The Times of Israel covered B'nai B'rith International's reaction to President Trump's State of the Union address. While commending the president for his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and for his disapproval of the Iran deal, the statement expressed concern with the impact of tax cuts on key social safety net programs for seniors. The statement also stressed the need for a bipartisan deal on immigration.
US Jewish organizations on Tuesday offered mixed reactions to US President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, with many praising him over his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and for underlining the danger posed by Iran, while criticizing his stance on immigration, tax cuts, healthcare, and religious liberties.
B’nai B’rith issued a statement saying it “salutes President Donald J. Trump for his steadfast support of Israel during his State of the Union address,” adding that “the refusal of the global community to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s rightful capital has long been objectionable.”
“Israel is the only country in the world whose choice of a capital is not internationally recognized. We commend this administration for its unequivocal support of Jerusalem and for reviving the US-Israel relationship,” it said, referring to the US president’s December 6 declaration.
However, the organization expressed “disappointment” with Trump’s tax cuts and the administration’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act healthcare program, known as Obamacare, saying the act had “done a commendable job of keeping health care premiums for older people somewhat in check.”
In his 80-minute address, Trump vowed to pursue immigration policies that focus on the “best interests of American workers and American families.”
“Americans are dreamers too,” Trump said.
His remark came as 700,000 immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, the so-called “Dreamers,” risk losing their protected status while the White House and Congress square off over their fate.
On immigration, B’nai B’rith called for “both parties to agree on a plan for comprehensive immigration reform.”
But other Jewish groups expressed strong criticism of Trump’s rhetoric around the need for immigration reform, including the US president’s equation of immigrants with criminals and economic tension and call on a packed joint session of Congress to enact hardline restrictions.
Trump lamented that for decades, “open borders” had allowed “drugs and gangs to pour into” the United States, and again called for the construction of a border wall that remains unfunded in Congress.
“The United States is a compassionate nation,” he said, “but as president of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, and my constant concern is for America’s children, America’s struggling workers, and America’s forgotten communities.”
The Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS) tweeted that “closing our doors on those seeking refuge or in need is not what we stand for. It is NOT the American way.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed similar sentiments.
“Justice delayed for immigrant youth is justice denied,” it said in a tweet. “Congress must take action to pass the #DreamActNow. Our children deserve a future where equal access to the American dream is embraced.”
Jewish organizations were particularly irked by Trump’s statement that his administration was “totally defending our Second Amendment” and has “taken historic actions to protect religious liberty.”
The ADL tweeted that Trump’s administration “should not be making it harder for people to access services under the guise of ‘religious freedom.‘ They should be enforcing anti-discrimination protections, not enabling discrimination.”
The organization was referring to a program by the Department of Health and Human Services designed to regulate “activities that violate conscience,” which it said could potentially make it “easier for healthcare providers to discriminate against women, LGBTQ people and others in the name of religion.”
Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said in a statement that the US president “clearly doesn’t know what the words ‘religious liberty’ mean if he thinks he’s taken historic action to protect it. His actions in his first year as president have in fact significantly undermined the rights of people of faith whose beliefs don’t align with the president’s allies in the Religious Right.”
Meanwhile, some American Jewish organizations voiced support for Trump’s reiteration of his tough stance on Iran and opposition to the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers.
“We agree with the president’s assessment that the Iran nuclear agreement is not a good deal,” said B’nai B’rith, adding that “the global threat posed by Iran’s access to nuclear weapons cannot be overstated.”
The ADL, meanwhile, said it urged Trump and Congress to “pursue legislation which targets Iran’s support for terror, and continue working to ensure that the regime does not engage in illicit nuclear activities.”
JTA published an article about an event during which B'nai B'rith Latin America recognized Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales for his decision to move Guatemala's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as well as for his support on behalf of Israel.
The president of Guatemala was honored with an award from an international Jewish organization for his decision to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem and for his unwavering support of Israel.
Jimmy Morales received the Human Rights Award from global and regional B’nai B’rith officials during a ceremony Thursday in Guatemala City.
“We praised Morales for his courage and determination for the embassy announcement and for recognizing that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” said B’nai B’rith International Director of Latin American Affairs Eduardo Kohn. “Additionally, B’nai B’rith reiterated our commitment to human rights, the fight for democracy and our relationship with Guatemala.”
Morales said that moving the embassy to Jerusalem is “the right action to take legally and historically.” He added that Guatemala is “the United States’ strongest ally” in combating and preventing terrorism in America.
“The Jewish people will always be grateful to Guatemala for its crucial role in Israel’s birth, and for the great roles then-Ambassador Jorge García Granados and then-President Juan José Arevalo played in recognizing the Jewish state,” added B’nai B’rith Latin America Vice Chair Marcelo Burman, who gave the Central American leader a shofar and a plaque highlighting his country’s record of defending human rights.
B’nai B’rith International advocates for global Jewry and champions the cause of human rights around the world, including combatting antisemitism and bigotry. Founded in 1843, B’nai B’rith International describes itself as the oldest Jewish service organization in the world.
Morales announced the embassy move on Dec. 24. In a Facebook post, he said that he had instructed his country’s chancellor “to initiate the respective coordination so that it may be.” The decision followed a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The announcement was made in front of an image of Guatemalan and Israeli flags fluttering side by side in the wind. The leaders, Morales said, spoke about “the excellent relations that we have had as nations since Guatemala supported the creation of the State of Israel.”
Days before, the U.N. General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution rejecting any recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in reaction to President Donald Trump’s pronouncement on Dec. 6 that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and begin taking steps to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Morales, who enjoys a large base of conservative Christian support, visited Israel in November 2016, to mark the 69th anniversary of the Partition Plan for Palestine vote in the United Nations. Shortly after his election in 2015, Morales visited a synagogue in Guatemala City, met with members of the Jewish community and declared his desire to visit Israel.
