The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) distributed written remarks from B'nai B'rith International during its Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Europe's largest human rights conference.
Eric Fusfield B’nai B’rith International
September 24, 2019
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates:
Of all the hatreds that tear at our social fabric today, none is more unremitting, more resilient, more adaptable than anti-Semitism. As representatives of B’nai B’rith International, an American-based organization with members in dozens of countries around the world, my colleagues and I have viewed the resurgence of anti-Semitism throughout the OSCE region in recent years with deep anguish. In my home country of the United States, the problem has become strikingly apparent, as synagogue mass shootings in Pittsburgh and San Diego in the past year have left American Jewry shaken and fearful for its safety.
The responsibility of governments, international organizations, and leaders of society to confront this phenomenon is becoming increasingly urgent. To do this we need practical tools. One such mechanism has been ODIHR’s Words into Action project, which, with the support of the German government, has countered anti-Semitism through activities in the areas of education, security, and coalition-building. Words into Action, whose contract recently expired, has published practical guides and provided other resources to assist educators, government officials, and civil society in better understanding and developing strategies to combat anti-Semitism.
It is crucial that this work continue in some context, as the need is more pressing than ever. B’nai B’rith calls on the OSCE to continue its support of ODIHR’s tolerance and nondiscrimination unit in its programs to combat the unique, and uniquely persistent, social illness of anti-Semitism. Now is simply not the time to reverse course on this important effort.
In 2014 we honored the 10th anniversary of the OSCE Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism and the historic declaration that emerged from that gathering. But the review conference that took place in Berlin that fall underscored that much work remains to be done. The past five years have seen a wave of anti-Israel demonstrations throughout the OSCE region; these gatherings have typically featured blatantly anti-Semitic themes and have often turned violent. Attacks and threats against Jewish individuals and institutions, such as the white supremacist march two years ago in Charlottesville, Virginia have increased in frequency and intensity, as the landscape from Belgium to Bulgaria, Germany to Greece, Holland to Hungary, and Ireland to Italy has witnessed violence against Jewish targets. This spread of hatred has been accompanied by a corrosion of the public discourse with respect to Jews and Israel and has left Jews both in Europe and North America fearful for their safety and security.
As a result of anti-Semitic attacks, thousands of Jews have emigrated from Western Europe to Israel in each of the past several years. Furthermore, a survey of European Jewish leaders last year indicated that membership and participation in Jewish institutions has declined, at the same time that security has, of necessity, been increased. Next Sunday night the holy day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, will begin. Across the continent, synagogue attendance is expected to suffer as a result of fear about openly practicing Judaism.
The rise of anti-Jewish hatred has also resulted in a proliferation of anti-Semitic propaganda, much of which is directed against the State of Israel. Tragically, the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state has become a daily occurrence, as Israel’s enemies repeatedly accuse it of being a Nazi-like occupier and an apartheid state that disenfranchises the Palestinians. Falsehoods about Israel are repeated so often that they become widely accepted in the popular culture and sometimes impact government policy. The effort by Israel’s relentless critics to denigrate the Jewish state is not only evidence that anti-Semitism is alive and well 74 years after the Holocaust – this new variation of the world’s oldest hatred actually poses a security threat to the Jewish state by intensifying its international isolation.
For more than a decade, the OSCE has taken up the urgent struggle against rising antiSemitism. High-level conferences in Vienna in 2003 and Berlin in 2004 and 2014, among other gatherings, have focused a needed spotlight on this and other forms of intolerance.
The historic 2004 Berlin Declaration, which provided a series of important recommendations for governments to follow in combating anti-Semitism, specifically addressed the growing problem of anti-Semitic attacks being committed by opponents of Israel’s policies. The passage stating that “international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism” stands as an important rebuff to those who try to justify hate crimes with politics.
Permanent Council Decision No. 607, which preceded the 2004 Berlin Conference, and subsequent Ministerial decisions, represent vital affirmations of the OSCE’s commitment to fight anti-Semitism and related forms of racism and xenophobia. That pact has been bolstered by the creation of ODIHR’s indispensable tolerance and non-discrimination unit, which carries out this important work each day and which includes an expert advisor on anti-Semitism, and by the appointment of the Chairman-in-Office’s three personal representatives on combating intolerance.
In 2016 the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) adopted a working definition of anti-Semitism that clearly illustrates the dimensions of the problem. The time has come for the OSCE to follow suit. The Ministerial Council should approve a working definition of anti-Semitism based on the IHRA model, one that should then be widely promoted within the OSCE to educate public officials, journalists, teachers, and others about the contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism.
While much has been done to fight anti-Semitism in the past decade or more, much work remains. The need for practical and effective strategies to combat and defeat this pathology is still crucial. To this end,
We must continue to affirm commitments made at the landmark 2004 conference and reiterated at subsequent conferences and assess the implementation of those commitments.
