The B’nai B’rith offices house many of our organization’s artifacts from previous eras. One such artifact is the Zionism is Beautiful B’nai B’rith button (pictured), from a time when walking around with a political button on a coat or a bag was more fashionable. The pin was a direct and unambiguous response to the U.N. General Assembly’s infamous vote on resolution 3379, which declared that Zionism, the national movement for self-determination by the Jewish people in our ancestral homeland, was a form of racism and racial discrimination.
This shameful resolution, passed 40 years ago this month, was rock bottom for the U.N. in its blind moral hypocrisy when it comes to matters relating to Israel. The U.N. had turned into an environment hostile to Israel long before this vote, but this vote was the nadir of the relationship. The recovery from this low point was slow and is still very far from complete.
Only 28 years earlier, the General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution proposing that mandate-era Palestine be partitioned into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Yishuv—the Jewish pre-state institution—accepted the resolution and declared the independence of the State of Israel. The Arab states rejected the resolution and launched a war seeking to annihilate the fledgling Jewish state.
By passing a resolution declaring Zionism as racist in 1975, the General Assembly was now on record that the national aspirations of the Jewish people were no longer legitimate.
It took 16 years to remove that blight from the record. The General Assembly officially rescinded the resolution in December 1991, after much diplomatic effort by Israel, the United States and other allies, along with B’nai B’rith International and the worldwide Jewish community. It remains one of the few resolutions to ever be officially revoked. The resolution’s shadow of outright bigotry, however, will forever remain as a stain on the U.N. and continues to influence proceedings at the world body to this day.
A mere decade following the repeal of 3379, the world again confronted undisguised anti-Semitism at a U.N. forum at the 2001 Durban World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), which notoriously devolved into an anti-Israel hatefest. The NGO conference at Durban opted to include the vile “Zionism is racism” lie in the NGO conference’s memorandum, which led to the memorandum’s rejection as unacceptable. The official declaration of the conference, however, mentions only Israel; no other member state was deemed worthy of inclusion in the document, which is still used at the U.N. as barometer for member states on “progress” in fighting against racism. B’nai B’rith, as the largest Jewish delegation at the WCAR, led by then B’nai B’rith International President Richard D. Heideman, was witness to, and spoke out forcefully against, the hijacking of a U.N. forum for the purpose of anti-Semitism.
And since Durban, the U.N. drumbeat against Israel has continued unabated. Resolution after resolution excoriates the state of the Jewish people, the sole true democracy in the Middle East. It is difficult to grasp the full extent of this sickness, as the obsession with Israel manages to infect many of the U.N.’s institutions, not just overtly biased General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions. Meanwhile, conflicts far more deadly—even genocides—have raged throughout the world and received scant attention at the General Assembly compared to the obsessive focus on Israel.
I keep the pin at my desk and look at it with pride as a reminder of B’nai B’rith’s historic and continuing role at the U.N. We speak the truth to the U.N. in the face of hatred towards Israel or ignorance about it. When the U.N. passes a repulsive and ludicrous resolution equating Zionism and racism, B’nai B’rith speaks up and lets the world know that this is an outrage and a complete moral inversion. Zionism is the return to our national home from forced exile after enduring a nearly 2000 year Diaspora experience often marked by rampant discrimination and recurrent violence. Zionism is a millennia-old fulfillment of the Jewish people’s hopes and prayers. Zionism is beautiful!
Indeed, it is anti-Zionism—the denial of the Jewish people to the right to self-determination that is guaranteed to all other peoples of the world—that is a form of blatant racism and discrimination. The world should mourn whenever institutions are commandeered to pass evil resolutions that inscribe anti-Semitism in the international record.
