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.
B'nai B'rith International Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David J. Michaels responded to recent allegations of genocide hurled at Israel by the likes of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and comedian Russell Brand.
By placing the history of genocide in perspective, Michaels argues that unfounded accusations of genocide, occupation and apartheid threaten to erode the very real definitions of those terms.
His response appears in the form of an op-ed in the Times of Israel, and appears posted in its entirety below:
Don’t Play Politics With Genocide
At the United Nations, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asserted last month that Israel’s efforts to protect its citizens have amounted to “genocide.”
He did so, in language never remotely reciprocated by Israel, despite well knowing the nature of his current partners in Hamas, which had violently ended Abbas’s rule in Gaza, tossing his loyalists off buildings there.
In 1948, three years after the end of the Holocaust, two events represented a pivotal rejoinder to that most systematic of genocides. The State of Israel was founded – stemming a 2,000-year Jewish exile pervaded by persecution. And the U.N. General Assembly adopted its Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to help ensure that no people would again be subjected to massive violence of the most unprovoked, calculated and indiscriminate kind.
The world body’s adoption of the Genocide Convention was celebrated as a deeply hopeful achievement by Jews. Yale legal scholar Raphael Lemkin – a Jewish émigré who lost nearly his entire family to the Nazi atrocities – coined the term genocide in 1943, defining it as “the destruction of a nation or an ethnic group.” Later, he drafted the Genocide Convention.
While the Holocaust was a distinct event in history, the appeal “never again” must apply to other people as much as it does to Jews.
However, not every loss of life can be labeled genocide. If genocide means everything, it could, dangerously, come to mean nothing.
Some of the world’s worst violators of human rights have an interest in stripping the term genocide of its purpose and potency through misuse.
More generally, ours is an era of stridency and populism, too often lacking nuance. When it comes to the most grave of charges, though, context matters and details matter, concerning both intentions and actions.
Iran pledges Israel’s destruction while illicitly pursuing nuclear capabilities and sustaining the groups, including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, responsible for perennially forcing Israeli counterterrorism. Despite this, some commentators condemn as overblown any comparison of the Tehran regime to those, historically, who made good on remarkably open threats of monumental aggression.
By contrast, the subjection of Israel to the most inflammatory of rhetoric has again over recent months been met with astounding silence.
Iran’s supposedly moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, accused Israel of a “huge genocide” in Gaza – this from the leader of a government enabling bloodshed in Syria that has claimed far more Arab life in three years than Israel has in sixty-six.
Not given pause by the absence of gas chambers or crematoria, Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Israel has “surpassed Hitler in barbarism.”
And in an interview with the BBC, Hamas’s official spokesman (who, separately, alleged that Jews use Christian blood in matzo) charged Israel with “Nazism.” The allegation was met with a bumbling response from the BBC’s normally opinionated interviewer.
All this is not without consequence. Singular abuse of Israel in international forums creates the distortion that Israel has one of the worst, not one of the best, records as a progressive society.
When 56 U.N. member states – including nearly all of the world’s foremost oil exporters – belong to the Arab and Muslim bloc, a Human Rights Council resolution on Gaza can assail Israel but not even mention Hamas. And, of course, countries deemed to be perpetrating crimes like “apartheid,” genocide and Nazism – all-too-often interchanged – are expected to be dealt with accordingly.
If Israel has intended apartheid, it has proven mind-bogglingly inept, having created the freest and most pluralistic society in the Middle East in the face of relentless warfare.
And if Israel has intended genocide, it is among history’s most abysmal failures. Despite its military abilities, the population of Israeli and Palestinian Arabs has multiplied dramatically, even as the number of Jews, Christians and other minorities has tellingly plummeted elsewhere in the region.
After the genocides of the last century, there were among the victims no “victory” parades, as there were in Gaza after the latest hostilities. There was silence.
And during past genocides, there were no refusals of ceasefires by the beleaguered or pledges of new violence, as by Gaza’s factions – typically because the victims were not doing the firing.
Notably, despite the rush to equate Israel with Hamas in indiscriminate fire, males of fighting age appear to have been the most overrepresented group among recent Palestinian casualties in Gaza, the overwhelming majority of which went untargeted by Israel.
These facts, though, don’t suffice to penetrate international politics. Not in an age when a pop culture personality like Russell Brand can smugly invoke Israeli “occupation” in questioning Hamas’s categorization as a terrorist movement. No matter that Israel, which has supported a two-state peace, completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005 – and that if Jews lack even a right to exist in their historic homeland then Brand would hardly have a right to legitimately reside anywhere.
The British funnyman even likened Hamas to Gandhi – a comparison that might be worth discussing if not for Gandhi’s insistence upon non-violence, and the fact that Gandhi never aspired to the obliteration of Britain itself.
The continuing Arab-Israeli conflict has unquestionably claimed all too many lives, and those losses are heartrending. But not all loss of life constitutes murder, let alone genocide.
In the 1940s, in the face of a fascist onslaught, Britons and others responded, despite the heavy toll, not with complacency but with the necessary force.
Today, an array of countries is committed to combating such groups as Boko Haram, al-Shabab, Jemaah Islamiyah, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS.
As Palestinians again threaten to take Israel to the International Criminal Court over its struggle against fanatics deliberately operating among, and targeting, non-combatants, we must consider the implications of precluding counterterrorism by recklessly mislabeling it as genocide.
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