Israel’s top UN envoy blasted UNESCO’s attempt to water down its controversial bi-annual Jerusalem resolution, reaffirming that Israel planned to leave the organization at the end of the year.
Danny Danon spoke after the 58 members of UNESCO’s executive board in Paris hid language disavowing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem in the lengthy annex to an otherwise short benign text called Resolution 28.
The statements in the resolution’s annexes are “further evidence, for anyone who did not understand why the United States and Israel withdrew from UNESCO," Danon said.
The board gave its preliminary approval to that text on Wednesday, with a final vote likely to be held on Monday.
UNESCO’s director-general Audrey Azoulay lauded the use of an annex text to bypass some of the controversy caused by the Jerusalem resolutions in past years.
“I wish to thank those who have worked to achieve this, especially the representatives of the Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian delegations, and all members of the Executive Board who supported this agreement, as well as the European Union,” Azoulay said.
A similar compromise had been reached at the April Executive Board meeting. At the time, the Israeli and the Palestinian delegations accepted the annex compromise, with Jerusalem welcoming Azoulay’s efforts to downgrade the anti-Israeli tone of the agency.
It’s understood that the Israeli delegation at UNESCO in Paris approved the compromise language this time as well.
Previous UNESCO resolutions had ignored Jewish ties to its most holy site, the Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as Har Habayit, referring to it solely by its Arabic-Muslim name al-Haram al-Sharif.
But this resolution’s annex modified some of that tone, stating that while Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron “are an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the two tombs “are of religious significance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”
In addition, it affirmed the importance of the “Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions.”
The board gave its preliminary approval to that text on Wednesday, with a final vote likely to be held on Monday.
The idea of placing controversial statements about Israel in an annex was conceived by by Azoulay with an eye to depoliticizing the organization.
She also hoped to sway Israel and the United States to rescind their decision to leave the organization at the end of the year.
The resolution’s annex allows for votes on controversial statements to be delayed to further meetings of the board, which gathers twice a year.
Applause broke out among board members when Resolution 28 and another one on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called Resolution 29, were approved by consensus.
After the meeting Azoulay, said: "I would like to commend the spirit of dialogue and the sense of responsibility that led to this result. A trend towards consensus is now emerging. It is based on the presence of all parties around the table at UNESCO and, of course, on their goodwill. These factors have come together in recent months and have enabled the Secretariat to play to the full its role as mediator.”
Still Israel believes that resolutions with such texts politicize UNESCO and should not come before the board altogether.
Danon dismissed such watering down efforts as too little, too late, saying the resolution “proves that UNESCO is a body based on lies and biases, and is deliberately acting against us. The State of Israel will not be a member of an organization that is trying to rewrite history and willing to be manipulated by our enemies.”
The enmity between UNESCO and Israel is so bitter that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to attend a UNESCO event condemning antisemitism.
UNESCO held that event earlier this month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, when Netanyahu was in New York.
At the time, Netanyahu said, “In withdrawing from UNESCO in 2017, Israel and the United States made a clear moral statement that UNESCO’s antisemitism will no longer be tolerated.
“If and when UNESCO ends its bias against Israel, stops denying history and starts standing up for the truth, Israel will be honored to rejoin,” Netanyahu said.
Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Dr. Shimon Samuels told The Jerusalem Post that ‘the big question is what now? What will happen after Israel leaves? I believe that the role of all the Jewish groups accredited to UNESCO will become significantly more important, in confronting such challenges.’’
Samuels noted that Azoulay is keen on enhancing the agency’s relations with the Jewish world, but that without Israel as member state, this might prove difficult.
Still, the Jewish organizations, he said, are committed to take up the job of defending the cause of Israel and world Jewry in UNESCO.
Representative of B’nai B’rith Stephane Teicher told the Post that Jerusalem believes that delaying these resolutions each time is not a solution.
“I understand that,” he said.
Teicher noted that at the executive board, “everybody was relieved that such an issue was resolved through consensus. And this is to the credit of Audrey Azoulay, who has deployed significant efforts to de-politicize the agency.”
Israeli and Palestinian delegates to UNESCO refused to comment, though an Israel source told the Post that Israel recognizes the efforts made by Mrs. Azoulay to change UNESCO”s attitude.
