal passed the through both the Senate and the House of Representatives that funds the government through 2017 and ends several weeks of uncertainty over a potential government shutdown. This major piece of legislation is expected to be signed by President Obama.
The deal itself, though, is a mixed bag as it pertains to areas affecting seniors and low-income Americans.
First, the deal avoids a debt default, which could destabilize the world economy, and makes a government shutdown in December much less likely. Second, the deal raises the onerous caps on domestic spending for the next two years—evenly split between defense and non-defense programs. This will make it easier for Congress to appropriate funds to domestic human needs programs that provide services to the elderly and those less fortunate.
Aside from those headlines, the biggest take away from the completion of this deal was that Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program beneficiaries will no longer be forced to wait in fear that the program will be cut in some way to avoid the anticipated 2016 shortfall. B’nai B’rith has long called for a “clean reallocation,” which would have addressed this Social Security benefit. While this instead comes at some cost, it is a better deal than many feared.
While we support eliminating the relatively minor amounts of fraud in the program, we are still concerned that allocating substantial resources to ferret out these infrequent frauds will shortchange other parts of the program and make DI applicants face longer waits before they can receive benefits. This has already been a significant problem for many years.
B’nai B’rith is also satisfied that there is now a strategy for protecting the 30 percent of individuals who do not receive Social Security and were therefore facing large Medicare rate hikes. The budget shields these people from a confluence of somewhat incongruent states laws that would have enacted steep increases in 2016. While not a perfect solution, the plan in the budget deal is a massive improvement over what would have happened without intervention.
“Frankly, the deal is better than many aging advocates feared, and the extension of Disability Insurance’s solvency is a great relief,” B’nai B’rith International Associate Executive Vice President Mark D. Olshan said. “We are certainly pleased that many of the long rumored cuts to Social Security and other programs were not included here. While we’d like to see that as a sign those cuts are off the table, we intend to remain outspoken and vigilant in the future to protect these critical programs for older adults.”
Divisive Move Only Serves to Impede Peace
B’nai B’rith International strongly condemns the newly announced academic boycott of Israel by a group of scholars from the United Kingdom.
In a full page ad in the Guardian newspaper called “A Commitment by UK Scholars to the Rights of Palestinians,” more than 300 professors say they are boycotting Israeli universities to call attention to “the intolerable human rights violations” it says Israel perpetrates against the Palestinians.
To be sure, with more than 194,000 academics in the United Kingdom, the 343 signers represent a tiny minority. But such public calls bring disproportionate attention to their misguided view.
It is astonishing to think how these university professors are intentionally ignoring the situation in the region and focusing instead on Israel, while disregarding such realities as the current terror campaign against Jews in Israel, who have been shot, stabbed and rammed with cars by young Palestinians.
The approach a week ago by 150 British artists announcing opposition to a cultural boycott of Israel notes engagement is how to understand others. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, joined those opposing a boycott.
Academic freedom is a hallmark of the Israeli university system. It is astonishing that these British academics have their eyes trained only on Israel, rather than on the numerous nations which inhibit academic freedom and systematically abuse human rights of their citizens.
B’nai B’rith International mourns the loss of American-Israeli Richard Lakin, who subsequently succumbed to his wounds and died two weeks after being shot in the head and stabbed by Palestinian terrorists on a bus in Jerusalem. Lakin underwent numerous surgeries after the attack in an attempt to save his life.
Lakin, the uncle of B’nai B’rith young leader Josh Lakin, whose mother, Debbie serves on the B’nai B’rith Board of Governors, was a 76-year-old grandfather of eight.
The Oct. 13 attack, carried out with guns and knives, has now claimed three lives. Several victims are still hospitalized.
Lakin was a teacher, a principal and a community activist, who made aliyah more than three decades ago.
His caring nature was well on display on his website, where he wrote that he was the “recipient of endless joy from my children and grandkids, and from the smiles, laughter and sense of wonder of the hundreds of elementary school children I had the good fortune to work with as a teacher and principal.” He also noted on his website “kindness and positivism are contagious,” along with, “parenting and teaching are acts of love.”
Lakin lived an exemplary life of giving back and of kindness. The contrast with the brutal, barbaric way he died could not be more stark.
May his memory be for a blessing.
Photo via Facebook
B’nai B’rith Praises Bipartisan Congressional Effort To Officially Condemn Palestinian Incitement Against Israelis
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International praises the bipartisan effort in Congress to publicly condemn the murderous wave of terror that has hit Israel in recent weeks, sending a letter to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, holding a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Thursday on the Palestinian incitement against Israel and promoting House Resolution 293, which formally denounces anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in the West Bank.
Representatives Edward Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) are leading the charge, initiating a congressional letter to Abbas urging him to make sure “immediate action is taken to end incitement and bring the situation under control” and pointing out that “statements made by you, other political figures, clerics and official PA media have undoubtedly served to inflame the current situation.”
The letter from Congress concludes by encouraging Abbas to take the first step in curbing violence through a “sustained effort to publicly and officially repudiate these attacks, ending the unacceptable incitement to violence emanating from Palestinian Authority officials and institutions, continuing important security cooperation with Israel and agreeing to unconditionally renew direct talks with the Israelis.”
B’nai B’rith encourages additional members of congress to sign onto the letter, asking Abbas to take “concrete steps” to quell the surge in violence.
Yesterday the House Foreign Affairs Committee met to discuss Palestinian incitement and violence against Israeli citizens. During the hearing, at which several expert witnesses testified, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) commented on the vast scope of anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, referencing a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) resolution passed by its executive board this week. B’nai B’rith spoke out forcefully twice this week against the UNESCO resolution, which was replete with libelous falsehoods about the Jewish state.