Guatemala is home to about 1,000 Jews out of a population of 15 million.
Enlace Judío published an article about the ceremony during which B'nai B'rith Latin America honored Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales for his decision to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem and for his unwavering support of Israel. The article (published in Spanish) is below.
El presidente Morales, acompañado de su vicepresidente Jafeth Cabrera y su Canciller Sandra Jovel, agradeció emocionado a B’nai B’rith la entrega del premio representado en un Shofar, expresando que tanto él como sus gobernados “llevan a Israel en el corazón”.
El jueves 25 de enero, la B’nai B’rith se reunió en el Palacio Natural de la Cultura de Ciudad de Guatemala con el presidente Dr. Jimmy Morales para entregarle el premio “B’nai B’rith de Derechos Humanos”, expresando así el reconocimiento de la institución al gobierno y pueblo guatemalteco por su decisión de trasladar su embajada en Israel a la ciudad de Jerusalén.
Durante la cordial reunión privada que tuvo lugar en el despacho presidencial entre la delegación visitante, directivos de la comunidad judía local y las máximas autoridades del ejecutivo nacional, se expresó el profundo agradecimiento histórico que el pueblo judío y el Estado de Israel mantienen con Guatemala, país clave en la creación del Estado de Israel recordando tanto el papel que desempeñó el diplomático Jorge García Granados en la redacción y aprobación del Plan de Partición de Palestina el 29 de noviembre de 1947 así como el reconocimiento del mismo Estado Judío realizado por el presidente Juan José Arévalo la medianoche del 15 de mayo de 1948, convirtiendo a Guatemala en el primer país de Latinoamérica en reconocer a Israel como país soberano e independiente.
El presidente Morales, acompañado de su vicepresidente Jafeth Cabrera y su Canciller Sandra Jovel, agradeció emocionado a B’nai B’rith la entrega del premio representado en un Shofar, expresando que “Estamos haciendo lo correcto y lo correcto es que nuestra embajada en Israel este en Jerusalén“, haciendo énfasis en los lazos históricos que unen a ambos países e indicando que tanto él como sus gobernados “llevan a Israel en el corazón”.
Hace dos semanas, la organización cristiana evangélica norteamericana “Amigos de Sión” también otorgó un reconocimiento a Morales por su decisión sobre Jerusalén, mismo premio que recibió Donald Trump.
B’nai B’rith Internacional es la más grande y antigua organización del mundo judío. Fundada en 1843, este año cumple 175 años de servicios al pueblo judío. Con presencia en más de 60 países, ve por los Derechos Humanos, la defensa del Estado de Israel, la educación, obras filantrópicas, asistencia a países en situaciones de crisis y la lucha en contra del antisemitismo.
The New York Jewish Week cited B'nai B'rith International's response to recently proposed federal regulations that would greatly expand the ways in which health care professionals could use religious and moral justification to avoid giving patients healthcare.
Under federal regulations proposed last week, a hospital aide could refuse to wheel a patient to her car after she receives an abortion. A hospital clerk could choose not to process the paperwork of a patient who had her tubes tied after giving birth.
The Trump administration created a new division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) called the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division last Thursday. It would ensure that health care providers and their agents would not be penalized for refusing to perform such tasks based on religious or moral objections. Hospitals that refuse to comply could lose their federal funding.
The draft regulations are 216 pages long and came as a surprise to many, according to Jody Rabhan, director of the Washington operations at the National Council of Jewish Women.
“HHS issued them without anyone knowing about it,” she said. “Staff and relevant agencies were caught off guard.”
The department did not reply to an email query seeking further explanation about the proposal.
There is now a 60-day comment period after which there will be a review of comments and then a rule issued.
David Barkey, religious freedom counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, said that although the ADL and other “Jewish groups strongly advocate for reasonable accommodation of religious objections, there can be no infringement on the rights of others — which is the case here. And it allows others with no connection to medical procedures to opt out without any penalty.”
The new regulations, he added, would cover those who “assist in the performance” of a medical procedure — “as long as the person is part of the staff. Thus, a receptionist could refuse to provide the phone number of a clinic that performs abortions. And what if you are applying for an HIV program — it opens the door to not treating anyone who is gay. … It undermines the treatment of women and the LGBTQ community and does not balance religious freedom with other civil rights.”
Work places are permitted to accommodate healthcare providers’ religious and moral beliefs as long as they do not present an undue hardship to a third party. But Rabhan said the new proposed regulations “appear to sanction discrimination. … The rules are incredibly broad and are another notch in the administration’s belt as it goes after abortion and transgender rights — trying to deny them what is available under the law.”
She pointed out that last October the Trump administration issued regulations that permitted for-profit businesses to claim a moral or religious objection to providing no-cost contraceptive coverage under their employee health insurance plan.
“This is an attempt to take the teeth out of what we have in the current law regarding providing reproductive health care for women and for transgender folks,” Rabhan said. “What they can’t do legislatively they are doing through regulations, new divisions and executive orders. We’re seeing a clear trend of enforcement policy towards a complete denial of care to those who are most in need. There is no doubt about it.”
Rabhan noted also that last fall the Department of Education rescinded an Obama administration directive and said that schools no longer have to allow transgender students and staff to use the toilet of their choice.
Eric Fusfield, director of legislative affairs for B’nai B’rith International, said it is too early to know how the new regulations will be implemented.
“We’ll monitor the situation and see how it develops,” he said. “Will it work to balance the religious and conscience beliefs of medical professionals with the rights of patients who require services and with employers whose function it is to provide the services? Or will the office legitimize discrimination against women and LGBTQ people? That is the question.”