A statement put out by her office on Wednesday noted that in this past year 12 resolutions on the Middle East had been arrived at by consensus, “after negotiation between the parties, facilitated by the UNESCO Secretariat.”
Read the original version in the Jerusalem Post here.
Nikki Haley, who has been the face of the Trump administration’s strong stances in support of Israel, has resigned as ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday.
A former Republican governor of South Carolina, Haley, who has served as U.N. ambassador since the beginning of the Trump administration, will step down from his position at the end of year.
U.S. President Donald Trump had apparently know of her decision for a while before her announcement. He said that “she’s done a fantastic job, and we’ve done a fantastic job together. We’ve solved a lot of problems and we’re in the process of solving a lot of problems.”
Haley responded that the United States is now respected again on the world stage, while listing tackling anti-Israel bias as one of her top accomplishments.
“They get it when the president says he means business,” she said. “If you look at the anti-Israel bias and the strength and courage the president showed in moving the embassy.”
Trump said the search for her replacement will happen in the next few weeks.
Haley has received widespread support from both Israeli officials and the American Jewish community for her strong support of Israel at the world body, which has been a hotbed of criticism of the Jewish state for decades.
“We appreciate the new spirit of ambassador Nikki Haley; she has been very important and helpful,” Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon told JNS earlier this year. We work very closely with ambassador Haley and her team. We see similar issues, and understand the challenges and threats. That’s why you see the cooperation because we come from the same values.”
Early on in her tenure as U.N. ambassador, Haley made it clear that she would no longer tolerate anti-Israel bias at the world body. During a March 2017 speech to AIPAC, declared herself as the U.N.’s “new sheriff in town” and declared “the days of Israel-bashing are over.”
‘A steadfast friend of our community’
“Nikki Haley is a great champion of human rights, of U.N. reform and for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship,” said Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president and CEO of B’nai B’rith International. “She called out the bias against Israel time and again, and spoke directly about the hypocrisy and politicization that pervades the organization. A steadfast friend of our community and of Israel, we hope we’ll continue to hear her voice on the many issues she has championed.”
Michael Makovsky, president and CEO of JINSA, said that he “deeply regrets” her resignation. “She quickly became a rock star, strongly advocating for U.S. positions on all matters in the U.N., including championing Israel and consistently defending it from the constant barrage of hypocritical attacks in that body, and as well as highlighting Iran’s many transgressions. Americans owe Amb. Haley our deepest gratitude, and welcome her return to public service at some date.”
Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Jewish Policy Center, said she is “saddened by the resignation of Ambassador Nikki Haley as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She has been a strong, articulate voice for our country, our interests and our allies—not only our ally Israel, but most particularly Israel. In the face of enormous pressure from U.N. institutions with built-in biases against Israel and the United States, she never lost her composure while never missing an opportunity to stand for what is right. While we wish her well in her future endeavors, she will be sorely missed by Americans and others who treasure plain-spoken truth.”
During her 2018 address to AIPAC, Haley again received an overwhelmingly positive response, getting numerous standing ovations from the pro-Israel crowd.
“Some people accuse us of favoritism towards Israel,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with showing favoritism towards an ally; that’s what being an ally is all about. But in all that we’re doing, our approach on Israel is tied to one major idea—the simple concept that Israel must be treated like any other normal country.”
“We appreciate the strong leadership of Ambassador Haley,” said AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann, “and we thank her for consistently standing up for American interests and our democratic ally Israel.”
During her time at the United Nations, Haley presided over the U.S. pullout of UNESCO and the Human Rights Council, citing their bias against Israel as the reason.
Additionally, the United States also announced that it would end funding to UNRWA, the U.N. agency that handles Palestinian refugees, accusing the organization of corruption and perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Despite the United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv in May, Americans born in Jerusalem are still unable to list “Jerusalem, Israel” on U.S. passports.
“The president has made clear that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to final-status negotiations between the [Israelis and the Palestinians],” a State Department spokesperson told JNS. “We have not changed our practice regarding place of birth on passports or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad at this time.”
A group of 55 House Republicans sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump several weeks ago, urging him to instruct the State Department to permit American citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birth country on their passport.
