The Jewish Link covered B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin's meaningful conversation with the Torah Academy of Bergen County's (NJ) Israel Advocacy Club.
JTA and the Jewish Journal noted our denunciation of a Human Rights Watch report once again demonizing Israel, the world's only Jewish state.
(JTA) — A report by Human Rights Watch says that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has crossed the threshold into apartheid and recommends far-reaching punitive measures, including prosecutions for crimes against humanity.
The leading human rights group’s embrace of the term, seen by Israel and many Jewish groups as a way of accusing Israel of being essentially racist and illegitimate, set off a firestorm of outraged attacks from a number of major U.S. Jewish groups that charged Human Rights Watch with attempting to “delegitimize” Israel. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations called it “a collection of lies and fabrications, bordering on antisemitic.”
Human Rights Watch is an international group that monitors countries’ adherence to international human rights law. It has often been harshly critical of Israeli policy, and in 2019 Israel deported one of the group’s employees.
But this is the first time the group has used the word “apartheid” to describe Israeli policy. The report says Israel systematically discriminates against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as well as against its Arab citizens, some of whom identify as Palestinian. But the report says the apartheid designation applies only to Israel’s policy in the West Bank and Gaza.
“To maintain domination, Israeli authorities systematically discriminate against Palestinians,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “In the occupied territory, the severity of the repression, including the imposition of draconian military rule on Palestinians while affording Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law, amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid.”
Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Six-Day War. In the West Bank, Israeli settlers are Israeli citizens with the right to vote and freedom of movement. West Bank Palestinians live under varying degrees of Israeli military control and Palestinian local governance, without citizenship or the right to vote in Israel.
Israel withdrew its settlers and troops from Gaza in 2005, and Israelis particularly reject the notion that Israel still controls the coastal strip. Israel does control most of Gaza’s border and airspace. And the Human Rights Watch report treats the West Bank and Gaza as a single entity despite their different realities.
Within Israel’s recognized borders, Arab Israelis are full Israeli citizens with the right to vote, equality under the law and representation in Israel’s parliament. Community leaders, however, have long complained of systemic discrimination in a range of fields.
Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. and the United States, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a statement that the report “is part of the organization’s ongoing campaign against Israel. He added, “When the authors of the report cynically and falsely use the term apartheid, they nullify the legal and social status of millions of Israeli citizens, including Arab citizens, who are an integral part of the State of Israel.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella body for U.S. Jewish groups, called the report released Tuesday “disgraceful” and said it was an attempt to “demonize, delegitimize and apply double standards to the State of Israel.”
The Presidents Conference statement stopped short of calling the report antisemitic, but the “three d’s” cited in the statement is a formula coined by Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet refusenik, to describe when criticism of Israel crosses into antisemitism.
Other major U.S. Jewish groups including the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International, separately slammed the report. AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, retweeted the Presidents Conference statement and two Republicans in Congress condemned Human Rights Watch. The Anti-Defamation League also called the report “yet another attempt to delegitimize the very concept of a Jewish and democratic state,” though the group added that the report “raises legitimate issues of concern about Israeli policies.”
Human Rights Watch is not the first group to apply the apartheid label to Israel. In January, the Israeli human rights group Btselem concluded that Israel should be considered an apartheid state.
The core of Israeli and mainstream Jewish objections to using the term apartheid is that in its original South African definition, it described a system that explicitly used race to discriminate against, oppress and disenfranchise minorities.
The Presidents Conference said that the “tyranny and dehumanization” of South African apartheid had “no equivalence” with Israel’s “vibrant democracy where all citizens of rights and representation in the national legislature.”
Human Rights Watch argued in its report that the term apartheid has been used since the collapse of South African apartheid to describe inequitable societies that are not explicitly based on racist laws, as South Africa’s was.
The group said Israel met the terms of what it says is this more recent definition in three ways: by maintaining domination over the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip through military occupation, citing statements from Israeli officials who suggest the occupation will continue in perpetuity; through Israeli laws that discriminate against Israel’s Arab minority, including one from 2018 that states Israel is the “nation state of the Jewish people”; and “inhumane acts” including restrictions on the movement and residency rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The report’s recommendations are far-reaching, including prosecutions of Israeli officials for crimes against humanity and restrictions on trade with Israel. It also calls for the international community to “establish through the United Nations an international commission of inquiry to investigate systematic discrimination and repression based on group identity in the [Occupied Palestinian Territories] and Israel.”
NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog of human rights groups, says such recommendations suggest a broader and more sinister agenda.
“This publication is not merely a critique of Israeli policy in the West Bank, but an attack on the very foundations of Israel and a rejection of the legitimacy of a Jewish state, regardless of borders,” it said in publishing its own report on the report.
At least two pro-Israel groups on the left said the correct reaction to the report should not be to focus on whether or not apartheid is an appropriate term, but to address the corrosive effects of the occupation described in the report.
“After 40 years of documenting and protesting against the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, we do know a thing or two about it,” said Americans for Peace Now, a constituent of the Presidents Conference. “And we know that the carefully documented facts in the HRW report on the occupation are largely indisputable. We also know too well what the occupation does to Palestinians and Israelis, and how desperately it needs to end.”
The president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, said his organization would not use the apartheid term, but called on other Jewish groups to refrain from “defaming” those who do use it.
“While we do not ourselves use the term ‘apartheid’ to describe the current situation in the occupied territories, we believe it’s deeply wrong and harmful to defame scholars, activists and political leaders who use it themselves,” Jeremy Ben-Ami said.
Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist group that has longed use the term, welcomed the report.
“It is long past time for the rest of the world to call this what it is,” JVP said on Twitter. “It could not be more clear. It’s apartheid.”
Jewish Groups, Local Communities Mark Two-Year Anniversary of Deadly Passover Shooting at Poway Chabad
The Algemeiner noted our commemoration, along with other Jewish groups, of the Poway Chabad shooting two years ago.
Leading Jewish groups marked the two-year anniversary of the deadly attacks at a Jewish congregation in California, when a white supremacist gunman stormed Passover services with an assault rifle, killing 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye and wounding three others, including the synagogue’s rabbi.
“Today we remember two years since the deadly attack on the Chabad of Poway when a gunman entered the Chabad and started shooting. One person, Lori Gilbert Kaye was killed and three others injured,” said the The Anti-Defamation League in a Twitter post. “Lori’s memory will forever be in our hearts in our mission to #FightHateForGood.”
The World Jewish Congress tweeted, “In memory of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, z”l, who was killed two years ago today in the shooting at the Poway Synagogue in San Diego, on April 27, 2019. It was a Shabbat. Her friends described her as ‘a jewel of our community.'”
The three others wounded in the attack were Noya Dahan, then 8; her uncle Almog Peretz, then 34; and the Chabad’s then-rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 57 at the time.
Gilbert-Kaye, a mother of one, was hailed as a hero after the attack for throwing her own body in front of the synagogue’s rabbi as shots rang out.
“Two years ago, a far-right domestic terrorist attacked the Chabad of Poway with the intention of killing Jews,” wrote B’nai B’rith International on Twitter. “May her memory be a blessing & inspire us to root out anti-Semitism, extremism & all forms of hate.”
The American Jewish Committee said, “May Lori’s memory be a blessing and inspire us to fight antisemitism wherever it exists.”
Poway Mayor Steve Vaus — who recently jointed the 525-member strong Mayors United Against Antisemitism — posted a photograph from the day of the attack, pledging to “never forget.”
The San Diego Sheriff’s department tweeted, “Two years ago today, a gunman stormed the Chabad of Poway during a crowded service. One person was killed and three others were hurt. @SDSheriff honors the memory of Lori Gilbert-Kaye. Her husband encourages us to do acts of kindness in her memory.”
The gunman, John Timothy Earnest, was apprehended in his car about two miles from the synagogue by a San Diego police officer. He faces the death penalty for charges brought by the state, and separate hate crime charges in a federal trial that was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jewish Groups Horrified Over ‘Antisemitic Bigot’ Louis Farrakhan’s Appearance at Funeral of Rapper DMX
The Algemeiner included B'nai B'rith International's condemnation of the prominent attendance of Nation of Islam leader and notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan at rapper DMX’s funeral service.
Jewish organizations expressed outrage on Monday over the prominent attendance of Nation of Islam leader and notorious antisemite Louis Farrakhan at rapper DMX’s funeral service on Sunday.
Farrakhan delivered an 18-minute eulogy via webcam at DMX’s “Homegoing Celebration,” a close-knit service held at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, NY, following a more public memorial service on Saturday at Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. In his speech, Farrakhan called DMX — whose real name is Earl Simmons — a prophet from God, spoke about his global influence and addressed the rapper’s 15 children, saying, “Your father is not gone. He’s absent, but you can bring him back.”
