U.S. Legislative Affairs
B'nai B'rith International is a Jewish voice on international and domestic policy in defense of Israel.
Through its Center for Human Rights and Public Policy and its Center for Senior Services, BBI provides information and resources to support its policies and positions on issues of concern to both Jews and non-Jews.
B'nai B'rith has served as an NGO (non-governmental organization) at the United Nations (U.N.) since 1947. Whether an issue is before the Human Rights Council, the Security Council, or on the desk of a U.N. official, B'nai B'rith leaders and staff provide expert testimony and advocacy for Israel and the Jewish population worldwide. The B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem focuses on Israel and its place in the World. The World Center promotes strong Israel-Diaspora relations.
Domestically, B'nai B'rith advocates on behalf of its members before congressional members and their staffs, government executives and experts in a variety of subjects, and interested parties.
Issues of focus include:
Holocaust Issues – BBI urged European governments to ratify a treaty to open the International Tracing Service's Holocaust archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany. Ratification has facilitated public access to the archives, which contain information on more than 17 million victims of Nazi persecution. The archival materials should be available for use by elderly survivors to substantiate compensation claims and could also have a dramatic impact on Holocaust research. B'nai B'rith also has strongly encouraged the engagement of Congress in resolving Jewish communal property restitution issues in Central and Eastern Europe.
Darfur – BBI supports divestment from Sudan to reduce the resources available to the Sudanese government to commit genocide. H.R.180 and S.831, the congressional Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007, would prohibit the U.S. government from awarding contracts to companies helping to finance the genocide in Darfur. The legislation would also bar U.S. companies – except those that provide humanitarian aide or military equipment to Darfur – from investing in Sudan.
Israel and the Middle East
B'nai B'rith urged members of Congress to sign a Senate letter to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a House letter to European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, respectively, dealing with the Palestinian Authority's 2007 power-sharing agreement. Both letters advised against engaging with or providing assistance to the Hamas-dominated Palestinian government unless it meets three conditions: recognize Israel's right to exist; renounce violence and terror; and abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. BBI also has supported legislation such as the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act and a House resolution expressing concern over Hezbollah's use of civilians as "human shields" in its war against Israel last year.
Iran – Because of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated denials of the Holocaust and threats to eradicate Israel, B'nai B'rith International has supported H.R.1400 and S.970, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007. Both employ sanctions and diplomacy to halt Iran's burgeoning nuclear program. The legislation would increase economic pressure on the Iranian regime by eliminating a loophole that allows parent companies to escape sanctions by doing business through offshore subsidies. It also extends existing sanctions to additional financial entities and energy companies and places further restrictions on U.S. exports to Iran. BBI also backed H.Con.Res.21, which called on the United Nations Security Council to charge Ahmadinejad with violating the U.N. Charter and the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Jewish Refugees from Middle East Countries – B'nai B'rith has played an active role in advancing legislation to promote the rights of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish, Christian, and other minority refugees from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf. H.Res.185 and S.Res.85 urge the U.S. administration to ensure that in every international forum where the issue of Middle East refugees is discussed, all explicit references to Palestinian refugees must be matched by a similar reference to Jewish and other minority refugees.
Life Insurance Fairness – B'nai B'rith has supported legislation in both houses of Congress that would bar life insurance companies from refusing coverage, or charging prohibitively high rates for coverage, on the basis of past or future travel to Israel and other countries where it is legal for Americans to visit.
Housing – For more than 40 years, BBI has led in providing housing for low-income older adults. We are the largest Jewish sponsor of subsidized housing for the elderly, and we continue to look for new ways to build new housing and preserve existing units. Click here for more information on Senior Housing.
Medicare - B’nai B’rith supports the Medicare program that currently covers those who are 65+ as well as millions of disabled adults. We support changes that are good for beneficiaries and for the program’s sustainability.
Social Security – B'nai B'rith International supports maintaining and strengthening the Social Security system as a social insurance program and we believe it is important to help older Americans safeguard their retirement savings.
Stem Cell Research – B'nai B'rith International supports responsible embryonic stem cell research in keeping with Jewish tradition that saving a life is paramount. Our advocacy has focused on responsible regulation and the availability of federal funding. Click for more. For information about B'nai B'rith stem cell programs, click here.
Health Care for All – Healthy aging cannot begin at 65 – it requires lifelong access to affordable health care without which older adults are more likely to have multiple chronic (and expensive) health problems. B’nai B’rith actively supports responsible efforts to expand access. For more information about healthcare for all, click here.
Tolerance and Diversity
Hate Crimes – BBI supports the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. This legislation would strengthen law enforcement by promoting increased cooperation among local, state, and federal authorities to bring hate crime offenders to justice. It would better position federal officials to assist state and local authorities in responding to hate crimes and amend federal law to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of violent bias-motivated crimes. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act would also help curb such offenses by broadening federal laws to include not just the victim's race, color, religion, or national origin, but also sexual orientation, gender, or disability.
Religious Freedom in the Workplace – B'nai B'rith supports H.R.1431, a bill that would strengthen vital protections for religiously observant employees. The Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) clarifies a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees' religious practices. WRFA's balancing test would protect the right of employees to freely exercise their religion while safeguarding the legitimate needs of businesses and the rights of other employees and third parties.
Immigration Reform – BBI urges passage by Congress of legislation to reform our nation's immigration system to benefit America's national security, economic, and humanitarian interests. Immigration reform legislation must promote border security that is effective against illegal migration and prevents the incursion of terrorists and criminals while protecting legitimate asylum-seekers. The legislation should also provide opportunities for productive, law-abiding immigrants who are already contributing to this country, to legitimize their status upon satisfaction of reasonable criteria.
Energy Independence – BBI encourages the adoption of legislation that would address America's reliance on foreign countries for sources of energy. A comprehensive, environmentally sound energy plan would reduce the risk to our national security and economic stability that is created by our dependence on hostile regimes for oil.
Latin American Free Trade – B'nai B'rith, with an extensive and active membership in Latin America, supports U.S. congressional ratification of free trade agreements with Colombia, Peru, and Panama. These agreements are vital to building relationships with important strategic allies of the United States in a region where anti-American sentiment has increased in recent years.
Additionally, B'nai B'rith supports increased funding for fiscal year 2009 for the international affairs budget, which includes aid to Israel; humanitarian assistance to Darfur victims; resources to help shore up the economies and political systems of emerging democracies; and support for the fight against terrorism.
For more information about B'nai B'rith legislative initiatives, call 202-857-6545 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.