We must enhance funding for ODIHR’s Tolerance and Non-Discrimination unit, which has now become a fixed and integral part of the OSCE’s work. We must enable the TND unit to sustain and expand its critical activities, which has included the Words into Action project and educational programs on anti-Semitism in more than a dozen countries.
We must extend, for the foreseeable future, the terms of the three personal representatives on intolerance.
Member-states must fulfill their reporting requirements with respect to hate crimes data. Far too few governments have done so until now.
Finally, we must strongly reinforce the crucial principle declared at the 2004 Berlin Conference – That no political position, cause or grievance can ever justify anti-Semitism – and make clear that the demonization and delegitimization of the Jewish state is often none other than a pretext for the hatred of Jews themselves.
The Trentonian published a letter from B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman condemning the use of the anti-Semitic phrase "Jew her down" by a member of the Trenton City Council.
I am sickened to read that Trenton City Council President Kathy McBride publicly used the term “Jew her down.” The use of this word as a verb is worse than offensive. And for Council members Robin Vaughn and George Muschal to follow up by supporting the use of the phrase is a pure confession of personal ignorance. Vaughn’s pivot of “We really need to get a more acute meaning and understanding of “anti-Semitic” is political folly. Her own comment acknowledges “an acute sense of ignorance.”
Muschal completes the trifecta of hate speech practitioners by saying the phrase is a “statement of speech.” It’s nothing “vicious?” Well, certainly not to anti-Semites.
There’s much work to be done in educating the public about hate speech. It’s hard to imagine that such a void of understanding could possibly exist in these callous times, but it does. I hope these officials connect much better with their constituencies and vice versa.
McBride, Muschal, Vaughn and no doubt others may want to ask their Jewish friends about the use of “Jew” as a verb. They also may want to contemplate terms that are offensive to any racial or ethnic group. I won’t get into specific references out of respect for diverse groups and cultures. However, trust me, the use of Jew as a verb is offensive.
Please refrain from using this expression in the future. It’s embarrassing to anyone who uses it, and really shameful by elected officials of a major American city.
— Charles Kaufman, President, B’nai B’rith International
The Jewish Broadcasting Service (JBS) covered a meeting between United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and a B'nai B'rith International delegation. B'nai B'rith's delegation included CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin; Millie Magid, B'nai B'rith chair of U.N. affairs; Stewart Cahn, of New York; Brian Kaufman, of New York; and David Michaels, director of U.N. and intercommunal affairs.
JNS.org cited B'nai B'rith International's statement in response to the news that Jason Greenblatt, U.S. Middle East special envoy, would be resigning from his post.
Jewish and pro-Israel community leaders and groups reacted to the White House announcement on Thursday that U.S. Middle East special envoy Jason Greenblatt plans to resign within the coming weeks.
“Mr. Greenblatt has played a pivotal role over the last two years in strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and in working on ways to seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” American Israel Public Affairs Committee spokesperson Marshall Wittmann told JNS. “We are grateful for his service to our country, and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”
“Jason Greenblatt’s departure is a great loss to American diplomacy in the Mideast,” Mort Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, told JNS. “He knew how to make everyone comfortable and satisfied, no matter how difficult the issue. His knowledge and understanding of the details of the Arab war against Israel was extraordinary. He also showed grace and aplomb, and imperturbability even under the greatest pressure.”
B’nai B’rith International CEO Dan Mariaschin told JNS, “Jason Greenblatt took on the monumental task of trying to bring a realistic solution to the conflict. His tireless efforts in pursuing that will surely be missed.”
“Jason Greenblatt made a significant sacrifice in moving to Washington and being away from his family during these past years,” Christians United For Israel founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee told JNS. “He has served his country honorably and made important contributions to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship, and to the security of our nations, that will long outlast his tenure in D.C. We are grateful to him for his friendship and for his staunch support of Israel; he will be missed.”
Joseph Sabag, executive director of IAC for Action, said “Jason Greenblatt has been vital in creating a more realistic public understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He’s shown an exceptional willingness to speak the truth and lay out needed criticisms. He has left the situation in far better shape than he inherited it.”
“While we are sad to see Jason Greenblatt depart the administration, we wish him much continued success in his next chapter. [He] has done an amazing job representing the United States, working tirelessly to bring peace and security between Israel and the Palestinians,” Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks told JNS. “We are grateful to have had the honor of working closely with him and are looking forward to working with his very talented replacement, Avi Berkowitz.”
Berkowitz, a deputy to White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, will take over most of Greenblatt’s duties, though U.S. special representative for Iran Brian Hook will also take on some responsibilities.
Greenblatt will remain at the White House for another few weeks until the launch of the political component of the peace proposal following the Sept. 17 Israeli elections.
The economic component was revealed in June at a conference in Bahrain.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to have worked in the White House for over two-and-a-half years under the leadership of President [Donald] Trump. I am incredibly grateful to have been part of a team that drafted a vision for peace,” said Greenblatt. “This vision has the potential to vastly improve the lives of millions of Israelis, Palestinians and others in the region.”
