The Times of Israel published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman regarding the recent European Court of Justice ruling to allow member states to impose restrictions on ritual slaughter.
As a Jewish European, last week’s ruling to by the European Court of Justice to allow member states to impose restrictions on ritual slaughter was personal.
I say that as a secular Jew, one who does not eat kosher meat. I was raised in Eastern Europe, in Romania, where Communism nearly obliterated what was left of Jewish life after the Shoah. I was one of those Jews, who like many in the region had Christmas trees alongside their Chanukkiah. My parents – as their parents – are not well versed in Jewish liturgy. Our home – while deeply embracing our Jewish identity, was empty of regular Jewish practice.
Yet, Jewish religious freedom is personal to me; it’s personal to all Jews. We know the history of suffering and indignities that our ancestors have endured to preserve that freedom. And we know the richness of thought and culture, of philosophy and tradition that has stemmed and continues to stem out of Judaism, binding Jews of all stripes together worldwide, and shaping, without a shadow of doubt, the European ethos – it’s values and principles, as we know them today.
I, like most Jewish Europeans, love Europe. This is not merely anecdotal. Multiple surveys of Jewish Europeans confirm this attachment, which is often greater than that of non-Jewish Europeans. And how could that not be so? Post-WWII Europe is founded on a promise to safeguard Jewish life and to celebrate it as part of European life; a promise to nurture pluralism and diversity; a promise to protect fundamental freedoms. That is a Europe that the dwindling Jewish community after the war decided to embrace – that was our home, and in this new Europe we could bring forth a Jewish renaissance.
That is why today’s ruling bore down so heavily. The ruling grants EU countries the right to require further restrictions on religious slaughter of animals, a core tenant of Judaism – one that has animal welfare at its core. It comes on the back of a prior ruling in Belgium, that granted such restrictions, balancing religious freedom and animal safety and favoring the latter. Today’s ruling though, had to deal with another balancing act: this time, religious freedom was weighed against the member states rights and jurisdiction. This ruling too favored the latter. It went against the recommendations made by the Advocate General (AG) to the ECJ, that such a ruling would be a disproportionate infringement of fundamental rights. In both cases, the fundamental right to freedom of religion had a negligible weight.
At best, the decision shows an utter lack of understanding and empathy for the essential place that the preservation of certain religious laws – such as ritual slaughter – occupies in one’s religious expression, in one’s faith and sense of self, in one’s communal affiliation and feeling of belonging and of course, in the collective identity and manifestation of a community. At worst, it is a not-too-subtle message: “You don’t belong”, to Jewish as well as Muslim communities throughout Europe – ergo, to millions of Europeans.
The feeling I have today is one I’ve had too often – disappointment, otherness, frustration. Yet it is nothing compared to what practicing religious Jews are experiencing today. For them, Jewish life is, as of today, effectively limited. Families may choose to relocate. Their sense of safety in society will undoubtably be diminished.
Just the other week, the Council of the European Union produced a unanimous declaration reaffirming states’ commitment to safeguarding Jewish life in Europe. It’s worth repeating part of it here:
“Judaism and Jewish life have contributed considerably to shaping European identity and enriching Europe’s cultural, intellectual and religious heritage. We are grateful that 75 years after the Holocaust, Jewish life, in all its diversity, is deeply rooted and thriving again in Europe. It is our permanent, shared responsibility to actively protect and support Jewish life.”
If the Court of Justice ruling is to stand alongside the above declaration – we need a new framework for religious freedom in the EU.
Several media organizations noted our reaction to the passing of Ambassador Richard Schifter. Read more about his remarkable life below.
Former top US diplomat Richard Schifter has died aged 97, according to American Jewish organizations and Israel’s Foreign Ministry director general.
Schifter fled his native Austria to the US at the age of 15 just after the Nazi takeover of the country. The rest of his family could not obtain visas and were killed by the Nazis.
He served in WWII as an American intelligence officer, part of the US military’s German-speaking “Ritchie Boys” unit.
After his discharge in 1948, he went to Yale Law School, became an attorney, and would go on to represent Native American tribes in disputes with the US government.
He got his first diplomatic posting in 1981 and would spend more than 20 years in the American diplomatic service as, variously, assistant secretary of state for humanitarian affairs in the Reagan and Bush administrations, US envoy to the UN’s Commission on Human Rights and UNESCO Committee on Conventions and Recommendations, and deputy US representative to the UN Security Council.