The committee also approved H. Res. 293, which now moves to the full House of Representatives. B’nai B’rith encourages all House members to support the resolution.
Efforts by politicians from both sides of the aisle to bring attention to this important issue are greatly appreciated by B’nai B’rith and the entire Jewish community. Too often Israel is the victim of baseless attacks from governments and international bodies with a severely skewed view of the Middle East. Against this backdrop the role of the U.S. Congress in combating anti-Israel hatred is essential.
Screen grab via YouTube
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the Argentine Supreme Court’s issuing of arrest warrants for two men under investigation for the 1992 Israeli embassy bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people, injured 242 and also destroyed a church and a school.
The court issued a warrant for Hezbollah member Hussein Mohamad Ibrahim Suleiman who was arrested in Jordan in 2001 and allegedly confessed to assisting in the transportation of explosives that would be used in the embassy attack. The court also “reiterated” an international arrest warrant for Jose Salman El Reda Reda who was allegedly involved in the purchasing of the deadly materials used in the blast.
While B’nai B’rith is pleased to see movement on this front, this investigation has been marred largely by inaction in the 23 years since that deadly day. B’nai B’rith hopes that new information presented by the Israeli government to the court and the issuing of these warrants will finally move forward the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
Today the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Executive Board passed a resolution predictably condemning Israel for a wide range of baseless accusations, but the most offensive proposal—to designate the Western Wall as an “integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque”—was not included in the final resolution.
The vote count for the resolution was 26 for, 6 against and 25 abstentions.
B’nai B’rith praises the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States for voting against the resolution at the Executive Board session today.
On Monday B’nai B’rith spoke out about this very issue, and B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin wrote a letter to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova condemning the malicious resolution and urged her to steer UNESCO’s Executive Board away from such a vile proposal.
On Tuesday Bokova ultimately issued a statement deploring the resolution and calling on the UNSECO Executive Board to “take decisions that do not further inflame tensions on the ground and that encourage respect for the sanctity of the Holy Sites.”
Days later the proposed policy, which would have been a systematic and undisguised erasure of Jewish national and religious history, was removed.
While the redesignation of the Western Wall was left out, there are still many other egregious points contained in this resolution supported by Afghanistan, Algeria Argentina, Bangladesh, Belize, Brazil, Chad, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, the Dominican Republic, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates.
The resolution widely condemns Israeli “aggression” against Palestinians, never mentioning the murderous wave of terror attacks against Israel’s Jews that has left seven dead and 30 injured. It also accuses Israel of denying Muslims the right to worship at the Temple Mount and makes absurd complaints about, among other things, the construction of an elevator at the Western Wall.
Furthermore, the UNESCO resolution recycled one of its rote motions that calls on Israel to change the designation of two Jewish holy sites—the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem—as Palestinian historical sites. This is yet another blatant attempt by the Palestinians and a United Nations body to deny Jews their history and identity. B’nai B’rith International will continue to call attention to these issues to ensure that does not happen.
Abstaining on the vote were Austria, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Ukraine, Angola, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Malawi, Uganda, Togo, Japan, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Korea and Thailand.
Photo via Flickr
B’nai B’rith International is outraged over a resolution at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that would designate the Western Wall (known as Kotel in Hebrew), which is the sole still-standing remnant of the Temple in Jerusalem, as “integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin wrote a letter to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova rebuking the malicious resolution and urged her to steer UNESCO’s Executive Board away from such a vile proposal.
The resolution was brought forth on behalf of the Palestinians by Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, and proposes, among other outrageous demands and condemnations, renaming the Kotel: Buraq Plaza. If passed it would be a systematic erasure and undisguised historical revision, robbing Jews of history and identity.
In what is clearly a play to further delegitimze Israel and encourage discontent among Palestinians, the resolution condemns Israeli security forces for the response to the relentless terror waged against Israeli citizens in recent weeks, in which Palestinians have used knives, meat cleavers and cars to murder Israelis. Further, the motion would curtail the Jewish state’s archeological excavations in Jerusalem’s Old City and makes the absurd allegation that the Israeli government limits Muslim worship and access to the holy site.
Jacobs and Mariaschin explain the Jewish people’s connection to Kotel in their letter to Bokova, writing: “Since the destruction of Second Temple over 2000 years ago, Jews have looked to the Kotel with hope for the rebirth of sovereignty in our ancient homeland. We have put notes in the crevices of the wall with prayers. The connection between the Jewish people and the Kotel is strong, and eternal.”
They also point the blatant hypocrisy that has been percolating within UNESCO, saying: “The creeping but undisguised historical revisionism and territorial, cultural and civilizational appropriation taking root at UNESCO … make clear which side in the conflict is truly inciting religious tensions and seeking to alter the status quo in Jerusalem.”
To read B’nai B’rith’s full letter to Bokova, click here.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith is outraged by the torching of Joseph’s Tomb, a holy site in the ancient city of Shechem in the West Bank, by Palestinian rioters. As of yet, no injuries or deaths have been reported.
While Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces managed to disperse the crowds and douse the fire, significant damage has been reported in the women’s section of the site. The arson came shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinian leadership to stop a wave of attacks on Jews. After a week of silence, PA President Mahmoud Abbas finally issued a statement condemning the group’s actions and announcing plans to create an investigatory committee.
While vicious attacks have left seven dead and more than 30 wounded—Abbas issued no condemnation while other PA officials have been busy inciting this kind of violence. B’nai B’rith is appalled that the PA ignored multiple violent deaths before finally denouncing this act of wanton arson.
See where B'nai B'rith International stands on the issues.