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.
B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin moderated a panel during the 5th Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, offering some remarks on behalf of the organization before introducing the speakers.
Watch his segment below, along with the additional remarks from the six presenters:
—¿Y qué dijeron los imanes musulmanes invitados a propósito de estos temas?
—Cuando hablaron los imanes, de Francia o Inglaterra, nos encontramos con un miedo diferente, pero no es un miedo menos vergonzoso para lo que es la democracia que debería tener a esta altura mucho más claro cómo defenderse de las agresiones. Los imanes hablan de una religión de paz, pero ellos no tienen mayoría en sus mezquitas, las mayorías los agreden y ellos también tienen miedo. ¿De quién tienen miedo ellos, de los antisemitas? No, de ellos solo tienen miedo los judíos, tienen miedo de su propia gente que los consideran traidores por su prédica, y bueno, la discriminación contra la mujer que predica el antisemitismo. Con lo cual, cualquier elección que haya hoy en Europa, parlamentaria o presidencial, la miramos como muy trascendente como se la miró a la de Inglaterra hace poco y se va a mirar a la de España y ni que hablar a la de Francia, para ver de qué manera los gobiernos son capaces de enfrentar algo que Europa no debería tener después de lo que Europa vivió no solo en la Segunda Guerra Mundial, antes y por muchos años después con los países del este, del comunismo, y años después con los países de la ex Yugoslavia.
—En estas latitudes, ha habido algunos episodios de antisemitismo, incluso en países muy cercanos. En Argentina en torno a hechos trágicos como la muerte del fiscal Alberto Nisman que dio lugar a diversas reacciones antisemitas, ¿cómo se evaluó esto?
—Nos tocó a nosotros, justamente, hacer la presentación de América Latina sobre una visión general para después ir país por país, y evidentemente no es lo mismo que nosotros podíamos exponer hace diez años. En este momento, lo que ha sucedido en los últimos meses en Argentina prende las alarmas en muchos sentidos. Que un gobierno democrático, como el gobierno argentino, diga por parte de algunos de sus voceros en forma pública y acuse a la comunidad judía o a autoridades de sus instituciones de conspirar contra el Estado argentino es un lenguaje que, evidentemente, si siempre fue peligroso y fue preludio de cosas trágicas, hoy es muy peligroso especialmente cuando estamos hablando de un país que sufrió dos atentados y que nunca pudo poner a los culpables, porque saber quiénes son se sabe pero nunca se pudo llevar a los culpables ante la justicia. Dos atentados, además de muchísimos muertos, el de la AMIA fue además de muchísimos muertos en relación con los atentados gravísimos en el resto del mundo y en un momento en que además de shock porque el fiscal que lleva la causa aparece muerto. Y además se genera una situación conflictiva pública donde aparece el antisemitismo, porque la causa que seguía el fiscal ha ido cayendo en una escalera donde se archivan cosas, donde se cambian veredictos, ya hay un dictamen de que fue suicidio.
—A diferencia de Europa los integrantes de las comunidades no han tenido que migrar hacia Israel para buscar refugio, ¿esa es la diferencia actual de América Latina?
—No se ha llegado a tonos de violencia, es cierto. Lo que sí es alarmante en Latinoamérica es que no todos los gobiernos actúan de la misma manera frente al antisemitismo y eso es muy grave porque deja desprotegida no solo a la comunidad judía sino a toda la sociedad. Cuando en Chile mataron hace dos años a una persona por ser homosexual y la sociedad salió a la calle y el Congreso se dio cuenta de que tenían que hacer una legislación antidiscriminatoria, eso habla de una reacción positiva. Pero cuando se dice que la comunidad judía es "conspiradora", bueno, nos acordamos de los Protocolos de los Sabios de Sión y de lo que pasó después.
B’nai B’rith International is proud to partner with the Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) fraternity to bring Holocaust commemoration programs to college campuses nationwide.
Hundreds of people congregated at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. for the 2015 We Walk to Remember program. This event was coordinated as a Holocaust awareness and remembrance walk, and was also in direct response to anti-Semitic vandalism at the Vanderbilt AEPi house in March, 2015.
The European Union started Passover on a sour note, announcing that the much-anticipated upcoming conference on combating rising anti-Semitism in Europe will not share equal billing with Islamophobia.
While B'nai B'rith International has been an outspoken global advocate of diversity and worked to combat prejudice and discrimination of all kinds, the concern is that adding other issues to the discussion of anti-Semitism allows government officials to avoid real action.
B'nai B'rith International Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield spoke on behalf of the organization to the Jerusalem Post, highlights of which can be found below:
Jewish organizations worldwide expressed shock and dismay over the weekend following the announcement that the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency is planning on holding a conference that implies an equivalence between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
It will focus on the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment and violence across the continent and the “growing evidence in many European countries, especially in the past two years, of very high rates of anti-Muslim incidents, including acts of verbal and physical violence,” according to the organizers.
Jewish community leaders in Europe and elsewhere told The Jerusalem Post that despite being largely supportive of the FRA’s work, they believed it inappropriate for it to juxtapose hate directed against Muslims with anti-Semitism as if both were one and the same.
“The challenge of combating anti-Semitism would be better served by a stand-alone colloquium fully focused on the problem,” said Eric Fusfield, the legislative affairs director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy.
“Opponents of anti-Semitism have tried for years to promote greater understanding of anti-Semitism as a distinct phenomenon with unique dimensions sometimes requiring unique solutions,” he said.
“It is true that some strategies for combating anti-Semitism may apply to other forms of intolerance as well, but the fact is that, for too long, the tendency of governments and international organizations to conflate anti-Semitism with other social illnesses has served as a means of avoiding the problem rather than addressing it head on, even as the crisis facing Jewish communities has intensified in Europe and elsewhere,” he added.
B'nai B'rith France was a key contributor to the first-of-its-kind European Parliament discussion on anti-Semitism, presenting to the delegation for relations with Israel.
The delegation is headed by Italian MEP Fulvio Martusciello, who made his first visit to Israel as a guest of B'nai B'rith International last October.
The delegation discussed the disturbing rise in violence and rhetoric against European Jewish communities since Operation Protective Edge brought defensive conflict to Israel in the summer of 2014.
Read excerpts from an article written in the European Jewish Press, below:
Other speakers included Stéphane Teicher, Vice- President of B’nai B’rith France and Jane Braden-Golay, President of the European Union of Jewish Students.
"The fact that anti-Semitism becomes ordinary to the eyes of the civil society is a matter of concern," said Teicher, who noted the indifference of the population. "There was no mass reaction in France following grave anti-Semitic developments of protests in Paris during last summer Israeli Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza."
But he sees also matters of hope, citing the "very strong commitment of the French government not to tolerate anti-Semitism and its actions," the fact that the January attacks in Paris against a kosher supermarket and in Copenhagen against a synagogue "clearly showed the clear link between radical Islamism and anti-Semitism."
"Muslim leaders understand that the French Muslim community is under threat too," Teicher added
Mariaschin: The first distinguishing factor is that B’nai B’rith is the oldest of the Jewish organizations – we’re now into our 172nd year. We’re also an international organization made up of members in nearly 50 countries around the world.
We concentrate on three main areas: One is pro-Israel advocacy and fighting global anti-Semitism. We've had credentials at the United Nations since 1947, and we spend a good deal of our time there fighting bias against Israel.
The second area is senior housing and advocacy. The Jewish community has probably the largest proportion of senior citizens of any ethnic group in this country, so for more than 40 years now we have been sponsoring affordable housing for seniors in conjunction with the Department of Housing and Urban Development – we have more than 40 properties around the United States. We’re also involved in senior advocacy – issues like Social Security, Medicare, etc.
The third area is disaster relief. We help victims of hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis – all kinds of natural disasters around the world.
You were recently involved in fighting HarperCollins after a Catholic news website reported that the publisher had omitted Israel in atlases it was selling in the Middle East. What’s your take on the story?
This is only the latest in a long series of these kinds of omissions. We’ve seen it particularly with airlines omitting Israel on route maps, for example. But HarperCollins’s omission was especially egregious because it is a major general and educational publisher. You know, if we’re going to talk about peace and a peace process, it’s not only for diplomats – it’s for everybody. When a major publisher leaves Israel off a map, what kind of message does that send to schoolchildren in the Arab world?
This incident ended well for a change.
Yes, HarperCollins decided to call the atlases back and pulp the rest, as they say. Hopefully it will serve as a lesson for others because this was just a microcosm of the larger issue of the delegitimization of Israel. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a speech at the United Nations; it can be a decision made in an editorial office somewhere to say, “Look, we don’t want to offend our readers so we think we’ll just leave Israel off.” Hopefully the firestorm around this story will send a message to others that a) it’s unacceptable and b) there are people out there watching who will raise the red flag when they do this kind of thing.
What kind of work does B’nai B’rith do at the UN?
We were actually present in 1945 when the UN was founded in San Francisco, and we received our first credentials as an NGO in 1947.
What has happened over the last 25 years, unfortunately, is that much of our UN activity relates to the demonization and delegitimization of Israel. We feel very strongly about trying to keep the UN honest on this issue. So, for example, in March every year we go for a week to Geneva where the UN Human Rights Council is based and meet with ambassadors. We’re also in Paris at UNESCO.
B'nai B'rith International was one of several Jewish organizations that weighed in on the results of the Greek parliament elections, after victories by the extreme Syriza, Independent Greeks (ANEL) and Golden Dawn parties.
Greece has long struggled to combat anti-Semitism, and B'nai B'rith has followed the situation closely, engaging with government leaders to advocate for tolerance and help diffuse tensions.
Here are notable events from the last three years:
B'nai B'rith International was quoted in an article on JNS.org, which reflected the organization's concerns for the election outcomes.
Read excerpts from the article below:
Jewish leaders have expressed both hope and concern over the outcome of the Greek election on Sunday, in which the radical left-wing Syriza party won 149 parliament seats and 36.3 percent of the vote.
Syriza officials have called for the end of Israel’s “brutality against Palestinians,” and Panos Kammenos—the leader of the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, with whom Syriza formed a majority coalition—garnered accusations of anti-Semitism last December for claiming that Greek Jews do not pay taxes.
Golden Dawn, an extreme-right neo-Nazi party, placed third in results that polls suggested were driven largely by voters’ economic concerns.
The Greek Jewish community consists of about 5,000 people out of the country’s total population of 11.2 million, according to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).
The community has experienced rising anti-Semitic sentiment that is correlated with both the country’s economic crisis as well as escalations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such as last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
B’nai Brith International told JNS.org in a statement that the group is concerned by some “past statements about Israel made by [Syriza] party leaders,” but hopes “that the relationship with Israel, which had been building over the past decade in many fields, will be unaffected by the outcome.”
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