Most of my professional life has been spent creating and running programs for B’nai B’rith International, having spent the last 39 years as a member of the professional program staff. I cannot look at a newspaper, magazine article or television show without thinking about how the subject can be utilized as a program. As social media brings this content to us at a rapid fire pace, I get this information even faster. The challenge is putting this content into perspective and seeing that there are some issues that will always be relevant for a program that will interest a B’nai B’rith audience.
As the years go by, the specifics may have changed, but I see each program taking form as a six point star (especially since it makes a very nice visual on a power point presentation!).
You do not have to be a trend spotter or a programmer to see these subjects as important to people. It is most likely a topic that is important to you. In B’nai B’rith, these topics are reviewed by the program centers and committees that provide content for the events that are brought to B’nai B’rith and the community audiences.
We have also offered an interest census to help us understand what is important in programming. The topics come from the themes mentioned above, the news headlines, or as we see them defined during an election year, the topics that are on political party platforms. It may have been a recent lecture topic at other organizations or the result of the consensus of coalitions we are part of, to provide a thematic approach to a subject for the Jewish community to educate itself and act with a unified communal response.
Across Latin America, Iran presents itself as a very normal country wanting to deliver its culture and share it with ordinary people.
Mosques and cultural centers want to show Iran´s point: “We are peaceful and we want to spread peace all over the world.”
Iran wants to distract from its nuclear race and the terrorist attacks in Argentina in 1992 and 1994.
Venezuela opened its doors to Iran 10 years ago and Iran took advantage of it, directly or through Hezbollah in South and Central America. But, Iran envisioned that allies like Venezuela or Bolivia may not endure forever as authoritarian regimes, so it has also advanced its agenda with mosques and missionaries.
Tehran’s use of clerics as unofficial agents of the Iranian revolution started in the 1980s and Latin America was not forgotten in this field. The first cleric to reach Latin America was Mohsen Rabbani, who, in 1983, went to Argentina to lead the Al-Tawhid mosque and serve as a halal meat inspector in Buenos Aires. Both tasks appeared innocent, but Rabbani was deeply involved in the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured over 300.
In 1984, Sheikh Taleb Hussein al-Khazraji made his way to Brazil. Both Rabbani and Khazraji were cited by the Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman (found dead in his apartment a year and a half ago, two days before he was expected to present criminal charges against the former Argentinean President Cristina Kirchner) in his 2013 report on Iran’s Latin American networks.
According to Nisman, “Interpol [Brasilia] informed that Khazraji was an employee of the Iranian government and ... was engaged in recruiting highly politicized believers to get them close to Teheran.”
Though Rabbani left Latin America due to the accusation of his involvement in the AMIA bombing, he continues to run his recruitment program from Iran’s center of religious learning in Qom.
Khazraji remains in the Shia community of São Paulo, Brazil, where he pursues his “clerical tasks.”
According to a very serious investigation of Emanuele Ottolenghi, an expert in Islamic penetration in Latin America, “another cleric reportedly linked to Hezbollah is Sheikh Ghassan Youssef Abdallah. Abdallah is active in Chile, in Brazil (frequently visiting the tri-border area), and in Paraguay (where he once ran the Iranian mosque in Ciudad Del Este).”
Ottolenghi explains: “They are not alone. Alongside dozens of Iranian and Lebanese Shia clerics, there is also a new generation of locally born clerics who have joined their ranks. Converts are routinely sent to Qom, all expenses paid, to attend Iranian seminaries specially tailored to Spanish and Portuguese speakers, before they return home to act as Iran’s unofficial emissaries in their countries of birth.”
During his term, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the region numerous times, attempting to influence the region, including: Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Brazil, Nicaragua. Iranian influence and Hezbollah activities use religious envoys to deliver messages of hate toward the Jewish people and Israel.
In June 2014, the Imam Ali mosque in Curitiba hosted a well-attended memorial service for a young Hezbollah fighter killed in Syria in March 2014. His Brazilian uncle, wearing a Hezbollah scarf, led the memorial, and praised his nephew as a martyr.
Latin American governments should recognize the threat posed by a foreign power spreading hatred to local populations.
The bombings in Argentina in 1992 and 1994, the freedom of Hezbollah members to traffic drugs in Venezuela and Central America, the anti-Semitic hatred in social media; the murder of a Jewish businessman this year in Uruguay, stabbed by a converted Islamist who said “he had received a call from Allah to kill a Jew,” are enough examples of hate crime, terrorism and hate speech.