The service was live streamed on YouTube by BET Networks, which has over 3 million subscribers.
“While we would not normally comment on those chosen to deliver such remarks, it must be acknowledged that Farrakhan is an unrepentant demagogue, responsible for some of the most vile and open expressions of antisemitism, homophobia and bigotry,” B’nai B’rith International told The Algemeiner. “Particularly at a time such as this, we must all remember that tolerating any form of hate is a danger to all communities. Farrakhan must never be legitimized by those in positions of influence in our society.”
Liora Rez, the executive director of StopAntisemitism.org, told The Algemeiner, “We continue to be horrified that an antisemitic and homophobic bigot like Farrakhan continues to be given a platform in the black community. In a time of horrid racial division in this country, problematic and hate filled individuals like Farrakhan do nothing but promote even MORE conflict and discord.”
Entrepreneur and “Shark Tank” investor Daymond John initially praised Farrakhan’s speech on Twitter, and said about the Nation of Islam leader: “his deep understanding of the Bible and respect for other people’s religions was truly inspiring.” However, by Sunday night, John deleted the comments and issued a follow-up statement, after facing criticism over Farrakhan’s history of antisemitic statements.
“In regards to my tweet regarding DMX’s funeral, my comments on Minister Farrakhan were only related to what I just witnessed tonight, unbeknownst to his prior stances,” John tweeted on Sunday night. “As someone who was fortunate enough to have a step dad of the Jewish faith, I do not condone and never would condone any antisemitic prejudice or any remarks of hatred.”
“The prior tweet will be removed to avoid further pain and confusion to anyone who has felt hurt in the past by any negative comments of his,” he added.
Farrakhan has previously called Jewish people “satanic” and compared them to termites, publicly questioned the Holocaust and condemned Judaism as a “dirty religion.” According to an archive shared on the Anti-Defamation League’s website, Farrakhan has been making antisemitic comments for more than 30 years.
French Political Leader Stirs Controversy by Evoking the ”Emotion of the Jewish Community” Following the Supreme Court Ruling in the Murder of Sarah Halimi
The European Jewish Press quoted B'nai B'rith Europe President Serge Dahan's condemnation of the decision by the French Supreme Court to uphold an earlier ruling that the man who murdered Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman, in her Paris flat in 2017, will not stand trial.
A French political leader stirred controversy by evoking ‘’the emotion of the Jewish community’’ rather than using the words ‘’national community’’ when he spoke about the decision of France’s Supreme Court to upheld an earlier ruling that the man who killed Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman, in her Paris flat in 2017, will not stand trial.
The murderer, Kobili Traore beat up the victim several times and shouted “Allahu Akbar” before throwing her body out of a third-floor window and shouting “I killed the devil”.
The court said the man, a heavy cannabis smoker, committed the killing after succumbing to a “delirious fit” and was thus ‘’not criminally responsible’’ for his actions. This means there will be no trial contrary to the wish of the victim’s family.
In an interview, Julien Bayou, the national secretary of Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV), France’s Green party, declared: “I understand the emotion of the Jewish community, but we must keep this principle: ‘We don’t judge fools’ (…) Justice is not revenge.’’
His statement was denounced on social media. “It is the national community that was moved by the absence of a trial for Sarah Halimi’s murderer! Let’s defend our nation as one and indivisible. This is France, a France that some people never stop dividing and fracturing,” commented Valérie Pécresse, president of the Île-de-France region.
“There is a very strong emotion among all French people,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal declared on n Europe 1 radio.
Following his controversial statement, Bayou tried to “clarify his thoughts”. He explained that he had reacted “as a man of law” by elaborating “on the legal reasons” that led the Court of Cassation to take this decision. “But clearly, this verdict shocked us all, obviously,” he said.
“When a Jew is attacked, it is all of France that is attacked. I spoke about the Jewish community in particular because Jews in France are particularly affected by these increasingly barbaric acts,” he said.
Amid outcry over the Supreme Court’s ruling, French President Emmanuel Macron has urged a change in the law. “Deciding to take narcotics and then ‘going mad’ should, not in my view, remove your criminal responsibility,” he told daily Le Figaro in an interview.
“I would like Justice Minister (Eric Dupond-Moretti) to present a change in the law as soon as possible”, he said. ‘’I want to assure the family, relatives of the victim and all fellow citizens of Jewish faith who were awaiting this trial of my warm support and the determination of the Republic to protect them,” he added.
