The Algemeiner included B'nai B'rith International's praise, along with other Jewish organizations, of Germany's decision to boycott the United Nations' event marking the 20th anniversary of its World Conference Against Racism.
Major Jewish groups applauded Germany’s decision to boycott the event marking the 20th anniversary of the UN’s World Conference Against Racism to be held in Durban, South Africa.
First held in 2001, the conference has become notorious for serving as a forum for antisemitic materials and virulent anti-Israel activism.
This year’s 20th anniversary event is already being boycotted by the United States, Israel, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Austria, Canada, Australia, and the Czech Republic.
American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris said Saturday, “Germany has again asserted leadership in the global fight against antisemitism,” adding that the country “laudably recognized the discredited nature of the original conference, held in Durban, South Africa. We hope other nations will follow suit.”
“Confronting true racism around the world is a noble cause, but singling out one country, Israel, and one group of people, Jews, for continual censure is grossly unjust, and undermines the global fight against antisemitism and other forms of bigotry and hatred,” Harris added.
B’nai B’rith International tweeted, “We welcome the news that #Germany will not participate in @UN commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Durban conference, which was overtaken by anti-Jewish, anti-Israel bigotry.”
“All democracies must do similarly,” the group said.
Diplomats From 10 Countries Visit Start-Up Nation Central to Hear What Makes Israel's Innovation Ecosystem Tick
Yahoo Finance noted a visit to Israel by a delegation of ambassadors to the United Nations and the United States, led by Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and U.N., that was co-sponsored by B'nai B'rith International.
Tel Aviv, Israel, July 25, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- High-ranking diplomats from 10 countries paid a visit to Start-Up Nation Central headquarters to learn about the Israeli innovation ecosystem and gain insights into how Israel became the Startup Nation.
The delegation that included ambassadors to the United States and the United Nations from Kenya, Hungary, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Bhutan, the Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Tonga, Guatemala, and Australia — as well as their spouses — were part of a week-long tour hosted by Israel's Ambassador to the UN and the US Gilad Erdan and sponsored by the American Zionist Movement, B'nai B'rith and International March of the Living.
During their visit to Start-Up Nation Central, the diplomats received an in-depth review of the Israeli technological innovation ecosystem by Start-Up Nation Central's Executive Director Wendy Singer. They also received an explanation about the organization's flagship Finder Innovation Business Platform that helps connect international investors, multinational corporations, and governments to Israeli companies and innovation hubs.
The envoys also took part in a live video conference with Dan Senor, the co-author of the bestselling book Start-Up Nation and a member of Start-Up Nation Central's board of directors. They concluded their visit with a tour of the Asif Israel Culinary Institute and a lecture by Israeli serial entrepreneur and business executive Inbal Arieli, the author of the 2019 hit book Chutzpah: Why Israel Is a Hub of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Read more on Yahoo Finance.
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
CEO and Director of U.N. Affairs Letter in Financial Times: U.N.’s Israel Bias Outlives Ban Ki-moon’s Exit
The following letter appeared in the Financial Times in response to former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon's false claims against Israel.
Having engaged directly with former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on multiple occasions, we are stunned by the one-sidedness of his piece (Opinion, June 30).
Ban — who hails from South Korea, a democratic country under existential threat from a neighbour — shows exceptional indifference to the unenviable circumstances of another small democracy, Israel. He calls for a fresh approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but recycles blame of Israel alone for the situation.
Ban claims Israeli “apartheid” against Palestinians — but Israel is by far the most humane and pluralist country in the Middle East. Is any other regional actor so described?
Ban fails to even mention the unrelenting terrorism and threats facing Israelis. How can he cite Israel for preventing a two-state solution but not Palestinian fanatics like Hamas, openly sworn to Israel’s destruction?
At the end of his tenure, Ban finally chided the UN’s structural obsession with condemning Israel.
In fact, the U.N. targets Israel more than all other countries. Sadly, old habits die hard.
