The oldest Jewish service organization in the world began here on the Lower East Side, and this year celebrates a major milestone.
B’nai Brith International (“Sons of the Covenant”) – now in its 175th year – was founded on Essex Street in October 1843 by a dozen immigrants of German-Jewish descent.
Of course, at that time, the neighborhood looked vastly different. The recent arrivals’ inaugural meeting was at Aaron Sinsheimer’s ground-level cafe at 60 Essex Street, in what was then a three-story Federal-style brick building (under Seward Park Extension housing). Each founder lent the astronomical sum of $5 to start the club, whose primary goal was helping off-the-boat Jews adjust to their new lives in America. B’nai B’rith also would provide financial assistance to widows and orphans through insurance policies and various charities.
B’nai B’rith became a juggernaut early on. It went national, and membership swelled into the thousands by the end of the Civil War, with sixty-six lodges around the country. According to the official website, the group notched the following achievements:
If you stroll by the location today, it’s fairly easy to overlook the plaque dedicated by the city on the nation’s bicentennial (July 4, 1976). The honor is emblazoned on the perimeter wall of the Seward Park Extension.
And B’nai B’rith is now headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Read the original version of the story here.
Adding to her anti-Israel résumé, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) has accused Israel of being an “apartheid” state.
Accepting a leadership award from the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights earlier late last month, the congresswoman made the remark in reference to Israel’s recently enacted nation-state law.
“Friends, the world has a name of that form of government that’s codified in the Nation-State Law, and it’s called ‘apartheid,’” said McCollum.
Members of the pro-Israel and Jewish community weighed in on her comments.
“Something like 126 countries have laws similar to Israel’s new nation-state law,” said Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum. “I guess apartheid is everywhere.”
Dan Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International CEO and executive vice president, said, “it’s a slander and a grotesque mischaracterization of the State of Israel, which is an exemplary member of the community of democracies.”
And Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein said, “McCollum’s bigoted and absurdly false propaganda claim only proves her ignorance and her unhinged hatred of the Jewish State of Israel.”
He explained that “Israeli Arabs hold 10 percent of the seats in Israel’s Knesset, have a seat on the Supreme Court and many other Israeli Courts, have full voting rights; large numbers of Israeli Arabs are students and professors at Israeli universities. Many of the doctors are Israeli Arabs, as are half the patients; Israeli Arabs serve as ambassadors and are players on Israeli sports teams; they have their own media and full freedom of speech; and more Israeli Arab women are running for political office than ever before.”
“None of this was true in apartheid South Africa,” added Klein. “McCollum is a racist, prejudiced disgrace.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas was also disturbed by the legislator’s remark.
“Given Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s past support for a two-state solution, we are very troubled by her embrace of an organization which labels itself as a champion for Palestinian rights, but is primarily focus on the delegitimization of Israel, denying the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, and advancing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions [BDS] movement,” said the organization’s executive director, Steve Hunegs.
He added that moments before McCollum accepted her award and “outrageously declared Israel an ‘apartheid state,’ Professor Noura Erakat praised the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—an avowed terrorist organization responsible for the murder of scores of civilians, including children.”
‘Inflammatory and wrong’
Noting that her comments were wrong, Democratic strategist Mark Mellman told JNS that McCollum’s Israel views do not represent her party.
“Her comments represent only her own poorly informed and intellectually dishonest opinion,” he said. “It does not reflect the views of Democrats at large, Democratic members of Congress or the Democratic Party.”
Mellman’s firm released a poll on Oct. 17 showing that 74 percent of American Jewish voters are expected to cast their ballots for Democrats in the November midterms.
Ron Klein, chairman of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, echoed Mellman’s sentiment.
“Rep. Betty McCollum’s labeling Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state was inflammatory and wrong,” he told JNS. “While Rep. McCollum was responding to Israel’s passage of the controversial nation-state bill, which the Jewish Democratic Council of America also disagreed with, her rhetoric does not reflect mainstream views within the Democratic Party and does not advance the cause of peace.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee declined to comment, as did J Street.
