The Jerusalem Post spoke with B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin about our organization's top priorities on Capitol Hill in 2022.
As Congress prepares to return to its second session later this week, and with the midterm election in November on the horizon, Jewish organizations are working on their legislative agenda for 2022, deciding what they should promote and what they should oppose before the 117th Congress is dissolved.
The main priority for 2022, as several organizations noted, is securing $1 billion to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system.
The funding has been blocked in the Senate for three months over the opposition of Senator Rand Paul. The Republican from Kentucky said last month that he would support the bill if it would be offset with spending cuts elsewhere.
Some organizations reiterated the need for a permanent envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. In July, US President Joe Biden announced he would appoint Deborah Lipstadt to the position, but she is still awaiting her confirmation vote in the Senate.
Another item that is receiving wide support is the Israel Relations Normalization Act.
Marshall Wittmann, spokesperson for AIPAC, said that the pro-Israel lobby’s immediate priorities in the new year are “working to gain final congressional approval of $1 billion to replenish the Iron Dome system and $3.8 billion dollars in security assistance funding for Israel.
“We also will be urging quick final passage of the Israel Relations Normalization Act. We will continue to urge Congress and the administration to confront the Iranian push for a nuclear weapon and combine diplomacy with added economic pressure and the credible threat of military force. We will be developing additional legislative initiatives to enhance US-Israel bilateral cooperation, and to ensure that Israel has the necessary resources to defend itself against the threat of Iranian aggression.”
Daniel Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, said “High on our agenda for 2022 is the need to secure Iron Dome funding. It’s our top priority on Capitol Hill for the moment.”
He noted that Congress has passed legislation mandating the appointment at the State Department of a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.
“The administration has nominated Professor Deborah Lipstadt to fill the position,” Mariaschin said. “The Senate now needs to confirm her so that she can carry out the important work of this job in the fight against global antisemitism. We are also supporting bipartisan legislation in Congress that would impose sanctions on foreign individuals and agencies that support the terrorist activities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
Mariaschin noted that B’nai B’rith will also be advocating for adopting the Israel Relations Normalization Act, which mandates a government-wide strategy to expand and strengthen the Abraham Accords.
“On the domestic side, we are supporting the House-passed version of the Build Back Better Act, because of funds appropriated for affordable housing for seniors,” he said. “Senior housing is a major project of B’nai B’rith. As the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income housing for seniors, we sponsor nearly 40 residential facilities with over 5,000 residents around the United States.”
Jason Isaacson, chief policy and political affairs officer at AJCommittee, said his organization is focused on advancing the various items from its legislative advocacy agenda, including funding for the replenishment of Iron Dome; Senate confirmation of key presidential nominees including Lipstadt and Ambassador Barbara Leaf as assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, Sarah Margon as assistant secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and Tamara Wittes as USAID assistant administrator for the Middle East.
Another item, he noted, is the passage of S.Res.377/H.Res.558, urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in its entirety.
“With our ongoing national focus on raising awareness and providing necessary tools for the fight against antisemitism, we’ll continue working across the country to ensure adequate hate crimes reporting, reaching out to and securing commitments from governors, mayors, and other officials, and we’ll continue to press for the adoption by state and local authorities of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism,” said Isaacson.
The Jewish Federation of North America has a busy schedule as well. Among the items on its agenda: securing $360 million in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program; securing $10 million for the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program; and advocating for investment in home-based health care for older adults and people with disabilities through the Better Care Better Jobs Act.
JFNA will also focus on Holocaust education and addressing online antisemitism, including fighting the delegitimization of Israel and supporting the implementation of No Hate Act.
“We have important legislative work to do this year in order to ensure that our community is safe, healthy, and inclusive, and that our society protects the most vulnerable,” said Jewish Federations SVP for Public Affairs, Elana Broitman. “The pandemic continues to show how important the national system of local nonprofit services is to supporting our communities, and the need for strong, bipartisan support behind our priorities to continue enabling these services.”
Sam Markstein, national political director for the Republican Jewish Coalition, said that “RJC’s focus this year will continue to be opposing the Biden administration’s wrong-headed efforts, most notably their plan to revive a dangerously flawed nuclear deal with Iran, their scheme to open a US consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem, and their disastrous ‘Build Back Better’ bill.
“RJC will also be supporting measures to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome, broaden and strengthen the Abraham Accords, and compel the Palestinian Authority to end ‘pay for slay’ subsidies for terrorism.”
Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said that one of JDCA’s top legislative priorities for 2022 is passage of federal voting rights legislation “to defend our democracy and combat widespread Republican-led voter suppression. JDCA strongly supports the Freedom to Vote Act, which has the support of all 50 Democrats in the Senate, as well as efforts to abolish or reform the Senate filibuster in order to ensure its passage.
“Jewish Dems will also continue to support Democratic efforts to protect and expand abortion access, working with coalitions to advocate for passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act in the Senate, and to pursue reproductive justice,” said Soifer. “JDCA will continue to advocate for the confirmation of key Biden administration nominees in 2022, including Sarah Margon as assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Dilawar Syed as deputy administrator for the Small Business Administration; and Deborah Lipstadt as special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.”
Michael Koplow, policy director for the Israel Policy Forum, emphasized that while the organization is not a lobbying group and does not lobby Congress on legislation, it “absolutely has a policy agenda. There are a few policy items we hope that Congress takes up in the new year, including normalization between Israel and regional states that is furthered, and that is also leveraged to make progress on Israeli-Palestinian issues; continuing to robustly support Israeli security needs; Israel-Palestinian security coordination; and funding to the Palestinian Authority Security Forces that prevents terrorism and violence against Israelis.
Koplow said that the IPF also supports “people-to-people ties that further a viable peace process through continued support for Lowey funding, and continued support for UNRWA as the only entity currently able to provide critical humanitarian services in Gaza, predicated on its continued pledges to the US on transparency, accountability, and neutrality.”
B'nai B'rith in The Jerusalem Post: Iran deal: ‘We have to learn from 2015. Don’t free up the sanctions’
In a Jerusalem Post feature article, B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin argues that the world must address Iran's malign activities and human rights abuses, in addition to its aggressive nuclear program, and must not let up on sanctions against Iran.
As the superpowers and Iran gear up for Monday’s seventh round of talks in Vienna, B’nai B’rith International is calling for a united front to make sure that the talks address not only the nuclear program, but also Iran’s malign activities and human rights abuses.
In recent months, the organization has held “many” meetings with EU diplomats both in Europe and at the UN to address these issues.
“We were advocating against the JCPOA even before 2015, and at the time we said that this is not a regime that can be trusted,” says Daniel Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International.
“We called for three baskets of negotiations: the nuclear one, which of course is the most threatening, but also for a basket for malign behavior and support for terrorism,” he said. “And then the third basket would be human rights, because the Iranians are among the worst abusers of human rights in the world.”
But the response he got from the Obama administration was “nuclear is front and center,” Mariaschin said. “And I believe it was a naive assumption. Over the past 11 months, our position essentially has not changed. In fact, if anything, it has been reinforced by the behavior of the Iranians from the beginning of this year.
“Three days ago, there was a drone attack on the American base in Syria. I mean, we’re talking about reconvening talks in Vienna at the end of this month, and three days ago they’re still attacking us. They’re attacking our bases in Iraq. They’re attacking the base in Syria.”
Mariaschin said that while the key player is the Biden administration, “the key to presenting a united front on this issue is whether the Europeans are all on the same page. That’s the issue, and I’m not sure we’re there.”
For that reason, B’nai B’rith International has been very active in Europe over the past few months, said Mariaschin.
“In our meetings with European diplomats, and we’ve had many meetings, we have raised all of the issues. My sense is that the Europeans are not as exercised about the Iranian threat as they should be. The Europeans need to be much less equivocal on this issue than they are. I sometimes feel they don’t see Iran’s behavior necessarily as an existential threat for them. I think sometimes they see it as an academic exercise, but not as an existential threat. It’s an existential threat when it comes to the threats against Israel, the threats against the Gulf states. But I think that they are not as exercised. To go back into talks – that’s good [for them] because it’s kicking the can down the road continually, and they would rather kick the can down the road, I believe.
“We’ve also discussed these issues with a couple of Latin American countries because of our concern about the penetration of Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere.”
Mariaschin said it would be harder to get the Iranians to agree to a “longer and stronger” agreement if the West is signaling eagerness to return to the JCPOA.
“I hope the administration has learned that over the last 11 months, notwithstanding they’re signaling that they want to go back into the JCPOA,” he said. “The Iranians are drawing conclusions based on a sense that the West is desperate.
“If they sense an eagerness, then why would they at any point give up and change their mind about what they’re going to do with the nuclear program? I think ratcheting up your enrichment to 60% is a threat. It’s not a gambit on a negotiating position. So I believe that we have to learn from 2015. Don’t free up the sanctions, don’t allow them to take the extra cash and plow it back in as an investment in their hegemonic activity. Keep sanctions on. Keep it tight. Don’t signal that there’s eagerness.”
The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International Honorary President Richard Heideman on the legacy of the 2001 Durban Conference tainted by anti-Semitism.
In 2001, anti-Israel and anti-Zionism sentiment roared with a vengeance at the UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa (the Durban Conference). As president of B’nai B’rith International and as chairman of the United Nations Committee of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, I served as head of the delegation for those organizations to the Durban Conference, a true hatefest toward Israel, Zionists and the Jewish people.
Indeed, it was at Durban, which occurred during the Second Intifada, that the seeds of hate were planted to launch a malicious, multi-pronged diplomatic, academic, legal and economic boycott, and campaign of demonization against Israel in the court of public opinion.