And hate crimes and hate speech are a threat for all countries and their populations. If governments and civil society recognize that everybody is under threat, more tragedies could be avoided.
The Times of Israel ran an op-ed written by B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin on Europe's tilt toward the Palestinian's and how many EU countries help the Palestinians game the the United Nations against Israel in the conflict.
You can read the full op-ed below or click to read it on TimesOfIsrael.com
Through this summer’s din and uncertainty of Brexit, the migration crisis and a wave of terror, Europe has remained constant in one respect: its singular fixation on a wrong-headed policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
If the Middle East were an arrivals and departures board at a train station, the Israeli-Palestinian question would be down somewhere at the fifth or sixth spot, behind the war on ISIS, the Syrian civil war, the Libya fiasco and Iranian hegemonism. All those decades in which the mantra “if you solve the Palestinian issue, all outstanding issues will fall into place,” has been proven to be nothing more than hollow conventional wisdom. The Sunni-Shia divide has become a roiling ocean, creating aftershocks in nearly every corner of the region — and beyond.
For years, the Palestinian leadership has become accustomed to “pride of place” on the issue, picking up supporters and apologists globally, but no more so than in Europe itself. Explanations for this are varied: some countries were concerned at one point about the spread of PLO terrorism in Europe, and sought accommodation with the terrorist organization. Some European governments were driven by ideological considerations and looked the other way at the thuggery, then the obstructionism of the PLO and its successors, while coming down hard on a succession of center-left and center-right Israeli governments. Some European leaders saw themselves as mediators and interlocutors, worrying that a shortage of obeisance to the Palestinian narrative would disqualify them from being “honest brokers.”
Indeed, since its 1980 Venice Declaration, in which the then-EEC (European Economic Community) supported the Palestinian’s call for “self-determination,” Europe has always tilted to the Palestinian side, despite the existence of generally good bilateral relations between a number of European Union (EU) countries and Israel.
As the EU grew in size, some differences in this approach became discernible. After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, a number of the new democracies could be found voting against, or abstaining on issues considered to be biased against Israel at the United Nations (U.N.) and other international fora. Increasingly, though, the demand for consensus in EU voting has seen the voting independence of the former Central and Eastern European states dissipate in the face of pressure from Brussels and from a number of the senior EU member capitals.
The 2012 decision to upgrade the status of the Palestinians to “non-member state”—despite the EU’s call for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, with the object of reaching a two state solution—was supported by no less than 14 EU members. Only the Czech Republic voted against; 12 others abstained. The message to the Palestinian Authority couldn’t have been clearer: why negotiate with Israel when the international community, including key European countries, could do the heavy lifting for it?
Gaming the U.N. system has become a PA specialty.
One recent case in point is a resolution singling out Israel recently adopted at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Assembly in Geneva. The measure, introduced by Kuwait on behalf of the Arab Group and Palestine, singled out Israel for “physical and procedural barriers to health access” in the territories, east Jerusalem and what they call the “Syrian Golan.” The text also cited the “prolonged occupation and human rights violations on mental, physical and environmental health…”
Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians knows that emergency rooms and hospital wards in Israel treat Palestinians on a daily basis. Indeed, the Israeli organization, Save a Child’s Heart, which performs, gratis, pediatric cardiac surgery, has treated more than 2,000 Palestinian children since its inception in 1996. Beyond that, Israel has been treating hundreds of cases of civilians from across Syria who have been wounded in the barrel bombings and other carnage of that bloody war in medical facilities in the northern part of Israel.
And yet, 107 countries supported this libelous WHO resolution, including all 28 EU member states. On a continent where the blood libel against Jewish communities was a prominent fixture of life in the Middle Ages, and on the basis of facts widely known in European capitals, it is both incomprehensible, and reprehensible that Israel should be castigated in this way.
Another recent example of Palestinian influence at the U.N. is the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Executive Board’s vote in favor of a resolution on “Occupied Palestine.” There are 40 points in the resolution, some of it rehashing previous resolutions condemning Israel for all manner of absurd accusations of “desecrating” holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. But this measure makes no reference at all to the Temple Mount, only to its Islamic/Arabic name, Al-Haram Al-Sharif. In the resolution, the plaza in front of the Western Wall is referred to as the Al-Buraq Plaza; “Western Wall Plaza” is noted in quotes only.
