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 The General Assembly officially rescinded the resolution in December 1991, after much diplomatic effort by Israel, the United States and other allies, along with B’nai B’rith International and the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.
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