JNS included B'nai B'rith International's statement in its coverage of U.S. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor's nomination to become U.S. ambassador to Germany.
(July 29, 2020 / JNS) The organized Jewish community has been expressing concern over the nomination of retired U.S. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor as U.S. ambassador to Germany to succeed Richard Grenell.
In a 2012 interview with The Daily Bell, Macgregor blamed neoconservatives, or “neocons,” for “making decisions in Washington that in their minds are beneficial to a foreign power and are not necessarily good for the American people or the United States.”
Macgregor also blamed “neocon” advisers for Trump eliminating Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani earlier this year.
In a statement on Tuesday, B’nai B’rith International said it is “troubled” by Macgregor’s remarks, but it did not express opposition to his nomination. Rather, it expressed “hope that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will raise these concerns during Macgregor’s confirmation process.”
“It is important that American diplomats not question the patriotism of other Americans who hold political views different from their own, especially given that questioning Jewish loyalty to America is an anti-Semitic trope,” said the organization.
“Moreover, it is vital that the American ambassador to Germany, whose work includes diplomatic negotiations on sanctions against the Iranian regime, Hezbollah’s presence in Europe and other aspects of Iran’s global reach, understand the severity of Iran’s belligerence and support for terrorism,” they continued. “Combating anti-Semitism is an important priority for the U.S.-German bilateral relationship, which adds to our concern over his record of insensitivity in speaking about Jews.”
B’nai B’rith International called Macgregor’s stance on Iran as “concerning.”
In a statement on Tuesday, StandWithUs’s Center for Combating Antisemitism said it “is deeply concerned” about the nomination, though didn’t express outright opposition to it.
The Media Line quoted Eric Fusfield, director of legislative affairs and deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, in its analysis of the rise of anti-Semitism in the age of COVID-19.
Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as Black nationalist and a hate group, praises Adolf Hitler and compares Jews to termites. He has won accolades on social media from several high-profile celebrities for his rhetoric even though the Anti-Defamation League says that he is an anti-Semite.
Described as the world’s oldest disease, anti-Semitism is increasing along with COVID-19.
“We are at a critical moment in our history – rightfully fighting for racial justice – so it is extremely unfortunate, especially as anti-Semitism is rising in America, that celebrities are elevating the voices of those who, while fighting anti-Black racism, are also promoting anti-Semitism,” Holly Huffnagle, newly appointed US director for Combating Anti-Semitism at the American Jewish Committee (AJC), told The Media Line.
Huffnagle stressed that all forms of anti-Semitism are dangerous and that hostility toward Jews can be found across the ideological spectrum, from the radical left to the far right.
Deborah Lipstadt, a Holocaust historian at Atlanta’s Emory University, agreed.
“We’re seeing a perfect storm of anti-Semitism right now,” Lipstadt told The Media Line. “We’re seeing it on the right and we’re seeing it on the left.
“We are seeing it because there is a certain nationalism that has arisen. We’re seeing it also because of views on the left, often disguised as views on Israel, that are anti-Semitic in their essence,” she said.
Types of Anti-Semitic Incidents Vary
Social media is the latest battleground for anti-Semitism. The most recent examples include Madonna sharing a video of Farrakhan to her more than 15 million Instagram followers and Twitter locking the accounts of users displaying the Star of David, a symbol of Judaism, in their profile pictures.
There are also more traditional forms of anti-Semitism. Last Saturday, about 30 neo-Nazis held a protest at a park in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, while wearing armbands and carrying flags emblazed with the swastika. Police quickly broke up their demonstration, saying they didn’t have a permit.
During the protests against the killing in May of George Floyd, a synagogue in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles was vandalized with graffiti reading “F**k Israel” and “Free Palestine.”
What is the Definition of Anti-Semitism?
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism is the most widely recognized definition of anti-Semitism and has been adopted by more than 30 countries so far.
The definition’s main clause defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”
According to the IHRA definition, contemporary examples of anti-Semitism include Holocaust denial and the delegitimization of Israel. The definition also allows for criticism of Israel in the way that any other country might be criticized.
