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.
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