The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin about the need for allies in the fight against anti-Semitism.
As we are experiencing antisemitism at levels we had hoped were a plague of the past, I have thought back to my earliest recollection of antisemitism in the United States: Hearing my mother talking about the Holocaust, not even 10 years after the great tragedy that befell European Jewry. As I look back, I see that was something that preyed on her mind for the rest of her life. She had lost family members in the round-ups and mass shootings in Lithuania, and I know not being able to bring them over to the United States before the abyss of barbarity that befell them troubled her greatly.
One common thread that has emerged from my recollections of personal experiences with antisemitism is that there are good people who stand up for what is right. It was true back then and it needs to be true today.Read More Related Articles
My mother would also talk about the American antisemites that prospered in the years leading up to our entry into World War II, like Father Coughlin and Gerald L.K. Smith. In our bookcase at home was a copy of Under Cover by John Roy Carlson, who had infiltrated pro-Nazi and far right organizations like the German American Bund, the Gray Shirts, American Patriots and others over a four-year period.
Carlson – a pen name for Arthur Derounian, an Armenian immigrant brought to the United States in the 1920s – dove deep into an underworld populated by antisemites and Nazi sympathizers who attracted a following throughout the country.
My mother often referenced the book, and I would take it off the shelf from time to time, open it randomly, and read about one or another of the organizations profiled by Derounian. As a teenager, I wrote a letter to the ADL office in Boston (we lived in New Hampshire) referencing the book and expressing my concern about antisemitism that I sensed was out there, but really had few details about.
Growing up in small-town New England had many benefits, but as Jews we were the tiniest minority. There were about 25 Jewish families in a 25-mile radius of where we lived. In my town there were just four families, and for a time, I was the only Jewish student in the school district. I occasionally experienced some antisemitism from some schoolmates on the playground or in the hallways right through middle school. This usually came in the form of taunts; two of the most frequently used were “nose” – an allusion to the stereotype of Jews having long noses, or what I would call the fake sneeze: “a-Jew!”But those who engaged in this form of bullying were very few in number. Looking back, I have no doubt that these crude expressions of hatred were passed down in their families, all by people who had actually never encountered Jews before. It hurt to be on the receiving end of these taunts, and if it were not for parents who bolstered my Jewishness and prepared me for this kind of rattling experience, it would have been even more unsettling. Adding balm to the verbal attacks on the playground was the support I received from teachers, and especially my non-Jewish friends and their parents.
IN THE fifth grade – at this point there were several Jewish students in our school – I was called out of class by our teacher, Florence Kellom. She had probably taught school for close to several decades, and I may have been her first Jewish student. Like any kid, I wondered what I had done wrong. On the contrary, Mrs. Kellom told me that a swastika has been found on the wall of the boys’ bathroom, and she wanted me to know that the janitor had washed it off. That she was eager for me to hear this from her, and then assuring me not to worry, told me everything I needed to know about the importance of friends from outside our community in the battle against antisemitism.
In the seventh grade I ran for class office. During recess, someone shouted “Jewboy” at me and I saw red, running at the tormenter and pushing him to the ground, all in full view of other students. With the election imminent, I didn’t know what effect my uncharacteristic schoolyard anger might have on the outcome. In the week that followed I, along with the other candidates, gave my campaign speech, and I recall making a reference to, and identifying with, the 1960 presidential election where John F. Kennedy had been subjected to anti-Catholic rhetoric in the campaign (something that cropped up in our dinner table talk at home that year).
As the years have passed, the outcome of the election itself is not as important as what to me was the nasty experience I had that day on the playground. My seventh-grade home room teacher, Eddie Main – who has remained a friend to this day – recognized the challenges I faced as a minority of one in my class, and was as reassuring to me as Mrs. Kellom had been two years before.
In the time since, I’ve come to believe there are two kinds of antisemitism: one that emerges from ignorance, and one that is intentionally aimed to inflict harm.In the past several decades, the one that emanates from unfamiliarity with things Jewish seems to have diminished somewhat. More is known today about the Holocaust, thanks to TV programs like Winds of War and movies like Schindler’s List. Many Jews have been elected to Congress, and one – Joseph Lieberman – was his party’s nominee for vice president. Jewish actors today go by their real names rather than stage names aimed at hiding their Jewishness. TV news anchors regularly wish Jewish viewers holiday greetings at Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah. And many fields closed to Jews in an earlier era, like insurance and advertising, are now open.