Daniel S Mariaschin
Chief Executive, B’nai B’rith International
David J Michaels
Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs
B’nai B’rith International
Washington, DC, US
JTA and the Jewish Journal noted our denunciation of a Human Rights Watch report once again demonizing Israel, the world's only Jewish state.
(JTA) — A report by Human Rights Watch says that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has crossed the threshold into apartheid and recommends far-reaching punitive measures, including prosecutions for crimes against humanity.
The leading human rights group’s embrace of the term, seen by Israel and many Jewish groups as a way of accusing Israel of being essentially racist and illegitimate, set off a firestorm of outraged attacks from a number of major U.S. Jewish groups that charged Human Rights Watch with attempting to “delegitimize” Israel. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations called it “a collection of lies and fabrications, bordering on antisemitic.”
Human Rights Watch is an international group that monitors countries’ adherence to international human rights law. It has often been harshly critical of Israeli policy, and in 2019 Israel deported one of the group’s employees.
But this is the first time the group has used the word “apartheid” to describe Israeli policy. The report says Israel systematically discriminates against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza as well as against its Arab citizens, some of whom identify as Palestinian. But the report says the apartheid designation applies only to Israel’s policy in the West Bank and Gaza.
“To maintain domination, Israeli authorities systematically discriminate against Palestinians,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “In the occupied territory, the severity of the repression, including the imposition of draconian military rule on Palestinians while affording Jewish Israelis living in a segregated manner in the same territory their full rights under Israel’s rights-respecting civil law, amounts to the systematic oppression required for apartheid.”
Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Six-Day War. In the West Bank, Israeli settlers are Israeli citizens with the right to vote and freedom of movement. West Bank Palestinians live under varying degrees of Israeli military control and Palestinian local governance, without citizenship or the right to vote in Israel.
Israel withdrew its settlers and troops from Gaza in 2005, and Israelis particularly reject the notion that Israel still controls the coastal strip. Israel does control most of Gaza’s border and airspace. And the Human Rights Watch report treats the West Bank and Gaza as a single entity despite their different realities.
Within Israel’s recognized borders, Arab Israelis are full Israeli citizens with the right to vote, equality under the law and representation in Israel’s parliament. Community leaders, however, have long complained of systemic discrimination in a range of fields.
Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. and the United States, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a statement that the report “is part of the organization’s ongoing campaign against Israel. He added, “When the authors of the report cynically and falsely use the term apartheid, they nullify the legal and social status of millions of Israeli citizens, including Arab citizens, who are an integral part of the State of Israel.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella body for U.S. Jewish groups, called the report released Tuesday “disgraceful” and said it was an attempt to “demonize, delegitimize and apply double standards to the State of Israel.”
The Presidents Conference statement stopped short of calling the report antisemitic, but the “three d’s” cited in the statement is a formula coined by Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet refusenik, to describe when criticism of Israel crosses into antisemitism.
Other major U.S. Jewish groups including the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International, separately slammed the report. AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, retweeted the Presidents Conference statement and two Republicans in Congress condemned Human Rights Watch. The Anti-Defamation League also called the report “yet another attempt to delegitimize the very concept of a Jewish and democratic state,” though the group added that the report “raises legitimate issues of concern about Israeli policies.”
Human Rights Watch is not the first group to apply the apartheid label to Israel. In January, the Israeli human rights group Btselem concluded that Israel should be considered an apartheid state.
The core of Israeli and mainstream Jewish objections to using the term apartheid is that in its original South African definition, it described a system that explicitly used race to discriminate against, oppress and disenfranchise minorities.
The Presidents Conference said that the “tyranny and dehumanization” of South African apartheid had “no equivalence” with Israel’s “vibrant democracy where all citizens of rights and representation in the national legislature.”
Human Rights Watch argued in its report that the term apartheid has been used since the collapse of South African apartheid to describe inequitable societies that are not explicitly based on racist laws, as South Africa’s was.
