In mid-June the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) made a so called “urgent” meeting to discuss the “violence at the border between Gaza and Israel.”
Everybody knew before the meeting that there was a “resolution” already agreed by an automatic majority to condemn the Israeli government for “disproportionate use of force” — a political show without legal consequences, but a show nonetheless.
But those who were ready to condemn Israel received a U.S. proposal for adding an amendment with a very clear text: condemn Hamas and its terrorist attacks against the Israeli border.
We all remember that the motion got 66 votes and 42 abstentions, but it was defeated by a technicality to be included in the original proposal of resolution.
If we consider the votes against Hamas plus the 100 abstentions, it shows that this is a step forward that those 100 countries, in one way or another, are recognizing that Hamas is a terrorist organization.
More than a month later, violence at the border has not diminished. Hamas has been attacking Israel, burning the Israeli territory with balloons, kites and everything in its power; launching rockets; killing Israeli soldiers by snipers and making the situation each day worse and each day closer to a war.
Has the U.N. reacted to these ongoing attacks by Hamas? Of course not. On the contrary, statements by high U.N. officers are disgraceful and one-sided, blasting Israel for defending its borders according to international law, and forgetting that Hamas is a terrorist group that again and again is publicly claiming for the destruction of Israel and the slaughtering of the Jews.
In this hopeless context of the U.N., Latin American countries have no better attitudes than certain EU countries or China. But the key moment to learn how far Latin American countries can go in Israel bashing, was given a month ago during the voting on Hamas as a terrorist organization.
It was no surprise that rogue regimes like Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia supported Hamas. Venezuela is safe haven of Hezbollah and has opened doors for its terrorists endangering the whole region.
Abstentions from Argentina, Chile, Panama or the Dominican Republic were surprising, but at least they were different from Venezuela or Cuba.
Guatemala, Honduras, México, Paraguay, Perú, clearly condemned Hamas.
The question that we have to make to ourselves is what kind of thoughts were in mind in Brazil and Uruguay when they decided to vote against the U.S. proposal and directly and indirectly endorsed Hamas.
Since when do democratic governments support terrorism? Difficult question; hopeless answer.
In the following month after the UNGA meeting we are mentioning, no country that supported Hamas in the voting had said a word of apology or something similar. So, it was not a diplomatic “mistake” or a diplomatic “accident.” It is real that the governments of these countries believe that attacking 30,000 people with weapons at the border of a democratic country is not a violation of international law. They are saying that Israel has no right to defend its existence, its people and its properties. They are also saying that the big lie that the Hamas attacks are “peaceful demonstrations” is not a lie for them.
Those who voted for the infamous resolution last June 14 in the General Assembly — including of course those from Latin America who decided to be partners of the infamy — wanted at that moment to increase the violence against Israeli soil and keep Israeli civilians in shelters almost every day. If they wanted the situation as such, they have succeeded.
Bitter and shameful success.
Israel is beyond the charade and will keep its integrity defending its right to protect its borders and its people.
Those who have voted for terrorists will know they are wrong, sooner or later. Either way, it will be too late to explain to its own people such terrible mistake.
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.
MASHAV — Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation — this year celebrates 60 years of critical development work in fields ranging from agriculture to health and from community development to entrepreneurship. As a part of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the agency set out with the aim of transferring expertise to developing countries that have assisted Israel on its own path to development. Today, Israel cooperates with over 132 countries providing trainings in Israel and abroad, and operating long-term on-site projects.
The guiding principles of MASHAV are directly informed by and intertwined with Jewish value of “tikkun olam.” It provides the foundation for Israel’s commitment to contribute to the fight against poverty and global efforts to achieve sustainable development, and it is reflected in our own mission at B’nai B’rith to dedicate resources to make the world a safer, more tolerant and better place. Fundamentally, we agree that development cooperation can and should be used to forge bonds of peaceful cooperation between Israel, the Jewish community and our neighbors.
David Ben-Gurion, the founder and first prime minister of Israel, recognized the importance of development work as both a moral and a political issue for Israel. Even in the early 1950s, shortly after gaining precarious independence, Israel’s leaders knew that their experience was relevant for Africa. Foreign Minister Golda Meir set out with the blessing of Ben-Gurion to establish close relations with emerging African countries and to fortify those relations with material assistance through MASHAV.
Though the nascent state of Israel was still very much a developing country itself — dealing with food security, hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who had been forcibly expelled across the Middle East, water scarcity and a plethora of health and social ills — they understood the value of their expertise for young emerging countries facing similar challenges. Israel was still a growing country but had already so much to offer in the way of knowledge regarding agriculture, water conservation and equality in the labor force.
Due to such similar conditions Israel has been, and effectively still is, a laboratory for development solutions, and indeed makes the nation well positioned to support sustainable development worldwide. That Israel is able to serve in this capacity with such a small budget is a remarkable testament to the ingenuity and values of the Jewish state.
What started as a modest program focused on grassroots-level human capacity building — at a time when Israel itself was still very much a developing country — blossomed into an extensive program of cooperation throughout the developing world with the aim of ensuring social, economic and environmental sustainable development.