Intended to explore ways to end racism and promote awareness of intolerance, the Durban Conference quickly devolved into a public display of anti-Jewish rhetoric and an ugly anti-Israel agenda. Copies of the antisemitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion were sold on the conference grounds, and anti-Israel protesters resurrected the “Zionism equals racism” charge, further demonizing Israel and the Jewish people in every possible way.
Both at the official UN member conference in Durban and the NGO Forum that aimed to “publicize the voice of the victims,” blatant antisemitic hate toward Israel was rampant. The forum consisted of tables, posters and people working to rile up the crowd with images that made it very clear that they considered Israel to be an apartheid Nazi racist criminal state unworthy of standing at the United Nations or equality in the family of nations, notwithstanding Israel’s member-state status at the UN.
At this forum, the Jewish Caucus proposed and is believed to have cast the only vote in favor of labeling Holocaust denial and anti-Jewish violence as forms of antisemitism. In addition, the forum and conference representatives rejected efforts by the US and other democratic allied governments to seek the inclusion of a key paragraph on antisemitism in the final outcome document of the conference.
After four days in which the US attempted to end the blatantly antisemitic attitudes and displays of hatred toward Israel, Zionists and the Jewish people, the US and Israeli delegations, along with the Jewish NGO organizations, held a press conference and staged a walkout in protest.
I am proud to have led that walkout along with Lord Janner of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and leaders of the various Jewish NGOs present at the UN Conference Forum, joined by the US and Israeli ambassadors and delegations. It is important that the Jewish people stand together in such times and circumstances; and important that we speak out with dignity in protesting the injustices of false accusations and outright hatred toward Israel and the Jewish people.
The final resolution of the NGO Forum called Israel “a racist apartheid state,” guilty of the “systematic perpetration of racist crimes including war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing… and state terror against the Palestinian people.” This document is wrongly heralded as a guideline for action against Israel. It is a manifesto to be rejected, not commemorated.
In 2009, in Geneva, as head of the delegation for the Durban Review Conference, I witnessed the continuation of hatred toward Israel, Zionism, and the Jewish people, which further advanced the Durban agenda of castigating Israel in every possible avenue and venue.
WHAT OCCURRED on the grounds of the United Nations conference in Durban and at the recent “Durban IV” commemoration, was not by chance, but rather was a well-planned and designed gathering with the purpose not of standing against racism, but rather of singling out and accusing Israel as an apartheid criminal racist state. Understanding the absurdity of this charge and the depravity behind its origins, 38 countries boycotted the Durban IV event. Nevertheless, both the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council have in recent days passed resolutions continuing to endorse the Durban Program, tacitly applauding rather than castigating the hatred espoused there.
Over the past 20 years, the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people have followed that line, taking to the International Court of Justice a request, via the United Nations General Assembly, for an advisory opinion on the “legality” of Israel’s construction of the “wall,” which is truly a terrorism prevention security fence, and taking to the International Criminal Court the issues of Israel’s neighborhoods and communities in the ancient homelands of the Jewish people, further accusing the IDF of violations of international law with regard to the IDF’s military response to the kidnapping and murder of Jewish teenagers and civilians in the West Bank.
Those of us who attended Durban and experienced the rampant hatred toward Israel and the Jewish people must remind others of the need to stand up against such hatred and do so with pride, strength and knowledge; and do so with a commitment to making our voices collectively heard around the world, as B’nai B’rith International recently did in its highly acclaimed series Durban Revisited, broadcast by JBS TV.
The legacy of Durban must be recognized as one of hate, not of tolerance nor of a commitment to advancing education, democracy, equal rights and respect for the dignity of all people.
The Jerusalem Post quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin concerning the fall of Afghanistan and the strategic, regional uncertainty that it has unleashed – particularly with regard to Iran, the Palestinians and the future of the Abraham Accords.
WASHINGTON — US Jewish organizations were following closely as the drama was unfolding. Even before Thursday’s terror attack, it was already clear that the Afghanistan withdrawal will overshadow the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. But the deadly attack near the Kabul airport made it clear that the administration’s attention is currently elsewhere, as the President and his close staff monitored the developments from the situation room, postponing the meeting to a later timing.
William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, told The Jerusalem Post that “as we watch the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the alliance and partnership between the United States and the State of Israel is more critical than ever.”
Speaking about the meeting, Daroff said that he expected the two new administrations “to make significant progress on issues of mutual and fundamental importance to all Americans and Israelis during Prime Minister Bennett’s first US trip to Washington since assuming office — the first opportunity for the two leaders to meet face-to-face during their many years in public service.”
“These priorities include sharing knowledge and resources to counter the COVID-19 virus and its variants, how best to deter Iranian aggression and hold its nuclear program accountable and in check, and defending and promoting Israel’s security, peace, and stability,” he said.
Dan Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, told the Post that with the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and all of the strategic uncertainty that it has unleashed, “events would hopefully dictate a further closing of the ranks between Washington and Jerusalem on Iran and the Palestinian issue.”
“This is clearly no time for risk-taking with Iran, including sanctions relief, especially given the election of Ebrahim Raisi, Tehran’s ratcheting up enrichment and other aspects of its nuclear program, and its malign behavior throughout the region,” said Mariaschin.
“With regard to the Palestinian issue, the PA’s pay-for-slay program and its incessant efforts at the UN and elsewhere to demonize Israel suggests more business-as-usual in Ramallah,” he continued. “There should be no rush to proffer additional incentives to the PA —such as re-opening of the PLO office in Washington and certainly not re-opening of the consulate in Jerusalem — in the face of its zero-sum recalcitrance.”
“Finally, we hope that the success of the Abraham Accords will move the administration to proactively seek out, together with Israel, new partners for peace and cooperation in the region, to join those already committed to this camp,” Mariaschin said.
Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) CEO Halie Soifer released a statement on Thursday morning, saying that the meeting between President Biden and Prime Minister Bennett is the first meeting between a new US president and new Israeli Prime Minister in more than a decade. “It ushers in a new chapter for the United States and Israel, and reaffirms the strength of our historic and mutually beneficial bilateral relationship,” she said.
“President Biden entered office with a longer and stronger record of support for Israel than any of his predecessors, and has been steadfast in his support for Israel’s security and right to self-defense,” she said.
She went on to say that The United States and Israel “share a common goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. With the future of a renewed Iran nuclear agreement remaining, at best, uncertain, we welcome close collaboration between the US and Israel in ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Jeremy Ben Ami, President of the progressive group, J Street, said in a statement on Thursday that “while the US builds common ground with the new Israeli government in a number of areas, we also must make clear that the “status quo” is too dangerous to accept.”
“J Street is urging President Biden to make clear in [the] meeting that a strong, enduring, bipartisan US-Israel relationship demands fidelity to our shared values of democracy, peace and respect for human rights,” said Ben Ami. “That means pushing for an end to harmful settlement expansion; an end to discriminatory evictions in East Jerusalem and demolitions in the West Bank; an end to the policy of perpetual occupation; an end to the twin erosion of Israeli democracy and Palestinian hopes for self-determination,” he said in a statement.
Coverage of B'nai B'rith Co-Sponsoring New Initiative Marking Routes Taken by Jews Fleeing 15th Century Persecution
B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider is co-sponsoring an initiative by Mayor Antonio Pita of the town of Castelo de Vide in eastern Portugal that will mark the paths taken by Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 and the Portuguese Inquisition in 1496. Schneider attended and addressed a formal gathering in Castelo de Vide where the initiative was announced.
See how the media covered the news and the event:
Portuguese Town to Sponsor Country-Wide Initiative Marking Routes Taken by Jews Fleeing 15th Century Persecution
Castelo de Vide City Council – YouTube (Portuguese)
Portugal em Direto - Encontro Rede de Judiarias de Portugal e Espanha
Israel Hayom (English):
Portuguese City Marking Routes Taken by Jews Fleeing Inquisition
Israel Hayom (Hebrew):
First-of-its-Kind Initiative in Portugal: Restoration of the "Spanish Deportees"
The Jerusalem Post – Grapevine Column (English)
Grapevine August 9, 2021: A Time to Remember
Grapevine columnist Greer Fay Cashman notes that both Portugal and Spain have made great strides in trying to make amends for the expulsion of Jews from their respective countries more than 500 years ago. Aside from entering into diplomatic relations with Israel, restoring citizenship to people who can prove direct descent from those who were expelled, acknowledging ancient antisemitism, permitting the revival of Jewish communities, and more, the town of Castelo de Vide in western Portugal will sponsor an initiative tracing the paths taken by Jews fleeing the Spanish inquisition in 1492 and the Portuguese Inquisition of 1496. An announcement to this effect was made last week by Castelo de Vide Mayor Antonio Pita, who also serves as vice president of the Jewish Cities Network in Portugal.
The multiyear project, which was jointly initiated with Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, will be coordinated by Walter Wasercier, vice president of the Hispanic-Israeli Chamber of Commerce and former El Al director in Spain and Portugal.
Supporters of the project include outgoing Ambassador to Portugal Raphael Gamzou; Assumpcio Hosta Rebes, secretary-general of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage; Marta Puig Qixal, managing director of Caminos de Sefarad; and officials of the local and regional governments, among them Caceres and Tui in Spain and Braganza and Porto Alegre in Portugal.
Remnants of Castelo de Vide’s Jewish history are carefully maintained by the municipality, including a synagogue and Jewish quarter, and the town will shortly inaugurate the first museum in the world dedicated to the memory of the Inquisition that led to the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula and to untold suffering of Jews who clandestinely continued to cling to their religious beliefs and practices (“conversos”).