“I would like to thank my incredible wife Naomi and my amazing six children for their strength and encouragement,” he continued. “I will thoroughly miss working with my friends and colleagues Jared Kushner, David Friedman and Avi Berkowitz, as well as the many other dedicated individuals within the U.S. government who were instrumental in our efforts.”
Not everyone, however, seemed surprised or disheartened by Greenblatt’s resignation.
“@jdgreenblatt45’s pending departure is another indication that @realDonaldTrump has no attainable vision for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like other aspects of Trump’s policy, the “ultimate deal” was never more than an empty promise,” tweeted Jewish Democratic Council of America executive director Halie Soifer.
“Deeply grateful for the service and sacrifice of @jdgreenblatt45 as Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. Thank you for your tireless and dedicated efforts, your consistent responsiveness, and friendship,” tweeted the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.
JTA.org noted B'nai B'rith International's disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, which wreaked destruction in the Bahamas.
The Israel-based humanitarian group IsraAID, B’nai B’rith International and Chabad are among those pitching in to help the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian’s devastation, which has killed at least seven people.
“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy in parts of the northern Bahamas,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a news conference Tuesday, adding the “devastation is unprecedented and extensive.”
The hurricane stalled over Grand Bahama Island for nearly two days, leaving whole neighborhoods, as well as airports and hospitals, submerged. At least 13,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.
IsraAID, a humanitarian aid agency that responds to emergency crises and engages in international development around the world, said Tuesday that it would send emergency support to the Bahamas.
Its emergency response team will distribute relief supplies, offer psychological first aid and deploy water filters to restore access to drinking water while conducting further needs assessments in affected communities, the NGO said in a statement.
In 2018, IsraAID said its emergency response teams reached 26,300 people with safe water, psychological and community support, and relief following nine disasters in seven countries. The group has opened an Emergency Response Fund to pay for its work.
B’nai B’rith is accepting donations to its Disaster Relief Fund to assist those affected by Dorian. Donations will go to assist local recovery and rebuilding teams, the group said in a statement.
Rabbi Sholom and Sheera Bluming, directors of Chabad of the Bahamas in Nassau, have been in touch with the Jewish community in Nassau, which was relatively unscathed by the hurricane, but have not been able to reach some of those living on Abaco, who still remain unaccounted for, according to Chabad.org.
The rabbi said that about 1,000 Jewish expats have made their home in the Bahamas, and that more than 100,000 Jews visit the islands each year.
The Blumings have joined in the official government relief effort, calling on the Jewish community to help, and is coordinating a shipment of supplies from South Florida that will include food, drinking water and mosquito nets for Abaco.
The JDC, or American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee said in a statement that it would provide emergency medical supplies through its partner the Afya Foundation, and is raising funds for the supplies as well as for recovery and reconstruction initiatives. To tailor its response to the evolving situation on the ground, JDC said it has activated its network of partners and is assessing the situation in consultation with these local and international agencies.
JDC’s disaster relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors to JDC. Relief efforts of JDC are coordinated with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, the Israeli government and the United Nations, as well as local and international partners.
As of Wednesday morning the hurricane, now a Category 2 storm, remained about 100 miles off Florida’s east coast, lashing it with wind and rain, and moving toward Georgia, with experts saying it could hit the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday and Friday. Storm surge warnings are in place up and down the coast.
Arutz Sheva included a statement from B'nai B'rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in their coverage of a possible policy change that would allow Jerusalem-born American citizens to list "Jerusalem, Israel" as their place of birth on U.S. passports.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Trump administration is considering allowing US citizens born in Jerusalem to list “Jerusalem, Israel” on their US passports.
While the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, State Department policy still does not allow for the indication of Jerusalem as being a part of Israel on passports of US citizens.
“We’re constantly evaluating the way we handle what can be listed on passports,” Pompeo told JNS.“It’s something that’s actively being looked at.”
The announcement comes as a major development after a State Department spokesperson told JNS in October, “The president has made clear that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to final-status negotiations between the [Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs]."
“We have not changed our practice regarding place of birth on passports or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad at this time.”
Pro-Israel organizations praised the development to JNS.
B’nai B’rith International CEO and executive vice president Dan Mariaschin praised the development, saying, “it’s encouraging news. This is a logical follow-on to moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and in the process, corrects a historical wrong which denied this designation for over seven decades.”
“The [US] Supreme Court has determined that the passport issue is within the purview of the administration, which has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” American Zionist Movement president Richard Heideman said. “It is most appropriate for passports for those born in Jerusalem, such as my three grandchildren born at Hadassah Hospital, to be listed as born in Jerusalem, Israel and not simply born in Jerusalem as if they were stateless, which they are not.”
“This is a very important and significant decision which affirms the long-standing fact that Jerusalem is Israel and isn’t in “dispute,’” said Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks. “Once again, President Trump and his administration enacts a policy that the Jewish community has long sought and underscores why he’s the most pro-Israel President in history.”
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