CEO Op-ed in Fox News: Europeans Continue Unjustified Criticism of Israel but Ignore Real Middle East Threats
A new coalition government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz is expected to take office in Israel Sunday, soon after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the Jewish state.
Pompeo met with Netanyahu and Gantz on Wednesday week to discuss Israel’s plan to annex part of the West Bank and the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
Netanyahu said he was “confident” President Trump will honor his commitment to help Israel carry out the annexation, which will be done in coordination with the U.S.
But while American support for Israel remains strong, the same can’t be said for European nations.
Even as the coronavirus pandemic rages globally and is hitting several European countries fast and hard – and when the global economy is teetering in response – Europe still has time to engage in one of its favorite pastimes: criticizing and opposing Israel.
It is not surprising to see the European Union and some of its member states trying to outrace each other on warning Israel’s new government against annexation of part of the West Bank.
A major provision in the new Israeli coalition’s agreement includes a July 1 green light on annexation of territory in the so-called Area C in the West Bank, an administrative section delineated in the 1993 Oslo Accords. It is administered by Israel, and contains several clearly defined Israeli population centers, most of which are contiguous to Israel.
But while European nations are quick to criticize Israel, they are passive about the real threats to stability in the region.
Just last week, Mohsen Rezaei of Iran’s Expediency Council threatened to “raze Israeli cities to the ground” even in the event there is a U.S. response to Iranian attacks against American forces in Iraq.
These threats – to destroy Israeli cities filled with civilians and wipe out “the Zionist entity” and the “Zionist cancer” – are made on a regular basis by leading Iranian officials like Rezaei. The response in Europe to such genocidal rhetoric is essentially a collective yawn.
It reminds one of similar language used by the Palestine Liberation Organization in the years when it was hijacking airliners, attacking synagogues in Rome and Antwerp, planting bombs in buses in Israeli cities, and calling for Israel’s destruction. At the time, much of this was dismissed by European governments as “Israel’s problem,” or minimized as just being for “home (Palestinian) consumption.”
In other words, don’t take it seriously. That, while Iran continues its malign presence in Syria, attacks American bases in Iraq, re-stocks the arms depots of the terrorist group Hezbollah, counts the terrorist group Hamas as a willing ally, sends a military satellite into space, and marches on in its ultimate goal of developing nuclear weapons.
Indeed, most European states are still not sure whether or not to call the nuclear deal with Iran – the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) – a failed enterprise, even while Iranian efforts to dominate the Middle East proceed apace.
And yet, Europe always has time to express bias against Israel.
Pronouncements out of Brussels from the European Union’s top foreign policy chief, Joseph Borrell, called annexation by Israel “a serious violation of international law” and said the EU “will act accordingly.”
Similar warnings have come from Paris, Berlin and other capitals. Threats of imposing sanctions on Israel and the recall of ambassadors are being made, all in the name of protecting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Europe’s admonitions against Israel ring hollow.
Since the-then European Economic Community (the forerunner of the EU) 1980 Venice Declaration that endorsed Palestinian self-government, Europe has been largely supportive of the Palestinian narrative to the conflict.
When the EU has imposed discipline of voting at the United Nations, member states often abstain on Israeli-Palestinian issues, which to the Palestinian camp is seen as wavering support in Europe for Israel.
When left to vote on their own, some European countries have voted with the Palestinian side on issues concerning Jerusalem, for example, at UNESCO or even at the World Health Organization.
There is also an interesting breakdown when no EU bloc voting is imposed at the U.N. Most countries in Central and Eastern Europe are more inclined to be supportive of Israel. But instances of such “open voting” are few and far between.
If Europe wanted to be helpful it would have been pushing the Palestinians from the time of the 1993 Oslo accords to resolve their conflict with Israel by going to the negotiating table and making reasonable and reciprocal compromises with the Jewish state.
It has been repeated often, but bears saying again: opportunities for the Palestinians to make a deal have been presented numerous times over many years – at Camp David, after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, at Annapolis and with then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s initiative. But the Palestinians have always walked away, because making peace would require their taking less than the zero-sum result they have been promising their people.
The Europeans know full well – as the Palestinians certainly do – that the Israeli population blocs close-in to Israel will not be relinquished in any negotiated settlement. This became clear during the Annapolis conference in 2008 and at all attempts at talks since then. And even if annexation were to occur, that would not preclude the formation of a Palestinian state at some point in the future.