As envisioned by its initiators, the project – titled El Kamino De Sefarad al muevo mundo (The Sepharad Route to the New World) – will eventually cover thousands of kilometers from areas of major Jewish population in Spain in the Middle Ages, over the border into Portugal, concluding in Lisbon and Porto, where Jews were forcibly converted or departed for other destinations in North Africa, Holland, the Land of Israel and the New World. The initiative was inspired by the Kamino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.
Schneider envisioned that many Israeli and Jewish organizations would become party to the effort, and that the marked routes will be an attraction for Jewish visitors, among others.
Puig said that besides the economic development that all the participants hope the project will bring, it also will make an important institutional contribution by better transmitting Jewish history in the Iberian Peninsula.
Schneider noted that B’nai B’rith has a long history of commemorating the Inquisition. Among other things, its lodge in Jerusalem established the first sustained library in Israel in 1892, naming it for Rabbi Don Isaac Abravanel, the leader of the Jewish community in Spain at the time of the Inquisition, who led his followers into exile. This library formed the foundation of the National Library of Israel.
Meeting Between the Jewish Networks of Spain and Portugal
Red de Juderías
Meeting between the Jewish Networks of Spain and Portugal
Tui Participated in the Meeting Between the Jewish Networks of Spain and Portugal
B’nai B’rith International is honored to have co-sponsored a visit to Israel by ambassadors to the United Nations and the United States, led by Ambassador Gilad Erdan, along with the American Zionist Movement and March of the Living.
See how media outlets covered the visit:
Enlace Judio (Spanish)
Erdan Guía a Embajadores Internacionales en Gira Por Israel
i24 News (French)
L'ambassadeur d'Israël à l'ONU Organise un Voyage Pour Ses Homologues du Monde Entier en Terre Sainte
Ambassadors Tour Israel to Better Comprehend Its Multifaceted Security Challenges
(Also in Israel Hayom)
The Jerusalem Post (English)
Erdan: We’ll Defend our Right to Jerusalem Against Hamas Lies
The Jerusalem Post (English)
Ambassadors to U.S. and U.N. Meeting with Herzog
The Jerusalem Post (English)
Texas Looking Into Divestment From Unilever Over Ben & Jerry’s Boycott
The Jerusalem Post (English)
Bennett on Ben & Jerry’s: Boycotting Israel Will Be Bad Business Decision
The Times of Israel (English)
Erdan leads international ambassadors to US and UN on tour of Israel
The Times of Israel (English)
Lapid Meets with Delegation of International Ambassadors to U.S. and U.N.
The Times of Israel (French)
Gilad Erdan Accompagne 26 Ambassadeurs en Israël
The Jerusalem Post covered B'nai B'rith International CEO Dan Mariaschin's remarks at the 7th Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Israel.
WASHINGTON – The interparliamentary task force to combat online antisemitism released its interim report on Wednesday, calling on social media companies to act with transparency and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition for antisemitism. The interim report is based on the task force’s work between the fall of 2020 to the spring of 2021, and the full report is expected to be released in the upcoming month.
Members of the task force included lawmakers from Israel, the US, UK, Australia and Canada. Former Blue and White MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh represented Israel, and representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida), Ted Deutch (D-Florida), Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) and Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Florida) represented the US.
The task force provided four key preliminary recommendations. First, it called on social media platforms to enhance transparency regarding algorithms, including “how content is removed, what content is removed, and what tools are used to direct users to certain sites or redirect users away from hate or harm and provide regular quarterly reports on these issues.”
“It is important that social media actually be a marketplace of ideas,” they added.
Second, they called on legislators to consider ways to make the online space safer for all “that respects their respective national laws, including through an independent oversight body or regulatory process where appropriate.”
The task force also urged legislators and social media platforms to “recognize the danger of disinformation online, and that antisemitism is an example of other forms of disinformation online, and should therefore both be considered within the wider conversation of online extremism.”
“National, state [and] local governments, as well as social media providers, should adopt a clear definition of antisemitism, for without first defining a problem, we cannot combat it,” the report reads. “As the international consensus definition, established after 20 years of democratic processes and adopted by nearly 30 countries, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition is recommended.”
“Over the last several years, there has been an alarming increase in antisemitic incidents across the globe, with many originating online,” the report reads. “As social media posts do not stop at international borders, members of the national legislatures of Australia, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States have come together across party lines to launch the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism.”
They noted that the report outlines the activities of the Task Force, “including meetings with technology experts and civil society groups.”
“Establishing consistent messaging and policy from parliaments and legislatures around the world in order to hold social media platforms, including Twitter, TikTok, Facebook and Google, accountable” is the main objective, they added.
“We created this inter-parliamentary task force because online antisemitism is a global problem that demands global attention and action,” Deutch said in a statement. “We’ve wasted no time trying to better understand the breadth and complexity of online hatred and extremism and what should be done by countries and companies to respond. This report offers a summary of our work to fight antisemitism and raises many of the questions that we intend to address in the future.”
Meanwhile, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder addressed the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism on Thursday, and said that, “today’s fight against antisemitism is a war, no less consequential than the Six Day War or the Yom Kippur War.”
The forum, held in Jerusalem from July 13-15, was organized by Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “Israel has become the new excuse for the old antisemitism. And our enemies have free rein because there has been no commensurate response from Israel,” he added.
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin addressed the forum as well, suggesting five approaches to fight antisemitism, including encouraging the endorsement of the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
On Capitol Hill, rally-goers agree that antisemitism is un-American. But when Israel is involved, it gets complicated.
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Several thousand people spent a sweltering afternoon in front of the U.S. Capitol at a rally on Sunday that denounced antisemitism as un-American and made the case that Jewish identity and support for Israel are inextricable.
Those were the unifying messages of the “No Fear” rally on Sunday, which drew about 2,000 people, but there were differences among the speakers and in the crowd on how precisely Israel figures in the fight against antisemitism.
Some of the most searing messages came from people who have suffered antisemitic attacks in recent years. A recurring theme among these speakers was that they never expected to suffer such attacks in the United States. Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Shlomo Noginski, who sustained stab wounds in a July 1 attack in Boston, appeared with his arm still in a sling, and in evident pain.
“I was born in the Soviet Union in the city of St. Petersburg,” Noginski said in Hebrew, having explained that he was still too pained to speak fluently in English. “I remember how even as a young child, I experienced terrible antisemitism. Never in my darkest dreams did I imagine that I would feel the same way here in the United States, the land of freedom and endless possibilities.”
The crowd shouted “hero!” as Noginski spoke. He had held the attacker at bay outside a Chabad facility where about a hundred children were in summer camp.
Another speaker hailed as a hero was Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who described saying the viduy, the Jewish prayer before death, as a gunman shot 11 worshipers dead in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October of 2018. Myers was the first to alert the police of the attack.
“‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are all endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’” Myers said, quoting the Declaration of Independence. “To be an antisemite means you do not accept that pact of being an American.”
The rally drew a broad array of sponsor organizations, covering the religious spectrum and many right-wing and central pro-Israel mainstream Jewish organizations.
Notably absent were representatives of more left-wing groups that were asked to join but opted out of attending because some of the sponsoring groups adhere to a definition of antisemitism that encompasses harsh criticism of Israel, including the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel. Groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now oppose BDS, but object to defining it as antisemitic.
Melissa Landa, who leads the Alliance for Israel, a relatively new group that has as a central tenet that BDS is antisemitic, set the tone at the outset of the event. She had launched plans for the rally after antisemitism spiked during the Israel-Gaza conflict in May.
She spoke of the “shared promise for our children, that they will be free to live as proud Jews, and exercise their religious liberties granted by the United States Constitution, free to wear their yarmulkes and Magen Davids and free to speak their love of Israel without being attacked in the streets of New York or Los Angeles.”
Landa, like other speakers, named lawmakers on the left or the right that have in recent months incurred accusations of antisemitism. Mentions of Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat whose criticism of Israel has been seen by Jewish groups as crossing into antisemitism, notably garnered much louder boos than those of Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who has drawn fire for peddling antisemitic conspiracy theories and for likening coronavirus restrictions to Nazi laws.
Noa Tishby, an Israeli actor, appeared with conservative pundit Meghan McCain and Alma Hernandez, a Democratic state lawmaker in Arizona. Each suggested that anti-Zionism was equivalent to antisemitism.
“So much of the antisemitism of today simply attributes all the evil tropes, lies and libels that have been used for centuries to justify the worst horrors against Jewish people to the Jewish state,” said Tishby, who is well known in Israel and recently published a book titled “Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth.” “As you will hear today, this hatred is being used to attack our Jewish communities. It is being used to impose a heavy cost on anyone who identifies as Jewish or even God forbid, Zionist.”
McCain has become an outspoken defender of Israel on the talk show “The View” — which she announced earlier this month that she is leaving — and elsewhere.
“I’m Meghan McCain and I’m a Zionist because, apparently, this is now something that is controversial to say,” she said at the rally.
Elisha Wiesel, the son of the late Holocaust diarist and Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel, had joined the planning of the rally to bring in mainstream and liberal-leaning groups after Landa hit a wall in bringing them in.
Major mainstream groups like the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International, as well as the Orthodox Union and Reform and Conservative movements, signed on as sponsors, but few of their representatives spoke.
Wiesel said he feared division but was soothed by the unity he saw.