To borrow a phrase, though, these are the best of times and the worst of times. Who would have thought that a series of physical attacks on Jews in Brooklyn – a borough which has produced so many who have contributed to the building of this country in so many ways – would be the scene of a mini-pogrom during the last couple of months; or that antisemites armed with automatic weapons would prey on Jews who came to daven on Shabbat morning; or that the ideological descendants of the pro-Nazis written about nearly 80 years ago by Arthur Derounian would chant in Charlottesville, the birthplace of Thomas Jefferson, “Jews will not replace us”; or that a surrogate for a major presidential candidate would declare that “Israel is built on the idea of Jewish supremacy”; or that members of Congress would charge us with dual loyalty for expressing our support for the Jewish state?
THE CONUNDRUM we have is not reciting the litany of examples of this epidemic of hate directed at the Jewish community, but at how to push it all back. Defeating it is, of course, a goal, but at the moment the need is to engage in a counter-assault at its purveyors, whom we all need to agree come from the Left, the Right and from Islamic extremists. It takes on all shapes and forms of hate: classic charges of Jewish control of the media, banks and Hollywood, newer charges from anti-Zionists and from the leaders of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement with comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa – and now physical attacks on the streets of New York.
There is a sense that many are apathetic and indifferent to what is happening to us because we are considered to be in a special category. As a successful ethnic group in America, we should be able to withstand these attacks and see them as only glancing blows in an otherwise very positive picture of our place in American society. Such assumptions and indifference are more than troubling.The antidotes are obvious and yet bear repeating time and again. We need more public officials – not only those in Washington but in city and town halls around the country – to speak up, along with religious figures and community organizers, athletes and celebrities, and others who are seen as role models or who hold important positions in American society, sending the unambiguous message that acts of antisemitism in any form are socially and morally unacceptable. Period.
The media have a responsibility, as well. In the past, there might be an annual story or two about surveys that listed the number of antisemitic incidents that occurred in a particular year, and little else. It took the machete attack in Monsey, New York, to finally bring the problem to the front pages. To those who have access to a bully pulpit – and in today’s world of social media, there are many – the call is to drop everything and join us in this fight against the world’s oldest form of hatred.
I return to my boyhood and the encounters with the taunting I endured. I learned that I had many good friends in my small world who saw the injustice in what was being aimed in my direction and acted in my defense. These were good people and for them, they were doing me no special favors. They spoke up on my behalf or comforted me because they just thought it was right thing to do.
The solidarity march and rally in New York against antisemitism on January 5 was an important event in drawing attention to the problem and in bringing our community together. We are mobilizing to fight the scourge. But as a minority which accounts for less than one-fifth of 2% of the global population, we must look to our non-Jewish friends and allies to join the fight. They are out there in every town and city and on every block and street. We must motivate and activate the many resources that they have, to build the kind of coalitions we’ll need to turn the tide.
I believe there are other Florence Kelloms and Eddie Mainses out there whose voices can add much to our efforts today, especially when we find ourselves so much under attack. There is no time to waste.
JBS - B'nai B'rith International Commends Ukraine for Leaving the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
JBS News covered B'nai B'rith International's response on Twitter commending Ukraine for leaving the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Watch below.
Ekathimerini covered B'nai B'rith International's lauding of the recently-signed East Med pipeline agreement between Israel, Cyprus and Greece.
The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the American Hellenic Institute (AHI), B’nai B’rith International, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations have welcomed Thursday’s signing of an agreement between Greece, Cyprus and Israel to build the EastMed subsea pipeline to carry natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean’s gas fields to continental Europe.
“The agreement demonstrates the significant progress the trilateral alliance has achieved in energy cooperation and the three countries’ leadership in the region to provide energy security,” the organizations said in a joint statement.
“We applaud the commitment to fostering peace, security, stability, and shared democratic values and ideals, in the region by all parties,” they said.
“We will continue to lend our broad diaspora support and encouragement for advancing the trilateral alliance.”
In its coverage of the newly approved Eastern Mediterranean pipeline agreement between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, the Jerusalem Post cites work by B'nai B'rith International in increasing these trilateral ties.