For the past almost four years, the Palestinian Authority has given a cold shoulder to the Trump administration’s efforts to get peace negotiations with Israel started, and then shut down completely on Trump’s “deal of the century” peace plan.
The Palestinian Authority made it clear that it would simply wait out the Trump administration. The old line that “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” has never rung truer.
In the meantime, the world has moved on. Iranian aggression in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen has recalibrated threats and challenges in the region.
Regional strategic alignments are changing, and Israel’s place in the region – in that camp that recognizes the Iranian threat to what we used to call pro-Western countries – has marginalized the decades-long urgency to place the Palestinian issue front and center.
Except in Europe. Its recent threats and bullying of Israel suggest a disconnect from the strategic reality on the ground. A two-state solution today may mean something different than it did 10 or 20 years ago.
The decades-long absence of goodwill on the Palestinian side, and the continued presence of Hamas in Gaza, means Israel must have a security presence in the Jordan Valley. For the same reasons, demilitarization of whatever Palestinian entity that may result from a negotiation is now a given. And a right of return for Palestinians and their descendants who fled the state of Israel when it was created in 1948 will not happen.
Two months out, we still have no clear indication of exactly what “annexation” will actually mean. It might include the Gush Etzion bloc and the city of Maale Adumim only, both large population centers very close to Jerusalem. Other options abound. Or, the whole idea could become moot, with the can being kicked down the proverbial road.
What we do know is that Europe, which has nothing to show for its now four-decade support of Palestinian statehood, has failed in getting any return on its investment by convincing the Palestinian leadership to drop its nihilistic war against the existence of a Jewish state and negotiate an end to the conflict.
As important, Europe seems incapable – or worse, unwilling – to persuade the Palestinians to do what they’ve refused to do until now, which is to finally level with their people about what is do-able and what is fantasy. Only by doing this will Palestinian leaders begin bettering the lives of those they’ve used over decades to advance their own positions of status and power. The way to do this is by ending the conflict with Israel.
Europe has not held the Palestinians accountable, despite protestations to the contrary. As they give a free pass to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank – which continues to glorify and venerate those who have carried out acts of terror not only against Israelis, but Europeans and Americans as well – European governments have retreated into their familiar role of hectoring Israel.
Whatever one might think of annexation, Europe’s sanctimonious threats to Israel of sanctions, recalling ambassadors and worse will not move the conflict one inch closer to resolution. Israel deserves better from Europe, where anti-Semitism is rife.
Much of European anti-Semitism is connected to the steady drumbeat of anti-Israel rhetoric on the Internet and over the public airwaves – and from statements of political figures – that have created a threatening environment for Jewish communities across the continent.
To use a cliché from our times, it’s time for Europe to get real. With all the uncertainty swirling around us, are bluster and threats to a sister democracy – which happens to be sandwiched in the midst of chaos on all sides – a constructive use of its time? Better to level with the Palestinian leadership, rather than indulging it and raising its expectations.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis on Foxnews.com.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO and Executive Vice President of B'nai B'rith International.
As you may recall, a couple of years ago I wrote a blog entitled, “Senior Scams, A New Low” which detailed how low-life individuals prey on seniors for their own financial gain. Over the past few months, our world has been engulfed by COVID-19. While our nation has certainly seen fantastic stories of heroism born from the pandemic, our national crisis has also brought out the worst in people. If COVID-19 wasn’t bad enough, there are people in the world who are using this tragedy to profit through illegal streams. Sadly, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) indicated by the end of April that they had already received over 18,000 reports of fraud in connection to the pandemic.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, older Americans are susceptible to many of the reported scams being perpetrated relating to the crisis. For example, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFBP) has announced scams encompassing the medical world (vaccines, test kits and etc.), fictious charities, Social Security and people falsely impersonating a loved one requesting money.
One scam, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), involves seniors being contacted through the mail and told that their social security benefits could be in jeopardy because of COVID-19. The letter goes onto provide a phone number for recipients to contact to rectify the problem. Once they call the number, they are expected to share sensitive personal and financial information. In response to scams like, SSA noted, “Social Security employees continue to work. Social Security will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Any communication you receive that says SSA will do so is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call.”