“The sages teach that it was our own hatred for each other that caused the destruction of the first and second temples,” he said. “And in the weeks leading up to this rally, it was this fear that dominated my field of vision, the fear that our community was divided beyond repair. That fear is our enemy’s dream. But looking out at all of you today if it comes clear that instead of dividing us, the enemies of the Jewish people, whether from the right or the left at home or abroad, they have instead united us.”
Wiesel appeared to nod to the concerns that some liberal groups had — that criticism of Israel and support for the Palestinians would be conflated with antisemitism at the rally.
“We can disagree even passionately, without being divided. We can even disagree on Israel,” he said. “ We must not tolerate calls for an end to the Jewish state of Israel, through a one-state solution that once again leaves the Jews defenseless. We must also not tolerate denigration or hatred towards the aspiration for dignity and self-determination of our Palestinian cousins. If we hate, we will not win.”
Just minutes after his own speech, Wiesel jumped in to intervene and help out a fellow speaker — Erika Moritsugu, a deputy assistant to President Biden, who was representing the White House, and was booed. A cluster of supporters of former President Donald Trump shouted during her speech, particularly when she mentioned that President Joe Biden decided to run after the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville. Trump equivocated in condemning the marchers, which has become a sore point among his followers.
“Stolen election!” one man shouted. “You pay money to terrorists!” said another. One held up a placard saying “Screw Kristen Clarke.” Clarke, who leads the civil rights division at the Department of Justice, came under fire during her confirmation hearings for having hosted an antisemitic speaker when at an event when she was a student at Harvard decades ago.
Moritsugu appeared flustered and others in the crowd shushed the booers. After she finished speaking, Wiesel stepped in and said, to applause, “I’d like everybody to thank President Biden for the way that the White House stood with Israel during the Gaza war.”
Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, the director of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness — the public advocacy wing of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church — invoked the black Jewish alliance of the civil rights era, to cheers.
“I am here today to express my support for the Jewish community in the face of antisemitism, in the face of the shooting deaths and attempted murders in synagogues, stores and homes,” he said. “Now is a time of solidarity. Now there’s a time of unity.”
A couple from Kensington, Maryland, Bruce and Malka Kutnick, were unnerved by the presence of the far Jewish right at the rally. Malka Kutnick said she had been reassured by Wiesel’s claim before the rally that both people who don’t care about Israel’s existence and Kahanists — followers of the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane — would not be welcome. She held a placard that read “No to occupation, No to antisemitism.”
“I was just accosted by someone in a Kahane shirt,” she said. “He said I should stand with the Netorei Karta.” A small cluster of that fringe group, which is both haredi Orthodox and anti-Zionist, gathered on a green across the street.
Marie Berlin-Fischler, a 28-year-old Washington, D.C. preschool teacher, stood with a poster reading, “My fellow progressives, you missed a spot: Stop antisemitism.”
She said she felt untethered from the progressive movement, which she otherwise supports.
“The issue is that in this country as of late, I don’t feel as though anyone like me can exist in a progressive space anymore without checking my intersectionality at the door,” she said. “When I am asked to be part of myself as I show up to these spaces, the gap is closing. There’s nowhere for people who want to be American, the way I do.”
The Jerusalem Post featured its own journalist, Greer Fay Cashman, in an article congratulating her on receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem 2021 Award for Journalism for her work covering Israel-Diaspora relations.
The coverage of the Jewish Diaspora is a key mission of The Jerusalem Post. The newspaper prides itself on serving as the most credible and widely read source of news and views in English about Israel and the Jewish world since its establishment in 1932 by Gershon Agron, a Ukrainian-born journalist who moved here from the US and served as editor until 1955, when he became mayor of Jerusalem.
That is why we are particularly proud that Greer Fay Cashman, the Post’s exceptional Australian-born journalist, is being honored this evening by the B’nai B’rith World Center at its 29th annual awards in Jerusalem. In its citation, the distinguished seven-member jury headed by publisher Asher Weill says the Louis and Trudy Shidlovsky Lifetime Achievement Award is being presented to Cashman “for her long writing career on the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora, which has extended over nearly half a century.”
Cashman began writing for the paper in 1975 and joined the staff in 1981, covering a wide variety of beats from fashion to the President’s Residence and penning her popular column, Grapevine. But as the jury correctly notes, “her main concern has always been for the Jewish people.”
Grapevine, it says, “has included a degree of coverage of Jewish Diaspora affairs unmatched by any other Israeli newspaper.” The column forms “a unique bridge between personalities and events in Jewish life throughout the world and in Israel, including extensive coverage of the foreign diplomatic community in Israel and, inter alia, the Jewish populations in their home countries, and their interaction with the local Jewish communities.”
Cashman has made an invaluable contribution to the Israel-Diaspora relationship through her constant coverage of people in the news, home and away. She also never hesitates to speak out on the burning issues of the day, such as the current wave of global antisemitism.
“Journalists are important soldiers in the battle against antisemitism,” Cashman says. “We are the flag-bearers and the trumpeters. In addition to reporting on such incidents, journalists must also report on what is being done to quell antisemitism, and they have to call out governments which are using freedom of expression as an excuse for allowing the free-flow of antisemitic literature, and vulgar antisemitic terminology at rallies and sports events.”
Still, she adds, “Jewish journalism is not and should not be only gloom and doom. There are many bright things happening in the Jewish world, and these too should be reported within the context of Jewish outreach.”
Since its establishment in 1992, the B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism has recognized excellence in reporting on contemporary Diaspora Jewish communities and on the state of Israel-Diaspora relations in the Israeli print, broadcast and online media.
“The award is widely recognized as the most prestigious prize in the Israeli media industry for Diaspora reportage, and was established to help strengthen the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora,” B’nai B’rith said in a press release, adding that it aimed to encourage “quality reporting on Diaspora communities and Israel-Diaspora relations.”
Other prizes for Diaspora reportage will be awarded to Nurit Canetti, anchorwoman, editor-in-chief and producer of Galei Zahal (broadcast media) and Dan Lavie, Diaspora Affairs correspondent of Israel Hayom (print media).
B’nai B’rith says Canetti broadcast numerous programs and podcasts “that raised fundamental issues pertaining to Diaspora communities and Israel-Diaspora relations in the course of 2020,” while Lavie published more than 20 articles during that period in both Hebrew and English “on challenges faced by Diaspora communities, including the COVID-19 crisis.” A special citation for “Fostering Israel-Diaspora Relations through the Arts” will be presented to singer-songwriter Danny Sanderson.
Sanderson will sing, while Cashman will speak after receiving her award. Prof. Yedidia Stern, president of the Jewish People Policy Institute, and Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai will also address the gathering.
On his deathbed in 1959, Gershon Agron acknowledged the growing importance of the Diaspora by giving his blessing to the publication of a weekly overseas edition for readers abroad that became The International Jerusalem Post. What makes the Post a notch above the rest in its coverage of the Diaspora are journalists of Cashman’s caliber. We salute her for serving as a model to others through her sharp, engaging and relevant reportage on the Israel-Diaspora relationship.
The Jerusalem Post covered the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem awarding a special citation to Israeli musician and author Danny Sanderson for his contributions to Israel-Diaspora Relations through the Arts during his 50-year career.
Israeli singer-songwriter and author Danny Sanderson is being awarded a special citation for Fostering Israel-Diaspora Relations through the Arts by the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem.
The citation is set to be presented at a special event in Hebrew on July 1 at 7:00 p.m. at the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center in Jerusalem's Mishkenot Sha'ananim neighborhood.
Sanderson was noted for the citation due to his career spanning over 50 years as one of the most beloved artists in Israel. He made waves in rock bands like Gazoz, Doda and the famous Kaveret and performed in some of the country's most iconic venues.
This marks the seventh time this particular citation was awarded since its creation in 2014. Since then, it has been awarded to a number of prominent Israeli artists such as Nurit Hirsh, Idan Raichel, David Broza and the Shalva Band.
Also being given an award at the ceremony is The Jerusalem Post's own Greer Fay Cashman, who will receive a lifetime achievement award for her many decades of journalism.
The Jerusalem Post covered Greer Fay Cashman, a Jerusalem Post journalist for more than 45 years, receiving the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem's Lifetime Achievement Award for her invaluable contribution to the Israel-Diaspora relationship through her ongoing coverage of people and events in the news.
Jerusalem Post journalist Greer Fay Cashman has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem, the center announced Sunday.
She is the newspaper’s correspondent at the President’s Residence and writes the "Grapevine" column.
Cashman is a veteran Australian-born journalist whose byline has appeared in the Post for some 45 years. She has written on a wide variety of subjects and says she has been educated by her profession.
The award recognizes excellence in reporting on contemporary Diaspora communities and on the state of Israel-Diaspora relations in Israeli media.
“The award is widely recognized as the most prestigious prize in the Israeli media industry for Diaspora reportage and was established to help strengthen the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora,” B’nai B’rith said in a press release.
Cashman is a ubiquitous figure at many official events and press conferences. She also attends social events, fashion shows and cultural affairs.
With an encyclopedic knowledge of Israeli history and the multitude of personalities who made it, Cashman has long been the “go-to” staffer for information and perspective on events taking place, as well as for comprehensive biographies of Israel’s famous and obscure figures.
“Greer has an encyclopedic knowledge of Israel and Jewish history and is held in high esteem by her many regular readers, who include the diplomatic community, Diaspora Jewry and leaders of all faiths,” said Steve Linde, editor of The Jerusalem Report. “She has won at least two other prestigious awards: one from the Polish government, which I know meant a lot to her because she was born in Melbourne to a family of Polish Jews, and the Women of Valor Award from the Ambassadors Club of Israel.