“Despite the progress in moving the embassy, the State Department has not yet fully implemented the administration’s policy of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital for purposes of registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem,” the letter stated.
Pro-Israel groups weigh in
Jewish and pro-Israel groups expressed concern to JNS over this development.
“We strongly supported legislation that would enable U.S. citizens to declare Israel to be their place of birth should they so desire,” said AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann. “We encourage the administration to adopt this approach.”
“It is deeply frustrating that the State Department ignores the fact that Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran; Arabs face Mecca when they pray, Jews face Jerusalem,” said Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein. “It has never been the capital of any country except Israel. Jerusalem became a slum when under Arab control from 1948-67, and no Arab leader except King Hussein visited Jerusalem during that time.”
“It has been Jerusalem, Israel, for thousands of years according to God, U.S. law and history, but not according to the State Department,” he continued. “Where is [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo on this? Shameful appeasement.”
Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, said “this is inconsistent with his previous message, declaring that ‘Israel, like any other sovereign nation, should have their right to determine its own capital.’ Why should Jewish babies born in Jerusalem continue to remain stateless?”
Daniel Mariaschin, CEO and executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, remarked that the State Department needs to change its policy in accordance with Trump’s. “The president has made clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” he said. “So any U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem is therefore, de facto, born in Israel, and their U.S. passport should reflect that reality.”
Executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein stated that hopefully, this is just bureaucratic resistance that can be pushed aside to right any wrong. “It is disappointing that apparent bureaucratic, or worse, biased judgements are impeding the correction of this historic wrong,” he said. “It does prejudge anything regarding borders or boundaries to acknowledge the place of birth correctly. I hope higher authorities will intervene.”
Apparently, it is advertent bureaucratic resistance inside the State Department, according to Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum.
“Even before President Trump made his announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in a White House backgrounder for analysts, a ranking State Department official made clear that the recognition had no geographic definition, that the complex U.S. position on the city going back to the Corpus Separatum concept in the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, remains entirely in place,” explained Pipes. “Thus did the bureaucracy manage to salvage something from what it considers the wreckage of Trump’s recognition.”
On hold due to upcoming Mideast peace plan
Although Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he has the authority to not have “Jerusalem, Israel” listed on U.S. passports in accordance with Zivotofsky v. Kerry, where the Supreme Court ruled it is solely the president who has the power to recognize foreign entities in accordance with the U.S. Constitution’s Reception Clause.
“Zivotofsky ruled in favor of the executive; he was not required to comply with the federal law,” said constitutional scholar Ilya Shapiro. “Trump, like Obama, can decline to stamp ‘Israel’ on the passport of a citizen born in Jerusalem.”
Washington-based geopolitical strategist and diplomacy consultant John Sitilides told JNS that the administration may be withholding putting “Jerusalem, Israel” on passports due to its much-anticipated Mideast peace plan.
“President Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but is now emphasizing his support for a two-state solution, and is withholding on the passport issue to maximize U.S. leverage as his diplomatic negotiating team finalizes its proposals,” said Sitilides. “He has publicly stated that Israel must be more flexible now that Jerusalem has been recognized, even as he declares that the Palestinian team has nowhere else to go to secure an enduring solution to its perennial issues.”
“Both sides, and all interested parties,” he said, “are holding their breath as the Trump administration prepares to unveil its long-awaited proposals.”
To read the original article in JNS, click this link.
The Trump administration has come under pressure to deny Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas entry into the United States for next week’s annual U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a group that tracks anti-Semitism and terrorism in Palestinian media, petitioned the White House, as well as the State and Treasury departments, to reject Abbas from stepping foot on American soil in accordance with new federal statutes prohibiting international terrorist leaders from traveling to the United States.
“Abbas has also called for the ‘destruction of the house’ of President Trump, and uses almost every opportunity to attack the US, the current administration and its policies,” PMW said in the letter. “There is no doubt Abbas will use his UN address to continue these attacks.”
“While it may be argued that the United States is committed to allow the entry and free passage of certain persons into the US to participate in meetings of the United Nations, that commitment is limited to the ‘Representatives of Member’ States,” PMW continued. “Since Palestine is not a member state of the United Nations, Abbas does not enjoy these privileges and his entry into the US must be specifically granted.”