Jewish groups said the ruling has made Jews less safe in France. Lawyers for Halimi’s family said they intend to refer the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
‘’This is a revolting, scandalous, offensive and unworthy decision,’’ said Serge Dahan, President of B’nai B’rith Europe, who called ‘’to denounce this judicial and moral defeat in the face of this antisemitic assassination.’’
A “rally of anger for Sarah Halimi’’ to express anger over the court’s decision is scheduled to take place next Sunday at the Place du Trocadero in Paris. Rallies are also organized in several other cities in France and abroad.
The B'nai B'rith International World Center-Jerusalem received significant coverage of our 20th annual joint Yom HaSHoah ceremony with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) honoring Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust.
See how the media noted this year’s commemoration:
Channel 7 TV News
Israel Radio, Hebrew News
https://www.ifatmediasite.com/ms/radio/2021/04/08/10599465.mp3 (Also in English)
The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post
The Times of Israel
Additionally, a wrap-up film and report appeared on the JNF-KKL website:
In JNS, Miriam Assor, a member of the Portuguese Jewish community in Lisbon, highlighted B'nai B'rith's involvement in the creation of the Oporto Holocaust Museum – the city's first Holocaust museum.
(April 11, 2021 / JNS) The new Oporto Holocaust Museum, the only one in the Iberian Peninsula, has already been referred to by Timeout magazine as the best museum in the city. Oporto is one of Europe’s oldest and most popular tourist destinations, and before the COVID-19 pandemic, it received hundreds of thousands of European tourists every year.
As a daughter of the rabbi who led the Jewish community of Lisbon for 50 years, born in a country where Jews were expelled five centuries ago—and living in a Europe where more and more people hate Jews, Judaism and Israel—I am infused with a sense of security from the museum. It is a reminder that the phrase “Never again”—about the savage murder of six million Jews in a genocide designed down to the last millimeter—cannot and must not be reduced to an epigraph.
I have read the works of Elie Wiesel, Samuel Pisar, Primo Levy and Anne Frank. I was privileged to be friends with someone who breached the Warsaw Ghetto wall. I have interviewed survivors. I met Imre Kertész.
I have visited the Nazi extermination camps, where the air smells of corpses and remnants of dead Jews were on display: stacks of suitcases, shoes, artificial limbs, glasses, crutches, human hair used for fabrics. I have been to Yad Vashem and Kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta’ot in Israel, and many other Holocaust museums elsewhere in the world, viewing photos of so many tattooed arms with deadly numbers. I have pored over archives and scoured libraries, examining blood-stained documents.
To be remembered, the Shoah needs to be known and deeply understood. Understanding is perhaps the only way not to allow the crime to be repeated. “Never again” translates into solidifying the truth with justice, with the strength that does not come from weapons, but from actions such as the building of the Holocaust museum, run by Oporto’s Jewish community, whose parents, grandparents and other family members were direct victims of that tragedy: enslaved, gassed, shot, buried in mass graves, forced to play the violin in Theresienstadt, subject to Mengele’s experiments, escaping Treblinka in the middle of the night.
Built by complementary teams of experts in areas as diverse as history, design, architecture, civil construction and carpentry, under the direction of the board and local rabbinate, the Oporto Holocaust Museum was erected in just two months. In cooperation with B’nai B’rith International and Holocaust museums around the world, it portrays Jewish life before the Holocaust; Nazism and Nazi expansion in Europe; the ghettos, refugees, concentration, labor and extermination camps; liberation; the Jewish population in the post-war period; the foundation of the State of Israel; and the Righteous Among the Nations.
Visitors will have the opportunity to see a reproduction of the Auschwitz dormitories, a room of names, a memorial flame, a study center and, in the image of the Washington Holocaust Museum, photographs and video footage of the period before, during and after the tragedy.
The museum also contains archives relating to refugees who passed through the city of Oporto, including official documents, testimonies, letters and hundreds of individual files. Two Torah scrolls offered to the synagogue in Oporto by refugees who had arrived in the city after the war are also on display.
The new museum is part of a strategy of the local Jewish community to combat anti-Semitism—a strategy that also includes school visits to the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue; four films about the history of Jews in Portugal (as part of an interfaith project with the Diocese of Oporto); pedagogical training programs for secondary-school teachers and other civil servants on themes related to Judaism, the history of the Jews and the Holocaust; and visits to the city’s Jewish Museum to observe the historic and cultural importance of the Jews in Portugal and of Portuguese Jews worldwide, with particular emphasis on the Jewish community in Oporto, which is older than the foundation of Portugal.