“She is a true woman of valor who has made an invaluable contribution to the Israel-Diaspora relationship through her ongoing coverage of people and events in the news.”
The B'nai B'rith International World Center-Jerusalem received significant coverage of our 20th annual joint Yom HaSHoah ceremony with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) honoring Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the Holocaust.
See how the media noted this year’s commemoration:
Channel 7 TV News
Israel Radio, Hebrew News
https://www.ifatmediasite.com/ms/radio/2021/04/08/10599465.mp3 (Also in English)
The Jerusalem Post
The Jerusalem Post
The Times of Israel
Additionally, a wrap-up film and report appeared on the JNF-KKL website:
The Jerusalem Post previewed B'nai B'rith International and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael's (KKL-JNF) 20th annual joint ceremony to commemorate Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day – Yom HaShoah.
Approaching Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah,) the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) have announced that they will be holding a joint Holocaust commemoration ceremony.
This year will be the 20th consecutive year that the unique event is held in this format.
It is the only event surrounding Yom HaShoah dedicated annually to honoring and commemorating Jewish individuals who made efforts to save fellow Jews during the Holocaust.
The ceremony will take place on Thursday, April 8, at the B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the ceremony will be attended by fewer people and will broadcast live on YouTube.
The B’nai B’rith Martyr’s Forest is the result of a comprehensive joint project by B’nai B’rith and KKL-JNF. With an astounding six million trees planted in the Jerusalem mountains, the project attempts to commemorate the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
At the center of the forest stands the “Scroll of Fire,” a state created by renowned sculptor Nathan Rapoport. The statue is meant to reflect the plight of the Jewish people during the Holocaust and their salvation in Israel.
The ceremony will include personal testimonies by Holocaust survivors and rescuers.
According to B’nai B’rith and KKL-JNF, this year's ceremony will honor Wilhelm Filderman and Itschak Artzi (Romania), José Aboulker (Algiers) and 10 other rescuers who operated in Poland, France and Belgium. Moreover, for the first time since the ceremony has been taking place, two rescuers from Mandatory Palestine – paratrooper Hannah Szenes and WZO official Moshe Shapiro – will be recognized with the Jewish Rescuers Citation.
The Jerusalem Post covered our virtual joint event with the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) honoring the late Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who helped thousands of Jews escape the horrors of the Holocaust.
Chiune Sugihara, known affectionately as the "Japanese Schindler," was honored today at a digital ceremony on Monday ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The reception, sponsored by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) and B'nai B'rith International, focused on the efforts of Sugihara, who defied his own government’s orders by issuing travel visas to more than 6,000 Lithuanian Jews to escape the horrors of the Holocaust.
“At great risk to himself and his family, Sugihara dared to do what was right to save lives. He stood up when the world was largely silent," said CEO of B'nai B'rith International Dan Mariaschin. Like all rescuers her never saw his actions as remarkable. As Sugihara’s actions teach, one person’s actions can make a difference.
”Sugihara was stationed as a diplomat in Lithuania up until all foreign diplomats were requested to leave in the summer of 1940. In the haste to return to Japan, and the impending Holocaust, Sugihara issued visas to the Jewish refugees and it is thought that tens of thousands of Jews are alive today because of his quick action.
“It is estimated that 40,000 people are living today because of Sugihara. I am also a survivor. Another kind of survivor. I am alive today because my grandparents were saved during the Holocaust and I am alive today because of people who stood up to the darkness," said Executive Director of CAM Sacha Roytman Dratwa. "What we learned today is that it is possible to stand up. The heroes of the past must teach us how to be better people.”
The Jewish refugees were then transported to a Dutch colony Curacao, under the permissions of Sugihara who defied Japanese government orders to ensure the safety of thousands.
One of the survivors, Nathan Lewin, who was saved by Sugihara as a child, recalled his family's story at the reception.
Sugihara “opened the door for thousands of refugees to be able to find a free haven in countries across the world.” Lewin said. “It is both an honor and a blessing for me to be here today to share my admiration and thanks for an individual who embodied the role that our rabbis specified, saying you should not do a good deed with the expectation that you will be rewarded, but for the good deed itself. That is what Chiune Sugihara did.”
His daughter Alyza Lewin added "There are many people like me, descendants of the lucky ones, who experienced Sugihara’s humanity.
"Thanks to his moral compass, we deeply appreciate that living life is a blessing," she continued. “Today, Jews are being targeted on the basis of our ethnicity. The Jewish homeland, the Jewish nation state of Israel is the only nation state today targeted as illegitimate. This is today’s contemporary form of antisemitism and we must unite to combat it.”
The Japanese Ambassador to the United Nations, who gave the keynote address laid down call to remember those who perished in the Holocaust and the heroic actions of few who saved many.
“By the grace of Sugihara’s pen, thousands of lives were saved," said ambassador Kimihiro Ishikane. “We must remember the Holocaust to honor those who perished and to achieve a better society. We know that no country is immune from the forces of racism and fascism. So, we have to do the right thing when necessary. Chiune Sugihara is one of those who did the right thing in the most difficult hour.”
The Jerusalem Post covered our sponsorship of a brand new joint course between the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the University of Cyprus on the history of diplomatic relations between Israel, Cyprus and Greece.
The Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the University of Cyprus will be teaming up to collaborate on a joint online course offering in both Greek and Hebrew for the 2021 spring semester.
The course will focus on the history of diplomatic relations between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, which began in the late 1940s, and it will be led by Dr. Gabriel Haritos, fluent in both Hebrew and Greek, and who is a postdoctoral researcher at the Azrieli Center for Israel Studies at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism at BGU.
"Despite the close geographic proximity and the coexistence between Jews and Greeks for hundreds of years, this is perhaps the first time that the Israeli and Cypriot academies are collaborating to illuminate the recent history of diplomatic relations between Israel, Cyprus and Greece," Haritos said. "There is no doubt that we will go far thanks to this pioneering spirit.
"Students will dive deep into countries' separate foreign policies and discover ways to advance Israeli-Cypriot relations further. The course will incorporate study materials such as official documents, diplomatic reports and Israeli, Greek and Cypriot newspaper articles giving a more realistic tone to the mock diplomatic efforts.
"It is time for Cyprus to fully embody what it really means to us — the good neighbor to the west," said Director of the Ben-Gurion Research Institute Professor Paula Kabalo. "The one we could always count on. The one who shares a climate, culture and historical experiences. The good neighbor that you do not just knock on the door to ask for a glass of milk but one with which you share your life. We hope that this unique course will lead to additional varied collaborations."
US-headquartered B'nai B'rith International will be sponsoring the course as part of its initiative to "connect public officials, academics and others from Greece, Cyprus, Israel and the Greek expatriate community in the United States." The upcoming course will be a pilot to discover if future courses will be offered of the like.
"Over the last decade, the State of Israel, Greece and the Republic of Cyprus have created collaborations in a variety of areas. An academic course that reflects the significance and potential of these collaborations fits neatly into B'nai B'rith's policy to connect communities," said Director of the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem Alan Schneider.
"B'nai B'rith's participation in this initiative came about through the Israel-Hellenic Forum we founded. The founding conference was held in Jerusalem a year ago with the participation of leading public officials from the three countries."
The Jerusalem Post covered our joint virtual conference with the Jerusalem Institute for Security and Strategy (JISS) on the future of U.S.-Israeli relations.
The incoming Biden administration may waste sanctions leverage the US has against Iran simply because of an emotional reaction to undo everything the Trump administration did, former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror said Monday.
Speaking at a virtual conference sponsored by B’nai B’rith International and the Jerusalem Institute for Security and Strategy, he said President-elect Joe Biden will enter office with a major advantage.
The Trump administration has used a “maximum pressure” campaign dating back to May 2018, which has heavily pressed the Islamic Republic to make compromises regarding its nuclear program and terrorism activities, even if Iran has not caved until now, he said.
“It would be a huge mistake not to use this leverage made by the previous administration, only because it was built by the Trump administration,” Amidror said.
There appears to be a feeling among many Biden supporters that anything Trump did needs to be torn down, similarly to how Trump wanted to tear down all of Obamacare regardless of wide support for aspects of the law, he said.
“With the new administration, we might have another problem,” he added. “It is the symbol of destroying the legacy of Trump and going back to president [Barack] Obama’s legacy.”
“The Iranians built their policy on the assumption that, after four years, Obama’s people will come back, and they can go back to stage one and have the bad agreement, which for them was very good,” Amidror said. “If this administration will make it clear when coming in that it will not go back to square one – that when he [Biden] spoke about a new and stronger agreement, he meant it – they [Iran] will have to reconsider their whole policy. This might succeed.”
“If, on the contrary, the next administration will [remove] the sanctions and say, ‘Let’s go back to the old agreement, and then we will negotiate a new one, taking care of all of the loopholes of the old agreement’… there is no chance,” he said.
Amidror suggested a 50-year deal would be needed to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The 2015 nuclear deal’s 10- to 15-year limit was far too short in the history of nation-states, he said.
The Jerusalem Post mentioned the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Award for Journalism in its coverage of award-winning reporter Dina Kraft’s podcast, The Branch. Kraft is a 2020 Award recipient for her outstanding diaspora reportage of Jews in America for Haaretz.
In India, a recent Netflix series featuring a romance between a Muslim man and a Hindi girl ignited nationalist outrage. In Israel, award-winning reporter Dina Kraft’s podcast The Branch, about Jews and Arabs forging connections has done the opposite – sparking a sense of optimism.
The upbeat, evocative podcasts, sponsored by Hadassah, have achieved acclaim in a fractured world that COVID-19 has made even more fractured, shining light on the everyday intertwined lives of Arabs and Jews who have developed deep bonds despite a complicated reality.
