JBS Coverage of B’nai B’rith Supporting EU Council Declaration on Mainstreaming the Fight Against Anti-Semitism
JBS covered our statement welcoming the EU Council Declaration on mainstreaming the fight against anti-Semitism across policy areas that was issued through unanimous agreement by EU member states. View coverage here (beginning at 3:42) or below.
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of the QAnon conspiracy theory, its deep anti-Semitic roots and its growing popularity in far-right circles.
(August 26, 2020 / JNS) The word QAnon—and the conspiracy theories behind it—keep making headlines of late.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican congressional candidate who touts the ideology, won her run-off in Georgia on Aug. 11 and recently got a shout-out by none other than U.S. President Donald Trump, who congratulated her, even calling her a “future Republican star.”
QAnon began in October 2017 with an anonymous user named “Q” on the imageboard website 4chan who claimed to have classified information surrounding the Trump administration and its critics. It is described as a conspiratorial movement that purports that the so-called liberal elite, including Democratic politicians and Jewish billionaire George Soros, are part of a secret political faction to overthrow Trump.
“QAnon conspiracies are centered around the idea of a powerful elite secretly manipulating current events,” Counter Extremism Project senior research analyst Josh Lipowsky told JNS. “QAnon subscribers have politicized the conspiracies around an imagined Democrat-led ‘deep state’ conspiring against Donald Trump, who is heralded as the only one who can defeat this menace.”
Lipowsky labeled QAnon “a modern-day version” of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which QAnon echoes in its conspiracy theories, in that “the primary goal is to shift blame.”
“At the center of these conspiracies is a secretive cabal with vast political and financial power,” he explained. “Certain people want to believe that there is really an all-powerful group controlling things because it removes the onus of personal responsibility for one’s own circumstances and creates a scapegoat for larger catastrophes. The economy is crashing? A virus is spreading throughout the world? It must be because of X. And historically, X has usually meant the Jews.”
Protocols, an infamous and classic anti-Semitic text that was shown to be plagiarized from several earlier sources, was first published in Russia in 1903, translated into multiple languages and disseminated internationally in the early part of the 20th century.
Although QAnon conspiracy theories “don’t all target Jews,” said Lipowsky, “they use the same strategy that anti-Semites have used for centuries.”
Lipowsky cited “the conspiracies QAnon is peddling with the coronavirus, blaming Bill Gates for creating the virus or seeking to implant microchips into vaccines,” in that “it’s all reminiscent of the baseless accusations the Jewish community has faced—from responsibility for the black plague by poisoning the wells of Europe to the Rothschilds’ manipulation of World War I and the Great Depression for financial gain. Like those historic anti-Semitic conspiracies, some of the QAnon conspiracies target the Rothschilds or other wealthy and powerful Jewish individuals.”
QAnon followers have also been connected to acts of violence, kidnapping, murder and public misconduct, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The suspect behind the April 2019 shooting on the last day of Passover at Chabad of Poway near San Diego, where one person was killed and three others injured, posted his intentions on the imageboard website 8kun, which is used by QAnon adherents.
‘Given us good reason to be alarmed’
As with most, if not all, conspiracy theories, the Jewish community is not immune from QAnon and must be vigilant and combat it, according to Jewish groups.
“Any group that traffics in conspiracy theories about world domination, or control of banks and the media, is a group we need to be deeply concerned about,” B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin told JNS. “Our community’s experience in combating these tropes has given us good reason to be alarmed.”
“QAnon is a Jew-hating conspiracy theorists group claiming the Rothschilds, a Jewish banking family, plans to kill non-Jews, start a world war and undermine the Trump administration,” Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein told JNS. “In an era of rising unbridled hatred of Jews and the Jewish state, such insane theories are gaining adherents and must be exposed and fought.”
That said, some find it troubling that the president has declined to condemn the movement.
“Conspiracy theories with tenuous ties to reality very often include Jews in some sinister capacity,” Yaakov Menken of the Coalition of Jewish Values told JNS. “When you know what to look for; you see supporters of both QAnon and [Black Lives Matter] saying the same things, and that should require our attention.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told JNS that “QAnon is all conspiracies, all the time. Since its inception, the Internet has provided life support for debunked conspiracies, breathing life back into some nefarious stereotypes.”