This isn’t only a matter of semantics, or “sensitivity.” In the past, the United Nations documents have referenced the holy site by both the name recognized by Judaism and Christianity (the Temple Mount) and Islam (Al-Haram Al-Sharif). This current re-writing of history, and the elimination of both the Jewish and Christian places in that history, was supported by 33 countries overall. Four EU countries actually supported the measure, and five did oppose, with two abstentions. But why was there a division in Europe over this blatant historical revisionism?
To the Palestinians, all of this has a purpose: to erase or delegitimize Israel’s, and the Jewish people’s claim to the land. That European countries, no strangers to either the Jewish narrative on their own continent or to the ancient connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, would, for the sake of diplomatic expediency, dismiss that history with a simple keystroke or a voting show of hands, is unacceptable.
There’s even more counterproductive meddling beyond the U.N. system. Case in point: Last fall’s EU directive to label products from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights prejudges an issue (settlements) that belongs in a direct negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians. The EU itself, as a member of the Quartet (which also includes the United States, the United Nations and Russia), wants to have it both ways. Calling for face-to-face negotiations but siding with the Palestinians before those talks have even begun on this issue.
This all amounts to flawed diplomacy. Those European countries which engage in this kind of voting behavior or in extra-curricular diplomacy could better spend their time encouraging the Palestinians to end their quixotic sullying of Israel, rather than enabling it. These resolutions set back what remains of the peace process, they don’t advance it. Palestinian expectations are inflated when Europe backs these initiatives, and in Israel, the belief that it can never get a fair break at the U.N. and other international fora is reinforced.
It’s time for Brussels and other European capitals to send a simple message to Ramallah: if you’re serious about peace, get to the table. If not, there is no shortage of crises to occupy our time and attention.
The Australian Jewish News ran an op-ed written by B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission Chairman Dvir Abramovich reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the Israeli raid on Entebbe, and how international terrorism and the way it's handled has changed over that time.
Mariaschin is visiting Australia and will deliver the 2016 B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission Gandel Oration.
You can scroll down to read the op-ed or click below to read it on the Anti-Defamation Commission's website.
Award Winning Author David Goldblatt on History of Soccer and the Olympics; Hungarian-Jewish artist László Moholy-Nagy Featured at Guggenheim
Goldblatt’s Guardian feature is written about Uganda, presenting an in-depth examination of the ways in which team spirit and disciplined athleticism has led to, among other positive outcomes, an effective and powerful self-governance by inmates of the Luzira prison, who must endure harsh deprivation, but who are inspired to recreate their lives from their love and commitment to the institution’s soccer teams and clubs. Goldblatt assisted the men in many ways during his time with them, including the procuring of a goat as one of the prizes for the winners. Here is the author’s take on the men’s transformation:
…Through football, its members have been trying to turn themselves into citizens ready to rejoin a society they damaged. You can read it in their words (referencing the text of a constitution written by the prisoners) and you can see it in their play. Dissent, football’s code word for slagging off (demeaning) the referee, is almost entirely absent. Unsporting behavior of any kind is frowned upon. A red card means a two-month ban from football—an agonizing punishment for any player here
Published by W.W. Norton this summer, “The Games: A Global History of the Olympics” is Goldblatt’s latest contribution to sports studies. Spanning more than 500 pages, the book focuses on the intersection of sports with international events in politics, punctuated by constantly evolving social change, from the first competition organized by French aristocrat Pierre de Coubertin in 1896, up to the present, with the travails faced by the gifted men and women who are participating in the Rio games this summer. Any reader with an interest in history will be eager to learn about the events that transpired while amazing athletes suffered the indignities of gender discrimination, and racial and religious prejudice, but were still able to triumph.
There is little time left to see “Moholy-Nagy: Future Present,” the summer show at New York’s Guggenheim Museum on view through Sept. 7. This fascinating retrospective, devoted to the multi-talented Hungarian Jewish artist László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), focuses on all aspects of his works in highly diverse media including film, his own variations of the photographic process, collage, constructions and works on paper—and is highlighted by primary source documents which shed light on his life as graphic and stage designer in Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna and London, as well as Chicago, where he was director of the New Bauhaus, today known as the Institute for Design.