In another example, the Denver District Attorney, Beth McCann, in an interview with Rocky Mountain PBS said that because of the pandemic, people are being fraudulently asked to provide bank information over the phone to get their stimulus checks faster. Furthermore, the elder abuse unit in McCann’s office reports of a couple who received an offer by a stranger to go grocery shopping; however, the couple had to provide the individual with their credit card information. McCann said in response, “And you know, you think that sounds like a good idea. But we just advise people: do not trust a stranger, do not give anyone your credit card information or bank account information, or let them into your home. Even if they seem nice, and they seem like they really want to help. Just rely on neighbors, friends, people that you know.”
So how can seniors be best prepared to weed out scams in the age of COVID-19?
First, SSA reports they will never pressure you with legal actions or offer you an increase in benefits in exchange for money, ask to handle matters in secret, email you personal information or ask for money through gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency or prepaid debit card. In addition, the FTC advises people to ignore all advertisements claiming to be a vaccine for COVID-19. Sadly, such a vaccine does not exist currently.
Plus, if someone is asking for money and claiming to be a relative, hang up the phone and call them back on their number, and ask questions only they would know. Furthermore, people should always research a charity before donating.
People should also take proactive steps when they come across scams like reporting the incidents to the authority. Federal government agencies like the Department of Justice (DOJ), Administration on Community Living (ACL) and the FTC have all setup platforms for people to report these cases. People can also take basic steps like calling their parents or grandparents and making them aware these schemes exist. While we probably can’t dissuade people from taking advantage of a national crisis, we can certainly make their lives significantly harder.
Evan Carmen, Esq. is the Legislative Director for Aging Policy at the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services. He holds a B.A. from American University in political science and a J.D. from New York Law School. Prior to joining B’nai B’rith International he worked in the Office of Presidential Correspondence for the Obama White House, practiced as an attorney at Covington and Burling, LLP, worked as an aide for New York City Council Member Tony Avella and interned for Congressman Gary Ackerman’s office. Click here to read more from Evan Carmen.
What is your connection to Israel? A good icebreaker question for a Jewish audience of any age.
It is also a good question to open up the topic about celebrating Israel and its accomplishments, as it is celebrating its 72nd birthday. Israel is a nation among the nations of the world. During this time of crisis in the world, we are proud to see Israel’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, not just for its own citizens but for all who can benefit from its knowhow. It is a leader in medical treatments and testing. It creates and uses technology to help mankind. It shares its knowledge about assisting after trauma and continues to run to places to help when it is needed.
Most Jewish young people today have received the gift of a trip to Israel from Birthright during their college years. I do not have official statistics, but I know of several of my generation and older that still have that trip on their bucket list, and are still figuring out how to make it happen.
I have been lucky – while my family had no relatives that lived in Israel, it has been a part of our family’s DNA. We said, “next year in Jerusalem” every Passover and and could picture the possibility. It is what I learned about in Hebrew school, and if we saw a product that said “Made in Israel” in a store in the 1960s and 70s, it was a thrill. I am sure many of us still have an Israeli blue/green metal Judaica piece –jewelry, mezuzahs, bookends, a seder plate, and a menorah are ones I can account for. These items were part of bat mitzvah gifts or sourced from a synagogue’ s gift shop. I had also been influenced by my parents, the generation that experienced Israel’s birth, and hearing about the dancing in the streets in Brooklyn in 1948 when the announcement of the creation of the state was on the radio. We continued to be glued to the news when I was a youngster and teenager hearing about the wars for its survival that followed.
Living in New York City, I experienced the annual Israel Day Parade that brought youth groups and schools to Fifth Avenue. I remember learning a line dance with my Israeli Hebrew teacher that we would perform as part of the synagogue delegation, wearing a white dress tied with blue ribbons. As I got older, the parade offered the social element of seeing friends I had made in United Synagogue Youth, meeting other teens around the city and tristate area.
My first trip to Israel was a sweet sixteen present from my parents, offered as their gift instead of a party. Traveling with a teen tour for six weeks , we saw Israel from end to end, experiencing kibbutz life at Ein Gedi, and a week with Israeli teenagers at Gadna camp, with the most adorable Israeli soldiers as instructors.
I got to visit again in 1980 as part of a B’nai B’rith staff mission. It was a wonderful way to bond with colleagues and learn about the people and projects of B’nai B’rith that have had roots in the country since 1888. It was another view of the country, seeing behind the tourist scene, presenting some of the difficult social issues for Israelis and their struggle living alongside their Arab neighbors. We saw the presence of B’nai B’rith in various form. From a Moshav named for Henry Monsky, to libraries and streets named in recognition of B’nai B’rith’s role in their creation. We were present just months after the B’nai B’rith World Center was established in response to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 478 that in August 1980 called on all member states to remove their diplomatic missions from Jerusalem.