The board of directors of the Jewish community of Oporto has it right when it says, “Jews are off the political agenda in many countries, as they are seen as plutocrats of an obscurantist religion and culture with their own state in Israel. Jews don’t count, and the Holocaust itself has been instrumentalized mainly to combat discrimination in general, although nine out of 10 victims were Jewish. Nazism also persecuted other minorities, but it just feared the Jewish culture that was 3,000 years old and present on all continents. The Jews were considered as the greatest threat to the ‘Master Race.’ Hatred of Jews extended far beyond the territories occupied by Germany. The Holocaust aimed to exterminate the Jewish people!”
Jewish Groups Blast ‘Incendiary’ Remarks by Teachers Union Head Calling US Jews ‘Part of Ownership Class’ Over School Reopening Debate
The Algemeiner highlighted our condemnation of anti-Semitic remarks made recently by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in an interview with JTA.
Leading US Jewish groups condemned as “extremely disturbing” and “deeply harmful” recent remarks by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Weingarten, when asked by the outlet about critics of the resistance by teachers unions to return to in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, dismissed American Jews voicing those concerns as “part of the ownership class,” who are trying to take away from others opportunities for advancement that they had once used themselves.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Algemeiner it was an “incendiary attack” making use of “class warfare.”
“If it had come from someone who wasn’t Jewish, I would imagine we would be talking about classic antisemitism, about demonizing a community. I’m assuming that’s not what she had in mind,” Cooper said.
But whether intended or not, he continued, it risked fueling “more antisemitism, it will justify more separation between communities … and between economic levels. That’s not what a true leader should do, especially not in the educational realm.”
In the April 1 interview, Weingarten was asked about “skeptics” of the influence of teachers unions. “They look at, for example, the ongoing struggles in Los Angeles, where they see this big dollar figure of aid being given for school reopening and are baffled by the perceived resistance of teachers to going back to work,” asked JTA’s Laura E. Adkins.
“I have a very pointed response here for Jews making this argument,” Weingarten answered.
“American Jews are now part of the ownership class,” she said. “Jews were immigrants from somewhere else. And they needed the right to have public education. And they needed power to have enough income and wealth for their families that they could put their kids through college and their kids could do better than they have done. Both economic opportunity through the labor movement and an educational opportunity through public education were key for Jews to go from the working class to the ownership class.”
“What I hear when I hear that question is that those who are in the ownership class now want to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it. Am I saying that everything we do is right? No. Are people in Los Angeles fearful? Yes,” she continued.
Weingarten did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The Algemeiner.
Rabbi Cooper emphasized that many Jews of earlier generations grew up in poverty, and that “no one handed to American Jews, anything for free. They had to fight, and scrap for it,” Cooper added. “We don’t need lectures from anyone, including [Weingarten], about social responsibility and commitments to floating the boats for everyone.”
“We’re counting on the teachers of America, including the vast millions of members of teachers unions, for the growth of our children, the health of our society going forward — we want them all to be extremely successful. They’re not the enemy, and they certainly not our enemy. And this kind of language is not helpful,” he said.
In a joint statement, B’nai B’rith President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said, “We vociferously condemn the deeply harmful comments about the Jewish role in school re-openings made by Weingarten,” which “invoked sinister tropes about Jewish ownership, power and control.”
“What is Weingarten thinking here? Her comments are dangerous to the Jewish community, setting it up as an obstacle to a fair and equitable public education system. In casting the school re-opening debate as one of ‘privilege,’ Weingarten is feeding into the stereotype of Jews as all-powerful,” the joint statement said. “As someone who works directly with educators, Weingarten should know that words matter.”
Jewish Insider noted, along with other Jewish organizations, our call for members of the U.S. Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general urging increased transparency and accountability over UNRWA curricula.
The Biden administration announced Wednesday it would provide at least $235 million in aid to the Palestinians, reversing a decision by former President Donald Trump to halt U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and organizations that provide services and support to Palestinians.
Wednesday’s announcement follows a series of quiet steps taken by the administration in recent weeks to restore aid to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.
Approximately $150 million of the total aid will be distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the U.N. agency tasked with dealing with Palestinian refugees. UNRWA has drawn criticism numerous times in recent months for distributing learning materials to Palestinian students that glorified militants and promoted violence against Israelis.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan promptly criticized the administration for restoring aid to UNRWA, which he said “should not exist in its current form.”