In November 2017, McCollum introduced a bill that would mandate the U.S. government certify that its military funding to Israel is not used for “Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children.”
The watchdog group NGO Monitor accused the legislation of “exploiting Palestinian children,” noting that it is based on “invented international legal claims.”
B'nai B'rith International Senior Vice President Rebecca Saltzman was featured in the Intermountain Jewish News' "15 Under 40 You Should Know About."
Israel’s top UN envoy blasted UNESCO’s attempt to water down its controversial bi-annual Jerusalem resolution, reaffirming that Israel planned to leave the organization at the end of the year.
Danny Danon spoke after the 58 members of UNESCO’s executive board in Paris hid language disavowing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem in the lengthy annex to an otherwise short benign text called Resolution 28.
The statements in the resolution’s annexes are “further evidence, for anyone who did not understand why the United States and Israel withdrew from UNESCO," Danon said.
The board gave its preliminary approval to that text on Wednesday, with a final vote likely to be held on Monday.
UNESCO’s director-general Audrey Azoulay lauded the use of an annex text to bypass some of the controversy caused by the Jerusalem resolutions in past years.
“I wish to thank those who have worked to achieve this, especially the representatives of the Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian delegations, and all members of the Executive Board who supported this agreement, as well as the European Union,” Azoulay said.
A similar compromise had been reached at the April Executive Board meeting. At the time, the Israeli and the Palestinian delegations accepted the annex compromise, with Jerusalem welcoming Azoulay’s efforts to downgrade the anti-Israeli tone of the agency.
It’s understood that the Israeli delegation at UNESCO in Paris approved the compromise language this time as well.
Previous UNESCO resolutions had ignored Jewish ties to its most holy site, the Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as Har Habayit, referring to it solely by its Arabic-Muslim name al-Haram al-Sharif.
But this resolution’s annex modified some of that tone, stating that while Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron “are an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the two tombs “are of religious significance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”
In addition, it affirmed the importance of the “Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions.”
The board gave its preliminary approval to that text on Wednesday, with a final vote likely to be held on Monday.
The idea of placing controversial statements about Israel in an annex was conceived by by Azoulay with an eye to depoliticizing the organization.
She also hoped to sway Israel and the United States to rescind their decision to leave the organization at the end of the year.
The resolution’s annex allows for votes on controversial statements to be delayed to further meetings of the board, which gathers twice a year.
Applause broke out among board members when Resolution 28 and another one on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called Resolution 29, were approved by consensus.
After the meeting Azoulay, said: "I would like to commend the spirit of dialogue and the sense of responsibility that led to this result. A trend towards consensus is now emerging. It is based on the presence of all parties around the table at UNESCO and, of course, on their goodwill. These factors have come together in recent months and have enabled the Secretariat to play to the full its role as mediator.”
Still Israel believes that resolutions with such texts politicize UNESCO and should not come before the board altogether.
Danon dismissed such watering down efforts as too little, too late, saying the resolution “proves that UNESCO is a body based on lies and biases, and is deliberately acting against us. The State of Israel will not be a member of an organization that is trying to rewrite history and willing to be manipulated by our enemies.”
The enmity between UNESCO and Israel is so bitter that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to attend a UNESCO event condemning antisemitism.
UNESCO held that event earlier this month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, when Netanyahu was in New York.
At the time, Netanyahu said, “In withdrawing from UNESCO in 2017, Israel and the United States made a clear moral statement that UNESCO’s antisemitism will no longer be tolerated.
“If and when UNESCO ends its bias against Israel, stops denying history and starts standing up for the truth, Israel will be honored to rejoin,” Netanyahu said.
Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Dr. Shimon Samuels told The Jerusalem Post that ‘the big question is what now? What will happen after Israel leaves? I believe that the role of all the Jewish groups accredited to UNESCO will become significantly more important, in confronting such challenges.’’
Samuels noted that Azoulay is keen on enhancing the agency’s relations with the Jewish world, but that without Israel as member state, this might prove difficult.
Still, the Jewish organizations, he said, are committed to take up the job of defending the cause of Israel and world Jewry in UNESCO.
