Jewish Insider noted, along with other Jewish organizations, our call for members of the U.S. Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general urging increased transparency and accountability over UNRWA curricula.
The Biden administration announced Wednesday it would provide at least $235 million in aid to the Palestinians, reversing a decision by former President Donald Trump to halt U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and organizations that provide services and support to Palestinians.
Wednesday’s announcement follows a series of quiet steps taken by the administration in recent weeks to restore aid to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.
Approximately $150 million of the total aid will be distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the U.N. agency tasked with dealing with Palestinian refugees. UNRWA has drawn criticism numerous times in recent months for distributing learning materials to Palestinian students that glorified militants and promoted violence against Israelis.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan promptly criticized the administration for restoring aid to UNRWA, which he said “should not exist in its current form.”
“In conversations with the U.S. State Department, I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing antisemitic content from its educational curriculum are carried out,” Erdan said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said at his Wednesday press briefing that reinstating aid to UNRWA puts the U.S. in a better position to address issues including the organization’s neutrality, accountability and approach to education.
“By resuming this assistance today… we have a seat at the table. We can help drive UNRWA in the ways that we think it is in our interest and consistent with our values to do. Obviously, there are areas where we would like to see reform,” Price said. “We will continue to be in a position, an even greater position to drive and to steer UNRWA in a direction that we think is productive and useful with this step today.”
Republican opposition on Capitol Hill to the administration’s announcement was also swift. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) accused the administration of “support of pay to slay,” referencing the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the families of individuals who have carried out terror attacks on Israelis. Graham was an original cosponsor of the Taylor Force Act, which bans U.S. aid to the PA until it halts such payments.
“I am deeply troubled by recent decisions from the Biden administration to turn a blind eye to behavior by the Palestinian Authority,” Graham said in a statement. “Recent decisions by the State Department to provide funding for projects in the West Bank come close to violating the provisions of the Taylor Force Act… A willingness to make concessions to the Palestinians without demanding anything in return is deeply troubling and should worry us all.”
Price insisted Wednesday the aid is “absolutely consistent” with U.S. law, adding that the U.S. had consulted with both members of Congress and regional stakeholders before the announcement.
“We provide assistance in the West Bank and Gaza through experienced and trusted independent partners on the ground, and it’s these partners who distribute directly to people in need, not through government or de facto government authorities,” Price said. “Our development partners in the West Bank and Gaza have aggressive risk mitigation systems in place.”
Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and another original cosponsor of the Taylor Force Act, issued a joint statement denouncing the decision with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The two Republicans argued that Biden should have secured concessions from the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA before providing aid.
“The Biden administration should use all available leverage to secure behavior changes from the Palestinian Authority, including ending terror payments,” Risch and McCaul said. “We will continue to scrutinize every proposed program to ensure the administration’s actions are in lockstep with the Taylor Force Act.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), an original cosponsor of Taylor Force in the House, similarly criticized the administration for failing to address the issue of payments to terrorists in its announcement. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is currently circulating a letter among Senate Republicans calling on Biden to put the aid on hold, citing concerns that it violates Taylor Force and other U.S. laws, the Associated Pressreported Wednesday.
The administration’s move also comes amid renewed action on Capitol Hill to crack down on UNRWA- and PA-sponsored education programs. A bipartisan group of House members led by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) reintroduced legislation on Monday mandating State Department reports on the content of curricula distributed to children in the Palestinian territories.
Ilan Goldenberg, a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, suggested that the administration and UNRWA “will be negotiating an understanding of the terms of their relationship” that includes “incitement and antisemitism in UNRWA schools.” Goldenberg added that withdrawing all aid “got [the U.S.] no influence or real change.”
A group of Jewish organizations, including Hadassah, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, the Orthodox Union, the Zionist Organization of America and Christians United for Israel began calling on members of Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general calling for increased transparency and accountability over UNRWA curricula on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the administration’s announcement.
JNS covered, along with other pro-Israel and Jewish organizations, our push for members of the U.S. Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general urging him to end anti-Semitic content found in the curriculum of schools run by UNRWA.
(April 8, 2021 / JNS) Several pro-Israel and Jewish organizations are urging U.S. legislators to pressure the United Nations to end hateful anti-Semitic content found in the curriculum of schools run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The letter to Congress—spearheaded by Hadassah and signed by more than a dozen leading Jewish and pro-Israel groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, the Orthodox Union, the Zionist Organization of America, the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement and Christians United for Israel—calls on lawmakers to urge “U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to shield students in U.N.-run schools from lessons steeped in anti-Semitism and supportive of violence.”
“It is critical that we stand together to demand systemic reform to educational materials used by … UNRWA before one more child is taught from textbooks riddled with hateful lessons,” the letter states.
It cited a recent report by IMPACT-se that discovered how UNRWA staff have authored and disseminated educational content, which in some cases was “more egregious than that of the Palestinian Authority.”
It further adds that “Guterres can play an important role to ensure transparency, accountability and oversight that will stop the decades-long practice of teaching children to hate.”
The letter comes as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced it is restoring $150 million in aid to UNRWA that had been cut under the Trump administration.
JTA included our statement in its coverage of the storming of the United States Capitol by rioters.
(JTA) — AIPAC hardly ever pronounces on any issue that does not relate to Israel. It’s also loath to criticize a sitting president.
But the preeminent pro-Israel lobby did both on Wednesday after rioters supporting President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop the count of electoral votes that would formalize Joe Biden’s win.
“We share the anger of our fellow Americans over the attack at the Capitol and condemn the assault on our democratic values and process,” AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said in a statement posted to Twitter Wednesday evening. “This violence, and President Trump’s incitement of it, is outrageous and must end.”
The statement, crafted during an emergency meeting of the lobby’s executive committee, was among a host of extraordinary comments on American democracy by Jewish groups, many of which typically steer clear of partisan politics.
AIPAC was not the only mainstream Jewish organization to speak out on an extraordinary day that resulted in what once was unthinkable: police spiriting into safe havens hundreds of lawmakers while marauders roamed and looted the Capitol. Its statement, crafted during an emergency meeting of the lobby’s executive committee, also was far from the only one to criticize Trump explicitly.
Trump invited protesters to Washington, D.C., and earlier Wednesday urged them to march on the Capitol. As the situation grew tense, he simultaneously urged his supporters to disband and told them that he “loved them.”
The Anti-Defamation League also named Trump. “The violence at the US Capitol is the result of disinformation from our highest office,” it said in a tweet. “Extremists are among the rioters in DC supporting President Trump’s reckless rhetoric on America’s democratic institutions.” ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called on social media to suspend Trump’s accounts; a number of platforms eventually heeded those calls.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish public policy bodies, also named Trump. “This was a direct assault on our democratic process, and nothing less than an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transition of power in a presidential election and an act of sedition,” it said in a statement. “We urge in the strongest possible terms that President Trump and others immediately cease incendiary rhetoric and restore order.”
Two legacy groups were cautious and condemned the violence while not directly blaming Trump. The American Jewish Committee called on Trump “to call for an immediate end to the riots and respect the certification process currently underway,” without noting that Trump started the fire, as many others had — including some leading Republicans.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the umbrella foreign policy group for the Jewish community, did not name Trump at all, although its statement was forceful. “We are disgusted by the violence at the US Capitol and urge the rioters to disperse immediately,” it said in a statement. ”Law and order must be restored, and the peaceful transition of administrations must continue.”
B’nai B’rith International “strongly urged” Trump “to publicly condemn the rioters.” “Though it’s horrifying to see the U.S. Capitol under siege, the seeds for this have been planted and nurtured for many years,” the statement said.
Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, called the attack on the Capitol a “brutal onslaught on our nation’s integrity and historical traditions.”
The Orthodox Union weighed in at first by endorsing the Presidents’ Conference statement, but on Thursday morning issued a statement pointedly aimed at Trump and with a tone of relief at the prospect of Trump’s term ending and a new administration incoming.
“We are deeply saddened and shaken by yesterday’s violent events at the U.S. Capitol that have badly upset our sense of peace and security,” the statement said. “There is no place for the kind of outrageous incitement that fed that assault on the pillars of our democracy. It must stop. We call upon President Trump to do all that is in his power – and it is indeed in his power – to restore that peace.”
It concluded: “We pray to the Almighty that He grant strength and wisdom to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect [Kamala] Harris as they lead this great country forward in unity, peace, and security.”
Agudath Israel of America posted on Twitter a statement by its longtime Washington director, Rabbi Abba Cohen.
“The U.S. Capitol is more than a majestic building,” Cohen said. “It is the true house of the people and the home of democracy. It is the hope of the nation. You feel it when entering its doors and walking its halls. Today, it was a place of shameful violence and tyranny. Stop or we are lost.”
The Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly called on Trump “to defend and uphold the constitution of the United States,” but did not blame him for what it called an “attack on democracy and its institutions.”
The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center was less shy, saying, “The fact that today’s events were encouraged by the President of the United States who has refused to accept his electoral loss is equally terrifying and heartbreaking.”
Liberal groups like the RAC have throughout Trump’s presidency had an adversarial relationship with him, criticizing both his policies, including his anti-immigration policies, and his expressions of bigotry.
It was no different on Wednesday. “Earlier today, an armed seditious mob stormed the Capitol at President Trump’s behest, with the aim of preventing elected Members of Congress from certifying the presidential vote in the Electoral College,” said the Israel Policy Forum, a two-state advocacy group. (A staffer describes his experience during the tumult here.) “We unreservedly and wholly condemn this.”
J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, said, “The president repeatedly incited far-right thugs to subvert our democracy, and now they’re trying to do just that.”
“I’m heartbroken for our country,” National Council of Jewish Women CEO Sheila Katz said on Twitter. Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization, alluded to Trump, saying that “The criminal behavior and events of this afternoon are abhorrent, as are attempts to disrupt democracy with incitement to violence. As Jews, we know the power of words and demand our elected leaders raise the level of discourse and lead with civility.”
Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, a group known for its support for Trump’s Israel policies, said on Twitter that the marauding in the Capitol was “thoroughly unacceptable & intolerable” but went on to cite an unsubstantiated report that an FBI agent reported a claim that a busload of the marauders belonged to Antifa, a catchall term for leftist protesters.
That allegation was circulating widely among Orthodox supporters of the president on Wednesday night, many of whom decried the violence in D.C. but not the pro-Trump movement that led the mob to convene.
The Republican Jewish Coalition’ on Thursday morning congratulated Biden on winning the election, and in its statement included a plea for a peaceful transition to power.
“After the abhorrent mob attack yesterday on our Capitol, our elected officials went back to work, fulfilled their duty under our Constitution, and certified the results of the 2020 election,” the RJC said. “Now is the time for the same peaceful transition of power that the U.S. has carried out for over 220 years,” the RJC said. “It is also time for healing and unity in our country, because we face many serious and significant challenges.”
The statement made no mention of Trump. The congratulations to Biden were late: His race was called on Nov. 7, but a number of groups allied with his outlook, among them Jewish groups, hesitated to congratulate Biden at the time, seemingly mindful of Trump’s refusal to accept the election’s outcome.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America was scathing, calling for Trump’s removal from power. “President Trump has abused his power, endangered American lives, and undermined our democratic institutions,” it said.
“Today, he intentionally jeopardized security at the Capitol to further his depraved autocratic agenda, risking the lives of the Vice President and Republican and Democratic lawmakers,” the JDCA said. “Donald Trump was impeached by Congress for abuse of power one year ago, and today he should be immediately removed from office for sedition, insurrection, and abuse of power.”
JNS noted our statement in its coverage of the storming of the United States Capitol by rioters.
(January 6, 2021 / JNS) Jewish and Israel-related groups reacted to the mob invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday by Trump supporters as members of Congress gathered in a joint session on Wednesday to certify U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Eric Fingerhut, a former member of Congress, and currently the president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, told JNS that he was “horrified” by what happened, calling it “appalling” and blaming the rhetoric by U.S. President Donald Trump in part leading up to the overrunning of the Capitol.
Violence erupted in the afternoon when some of the protesters of the certification process scaled walls and scaffolding, and smashed windows to enter the building. One woman was shot during the chaos inside the Capitol and transferred to a nearby hospital; she was pronounced dead around 6 p.m. Multiple injuries to law enforcement have also been reported.
Jewish groups from both sides of the aisle unwaveringly condemned the chaos on Capitol Hill, with Democratic and liberal groups blaming the president for inciting the violence. Conservative Jewish groups focused on the breakdown of the rule of law, which they vociferously lamented.
“Protesters must stop now. We support peaceful protest, but storming the halls of Congress and the Capitol building is unacceptable. We condemn these actions. G-d bless the [Capitol Police],” tweeted the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“Shame on Donald Trump, who has incited violence, sedition, anarchy & insurrection, playing out in real time. He is risking the lives of Republicans and Democrats alike in order to stop the peaceful transfer of power. Praying for the safety & security of those in the Capitol,” tweeted Jewish Democratic Council of America CEO Halie Soifer.
“The orderly transfer of power is a hallmark of and essential to American democracy. We are disgusted by the violence at the US Capitol and urge the rioters to disperse immediately. Law and order must be restored, and the peaceful transition of administrations must continue,” tweeted the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“The peaceful transition of power is the bedrock of our democracy. We are shocked and horrified by the violent riots taking place on Capitol Hill at this time. We urge @POTUS to call for an immediate end to the riots and respect the certification process currently underway,” tweeted the American Jewish Committee.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) tweeted, “We share the anger of our fellow Americans over the attack at the Capitol and condemn the assault on our democratic values and process. This violence, and President Trump’s incitement of it, is outrageous and must end.”
Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein told JNS that his organization “condemns and deplores the several dozen idiotic lunatics who broke into the Capitol building. The First Amendment does not permit any part of a protest to be violent. And Trump should have made a stronger speech urging this travesty to stop.”
In a statement, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said “extremists must be taken at their word. First, there was volatile rhetoric online, then explicit calls to violence, and now people are acting on those calls in the nation’s capital and flagrantly breaking the law. It must end now.”
He went on to state, “The president has promoted sedition and incited violence. People assaulting law-enforcement officers or breaching government buildings must be arrested and held accountable.
Additionally, Greenblatt called for social-media companies to “suspend his accounts ASAP as they would do for anyone else advocating disinformation and promoting violence.”
On Wednesday night, Twitter suspended Trump’s account for 12 hours, threatening a permanent ban.
‘One of the saddest days in our nation’s history’
In a statement, the Simon Wiesenthal Center called Wednesday “a dark day for all Americans.”
“The right to protest is sacrosanct in American life,” said the organization. “But the very values and rights bestowed by our democracy are degraded and diminished when police officers have to draw their guns to protect our duly elected officials in the heart of our nation by violent protesters who have stormed Congress and by their reckless and dangerous behavior have inflicted grievous wounds on our nation.”
“Nothing,” it added, “not even the emotional charges of voter fraud in a presidential election, can ever legitimize or excuse such behavior.”
B’nai B’rith International called the mob invasion of the Capitol “one of the saddest days in our nation’s history” and called for Trump “to publicly condemn the rioters.”
“The United States Capitol building represents the heart of our democracy,” said the organization. “We condemn those who are engaging in this senseless disregard for the democratic values of our nation.”
“Though it’s horrifying to see the U.S. Capitol under siege, the seeds for this have been planted and nurtured for many years,” continued B’nai B’rith. “We decry the divisiveness in the country that led to this day, and we must re-engage in a political process of compromise, one issue at a time. The election season is over.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council called Wednesday “a sad and dangerous day for our democracy.”
“The violence taking place in Washington, including the attempt to storm the United States Capitol, is despicable,”said the organization. “These actions have been encouraged by the highest officeholders in our nation, reminding us that rhetoric matters and words have consequences.”
“Make no mistake: If order, decency and rational decision making do not prevail, the underpinnings of our social fabric are in jeopardy,” they added.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) said what transpired “was a direct assault on our democratic process, and nothing less than an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transition of power in a presidential election and an act of sedition.”
Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai Birith International said it would be a “mistake” to close out the debate on an issue where “every [congressman] should be heard,” especially as the White House failed to whip up support among some of the most powerful Democrats in Congress.
While both groups acknowledged that the president has enough support to keep Congress from killing the deal...they called for legislation demanding accountability while registering the wide opposition to the deal.
Mariaschin called it “just the beginning of the process on the Iranian issue,” encouraging bipartisan measures to “ensure greater accountability.”
Jewish groups, pro-Israel lobbies and, of course, Israel, among others are concerned the nuclear deal will empower Iran to work toward carrying out its stated goals of occupying Jerusalem and destroying the Jewish state; just Wednesday morning Khamenei predicted the “Zionist regime” would no longer exist in 25 years, which also happens to be when the final provisions of the nuclear deal expire.
“One has to be extremely skeptical going forward. [The Iranians] say they got the better end of this deal,” said Mariaschin, noting Iranian claims to victory over the international sanctions regime that will disintegrate with the deal’s implementation.
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