In 1993, former US president Bill Clinton made him a special adviser to the president and the National Security Council. Since leaving that post in 2001, Schifter headed the American Jewish International Relations Institute, for which he often spoke publicly about the UN and Israel.
He was remembered Sunday as an advocate for Israel.
“Ambassador Richard Schifter was a symbol of perseverance and strength who achieved much in his lifetime and worked endlessly on improving Israel’s position in the UN,” Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz tweeted on Sunday. “My condolences to his family and friends. May his memory be a blessing.”
B’nai B’rith mourned him as “an inspirational leader, accomplished diplomat, public servant, staunch advocate for human rights, a resolute defender of Israel, a strong proponent of trans-Atlantic relations and of America’s place in the world.
“Notwithstanding his immense achievements, Ambassador Schifter’s persona was one of humility and civility,” the organization said.
The American Jewish Committee hailed his “amazing life.”
The Times of Israel quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in its coverage of Jewish and pro-Israel groups praising the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for signing historic agreements to normalize relations with Israel.
American Jewish organizations are praising the normalization deals between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, signed at the White House earlier today.
The American Jewish Committee says: “The peace agreements between Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE have flipped conventional wisdom on its head.”
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, who attended the signing, says in a statement: “I thank President Trump’s administration for its leadership in brokering these accords. The bold initiatives undertaken by Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates His Highness Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and King of Bahrain His Majesty Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in forging this new path toward peace will usher in a new era of regional stability, prosperity, and opportunity.”
The leaders of B’nai B’rith, also guests at the event, say it was “unforgettable.”
“What we witnessed was something beyond anyone’s imagination just a few years ago,” its president, Charles O. Kaufman, says. “The historic signing of the Abraham Accords and treaties was less about hope and promise and more about reality and what is happening in real time. It is more about creating real opportunities, advancements, innovations, not some platform for mere dreams and aspirations. Finally, promises and failures of the past gave way to a far better option — trusting, respecting parties developing a specific plan for prosperity, security and peace. Today was an unforgettable day of accomplishment.”
“Today marked a tremendous turning point in the history of Israel and the Jewish people, and in the Middle East,” adds its CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin. “The signing of the Abraham Accords, and the agreements between Israel and the UAE, and Israel and Bahrain demonstrate that peace can be achieved when there is the good will to achieve it.”
B'nai B'rith Special Advisor on Latin America Affairs Adriana Camisar wrote about how there is hope for Argentine Federal Prosecutor Alberto Nisman's complaint against former Argentina President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman to see the light of day.
Nisman charged that they secretly negotiated a pact with Iran in order to get impunity for the Iranians accused of plotting and executing the AMIA attack. Nisman's complaint will finally be investigated. He “mysteriously” died days after making extremely these serious allegations.
The blog was published by The Times of Israel. Click the button below to read it on their website or scroll down.
Camisar's blog was also published in Spanish by the Argentine news outlet El Tribuno. Click below to read the Spanish version.
Jan. 18 will mark the second anniversary of the “mysterious” death of Argentine Federal Prosecutor Alberto Nisman. For more than ten years, Nisman had been in charge of the investigation of the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires.
He was found dead in his apartment four days after making extremely serious allegations against then President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, her Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and other people close to the government. Nisman stated he had extensive evidence that the government had secretly negotiated a pact with Iran in order to get impunity for the Iranians accused of plotting and executing the AMIA attack.
The pact the prosecutor was referring to—known as the Memorandum of Understanding—was signed in January 2013. Through this agreement, both governments pledged to create a "truth commission" to jointly investigate the AMIA bombing, something as absurd as creating a Nazi commission to investigate the Holocaust. At the time, the government justified the signing of this pact on the need to discover the truth. However, it seemed clear to most people who knew the case, that the signing of this pact represented a major shift in Argentina’s foreign policy, as it attempted to improve relations with Teheran at the expense of the bombing’s many victims.
The pact never came into force because the Iranian Parliament did not ratify it, and also because it was ultimately declared unconstitutional by an Argentine Federal Court. But it would have given the Iranians access to all the documentation of the case, and made it easier for them to get rid of the Interpol red alerts that Nisman had secured against the accused.