Representative of B’nai B’rith Stephane Teicher told the Post that Jerusalem believes that delaying these resolutions each time is not a solution.
“I understand that,” he said.
Teicher noted that at the executive board, “everybody was relieved that such an issue was resolved through consensus. And this is to the credit of Audrey Azoulay, who has deployed significant efforts to de-politicize the agency.”
Israeli and Palestinian delegates to UNESCO refused to comment, though an Israel source told the Post that Israel recognizes the efforts made by Mrs. Azoulay to change UNESCO”s attitude.
A statement put out by her office on Wednesday noted that in this past year 12 resolutions on the Middle East had been arrived at by consensus, “after negotiation between the parties, facilitated by the UNESCO Secretariat.”
Read the original version in the Jerusalem Post here.
Nikki Haley, who has been the face of the Trump administration’s strong stances in support of Israel, has resigned as ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday.
A former Republican governor of South Carolina, Haley, who has served as U.N. ambassador since the beginning of the Trump administration, will step down from his position at the end of year.
U.S. President Donald Trump had apparently know of her decision for a while before her announcement. He said that “she’s done a fantastic job, and we’ve done a fantastic job together. We’ve solved a lot of problems and we’re in the process of solving a lot of problems.”
Haley responded that the United States is now respected again on the world stage, while listing tackling anti-Israel bias as one of her top accomplishments.
“They get it when the president says he means business,” she said. “If you look at the anti-Israel bias and the strength and courage the president showed in moving the embassy.”
Trump said the search for her replacement will happen in the next few weeks.
Haley has received widespread support from both Israeli officials and the American Jewish community for her strong support of Israel at the world body, which has been a hotbed of criticism of the Jewish state for decades.
“We appreciate the new spirit of ambassador Nikki Haley; she has been very important and helpful,” Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon told JNS earlier this year. We work very closely with ambassador Haley and her team. We see similar issues, and understand the challenges and threats. That’s why you see the cooperation because we come from the same values.”
Early on in her tenure as U.N. ambassador, Haley made it clear that she would no longer tolerate anti-Israel bias at the world body. During a March 2017 speech to AIPAC, declared herself as the U.N.’s “new sheriff in town” and declared “the days of Israel-bashing are over.”
‘A steadfast friend of our community’
“Nikki Haley is a great champion of human rights, of U.N. reform and for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship,” said Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president and CEO of B’nai B’rith International. “She called out the bias against Israel time and again, and spoke directly about the hypocrisy and politicization that pervades the organization. A steadfast friend of our community and of Israel, we hope we’ll continue to hear her voice on the many issues she has championed.”
Michael Makovsky, president and CEO of JINSA, said that he “deeply regrets” her resignation. “She quickly became a rock star, strongly advocating for U.S. positions on all matters in the U.N., including championing Israel and consistently defending it from the constant barrage of hypocritical attacks in that body, and as well as highlighting Iran’s many transgressions. Americans owe Amb. Haley our deepest gratitude, and welcome her return to public service at some date.”
Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Jewish Policy Center, said she is “saddened by the resignation of Ambassador Nikki Haley as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She has been a strong, articulate voice for our country, our interests and our allies—not only our ally Israel, but most particularly Israel. In the face of enormous pressure from U.N. institutions with built-in biases against Israel and the United States, she never lost her composure while never missing an opportunity to stand for what is right. While we wish her well in her future endeavors, she will be sorely missed by Americans and others who treasure plain-spoken truth.”
During her 2018 address to AIPAC, Haley again received an overwhelmingly positive response, getting numerous standing ovations from the pro-Israel crowd.
“Some people accuse us of favoritism towards Israel,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with showing favoritism towards an ally; that’s what being an ally is all about. But in all that we’re doing, our approach on Israel is tied to one major idea—the simple concept that Israel must be treated like any other normal country.”
“We appreciate the strong leadership of Ambassador Haley,” said AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann, “and we thank her for consistently standing up for American interests and our democratic ally Israel.”