Oren Drori is the Program Officer for United Nations Affairs at B’nai B’rith International where he supports advocacy and programming efforts that advance B’nai B’rith’s goals at the U.N., which include: defending Israel, combating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and promoting global human rights and humanitarian concerns. He received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota in 2004 and an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago in 2006. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
Medicare Open Enrollment is happening now and continues through Dec. 7, 2015. Anyone with Medicare can change health plans, switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan (MA) or from MA to Original Medicare. You can also switch from one MA plan to another during this time. People with Original Medicare (or an MA plan that doesn’t include prescription drug coverage) can also add or change their Part D (prescription drug) plan selection at this time.
If you are happy with what you had last year you can usually just do nothing and you have the same plans for next year. However, since plan details can and do change, it’s important to first check that your plan still suits you. For both Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, it’s important to check on plan changes through the Medicare.gov website. Remember to think about not only plan changes but about how your life, health, location, preferences and prescriptions may have changed—is the same plan still right for you? Tools at the Medicare website will ask you to enter your prescription medications so you can compare Part D plans and make sure yours is still a good deal for you, so write down a list before you go to the website.
Location, Location, Location
Some MA plans and some Part D plans are only available in certain areas of the country—if you are planning to move, give the tool your new location and let it tell you what plans work there, too.
Don’t miss open enrollment
For the most part this is the only time you can switch your Medicare choices. There are a couple of exceptions though:
> Sign up or change plans by click here.
> Information on Special Enrollment Periods can be found here.
> Click here for Medicare Supplement plans “Medigap” information.
Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D has been the B’nai B’rith International director of health and aging policy since 2003 and the deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Senior Services since 2007. Before joining B'nai B'rith International, she taught politics and government at the University of Puget Sound and Georgetown University. To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
Other priorities will likely be to restore the rule of law and the balance of power between the country’s democratic institutions; dismantle and/or reform highly corrupt agencies associated with the state; and try to dismantle a huge clientelistic structure that has drained the resources of the state. Of course, job creation and the improvement of the health and education systems are top priorities as well.
Macri has presented himself during the campaign not as a savior or someone all-powerful but as a leader who will work together with many others in order to help people live better and achieve their goals. This is a very different political style than the one of his predecessor Cristina Kirchner, which was much more personalistic.
When it comes to foreign policy, this administration will probably strive to improve the country’s relations with the free world, including of course the United States, and to distance itself not only from the Latin American neo-communist bloc (which includes countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia) but also from regimes such as Russia, Syria and Iran.
When it comes to the interests of the global Jewish community, I believe that we can safely say that the new government will work to invalidate the infamous Memorandum of Understanding signed by Cristina Kirchner with the Iranian regime, and will strive to make sure that the AMIA case doesn’t die. Also, because of the declarations made by many members of Macri’s inner circle, it is probably also safe to expect that they will work to make sure that the truth about the “mysterious” death of AMIA case Prosecutor Alberto Nisman finally comes to light. Relations with the State of Israel will very likely improve as well.
In sum, this election brought some fresh air to a country asphyxiated by corruption, clientelism and authoritarian rule. It is my sincere hope that the new administration is able to bring real change and put the country back in the path of the world’s modern and real democracies.
Adriana Camisar, is an attorney by training who holds a graduate degree in international law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School (Tufts University). She has been B'nai B'rith International Special Advisor on Latin American Affairssince late 2008, and Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs since 2013, when she relocated to Argentina, her native country. Prior to joining B'nai B'rith International, she worked as a research assistant to visiting Professor Luis Moreno Ocampo (former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court), at Harvard University; interned at the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs; worked at a children's rights organization in San Diego, CA; and worked briefly as a research assistant to the Secretary for Legal Affairs at the Organization of American States (OAS). To view some of her additional content, Click Here.