In the letter, PMW also cited the Taylor Force Act, enacted in March to halt most U.S. assistance to the P.A. for rewarding terrorists and their families, among other reasons to prevent Abbas from being at the General Assembly.
A State Department spokesperson told The Washington Free Beacon that usually, foreign dignitaries must be allowed entry to the United States due to it being the United Nations’ host country.
“I can’t speak to the specifics, but typically, as host nation for the United Nations, the United States is generally obligated to admit foreign nationals traveling to U.N. headquarters in New York for official U.N. business,” the official said.
Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president and CEO of B’nai B’rith International, said “while the United States might be obligated to admit him, his and Palestinian leaders’ repeated justification and glorification of those who carry out acts of terror once again underscore the consistent failure of Abbas as a partner for peace.”
‘Already delivering a powerful policy signal’
Sander Gerber, a private New York financial executive and former board member of AIPAC who was a major player behind advocating for the Taylor Force Act, told JNS that the international community fails to truly understand the Palestinian Authority, and that if “the rest of the world can’t identify [the P.A.] as a terrorist-sponsoring entity, then we really have no hope to control the terrorists.”
“The Palestinians should not be granted an exception and the world … must face the reality that the Palestinian Authority is actually sponsoring terror and should be designated as such,” he stated.
However, Washington-based geopolitical strategist and diplomacy consultant John Sitilides, told JNS that barring Abbas from the United States would be counterintuitive, considering recent punitive measures by the Trump administration against the Palestinians.
“The leading state sponsor of international terrorism remains Iran, whose leaders are permitted to enter the U.S. for United Nations’ purposes. Earlier this year, President Trump met personally for several days with Kim Jong Un, another leading state sponsor of international terrorism,” said Sitilides. “In comparative terms, barring Mahmoud Abbas, with whom Israel seeks to cooperate on a lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian disputes, would be highly counterproductive.”
He added that “the Trump administration’s recent redirection of $200 million in U.S. aid for West Bank and Gaza is already delivering a powerful policy signal of Washington’s great displeasure over ongoing Palestinian activities.”
This op-ed originally appeared in The Hill.
Many Palestinians’ very identity seems more oriented to preserving grievance than to achieving peace. Sadly, with regard to Palestinians’ far-reaching claims on the issue of refugees, as with other key aspects of their conflict with Israel, the United Nations has entrenched itself as a part of the problem rather than the solution. A U.N. body, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), funded by American and other global taxpayers to the tune of billions of dollars, has been dedicated to the perpetuation of Palestinians’ refugee status and their maximalist demands – in addition to more broadly amplifying the political narrative of just one side of one complex conflict.
Fortunately, though, senior American officials now seem committed to rectifying this state of affairs – and the time could be ripe for international backing of the effort. The White House has suspended funding of UNRWA, and is reportedly primed to announce opposition to the obdurate Palestinian posture on refugees. Both Israelis and Palestinians could benefit from these steps, along with prospects for genuine and lasting peace between them.
During and after the first war launched by Arab states against Israel upon its establishment in 1948, some 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled the country. Meanwhile, as a result of the hostilities, at least 750,000 Jews were compelled to leave Arab countries in which they had lived for centuries.
The similarities, however, largely end there. The Jews who fled Arab and other Muslim-majority lands were fully absorbed into Israel and other countries decades ago, restarting their lives despite significant challenges. The Palestinians who were displaced were spurred by Arab leaders to cling to their refugee status – and were widely denied citizenship or even basic rights as residents in Arab countries where they found themselves.
The world’s only Jewish state, Israel – a democratic country barely the size of New Jersey – now has about 1.8 million Arab citizens, not including the residents of the Palestinian territories. In the nearly two dozen neighboring Arab countries, comprising an area of over five million square miles, fewer than 5,000 Jews remain.
Palestinian leaders – from the establishment figures of the Palestinian Authority to the Hamas jihadists controlling Gaza, who openly pledge Israel’s destruction – have cultivated as sacrosanct a Palestinian right of mass “return” not to a future Palestinian state alongside Israel but to Israel itself. They do so knowing that no Israeli government – whether leaning to the left or right – could ever allow this scenario, which would amount not only to perpetual battle but to the eradication through demography of Israel as a Jewish state. Of course, rejection of Jews’ national legitimacy in their homeland is what has caused so much senseless suffering to begin with.