The group said Israel met the terms of what it says is this more recent definition in three ways: by maintaining domination over the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip through military occupation, citing statements from Israeli officials who suggest the occupation will continue in perpetuity; through Israeli laws that discriminate against Israel’s Arab minority, including one from 2018 that states Israel is the “nation state of the Jewish people”; and “inhumane acts” including restrictions on the movement and residency rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The report’s recommendations are far-reaching, including prosecutions of Israeli officials for crimes against humanity and restrictions on trade with Israel. It also calls for the international community to “establish through the United Nations an international commission of inquiry to investigate systematic discrimination and repression based on group identity in the [Occupied Palestinian Territories] and Israel.”
NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog of human rights groups, says such recommendations suggest a broader and more sinister agenda.
“This publication is not merely a critique of Israeli policy in the West Bank, but an attack on the very foundations of Israel and a rejection of the legitimacy of a Jewish state, regardless of borders,” it said in publishing its own report on the report.
At least two pro-Israel groups on the left said the correct reaction to the report should not be to focus on whether or not apartheid is an appropriate term, but to address the corrosive effects of the occupation described in the report.
“After 40 years of documenting and protesting against the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, we do know a thing or two about it,” said Americans for Peace Now, a constituent of the Presidents Conference. “And we know that the carefully documented facts in the HRW report on the occupation are largely indisputable. We also know too well what the occupation does to Palestinians and Israelis, and how desperately it needs to end.”
The president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, said his organization would not use the apartheid term, but called on other Jewish groups to refrain from “defaming” those who do use it.
“While we do not ourselves use the term ‘apartheid’ to describe the current situation in the occupied territories, we believe it’s deeply wrong and harmful to defame scholars, activists and political leaders who use it themselves,” Jeremy Ben-Ami said.
Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist group that has longed use the term, welcomed the report.
“It is long past time for the rest of the world to call this what it is,” JVP said on Twitter. “It could not be more clear. It’s apartheid.”
Jewish Insider noted, along with other Jewish organizations, our call for members of the U.S. Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general urging increased transparency and accountability over UNRWA curricula.
The Biden administration announced Wednesday it would provide at least $235 million in aid to the Palestinians, reversing a decision by former President Donald Trump to halt U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and organizations that provide services and support to Palestinians.
Wednesday’s announcement follows a series of quiet steps taken by the administration in recent weeks to restore aid to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.
Approximately $150 million of the total aid will be distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the U.N. agency tasked with dealing with Palestinian refugees. UNRWA has drawn criticism numerous times in recent months for distributing learning materials to Palestinian students that glorified militants and promoted violence against Israelis.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan promptly criticized the administration for restoring aid to UNRWA, which he said “should not exist in its current form.”
“In conversations with the U.S. State Department, I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing antisemitic content from its educational curriculum are carried out,” Erdan said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said at his Wednesday press briefing that reinstating aid to UNRWA puts the U.S. in a better position to address issues including the organization’s neutrality, accountability and approach to education.
“By resuming this assistance today… we have a seat at the table. We can help drive UNRWA in the ways that we think it is in our interest and consistent with our values to do. Obviously, there are areas where we would like to see reform,” Price said. “We will continue to be in a position, an even greater position to drive and to steer UNRWA in a direction that we think is productive and useful with this step today.”
Republican opposition on Capitol Hill to the administration’s announcement was also swift. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) accused the administration of “support of pay to slay,” referencing the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the families of individuals who have carried out terror attacks on Israelis. Graham was an original cosponsor of the Taylor Force Act, which bans U.S. aid to the PA until it halts such payments.
“I am deeply troubled by recent decisions from the Biden administration to turn a blind eye to behavior by the Palestinian Authority,” Graham said in a statement. “Recent decisions by the State Department to provide funding for projects in the West Bank come close to violating the provisions of the Taylor Force Act… A willingness to make concessions to the Palestinians without demanding anything in return is deeply troubling and should worry us all.”
Price insisted Wednesday the aid is “absolutely consistent” with U.S. law, adding that the U.S. had consulted with both members of Congress and regional stakeholders before the announcement.
“We provide assistance in the West Bank and Gaza through experienced and trusted independent partners on the ground, and it’s these partners who distribute directly to people in need, not through government or de facto government authorities,” Price said. “Our development partners in the West Bank and Gaza have aggressive risk mitigation systems in place.”
Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and another original cosponsor of the Taylor Force Act, issued a joint statement denouncing the decision with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The two Republicans argued that Biden should have secured concessions from the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA before providing aid.
“The Biden administration should use all available leverage to secure behavior changes from the Palestinian Authority, including ending terror payments,” Risch and McCaul said. “We will continue to scrutinize every proposed program to ensure the administration’s actions are in lockstep with the Taylor Force Act.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), an original cosponsor of Taylor Force in the House, similarly criticized the administration for failing to address the issue of payments to terrorists in its announcement. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is currently circulating a letter among Senate Republicans calling on Biden to put the aid on hold, citing concerns that it violates Taylor Force and other U.S. laws, the Associated Pressreported Wednesday.
The administration’s move also comes amid renewed action on Capitol Hill to crack down on UNRWA- and PA-sponsored education programs. A bipartisan group of House members led by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) reintroduced legislation on Monday mandating State Department reports on the content of curricula distributed to children in the Palestinian territories.
Ilan Goldenberg, a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, suggested that the administration and UNRWA “will be negotiating an understanding of the terms of their relationship” that includes “incitement and antisemitism in UNRWA schools.” Goldenberg added that withdrawing all aid “got [the U.S.] no influence or real change.”
A group of Jewish organizations, including Hadassah, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, the Orthodox Union, the Zionist Organization of America and Christians United for Israel began calling on members of Congress to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general calling for increased transparency and accountability over UNRWA curricula on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the administration’s announcement.
The Algemeiner noted our condemnation – along with other American Jewish organizations – of the International Criminal Court’s ruling that it has jurisdiction to investigate Israel and the Palestinians for supposed "war crimes."
American Jewish organizations spoke out strongly against the International Criminal Court’s ruling that it has jurisdiction to investigate war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank, calling the ruling “politically and ideologically motivated” and the result of “systemic bias in multilateral organizations.”
The decision, released Friday, would place both Israel and the ruling Gaza terror group Hamas under possible investigation should the court choose to pursue one. In particular, Israeli officials are worried about war crimes charges related to Israel’s 2014 defensive war against Hamas.
Chairman Arthur Stark, CEO William Daroff, and Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations released a statement saying they “reject” the court’s ruling, calling it a “politically and ideologically motivated attempt by the ICC to impose itself into matters that are well beyond its mandate.”
In doing so, they said, the court “violates its purpose, distorts international law, and undermines its own legitimacy as an unbiased judicial forum.”
The statement accused ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of “demonstrated anti-Israel bias” and asserted that “Palestinian leaders are attempting to dictate a political end through judicial means and thereby avoid negotiations.”
“These actions serve to exacerbate existing tensions, and will not achieve progress toward a viable and lasting resolution to a conflict that can only be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties,” the statement said.
The American Jewish Committee said in a statement that it “deeply regrets” the ICC’s decision. The Palestinian Authority, it said, “is not a state” and as such “the ICC is an inappropriate forum to adjudicate its claims.”
The AJC lamented that formal submissions by Australia, Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and Uganda asserting that “Palestine” is not a state were “not given due weight” by the court.
“It is only by reaching a negotiated settlement with Israel that the Palestinian people can fulfill their legitimate national aspirations,” the AJC stated. “Reverting to the old ways of confrontation, such as promoting one-sided UN resolutions or seeking the indictment of Israelis in the ICC, will only prolong the conflict and the suffering of both peoples.”
Citing criticism of the ruling by the US State Department, the Anti-Defamation League said, “We are deeply concerned by the problematic ruling from the @IntlCrimCourt as it has the very real possibility of leading to abuse against Israel with implications for the wider international community. We welcome the @StateDept’s ‘serious concern.’”
B’nai Brith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said “we reject” the ruling, and added, “We see again that Israel is subject to systemic bias in multilateral organizations.”
They also expressed anger that “the ICC puts Hamas and Israel on the same playing field, even though Israel’s actions were defensive in the face of Hamas attacks.”