B’nai B’rith provided another opportunity for me to experience Israel at the 1998 International Convention. It was also the occasion to share an Israel experience with my husband and introduce my kids to Israel at age 12 and 16.
The venues were amazing, opening ceremonies at David’s Citadel in Jerusalem, dinner at the Israel Museum with a private tour and a banquet that filled a ballroom with members from around the world.
The closing program included a spontaneous line of dancers that moved between the tables to celebrate the occasion of this event. A special memory was the dedication by the B’nai B’rith Center for Community Action of a playground outfitted for physically challenged children in Hadera.
I had the unique experience of seeing Israel in 2005 as a parent with a child spending their first year in a college program at Bar Ilan University. It was another view, 33 years after my first experience. For this visit, we could tak a bit more time to experience Jerusalem and Tel Aviv , soaking in the historic and cultural sites in Jerusalem and then the beach in Tel Aviv.
When my grandson Jacob was born in 2014, we joked about holding a special upcoming date on the calendar July 2027, for his bar mitzvah. We have since then talked about a summer trip to Israel as a wonderful way to celebrate with his parents and his two siblings. It is strange to think that this summer it will be just 7 years away. But, looking at the events of these past months, it feels like that that may be too long to wait. When we can hopefully see these days in our rearview mirror, and our prayers and social distancing maintains good health , I hope a family trip to Israel will be in the plans for me.
Happy 72nd Birthday, Israel. Hope to see you soon.
Rhonda Love is the Vice President of Programming for B'nai B'rith International. She is Director of the Center of Community Action and Center of Jewish Identity. She served as the Program Director of the former District One of B'nai B'rith. In 2002 she received recognition by B'nai B'rith with the Julius Bisno Professional Excellence Award. Rhonda has served on the B'nai B'rith International staff for 41 years. To view some of her additional content, click here.
The Gamaraal Foundation in Switzerland has set up a 24-hour telephone hotline to provide support to Holocaust survivors during the coronavirus pandemic. The hotline can be accessed by calling +41 44 931 37 35 or visiting https://gamaraal.com.
The Gamaraal Foundation was created in 2014 with the mission of supporting Holocaust survivors in need in Switzerland as well as engaging in Holocaust education. The foundation earned the prestigious Dr. Kurt Bigler award for excellence in Holocaust education in 2018, together with the archives of contemporary history at the ETH Zürich.
Many Holocaust survivors show incredible resilience in the current situation. I deeply admire the positivity they show. They say we had much more difficult times. I am so proud of the many dozens of volunteers and the team of the Gamaraal Foundation, which has worked nonstop. Many of the volunteers are students and young professionals, the solidarity between the generations is immense and this is deeply touching. This is so crucial now, more than ever before, heartwarming and overwhelming for me to see. I am immensely grateful to all those giving their time to help.
The gratitude that we receive from survivors cannot be put into words. It goes directly to the heart. Most of our work is listening by phone to the survivors, taking them out of loneliness and isolation. The coronavirus pandemic can evoke painful memories among Holocaust survivors. Some are experiencing renewed trauma – the loneliness and isolation which they face during difficult experiences can be exacerbated due to the past they were forced to endure. Volunteers also assist survivors with buying food or medicine.
With demand for assistance on the rise, the volunteers’ team will be expanded in the coming days.
For more information:
Anita Winter is a B'nai B'rith International Geneva representative and founder and president of the Gamaraal Foundation.
The United Nations is warning countries to undertake all possible efforts to protect civilian populations, cautioning that the spread of coronavirus must not be wielded as a weapon to abuse power.
“Emergency powers should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. “They should be used to cope effectively with the pandemic – nothing more, nothing less.”
At the same time, Bachelet noted that countries are within their rights to implement restrictions to protect public health, but she argued they must be "necessary, proportionate, and non-discriminatory." But when the U.N. speaks of “proportionate,” it immediately calls to mind the disproportionate judgement and speeches replete with rhetorical flourishes that the body is known for.
Bachelet warned that the U.N. is aware of numerous reports that authorities across different regions have used excessive force by attempting to enforce lockdowns or curfews, and these situations have been happening in the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population. She also called on states to safely release people who have been detained for violating emergency measures, arguing that putting people in jail for breaking curfew has the reverse effect.
Georgette Gagnon, the office's director of field operations, described in an online policy briefing with reporters how many countries are responding excessively to the virus.