During her time at the United Nations, Haley presided over the U.S. pullout of UNESCO and the Human Rights Council, citing their bias against Israel as the reason.
Additionally, the United States also announced that it would end funding to UNRWA, the U.N. agency that handles Palestinian refugees, accusing the organization of corruption and perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Despite the United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv in May, Americans born in Jerusalem are still unable to list “Jerusalem, Israel” on U.S. passports.
“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 Palestinians],” a State Department spokesperson told JNS. “We have not changed our practice regarding place of birth on passports or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad at this time.”
A group of 55 House Republicans sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump several weeks ago, urging him to instruct the State Department to permit American citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birth country on their passport.
“Despite the progress in moving the embassy, the State Department has not yet fully implemented the administration’s policy of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital for purposes of registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem,” the letter stated.
Pro-Israel groups weigh in
Jewish and pro-Israel groups expressed concern to JNS over this development.
“We strongly supported legislation that would enable U.S. citizens to declare Israel to be their place of birth should they so desire,” said AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann. “We encourage the administration to adopt this approach.”
“It is deeply frustrating that the State Department ignores the fact that Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran; Arabs face Mecca when they pray, Jews face Jerusalem,” said Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein. “It has never been the capital of any country except Israel. Jerusalem became a slum when under Arab control from 1948-67, and no Arab leader except King Hussein visited Jerusalem during that time.”
“It has been Jerusalem, Israel, for thousands of years according to God, U.S. law and history, but not according to the State Department,” he continued. “Where is [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo on this? Shameful appeasement.”
Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, said “this is inconsistent with his previous message, declaring that ‘Israel, like any other sovereign nation, should have their right to determine its own capital.’ Why should Jewish babies born in Jerusalem continue to remain stateless?”
Daniel Mariaschin, CEO and executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, remarked that the State Department needs to change its policy in accordance with Trump’s. “The president has made clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” he said. “So any U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem is therefore, de facto, born in Israel, and their U.S. passport should reflect that reality.”
Executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein stated that hopefully, this is just bureaucratic resistance that can be pushed aside to right any wrong. “It is disappointing that apparent bureaucratic, or worse, biased judgements are impeding the correction of this historic wrong,” he said. “It does prejudge anything regarding borders or boundaries to acknowledge the place of birth correctly. I hope higher authorities will intervene.”
Apparently, it is advertent bureaucratic resistance inside the State Department, according to Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum.
“Even before President Trump made his announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in a White House backgrounder for analysts, a ranking State Department official made clear that the recognition had no geographic definition, that the complex U.S. position on the city going back to the Corpus Separatum concept in the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, remains entirely in place,” explained Pipes. “Thus did the bureaucracy manage to salvage something from what it considers the wreckage of Trump’s recognition.”
On hold due to upcoming Mideast peace plan
Although Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he has the authority to not have “Jerusalem, Israel” listed on U.S. passports in accordance with Zivotofsky v. Kerry, where the Supreme Court ruled it is solely the president who has the power to recognize foreign entities in accordance with the U.S. Constitution’s Reception Clause.
“Zivotofsky ruled in favor of the executive; he was not required to comply with the federal law,” said constitutional scholar Ilya Shapiro. “Trump, like Obama, can decline to stamp ‘Israel’ on the passport of a citizen born in Jerusalem.”
Washington-based geopolitical strategist and diplomacy consultant John Sitilides told JNS that the administration may be withholding putting “Jerusalem, Israel” on passports due to its much-anticipated Mideast peace plan.
“President Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but is now emphasizing his support for a two-state solution, and is withholding on the passport issue to maximize U.S. leverage as his diplomatic negotiating team finalizes its proposals,” said Sitilides. “He has publicly stated that Israel must be more flexible now that Jerusalem has been recognized, even as he declares that the Palestinian team has nowhere else to go to secure an enduring solution to its perennial issues.”
“Both sides, and all interested parties,” he said, “are holding their breath as the Trump administration prepares to unveil its long-awaited proposals.”
To read the original article in JNS, click this link.
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