He noted that the Trump administration has “already taken protections away from transgender students, military personnel and employees, and the concern is that this is another area of transgender life where transgender people might be impacted. Gender reassignment surgery, for example, and the medicine they require. That is the fear.”
B’nai B’rith International’s longstanding policy, Fusfield added, is that the “rights of employees should not supersede the rights of patients who need treatment. … If a pharmacist objects to dispensing birth control pills, the pharmacy must assign a co-worker to dispense the medication in his place because the woman who needs it must be able to receive it. We would like to see legislation that would guarantee the balancing of rights.”
Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, noted in a statement that under the proposed rule, HHS “would initiate audits of federally-funded programs (including state programs), mandate new recordkeeping and reporting requirements, and ‘use enforcement tools otherwise available in civil rights law to address violations and resolve complaints.’ That HHS could seek to void state-level protection is unconscionable.”
David Bernstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, voiced similar sentiments and observed in a statement that health care professionals are currently allowed to refuse to carry out certain procedures for religious reasons.
“It is critical that any new policies do not lead to discrimination or interfere with a patient’s right to make informed decisions about what is best for them,” he said.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America said in a statement: “Religious freedom should not be confused with a license for hatred and discrimination. Only an unprecedented and partisan understanding of religious liberty could lead one to think conscience protections cover the right of individuals acting in a professional context in non-sectarian institutions to refuse care to patients based on their identity.’
Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance, which is dedicated to protecting the boundaries between religion and government, called the proposed rules “a travesty and a complete inversion of the protections of the constitution.”
“It is the rule of law in this country that counts and not the personal objections of any individual, no matter how strongly felt,” he said. “If there is a Supreme Court ruling or if a piece of federal legislation allows certain medical procedures to take place, and if the provider – a hospital or a practice – is willing to provide other medical services that are legal, selectively withholding medical care on the basis of personal preference is the opposite of the rule of law. … That is anarchy. It does not matter how passionate an individual is about his beliefs, you don’t get to say: ‘I am exempt from the requirements of the law.’”
Rabbi Moline compared this to the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple. The couple sued and won and was issued a marriage license by another clerk.
“The stakes are higher here, but the principle is the same,” the rabbi said.
Greek News: Third International Leadership Mission of Greek and Jewish American Organizations concluded
Greek News published an article discussing the conclusion of B'nai B'rith International's three-country leadership mission to Greece, Cyprus and Israel with partner organizations the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA), the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
A delegation of American Hellenic and American Jewish community leaders concluded on Friday their Third International Leadership Mission, with visits to Greece, Cyprus and Israel. The mission started on January 14, in Athens, Greece; continued to Nicosia, Cyprus, January 16 and 17; and concluded in Israel, January 17 to Jan. 19.
The participants were: The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA), the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), B’nai B’rith International and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The delegation is headed by Carl Hollister from AHEPA, Nick Larigakis from ΑΗΙ, Gary Saltzman from B‘nai B’rith and Stephen Greenberg from CoP.
The aim of the mission was to explore the major economic (business and tourism), energy sector and security developments underway with high-ranking government officials and visits to military installations.
The 18 member delegation met on Monday with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Maximos Mansion. A press statement by the premier’s office said that Tsipras met with representatives of the American Hellenic Institute, AHEPA, B’nai B’rith και Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and confirmed the excellent level of bilateral relations of Greece with the United States and Israel.
The delegates expressed their support of Greek efforts and the country’s achievements in the sectors of economy and regional security and stability, as well as in the refugee crisis.
The prime minister and the visiting representatives also discussed issues of collaboration among Greece, Cyprus, Israel and the US while the latter said they would promote Greek issues whenever possible.
They have also had a long meeting at the Presidential Palace with Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos, who told them international rules and European laws provide the foundation on which all nations should resolve their national issues,
Pavlopoulos briefed the visiting delegation on foreign issues Greece is working on now, including those with FYROM, Turkey and Albania. He added that Greece was committed to improving relations with neighboring countries, but, he noted, respect of international treaties and laws by the other side is paramount.
They were also received – among others – by the Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos, U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt etc.
House President Demetris Syllouris expressed his appreciation over the support of Greek American and Jewish American organizations towards a Cyprus settlement.
Addressing the meeting, Syllouris also referred to Turkey’s aggressive behavior towards Cyprus and other neighboring countries, and spoke about human rights violations Turkey.
From his part Hollister expressed their continuous support for a Cyprus settlement that will contribute to broader peace and stability, while Larigakis referred to the need to exert pressure on Turkey on behalf of the international community.
Greenberg spoke about the importance of developing US-Israeli bilateral relations and the benefits for cooperating countries, while Saltzman stressed theimportance of enhancing ties between Cyprus, Greece and Israel.
The President of the House also spoke about the parliamentary dimension of the trilateral cooperation between the three countries and underlined the need to expand cooperation, including more countries from the region. He concluded by saying that Cyprus may use its soft power in policy areas, such as culture, education, entrepreneurship and research.
The delegations was also received by the Minister of Defence Christoforos Fokaides.
During the meeting, they discussed about regional security, while they were informed by the Minister about the latest developments as regards the Cyprus issue, focusing on the issues on security and guarantees.
Ynet published an article (in Hebrew) about Enzo Cavagion, the 98-year-old recipient of the Jewish Rescuers' Citation, awarded by the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem and the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust (JRJ) . Cavalion saved hundreds of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.