Influenced by modern European movements including Constructivism—typified by the use of floating geometric form—Moholy-Nagy (pronounced Mo holy Naj) invented new processes for making art, and employed what were then considered cutting edge materials, including Plexiglas, for his delightful sculptures which are displayed suspended in the air, as he intended.
More From Kempler's Culture Blog
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been in the news over the past few months for outrageous attempts by the Palestinians to seek to use the institution to erase Jewish history. These attempts are toxic to any hope of finding a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and put the reputation of UNESCO in grave danger. It is also not a new phenomenon.
In recent years, the Palestinian leadership has pushed a consistent strategy of avoidance of direct negotiations with Israel in favor of internationalizing the conflict. They do this by going to international institutions to attack Israel in the wildly misguided hope of having the international community impose Palestinian negotiating positions on Israel.
One of the first targets the Palestinians set was UNESCO, where, thanks to an automatic majority at U.N. bodies, they were accepted as a member “state,” even though no such state exists. The Palestinians showed their gratitude to UNESCO for this newly-acquired illegitimate “state” status by politicizing the organization as a tool to both erase the Jewish connection to our people’s history in our ancient homeland, and to advance the Palestinian narrative. This was not necessarily a new strategy (for instance, in 2010 the UNESCO Executive Board passed a resolution declaring the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb as Palestinian holy sites), however it was ramped up.
The Palestinians quickly moved to place the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as a World Heritage site in the “State of Palestine,” and moved to place it on a list of heritage sites in danger, even though there is no threat to the church, unlike sites of ancient civilizations in other parts of the Middle East that have seen wholesale destruction. Following the Church of the Nativity, the Palestinians also convinced UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to place Battir, a town south of Jerusalem that sits on the 1949 armistice line, on the list of heritage sites in danger.
By far the most dangerous of the games played at UNESCO by the Palestinians is the attempt to strip Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel, from Judaism and the Jewish people. The Temple Mount, the section of Jerusalem’s Old City where the ancient Temple was housed before its destruction, first by the Babylonians and then by the Romans, is the holiest site in Judaism.
What is undeniable, unless, that is, you are a UNESCO delegate from certain countries, is the connection between Judaism and this site. It is the center of our collective heart. The site is also important for Christians (who also know the site by the name the Temple Mount) and Muslims (who refer to it as Al-Haram Al-Sharif). UNESCO resolutions have taken to calling the site only by its Arabic name and described it as a Muslim site, ignoring millennia of Jewish history.
More on the United Nations and its Agencies
As if this was not appalling enough, the Palestinians even had the gall to try to claim the Western Wall (the Kotel in Hebrew) as well. Last October, the Arab Group presented (on behalf of the Palestinians) a resolution to the Executive Board that said the Western Wall Plaza (referring to it as “Al-Buraq Plaza,” an uncommonly used name) was an “integral part” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (which sits atop the Temple Mount). An international uproar ensued, and the offensive language was removed from the final (and still deeply-flawed) resolution.
But the attempt at historical revisionism has not ceased. The following Executive Board session, in April 2016, passed a resolution that referred to the Kotel plaza in the following disrespectful way: Al-Buraq Plaza/“Western Wall Plaza.” The UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in July 2016 copied this language on the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, as if the Palestinians can simply get UNESCO to disregard historical fact by repetition.
Why are the Palestinians and their fellow-travelers trying to re-classify the Western Wall (and when that fails, rename it)? It comes back to the Temple Mount. The Western Wall is the sole remaining still-standing structure of the Temple compound. It is the retaining wall on the western edge of the compound. It is an inconvenient reminder for the Palestinians, who have their own aspirations for a capital in Jerusalem, that the heart of the city is deeply and fundamentally tied to Jewish history and the Jewish people.
All of the UNESCO moves by the Palestinians are part of a broader strategy to rebrand history so that it fits within the Palestinian narrative while at the same time trying to erase the Jewish ties to Jerusalem. It won’t work. Jerusalem is holy to three religions, of course, but the link between Judaism and Jerusalem is unique in history. By seeking to use UNESCO resolutions to loosen the ties between Judaism and Jerusalem, the Palestinians will only succeed in sullying UNESCO’s reputation.
Analysis From Our Experts
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