“In conversations with the U.S. State Department, I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing antisemitic content from its educational curriculum are carried out,” Erdan said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said at his Wednesday press briefing that reinstating aid to UNRWA puts the U.S. in a better position to address issues including the organization’s neutrality, accountability and approach to education.
“By resuming this assistance today… we have a seat at the table. We can help drive UNRWA in the ways that we think it is in our interest and consistent with our values to do. Obviously, there are areas where we would like to see reform,” Price said. “We will continue to be in a position, an even greater position to drive and to steer UNRWA in a direction that we think is productive and useful with this step today.”
Republican opposition on Capitol Hill to the administration’s announcement was also swift. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) accused the administration of “support of pay to slay,” referencing the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the families of individuals who have carried out terror attacks on Israelis. Graham was an original cosponsor of the Taylor Force Act, which bans U.S. aid to the PA until it halts such payments.
“I am deeply troubled by recent decisions from the Biden administration to turn a blind eye to behavior by the Palestinian Authority,” Graham said in a statement. “Recent decisions by the State Department to provide funding for projects in the West Bank come close to violating the provisions of the Taylor Force Act… A willingness to make concessions to the Palestinians without demanding anything in return is deeply troubling and should worry us all.”
Price insisted Wednesday the aid is “absolutely consistent” with U.S. law, adding that the U.S. had consulted with both members of Congress and regional stakeholders before the announcement.
“We provide assistance in the West Bank and Gaza through experienced and trusted independent partners on the ground, and it’s these partners who distribute directly to people in need, not through government or de facto government authorities,” Price said. “Our development partners in the West Bank and Gaza have aggressive risk mitigation systems in place.”
Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and another original cosponsor of the Taylor Force Act, issued a joint statement denouncing the decision with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The two Republicans argued that Biden should have secured concessions from the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA before providing aid.
“The Biden administration should use all available leverage to secure behavior changes from the Palestinian Authority, including ending terror payments,” Risch and McCaul said. “We will continue to scrutinize every proposed program to ensure the administration’s actions are in lockstep with the Taylor Force Act.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), an original cosponsor of Taylor Force in the House, similarly criticized the administration for failing to address the issue of payments to terrorists in its announcement. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is currently circulating a letter among Senate Republicans calling on Biden to put the aid on hold, citing concerns that it violates Taylor Force and other U.S. laws, the Associated Pressreported Wednesday.
The administration’s move also comes amid renewed action on Capitol Hill to crack down on UNRWA- and PA-sponsored education programs. A bipartisan group of House members led by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) reintroduced legislation on Monday mandating State Department reports on the content of curricula distributed to children in the Palestinian territories.
Ilan Goldenberg, a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, suggested that the administration and UNRWA “will be negotiating an understanding of the terms of their relationship” that includes “incitement and antisemitism in UNRWA schools.” Goldenberg added that withdrawing all aid “got [the U.S.] no influence or real change.”
A group of Jewish organizations, including Hadassah, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, the Orthodox Union, the Zionist Organization of America and Christians United for Israel began calling on members of Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general calling for increased transparency and accountability over UNRWA curricula on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the administration’s announcement.
JNS covered, along with other pro-Israel and Jewish organizations, our push for members of the U.S. Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general urging him to end anti-Semitic content found in the curriculum of schools run by UNRWA.
(April 8, 2021 / JNS) Several pro-Israel and Jewish organizations are urging U.S. legislators to pressure the United Nations to end hateful anti-Semitic content found in the curriculum of schools run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The letter to Congress—spearheaded by Hadassah and signed by more than a dozen leading Jewish and pro-Israel groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, the Orthodox Union, the Zionist Organization of America, the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement and Christians United for Israel—calls on lawmakers to urge “U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to shield students in U.N.-run schools from lessons steeped in anti-Semitism and supportive of violence.”
“It is critical that we stand together to demand systemic reform to educational materials used by … UNRWA before one more child is taught from textbooks riddled with hateful lessons,” the letter states.
It cited a recent report by IMPACT-se that discovered how UNRWA staff have authored and disseminated educational content, which in some cases was “more egregious than that of the Palestinian Authority.”
It further adds that “Guterres can play an important role to ensure transparency, accountability and oversight that will stop the decades-long practice of teaching children to hate.”
The letter comes as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced it is restoring $150 million in aid to UNRWA that had been cut under the Trump administration.
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