Nisman’s death left the country in shock and there are still no clear answers as to what exactly happened to him. However, there is now some hope that his complaint will finally be investigated.
Right after Nisman’s death, a brave prosecutor tried to get the courts to open a serious investigation into his allegations. But Daniel Rafecas, the judge assigned to the case, dismissed his complaint in a very expedited way and with questionable legal arguments. His ruling was appealed but the Federal Court quickly dismissed it as well. A federal prosecutor subsequently appealed this decision before the Court of Cassation—the last resort that the Argentine criminal system admits before resorting to the Supreme Court. But the prosecutor who needed to allow the case to get to the Court of Cassation failed to do it (probably because of his known ties with the former government) and therefore, all doors seemed to get closed and most Argentineans believed that a proper investigation would never take place.
However, several things changed since then. On Dec. 10, 2016, Mauricio Macri took office as the new president of Argentina, and one of the first things he did was to let the pact with Iran die. He did this by not appealing the ruling that had declared it unconstitutional. Macri also said that he expected the judiciary to act with independence and to get to the truth.
Several months ago, the Delegation of Argentine Israelite Associations (DAIA), which is the Jewish umbrella organization in Argentina, made a new presentation alleging that the case should be re-opened because of “newly found evidence,” and requested to be admitted as a plaintiff. The new pieces of evidence submitted were a recording that was found in which Timerman—in a conversation with the former head of the AMIA—conceded that he was negotiating with the ones that “placed the bomb,” and the ruling that declared that the pact with Iran was unconstitutional.
Rafecas, the original judge of the case dismissed the request and so did the Federal Court, but when the issue got to the Court of Cassation once again, they finally decided to re-open the investigation. The Court of Cassation accepted the DAIA as a plaintiff and ordered Rafecas and the other judges that had intervened to withdraw from the case.
For the first time in two years the possibility to get to the truth seems real. And, of course, this case could shed light on what really happened to Nisman, as his death is undoubtedly linked to his complaint.
It is still too early to know if the investigation will go as far as it needs to go, but the re-opening of the case is certainly a promising sign
The outbreak of fires in Israel is already being termed “pyro-terrorism,” as at least 24 persons have been arrested over the past several days in connection to the blazes. With hundreds of homes destroyed ( by some estimates, half a billion shekels in damage in Haifa alone) and tens of thousands displaced, the total acreage burned now exceeds that which was destroyed in the Mt. Carmel fires six years ago.
Aiding and abetting those who may have started these fires have been messages carried by social media, praising the outbreak: according to Ynet News, one Tweet said “All of Israel’s neighbors must aid it — I suggest they send planes filled with gasoline and rain it down on the burning areas. I want to inhale the smell of barbecue from the Zionists.”
According to Haaretz, the hashtag #israelisburning included, among the thousands being sent, one from Fatma Alqu (“What a good day”), and another from Kamil (“Israel burns and I love it! What will you do VS Allah’s power you zionist (sic) dirt-bags…”). The Israeli media has published many others, from the Palestinians territories and the Arab world.
While the messages celebrate the wildfires, they also serve to exhort others who might want to join the party. But while this social media campaign is tied to the rash of blazes, the language used is from the same canon that has fueled incitement against Israel and Israelis for decades.
Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the one constant on the Palestinian side has been incitement. Called upon to end it when the agreement was signed, it has remained a daily weapon deployed by Palestinian political and religious figures, the media and in schools. By now, the incitement roster is well known, including most recently, charges that Israel is poisoning Palestinian water supplies; has no connection (Israel and the Jewish people) to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall; and denies medical care to Palestinian in the territories, a libelous charge if ever there was, given the hundreds of Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals daily.
Indeed, a Palestinian baby born on the day the Oslo Accords were signed is now a 23-year-old adult raised on daily doses of hatred. So it should come as no surprise that this new (and surely there are others to follow) hashtag campaign is punctuated by the language of hate and a desire to see Israel’s end.
To be fair, the Palestinian Authority sent 50 firefighters to Israel to help extinguish the fires, a gesture which produced many Tweets from Israelis and others expressing appreciation (they joined more than 300 foreign firefighters from many countries, including Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called PA President Mahmoud Abbas, to express thanks for the assistance, which the latter described as “humanitarian.” The Prime Minister’s office also noted that both Jews and Arabs opened their homes to victims of the blazes.