“And if a foreigner sojourns with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. Like one of your citizens shall be the foreigner who sojourns with you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
“And you shall guard your lives exceedingly” (Deuteronomy 4:15)
Long before this past weekend’s terrorist attacks in Paris, French and other Western European Jews acutely felt the conflicting pulls of an instinctive empathy for the plight of refugees but also of a particular vulnerability to the security risks accompanying a substantial, let alone uncontrolled, influx of migrants and others from the Middle East. These Jews bear memories of not only the Holocaust but also, often, their own immigrant experiences originating in North Africa and elsewhere. On the other hand, the eventual arrival in Europe of a very large Arab-Muslim population was marked by the dwarfing of domestic Jewish communities’ relative size; much more importantly, the growth in numbers of the Middle Eastern newcomers, rarely as well-integrated as their counterparts in the United States, correlated directly with a continuous intensification of anti-Jewish hostility and violence.
As a result, the focal point of continental anti-Semitism has decisively shifted from Eastern Europe, where “traditional” religious and ethnic animus long pervaded, to Western Europe, to which the Middle East’s toxic anti-Zionism was, already well prior to the recent waves of asylum-seekers, imported in significant volume by the immigrants. Critically, moreover, many of these immigrants were the product of societies that make little distinction between “Zionists” and Jews in general: stark Pew Research Center surveys have found negativity rates of over 90 percent toward Jews--not even simply Israelis—in most Muslim-majority countries the group examined.
And so, with publicly wearing yarmulkes or Star of David pendants having increasingly become a genuine safety hazard in much of France and Western Europe, Jewish anxiety over the expanding presence of Islamic radicalism predates the current moment of collective European alarm. What has over recent months fragmented and stymied European officialdom as a massive humanitarian, socioeconomic and political challenge—the flood of Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans and others crossing Europe’s shores and borders—could easily have been recognized by many European Jews as also being a signal security crisis. Over recent months and years alone, after all, they experienced shootings at a Jewish school in Toulouse, the Jewish museum in Brussels and a bat mitzvah celebration in Copenhagen; open expressions of anti-Semitism in Malmo, London and elsewhere; and a litany of attacks in the French capital, whose large Jewish population has slowly declined through aliya, that included the gruesome kidnapping and murder of Ilan Halimi, a synagogue besieged, a Jewish woman raped and (in the shadow of the Charlie Hebdo killings this year) Hyper Cacher grocery shoppers slaughtered.
Meanwhile, the one Western European country where, for obvious historical reasons, overt bigotry toward both “Zionists” and Jews still remains substantially inadmissible, Germany, is for those same and additional reasons bearing the lion’s share of European absorption of Middle Eastern refugees—refugees that, at some 800,000 this year alone, will alter Germany’s demographic landscape, quickly constituting around 1 percent of the country’s populace. If history and the fundamental rules of politics are any guide, many of these immigrants will not so easily depart even if the severe upheaval in their homelands is ever settled, and they will inevitably exert influence on their adopted countries’ societal culture and political policies—including those impacting to what degree Jews still consider Europe a viable and hospitable home, as well as those with regard to the unceasing jihadist onslaught faced by Israel. Sadly, too many French and Belgian policymakers, whose countries were most directly impacted by this week’s tragedy, have frequently failed to afford the Jewish state the principled, unwavering support and solidarity that they have received following atrocities that lack any legitimate justification.
But if the latest carnage in Paris has provided searing affirmation for those fearing the “overrunning” of Europe by people who might include more of those committed to striking Western civilization from within, Jews in particular could not and cannot help but be indelibly impacted by other images that have emerged from the Middle Eastern exodus to Europe over recent months. The sights and sounds of refugee families traversing hundreds of perilous miles by sea and on foot, desperately cramming into overheated trains or reception camps—in one country, migrants even briefly had numbers written on their arms by local officials—have been, plainly, unbearable. And the photograph of three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach cried out to the collective conscience of humanity.