To make matters worse, Palestinians alone have had, since 1949, their own dedicated refugee organization at the United Nations, standing apart from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which focuses on all the world’s other refugees, numbering close to 17 million. UNRWA – one of the longest-lasting entities at the U.N. and likely its single largest bureaucracy in terms of personnel – has also operated under singularly expansive terms, defining as its charges not only actual refugees but all their descendants, indefinitely.
But this double standard is merely the tip of the iceberg. Over the course of years, UNRWA schools teaching a new generation of Palestinians have been found to utilize educational materials negating the existence of Israel and the rights and history of Jews. Repeatedly, UNRWA employees have been found to be associated with Palestinian extremist groups and their doctrines of hate. UNRWA spokespeople routinely promulgate anti-Israel propaganda, broadcasting incendiary, one-sided narratives on both traditional and social media. Multiple UNRWA facilities and their surroundings have even been revealed to have been utilized by terrorists to launch attacks, store weaponry or construct underground tunnels for use in cross-border violence against Israelis. And UNRWA, whose materials tout “Palestine” as if it were already a state even while also excusing Palestinians from any real obligations in peacemaking, has joined in inciting millions to dream of overrunning Israel with a mass Palestinian influx.
Over recent days, reports have emerged that White House officials, echoing bipartisan consensus, are committed to addressing the deep-rooted problems exacerbated by UNRWA and to rejecting Palestinian aspirations to overrun Israel demographically. The desire of an unprecedented number of Arab leaders to focus on foremost current priorities, including modernization and the broadly menacing policies of Iran, may yield some newfound receptiveness.
Ultimately, in a sign of impartiality consistent with the U.N.’s own founding principles, UNRWA’s work should be absorbed into the overall U.N. refugee agency. More immediately, dramatic reform of UNRWA’s mandate and operations is a necessity for restoring U.N. credibility and efficiency, ensuring fair treatment of both Israelis and Palestinians, and meaningfully pursuing peace in the Middle East. Until that long-overdue reform occurs, funds earmarked for UNRWA should be redirected in a manner that promotes, not hinders, regional reconciliation.
For too long, UNRWA has been a primary symbol of discrimination and waste in U.N. agencies that a consortium of nearly 50 Muslim states frequently exploits as political weapons against Israel. Palestinians may certainly continue to receive foreign aid and social services. However, with their utter dependency on the role played by UNRWA – not only in material assistance but also shrill political advocacy – the Palestinians have had little incentive to finally normalize their own circumstances, temper unfeasible demands and reach a mutually just peace with Israel. Indeed, the Palestinian Authority has rejected every sweeping peace proposal put to it.
Palestinians of successive generations have retained refugee status in Arab and other countries some 70 years after a similar number of Jewish refugees were fully absorbed in Israel and elsewhere. This status quo does not serve Palestinians – and it does not serve the cause of peace. It’s time for a change.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is executive vice president and CEO of B’nai B’rith International. He directs and supervises programs, activities and staff around the world. He serves as director of B'nai B'rith's International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, coordinating its programs and policies on issues of concern to the Jewish community. Mr. Mariaschin meets with world leaders, seeking to advance human rights, protect the rights of Jewish communities worldwide, and promote better relations with the state of Israel.
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.
It’s long been an article of faith in the pro-Israel community that the increasing attacks on Israel’s legitimacy that are part of the BDS movement have morphed from anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism.
Now, it appears, the U.S. government agrees.
The Trump administration, in announcing its adoption of a universally accepted definition of anti-Semitism for use on college campuses, could significantly impact how the Israel wars play out in higher education nationwide. If implemented, it would undermine the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement that seeks to isolate Israel politically and economically just as it has been gaining traction on U.S. campuses. And, in an additional step, the Department of Justice is now including Jews within the Title VI definition of groups that are protected from discrimination based on ethnicity.
The decisions were applauded by most Jewish groups this week after the Trump administration announced that they would reopen a case of alleged discrimination against Jews who were charged admission to a free program sponsored by a pro-Palestinian group at Rutgers University in 2011.