He added that it echoes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and its scapegoating of the iconic Jewish philanthropic Rothschild family in what Cooper summarized as the “powerful, manipulative banker.”
Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, said of QAnon that “it is clear that many of its members harbor dangerous conspiratorial fantasies drawn from the pages of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The notion that a small number of wealthy Jews manipulate governments and control the course of world events has in the past served as a warrant for genocide.”
‘All rooted in the same anti-Semitic archetype’
Mary Ann Mendoza, a speaker who was scheduled to give an address on Aug. 25 at the Republican National Convention, was taken off the program on Tuesday night after sharing to her more than 40,000 Twitter followers earlier in the day a QAnon thread from an unverified account that included a post that read: “‘The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion’ Is Not A Fabrication. And, It Certainly Is Not Anti-Semetic [sic] To Point Out This Fact.”
Rabbi Yechezkel Moskowitz, a prominent Trump supporter in the Jewish community, told JNS that QAnon echoing anti-Semitic tropes is no coincidence.
“From my experience, I’ve observed that when it comes to anti-Semitism, you won’t be hard-pressed to find it and, in our case, you will definitely find anti-Semitism within the QAnon movement,” he told JNS.
“Anti-Semitism is an ancient as the Jews themselves, and there will always be those who utilize it for political gain,” he continued. “As far as the QAnon movement, it was most likely started as a joke. People will always cling to something that explains the logic behind the strange reality which we live in.”
However, Moskowitz cautioned that QAnon is “probably not” inherently anti-Semitic, though he said he wasn’t “one of those guys who looks for anti-Semitism under every pebble.”
“With that said,” he emphasized, “we must remain vigilant and defer to organizations that have the capacity to track these things and hope that they continue to do so.”
Regarding Greene, who called Soros a Nazi, the Republican Jewish Coalition instead endorsed her opponent in the run-off, neurosurgeon John Cowan, and fundraised for him.
At least two organizations that combat anti-Semitism told JNS they are currently assessing the movement.
Jewish Council for Public Affairs president and CEO David Bernstein said that his organization “been asking ourselves the same questions, but really haven’t done the research yet,” while StopAntiSemitism.org executive director Liora Rez said, “We honestly do not know enough the movement, who’s behind it, etc. .. to comment on it.”
Nonetheless, “the fight against anti-Semitism must include fighting against misinformation and these types of conspiracies,” said Lipowsky. “While not all of these conspiracies paint Jews as the shadowy villain, they are all rooted in the same anti-Semitic archetype and history has shown that eventually these sorts of things usually refocus on the Jewish community.”
Jewish, Pro-Israel Groups Protest Bernie Sanders’ Hiring of Adviser Who Once Denounced Zionism as ‘Racist, Exclusionary Ideology’
The Algemeiner quoted B'nai B'rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and President Charles O. Kaufman in its coverage of the hiring of an advisor with a history of anti-Semitic comments to the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Jewish and pro-Israel groups on Tuesday condemned Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ decision to hire a radical activist with a long history of vitriolic anti-Israel statements as a senior adviser.
Phillip Agnew, a co-founder of the Dream Defenders group, was hired as a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign last Saturday, with Sanders saying, “He is a gifted organizer and one of his generation’s most critical voices on issues of race and inequity.”
B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin took a different view, saying in a statement on Tuesday, “We call on presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to terminate his campaign’s relationship with Phillip Agnew.”
“Agnew’s activist organization, Dream Defenders, has promoted to children the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which has been a US-designated terrorist organization since 1997,” they noted, “and is a proponent of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.”
“Agnew’s so-called ‘rebellion curriculum,’ which is aimed at children in 6th to 11th grade, refers to Israel as ‘occupied Palestine’ and speaks approvingly of the goals of creating a communist party and liberating ‘Palestine,’” they pointed out.
“It is unacceptable that someone with this history of antisemitic and pro-terrorism statements was given a role on any presidential campaign,” they asserted.
The Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) also weighed in, asking, “How can @BernieSanders unify the country when he appoints officials to his campaign who spew hateful, misogynist, and bigoted views? And why does Sanders refuse to disassociate himself even from their hateful statements?”
Agnew’s defamatory attitude toward the Jewish state is not new. In a June 2015 article in Ebony, Agnew described a trip to what he called “Palestine,” saying, “What I saw there was cold, calculating racism and ethnic privilege masquerading as a Jewish State.”