Reports now indicate that at least one of the perpetrators of this past weekend’s Paris attacks may indeed have infiltrated Europe on the pretext of (or hidden among those) seeking asylum. But, real security threats notwithstanding, international unresponsiveness cannot be the lot of all those genuinely seeking nothing but to escape their hellish circumstances at home and to find for their families a better life. The solution to their predicament, and that of those responsible for the welfare of the migrants’ intended destinations, is not at all clear. It should be remembered, though, that while many Middle Easterners do hail from settings where antagonism to various Western values, and certainly to Jews, is common, the vast majority of these individuals are not themselves disposed to engage in violence. And, certainly, a deep divide between people will not be overcome simply by ignoring or wishing away immense human suffering, especially that of innocents.
However it ultimately grapples with next-door calamities that continue to spill over onto its terrain, Europe—not enjoying the distance provided by oceans that bring some security even in an age of air travel that is easy and online communication that is even easier—is not likely to be the same as it was five or 25 years ago. And, with enduring implications for the vital and historic Jewish presence on this continent, Jews are likely to continue to be the first to experience trends that stand to remake Europe as a whole.
In striving to preserve both their societies and essential human values, European leaders cannot be envied for the policy dilemmas that they face. It should by now be clear, though, that morality and security alike require equally confronting the scourge of violent fanaticism irrespective of whether it targets Israelis or Frenchmen, Jews or simply anyone. In a globalized world, ideological wildfires cannot easily be contained in someone else’s domain.
David J. Michaels is Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs at B'nai B'rith International, where he began working in 2004 as Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President. A Wexner Fellow/Davidson Scholar, and past winner of the Young Professional Award of the Jewish Communal Service Association of North America, he holds degrees from Yale and Yeshiva University.To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider delivers a speech to New Knesset Caucus (Hebrew)
B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider delivers a speech (Hebrew) at a conference held at the Knesset to launch a new caucus. Schneider warns against the increasing missionizing of Jews that is taking place today in Israel by outwardly pro-Israeli Christian groups.
The current wave of Palestinian terrorism that has targeted Jewish Israelis across the country, particularly in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria but also in central Israel, has taken Israelis by surprise. Starting on April 15, 2015 with a car ramming that killed Shalom Yohai Sherki (age 25) at a bus stop at the French Hill intersection in Jerusalem and critically wounded a young woman, and then picking up steam with the murder of Eitam and Naama Henkin on Oct. 1, the wave—that has largely taken the form of knifing attacks but also includes car rammings, rock and Molotov-cocktail throwing against moving vehicles and drive-by shootings—has left 15 Israelis dead and some 150 wounded. In addition, wide-scale rioting on Temple Mount and at Judea and Samaria friction-points, and also for a time in Israeli Arab towns, have caused deep apprehension among Israelis and have forced changes to their daily and leisure activities. Still, even in Jerusalem, I can attest that at least when I have been out and about during day and night, Israelis are not hiding at home. Millions are taking public transport to work and school, restaurants are still relatively full and cultural events continue unabated. And in our particular reality, where Jews and Arabs mix widely at work, at school and in the public sphere, it was not particularly surprising that the chief surgeon who saved the life of a 13-year old Jewish boy knifed by two teenage Palestinian terrorists on Oct. 12 was Professor Ahmed Eid.
Taking April 15 or any other date as the kick-off point for this wave of terrorism—or the “Third Intifada” as some prefer to call it—is arbitrary and only serves to point to our short collective memories; 1,282 Israelis have been murdered since Sept. 2000 (the “Second Intifada”) in terrorist attacks, among them suicide bombings that took the lives and injured dozens at a time. And only five months before Sherki’s murder, five rabbis at prayer and one traffic policeman who came to their rescue were shot and butchered in the Kehilat Bnei Zion synagogue—the last victim, Rabbi Haim (Howie) Rothman, succumbing to his wounds only last week.