Perhaps the deployment of the firefighters is the gesture that breaks the ice over the stalled peace process. Whether it is, or is simply an aberration, time will soon tell. A new presidential administration will surely have its own assessment about the “process” and more broadly, the chaos and strategic wildfires burning out of control in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and by Iran’s unabashed support for terrorism and creeping hegemonism in the region.
The social media incitement and the #israelisburning campaign may not have originated in the PA’s Ramallah offices. But the years of incitement emanating from there, spewing out over so many years, provided the tinder for the matches of hatred thrown out on Twitter and Facebook during the course of the wildfires in Israel.
The PA and its leadership, if they were ever serious about a negotiated peace with Israel, have frittered away the past 20 years by, on the one hand, inciting its own people against Israel, and on the other, by counting on international support for the Palestinian narrative. The current hashtag campaign, and its incessant use of the United Nations and its agencies to further the Palestinian narrative, are the fruits of their labor. In the process, increasing numbers of Israelis ask if there is a serious partner for an accommodation — of any kind. Perhaps the fires in Israel and the language of the hashtag campaign are a wake-up call for those who have looked the other way at incitement against Israel. It is not a winning strategy. But past history would not be a cause for optimism on this point.
The social media revolution has given us the ability to immediately reach out to the public, to government officials and to colleagues, family and friends in unprecedented ways. It has also given those who hate the unimpeded opportunity to injure and maim in 140 characters or less, and to exhort others to join the fray, oftentimes, as we have now seen, with violent and dangerous consequences.
The social media campaign connected to the pyro-terrorism that has played out in Israel in recent days is a new strain of a growing virus.
Until now, the Palestinian leadership has seen no need to “educate for peace.” It should look at the content of the fire-related Tweets, and contemplate what that nihilistic policy has wrought.
The 2016 B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportaģe ceremony was held on July 7, 2016, and was covered by The Times of Israel and Haaretz.
Winners of the award, which recognizes excellence in Diaspora reportage in Israel print, broadcast and digital media, were Amanda Borschel-Dan, the Times of Israel’s Jewish World editor and Allison Kaplan Sommer, staff writer at Haaretz. Both journalists submitted an impressive array of articles on Diaspora communities and Israel-Diaspora relations published during 2015.
>> Click here for a full recap, including video and photos
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer delivered the keynote address, which was also covered by The Times of Israel.
Scroll down to read clips of the coverage and links to the full articles...
On Ron Dermer
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.
On the ceremony
The latter was awarded to the totally charming Idan Raichel, who, though he had to rush off to a performance, nonetheless decided not to cheat the audience at the awards ceremony at the Konrad Adenauer Center in Jerusalem and performed briefly before exiting. In accepting the citation, he spoke with a degree of modesty tinged with pride, saying that in several countries he and his group are regarded as the sound track of Israel, just as Édith Piaf is regarded as the sound track of France, and Miriam Makeba the sound track of Africa.
B'nai B'rith expressed optimism that Noah would be responsible and sensitive in his new role. Read highlights from the news coverage below:
The European Union's new Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini will make Israel her first destination in office.
This comes one week after B’nai B’rith International hosted the EU’s Israel Relations Chair Fulvio Martusciello at the World Center in Jerusalem.
According to an article in the Times of Israel, this is a return trip for Mogherini, who visited the country as Italy's foreign minister during the height of Operation Protective Edge this summer.
Read more about her visit and views in the article's highlights, below:
On November 1, Federica Mogherini will succeed Catherine Ashton as the union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. Less than a week later, she is scheduled to arrive in Israel for her first official visit, sources in Jerusalem confirmed Tuesday.
Mogherini — currently Italy’s foreign minister — will arrive in the region on November 7 and stay for two days. She is expected to also visit senior Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.
“It’s very important that Ms. Mogherini comes to Israel on November 7. It’s her first official visit,” said Fulvio Martusciello, a member of the European Parliament from Italy and the new president of its delegation for relations with Israel.
Having known her for a while, he believes she understands Israel’s many predicaments, he added, but refused to elaborate.
“I hope we will be able to work together,” Martusciello, who is currently visiting Israel at the invitation of B’nai Brith International, told The Times of Israel Tuesday during an interview in the Knesset.
Mogherini is a member of Italy’s center-left government led by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is known to be generally friendly toward Israel and tough on Iran’s nuclear program.
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