Referring to then-President Barack Obama’s comparison of Zionism to the US civil rights movement, Agnew claimed Zionism was a “racist, exploitative, and exclusionary ideology; its eagerness to attack and silence detractors is only matched by its eagerness to co-opt the struggles of Blacks in this country (by a Black in this country) for its own survival.”
In a 2012 tweet, he stated, “America continues to support the murderous occupation of Palestine. Today’s ‘Zion’ is Hell on Earth for millions.”
Agnew has also shown an intense anti-Americanism in his statements, tweeting in 2016, “America is hate-founded, hate-legislated, hate-sponsored, hate-endorsed, hate-filled.”
Referring to a radical Islamist’s homophobia-motivated shooting attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, Agnew said, “Just clarifying who to blame. It isn’t radical Islam and it wasn’t those people in the club. It is us. We spread this hate.”
He also appears to be a believer in 9/11 conspiracy theories, saying on Sept. 10, 2010, “Tomorrow America remembers the day that she turned on herself, dismantled her constitution, and killed her own citizens in the name of money.”
Agnew also caused controversy for sexist tweets against former First Lady Michelle Obama, tweeting in 2009, “Michel [sic] Obama is an odd looking woman… I’d call her ugly but I don’t want the backlash.”
He subsequently tweeted, “Michelle Obama is just not pretty… I’ve tried to look at her from every angle possible.”
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin on the Bernie Sanders campaign's recent hiring of a senior adviser who has made anti-Semitic statements.
(March 10, 2020 / JNS) The Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has named Phillip Agnew, who has called Zionism “racist,” and co-founded a group that supports the anti-Israel BDS movement and a U.S.-designated terrorist group, a senior adviser.
“I am excited to welcome Phillip to our team,” said Sanders in a statement on Saturday. “He is a gifted organizer and one of his generation’s most critical voices on issues of race and inequity. He has and will continue to push me and this movement to deliver on what is owed to black people who have yet to experience reciprocity in this country.”
Agnew previously served as a surrogate for the campaign and is a co-founder of Dream Defenders, which has ties to Ahmad Abuznaid, a supporter of the U.S.-designated terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Founded in 2012, Dream Defenders exemplifies the trend of black anti-Semitism in the United States.
The organization has labeled Israel as a “continued settler colonial project” whose treatment of the Palestinians is similar to an “apartheid” nation. Without acknowledging Hamas launching rockets from schools and other civilian centers from Gaza into Israel, while using women and children as human shields, Dream Defenders has accused Israel of developing “its latest military weaponry by attacking the civilian population of Gaza.”
Agnew, who now goes by the name Umi Selah, has participated in multiple trips to the disputed territories over the past few years, led by Abuznaid, who claimed that these delegations are to “build real relationships with those on the ground leading the fight for liberation.”
During a January 2015 trip, Dream Defenders met with Omar Barghouti, founder of the BDS movement, and Diana Buttu, who served in the Palestine Liberation Organization during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, when the PLO perpetrated attacks against Israelis on buses, and in restaurants and other public places. The delegation also met with artist Ayed Arafah in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, which is recognized as a PFLP camp.
In a 2015 article in Ebony, Agnew wrote, “There is no direct line from Zionism to the Black Freedom struggle. No rhetorical imagination-acrobatics can conjure one, and no amount of intimidation can chart one. It is a racist, exploitative, and exclusionary ideology.”
Although Agnew apologized on Sunday for tweeting in 2009 what he called “stupid comments” about former first lady Michelle Obama, though he did not address his anti-Israel past.
Agnew is part of what critics have said is a group of Sanders surrogates who use anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, including Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), former Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour, and comedian and University of Detroit Mercy School of Law Professor Amer Zahr.
The Zionist Organization of America has called for Sanders to fire Agnew.
The Republican Jewish Coalition stated that Agnew’s new role exemplifies a trend in the Sanders campaign and that the senator’s main rival, while he may not need them to get the Democratic presidential nomination, will need supporters like Agnew in order to defeat the incumbent president.
