CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin's Opening Remarks to JISS (Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies) Conference - December 11, 2018
B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin delivered the below remarks on December 11, 2018 at the 2018 Jerusalem Institution for Strategic Studies conference, held at the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center in Mishkenot Shaananim, Jerusalem.
B’nai B’rith is pleased to join with JISS in co-sponsoring this important conference. And we are especially pleased to have with us our good friends from the American Hellenic community, AHEPA and the American Hellenic Institute.
As they say, “Timing is everything.” At this moment in time, there is an urgency about addressing the chaos that is roiling the Eastern Mediterranean, the ramifications of which are being felt way beyond this region.
From the point at which we are meeting today, looking North, South, East and West, there is good reason to be deeply concerned. Civil wars, proxy wars, ethnic rivalries, religiously-inspired terrorism, naval build-ups, big and medium-power on-they-ground involvement, and contentiousness even among allies as to how to act and react, fill out a lengthy list of flash points that command our daily attention.
Where, exactly, do you begin to address this multiplicity of challenges?
This conference will allow us to hear not only analysis, but the opportunity, as well to explore options for addressing these current crises.
For us, gathered here today, there is a context — or should I say contexts — to our discussions. The exploration and exploitation of natural gas reserves has served as a springboard for cooperation and collaboration for Israel, Greece and Cyprus, now being joined at various points by Egypt and Jordan. Indeed, next week in Beersheva, the fifth tripartite summit will bring together the prime ministers of Israel and Greece, and the President of Cyprus, for talks in a wide range of issues.
Add to that, trade, tourism, and cooperation on innovation initiatives and you see a real time transformation of the region. The growing interest of the Trump Administration in these developments has added tremendous weight to their importance.
And, with regard to the United States, the Russia factor, the Iran factor, and the ISIS and Al-Qaeda factor, all contribute to the complexity of challenges to Washington.
Other relationships impact the security situation, as well: the role or non-role of NATO, issues affecting U.S. relationships in the Gulf, even debates within the United States and its two political parties over involvement in crises abroad, and the always present Greek-Turkish situation involving two American allies, are additional ingredients in this geopolitical mixing bowl that bring us together today.
One final note, about B’nai B’rith’s historic interest in this region. This year, our organization is celebrating its 175th anniversary, making it the oldest of the international Jewish organizations. Depending on the point in that long span of history, we were among the most active Jewish organizations in the Ottoman Empire, in places like Greece and elsewhere in the Balkans, in Egypt (even in Sudan at one point), Lebanon, and Syria. In pre-State Israel, our first branch was established in Jerusalem in 1888. Indeed, the first secretary of that branch was Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of the modern Hebrew language.
Finally, we are fortunate that our JISS colleagues, in addition to their own highly respected expertise, have brought together an array of experts and analysts from the worlds of academia, diplomacy and the military, to assess the problems and prospects of the threats and challenges before us.
A special thank you to Efraim Inbar, Eran Lerman, and David Weinberg, and to my colleague Alan Schneider, who heads B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, for their special efforts to bring us today’s program.
WATCH CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin Here:
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.
Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin represented B'nai B'rith International at the home of Israel's Ambassador Ron Dermer during his annual Rosh Hashanah reception.
Mariaschin's presence was noted by Jewish Insider, which also offered the context of the gathering and a transcription of Dermer's toast to the New Year. Read excerpts from the article below:
Approximately 150 guests, including Jewish leaders, diplomats, journalists and members of Congress, gathered last night at the home of Israel's Ambassador Ron Dermer and his wife Rhoda in Chevy Chase to toast the upcoming Jewish New Year.
Dermer began by joking: "I hope you all had a more uneventful summer than I (laughter)... I could do boring for while. It'd be fine for me. But we are obviously meeting at a time when everyone is discussing the deal with Iran, a few of you raised it with me tonight not surprisingly, and I want to take this opportunity to let you know that Israel is opposed to the deal (laughter). I know that comment is going to set the entire twitter-sphere ablaze.
"The right of Israel to convey its views about a deal with an Iranian regime that actively works and openly calls for our annihilation... should not be the subject of controversy. It should be self-evident. But to some, it’s not. Because while no one questions the right of the Ambassadors of the other P5+1 countries to meet with members of Congress and explain why they believe this is a good deal, some have questioned whether it is appropriate for Israel to make its case to those same members of Congress. That’s pretty disturbing. Because there is no country in the world that has a greater right than Israel to weigh in on this issue because there is no country in the world that has more at stake than Israel.
"But regardless of where you stand on the nuclear deal with Iran, on this Rosh Hashana, let us all raise a glass and toast the fact that the Jewish people are voiceless no more. Israel has provided us with a shofar, with a sovereign voice among the nations. Israel will continue to blow that shofar with pride. And on this Rosh Hashana, let us also toast a privilege we all have – the privilege to live at a time when the Jewish people not only have a voice but when we also have the power and will to defend ourselves – a will that no deal and no force on earth will ever break." [Transcript; Audio]
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.
In light of the current wave of unrelenting attacks against Israel's legitimacy, B'nai B'rith International joined B'nai B'rith Europe, local lodges and dozens of other Jewish organization to rally in support of Israel outside of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
B’nai B’rith is highly critical of the report issued by the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) “independent, international commission of inquiry” into Israel’s defensive operations against Hamas in Gaza during the summer of 2014. The report inherently lacks credibility and should not be taken as a serious evaluation of the necessary counterterrorism actions of the Israel Defense Forces.
B'nai B'rith International's Israel/Middle East policy includes issues such as fighting terrorism; supporting Israel's right to defend itself; preventing Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons; preserving the unity of Jerusalem; promoting the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries; and supporting direct negotiations between the parties to the Middle East conflict while affirming the importance of Israel's critical security needs.
Photos below courtesy of Israel In Switzerland:
B'nai B'rith International joined a chorus of Jewish organizations that voiced displeasure at a recent Vatican's move on the recognition of a "State of Palestine.”
In follow-up analysis, B'nai B'rith Director of United Nations Affairs David Michaels examined the history of the terminology, noting that the Vatican has made prior references to the "State of Palestine," and concluding that the move, while disappointing, is unlikely to affect Israelis or Palestinians.
Read media coverage from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on B'nai B'rith's statement on the Vatican:
A May 13 announcement on an agreement regarding the functioning of the church in areas under Palestinian control raised eyebrows in its reference to the “State of Palestine.”
The upset was compounded by confusion over whether Pope Francis, in a meeting over the weekend with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, praised him as an “angel of peace” or urged him to attain that vaunted status. On Tuesday, a Vatican spokesman said it was “very clear” that the pope was “encouraging a commitment to peace.”
But the Vatican’s shift from terming its Palestinian partner as the Palestine Liberation Organization — the designation Israel accepts — to calling it Palestine comports with a shift in Europe toward accommodating Palestinian statehood aspirations, the Jewish officials said.
Daniel Mariaschin, the director of B’nai B’rith International, said the recognition of Palestine raised concerns, but they must be seen in the context of an increased willingness in Europe to recognize Palestinian statehood and not of Jewish-Catholic relations.
He likened it to the French and British parliaments recent nonbinding recognition of Palestine and Sweden’s decision to recognize Palestinian statehood.
“It’s important, I won’t dismiss it, but it shouldn't be seen outside that broader context,” Mariaschin said. “It raises the expectations of Palestinians to un-meetable levels and frustrates the Israelis who say we can’t get a fair deal in the international community.”
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