The Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should have been the most important event during the 46th General Assembly in Santo Domingo. It is the first instrument in OAS history to promote and protect the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
But the situation in Venezuela was the main issue discussed, both on and off the record.
Next week, Permanent Council will convene to discuss the report on Venezuela, made a month ago by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, invoking the Democratic Charter.
Since then, Venezuela started a face-to-face fight between the secretary general and the Venezuelan Government.
During the General Assembly, Venezuela presented a resolution to diminish the secretary general’s role. Among the proposal’s “resolves” are:
To express its profound concern at the conduct of the Secretary General of the Organization, Luis Leonardo Almagro Lemes, especially his abuse of authority and exceeding of the powers conferred on him under the OAS Charter and the General Standards to Govern the Operations of the General Secretariat, and at his violation and lack of respect for the Code of Ethics of the General Secretariat
To urge the Secretary General to abstain from any activity, regardless of whether or not it is specifically prohibited by the General Standards to Govern the Operations of the General Secretariat, that may result in, or give the impression of resulting in: a) Giving preferential treatment to any organization or person; b) Losing complete independence or impartiality of action; c) Making an administrative decision without observing established procedures; d) Adversely affecting the good name and integrity of the General Secretariat.”
To request the Permanent Council to report to the General Assembly at its forty-seventh regular session on compliance with this resolution.
Venezuela is attempting to diminish the secretary general because he is the only one denouncing, in detail, the ongoing violation of human rights by Maduro´s regime. His 132-page report, which will be discussed next week, has been compelling and emphatic.
There is a very deep division between the ALBA countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela) and a group of 15 countries which want to find a real solution to the the Venezuelan people’s is suffering. Those 15 countries decided to issue a statement before the end of the OAS GA, a sort of a preamble for the meeting of the Permanent Council next week.
Statement by Ministers and Heads of Delegation on the Situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States of America and Uruguay
We, Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), reaffirm our commitment to the Charter of the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which proclaims that “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it”, and our commitment with the respect of the principle of noninterference, universal principles and values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech and association;
If the OAS Permanent Council rejects the request of the secretary general to move forward and stops the violation of human rights in Venezuela, Almagro will not be defeated, but OAS will.
In the last decade, Iran has penetrated Latin America, Hezbollah has the freedom to move inside Latin America and it is all happening in Venezuela.
There is no real judiciary system, no freedom speech and far too many politic prisoners.
After so many years, OAS has used its secretary general to speak out. The statement of the 15 countries is cautious, but it is a step forward. How many more steps are they ready to advance? Today, it is uncertain.
In the private meeting between B’nai B’rith International and Secretary General Almagro in Santo Domingo during the OAS GA, Almagro was very clear when he told us that he will not answer to more insults and threats; he follow OAS rules and defend the respect of the Democratic Charter.
Now, the Permanent Council will have to show its commitment to democracy next week.
Caregiver Support Bills: Protecting Social Security Benefits for Those who Leave Work to care for parents, children, Relatives
Over the last few years there have been several bills that would expand or improve social security benefits. We believe this is important because Social Security is the most secure retirement income vehicle we have, and for the majority of retirees it is their primary or only source. Some of these bills have been broadly designed to close the Social Security funding gap while addressing inadequacies in the benefit structure while others are focused on specific issues, like the lack of credit given to family caregivers.
These are people who take months or years out of the workforce to provide unpaid care to their parents, children or other relatives. For a variety of reasons, those workers have traditionally been women (though that trend is beginning to show signs of change). By staying out of the work force for a few years to take care of kids early in their careers or doing it (again) later in their careers, women’s social security benefits are disadvantaged in several ways. First, leaving the work force for any period of time can impact the trajectory of your career. In fact, this pattern of leaving the workforce and being the one primarily responsible for childcare is often cited as one non-discriminatory reason that women earn less than men. By working for lower wages, women earn less in Social Security benefits.