בגיל 98, עדיין באיטליה – המדינה שבה נולד, חי כל חייו, נלחם בנאצים והציל את בני עמו היהודים, זוכה אנצו קאווליון להכרה רשמית בפועלו: "אות המציל היהודי". מאות פליטים יהודים – למעלה מאלף במספר – קיבלו סיוע ומסתור מקאווליון לאחר ההכרזה על שביתת נשק בין איטליה לבעלות הברית.
ואף שהוא עצמו יהודי והיה חבר המחתרת הפרטיזנית "איטליה חופשייה" – החליט קאווליון לא להציל את עצמו, כי אם לסייע לאחיו. האות שקיבל אתמול (יום א') מהמרכז העולמי של "בני ברית" והוועדה להוקרת גבורתם של המצילים היהודים בשואה, נועד למעשה לתקן את הסברה הרווחת המוטעית כאילו יהודים לא עסקו בהצלת אחיהם היהודים בשואה.
קאווליון, אז בשנות העשרים המוקדמות לחייו, היה אחד מ-14 חברים שהקימו את הקבוצה הפרטיזנית "איטליה חופשייה", בראשות עורך הדין המקומי האנטי-פשיסט, דוצ'ו גלימברטי, ביום שבו נכבשה קונאו על ידי הדיביזיה אס-אס הגרמנית. חברי הקבוצה יצאו לפעולות שונות ממקום המסתור שמצאו - מנזר מדונה דל קולטו, 18 קילומטרים מערבית לקונאו. אנצו ואחיו הצעיר, ריקרדו קאווליון ז"ל, נשארו עם הקבוצה עד אוקטובר 1943, ואז נאלצו לעזוב כדי לעזור למשפחותיהם להימלט ממעצר בקונאו.גנב תעודות זהות ממשרד ראש העירבנוסף לקרבות נגד הגרמנים והפשיסטים באיטליה, קאווליון ואחיו הצעיר ריקרדו סייעו לפליטים היהודים לחמוק מהכוחות הנאצים שפלשו לאזור צפון איטליה לאחר נפילת משטר מוסוליני, תוך סיכון אישי רב. מעל לאלף יהודים התגוררו בכפר הצרפתי סנט מרטין וסובי המרוחק, שהיה נתון לכיבוש האיטלקי. היהודים נמלטו עם כניסתו של הצבא הגרמני לאזור.
הקרב האחרון של ניצול השואה:
"סבא נאבק להשבת הציורים"
אדית יוריך בת ה-28 יצאה למסע מתועד בעקבות מלחמתו של ניצול שואה, אז ילד בן 10, להשבת התמונות שהיו תלויות בבית סבתו, ושוויין מיליונים. הילד הזה הוא סבא שלה, ז'ורז' יוריך. "עבורו החזרת הציורים הייתה סגירת מעגל והשלמה עם זוועות העבר אחרי 73 שנה"
גברים, נשים, ילדים וקשישים טיפסו את הרי האלפים במסע רגלי מפרך שארך כשלושה ימים וחצו את הגבול הבינלאומי לאיטליה, רק כדי לגלות שהגרמנים הסתובבו גם שם. כ-300 מהם נתפסו ונשלחו לאושוויץ. ה-700 הנותרים מצאו מקלט בקרב האיכרים המקומיים בסיוע אנצו וריקרדו אחיו, שמצאו עבורם מקומות מסתור, סיפקו להם מסמכים והסתירו אותם ברכסי ההרים מפני הנאצים.
אלפרד פלדמן, ניצול שואה, העיד בספר זיכרונותיו One Step Ahead: A Jewish Fugitive in Hitler's Europe כיצד גנבו ריקרדו ואנצו תעודות זהות ממשרדו של ראש העיר ויגנולו (Vignolo), שזויפו לאחר מכן וחולקו לחלק מהפליטים. אנצו פעל למרות הסכנה שריחפה מעל ראשו."בני ברית" מילאנו, המרכז העולמי של "בני ברית" והוועדה להוקרת גבורתם של המצילים היהודים בשואה העניקו לקאווליון את האות בביתו – ולאחר מכן ערכו טקס בבית הכנסת בקונאו, שבו נשאו דברים בנו, ההיסטוריון פרופ' אלברטו קאווליון, אלן שניידר מנהל המרכז העולמי של "בני ברית", ועוד.
למעלה מ-200 יהודים כבר זכו באות"אות המציל היהודי", שנוסד בשנת 2011, הוענק עד כה לכ-200 מצילים שפעלו בצרפת, הונגריה, יוון, גרמניה, סלובקיה, יוגוסלביה, רוסיה, פולין, אוקראינה והולנד - ועכשיו גם איטליה.
"זו זכות להעניק לך את 'אות המציל היהודי' ועל ידי כך להמשיך במאמץ בן 20 השנים שלנו לתקן את הנרטיב ההיסטורי, כאילו יהודים לא פעלו להצלת יהודים אחרים בשואה", אמר לקאווליון אלן שניידר, מנהל המרכז העולמי של "בני ברית".
בטקס עלו דמעות בעיניו של קאווליון, כשנזכר ביהודים שפגש בצד האיטלקי שלרבים מהם סייע. לאחר המלחמה המשיך קאווליון להתגורר באיטליה והחזיק במשך שנים רבות חנות שטיחים עם אחיו, ריקרדו.
Hellenic National defence general staff: AHI, AHEPA and American jewish organizations visit in greece
The Hellenic National Defence General Staff issued a press release about a January 14, 2018 meeting during B'nai B'rith International's leadership mission to Greece, Cyprus and Israel.
On Sunday, January 14, 2018, HNDGS Chief, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis HN met at the Officers Club in Athens, with a delegation of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and American Jewish Organizations (B'nai B'rith International & Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations). The aforementioned delegation visited Athens as part of their tour in Greece, Cyprus and Israel from 14 to 19 January 2018.