Fiamma Nirenstein, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told The Media Line that the IHRA definition is important because it incorporates the “3 d’s” of Soviet refusenik and Israeli politician Natan Sharansky – delegitimization of Israel, demonization of Israel and subjecting Israel to double standards.
“There is a difference between legitimate criticism and anti-Semitism. Legitimate criticism is not only admissible but necessary in a democracy,” Nirenstein said.
Anti-Semitism Is on The Rise in the US, Europe and Globally
The number of anti-Semitic incidents last year was the highest in the United States since tracking began in 1979, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit. More than 2,100 incidents were reported – a 12% increase over 2018. The number of assaults jumped 56% during the same period.
The polling aligns with the data. A landmark survey of US Jews in 2019 by the global Jewish advocacy group AJC found that 88% said that anti-Semitism is a problem in the US and 84% said that anti-Semitism has increased in the US.
Anti-Semitism is also increasing worldwide. There was an 18% increase in violent anti-Semitic incidents globally in 2019 over the previous year, the highest rise since 2014, according to the annual report on hate crimes from Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry and the Moshe Kantor Database for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. In a recent webinar, the Kantor Center’s Dina Porat said that anti-Semitism was increasing before the coronavirus crisis but that the pandemic has acted as an accelerant.
Research by the Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights shows an increase in anti-Semitism in the EU bloc. According to data compiled last year for 2008 to 2018, certain member states have experienced a rise in anti-Semitic incidents. For example, France saw anti-Semitic acts increase 74% in 2018 compared with 2017.
An AJC Paris survey conducted in 2019 found that 73% of the French public and 72% of French Jews consider anti-Semitism a problem in their country. The survey found that 70% of French Jews reported experiencing at least one anti-Semitic incident.
Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, a German historian and head of the Berlin-based Center for Anti-Semitism Research, told The Media Line that the rise in ethno-nationalism in Europe over the past 30 years has opened the door to increased anti-Semitism.
She said that the data shows an increase in anti-Semitic attacks but surveys do not show a rise in anti-Semitic sentiment. But this has been misinterpreted, at least in Germany, she said, because surveys have shown that a small group of hardcore anti-Semites and another small group of “latent anti-Semites” are becoming more vocal.
“Even though there is no big change in the numbers [of those with] anti-Semitic attitudes, there is greater visibility and people will say things in public. If you go to one of the anti-corona demonstrations it is really amazing,” Schüler-Springorum said.
Eric Fusfield, director of legislative affairs and deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, told The Media Line that American Jews are experiencing violent anti-Semitic attacks that were previously a European phenomenon.
“American Jews are coming to expect more and more the physical threat to their security and the need for a police presence in synagogue. This is something that was commonplace in Europe but it’s becoming more and more normal in the United States now,” Fusfield said.
COVID-19 Is Driving Anti-Semitism
A report last month from the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University found that Jews and Israel are being blamed for the coronavirus outbreak and that centuries-old anti-Semitic themes are resurfacing.
“People are believing in all kinds of conspiracy theories as to how [the pandemic] happened and who is behind it,” Dr. Robert Rozett, senior historian at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, told The Media Line.
Rozett said that one of the major conspiracy theories circulating today is a return to a libel dating back to the Black Death of the 14th century when European Jewish communities were massacred after being accused of causing the outbreak by deliberately poisoning wells.
A Data-Driven Approach to Combating Anti-Semitism
California-based AMCHA Initiative has been using a data-driven approach to fighting anti-Semitism on US college and university campuses since launching its online anti-Semitism tracker in 2018 that compiles anti-Semitic incidents from 2015 to the present.
The nonprofit organization monitors approximately 450 higher education institutions for anti-Semitic activity, logging more than 3,500 anti-Semitic incidents on its database since 2015.
The organization’s annual report, released this month, found a more than 300% increase in campus activity challenging the IHRA’s working definition identifying anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism.