The Department of Justice’s new assistant secretary in the Office of Civil Rights, Kenneth Marcus, informed the Zionist Organization of America in an Aug. 27 letter that he has decided to re-examine the case after an earlier complaint by the ZOA had been dismissed. In so doing, he wrote that he would be including Jews within the Title VI definition of groups that are protected from discrimination based on “actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.” Among other groups already included are African-Americans and Hispanics.
“In determining whether students face discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived Jewish ancestry, we rely where appropriate upon widely established definitions of anti-Semitism,” Marcus wrote, adding that the department would embrace one adopted two years ago by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and that was recommended last year for use by the European Parliament.
In the Rutgers case, a $5 admission fee was added, according to an email, because “150 Zionists just showed up.” The email added, “if someone looks like a supporter, they can get in for free.”
Marcus said also in his letter that his office would be opening an investigation of Rutgers to “determine whether a hostile environment on the basis of national origin or race currently exists at the university for students of actual or perceived Jewish ancestry or ethnic characteristics.”
Mort Klein, president of the ZOA, said the action of the pro-Palestinian group, Belief Awareness Knowledge and Action, was clearly anti-Semitic.
“It was a Jew-bashing event that had been advertised as free and [when Jews showed up] they said Jews would be charged,” he said. “That is an example of discrimination because they were Jews. It has nothing to do with their practice of Judaism.”
Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international affairs at the American Jewish Committee, said he did not “know where the review will lead, but it allows the department to say it is employing the working definition of anti-Semitism” that is now widely accepted.
“There was always a question of where the criticism of Israel crossed over to be a form of anti-Semitism,” he said. “Definitions are meant to be guidelines, not etched in stone. Certain expressions can be recognized as being anti-Semitic. That was always the importance of the definition. Now it has gained more acceptance internationally — [Great Britain’s] Labor Party has just accepted it.”
Rabbi Baker noted that “Marcus in his letter says that when you look at a question of whether there is a hostile environment for Jews on campus and how you determine it, the definition is a helpful way of understanding what could be anti-Semitism. Then you have to determine at what point there is a hostile environment [for Jews] and what is the university doing about it. What we saw in the UK is how the word Zionist could be a substitute for Jew. We have said use the definition but be mindful of free speech. And on college campuses there is a significant debate about where free speech should end. …. This is the challenge for every university.”
Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, also welcomed the decision, saying it is a “reflection of the way we look at anti-Semitism in the 21st century. … I believe what we have here is a course correction to what anti-Semitism is. I think for too long the cover of saying this is only legitimate criticism is now being exposed in many cases. This is discrimination based on ethnicity — and now we are going to see more of it” being recognized for what it is.
“The defamation of Israel is so prevalent in today’s battle with anti-Semitism that something like this is to be expected,” he added. [Former Secretary of State] Colin Powell said at a 2004 conference on anti-Semitism that [one has crossed the line] when Israel or its leaders are demeaned or vilified by the use of Nazi symbols and racist caricatures. The most recent definition of anti-Semitism includes denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination by claiming their state is a racist endeavor and applying a double standard by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he too agrees with the Marcus’ decision.
“Every person has a right to criticize anybody else,” he said. “This is a free country. But when the only criticism you ever utter is directed against the State of Israel — and you refuse to do the same for other countries — that is anti-Semitism. It means you have a problem with Jews — and that is also my criticism of the United Nations. Look at its history of U.N. resolutions. … These are not political discussions but a form of bigotry.”
And Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a tweet: “Without prejudging outcome of the process, academic freedom & strongly held political views are not a shield to harass or intimidate students and/or treat them differently because of their race or religion. No matter who is targeted, that’s bias plain & simple.”
But criticism of the decision came from the pro-Israel lobbying group J Street, which said in a statement that reopening the case demonstrates that the Trump administration “is inclined to suppress criticism of Israel on college campuses — even if that means trampling on constitutionally-protected free speech.”
“Its reopening is not about upholding civil rights or a serious effort to combat anti-Semitism, but about advancing a right-wing agenda that seeks to silence open discussion and debate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” it said. “To do so, the Trump administration intends to wield a controversial definition of anti-Semitism that equates criticism of Zionism with anti-Semitism — and which was never intended for use on college campuses.