“Every step of the way, Bernie Sanders has embraced anti-Israel, anti-Semitic surrogates because that is the support he needs to win the Democrats’ left wing base,” RJC spokesperson Neil Strauss told JNS. “Joe Biden might not need these supporters to win the nomination, but Sanders is proving that Biden will need this racist crowd’s support in order to drive the vote up in his base if he wants any shot at beating the most pro-Israel president in history, Donald Trump.”
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin said “it is unacceptable that Phillip Agnew, with his long history of anti-Semitic and pro-terrorism statements, should be given a role within any presidential campaign.”
“In his statement naming Agnew as an adviser, Sanders called Agnew an expert on race and inequity,” he continued. “It is possible to address social inequity in this country without espousing anti-Israel vitriol. We’ve called on the campaign to terminate its relationship with Agnew.”
“Sadly, Senator Sanders has a bad, but very steady habit of giving senior positions in his campaign to people with long records of expressing anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic views,” Democratic Majority for Israel president and CEO Mark Mellman told JNS.
Similar to British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, he added, “I think he is going to find out that it’s not only immoral, but it’s also bad politics.”
B'nai B'rith Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman published an op-ed in The EU Observer on the anti-Semitism on display at Belgium's Aalst Carnival.
This weekend (Sunday, 23 February), was the day of the yearly carnival in the Belgian city of Aalst.
For the Jewish community, this day approached with a lot of anxiety. In the 2019 edition, a float depicting exaggerated images of Orthodox Jews, with enlarged hooked noses, bags of money and surrounded by rats caused international outrage, and resulted in the delisting of the Aalst festival from Unesco's intangible heritage list – a first in the international body's history.
The whole protracted episode left Jewish advocacy and community organisations on one side and officials in Aalst on the other in an antagonist relationship, where regrettably public authorities in Aalst failed to understand the charges brought and to take responsibility accordingly and Jewish organisations were left warning of the dangers of the 2020 edition.
And the 2020 edition came and went: Jews portrayed as insects, people wearing fake ultra-Orthodox costumes, crass comments about circumcision and the Wailing Wall, uniforms resembling Nazi attire labelled Unestapo - a play on the word 'Gestapo', the secret police of the Nazis, and the mayor of Aalst, Christophe D'Haese, of the right-wing New Flemish Alliance, essentially insisting: Nothing wrong here.
And here in lies the problem: more disturbing – I think – than the displays themselves is the clear sense that locals don't understand what the issue is.
Following the backlash over last year's edition, the festival made it a nearly explicit purpose to poke the Jewish community, to exhibit its discontent for any international reactions and to instigate even more vehement responses from the Jewish community which it deemed oversensitive and unwilling to take a joke.
This approach found support among politicians as well: much like D'Haese, minister-president of Flanders Jan Jambon claimed that while people abroad may not understand it, the Aalst festival did not include anti-semitic manifestations.
Rather, it makes fun of everything and everyone.
Grain of salt
You may want to take that with a grain of salt: Jambon has a history of association with the far-right, be it through support of former Flemish Nazi collaborators, or affinity to members of the forbidden extreme right-wing paramilitary organisation Vlaamse Militanten Orde, and the Vlaams Blok extreme-right political party.
Jewish organisations – as well as many allies, be they public authorities, anti-discrimination bodies or civil society – have started to react and will continue to do so.
From calls for the EU to sanction Belgium to bans on the festival itself, the proposed remedies come in many forms and degrees of severity.
They may be warranted, and in search for a quick fix, they may do the surface trick, but unfortunately there's no easy solution to do away with the underlying problem in Aalst.
Prejudices are deeply-rooted; the lack of knowledge about the Jewish community; the lack of empathy and understanding for the other; the inability to see one's own biases; the missing opportunities for exchange - they have no easy fix. The problem in Aalst requires that we look well beyond Aalst.
As reactions mount in the coming days, I hope that they not only address the immediate need to prevent such displays in the future, but bring solutions to tackle their root causes. In its thoughtful and reserved approach in the past days, the organised Jewish community of Belgium has been a goodwill partner, open to be part of a constructive solution and to work with authorities both local and national to ensure a public space free of hatred and bigotry, where the Jewish community, like all communities, can leave in a welcoming and inclusive society.
Hopefully it will have others at the table.