The podcasts “give people little postcards of hope,” Kraft, 49, explained in a recent Zoom interview, “and I don’t mean that in a cheesy, simplistic way.” They reveal relationships among Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, that are happening in small and large ways around Israel. Kraft combines her astute reportorial skills with sounds and voices to create fascinating narrative stories.
The podcast, which has just broadcast its 25th episode over the past two years, tells stories set in Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem. One recent episode featured an Arab and Jewish midwife working together during the challenges of corona – as well as stories around Israel and the West Bank. Each podcast features Kraft’s observations that are woven into conversations with people, along with evocative music, allowing listeners, as Kraft says, to “parachute into people’s lives.” Israel has a wide variety of podcasts, including The Israel Story, started in 2011 and its English version in 2014, which shares unusual stories of ordinary Israelis. But The Branch is the only podcast that focuses on stories of cross-cultural exchanges among Arabs and Jews.
Born in Silver Spring, Maryland, Kraft said her parents were always news junkies. She grew up surrounded by newspapers. Her father worked as a journalist for many years, and she said it isn’t surprising that she became a journalist. At the University of Wisconsin, she worked at the school newspaper. Since then, Kraft has worked for The Associate Press in Jerusalem and Johannesburg and has also reported from Pakistan, Jordan, Tunisia, Russia and Ukraine. She was a 2012 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a 2015 Ochberg Fellow at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University. She is now the Israeli correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. On November 25, she received a B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage for her work on Jews in America for Haaretz.
Kraft said that The Branch is a way for listeners to appreciate real communication between people that goes deeper than current social media and texting. She illuminates interpersonal relationships among people who are from different sides of the Arab-Jewish conflict. They care for one another despite what Kraft calls a historical divide that is often difficult to navigate.
There are episodes about the famous: “Love Wins,” for example, which explores the marriage of Jewish Michal Baranes and Muslim Yakub Barhum who live in Ein Rafa, a village 10 kilometers outside of Jerusalem and run “Majda,” a celebrated restaurant that captured the heart of Chef Anthony Bourdain.
Other episodes cover relationships that few people have heard about, for instance, a Jewish-Israeli soccer coach and an Arab-Israeli soccer player who plays for the team of Bnei Sahknin in the Galilee; a pair of Muslim and Jewish rappers who formed a hip-hop group, System Ali, in Jaffa; and an episode featuring Michal Zackai, owner of ShakShuk restaurant in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market, and Mahdi Martur, a Palestinian cook who, Kraft says, is Michal’s “right-hand man.” Kraft said that what makes their story so powerful is that neither of them are social activists who set out with a political agenda; their relationship developed naturally, despite all differences. In the episode, Kraft explores how Michal tried to help Mahdi through a labyrinthine bureaucracy when he built a house on land that is under neither Israeli nor Palestinian Authority jurisdiction (the house was eventually torn down).
Residing in Tel Aviv with husband Gilad Rosenzweig, an urban planner, and their two children, Kraft said that she loves the transition from print to broadcast journalism. She suspects that listening is what people always did, when they “sat around a fire telling stories.”
“There’s a joy to just listening,” she said, and what makes The Branch vibrant is the fluid, seemingly informal way the stories evolve. She explained that an episode does not begin when she sits down with someone to interview them. Rather, it starts when listeners hear the knock on a door, the laughter of someone’s child, the buzz of a drone flying overhead or a cow mooing. All these sounds give listeners an intimacy that they might not get from reading.
“Something about audio distills the moment,” Kraft said. “You can hone in on this one sense. Listening to people’s voices connects a different part of your heart.”
She believes that when you’re listening to a story, it feels as if it is just you and the person telling the story. Listeners are moved by the way a parent might talk to a child, let’s say, and they respond to the way another person hesitates, filled with emotion.
One episode is about two artists: Faten Elwi, an Arab-Israeli from the town of Umm al-Fahm, and Hadass Gertman, a Jewish-Israeli, who lives nearby. They met as mothers of young daughters at the height of the violence of the Second Intifada in 2003 and have collaborated on various art projects over the years. The women stitch together dresses in joint art projects that have been displayed in the Umm al-Fahm Art Gallery.
Kraft said that her biggest takeaway from doing the podcast is her realization that the most resilient relationships are the ones in which the people don’t ignore each other’s identities but rather “dive into what’s difficult.” In fact, she has received mail from both Israelis and Palestinians outside of Israel who thank her for the podcasts, telling her that these are the stories people need to hear.
Kraft works with producers who help her build the narrative storyline and develop the structure of the episode. Her current producers are Yoshi Fields and Julie Subrin. When Kraft speaks at her studio in Israel, Julie Subrin, in New York, reminds her, “Just speak as if you’re telling me the story.” “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a labor of love,” Kraft said.
She said she’s discovering more and more of these cross-cultural relationships and is no longer worried she’ll run out of material. Kraft also appears in another podcast, The Patient Is In, sponsored by the start-up company, Stuff that Works, which explores how people deal with chronic health issues with “grace and determination” and find answers.
When people ask Kraft how they can find time to listen to the podcast, Kraft laughed.
“Don’t you have to fold laundry?” she asked, adding that she can no longer wash a dish or take a walk without listening to a podcast.
“It’s a way to be transported into other people’s lives,” she said. “By listening, we’re journeying into the world that they inhabit.”
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 Jerusalem Post cited the B’nai Brith World Center-Jerusalem posthumously awarding Joseph Bau its Jewish Rescuers Citation in its coverage of the Joseph Bau House Museum in Tel Aviv struggling to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic.
If there are any Hollywood moguls out there looking for a real-life character to serve as the central character in a superhero-type blockbuster, they could do a lot worse than to read up on Joseph Bau.
There is no need to engage in hyperbole or florid epithets when sketching a profile of Bau, who died in 2002 at the age of 81. In fact, he was fortunate to make it past his mid-20s, surviving several ghettos, a concentration camp and all manner of other horrific tests of his mettle along the way.
Some of that is today commemorated, nay, celebrated, at Joseph Bau House Museum, an independent boutique museum in downtown Tel Aviv that tells the extraordinary life story of an extraordinary person. The repository – which is run by Bau’s daughters Hadassah and Clilah Bau – has somehow managed to survive over the years on a shoestring budget, but is now running out of funds and may be forced to close down. The Baus have instigated a Headstart drive (headstart.co.il/project/60369) that is aiming to raise NIS 100,000 to keep the museum afloat, and to continue to enlighten the public about their father’s incredible journey on terra firma.
Bau was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1920 and died in Tel Aviv in 2002. Between those two temporal goalposts, he managed to wriggle his way out of numerous life-threatening situations, and even found love en route.
I first encountered Bau’s name, and learned of some of his amazing achievements, 20 years ago when I met his daughters at his studio on Berdichevsky Street off Rothschild Boulevard. It felt like stepping into an Aladdin’s cave. The cozily proportioned premises were stuffed to the rafters with specimens of Bau’s wide-ranging graphic work, including posters he crafted for early Israeli movies, such as the iconic 1964 dark comedy about aliyah and absorption Sallah Shabati, starring Haim Topol. There were also examples of his animation work, paintings, caricatures, graphics, copies of the nine books he has put out over the years, and evidence of his immersive research into the Hebrew language.
For Bau the latter was a labor of love, which helped him bond with the country and culture he had dreamed about almost all his life.
“Reaching Israel was the fulfillment of an ambition he had since the age of 13,” says Clilah. “He talks about that in his book Shnot Tarzach.” Typically, the title of the book is a play on words. By slightly altering the punctuation you get tirzach, which translates as “you shall murder,” while as an abbreviation, the four letters in Hebrew spell out the year 5698, which equates to 1938-39 in the Gregorian calendar and possibly references the outbreak of World War Two. The tome contains Bau’s recollections of the Holocaust and his life in Israel, and is liberally seasoned with comical word play, and dark and sometimes raucous humor. It has been translated into seven languages, including English, Arabic and Chinese.
I met Bau in his apartment after visiting the studio with his daughters. He was a slight, gentle-looking, well-groomed character, with a full head of snow-white hair, but he had lost his power of speech following the death of his wife, Rivka (née Tennenbaum), three years earlier. Rivka was the love of his life who, in fact, saved his life by giving him her place at Oskar Schindler’s factory in Krakow, which employed hundreds of Jews, and saved around 1,200. Happily, Rivka subsequently survived Auschwitz and was reunited with her husband in Krakow, where they lived until they made aliyah in 1950.
They met in Plaszów concentration camp near Krakow. It was love at first sight and, incredibly, the couple contrived to get married there, after Bau snuck into the women’s quarters, with the other female inmates standing guard. The nuptials were immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar Award-winning epic Schindler’s List, which Joseph and Rivka went to see, notwithstanding their daughters’ remonstrations.
“WE DIDN’T want our parents to see the movie, but they said it was their duty, toward all those who were murdered,” Hadassah recalls. “We were very concerned and sat on either side of them [in the cinema]. During the movie, when they showed something terrible, we asked dad, ‘Was it like that?’ and he replied, ‘It was 10 times worse!’ Dad also said that the movie was a work of genius, and that if Spielberg had shown all the horrors, no one would have gone to see it.”
One of the more remarkable aspects of Bau’s unimaginable life odyssey is the fact that he not only got by in Hebrew, he mastered it to such an extent that he was able to sculpt it, and mine its nuances and vagaries to a level achieved by few born into the language. That comes across succinctly in, for example, his 1987 book, Brit Mila, again a play of words that can reference the Jewish circumcision ceremony for male babies or translate as Covenant of a Word.