With a presence in countries all around the world, one of the pillars of B’nai B’rith’s own work is helping communities. Our disaster relief program has raised funds to help the victims of disasters around the world since 1865. While not first responders ourselves, we work closely with first responders in answering the call to the world’s most pressing emergent challenges.
B’nai B’rith has made its own contribution to Israel-Africa ties by helping to establish and sustain IsraAID — the largest Israeli civil society organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid around the world. In Africa, we have partnered in response to famine, the Ebola crisis and the Kenyan school massacre.
IsraAID was established as a partnership between Israeli and Diaspora Jewish organizations — including B’nai B’rith. In its 17 years, IsraAID has engaged in hundreds of projects in dozens of countries around the world, bringing Israeli professionals and volunteers to assist in solutions to natural and man-made disasters.
The impact of these combined development efforts is two-fold, as Ben-Gurion suggested: both in the direct development outcomes, but also in establishing closer ties for Israel and the Jewish people around the world. In the work of B’nai B’rith, the impact of MASHAV is far reaching and often presents in unexpected places. Many of the diplomats that we engage in our advocacy work — based in Washington, D.C., New York at the United Nations and abroad — have participated in a training program by the agency. MASHAV is a pioneer in institutionalizing this type of “aid diplomacy” and we consistently see it reflected in our relations with foreign governments.
The return on investment has been immense, and the program continues to be a remarkable success. MASHAV’s signature approach is truly a model for the world.
Sienna Girgenti is the Assistant Director for the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy and Director of the Cuban Jewish Relief Project at B'nai B'rith International. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
As most Americans are aware, our country is fighting an opioid epidemic that claims thousands of people’s lives a year. What may surprise you is that sometimes, grandma and grandpa are the ones selling drugs in your neighborhood. I imagine some readers are saying, it’s not possible that “grandparents” are the drug dealers on the streets of America! Unfortunately, due to a variety of unfortunate circumstances relating to economics and vulnerability, some seniors, have resorted to selling drugs.
Maybe more than any other population group, seniors have relatively easy access to prescription drugs. Obviously, older Americans more so than younger people, because of their physical condition, are more regular candidates for potent prescription medication. For example, according to the American College of Preventive Medicine, elderly people make up 13 percent of the American population but receive one-third of all prescribed medications. Considering how accessible prescriptions drugs are for seniors, older persons are in a unique position to turn around and sell their medication. However, according to Sharon Walsh, director of the University of Kentucky Center for Drug and Alcohol Research, seniors are not dealing drugs in the traditional sense, but rather selling these pills to a network of family and friends.
So, what’s going on with seniors that make them more likely to sell their drugs? First countless seniors live on a fixed-income in addition to being riddled by poverty. Keep in mind this money has to be stretched every month for basic expenses like housing, health care, nutrition and transportation. Imagine only having $1,000 a month to live on. Unfortunately this helps to explain why seniors supplement their income through illegal streams. Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, County Drug and Alcohol Director Steve Ross issued a report stating, “Our seniors are in a very volatile state right now because what we’re learning is that there are a number of seniors out there who are selling the prescription painkiller to pay for their other medications and/or for food.”
Furthermore, seniors have fallen prey to younger, more sophisticated drug dealers who purposefully target the elderly. Because of their easy access to prescriptions, drug dealers promise seniors money in exchange for their medication, which the drug dealers will later sell for large profits. According to a report by the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network, “Reportedly, dealers stand outside of drugstores and approach seniors about selling their prescriptions, or dealers will convince a senior to go to the doctor and fake pain to get a prescription.” The report goes on to state, “If the senior agrees, the dealer will drive the senior to the doctor and to the pharmacy to fill the prescription and will then pay them.” “That's the only way they (seniors) can make ends meet.”
With seniors turning to selling drugs to pay for their basic necessities, are grandma and grandpa going to jail? While, elderly Americans are being arrested for their unfortunate role in the opioid crisis, prosecutions are uncommon, and when prosecuted sentencing is light. Captain Jeff Orr, president of the Ohio Task Force Commanders Association said in reference to older drug dealers, “If we get information about sellers, we are following up on it. Are they going to prison for it? No. They are being diverted to probation at that age.”
While it’s comforting to learn that our grandparents aren’t doing hard time, the mere thought of them being arrested and thrown in the back of a police car should make people pause.
So what is being done to combat the opioid epidemic in our country? While the White House and Congress have taken steps to combat the opioid crisis, I think our elected leaders in Washington, D.C. would be better served if they more thoroughly investigated the root causes of why people sell drugs. Specifically, as it relates to this issue, why seniors need to sell drugs to earn enough money for their basic necessities. Clearly many older Americans are financially strapped. Consequently, the policies which the administration and some members of Congress have endorsed, such as cutting financial resources for health care and affordable housing programs that benefit seniors, could make elderly people more impoverished and more susceptible to selling medications.
Common sense dictates if we want to get seniors to stop selling their medications then we should enact laws that provide them with the financial security they need, so they are not tempted to sell drugs to pay for their rent, health care or food.
Evan Carmen, Esq. is the Assistant 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.
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