Cleveland Jewish News: Jewish community, Pennsylvania governor reflect one year after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
The Cleveland Jewish News included B'nai B'rith's Pittsburgh Healing Fund in its coverage of the one-year anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
Almost a year since the Oct. 27 shooting at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Jewish community has continued to offer reflections on the deadliest attack in American Jewish history.
“We observe on Sunday the anniversary of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history, in which 11 innocent people were murdered simply because they were Jews,” said the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in a statement. “We mourn the lives lost and the senseless carnage wrought one year ago. We stand in solidarity with the family and friends of those killed and injured, and the entire Pittsburgh Jewish community.”
“This tragedy ended the age of innocence for American Jewry. It can no longer be said that we are immune to the pandemic of anti-Semitism,” the statement continued. “We must learn from this tragedy and work to prevent further occurrences. Security at all communal institutions including synagogues, schools and centers must be enhanced while we maintain them as inviting and open facilities.”
The organization added, “As we mark this solemn occasion, words and condolences are not enough. There must be action from all sectors of government and society. Jews and non-Jews alike must unite against anti-Semitism in all its forms, at home and abroad, if the increasingly urgent threat of global Jew-hatred is to be confronted.”
B’nai B’rith International has raised money for its Pittsburgh Healing Fund and will be distributing the funds towards mental-health support for survivors and a program to assist first responders, including organizations such as the Jewish Family and Children Services of Pittsburgh.
The B’nai B’rith fund will also support a program to assist first responders.
“All Americans, including American Jews, have the right to expect our centers of worship to be safe havens where we can connect at once with our fellow faithful and the Divine,” said the Simon Wiesenthal Center in a statement. “It brings us great sadness that after that terrible day, so many Jews no longer feel safe in these precious and sacred gathering places.”
“Things have gotten worse, not better, since Pittsburgh. We will continue to fight this rising tide, partnering with our allies in law enforcement, education, the clergy and government,” continued SWC. “But what is most needed is the involvement of good-hearted people in every city, town, church and school who recognize the manifestations of anti-Semitism, both obvious and subtle, and are willing to speak up and say: No, not here, not with our children, not in our community.”
Responding to calls for more safety provisions, Pennsylvania state lawmakers included $3.2 million in funding and expanded safety opportunities for at-risk schools in the FY 2019-20 budget. Pennsylvania was the first state in the nation to fund security personnel at nonpublic schools through the Safe Schools Targeted Grant Program and now, nearly five years later, the Commonwealth has expanded safety provisions to include security equipment and programs grants.
The police officers who were wounded in the shooting, who have since been back at work, have expressed appreciation to Pittsburgh’s Jewish community for its support.
’We need to stop violence using every tool possible’
“It’s difficult to believe a year as passed since the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue,” Gov. Tom Wolf told JNS. “I’ve carried sorrow for the victims, their families and the community as I sought to understand why this heinous attack occurred and how we can prevent anything like it from ever occurring again.”
Wolf honored the shooting’s victims last month while visiting Auschwitz in Poland, where he wrote their names in the memorial site’s guestbook. He also went to the Holocaust memorial in the Lithuanian town of Paneriai, where 70,000 Jews were killed. At each site, the governor carried the mezuzah that was on the office door of Tree of Life rabbi Jeffrey Myers.
The ornate mezuzah snapped when police broke down the door of the synagogue in their rescue efforts and to stop the suspect, Robert Bowers. Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him.
Wolf has signed a proclamation declaring Oct. 27 as an official day of remembrance, ordering state flags to half-staff one year after the attack. While state flags will be at half-staff, the U.S. flag will remain at full-staff.
“The shooting at Tree of Life synagogue revealed hate here in Pennsylvania. We need to do everything we can to stop it before it grows,” said Wolf. “We need to work together to prevent Pennsylvanians from being attacked due to bigotry, and we need to stop violence using every tool possible. That includes everything from programs supporting tolerance to legislation preventing future shootings.”
The synagogue has announced that it will reopen and continue to use the building as a place of worship. It will also utilize the space for classrooms, exhibits, social events and include a memorial to commemorate the lives lost in the mass shooting.
A date for the reopening has yet to be set. The building has not been in use since the shooting.
The Jerusalem Post quoted B'nai B'rith International President Charles Kaufman's letter to the principal of an Australian school where a Jewish student recently became the target of anti-Semitic bullying.