Standing in the front line of defense, Israel Police and Border Police have to be credited for responding quickly and assertively to the changing landscape posed by the new form of terrorism—no longer organized attacks that utilize material and infrastructure that could be detected and thwarted by Israeli intelligence assets in Judea and Samaria (rebuilt since Israel’s "Defensive Shield” operation of 2002 launched in reaction to the Second Intifada when the IDF was at a disadvantage after these assets were abandoned under the Oslo Accords) but impulsive “lone wolf” attacks on Israel’s roads, streets and bus stops with little or no intelligence signature. The officers’ increased presence and quick reaction in neutralizing the terrorists, along with the heroism of many bystanders, have saved lives. At the same time, some say that the government response was not as quick as needed in adopting and implementing more general policies aimed at taking the battle to the opponent’s territory to deter future attacks, such as house demolitions, curfews, travel restrictions and other means that are being widely advocated by concerned Israelis. Government spokesmen have explained that such measures could have the opposite affect and lead to frustration by the bulk of Palestinian population that has not yet participated in riots or violence. A similar dispute arose this week between Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon and Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan, with Erdan arguing against relinquishing the bodies of killed terrorists to their families for burial—funerals that inevitably turn into anti-Israel hate fests and opportunities for promoting further radicalization—and Yaalon insisting that retaining the bodies in the hope that they can be used in future swaps serves no purpose and only enrages the masses.
Local Arab rejection of Zionism and the reestablishment of a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel can be traced back to the first large-scale Arab riots of 1920, led by none other than the notorious Haj Amin el-Husseini. Then, as today, the immediate trigger for the violence was incitement by the local Arab leadership that “al-Aqsa is in danger.” In pre-state Israel it was el-Husseini (who despite his conviction for fomenting the riots that left six Jews dead and 200 injured, was released and appointed Grand Mufti the following year by the British authorities) who inspired and organized Arab pogroms. Today the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Jihad Islami and an assortment of other terrorist organizations who lionize him do the same, utilizing mass media and social media to carry graphic images extoling martyrdom to every Arab household and cell phone, overheating religious fervor and driving individuals to violence. This extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic indoctrination pervades Palestinian society already aroused by the tragic fallout of the Arab Spring and by the atrocities of ISIS.
Although the recent attacks have been undertaken mainly by “lone wolves,” the instigators cannot be acquitted of responsibility for both the Jewish and Arab deaths in the current wave of violence. As detailed in a recent report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, a research institute with close ties to Israel’s intelligence community, Palestinian politicians and media commentators continue to exploit the events to promote Palestinian national objectives, with the PA favoring continued violence and terrorism based on the concept of "wise popular resistance" – the kind that can be maintained over time with increasing and decreasing levels of intensity, on the assumption that eventually the Palestinians will exhaust Israel and force it to make political concessions; and Hamas that calls for turning the "popular arising" into an "armed intifada" in which shooting attacks, abducting IDF soldiers as bargaining chips and suicide bombing would be combined with military-type terrorist attacks to launch the “Third Intifada.”
The sheer scope of Arab demonization of Israel has led Ambassador Alan Baker, director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former Israeli ambassador to Canada, to conclude in a recent article that “Arab anti-Semitism is not only a matter of government manipulation, Islamist demagogy, organized propaganda, social backwardness, or raw, primitive hatred – though all of these elements are indeed present. It has cultural and intellectual legitimacy. Moreover, the ubiquity of the hate and prejudice exemplified by this hard-core anti-Semitism undoubtedly exceeds the demonization of earlier historical periods – whether the Christian Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, the Dreyfus Affair in France, or Tsarist Russia. The only comparable example would be that of Nazi Germany, in which we can also speak of an ‘eliminationist anti-Semitism’ of genocidal dimensions, which ultimately culminated in the Holocaust.”
As Israel marks 20 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the current wave of violence has reinforced the deep confusion and cognizant dissonance felt by all Israelis, except for the most ideological committed on the Left and Right, about the future prospects for peace and security as the country also faces looming threats from ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas along its borders. A recorded message from President Obama and a live appearance from former president Bill Clinton at Saturday night’s rally marking two decades since the assassination—both of whom seemed, to many, to place the onus for the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian peace making on the Israeli government—rang particularly hollow in the face of continued Palestinian rejection of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s offer for condition-free negotiations and their failure to build on successive Israeli concessions to develop a trajectory for peaceful coexistence. Rabin’s parting, and therefore principal, legacy, the Oslo Accords with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat -remain a point of deep contention within the country and seem particularly valueless in the prevention of incitement, noted repeatedly in the Accords and subsequent agreements as an essential element to achieving any peaceful resolution to the conflict.