So, people (primarily women) are likely to see reduced benefits—and this is a population that is already likely to live longer and have lower benefits anyway! That’s one reason to find a way to give people some Social Security credit for the years they are out of the workforce. Another reason is this: as a country we want—we need—to encourage family caregiving. As many of you know, as well as I, we do not have much of a long-term care system in this country. Families with a relative who needs help with daily activities have limited options. Most Americans do not have long term disability insurance, and it can be very difficult to afford it. Medicare doesn’t cover most long-term care expenses in a home or a facility.
For many families, the most cost effective—or only—option is for someone to take off from work to care for their parent. According to AARP’s public policy institute, family caregivers provide nearly half of a trillion dollars in care each year. Though they are generally not paid, they are working, and they are providing a service both to their families and the country as a whole.
Therefore, we should find a way to prevent this critically important caregiving role from diminishing the retirement security of caregivers. Americans overwhelmingly support the idea of a Social Security caregiver credit (click here to read more about it). The caregiver credit proposals in Congress (notably those from Senator Chris Murphy and Representative Nita Lowey) include giving credit for months out of the work force, based on a formula as if the person had earned a wage (generally a percent of the average wage). There are also bills emerging this year that would do the same, but only for parental caregiving for children, which is good, but not good enough. This would certainly not replace earnings credit an average or high wage worker would have achieved back in the work force, but it can at least prevent those $0 years from slashing benefits in a “high 35” formula.
B’nai B’rith International is very pleased to see these bills as part of the conversation in Congress, even though 2016 might not be the most productive legislative year, given all attention being focused on elections. As a nation we depend on family caregivers, and the least we can do is help make sure that the men and women who perform this service are protected in retirement.
Photos via Flickr (1) (2)
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.
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.
As another year’s U.N. General Assembly’s General Debate session has recently wrapped up, B’nai B’rith has concluded our annual round of meetings with presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers at the sidelines of the UNGA session.
This week of meetings gives B’nai B’rith leadership access to world leaders and an opportunity to engage in advocacy on core issues of importance to B’nai B’rith, most critically: the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people throughout the world, and our concerns about the Iranian nuclear deal and Iran’s continued support for terrorism.
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.
For anyone who has served in the Israeli army or who has children in active service, the viral video from an August 28 altercation between a lone Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier and a swarm of Palestinian women and children pummeling, clawing and biting him in an eventually successful effort to free 12-year-old Muhammad Tamimi—who he intended to arrest for throwing stones at troops—was emotionally wrenching.
Having just arrived that morning back to a sweltering Israel after a holiday in pleasantly cool Norway and pastoral Scotland, the images of this soldier left on his own for long minutes by his comrades as he tries to shake off the assailants—aided by some foreign instigators—while he is filmed from every possible angle by multiple still and video cameramen—left me with a sinking feeling.
This leads one to ask what can be done to better protect soldiers caught in this situation, and what best practices can be employed to counter such Palestinian-initiated, staged clashes, while unfriendly cameras are whirring and snapping away in a game of gotcha employed by much of the media covering the territories.
Indeed the staged—and therefore predictable—nature of the incident was recognized even by the Daily Mail and the Telegraph, two British newspapers that are quick to tar and feather Israel at every turn, usually without looking back, that were forced to change their initial critical headlines and even to remove the report entirely from their web site when it became clear that the soldiers' assailants are known provocateurs, particularly his teenage sister Ahed and their radical parents.
Some Israeli commentators such as Nachum Barnea in Yedioth/YNet used the incident to bemoan again the debilitating impact the "occupation" is having on the State of Israel and its young soldiers; others see an entirely different message in the images—that the fearlessness with which Palestinian women and children accost an Israeli soldier armed with an assault rifle proves that they know full well that even when being hit, wrestled to the ground and nearly disarmed, he will not use his weapon, debunking claims of widespread brutality.
A look at longer YouTube posts of the incident tells a more nuanced story, still undoubtedly partial and skewered: Nebi Salah, where the encounter took place, has been a focus of violent Palestinian demonstrations for a number of years. Fridays are their favorite days for instigators to drum up a few women and children, perhaps with the promise of monetary remuneration, to march down the short access road out of the village toward a spring over which the village and a nearby Jewish settlement, Halamish, have been feuding for years.