Two separate antisemitic incidents involving children in Melbourne are shocking the Australian Jewish community, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday.
In one incident, a five-year-old boy was harassed for weeks by other children in his school’s bathrooms. The child, who comes from a family of Holocaust survivors, was attending the Hawthorn West Primary School.
According to the report, he was chased continuously to the bathroom and laughed at for being circumcised, to the point that he started to wet himself in class rather than using the toilet. He was also addressed with expressions such as “Jewish cockroach.”
In an interview with The Australian Jewish News, the mother of the boy said that after behaving strangely for months, one morning he burst out crying over breakfast.
A 12-year-old Jewish student was forced to kneel down and kiss the shoes of a Muslim classmate, while a five-year-old boy was allegedly called a "Jewish cockroach" and repeatedly hounded in the school toilets.
“He literally fell down on the floor,” his mother told The AJN, “and said, ‘Mummy, you shouldn’t love me. I’m a worthless Jewish rodent. I’m vermin."
Although the school acknowledged the bullying, they did not treat it as an antisemitic incident.
“While school staff were not able to substantiate that any negative interactions were antisemitic in nature, on the basis of those investigations, school staff identified an incident that involved children laughing at [the boy],” the North-West Victoria Department of Education director Barbara Crowe told the Sydney Morning Herald. “This was not acceptable and would have been an unpleasant experience for [the boy]. I am sorry that this occurred.”
In a separate incident, a 12-year-old was forced to kiss a Muslim classmate’s feet in a public park under the threat of being beaten by several other boys. The incident was filmed and the images circulated widely online.
The child was attending Cheltenham Secondary College in Victoria. According to the report, no action has been taken by the school against the group of Muslim boys involved, because the incident did not happen on the school’s premises.
However, the parents of the student who presented his feet to be kissed were described as “horrified” by their son’s behavior.
Both boys were withdrawn from their respective schools.
B'nai Brith International President Charles Kaufman wrote a letter to the school principal of Cheltenham Secondary College, expressing his disappointment in the response to the incident. "Somehow you find the hurling of vile anti-Semitic slurs and physical abuse against a 12-year-old Jewish student as mere bullying, an isolated incident," Kaufman wrote. "Somehow you feel powerless to do anything about this shameful act because the incident occurred off campus.
"Are these nine students enrolled in your school?" he asked. "If so, you have an ethical and professional responsibility, if not a legal one, to address this matter with the students and their parents."
He concluded by stating that "B’nai B’rith International condemns this hateful, criminal assault. If you sit and do nothing, you sit in shame."
B'nai Brith International is an organization dedicated, among other things, to advancing human rights and Israel advocacy.
JTA.org quoted Dvir Abramovich, the chairman of B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation Commission, in its coverage of anti-Semitic bullying in Australian schools.
Two reports of anti-Semitic bullying at schools in Australia are receiving widespread media coverage.
A photo that allegedly shows a 12-year-old Jewish student being forced to kneel to kiss the shoes of a Muslim classmate was circulated on social media. The incident occurred at the Cheltenham Secondary College in the town of Cheltenham, a Melbourne suburb, according to The Age, a Melbourne-based newspaper.
The report did not make it clear if the Muslim boy’s religion had anything to do with the incident.
A second incident took place at the Hawthorn West Primary School in Melbourne, where a 5-year-old Jewish student was called a number of anti-Semitic insults, including a “Jewish cockroach,” according to The Age.
Both Jewish boys have left their schools.
Dvir Abramovich, chairman of B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation Commission, said the incidents are part of a broader trend of anti-Semitic bullying.
“There is mounting evidence that families are forced to take their children out of public schools and to enroll them in Jewish day schools due to a growing sense of insecurity and fear that their kids will be harmed simply because of who they are,” Abramovich told The Age.
The mother of the boy in the photo said she was disappointed by the school’s lack of response. She told The Age that the school said it was not responsible for the incident since it did not take place on its campus. But the mother said she talked to the parents of the Muslim student, who disapproved of their son’s actions.
Another boy involved in the incident was later suspended for punching the Jewish boy, The Age reported.
Meanwhile, the boy at Hawthorn West Primary School was repeatedly subjected to anti-Semitic insults and teased because he was circumcised, his mother told The Age. The school sent the parents an apology letter last month, the mother said.
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
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