The HNDGS Chief during the meeting noted:
The Jerusalem Post published this article about the effects of the White House's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in Latin America and the Caribbean. The article was written by B'nai B'rith International's Special Advisor on Latin American Affairs Adriana Camisar.
U.S. President Donald Trump did the right thing when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jerusalem has been central to the Jewish people for 3,000 years and the capital of the State of Israel since 1949. And it will remain the capital of Israel under any peace agreement, even if the definitive boundaries of the city are subject to negotiation.
Trump was also complying with US law, as the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 called for the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In addition, last June, the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem that called upon the president and all US officials to abide by the provisions of the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Therefore, this was a legitimate, sovereign decision by an American president. In this regard, the UN General Assembly resolution adopted on December 21 that opposed this decision was presumptuous, to say the least.
An analysis of Latin American and Caribbean votes, though, shows an important number of countries did not oppose the US decision.
In fact, of 19 Latin American countries, nine did not support the resolution: Guatemala and Honduras voted against; Argentina, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama and Paraguay abstained; and El Salvador was suspiciously absent.
With regard to the 15 members of the Caribbean community, also known as CARICOM, seven did not support the resolution: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago abstained; and St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia were absent.
Before the General Assembly vote, both Trump and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the US would cut off financial aid to any countries that voted in favor of the resolution. This message was heavily criticized by the press and in diplomatic circles.
After the vote, many commentators said the strategy did not work. When it comes to Latin America and the Caribbean, this is not quite true. Let’s analyze each case: Guatemala and Honduras, which voted against the UN resolution, both have long-standing relationships with the State of Israel that have become even stronger in the last few years. Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales, it is worth noting, recently announced his decision – which could be followed by other countries in the region – to follow the US example and move the Guatemalan Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The abstentions of Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Paraguay, on the other hand, can be mainly explained by the general worldview of these governments and their fairly good relations with Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to strengthen ties with Latin America and his recent historic trip to the region – in which he visited Argentina, Colombia and Mexico and met with Paraguay’s president while in Argentina – could have had an impact, too.
But there is no doubt the administration’s message had an impact on the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, two countries that have consistently voted for every anti-Israel resolution at the UN CARICOM members that did not to support the resolution against Trump’s Jerusalem decision – with the exception of Haiti – usually vote at the UN against the US position on Israel. The fact that they were either absent or abstained from this resolution is striking and shows the administration’s message had a strong effect on this group of countries.
The Algemeiner published B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin's op-ed regarding Guatemala's vote opposing the United Nations resolution to condemn the White House's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Guatemala’s vote last month against the United Nations resolution opposing the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, has since earned the South American country little but opprobrium — and worse — from the Palestinians, their supporters and a host of others.
The secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, vowed that the Palestinians would “punish” Guatemala for its vote. The Palestinian Authority termed the vote a “shameful” act, with its comrade-in-arms, Bolivian president Evo Morales, charging Guatemala with “having sold its dignity to the empire [the United States] to not lose crumbs from USAID.” Hamas, not to be outdone, called Guatemala’s action “a grave offense against our people,” and a “flagrant violation … of our rights.”
Eight other countries, led by the United States, voted against the resolution; 128 voted for it, 35 abstained, and another dozen were absent for the vote, which took place on December 21. Headlines around the world called the vote a “repudiation,” a “condemnation” and a “dramatic rebuke” of the Trump administration.
Still other critics wrote off Guatemala’s vote as being influenced only by President Jimmy Morales’ evangelical Christian faith.
The fact that 128 countries supported the resolution — many of which, like Germany, France and the United Kingdom could have, at the very least abstained — doesn’t make it right.
Guatemala’s vote, which is being characterized by Evo Morales and many others as simply a play to curry favor with the Trump administration, is unfounded. Guatemala’s record as a friend of Israel dates to the very founding of the Jewish state. Seventy years ago, Guatemalan Ambassador to the United Nations Jorge Garcia Granados assembled a group of Latin American countries to back the UN partition plan.
His commitment was on full display when, at one of the debates at the UN Special Committee on Palestine, he said: “The Jewish state is the reparation that humanity owes to a people that, for 2,000 years, without guilt and without defense, have suffered humiliation and martyrdom.” Indeed, Granados cast the very first vote for the establishment of the state of Israel, and Guatemala was the first Latin American country to recognize Israel after her statehood was declared in May 1948.
In 1956, Guatemala became the first country to open an embassy in Jerusalem (with Granados appointed as its first ambassador). Guatemala and Granados are already memorialized in Israel; a number of cities, including Jerusalem, have streets named after them.
While Guatemala did move its embassy to Herzliya in 1980, in the midst of the oil embargo and intense pressure from the United Nations and the Arab world, it has now announced the relocation of the embassy back to Jerusalem.
With the UN Human Rights Commission (now Human Rights Council) zeroing in on Palestinian-inspired one-sided resolutions against Israel some 20 years ago, it was Guatemala’s ambassador to the UN, Antonio Arenales, who consistently resisted immense pressure and voted against those measures, often together with the United States and a few other countries.
Arenales also represented Guatemala at the infamous 2001 Durban Conference on Racism, where Israel was the subject of an unprecedented hate fest.
Between 2006 and 2014, reflecting changes at its foreign ministry, Guatemala did an uncharacteristic diplomatic U-turn and was supportive of the Palestinian narrative at the UN, and in other international forums. That changed in 2015, and has been on a positive track since then.
No doubt, with its December 6 vote on Jerusalem, and with its embassy move in sight, bilateral relations between Israel and Guatemala will surely take another leap forward. Cooperation in many fields has long marked relations between the two countries. In the 1960s, an Israeli cousin of mine — a veteran kibbutznik — served as an agricultural advisor in Central America, based in Guatemala.