As a trained graphic artist who studied German Gothic lettering before the Holocaust – a skill that also helped him to survive by providing that service to German officers in Krakow Ghetto and later at Plaszów – he was also, naturally, drawn to its aesthetics. He also used his graphic skills to save the lives of many Jews by forging papers for them. Those heroic efforts were recently recognized by the B’nai Brith World Center in Jerusalem when it posthumously awarded Bau its Jewish Rescuers Citation.
He created a number of Hebrew fonts that found their way into the country’s earliest animation works and commercials. As he was there at the very inception of the field in the young State of Israel, he had to start from scratch. That included crafting the lighting, cameras and other requisite equipment out of old X-ray apparatus and refitting all kinds of machinery to get the job done.
Although Hadassah and Clilah say their parents were not coy about their Holocaust experiences, Bau kept one aspect of his work to himself. It was only several years after his death that the Bau daughters learned of their father’s espionage work for the Mossad.
“His work included forging papers for spies,” says Clilah. “That included documents for [Israeli spy in Syria] Eli Cohen and the whole team that went [to Argentina] to capture [Adolf] Eichmann.
”Bau might have had an easier life in the States, but opted to stay here.
“Our father’s dream was to make animated films, but there was no awareness of cartoons in Israel then, so he worked in graphics and creating fonts for movies,” Hadassah explains. “His brother wanted him to come to New York to work as an animator, but he didn’t want to leave Israel, which was everything to him.”
His expertise in that field was also put to good use by the Israeli security forces.
“We discovered he made classified animated films for the IDF and Mossad, but they are not willing to show us the movies.
”Our chat is interspersed by lots of laughing, and the daughters say there was plenty of merriment at home.
“He taught me to write songs, all with humor, and he taught Clilah to tell jokes,” Hadassah notes with yet another peal of laughter.
Now the Baus just want to keep the memory of their parents’ amazing life, and their father’s invaluable work, alive. Prior to the pandemic, tours of the studio included theatrical enactments of some of Bau’s experiences.
“Dad said we should turn the studio into a theater. Today it is a museum/theater where we perform and tell the story of the place and the wonderful life story of our parents, illustrated by his paintings and drawings of the Hebrew language.
”The idea is also to convey some much-needed positive vibes, particularly in these trying times.
“Our father always wanted to make people happy,” says Clilah. “He always said, ‘If we were happy in the darkest of times, everyone can learn the meaning of happiness and love from us.’ That’s what we do.”
Israel Hayom noted B'nai B'rith International awarding the Shalva Band a special citation for fostering Israel-Diaspora relations through the arts as part of its World Center Award for Journalism.
The Shalva Band will be awarded a special citation for fostering Israel-Diaspora relations through the arts as part of the B'nai B'rith World Center Award for Journalism, Israel Hayom has learned.
Formed in 2005 by the Shalva organization, which seeks to empower individuals with disabilities, the group, which comprises eight musicians who all live with some degree of disability, rose to fame in Israel after participating in Rising Star, a singing competition that aired on Channel 12. The band's guest-performance at the Eurovision semi-finals in 2019 earned it international acclaim and invitations to perform worldwide.
The award ceremony will take place on Nov. 25 at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. The ceremony will allow for a limited attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it will be livestreamed on Facebook and Youtube.
Branu Tegene and Danny Kushmaro of Channel 12 News will receive the award in the Broadcast Media category for their five-part series Split Up: The Story of the Ethiopian Jewish Community.
Haaretz correspondent Dina Kraft will receive the award for Print Media for articles on Jewish communities in the United States and Britain.
Since its establishment in 1992, the B'nai B'rith World Center Award for Journalism has recognized excellence in reporting on contemporary Diaspora Jewish communities and the state of Israel-Diaspora relations in the Israeli print, broadcast, and online media.
The awards are presented in memory of the late Wolf Matsdorf, journalist and editor of the organization's journal "Leadership Briefing" and his wife, Hilda, a pioneer in social work in both Australia and Israel, and in memory of Luis and Trudi Schydlowsky. The award is made possible through donations from the Matsdorf family and B'nai B'rith World Center-Jerusalem board member Daniel Schydlowsky.
The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and the late U.S. Ambassador Richard Schifter on the need for the U.N. to stop funding "Palestinian committees" and end its support of the “right of return."
For the past several decades, the United Nations General Assembly has dutifully approved the funding of the so-called specialized “Palestinian committees,” each of which advances only one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UN has an opportunity to cut off this funding supply by year-end, thereby righting a decades-long wrong and in turn, ending a long-standing charade.
Created in the aftermath of the infamous 1975 Zionism=Racism resolution, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) and the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR) are powerful, enduring vestiges of a discredited policy that has seen the world body largely aligned against Israel, not only in New York, but at UN agencies such as the Human Rights Council in Geneva, and UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in Paris.
The CEIRPP organizes conferences, photo exhibitions and other programs around the world aimed at undermining, discrediting and demonizing Israel. It does so with the active cooperation of the UN’s Department of Global Communications.
The DPR actually sits inside the UN Secretariat, giving the Palestinians a UN home no other people or sovereign state has. DPR sits alongside regional units such as the Asian, the African and Latin American, and the Caribbean groups of the UN system. The DPR works together with CEIRPP to organize an annual International Day of Solidarity for the Palestinian People, and maintains UN web-based information systems devoted to the Palestinian side of the conflict.
At the core of the work of these offices is the perpetuation of “the right of return” narrative that demands all Palestinians considered by the UN to be refugees have a right to “return” to pre-state Israel. Since 1949 the UN has, through the creation of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency), aggressively advanced this position.
So why are millions of people classified as refugees? Because as “refugees” they maintain their claim to migrate to Israel in order to overwhelm the Jewish majority and thus end the existence of the State of Israel.
According to the UN, there are now 5.5 million such refugees, less than 1% of whom were actual refugees from the War of Independence in 1948. More than 99% are their descendants, now five generations on. The UN has endeavored to find solutions to nearly every other refugee crisis in the world over the years, largely by resettling people in the lands to which they fled.
Only in the case of the Palestinians has an infrastructure been established to perpetuate a crisis. Over these past seven decades UNRWA, through its schools and other services, and the UN system have held out the promise that all Palestinians will one day “return” to what is now the State of Israel.
In fact, 40% of these “refugees” already live on the West Bank and in Gaza among fellow Palestinians, yet they maintain a status of refugees, so they would be able to migrate to Israel under the “right of return.” Another 40% live in Jordan, where many acquired Jordanian citizenship. They, too, live among people with whom they share religion and language, but maintain their refugee status so as to qualify for a “right of return,” as do the remaining 20% who live in Syria, Lebanon and other Arab countries.
The recently signed peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and with Bahrain, and actions and public statements by other Arab states, suggest that the Palestinian program to end Israel’s existence is losing support among some Arabs. The world – and especially the region – have moved on. Other considerations, largely based on national interest, have taken precedence: the threat of Iranian hegemony, trade and investment and even tourism, are incentives to normalization.
The Palestinians have overplayed their hand, pressing for a zero-sum outcome to the conflict with Israel, and especially by its leaders missing opportunity after opportunity to conclude a peace with Israel in the 27 years since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.
The Palestinian reaction to the Abraham Accords has been a vehement reassertion of their position, including the “right of return,” made possible, in large part by the automatic reinforcement they receive at the UN.
It is the UN, created to “maintain peace and security,” that encourages the Palestinians to hold out for their one state solution: A “Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” a goal to be attained through a “right of return.
”The CEIRIPP and the DPR are the chief proponents of this campaign, but are aided by regional groups at the UN such as the Group of 77 (known for years as the “Non-Aligned”) and a raft of anti-Israel resolutions adopted by rote at the Human Rights Council and other UN agencies, including the World Heritage Committee, a sub-group of UNESCO.
The Palestinian claim of a “right of return” is simply an obstacle to peace; it has become the third rail of the conflict. No one dares touch it; no friends of the Palestinians – and there are several amongst the European countries – seem interested in persuading them that the idea is simply a non-starter. It is not going to happen. No Israeli government from anywhere on the political spectrum would sign its own national suicide warrant.
The vote count supporting funding of the Palestinian committees is dropping; the number of “no” votes to fund these committees is rising – slightly – with a large number of abstentions and those voting “absent.”
A new wind is blowing in the region. “Normalization” is in, and obstructionism is on its way out. Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and perhaps others to come are demonstrating that where there is good will to resolve more than seven decades of animosity, economic warfare and the absence of real human interaction, reconciliation can follow.
Spending millions of dollars on conferences that perpetuate the “right of return” mantra and the constant efforts to delegitimize Israel is both a waste of time and a sure prescription for the UN to become increasingly irrelevant when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The responsible member states of the UN need to look out the window and see the dramatic, positive changes that are taking place across the region, despite attempts by Iran and its proxies and terrorist surrogates to perpetuate chaos and instability.
Depoliticizing “peacemaking” at the UN by eliminating the CEIRIPP and the DPR would send a clear message to the Palestinians and their friends that the free ride is over. That will tell us whether or not they are really interested in emulating their neighbors who have reached historic accords with Israel.
Until the UN ends its support of the “right of return,” we cannot expect meaningful progress toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin B'nai B'rith's hand in establishing the National library in Israel.
As anticipation builds for the opening of Israel’s new National Library sometime next year, it is important to recall its more-than-a-century long antecedents.