Ken Stern, the renowned anti-Semitism expert (and former CEO of National Public Radio and lifelong Democrat) who authored this definition, has argued vehemently against its application to college life, publicly opposing proposed congressional legislation that would codify it into U.S. law.
“Stern has written that ‘If this bill becomes law it is easy to imagine calls for university administrators to stop pro-Palestinian speech … students and faculty members will be scared into silence, and administrators will err on the side of suppressing or censuring speech.’ That is likely precisely what Marcus and his backers now intend.”
Echoing that refrain is Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, who told The Jewish Week in an email: “Instead of aiming to address real instances of anti-Semitism, the Trump administration is trying to violate students’ First Amendment rights by shutting down all criticism of Israel.”
“Like any country, Israel is subject to having its laws, policies, and leadership criticized — even if some may disagree with such criticisms, even vehemently,” she said. “At a time when the Trump administration is allying itself with white supremacists, attacking immigrants and refugees, and decreasing enforcement of most civil rights offenses, we do not need bogus policies that shut down campus free speech, while likely stirring up anger against the very Jewish students they purport to protect.”
But Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, insisted that “this case has nothing to do with speech. They were charging $5 for Zionists – meaning Jews.”
He noted that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism has already been adopted by the Senate and that the Wiesenthal Center hopes that “by the end of the session it will also pass the House. If it becomes law, it means we will have a working definition of anti-Semitism” that would not be subject of interpretation by each new administration.
The co-founder of CEO of StandWithUs, Roz Rothstein, said in a statement that at the same time her international Israel education organization “strongly supports free speech, open discourse about Israeli policy, and protections against discrimination,” it applauds the Department of Education “for adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. This definition is already being used by the EU, Canada, U.S. State Department, and most importantly, the majority of the organized Jewish community. The loudest opponents of the definition should stop promoting hate against Israel and the Jewish people, instead of engaging in cynical attempts to avoid accountability.”
The Jewish Broadcasting Service covered the opening of B'nai B'rith International's Disaster Relief Fund to support communities impacted by the California wildfires and the eruption of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. Watch here:
Harold “Hesch” Steinberg, current Disaster Relief Committee chair of B’nai B’rith International, was featured in a recent issue of The Hebrew Watchman. Read about his volunteer work below.
False Claims Made by Massachusetts Bishop Demonstrate Deeper Pattern of Anti-Israel Prejudice Among Mainline Protestants, US Jewish Leader Says
The Algemeiner interviewed B'nai B'rith CEO and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin for its story on Suffragan Bishop Gayle Harris, who publicly asserted having seen Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers commit atrocities against Palestinians. Harris claimed that IDF soldiers killed a teenager by shooting him ten times, and handcuffed a 3-year-old boy whose ball fell over the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The allegations were made during debate over a litany of anti-Israel resolutions considered at the Episcopal convention.
A long-established tendency among US mainline Protestant denominations to “blindly accept and repeat the Palestinian narrative” is ultimately responsible for the fabricated claims of Israeli human rights abuse made by a Massachusetts Episcopalian bishop that resulted in her apologizing over the weekend, a veteran US Jewish leader said on Tuesday.
“Over more than a decade, we’ve seen attempts by mainline groups to adopt BDS resolutions and other one-sided resolutions,” Daniel Mariaschin — the Washington, DC-based CEO of B’nai B’rith International — told The Algemeiner in an interview.
These efforts, said Mariaschin, “have wound up, frankly, at the point where Bishop Harris said what she said.”
Bishop Gayle Harris, who serves as a suffragan (assisting) bishop in the Massachusetts diocese, falsely told the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops in a July 3 speech that Israeli troops had carried out a gruesome execution of a Palestinian teenage boy.
Without citing a location or a date, Harris claimed that after an argument with Israeli troops, the boy had fled in panic.
“They shot him in the back four times,” Harris asserted. “He fell on the ground and they shot him again another six.”
In the same speech, she also claimed — again without any citation — that a three-year old Palestinian child in eastern Jerusalem was handcuffed by the IDF after his rubber ball accidentally bounced onto the Western Wall Plaza, where thousands of Jews worship daily.
Both these stories were fabrications. Over the weekend, Harris said that she had been “speaking from my passion for justice for all people, but I was repeating what I received secondhand.”