Clearly, even the 35 countries that abstained on the vote had misgivings about endorsing a resolution that blasted Israel’s right to name its own capital. After 70 years, it was the right thing to do.
At the UN General Assembly, Guatemala did not only what was diplomatically correct, but what was morally correct, as well. Guatemala has been a good friend of Israel, and has stood against the tide of political correctness and the usual herd mentality at the United Nations. It has now come under unjustified, withering criticism and bullying for doing so.
Instead, Guatemala should be thanked for its contribution to sanity and decency in the community of nations, a group woefully short on both.
This Detroit Jewish News article, which looks back upon its Jan. 8, 1943 issue, mentions that issue's acknowledgment of the 100th anniversary of B'nai B'rith International.
The headline, “Spain Balks Escape of Jewish Refugees,” in the Jan. 8, 1943, issue of the JNseemed a lot like the headlines of 1942. Every week during the war brought reports of bad news for Jews. Inside this issue, however, there were also several very positive stories.
The JN’s headline referred to the fact that Spain had refused to give visas to 5,000 Jewish men of military age. These were Jewish men and boys who had escaped from the Nazis. No surprise here. At that time, Spain was a fascist dictatorship under Franciso Franco, a friend of Hitler.
The JN also had a couple of stories related to the number 100. First, on the front page, there was a respectful political cartoon about B’nai B’rith. As the oldest Jewish service organization in the world, with a largely American membership, B’nai B’rith was celebrating its 100th birthday. The cartoon depicted one of the 12 German Jewish founders of the organization, Henry Jones, along with its contemporary president, Henry Monsky.
There was another celebration in that issue involving the same number — a photo on page 8 showed Rabbi Joseph Levenson being sworn in as the100th Jewish chaplain for the American Armed Services during World War II.
And, on the home front, there was another celebration. Hyman Altman was celebrating his 13th year of having a featured show on WJLB radio in Detroit. Apparently, Altman was quite popular with the local Jewish community. In his honor, over that weekend, nearly 400 trees were planted in the Altman Grove in Palestine. Moreover, the story predicted that the final goal of 1,000 trees would be met in 1943. This is certainly worth of a mazel tov (albeit 75 years later)!
JNS.org cited B'nai B'rith International in its coverage of the Israeli government's action that bars leading individuals in organizations that support the BDS movement from entering Israel. B'nai B'rith International's statement noted, "Israel is under no obligation to hold the door open for anyone, or any organization that attempts to harm the state."
Leaders of several major American Jewish organizations have told JNS that they are supporting the Israeli government’s decision to prevent the entry of foreign citizens who promote boycotts of Israel.
Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs on Jan. 7 released a preliminary list of 20 foreign organizations whose “central figures” will not be permitted to enter Israel because they have undertaken “significant, ongoing and consistent harm to Israel through advocating boycotts.” There are six American groups on the list, including the American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, Code Pink, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Students for Justice in Palestine and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.
JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson told JNS that until now, she has been traveling to Israel “approximately once a year, and those trips are usually a mix of personal visits and JVP work.” Vilkomerson said the Israeli government “has not been in touch with us in terms of how they define JVP leadership,” so it is not clear if the ban will apply only to JVP’s senior staff or also to its other arms, such as its Academic Advisory Council.
Vilkomerson said there are “over 900 people on the [council],” but she declined to provide a list of their names. In the past, JVP press releases that mentioned the council stated that “the full list is available upon request.”
A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy told JNS that the determination regarding exactly who will be prevented from entering will be based on whether an individual engages in “ongoing, consistent, and significant action to promote the boycott, with each case being judge on its own merits.” The spokesperson said an inter-ministerial team is still in the process of “formulating the criteria for implementation of the legislation,” with a final list of banned organizations likely to be released in March.
JVP’s Vilkomerson described the Israeli ban as “bullying.” That characterization was challenged by Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who told JNS, “For JVP to complain about ‘bullying’ is the height of hypocrisy given their tactics.” He was referring to incidents in which JVP activists reportedly have harassed pro-Israel speakers.
Protesters compare President Donald Trump's proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall to Israel's West Bank security fence at a Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) demonstration in New York City last September. Credit: JVP via Facebook.
According to a memo issued by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), JVP members at last year’s Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City confronted a group of pro-Israel LGBTQ marchers, “cutting their microphones and blocking them from marching.” The ADL also said JVP supported the expulsion of pro-Israel participants from last year’s Chicago Dyke March on the grounds that their rainbow flags resembled Israeli flags, which JVP said represented “racism and violence.” Also, according to the ADL, “JVP members have shouted down and interrupted campus speeches by guests whom they consider too Zionist.”
A number of leading Jewish organizations have expressed support or understanding for the Israeli government’s Jan. 7 decision.
AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman told JNS that while his organization does not take public positions on the Israeli government’s internal policy decisions, “Every state has a right to determine who enters its borders, and the government of Israel has explained that its bar is limited to those who plan ‘material action’ against the Jewish state.”
“Israel is under no obligation to hold the door open for anyone, or any organization that attempts to harm the state,” B’nai B’rith International said in a statement to JNS. “The threat posed by BDS supporters goes well beyond mere policy criticism.”
Betty Ehrenberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress in North America, said, “The groups on Israel’s list of BDS promoters totally undermine any prospect for peace by fostering hatred, bigotry, and anti-Semitism, which leads to violence and the endangerment of Israeli citizens.”