In particular, she pointed to the “heavy-handed” and “highly militarized” security response to the virus in places like South Africa, where they have seen authorities using rubber bullets, tear gas, water guns and whips to maintain social distancing in shopping lines.
Gagnon identified other places (the Philippines, Peru, Honduras, Sri Lanka and El Salvador) that are also displaying “highly militarized" responses to those who violate curfew or lockdown orders or excessive detention.
It may look encouraging that the High Comissioner and the Human Rights Office is concerned about the violation of human rights in the world today, and every day. But it is not real. The accusation of abuses does not include Venezuela, Cuba and Iran. So nothing is changing. The Human Rights Council (HRC) and the High Commissioner are again endorsing – this time with silence – what happens in those countries which are the greater abusers of human rights.
Moreover, there has not been one word from the Office of the High Commissioner about the ongoing campaign of accusations of conspiracy against Israel and against the Jewish people. When Bachelet speaks about violations against freedom, she should have condemned the vicious message of hatred from Iran, the Palestinians,and their proxies accusing the Jews of the pandemic. These accusations were spread in the Middle Ages for the “Black Death”.The silence of the High Commissioner is unacceptable.
Although it is one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world, and the most brutal in the Americas, Venezuela is a member of the HRC. Is this a reason why the High Commissioner did not mention Venezuela in her speech against those who are human rights abusers in this pandemic?.
In Venezuela, in mid-March, the country’s health system was collapsing. Hospitals have closed or are operating at a fraction of their capacity, many without regular access to electricity or water. The public health infrastructure is so weak that in 2019, Venezuela had the world’s steepest rise in malaria cases. Vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and diphtheria have already returned long before the epidemic hit.
It is difficult to know how many coronavirus cases are in Venezuela. Maduro´s regime announced on April 30th that there have been only 10 coronavirus deaths and only several hundred cases. It is hard to believe, but both U.N. political agencies and the World Health Organization accept Venezuela’s official numbers as truthful.
In such a dangerous context, every country neighboring Venezuela is concerned with its own battle against the epidemic, and the Venezuelan humanitarian tragedy is not the main issue. Instead, Colombia and Ecuador are focused on protecting their own interests and closing their borders.
Venezuela’s health care infrastructure is so weak that the most basic recommendation—handwashing—is difficult even for health care providers, who work under difficult conditions. The Venezuelan doctors and nurses say that soap and disinfectants are virtually nonexistent in their clinics and hospitals. Public hospitals in Caracas, the capital, are also suffering regular water shortages. In remote hospitals, the shortages have lasted weeks to months. Patients and personnel are required to bring their own water for drinking and sometimes for flushing toilets.
This is the country that holds a seat in the HRC, and this is the country that the High Commissioner “forgets.” The High Commissioner’s omission is even more egregious because today Venezuela is worse than ever in its humanitarian crisis.
Bloomberg reported this week that “Out of cash and desperate for help in propping up its oil industry, Venezuela is raiding its gold vaults and handing tons of gold bars to its long-time ally Iran, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. Government officials piled some 9 tons of gold -- an amount equal to about $500 million -- on Tehran-bound jets this month as payment for Iran’s assistance in reviving Venezuela’s crippled gasoline refineries, For Iran, the deals provide a fresh source of revenue. For Venezuela, they ensure that its supply of gasoline doesn’t totally run out.The sanctioned Tehran-based carrier Mahan Air has flown more than half a dozen jets to the South American nation in the past week alone. Most delivered gasoline additives, parts and technicians to help repair a key refinery along Venezuela’s northwestern coast. Meanwhile, Mahan has sent other planes to the international airport outside of Caracas, where they are loaded with the gold bars to take back to Tehran.”
What benefit does a collapsed Venezuela provide (health, economy, insecurity) to the HRC? Of course, none. Just a confirmation of the unfortunate role of the commission and those who silently accept the unacceptable.
Anti-Semitism has not vanished due to the pandemic. It can still be seen on social media and in several countries. The Iranians traveling every week to South America through the open doors of Venezuela is not new, and it is not the first time it has happened. But in the time of pandemic, the Iranian presence and Hezbollah´s presence present a clear and present danger of more anti-Semitism.
Unfortunately, this is another issue that the High Commissioner is not speaking about when she says she is worried with increasing dangers to freedom in Latin America.
Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International Director of Latin American Affairs since 1984. Before joining B'nai B'rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, click here.
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