She continued: “I was ill-advised to repeat the stories without verification, and I apologize for doing so.”
Harris’ immediate senior, the Rt. Rev. Alan Gates, added that the church “grieve(s) damage done to our relationships with Jewish friends and colleagues in Massachusetts, and (would) rededicate ourselves to those partnerships, in which we are grateful to face complexities together.”
Mariaschin commented that Harris’ original allegations demonstrated “how little she knows about the subject and her judgment.” He continued: “We’re talking here about clergy who exercise a great deal of influence over parishioners and congregants in their communities.” Mariaschin emphasized while the controversy over Harris’ claims “happened to become public, this kind of thing has been going on for years.”
Describing Harris’ comments as a “real time example of repeating lies and taking false information at face value by an otherwise responsible member of the clergy,” Mariaschin said that she “should have known better.”
“If it took her diocese to explain this and she still doesn’t get it, then there is a problem there as well,” he added.
The B’nai B’rith chief warned of a repeat of such controversies as long as “you engage in blood libels like this.”
“This kind of thinking then goes to the annual meetings, where hours and hours on end are spent trading these kinds of stories and exchanging these kinds of opinions, which then wind up in BDS resolutions,” Mariaschin explained. “This has inflicted terrible harm on us over the years.”
A total of eight resolutions attacking Israel were tabled at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in early July, where Harris made her comments.
In one resolution on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations adopted by the convention, the prospect of a so-called “one-state solution” — whereby Israel would cease to exist as a Jewish and democratic state — was raised as a serious option.
Efforts to resolve the conflict “may encompass other solutions such as one binational state or confederation, recognizing that these possibilities are being raised as the material conditions for a two-state solution have deteriorated due to accelerated [Israeli] settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the Oslo Accords [the Israeli-Palestinian agreement of 1993] were signed,” the resolution argued.
JNS included our statement in its coverage of the latest rocket fire from Gaza. Last week Hamas fired more than 150 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli neighborhoods.
Members of Congress and the American Jewish community are reacting to the most recent escalation between Hamas and Israel, with the former firing rockets from Gaza into the latter.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) posted on Twitter, “150 rockets fired at Israel from Hamas and other terrorists last night. 11 wounded. Israel has the right to defend itself from any attacks on its people. These attacks must stop. Hamas’ brutality continues to threaten the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.”
Similarly, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, “strongly condemned” the rocket fire.
“I support Israel’s right to self-defense. No one should have to live under this threat, and no country should be asked to sit on its hands while citizens face a barrage of rockets,” Engel said in a statement.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) said that he stands with Israel.
“As a key national security partner, we must strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself,” Rep. Fitzpatrick said on Twitter. “With the latest rocket attacks, Hamas continues to escalate conflict rather than seek peace.”
“[Tuesday] night in the largest escalation of violence by Hamas since 2014, terrorists fired over 180 rockets into Israel’s southern region injuring innocent civilians,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) posted on Facebook. “These violent attacks by Hamas must come to an end. I stand with Israel in its right to defend itself and protect its people.”
Meanwhile, the Jewish organizations expressed their outrage over the Hamas rocket barrage as well as their support.
“B’nai B’rith International is outraged by the Hamas rocket barrage against Israel, and we stand in solidarity with the Jewish state,” said B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin.
The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations also expressed solidarity with Israel.
“We express solidarity with the people of the State of Israel who have been consistently terrorized by the rocket and mortar attacks, incendiary balloons and border infiltrations carried out by members of Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza,” said chairman Arthur Stark and executive vice chairman/CEO Malcolm Hoenlein. “Since May 2018, nearly 650 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip targeting Israeli population centers, and, in the last 24 hours alone, over 150 rockets have been launched, representing only the latest examples of violence in Hamas’s violations of international law, civic and human rights.”
“We support the measures taken by the government of Israel to protect and defend civilian lives, and hope that its actions will bring about a swift end to these indiscriminate attacks,” continued Stark and Hoenlein. “No country would or should put up with these violations of its territorial integrity or security of its citizens.”
A ceasefire mediated by Egypt was reached between Israel late Thursday evening.
“We look forward to the day when the residents of Israel’s south can live in peace and without constant threat,” said Stark and Hoenlein.
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