When the Knesset last year gave preliminary approval to a law restricting the entry of foreign BDS advocates, the ADL and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) expressed disapproval. When contacted by JNS this week for their position on the new government decision—which is more limited than the Knesset bill because it specifically names 20 groups, rather than being a blanket ban—both the ADL and AJC did not respond.
Left-of-center groups, meanwhile, strongly criticized the Israeli government’s move. Americans for Peace Now asserted in a press release that “boycotts are a legitimate form of peaceful, political expression, which must be protected in any democracy.” It warned that the Israeli decision “increases the isolation of Palestinians living under occupation” and could lead to “the specter of Jews—or non-Jews—being interrogated about their political beliefs at Ben Gurion Airport.”
But the Strategic Affairs Ministry spokesperson told JNS that the new regulations “explicitly exclude political criticism of Israel as a criterion for consideration in naming an organization.”
In an interview with JNS, Paul Scham, president of Partners for Progressive Israel, argued that “calling BDS ‘economic terrorism’ is simply demagoguery,” because in his view, “there is no plausible connection between the presence of a BDS activist and Israeli security.”
Leaders of organizations representing Reform and Conservative Judaism declined to comment on the Israeli government decision, while Orthodox groups were supportive of the move. A spokesman for the Orthodox Union (OU) told JNS, “The OU’s position on this, as with a wide range of other decisions made by the Israeli leadership, is to defer to the decisions of the duly elected democratic government of the State of Israel.”
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, president of the Coalition for Jewish Values, which represents several hundred Orthodox rabbis nationwide, said, “It is routine for democratic countries to ban foreign nationals who wish to harm it. it would be irresponsible for a nation not to engage in elementary self-preservation. The goal of BDS is to destroy Israel, and it is prudent for Israel to respond as it has.”
Section 212 of the current U.S. immigration law authorizes the exclusion of foreign citizens who are suspected of intending to engage in “any activity” related to “sabotage” of the government. It also prohibits the entry of anyone who “endorses of espouses terrorist activity,” even if they are not involved in actual terrorism.
Restrictions on admission to the U.K. are even broader. Section 2 of the relevant British law states that a foreigner can be prevented from entering the country if the authorities decide that “the applicant’s character, conduct or associations” make it “undesirable” to grant entry.
The Times of Israel: How Artist Beat ‘Foolproof’ Nazi System to Forge Dutch ID Papers, Save 350 Lives
The Times of Israel cited the awarding of the "Jewish Rescuers' Citation" by B'nai B'rith International to Alice Cohn, a Jewish artist whose fake ID cards saved hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust.
During the years in which 102,000 Dutch Jews were murdered by the Nazis, a German-born Jewish artist helped rescue hundreds of children from the clutches of genocide.
As an expert forger of identity papers, Alice Cohn worked with a Utrecht-based resistance group while in hiding. Their production of so-called “wild papers,” including ID and ration cards, saved up to 350 Jewish children from the Nazis. During the war’s final year, Cohn’s handiwork helped prevent young Dutch men from being sent to Germany as forced laborers.
Cohn’s story and the saga of Dutch identity cards during World War II are currently on display at the National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam. The temporary exhibit opened in October, and is based on items from the personal archive of Cohn, who died in 2000.
According to the museum, one motivation for highlighting Cohn’s efforts was to help correct the “prevailing, but incorrect, image that Dutch Jews had a passive role during the war.” During the Holocaust, 102,000 Dutch Jews — the majority of the community — were murdered at Nazi-built death camps and elsewhere in the Reich.
Born in Breslau in 1914, Cohn studied cabinet-making until the Nazis came to power in 1933. When Jewish students were banned from taking exams or submitting final projects, she moved to Berlin for a year of school in graphic arts. The situation for German Jews continued to deteriorate, so Cohn fled to the Netherlands in search of a secure future.
Settling in Amsterdam on a student visa, Cohn learned Dutch and received commissions to design cinema posters. On the eve of the war, she was creating children’s toys. Unbeknownst to the new Dutch citizen, the Nazis were about to catch up with her.
Of all the countries occupied by Germany during World War II, the Netherlands had the most robust pre-war population registry. The system’s success was attributed to Jacob Lentz, a Dutch official who created the so-called “fool-proof” personal identity card. During the Nazi occupation, Lentz refined his system to help authorities issue new cards throughout the country.
In addition to a high-tech design and use of the bearer’s fingerprints, Dutch identity cards were backed up in a central registry. This made it possible to confirm whether or not a suspicious-looking ID had been forged. At the exhibit on Alice Cohn’s life, she is contrasted with the population-counting expert Lentz. While Cohn used her artistic skills to help save lives, Lentz — conjuring “the banality of evil” — deployed his organizational skills to implement the Nazis’ agenda.
Beginning in 1941, all Dutch men and women were ordered to carry ID cards with them. For Jews, a large black “J,” for Jew, was stamped on both sides of the card. By the summer of 1942, authorities began using the registry to arrest and deport Jews from the Netherlands. Suddenly, the demand for altered or completely falsified identification exploded, including the need to crack Lentz’s “hermetic” system.
Before she went into hiding, Cohn found a position with Amsterdam’s Jewish Council as a doctor’s assistant. With the job providing her a nominal degree of freedom, she was able to smuggle a Jewish child — 3-year-old Lonnie Lesser — out of a building where Jews were incarcerated prior to deportation. After seeing the child safely into hiding, Cohn made her own way to a “safe” address in Utrecht, south of Amsterdam.
'The Utrecht Children's Committee'
During two years of hiding in an attic near Utrecht’s Wilhelmina Park, Cohn accomplished what had been deemed impossible: She forged identity cards able to withstand scrutiny.
The tools she used — test cards, knives, a notebook to practice signatures in — are on display at the National Holocaust Museum, along with head-shots and other artifacts used by the Dutch population registry.