The World Jewish Congress said it was “dismayed” by the ruling, “which sets a dangerous precedent and does nothing to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center called the ruling, “Another wholly political decision by International Criminal Court targeting #Israel.”
The SWC claimed the international community, including the ICC, holds Israel to a double standard, saying, “Here’s how it works. When it comes to Covid, #Israel is occupying power allegedly responsible for vaccines for Palestinians. When it comes to attacking Israel, Palestinian territories = independent entity. Making up new rules as long as Israel demonized.”
“Instead of serving justice #ICC politicizes and corrupts it,” the group asserted. “#Israel haters call Israel an occupying power when it comes to Covid vaccinations and #Palestine a state when they can demonize Israel!”
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.”
Jewish Insider quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin in a roundup of Jewish leaders raising preliminary concerns about President Joe Biden's United Nations policies.
Earlier this month, the United Nations agency tasked with working with Palestinians said it mistakenly issued textbooks that call for jihad, or holy war, against Israel. The agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said it was “taking steps” to address their glorification of “martyrs” and calls for “jihad.”
UNRWA issued the apology after the Jerusalem-based Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education – IMPACT-se released a report analyzing Palestinian textbooks that are used by hundreds of thousands of students in the West Bank and Gaza.
The Biden administration is expected to move to restore funding to the Palestinians, aid the Trump administration withdrew in September 2018. The move would be consistent with Biden’s pledge to “repair our alliances and engage the world once more,” but Jewish leaders and others are looking on with caution, hoping the new administration does not repeat what some believe were mistakes of the past.
Among their concerns is President Joe Biden’s explicit pledge to rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Council and “work to ensure that body truly lives up to its values,” as the president said in a December 2019 statement commemorating the United Nations’ Human Rights Day.
Daniel Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, told Jewish Insider that his organization hopes that the Biden administration “will work assiduously to eliminate bias against Israel in New York and in the various U.N. agencies, particularly the U.N. Human Rights Council.”
The Geneva-based council routinely “devotes a separate agenda item, number seven, to Israel alone while all other countries, including the worst tyrannies, are lumped together in a different agenda item,” observed David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee.
Harris said that when it comes to U.N. agencies, “the Biden administration can be expected to take a more collegial, less adversarial approach than the Trump team. That said, it needs to be done with issues of fairness and equal treatment in mind, which is certainly not the case, say, when it comes to our ally, Israel, and its treatment.”
The council was created in 2006 to replace the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which had come under international criticism for including member nations that were themselves human rights abusers. The administration of President George W. Bush did not support its creation and kept its U.N. ambassador off the council because of concerns the U.S. might not get elected. (In 2001, the U.S. was defeated in its bid to join the old commission.) Countries with lesser human rights records were elected to the body and helped to set the standards in the council’s early years.
That changed in 2009, when President Barack Obama chose to participate in the council, maintaining that states should “uphold the highest standards” of human rights. The U.S. was the first elected to the council that year. Nine years later, President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the council. Nikki Haley, then the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., cited its “chronic bias against Israel,” and noted that the U.S. had repeatedly threatened to leave the 47-member body unless it made reforms. She said it had failed to make necessary changes and called it a “cesspool of political bias” that “makes a mockery of human rights.”
With the Biden administration set on rejoining the council — whose membership has included dictatorial regimes and some of the world’s worst human rights violators — the question is whether it “will it be able to enact reforms,” said Gerald Steinberg, a professor of politics at Bar Ilan University and founder and president of NGO Monitor, a policy analysis think tank focusing on non-governmental organizations.
“A huge part of [the council’s] budget is used for bogus investigations of Israel,” he said. “It’s not realistic to expect the administration and a Democratic Congress will meet the hopes of Israelis on these points, but if they are sensitive to them, it will put down some markers in terms of the use of these institutions to demonize Israel.”
Similar concerns were voiced by Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a human rights NGO and U.N. watchdog based in Geneva.
“It will require an enormous amount of effort to get them to do good things,” he said of the council. “But its anti-Israel agenda, its commissions of inquiry against Israel and its blacklist against Israel were unstoppable by both Democrats and Republicans. It is anti-Israel. UN Watch does not object to the U.S. entering the council.”