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, AMCHA’s director, co-founded the organization in 2011 with fellow academic Leila Beckwith. Rossman-Benjamin was at UC Santa Cruz and Beckwith was at UCLA in the early 2000s when they became concerned about an increase in anti-Semitism on their campuses.
“We realized that we needed to start to keep track of what was happening. Not just what we heard but to do active research about it. To try to compile [incidents] to see sort of the nature and scope of the problem of campus anti-Semitism in the US,” Rossman-Benjamin told The Media Line.
Other Potential Solutions to Anti-Semitism
The world marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp this past January where the Nazis murdered more than a million Jews and others. And yet, today, the world is experiencing a resurgence of anti-Semitism not seen since the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party.
Is there a vaccine for the virus of anti-Semitism?
For Nirenstein, the answer is in politics. The problem, in her view, is the language criminalizing the state of Israel, what she describes as “Israelophobia,” a combination of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
“Institutions [such as the UN and EU] are very responsible for the growth of anti-Semitism because they build a backing to it,” Nirenstein said.
Lipstadt said that anti-Semitism should not be used as a political weapon to shield against legitimate criticism of certain Israeli policies.
“Be careful. Be strategic. Be tactical. This is a major moral problem, and we must fight it with all our strength. But we also must fight it smart. We have to fight it tactically with a scalpel, not with a bludgeon,” Lipstadt said.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of Global Social Action Agenda for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, told The Media Line that reaching out to other communities is important for countering anti-Semitism.
“We need to be able to find and work with allies who are going to help to defeat anti-Semitism,” Cooper said. “Jews can’t defeat anti-Semitism on their own. We need allies. And in the ever-changing world we live in, it is a huge challenge. But that is the challenge that stands before us.”
Cooper recalled Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal saying that when there is a strong democracy, it is good for the Jews, and when there is not, it is bad for the Jews.
Huffnagle said that AJC is working to strengthen democratic institutions in the effort to counter the rise in anti-Semitism.
“We are also focusing on ways to rebuild our democracy and democratic institutions,” Huffnagle said. “American Jews are safer and more secure in a stable America, and we must continue promoting democratic values for all Americans if we want to lower levels of anti-Semitism.”
Justice Still Being Sought for Victims of Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center Bombing, 26 Years Later
The Algemeiner covered our virtual discussion and cited our call for justice in its coverage of the 26th anniversary of the AMIA terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires.
Saturday will mark the 26th anniversary of the deadly bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in which 85 people were murdered.
The July 18, 1994 attack at the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) building was perpetrated by Hezbollah on behalf of its backer, Iran.
Major Jewish groups around the world are commemorating the atrocity with social media posts.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) tweeted, “On July 18, 1994, a terrorist attack struck the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, killing 85 people. Julio Menajovsky was one of the first photojournalists on the scene. More than two decades later, he reunited with survivors and relatives of the victims.”
B’nai B’rith International tweeted, “Twenty-six years after the #AMIA terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires, there’s still no justice for the victims & their families.”
The European Jewish Congress (EJC) tweeted, “We mourn with the families of the vicitms of the #AMIA bombing in 1994 & join them in their mission to seek justice.”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) tweeted, “26 years later, we remember.”
The AJC also hosted an online program on Thursday featuring a conversation with the current president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, who said his government was committed to bringing those responsible for the bombing to justice.
“The truth is that for Argentines, the AMIA attack is very painful,” Fernández said. “This was not an attack against the Jewish community only, it was an attack against Argentina. The victims, many of them, were members of the Jewish community. But they were Argentines first and foremost and it hurts us as such.”
However, it must be noted that Alberto Fernández’s current vice president is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the former Argentine president suspected of illegally conspiring with Iran to cover up its role in the attack.
This matter was investigated by the late Argentine federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment in January 2015, shortly before he was supposed to appear at a congressional hearing to lay out his allegations against Kirchner.