One of the more recent examples came on official Palestinian television on Oct. 23 when PA Chairman Mahmud Abbas' advisor on Islamic Affairs and Supreme Shari'ah Judge Mahmoud Al-Habbash demonized Jews and Israel in a sermon using classic anti-Semitic hate speech, presenting Jews as "evil" and Israel as "Satan's project." According to the reliable Palestinian Media Watch, Al-Habbash described the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as an expression of "the historic conflict" between "good and evil, between two projects: Allah's project vs. Satan's project."
It is hard to envision how any progress can be made until a different kind of discourse prevails or is enforced.
Anyone with an interest in connecting to their heritage through the arts owes a debt of gratitude to the Milken Family Foundation’s Milken Archive of Jewish Music, established in 1990 to support the recording of over 50 CDs, surveying the music of the American Jewish experience, in all diverse aspects. These 50 themed recordings include well-known, rarified and rediscovered repertory ranging from sacred prayers and chants to raucous numbers popularized in Yiddish musicals. Conceived as a virtual textbook, the Foundation’s website is a place where visitors can educate themselves by accessing extensive essays, podcasts and videos in which the works are described and contextualized, and by reading about the composers, as well as the musical groups and soloists featured on the recordings. The website also provides the opportunity to hear excerpts from all of the music, which can either be purchased in its entirety on CD, or played free of charge on Spotify.
Available now is the recently released A Garden Eastward: Sephardi Inspiration, an album of orchestral and chamber pieces and settings of prayers, folk songs and liturgical texts for chorus and soloists by modern composers who both revere and breathe new life into the centuries-old musical traditions associated with Jewish life in Spain and the Middle East.
Variously performed by Jascha Heifitz, guitarist Eliot Fisk, the New York Virtuoso Singers and the Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia, selections written by Italian émigré Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, contemporary composers Simon Sargon and Bruce Adolphe, the Israeli-born Ofer Ben-Amots, and others make use of the same sources, but each demonstrates a stylistic aesthetic which is original, and often, unique.
(Photo courtesy of Jewish Lives Biography Series, Yale University Press)
Underwritten by the Leon D. Black Foundation, Jewish Lives Series, published by Yale University Press, is also raising the bar on the study of Jewish culture for the general reader by producing high quality biographies of men and women who have all impacted the course of literature, sports, science, religion and numerous other fields, from biblical times to the present day. In 2014, the Jewish Book Council recognized the initiative by honoring the series as a whole with its Jewish Book of the Year Award.
Since 2010, Jewish Lives has garnered praise for its studies of King Solomon, Albert Einstein, Emma Goldman, Primo Levi, Hank Greenberg, and other eminent Jews. Newer entries include books focusing on the accomplishments of two Frenchmen: historian and sociologist Pierre Birnbaum’s work on Leon Blum, the now almost-forgotten but important socialist leader and Zionist noted for his successful effort to improve the lives of the working class as his country’s prime minister during the 1930s and 1940s, and Marcel Proust, by critic Benjamin Taylor, who analyzes the rarified atmosphere of Remembrance of Things Past in the light of the great 19th century novelist’s affinity with his mother’s Jewish background, and the intensity of his reaction to the Dreyfus Affair, when he actively campaigned for the captain’s acquittal.
Readers can look forward to future additions by the late British biographer David Cesarani (Benjamin Disrael)i, to be published in spring, 2016, and author and journalist David Rieff’s Robert Oppenheimer.
(Photo courtesy of Jewish Lives Biography Series, Yale University Press)
Analysis From Our Experts
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