“We think it could be a force for good,” Neuer continued, “but it has to fight and call out the abuses and double standards and antisemitism. I’m concerned because the Obama administration did try to do good things at the council, but unfortunately became a cheerleader for the council. We hope the Biden administration does not make the same mistakes.”
Regarding UNRWA, the AJC’s Harris said it too has had a “persistent problem of incitement and hatred in their schools and other facilities. American re-engagement [with UNRWA] must also focus determinedly on ending these practices, which, let’s be clear, undermine the integrity of the world body.”
Some 5 million Palestinian refugees are said to rely on UNRWA to provide funding for their schools, healthcare and social services. The U.S. had long been the largest funder of UNRWA, pledging about one-third of the agency’s $1.1 billion annual budget. At the time Trump withdrew funding (which included cutting $200 million from UNRWA’s main development agency, USAID), the former president said he did not want the U.S. to continue to “shoulder the disproportionate cost” of the organization and called upon the Palestinians to return to peace talks with Israel. The move was also seen by some as an attempt to delegitimize the refugee status of some Palestinians and their descendants.
Although UNRWA has looked to other nations to fund its operations, it announced two months ago that its funding has largely dried up and that it would soon be unable to pay its 28,000 staffers and contractors who work in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere. Elizabeth Campbell, director of UNRWA’s Washington office, has been quoted as saying she believes the Biden administration will come to her organization’s rescue, noting that Vice President Kamala Harris has said the Biden administration would restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians.
Neuer said his organization is also concerned that the Biden administration “might consider restoring funding to UNRWA despite the fact the organization is fundamentally hostile to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. It’s fine to send money to Palestinians, but the U.S. should not be funding an agenda” that promotes the idea that 2 million Palestinians living in Jordan “should have Israeli citizenship… I hope it does not fund it.”
Mariaschin of B’nai B’rith noted that the 71-year-old agency “has for decades raised three generations of Palestinian children on hatred of Israel and hatred of Jews. It is an organization that promises the Palestinians that all refugees and their descendants will be able to return to what is now the State of Israel.”
“If we are going to move the meter on any kind of peaceful arrangement in the region,” Mariaschin cautioned, “UNRWA cannot continue business as usual — engaging in this kind of education of hate, the promotion of hatred and the insistent demand that Palestinians be able to return in the millions to the State of Israel. That is a non-starter.”
“People in the administration and in Congress want to undo everything and signal to the Palestinians that their support network is being restored under the Democratic administration,” said NGO Monitor’s Steinberg. “The question is whether enough lessons have been learned. Just last week a detailed report was released that found that UNRWA’s education system was used for incitement. They found in a new textbook support for jihad. When asked about it, they said they had made a mistake.”
Questions have also been raised about how UNRWA spends its money, Steinberg said, noting that a few years ago the head of UNRWA was found to have “hired his girlfriend at a big salary.”
He suggested that the Biden administration consider “using a different vehicle to send funds to Palestinians.”
Although he said there is concern in Israel that Biden will bring back some of the policies Israel did not like from the Obama administration, Steinberg added that there is “optimism that people like Tony Blinken [Biden’s nominee for secretary of state] who were in the Obama administration and saw the mistakes that were made will be more careful.”
Groups in Europe are focused on additional areas of concern. Adam Thomson, director of the European Leadership Network, a pan-European think tank, said in an email that what his members “hope for — and indeed expect — from the Biden administration [is] a resumption of U.S. leadership on the pressing requirements for arms control, risk reduction and military-to-military dialogue across the Euro-Atlantic area, and especially across the NATO-Russia divide.”
JBS Coverage of B’nai B’rith Supporting EU Council Declaration on Mainstreaming the Fight Against Anti-Semitism
JBS covered our statement welcoming the EU Council Declaration on mainstreaming the fight against anti-Semitism across policy areas that was issued through unanimous agreement by EU member states. View coverage here (beginning at 3:42) or below.
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