Nisman’s death was originally depicted by Argentine authorities as a suicide, but it was later determined he had been murdered — a crime for which no one has yet been arrested. Some have accused Kirchner of being behind Nisman’s killing.
The Associated Press included B'nai B'rith International in its coverage of Jewish organizations urging the U.S. government to press Jordan to extradite Ahlam al-Tamimi.
JERUSALEM (AP) — A coalition of Jewish American groups has called on the U.S. government to press Jordan to extradite a Palestinian woman who helped carry out a 2001 suicide bombing that killed 15 people, including two Americans, in Jerusalem.
A joint statement signed by 18 groups aims to step up the pressure on Jordan, a key American ally, to send Ahlam al-Tamimi to the U.S. for trial.
The statement urges the U.S. to “bring all pressure to bear,” including possible cuts in American financial aid, to press Jordan into honoring an extradition agreement.
Monday’s statement was signed by a mix of right-wing and centrist groups. Among them are several major mainstream Jewish groups, including the Jewish Federations of North America, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and B’nai B’rith, as well as the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC.
Al-Tamimi is wanted by the U.S. on a charge of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against American nationals.
Jordan has rebuffed previous efforts to extradite her, citing double jeopardy considerations, but the Trump administration said recently it would consider withholding assistance as leverage. Jordanian officials have not commented publicly about the matter.
Al-Tamimi was arrested in the West Bank by Israel weeks after the bombing and sentenced to 16 life prison terms but released in a 2011 Israel-Hamas prisoner swap and moved to Jordan. She has made frequent media appearances, expressing no remorse for the attack and saying she was pleased with the high death toll.
Among the victims of the attack was Malka Roth, a 15-year-old Israeli American girl whose father, Arnold Roth, has led a campaign seeking al-Tamimi’s extradition.
“It’s time that Jordan’s disregard for its legal, diplomatic and moral obligations to hand Tamimi over to U.S. justice was brought to an end,” Roth said.
By Daniel S. Mariaschin, B'nai B'rith International CEO
I always associate the Fourth of July with a story that my mother told about her immigrant family arriving in their new home in Bangor, Maine, on Independence Day. Having landed at Ellis Island only a few days before, they reached Bangor in time to see the annual fireworks display on the nation’s 127th birthday.
Click here to read in full in The Algemeiner
Most immigrants became proud Americans the minute they set foot in the country, and my mother was no exception. At 12, as a leader of her youth group, she was asked to speak at the dedication of her synagogue’s new building. As quoted in the Bangor daily newspaper, she said, “Our purpose is to help once more uplift the Hebrew flag without wishing in any way to distract from the greatness of, or letting it in any way, affect our allegiance to, the Stars and Stripes.”
She loved American history and especially reading about our presidents. Abraham Lincoln was her favorite subject, and when speaking of Mary Todd Lincoln, she always conveyed empathy for her and the personal family tragedies she endured. She would often say that the one thing she’d like to do is to write a history of presidential children.
My father was no different. An immigrant who came to America as a child, like my mother, he was immersed immediately into the melting pot that was New York City. He often recounted his having to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and recite it in front of his classmates. He did, in heavily-accented English, which drew snickers from some in the class. I believe he told the story not because he was bothered so much by the response from his classmates, but that he was so proud about being able to deliver such an important American speech by heart.
Most of my dad’s working years were spent in the leather goods industry, where he worked as a foreman on factory floors, and later, as a designer and — for a short time — a manufacturer. His specialty became cowboy holster sets for children. Not too far removed from the shtetl, he became fascinated by Western lore, and counted among his favorite authors, Zane Gray, who wrote dozens of novels about the Old West. For a time, he even manufactured Lone Ranger sets, and well past retirement, would be known to pronounce, “Hi-ho Silver,” when that cowboy hero’s name was invoked.
As first-generation Americans, my sisters and I led the usual lives of millions of other young Jews. My first recollection of a Memorial Day parade was the one down Palisades Avenue, in Englewood, New Jersey, in 1955, at age 6. I must have been impressed by what I saw, because a photo exists of me saluting, taken when we had returned home. Later, when we moved to New Hampshire, I played in the high school band and recall marching on Memorial Day and at one of New England’s cherished institutions, Old Home Day, in a town near where we lived.