The video shows a handful of Palestinian young men using the children and women as cover as they target IDF troops in the distance using potentially injurious high-velocity slings. The troops respond with tear gas as the Palestinians use their slings also to throw the canisters back at the troops.
Eventually, the troops advance uphill on the group when the 12-year old is caught by the soldier. These are scenes that have repeated themselves almost every Friday (I was witness to one about three years ago), which have raised renewed calls to train and deploy for just these kinds of situations.
That incident at Nebi Salah seems to have been a teaser for what has snowballed in recent weeks into a significant spurt of Palestinian stone and Molotov cocktail throwing in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, resulting already in one death of innocent Israeli motorist Alexander Levlovitz in Jerusalem, injury to a woman whose car overturned in Samaria and damage to cars, buses, train carriages and homes.
A flashpoint of the disturbances is the Temple Mount where both the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas have been agitating for violence in an apparent attempt to disrupt Rosh Hashanah and traditional Jewish mass pilgrimage to the Western Wall during the Jewish High Holidays and to revive attention to the Palestinian issue that has been overshadowed by events in Syria and the European refugee crisis.
Just weeks ago, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas called for violence by praising 'martyrs' spilling blood in Jerusalem to prevent Jews from entering the Temple Mount, saying, "the Al-Aqsa is ours...and they (Jews) have no right to defile it with their filthy feet." Israeli officials have reportedly blamed Turkey for hosting senior Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri who is responsible for remotely organizing terrorist attacks and funding the organization's incitement of Palestinian youth to attack Israelis.
Granted the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, has been the focus of much more Jewish interest in recent years, stoking general Muslim hysteria going back nearly a century about imaginary Jewish plots to undermine the mosques there. But this is a poor excuse.
In recent comments, Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan has accused Islamic rioters of barricading themselves in the Al Aqsa Mosque and turning Temple Mount into a "terror warehouse," stockpiled with makeshift bombs and rocks to use on police and Jewish worshipers in the Western Wall plaza below. He vowed to meticulously maintain the status quo under which all those who wish to visit Temple Mount will be allowed to do so.
In a rare emergency Friday meeting a few weeks ago, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee authorized the call-up of 10,000 reserve Border Policemen in order to quell the violence. Other measures that are being considered are imposing a 100,000 NIS bond on the parents of all minors convicted of stone throwing that will be returned only if the child commits no further offenses for a year, reintroduction of the less-lethal Ruger small caliber gun for use by security forces and tighter restrictions on entry onto the mount by Palestinian agitators and lawbreakers. Recent restrictions, that permitted only men over 40 to enter, seem to have worked the trick and the crowd dispersed without incident after noon prayers.
True to form, Arab countries, even those Israel maintains close diplomatic relations with—Egypt and Jordan—and those who, it was thought, might be silent allies in the future against their common enemy Iran—were quick to join the choir condemning only Israel.
The U.N. Security Council played into this attitude the week before last, passing a unanimous statement that failed even to mention Palestinian violence and referred to the Temple Mount only by its Arabic name. Israel’s United Nations Ambassor Ron Prosor reacted aptly to the Security Council statement saying that “When the Palestinians set the Temple Mount ablaze, Mahmoud Abbas fuels the fire, and the Security Council fans the flames, it is a recipe for a regional explosion.”
The coming days will tell whether the measures instituted by the Israeli government will quell the unrest that put a general damper on the Jewish High Holiday spirit and caused untold pain to the family of Alexander Levlovitz, and other injured Israelis. Short of a miracle, the only choice left to Prime Minister Netanyahu is to meticulously uphold the status quo that allows Muslims to pray and non-Muslims to visit what is potentially the most explosive site in the world, bar none.
Just in recent days, a drive by shooting killed two young parents in front of their four children. In another attack, two Jewish men were murdered by Palestinian terrorists and a teenager was seriously wounded. With Palestinian terror attacks on the rise, Israel’s military needs to ensure it has appropriate responses in place.
Alan Schneider is the director of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, which serves as the hub of B'nai B'rith International activities in Israel. The World Center is the key link between Israel and B'nai B'rith members and supporters around the world. To view some of his additional content, Click Here.
B'nai B'rith International has widely respected experts in the fields of: