The Jerusalem Post covered the upcoming dedication of a symbolic synagogue at the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) near Kyiv, which will be broadcast live. Along with two other leaders, B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin will participate in a panel discussion on the significance of the synagogue dedication and the dangers of rising anti-Semitism eighty years after Babyn Yar.
Thursday, April 8th, marks the confluence of two significant events – the observance of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day throughout the Jewish world, and the dedication of a symbolic synagogue at the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center near Kyiv, where 33,771 Jews were murdered in a two-day period in late September 1941.
The inauguration of the symbolic synagogue and prayer space at Babyn Yar will be part of the special broadcast on the Jerusalem Post website and Facebook page and the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center Facebook page on Thursday, Yom HaShoah.
On Yom HaShoah, April 8th (7 PM EST), Natan Sharansky, former Prisoner of Zion and Chair of the supervisory board at the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, will participate in a panel discussion with Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of the National Coalition Supporting Euro-Asian Jewry, and Dan S. Mariaschin, chief executive officer of B’nai B’rith International. The three leaders will discuss the significance of the synagogue dedication, the Ukrainian government’s support for the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, and the dangers of resurgent antisemitism eighty years after Babyn Yar.
Sharansky, who was born in 1948, recalled that as a boy, he and his friends were aware that something tragic had occurred in Ukraine but were never informed as to what had happened. “I was born in Ukraine a few years after the Holocaust,” he said. “Most of my Jewish friends had no grandfathers and grandmothers. We had very few uncles and aunts. It was clear that some awful tragedy had happened only a few years before we were born. We knew practically nothing.” The awful crimes of the Nazis, he said, were followed by those of the Communist regime, who attempted to erase the memory of what had occurred from the Jewish identity of the Jews of the Soviet Union. “For me,” Sharansky related, “the Babyn Yar Memorial is like the closing of a huge circle – of bringing back the memory of the world of our people and making it part of our history and our future.”
The importance of the support given to the project by President Zelensky and the Ukrainian government, he says, cannot be overestimated – not only for the Jewish people but for anyone who values the desire to live in a free world.
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of the National Coalition Supporting Euro-Asian Jewry, echoed Sharansky’s words and stated that the dedication of the synagogue and the museum itself is a significant point not just in Jewish history but in the history of Ukraine and for the continent of Europe as a whole.
The Keene Sentinel with B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin – a New Hampshire native – about how he has reflected on the word "dayenu" (or, "it would have been enough") this Passover.
Dayenu. The Hebrew word, often translated as “it would have been enough,” is the refrain of a lively tune sung at Passover seder — a reminder to be thankful for what you have.
If an expression of gratitude seems ill-suited for Passover — which remembers the Israelites’ toil under, and exodus from, Egyptian slavery — well, that contradiction is the point.
After a particularly trying year for many people, due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Sentinel asked several members of the local Jewish community how they have reflected on the word dayenu during this Passover week.
Daniel Aronson is rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Achim, having joined the West Keene synagogue last summer. Cantor Kate Judd serves as spiritual leader of the Brattleboro Area Jewish Community. And Daniel Mariaschin, a North Swanzey native, is chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish service organization B’nai B’rith International.
Aronson and Judd responded to The Sentinel’s questions via email; Mariaschin was interviewed by phone.
Dayenu, the idea that “it would have been enough,” is a theme of Passover. What are you grateful for this year, especially given recent hardships caused by the pandemic?
Daniel Aronson: I am grateful that my [wife] Beth, my daughter Katie and I were brought to Keene by forces Divine, human and happenstance. We love the communities we’ve discovered at our places of work, i.e. Keene State College and Congregation Ahavas Achim, and at my daughter’s school and extracurricular activities. We also appreciate the natural beauty around us. Winter was magical with just the right amount of snow adorning the trees, and it was made even more magical by the frequent visits to our birdfeeders by an awesome assortment of hungry feathered neighbors ...
I am grateful that our parents have made it through the pandemic in good health and that they have all been fully vaccinated.
I am grateful that my daughter and adult son are thriving in all their endeavors.
I am grateful to be lovingly married to someone who is passionate about making the world a better place for all and who supports me in my efforts to do the same.
Kate Judd: I am deeply grateful that I met a wonderful life partner [Randall Silverman] during this crazy year. I’m also grateful for my wonderful congregation, the Brattleboro Area Jewish Community, which has remained vibrant throughout these challenging [times].
Daniel Mariaschin: I would say four things. The first is to be able to read the Passover story in an environment of freedom. There were many times in history when the reading of the story of the Exodus from Egypt was prohibited. To be able to sit at the table and read the story in freedom, about really history’s first example of a movement for freedom, is something I think we have to be grateful for.
The second thing would be gratitude for Zoom. It wasn’t that long ago that we did not have the technical ability to bring people together, even at times in this particular public health crisis ... So the ability to work with colleagues over Zoom, to be together with friends ... and also to have friends and family at seder. One of our seders was with family in Israel, so we were able to bring everybody together ...
The third thing is being thankful for the researchers who produced these vaccines. We need them ... It’s essential to getting everybody back up to speed. But it’s also very easy to take certain things for granted, and the people who worked so hard and so quickly to produce this vaccine is something that we always could remember and take note of.
The fourth thing for me, as one who works in a Jewish community and who supports an Israel which is at peace with its neighbors, we were very pleased back in September to have had the Abraham Accords — the normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Sudan and [later] Morocco. These are extremely important, giant steps toward peace in the region and is something that we’re grateful for, but that we would like to see continue and expand to other countries, as well.
Has the pandemic made it more difficult to connect with family and friends for Passover this year? If so, how did you observe?
Aronson: The pandemic has challenged us to celebrate all kinds of events with our families and communities in creative ways. As such, I’ve found, we’ve been able to connect in ways that allow more people to come together than usual, that invite the inclusion of creative elements in our celebrations that we might not have considered under “normal” circumstances, and that break us free from the complacency that can dampen our joy and gratitude.
Last year, from our home in Houston, TX, my family and I joined my parents, siblings and their families by Zoom for a seder, the home-based ritual meal that commemorates the exodus from Egypt and the Israelites’ liberation from slavery. It was the first time in decades that we had all been together to celebrate Passover ...
This year, having thrown myself into creating what I hope was a joyful and meaningful online seder for the [Congregation Ahavas Achim] community, I didn’t have the energy to replicate last year’s family seder. Beth, Katie and I had a small seder at home and were joined by my son Jake, who Zoomed in “virtually” from Denver. Though I missed the excitement of last year’s family reunion, this year’s seder was no less special; the intimacy of the experience enhanced my sense of gratitude for my children and my spouse.
On the following night, I was thankful for the opportunity to come together with about 40 people from our CAA family. I included in the seder a video of our religious school children reciting one of the central pieces of the seder, known as the Four Questions ... I also included two music videos of traditional Passover songs prepared especially for the seder by super talented congregants, Rebecca Sayles and Eleanor Kaufman, respectively. It took a lot of work for Rebecca, Eleanor, and the children and their families to send me videos on relatively short notice, but I think the whole congregation was extremely grateful not only for their effort but for how they lifted up all of our spirits.
Judd: Most of my family is in Israel. Last year I had to return from Israel before observing Passover with them. This year, because of current medical challenges, I was unable to celebrate Passover. I said a blessing over some matzah, and sang a verse of Avadim Hayinu — “Last year we were slaves, now we are free people.” I hope we are all freed from COVID restrictions soon!
Mariaschin: I have two sisters and their families who live [in Israel]. My wife is Israeli, and her family is there. We normally go over for the holiday. So the distance, even with Zoom, could be felt because you really want to be with family. This is a family holiday. Passover, some people say, is the most observed holiday in the Jewish community. We missed something this year by not being there, but having Zoom made it a lot closer and a lot easier.
The seder typically ends with everyone saying, “Next year in Jerusalem.” What do you hope Passover looks like in 2022?
Aronson: At the end of our seders, we all said, “Next year in-person.” I pray that we are all well enough to make that happen in [Hebrew year] 5782/2022. Also, I pray that our seders happen against a backdrop of a world in harmony with itself, a world in which loving kindness, civility and justice in all its forms prevail. That is what “shalom” (peace and wholeness) looks like and that is the true meaning of “Next year in Jerusalem.”
Judd: Wherever I am, I hope I am celebrating with real live people!
Mariaschin: I hope, certainly, that the pandemic is behind us. That we can observe this holiday not only around the table, but that we can go out and not have to worry about all of the conditions and restrictions that we’ve been facing over the past year. Certainly, we want very much ... a year of peace for Israel together with its neighbors ...
The holiday story that we have is thousands of years old, but the basic message of this holiday remains the same. It doesn’t wax and wane with history ... [It is] freedom to be able to express one’s thoughts, one’s ideas, freedom of speech — all the freedoms that we enjoy. When you think about how far ahead of their time the ancient Israelites were under the leadership of Moses, in aspiring to that kind of freedom and to wander for 40 years in the desert in order to get it. It’ll be good to be back to normal, but the story, of course, remains the same, and we look forward to reading the story again next year.
The Jewish Link quoted B'nai B'rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of Jewish organizations that called out NBC for airing anti-Semitic programming on two recent occasions.
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin called it “a cheap shot at Jewish customs” that plays into “blood libel” stereotypes, while the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s (SWC) associate dean and director of global social action Rabbi Abraham Cooper expressed outrage and frustration that in the media “no one else is fair game except our community.”
Their anger was directed at NBC, which has received significant backlash in the Jewish community for airing programming on two recent occasions that has been labeled by many as promoting “classic anti-Semitic tropes.”
One of the two offending incidents occurred on Feb. 9 airing of the drama, “Nurses,” which featured a young hasidic or Orthodox boy named Israel who injured his leg and is warned by his father not to accept a bone graft because it might come from a woman or Arab donor; and the Feb. 20 airing of the Weekend Update segment of Saturday Night Live (SNL) where host and chief writer Michael Che quipped, “Israel is reporting that they vaccinated half of their population. I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”
In the “Nurses” episode Israel asks, “You want to put a dead leg inside me?” and the father responds, “A dead goyim leg from anyone—an Arab, a woman” and tells his son that the “Creator” will heal him. The son ultimately refuses the graft. There are no prohibitions in Judaism against receiving a bone graft from a cadaver.
In response to the controversy, NBC has pulled the “Nurses” episode from all its digital platforms but has not commented on either show.
“Nurses” is a Canadian series that was picked up by NBC in late 2020 to fill holes in its original programming schedule caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two incidents engendered swift and strong response from both national and local Jewish organizations that accused the network of spreading lies about Jews and Judaism, particularly Orthodoxy and Israel.
“There needs to be recognition and sensitivity in media outlets to the Jewish community and community practices,” Mariaschin told The Jewish Link in a phone interview from his Washington office. “It’s not humor and it’s not even good drama.”
He said NBC pulling the “Nurses” episode was insufficient and the network needed to apologize for its portrayal of the Orthodox community and its failure to research Jewish practices, although he said there is an industry-wide problem of insensitivity to the concerns and practices of the Jewish community.
“This is a blood libel and what Michael Che was able to do was what has been done since the Middle Ages about blood libels, that what we want to do is harm others,” said Mariaschin of the SNL piece. “There are millions of people in those audiences. What they heard was not only wrong, but outrageously wrong and we don’t want them learning about our community through off-handed comments.”
However, he expressed optimism the negative publicity resulting from these incidents might serve as a wake-up call to the industry.
Read the full article here.
B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin penned an op-ed for Algemeiner analyzing the dangers of mainstreaming anti-Semitism in the media.
Hardly a day passes without reading of someone, somewhere uttering an antisemitic trope. That part is not new; for millennia, this has been the norm. In the pre-Internet era, one could read, primarily in the Jewish media, about an antisemitic public official, a neo-Nazi, or a desk clerk at a restricted hotel uttering hateful comments or spinning conspiracies about Jews.
What is new, or relatively so, is that today we’re learning of Jew-hatred in real time, within hours of it being spouted. It comes from expected, and from unexpected, quarters. And sometimes it’s simply the portrayal of Jews that sends an antisemitic message.
Take the recent Canadian-produced NBC series “Nurses,” whose premise centers around five nurses and the lives and people they interact with. The most recent episode involved a young Hasidic accident victim named Israel and his father, whom we meet in a hospital room, where they’re engaged in conversation with one of the nurses.
The young Hasid needs a bone graft, he is told, and that will require using the bone of a cadaver. Israel expresses shock at the idea of having a “dead leg” inserted into his body, to which his father — dressed in a Hasidic black hat and coat, and wearing payot — says disgustedly: “A dead goyim leg — from anyone. An Arab, a woman.” The nurse, belittling both the father and son, responds: “Or, God forbid, an Arab woman.”
Never mind that Orthodox practice would allow for this graft, much more important, is that the picture presented to the viewer is classic antisemitism. Dressed in black and closed-minded (with one of them literally named Israel), the message is that these Jews are both peculiar and bigoted.
Any stereotyping is dangerous. But the Orthodox community often gets the brunt of this kind of instant presumptuousness. They are portrayed as an oddity or as an easy foil. The show made no attempt to give any kind of context to Orthodox Jewry or its medical worldview. The writers of this episode needed highly identifiable Jews to make the story work — and who cares about who might be hurt as long as it fits neatly into the one-hour timeframe.
But murderous attacks on Jews in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Poway, California, or Monsey, New York, are just a few examples of how antisemitic rhetoric can turn violent.
My guess is that most viewers of this program are not Jewish. Those who know us only at a distance would understandably not know about how diverse we are. We have a communal spectrum that runs from left to right, and everything in between, and includes the religious and the secular. Is the viewer’s education about the Jewish people to be gleaned from the likes of “Nurses” and other highly watched programs that traffic in biased presentations about sectors of our community?
I’m old enough to remember episodes of “Dr. Kildare,” “Gunsmoke,” and other TV dramas, that treated Jewish subjects with compassion and a seriousness of intent. That those programs aired at a time when Jews were subjected to admissions quotas, restricted neighborhoods, corporate glass ceilings, and other forms of discrimination made this treatment of Jews all-the-more important in fostering mutual respect.
Today though, in the broader world around us, there seems to be a growing tolerance toward anyone saying anything about whomever they wish, without any filter or fear of opprobrium. And increasingly, Jews have become the target.
“Saturday Night Live’s” Michael Che delivering a blood libel about Israel and the COVID vaccine masked as a “joke”; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)’s assertion that a Jewish space laser and the Rothschild family were responsible for California’s wildfires; and Lowell, Massachusetts, School Committee board member Robert Hoey’s referring to a former city employee as a “kike” on live public access TV are just a few very recent examples of what is becoming a frightening trend.
The Canadian producer of “Nurses” has apologized for the offensive episode, and NBC has pulled this episode and others from the air.
“Contrition tours,” where networks, politicians, comedians, and others offer a quick, “If I offended anyone, I’m sorry,” or give apology interviews with friendly journalists, is one way of getting these kinds of controversies quickly out of the way. But that is not enough.
The media can play a large role in sensitivity training for the public at large, but first it needs to take a course or two itself. Playing off Jewish stereotypes for shock value, or for a few laughs, is both irresponsible and reckless.
We need to see more positive programming about the Jewish community and its many contributions — in so many fields — to this country. School systems need to utilize textbooks that teach about our story as an immigrant people who came to America from dozens of countries to find a land of opportunity denied to them in the darker corners of Europe and elsewhere. And while people may know a bit about the Jewish religion, more attention needs to be paid to its history, customs, and traditions. Doing that might prevent a repeat of the “Nurses” debacle.
In May, we will observe the 15th anniversary of Jewish American Heritage Month. While positive programming about our community should be a 12-month-a-year endeavor, this special designation on the national calendar offers many opportunities for educators, government officials, media operatives, and others to spotlight our community in a positive way.
The danger we face is the mainstreaming of antisemitism. Where once these expressions of hatred were confined to the margins or were never discovered because there simply was no Internet megaphone, today they are seemingly everywhere, including network television.
As is often said, it may start with the Jews, but it never ends there. It’s not just about us: just follow what is written or said on social media, TV and talk radio, statements from political figures, and off-handed comments by celebrities; they are everywhere. It is one long parade of insults, put-downs, threats, loose talk, and worse.
Is the “Nurses” episode a wake-up call, or just another statistic in a week or month of egregious incidents? Our task is to speak up each time this happens, and as important, to ensure that our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and others beyond our community do not become inured to the threats before us.
The Jerusalem Post quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of Jewish organizations' legislative priorities for 2021, noting B'nai B'rith's domestic and foreign policy concerns.
WASHINGTON – As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office and new members of Congress wait to be sworn in, Jewish organizations in Washington are working on their legislative agenda for 2021, thinking about what they should promote working with the incoming administration and what they should oppose.
While COVID-19 relief for nonprofits and security grants for religious institutions will continue to top the list of priorities for 2021, some organizations also voiced concern about the possibility the Biden administration will return to the nuclear agreement with Iran.
B’nai B’rith CEO Dan Mariaschin said the organization would focus on promoting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program into law and provide a path to citizenship for those protected under the act, known as Dreamers.
Additional legislation priority is the NO HATE Act, he said, adding: “As hate crimes against Jews and other minorities continue to soar, we hope that Congress will pass the act, which would strengthen federal laws that combat hate speech, threats and attacks.”
B’nai B’rith also supports the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, Mariaschin said.
“We hope that the current executive order against antisemitism, which achieves these aims, will remain in place,” he said. “If it does not, a legislative remedy would be in order.”
In the past, B’nai B’rith called for the creation of an antisemitism coordinator at the Justice Department who could work across agency lines to combat the rising tide of domestic antisemitism, Mariaschin said.
“The recent FBI report identifying Jews as by far the religious community most frequently victimized by hate crimes is evidence of the need for such a position,” he said.
Regarding foreign policy, Mariaschin said a bipartisan bill would help ensure that Israel retains its qualitative military edge if the administration approves arms sales to Arab countries.
He said he hopes Congress will pass legislation to elevate the position of State Department special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism to ambassadorial rank. “Changing the title will send a clear message abroad that the fight against antisemitism will continue to be prioritized,” he said.
Regarding B’nai B’rith’s policy on Iran, Mariaschin said: “We call on the administration and Congress to apply concerted pressure on the Iranian regime to ensure that its nuclear program – as well as its ballistic-missile production, its support for terrorist organizations, its profligate human rights abuses and other malign behavior – are held in check,” he said.
The Algemeiner ran an op-ed written by B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin on the Palestinian terrorist Lelia Khaled appearing at the European Parliament.
If there was ever a reminder that Europe is losing its way, the appearance this week at the European Parliament by convicted Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled is surely it.
Khaled, a major operative in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was involved in a wave of hijackings of commercial airliners in 1969 and 1970, most notably a TWA flight from Rome to Athens and Tel Aviv, and an El Al flight from Amsterdam to New York City.
The PFLP, headed by George Habash, helped to invent modern terror. Its curriculum vitae is filled with enough hijackings, bombings (suicide and otherwise), drive-by shootings and kidnappings to fill a good-sized bookshelf. It has partnered with like-minded organizations, such as the Japanese Red Army and Colombia’s guerrilla army FARC, and though Marxist in orientation, the group has enjoyed a relationship with terrorism’s biggest backer today — theocratic Iran. The PFLP’s targets have invariably been civilians: in 2014, for example, its operatives attacked worshippers with axes and knives at a Jerusalem synagogue, killing four and wounding seven.
The PFLP has been on the European Union’s terrorism list since 2012 (decades after the organization came into existence). And yet, Khaled was a featured speaker this week on a program at the European Parliament, titled, “The Role of Women in the Palestinian Popular Resistance.” Khaled received a two-minute standing ovation, preceded by this introduction: “We…have a living legend here with us today, who we can call the Che Guevara of Palestine, Leila Khaled.” The Venezuelan ambassador, who was also present, was introduced as an “honored guest.”
Yom Kippur is one of the six main annual Jewish fasting days: (a) The tenth day of the Jewish month of...
Khaled’s speech was not about empowerment and opportunity. Instead, it was a nonstop screed filled with time-tested Palestinian canards about Zionism — and about Jews.
“The Holocaust,” she said, “is only pain to the Jews. They have monopolized the pain and have played the role of the victims. … [D]on’t you think that what happened in Auschwitz is comparable to what happens in Gaza today?”
The Zionist movement, she stated, “aligns with all the capitalists in the world,” and she added that “in the next 100 years, they [the Zionists] will be able to dominate the world economy.”
Khaled even reprised the time-worn line about her being a “freedom fighter,” a term frequently used to excuse, explain or apologize for the violent acts of terrorists such as Khaled and her cohorts in the PFLP, and organizations like it.
At a time when European cities are under increasing assault by an assortment of suicide bombers, car and truck rammers, and knife-wielding attackers, why was Khaled — an inspiration to those who carry out such acts — given a European Union-affiliated megaphone to spout such hatred?
The meeting she addressed was organized by a far-left leaning coalition of parties inside the parliament. According to one report, Martina Anderson, who represents Ireland’s Sinn Fein, gushed in a tweet about the “fantastic turnout” at the event. “Long live international solidarity,” she wrote.
But “solidarity” for what? Khaled’s presentation, with its rants about control of the world’s economy by “racist” Zionists “who have appropriated the role of victims….entirely for themselves all around the world,” was nothing more than a showcase for a rejectionist Palestinian narrative that embraces hatred and antisemitism.
The European Parliament is not the only platform where this kind of behavior has played out; it is only the latest. United Nations agencies like the Human Rights Council and UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and even the World Health Organization seek, on a routine basis, to deny, minimize or rewrite Jewish history to fit the Khaled narrative.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is closely aligned with this worldview, specializes in comparing Israel with apartheid-era South Africa, and accusing Israeli authorities of ethnic cleansing.
The Khaled event at the European Parliament was not something hidden or unknown to those who peruse the international body’s weekly calendar. Someone made a decision to approve its being placed on the schedule.
To be fair, some members of the parliament have spoken out against Khaled’s appearance in Brussels, as has the European Commission’s coordinator on combating antisemitism.
Yet with so many EU heads of government, foreign ministers and other officials proffering comments about the need to defeat the growing threat of terrorism on the continent, where are those voices expressing outrage over the invitation to a convicted terrorist — who remains a “member of the political bureau” of one of the deadliest of terror organizations — to speak at one of the EU’s central institutions?
In trying to explain this, words like “hypocrisy” and “indifference” come to mind, along with simple political correctness. But it is more than that: Haven’t those in leadership positions in Brussels learned anything from decades of violence espoused by Khaled, her contemporaries and now, by Hezbollah, Hamas and ISIS? If nothing else, have they no self-respect?
The recent list of terrorist attacks in Europe is long, and growing. At the EU, some may have short memories, but surely the families of victims in Paris, Nice, London, Brussels, Copenhagen and so many other places, do not.
The citizens of a united Europe deserve better.
The author is the CEO of B’nai B’rith International.
B'nai B'rith International CEO and Executive Vice President Dan Mariaschin was quoted in The Jerusalem Post article on a bill in the Texas legislature that would prevent the state from doing business with companies that support the BDS movement.
“Comerica should close the account,” said Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith, an organization that testified on Wednesday in Texas in support of the anti-BDS bill. The IADL 'excuses the actions of terrorist organizations and denies Israel’s right to defend itself.'"
Check out the article, that includes testimony from the B'nai B'rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy Chair Charles Kaufman given at the Texas legislature in support of the bill.
Scroll down to read the piece or click here to read it on JerusalemPost.com.
Texas has been a hotbed of anti-BDS activity in recent days, with the passage of a bill in the Senate on Wednesday that will bar state contracts and investment in companies that boycott Israel, and mounting criticism by Jewish organizations of a local bank’s BDS activity.
Chuck Lindell from the American-Statesman paper reported that the Texas Senate passed the bill opposing BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) by a 25-4 vote and that it was sent to the Texas House of Representatives for a vote. “No senators spoke in opposition to [bill] SB 29 before the vote,” the paper reported, adding that the bill’s author, Sen. Brandon Creighton, said Texas should not do business with companies that participate in the BDS movement.
One such company, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), maintains an account with the Dallas-based Comerica bank.
“Comerica should close the account,” said Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith, an organization that testified on Wednesday in Texas in support of the anti-BDS bill. The IADL ”excuses the actions of terrorist organizations and denies Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Like other financial institutions, Comerica does not have to provide everyone with an account or a loan, he said. “Banks have recognized that they should not truck or have business with these types [BDS] of accounts.”
The IADL supports Iran’s nuclear program and has a chapter in communist North Korea.
Jan Fermon, the secretary-general of IADL and a Belgium-based lawyer, wrote the The Jerusalem Post by email in early March that, “Regarding BDS, IADL supports this movement.”
He added, “IADL engaged in solidarity with the Palestinian people in a very early stage of its existence because it considers the violations of international law and human rights law... by the Israeli authorities as a major obstacle to a just and lasting peace in the region.”
Charles Kaufman, who chairs B’nai B’rith’s International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, delivered testimony in the Austin legislature in support of the anti-BDS bill. Kaufman, who lives in Texas, said, “In another time, in another place in history, people who wanted to rid the earth of the Jewish people boycotted their businesses. Filled with fear, these good citizens, stripped of their possessions, separated from their families, would subsequently fill boxcars... and you the know rest.
“Today is different, the Jewish people have a state, Israel, their ancestral homeland, a home shared with Christians and Muslims and many other faiths,” he said. “And yet, there are people who still want to rid the earth of Israel and demonize Jews in a shocking reply of antisemitism. The talk of a boycott is back. It is back in the form of an appalling spreading disease called BDS – against Texas’s fourth largest trading partner.
“The BDS movement would like you to believe that this effort will pressure Israel to make existential concessions to enemies who seek its destruction. This is simply the latest in a litany of false narratives that is threatening a democracy and a free world,” said Kaufman.
“Do Texans share the values of individual freedom, tolerance, mutual respect and pluralism with Israel? Absolutely, yes. Do we share a spirit of discovery, enterprise and security with the State of Israel? Yes. Do we need an anti-BDS law in Texas? In the face of a threatening movement? Sadly, yes.”
Joel Schwitzer, the American Jewish Committee’s regional director in Dallas, told the Post: “AJC recognizes that Comerica Bank, and other financial institutions, are clearly free to do business with whomever they choose. AJC urges banks to consider carefully what it means to extend an account to a discriminatory movement like BDS, which seeks to de-legitimize a single country – and that often intersects with antisemitism.”
Wayne Mielke, a spokesman for Comerica, responded to the Post by email, saying, “We don’t discuss customer relationships, and want you to know (again) that we have a robust compliance program at the bank.”
Mielke’s response is “not good enough. It is a legalistic answer,” said Mariaschin. The question for Comerica is: “Do you want to do business with an organization [IADL] that engages in this type of activity?” Mielke declined follow-up Post queries about whether the bank had launched an investigation into the IADL account and about Comerica’s views on BDS.
There are many definitions of the Yiddish word “chutzpah”: temerity, audacity, nerve, are chief among them.
Any of these definitions aptly fit the upcoming, and grandly-named, Paris Conference on Middle East Peace. Seventy countries will soon gather in the French capital to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and more likely than not, will propose—or perhaps will try to impose a solution to it.
Israel will not be in attendance, and for good reason.
French authorities, in introducing the idea for this conference seven months ago, said that they were “compelled to act” on the issue, which they presumptuously profess was necessary to bring the parties together. The conference spokesman says that discussions will center within three working groups, dealing with civil society, institution building and economic assistance.
This all may have been another exercise in “international conference futility,” as the Geneva peace conferences of decades past attest, had it not been for the passage of Resolution 2334 in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the speech of Secretary of State John Kerry outlining his “six principles” late last month.
Huge assemblages of diplomats from dozens of countries, some of which don’t even have relations with Israel, normally wind up letting off steam at these gatherings, and close with presumptuous declarations that either raise Palestinian expectations or frustrate Israel because they have never dealt with the rejectionism of the Palestinian camp.
But this time may be different.
Protestations coming out of Paris about not seeking to impose a settlement on the parties ring hollow. Armed with both the resolution and the Kerry declaration, the Palestinians, who will be attending the gathering, will seek to use the meeting to further isolate Israel. With friends like Sweden, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, mischief-making could very well be the order of the day.
The conventional wisdom is that the conference will endorse the Kerry principles, which placed the blame and onus on Israel for an absence of progress on a two-state solution, and send it on to the Swedish-chaired UNSC, for adoption. At that point, with the parameters not only enunciated by Kerry, but then backed by both the Paris Conference and the Security Council (how could the U.S. veto its own policy?), what would be left to negotiate?
It defies understanding how the French organizers, or any other parties, can still speak both of prejudging an outcome, as well as a serious return to direct negotiations.
Indeed, some Palestinian leaders rejected out of hand the Kerry parameters and called for negotiations within hours of the speech. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Mustafa Barghouti dismissed three of Kerry’s points, saying that the refugee issue must still include the right of return, that the Palestinians would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that Kerry’s proposal for Jerusalem being the capitol of two states did not go far enough—presumably meaning that Israeli neighborhoods like Gilo and Har Homa would need to be evacuated in a final agreement.
In showing his hand, Barghouti underscores not just Palestinian rejectionism, but the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) incessant desire to wear down the international community and insist that it continue to attempt to marginalize and weaken Israel, both diplomatically and economically, until there is nothing left to talk about. Full diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian state could very well follow this conference. With that in hand, there would be no need for the PA to make any concessions. What next? A PA invitation for Iran to send Revolutionary Guards to set up an operation in Ramallah or Hebron?
So is it any wonder that Israel has decided not to appear before this latest version of an international kangaroo court?
Where have the 70 countries joining this gathering been over the past decades, failing to strongly insist that the PA enter negotiations with Israel following offers made by a succession of Israeli governments of concessions ranging from custodianship of Islamic religious sites in Jerusalem (2000), evacuating settlements in Gaza (2005), further concessions on settlements in Judea and Samaria (2008) and most recently, a 10 month settlement freeze (2014).
The responses to these opportunities are well known: intifadas, rockets, incitement and utilizing the United Nations agencies to circumvent the very idea of a negotiated peace, at the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and now, the Security Council.
The massive amounts of time and energy the international community has wasted on these gatherings cannot be regained. Castigating Israel—and by all accounts that will be the end result of the Paris conference, notwithstanding whatever diplomatic language is used—is a non-starter. This is especially so now, when on every one of Israel’s borders there is chaos and uncertainly, ascribable not to the Palestinian issue, but to intra-Arab and intra-Islamic rivalries, mistrust and shifting ideological and strategic currents.
Security Council resolution 2334, and the Kerry speech, have already set back the notion—adhered to by many who back a two-state solution to the conflict—of directly negotiating its end.
Already, some diplomatic scholars and Middle East experts are suggesting ways to, if not rescind the resolution, then to at least mitigate its fallout.
As that unfolds, on into the new Trump administration in Washington, the PA should understand that its zero-sum strategy is also a non-starter.
The Paris conference could send that message to the PA, but it won’t. Those countries participating in these deliberations should do no more harm to this process.
The outbreak of fires in Israel is already being termed “pyro-terrorism,” as at least 24 persons have been arrested over the past several days in connection to the blazes. With hundreds of homes destroyed ( by some estimates, half a billion shekels in damage in Haifa alone) and tens of thousands displaced, the total acreage burned now exceeds that which was destroyed in the Mt. Carmel fires six years ago.
Aiding and abetting those who may have started these fires have been messages carried by social media, praising the outbreak: according to Ynet News, one Tweet said “All of Israel’s neighbors must aid it — I suggest they send planes filled with gasoline and rain it down on the burning areas. I want to inhale the smell of barbecue from the Zionists.”
According to Haaretz, the hashtag #israelisburning included, among the thousands being sent, one from Fatma Alqu (“What a good day”), and another from Kamil (“Israel burns and I love it! What will you do VS Allah’s power you zionist (sic) dirt-bags…”). The Israeli media has published many others, from the Palestinians territories and the Arab world.
While the messages celebrate the wildfires, they also serve to exhort others who might want to join the party. But while this social media campaign is tied to the rash of blazes, the language used is from the same canon that has fueled incitement against Israel and Israelis for decades.
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the one constant on the Palestinian side has been incitement. Called upon to end it when the agreement was signed, it has remained a daily weapon deployed by Palestinian political and religious figures, the media and in schools. By now, the incitement roster is well known, including most recently, charges that Israel is poisoning Palestinian water supplies; has no connection (Israel and the Jewish people) to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall; and denies medical care to Palestinian in the territories, a libelous charge if ever there was, given the hundreds of Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals daily.
Indeed, a Palestinian baby born on the day the Oslo Accords were signed is now a 23-year-old adult raised on daily doses of hatred. So it should come as no surprise that this new (and surely there are others to follow) hashtag campaign is punctuated by the language of hate and a desire to see Israel’s end.
To be fair, the Palestinian Authority sent 50 firefighters to Israel to help extinguish the fires, a gesture which produced many Tweets from Israelis and others expressing appreciation (they joined more than 300 foreign firefighters from many countries, including Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called PA President Mahmoud Abbas, to express thanks for the assistance, which the latter described as “humanitarian.” The Prime Minister’s office also noted that both Jews and Arabs opened their homes to victims of the blazes.
Perhaps the deployment of the firefighters is the gesture that breaks the ice over the stalled peace process. Whether it is, or is simply an aberration, time will soon tell. A new presidential administration will surely have its own assessment about the “process” and more broadly, the chaos and strategic wildfires burning out of control in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and by Iran’s unabashed support for terrorism and creeping hegemonism in the region.
The social media incitement and the #israelisburning campaign may not have originated in the PA’s Ramallah offices. But the years of incitement emanating from there, spewing out over so many years, provided the tinder for the matches of hatred thrown out on Twitter and Facebook during the course of the wildfires in Israel.
The PA and its leadership, if they were ever serious about a negotiated peace with Israel, have frittered away the past 20 years by, on the one hand, inciting its own people against Israel, and on the other, by counting on international support for the Palestinian narrative. The current hashtag campaign, and its incessant use of the United Nations and its agencies to further the Palestinian narrative, are the fruits of their labor. In the process, increasing numbers of Israelis ask if there is a serious partner for an accommodation — of any kind. Perhaps the fires in Israel and the language of the hashtag campaign are a wake-up call for those who have looked the other way at incitement against Israel. It is not a winning strategy. But past history would not be a cause for optimism on this point.
The social media revolution has given us the ability to immediately reach out to the public, to government officials and to colleagues, family and friends in unprecedented ways. It has also given those who hate the unimpeded opportunity to injure and maim in 140 characters or less, and to exhort others to join the fray, oftentimes, as we have now seen, with violent and dangerous consequences.
The social media campaign connected to the pyro-terrorism that has played out in Israel in recent days is a new strain of a growing virus.
Until now, the Palestinian leadership has seen no need to “educate for peace.” It should look at the content of the fire-related Tweets, and contemplate what that nihilistic policy has wrought.
In a joint statement, B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich and B’nai B’rith International executive vice-president Dan Mariaschin said the lack of outcry against the wave of terror was disturbing.
“If a rash of terror broke out in any other democratic nation, most of the international community would be appalled,” they said.
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