In small town New Hampshire, the parades down Main Street in Keene were always demonstrations of national — and local — pride. World War I veterans would ride in a “40 & 8” vehicle, made to look like a railroad engine, recalling the trains that brought troops to the French front. The American Legion marching band, with its talented drum major, was always a well-received attraction. Veterans of both world wars always drew applause from folks along the parade route. I was always proud of the fact that one World War I veteran was a member of our community, who became commander of the local American Legion Post.
When World War II began, my father, at 41 and then with two children, was considered too old to serve. But growing up, World War II veterans were everywhere. My first encounter with one such person was one I’ll never forget. My father would bring our car to be repaired at the auto dealer.
The mechanic there was a fellow — then probably around 30-years-old — whom my father told me had lost a leg in the war. He worked under the car on his back on a device that allowed him to slide to where he needed to replace a part. I felt sorry for him, but also looked up to him — as best a 7 or 8-year-old can — for his ability to overcome such a setback. He was one of my very first heroes.
On the Fourth of July, the local baseball field was the site of an American Legion ball game and a barbecue, capped by a fireworks display once it got dark, all organized by the local Rotary Club.
In our synagogue, there was a plaque which displayed the names of the dozen or so young men from our community who had served in World War II. In the small community cemetery, I know of at least one headstone that has “USN” at the top; around Memorial Day, a number of other graves have small American flags placed nearby, where others, who served their country, now rest.
My parents owned a small women’s clothing store on the central square in our town. It was a typical New England town square, framed by an 18th-century Congregational church, with blocks of shops on three sides, and a small pocket park in the center, featuring a Civil War monument looking south down a broad Main Street.
Our store had large display windows and each season we changed the backgrounds, usually seasonal subjects which my father, a talented artist, painted himself. In February, to commemorate both Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, he had photos of each enlarged, framed, and displayed prominently. Each year he brought out the photos and made sure to have them visible for all shoppers and passers-by to see.
Many years later, the Fourth of July was a signal day in my personal life. My first date with my wife-to-be was at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the esplanade of the Charles River in Boston. Arthur Fiedler conducted the Boston Pops in a concert celebrating America’s bicentennial. Whenever I hear strains of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” one of the Pops’ signature pieces, I’m brought back to that important anniversary moment in the history of our country.
My parents imbued us with the belief that there was no daylight between being a proud American and being a staunch Zionist and supporter of Israel. Like Justice Louis Brandeis, who made the point early on, we learned that that American and Jewish values were mutually reinforcing.
To say we never encountered antisemitism, or that there was never anyone we encountered who didn’t harbor assumptions of dual loyalty, would be untrue. But most of our friends, customers, and acquaintances understood exactly what the tug we had for the Jewish state was all about. In our county there were Finns, French-Canadians, Greeks, Irish, Italians, Poles, and so many others. What brought us together was our common history, and we took every opportunity to celebrate it.
On this Independence Day, I think of several things — that had my grandparents not made that difficult journey to, and been welcomed in, America I would not be here today; the round-ups and shootings in Lithuania, from where my mother came, and the Einsatzgruppen killing squads that liquidated my father’s Russian shtetl, would have seen to that.
I think of the opportunities in this country that have enabled our family, over three generations, to receive a sound education, and to pursue our careers to the fullest. I’m thankful, too, for our freedom to worship unhindered and to proudly work for a strong and secure Israel, a close ally of this country.
Our American democracy, 244 years on, is still a work in progress. That’s as it should be. Values are a base line, and always need to be updated, refreshed, and improved. American Jews have always been in the forefront of that effort. We have given back to this country in many ways, in so many fields that affect each and every American.
It has been a great match, this relationship between our community and the world’s greatest democracy. I hesitate to think of what our world would be without it.
Have a Happy Fourth!
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