For Israel, Greece and Cyprus, 2020 is expected to be a year of fruitful cooperation. Their decision to sign an agreement for the construction of the East Med pipeline opens a new chapter in a friendship that has been cemented for over a decade. The success of the partnership lies in the join interests of the three countries in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as in their shared values and common understanding of challenges. The more Jerusalem, Athens and Nicosia talk to each other, the deeper the content of their synergies becomes.
Politics and energy have the lion’s share. The reaction of Turkey to the strengthening of the ‘democratic bloc’ outlines the solid foundations of the latter. The Turkish government takes counter-measures which, inter alia, ignore customary international laws of the sea. This is the case for the MoU signed between Ankara and Tripoli demarcating maritime zones. While Greece and Cyprus take the lead in exposing the illegal, unhelpful and escalatory nature of this agreement, Israel almost immediately expressed its full support and solidarity.
According to Foreign Minister Israel Katz his country’s official position on the Turkish-Libyan maritime deal does not mean it would send ‘battleships to confront Turkey’. But Jerusalem is gradually taking some clear messages about Ankara’s determination to employ a muscular approach to protect its interests in specific maritime zones of the Mediterranean which it believes belong to its own continental shelf. A few weeks ago, for instance, the Turkish navy deported an Israeli research ship from Cypriot waters. This might constitute a precedent for Turkish future actions in areas covered by the aforementioned MoU with Libya.
The Turkish government counts on the UN-backed government of Libya under Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. It is sending military troops to the war-torn country and forges an alliance with Tunisia and Algeria in its support. President Tayyip Erdogan is playing this card realizing that Israel, Greece and Cyprus are not alone but find additional regional sympathizers such as Egypt. Cairo plays a key role in the recently announced Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, where Turkey has not yet participated, and favors General Khalifa Haftar – the opponent of al-Sarraj – in the Libyan civil war. Although the conflict in Libya is internationalized and goes beyond regional stakes, the establishment of a foothold by Turkey will certainly empower its position.Israel, Greece and Cyprus work hard to obtain practical US support for their cause. Since the end of 2018, Washington has openly welcomed this tripartite format of collaboration. And now, the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019, already signed by President Donald Trump, enables it to substantially boost the trilateral scheme through energy and defense cooperation initiatives.
Among others, the Act authorizes financial assistance for an International Military Education and Training (IMET) program for Cyprus for the first time. Cyprus significantly matters for Israel to complete training beyond its borders. At the beginning of December, the country hosted an international commando and IAF ‘Game of Thrones’ exercise. IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi visited the exercise area.The ‘democratic bloc’ needs to think creatively and to set the agenda for the future. Initiatives such as the Israel-Hellenic Forum, launched by B’nai B’rith International in Jerusalem last November, will contribute to brainstorming and facilitate the work of political elites. When there is a will, there is a way.Greece and Cyprus are gaining a true friend. Israel is similarly appreciating the sincere friendship. Athens and Nicosia share Jerusalem’s security sensitivities and are able to disseminate them at the European level. The effort needs to be reinforced in 2020. British media reports that Hamas plots attacks on Israel from Turkey cannot any longer be ignored by Europe.
This attempt has to be complemented by the continuous fight against antisemitism. The region of Northern Greece, including Thrace, which underwent the terrible experience of the Holocaust that almost eliminated what was at one time a thriving Jewish community, does not forget. Alexandroupolis has its new Holocaust Memorial. The responsibility to raise awareness is both collective and personal.
The Jewish Broadcasting Service (JBS) interviewed B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in the aftermath of the stabbing attacks of five Jews at a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, New York.
JNS - Jewish and pro-Israel groups, US politicians react to death of IRGC Quds Force general Soleimani
JNS covered B'nai B'rith International CEO's Daniel S. Mariaschin's response to the death of IRGC Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani.
For the most part, Jewish and pro-Israel groups mostly reacted positively to the U.S. elimination of the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Maj. Gen, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq on Thursday.
“At the direction of the president, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” said the Pentagon in a statement.
B’nai B’rith International CEO and executive vice president Dan Mariaschin told JNS, “The American strike today was a major step in the war against terror. Soleimani was the chief agent for Iran’s export of terror throughout the region and beyond. Hopefully, this will serve as a strong deterrent to those who would seek to harm the United States and its allies.”