According to the museum, Cohn and her group of co-resisters, called “The Utrecht Children’s Committee,” managed to save 350 children from deportation and murder. The group also forged ration coupons needed by “underground” people in hiding to obtain food. During the last year of the war, many new “wild papers” were needed to help young Dutch men evade forced labor in Germany.
After liberation, Cohn learned that all of her relatives from Breslau had been murdered, including her parents. Like other Jews among the Netherlands’ surviving remnant, she had to build a new life from scratch.
As fate had it, Cohn began obtaining fabrics from a Lichtenstein-based merchant named Rudolf Bermann. The materials he provided helped her create, for instance, puppets with grimacing faces and vibrant costumes, some of which are on display in the exhibit. What began as an exchange of fabrics blossomed into love, and, in 1947, Cohn left the Netherlands to join Bermann as his wife in Lichtenstein.
Two months ago, some 17 years after Cohn died at age 85 in Lichtenstein, she was posthumously awarded the “Jewish Rescuers’ Citation” for Jews who helped save fellow Jews during the Shoah. Cohn’s daughter and son, Evelyne Bermann and Michael Bermann, were presented with the honor during the Amsterdam opening of the exhibit on their mother’s life. So far, 171 women and men from eight countries have been honored by Jewish organization B’nai B’rith in this capacity.
“There are many people who were able to escape deportation through fake identity cards,” said exhibit curator Annemiek Gringold. “The people who had the skills and the courage to carry out this vital work remain largely unknown until today.”
Click here to learn more about our Jewish Rescuers' Citation.
JNS.org cited B'nai B'rith International's response to President Donald Trump's January 2, 2018 tweet describing the possibility of reducing the amount of aid given to the Palestinians by the United States.
In its statement, B'nai B'rith International noted, “The Palestinians have refused to negotiate directly with Israel, have failed to comply with their obligations under previous agreements, and have chosen instead to pursue an anti-Israel, anti-U.S. agenda at the United Nations.”
Many major Jewish organizations are expressing support for the idea of reducing U.S. aid to the Palestinians after President Donald Trump mentioned the possibility of a cut in a tweet this week.
In a Jan. 2 tweet, the president wrote, “We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect…with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the same day that Trump “doesn’t want to give any additional funding until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table.”
Some American aid to the Palestinians is sent to the Palestinian Authority (PA), some is given directly to Palestinian projects in PA-controlled areas and some is channeled through U.N. agencies that assist the Palestinians, such as the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The current annual U.S. contribution to the Palestinians totals more than $600 million.
AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann told JNS, “We have supported and continue to support reductions in assistance to the Palestinian Authority based on actions such as payments to families of terrorists and violation of its peace process commitment to direct talks with Israel, instead seeking to have the international community endorse Palestinian objectives.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said the Palestinian Authority “has proven tone deaf to every previous U.S. warning about its actions, so perhaps some reduction in aid would finally get its attention.” Hoenlein told JNS that the Trump administration “has a right to standards for aid that it provides, and where countries violate those standards, or trample human rights, then the U.S. absolutely has a right to withhold aid—especially when all the U.S. is asking the PA to do is to negotiate. That’s not exactly some major concession.”
“It is reasonable for the U.S. to use foreign aid as one of several mechanisms for responding to instances where its own interests, or the interests of its allies, are threatened,” B’nai B’rith International said in a statement to JNS. “The Palestinians have refused to negotiate directly with Israel, have failed to comply with their obligations under previous agreements, and have chosen instead to pursue an anti-Israel, anti-U.S. agenda at the United Nations.”
David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, told JNS that “if the Palestinian Authority balks at advancing the peace process, or if it engages in anti-American rhetoric or behavior, then, of course, it’s appropriate to send a strong message of disapproval, including a cut in support.” At the same time, however, Harris cautioned that “what seems black-and-white from a distance may, in this case, entail at least a few shades of gray and some less-than-ideal options.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Trump “is targeting the U.N., Pakistan, and now the Palestinian Authority as a businessperson rather than a politician, asking ‘Am I getting value for my money? If not, and the recipients use American taxpayers’ money to scorn the U.S., why should money continue to flow to them?’ Perhaps the shock therapy of the U.S. not acting as an automatic ATM machine is a good thing.”
Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, which represents more than 100 Orthodox synagogues nationwide, went further. He told JNS that U.S. aid to the Palestinians “should not be contingent on their return to the negotiating table but on their change of policies that support terrorism and inculcate their children with hatred for Jews.” Until those policies are changed, Weiss, said, “we see no prospects for peace regardless of whether they resume peace talks.”
Left-of-center voices disagree.
Kenneth Bob, president of Ameinu, formerly known as the Labor Zionist Alliance, told JNS he believes any reduction in U.S. aid would be “counter-productive” because it could impact “essential Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation” and “important humanitarian aid.” Therefore, he said, “I do not see any positive outcome for Israel, the U.S. or the Palestinians from a cut in aid.”
Dr. Michael Koplow, policy director of the dovish Israel Policy Forum, said that while “it is certainly appropriate for the U.S. not to fund regimes that express anti-American sentiments,” that is outweighed by “the risk that reductions or cut-offs in aid will lead to even worse regimes or devastating security consequences.” He noted that the U.S. gives aid to “states that often display mixed feelings about the U.S. at best,” such as Pakistan and Egypt.
Former Democratic National Committee chairman Steve Grossman, who is also a former president of AIPAC, told JNS that he “wouldn’t rule out using American aid to the Palestinians as a vehicle for putting pressure on the Palestinians to act in ways that are consistent with a peace process,” but “it should only be done in extreme cases.”
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