B’nai B’rith established its first lodge in Jerusalem in 1888, when the organization, founded in New York, was already 45 years old. The lodge attracted a mix of rabbis, academics, translators and other professionals to its mission of fostering Jewish identity and public service. Indeed, the first mazkir – or secretary – of the Jerusalem Lodge was none other than Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of the modern Hebrew language.
Early attempts to found libraries in Jerusalem were short lived, due in no small part to a lack of funding. In 1884, several residents of the city, who would become members of the B’nai B’rith lodge, organized a small 1,200-volume library. In a letter published in the July 1889 issue of the B’nai B’rith publication The Menorah Monthly, Ben-Yehuda, then-editor of Hazevi, informed readers of the existence of the library, and tactfully solicited donations to support it.
In 1892, B’nai B’rith established the “Midrash Abarbanel,” Israel’s first permanent public library, named after the Sephardic Jewish scholar of the Middle Ages, Don Isaac Abarbanel. Five years before Theodor Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, the library served to promote the pioneering spirit afoot in the land, and the supremacy of Hebrew.
A decade after its founding, the library moved to a permanent home in a handsome, modern building on B’nai B’rith Street. The library’s collections grew to many thousands of volumes reflecting the collective Jewish academic and religious endeavor. The library was perhaps the one place in Jerusalem where one could find books on mathematics, science, secular philosophy, modern educational methods and other subjects.
The library’s reading and meeting rooms served as a cultural and educational center for the city’s residents. Herzl himself recognized the significance of the library when he wrote a letter to Joseph Chazanovich, who brought his personal library of 10,000 books from Bialystok, Poland, to Jerusalem. Herzl also made a 300 ruble contribution to the library. In honor of Chazanovich’s gift, the library’s committee renamed the library “Midrash Abarbanel Ginzei Yosef.” By 1903, the library’s collection topped 22,000 volumes.
A photograph of the library’s reading room, posted on the National Library’s website, shows readers surrounded by shelves of books and tables of newspapers and periodicals.
The names of those leaders of B’nai B’rith in Jerusalem who created and supported the library have become legendary figures in Jewish and Zionist history. In addition to Ben-Yehuda, the group included Zeev Hertzberg, David Yellin, Yosef Meyouchas, Yehiel Michel Pines, Aaron Masie and others. They understood that a modern Jewish state would need a strong intellectual and educational underpinning.
World War I saw the closure of the library by order of the ruling Ottoman authorities. At that point, the collection totaled more than 30,000 volumes. After the war, with a view toward the evolution of its library into a larger, national institution, B’nai B’rith’s Jerusalem Lodge ceded the library’s collection to the World Zionist Organization. Within a few short years – by 1925 – the collection was transferred to the Hebrew University. The rest, as they say, is history. In that act, the dreams of Ben-Yehuda, Chazanovich and others were realized with what would become the Jewish National and University Library.
The new National Library, with its expanded space, special programs and 21st century research facilities will not only be a well-received addition to Israel’s cultural scene and a monument to the tradition of Jewish scholarship but will surely attract scholars and visitors from around the Jewish world – and beyond.
We hope that as the library plans its permanent exhibition, it will suitably, and in perpetuity, honor those early B’nai B’rith leaders who, in the closing decade of the 19th century, shared Herzl’s prescience about the establishment of a Jewish state. They foresaw the possibility of a nation for “the people of the book.” The library they founded 128 years ago proved to be the seminal contribution, not only to what has become the National Library, but to the growth of academic and intellectual life in the State of Israel.
The Jerusalem Post covered our exclusive conversation with Ambassador Danny Danon, outgoing permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations.
The international community should pressure the Lebanese government to oust the militant group Hezbollah from Lebanon in the aftermath of the explosion in the port of Beirut, outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the Jewish group B’nai B’rith on Thursday.
“We should all demand more from the Lebanese government to push Hezbollah out of the government out of the border with Israel,” said Danon who has just finished a five year term as Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in New York, where he was a vocal critic of Hezbollah.
He spoke with B’nai B’rith in an virtual interview that was posted on YouTube on Thursday in the aftermath of the massive explosion at the Beirut Port that killed at least 154 people.
The cause of the explosion has yet to be determined, but Danon told B’nai B’rith that while he was UN ambassador he warned the UN Security Council that Hezbollah was storing weapons at the port.
“Last year when I spoke in the security council, I said very clearly that the port of Beirut had become the port of Hezbollah,” Danon said.
His words, he said, were base on intelligence reports.
“We got the intelligence and I spoke about it publicly, that [Hezbollah is] actually using the airports and the ports to transport the weapons and other things that are dangerous,” Danon said.
“We all respect the Lebanese people. We know that they are suffering… We send our condolences to the people there,” Danon said.
“But we do criticize not only Hezbollah, but also the Lebanese government, because they allow Hezbllah to do those activities,” Danon said.
But he also leveled criticize against Western countries, including the United States and France, for providing financial assistance to the Lebanese government and its army while not doing enough to ensure that action was taken against Hezbollah.
“I tell them that it’s okay to support the Lebanese government, the Lebanese military, but you have to demand more,” Danon said.
“When we see cooperation between Hezbollah and the Lebanese army, you ask yourself why the US or other countries should give any funding to this army that has allowed Hezbollah to take over,” Danon said.
In 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned the UN about Hezbollah, telling the UN General Assembly that Hezbollah had missile sites in Beirut. He showed a map of four sites, including by the city’s port.
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said on Friday an investigation into the biggest blast in Beirut's history would examine whether it was caused by a bomb or other external interference, as residents tried to rebuild their shattered lives after the explosion.
The search for those missing has intensified, as rescuers sifted rubble in a race to find anyone still alive after Tuesday's blast that smashed up a swathe of the city and sent seismic shockwaves around the region.
"The cause has not been determined yet. There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act," Aoun said in comments carried by local media and confirmed by his office.
He said it would also consider whether the explosion was due to negligence or an accident. He previously said highly explosive material had been stored in unsafe conditions for years at the port. A source has said an initial probe blamed negligence related to storage of the explosive material.
The United States has previously said it has not ruled out an attack. Israel, which has fought several wars with Lebanon, has also previously denied it had any role.
The Jerusalem Post covered the news that the Texas House of Representatives passed an anti-BDS bill, quoting B'nai B'rith International CEO Dan Mariaschin welcoming its passage and mentioning senior B'nai B'rith leader Charles Kaufman for testifying in its favor.
Scroll down to read the story or click below to read it on JerusalemPost.com.
In a groundbreaking legislative act to blunt economic warfare against Israel, the Texas House of Representatives unanimously passed on Thursday an anti-boycott bill that bars the state from engaging in business with companies that are involved in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement targeting the Jewish state.
The bill was passed 131-0 and the author of the legislation was Representative Phil King. Pro-Israel organizations welcomed the vote.
Joel Schwitzer, the Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee in Dallas, told The Jerusalem Post, "AJC together with other community leaders worked diligently to ensure that every legislator received multiple contacts about the importance of passing this bill. We’re excited that this brings this legislation one step closer to being law of the land in Texas, strengthening its relationship with Israel, Texas’ 4th largest trading partner. We appreciate the leadership of Representative Phil King in authoring the bill. It is gratifying to see our elected officials sending such a clear and principled message that Texas will not do business with those who boycott our friend Israel."
Sen. Brandon Creighton, the author of the Senate anti-BDS bill, said Texas should not do business with companies that participate in the BDS movement.
“I want to thank the government of Texas for seeing the true, hateful intentions of BDS and banning such state-sponsored bias,” said The Israel Project CEO and President Josh Block. He added, “The people of the Lone Star State and Israel share an unbreakable bond based upon mutual values, and by passing this legislation – ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not fund discrimination – Texas has reaffirmed this important friendship."
Christians United for Israel (CUFI) said in a statement that ," CUFI has been working closely with lawmakers in support of the legislation since its conception. These efforts included bringing Texans from across the state to Austin to lobby lawmakers in support of the bill, testifying before both the Senate and House committees to which the legislation was assigned, and distributing an action alert earlier this week letting Texas State Representatives know that CUFI’s membership is behind the bill."
CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee said “Texas is CUFI’s home state and among the most pro-Israel states in the union. The relationship between the Jewish State and the Lone Star State is built upon shared values, including a rock-solid commitment to standing up for liberty – especially when it is threatened by radical Islamic extremism."
“I am very proud that Texas will join with those states that have told the BDS movement that America is unimpressed by efforts to demonize Israel. And I am equally proud of the hard work CUFI members, leaders and staff have done in order to see this and similar legislation advance in state capitols around the country,” Hagee added.
The Texas State Senate passed its version of anti-BDS bill in March. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign a merged version of the anti-BDS bills in early May.
“In addition to the unwavering support of Gov. Abbott, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, this legislation would not have been possible without the steadfast leadership of the bills’ authors, State Sen. Brandon Creighton and State Rep. Phil King,” said CUFI Action Fund Chairwoman Sandy Hagee Parker.
CUFI has 3.3 million members in the United States. Daniel S. Mariaschin, the CEO of B'nai B'rith International, told the Post, "We are grateful by the overwhelming support for this measure in the Texas Legislature. It remains vitally important for government figures and legislative bodies to join the growing number of people who recognize the abject injustice of the BDS movement."
Charles Kaufman, who chairs B’nai B’rith’s International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy and is based in Austin, delivered testimony in the Austin legislature in support of the anti-BDS bill. Mariaschin told the Post last month that the Dallas-based bank Comerica should close an account that it maintains with the pro-BDS organization the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL).The IADL ”excuses the actions of terrorist organizations and denies Israel’s right to defend itself," Mariaschin said.
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.
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