“The forces who carried out this attack are to be congratulated both in its execution and its impact,” Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told JNS. “I think it will rank with the [2011 U.S.] elimination [in Pakistan] of Osama bin Laden. Soleimani was the leader of the Quds Force … who was responsible for the death of many Americans and many others. [He] was clearly the key figure for Iran and Iraq, and Syria.”
Subscribe to The JNS Daily Syndicate by email and never miss our top stories“And the message will not be lost,” he continued. “I hope that no other violence ensues, but it was a landmark event. It proved to be a watershed event as he will be very hard to replace, if it is even possible.”
While Hoenlein expressed concern over a possible escalation by Iran in response to Soleimani’s death, he said that “the United States messages have been very clear and very strong about the consequences of such action.”
He added that “many people are not aware about Soleimani as they were about Osama bin Laden.”
In a tweet shortly after Solemani’s death, U.S. President Donald Trump simply posted a picture of the American flag, making no explicit reference to the successful operation.
Jewish Democratic Council of America executive director Halie Soifer slammed Trump’s tweet.
“This tweet exemplifies Trump’s approach to foreign policy. He wraps himself in the (pixelated) flag to justify his recklessness, demonstrating bluster and bravado. No one is shedding any tears for Soleimani, but we need a real strategy and actual leadership for what comes next.”
“Soleimani was one of the highest-ranked, most important officials in Iran, the leader of the elite special forces within the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,” said Republican Jewish Coalition chairman and former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman in a statement. “He is personally responsible for uncountable deaths over more than a decade, including the deaths of over 600 US military personnel in Iraq. He has the blood of civilians in Syria and Yemen on his hands.”
“He was key to the growth of Hezbollah and other terrorist groups,” he continued. “It is difficult to overstate the role he played in Iran’s bloodiest operations around the region. His death makes the world a safer place.”
‘The price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up’
Both sides of the political spectrum reacted differently to Soleimani’s death with Republicans celebrating and Democrats condemning the U.S. action.
“Wow—the price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up drastically. Major blow to Iranian regime that has American blood on its hands. Soleimani was one of the most ruthless and vicious members of the Ayatollah’s regime. He had American blood on his hands,” stated Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in a series of tweets. “I appreciate President @realDonaldTrump’s bold action against Iranian aggression. To the Iranian government: if you want more, you will get more.”
“If Iranian aggression continues and I worked at an Iranian oil refinery, I would think about a new career,” he continued. “This action by President Trump and our military was in direct response to Iranian aggression orchestrated by General Soleimani and his proxies. If Iran continues to attack America and our allies, they should pay the heaviest of prices, which includes the destruction of their oil refineries.”
“Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “The question is this: As reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) slammed Murphy’s tweet.
“This tweet is simply drunk partisanship. Gen. Soleimani has killed hundreds and hundreds of Americans, and was actively plotting more. This commander-in-chief—any C-in-C.—has an obligation to defend America by killing this bastard,” he tweeted.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted that the United States “killed a man responsible for hundreds of thousands of death in #Syria and elsewhere, including Americans in Iraq. Let’s see how long the #blameAmerica left takes to make him look like a poor victim.”
Three of the leading Democratic presidential candidates overtly objected to the U.S. strike.
“When I voted against the war in Iraq in 2002, I feared it would lead to greater destabilization of the region. That fear unfortunately turned out to be true. The U.S. has lost approximately 4,500 brave troops, tens of thousands have been wounded, and we’ve spent trillions,” tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars. Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one.”
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that “President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox.”
“The administration’s statement says that its goal is to deter future attacks by Iran, but this action will almost certainly have the opposite effect,” he said in a statement. “President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad, and our partners throughout the region and beyond.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), tweeted that “Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war.”
“Qassem Soleimani was responsible for directing Iran’s destabilizing actions in Iraq, Syria and throughout the Middle East, including attacks against U.S. forces,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in a statement. “But the timing, manner and potential consequences of the administration’s actions raise serious questions and concerns about an escalating conflict.
“Our immediate focus needs to be on ensuring all necessary security measures are taken to protect U.S. military and diplomatic personnel in Iraq and throughout the region,” she continued. “The administration needs to fully consult with Congress on its decision-making, response plans and strategy for preventing a wider conflict.”
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