JNS, Israel Hayom and Cleveland Jewish News included B'nai B'rith International's condemnation of the resolution adopted by the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) that commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA) in its coverage of Durban IV (during UNGA).
A number of American Jewish organizations slammed a resolution adopted on Wednesday at a high-level meeting at the UN General Assembly that commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA) stemming from a notoriously anti-Semitic World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.
"The resolution predictably claimed that the DDPA offered 'a comprehensive United Nations framework and solid foundation for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,' and reaffirmed commitment to its 'full and effective implementation,' " stated B'nai B'rith International in a news release on Friday.
The original Durban declaration was censured by Jewish groups and nations such as the United States for allowing the presence of overt anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate, as well as including Palestinians as the only group named as victims of racism.
B'nai B'rith wrote that it has worked over the past few weeks in partnership with the Jewish Broadcasting Service on Durban, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The organization featured luminaries such as Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévi, former US National Security Advisor John Bolton and others, culminating in an hour-long interview with B'nai B'rith honorary president Richard Heideman, who led the Jewish delegation at the Durban conference and his wife, Phyllis Heideman, president of the International March of the Living.
In the past year, B'nai B'rith also lobbied other nations to join the United States and Israel in boycotting the anniversary conference, also known as Durban IV, leading to a total of 35 countries that declined to participate in the commemoration.
"This public disassociation by a substantial moral minority at the UN represents a meaningful victory against efforts to hijack the world body and the critical fight against racism – specifically, racism against people of African descent – for the purposes of delegitimizing Israel by obscenely equating only it and Jews' national liberation movement, Zionism, with racism," B'nai B'rith wrote in the statement.
Countries that boycotted the proceedings included Albania, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uruguay.
'A vicious slander against the Jewish state'
AIPAC also strongly condemned Durban IV on its Twitter account, while individually tweeting appreciation for countries that joined the boycott.
"The UN #DurbanIV conference is a cesspool of discriminatory, anti-Israel propaganda," AIPAC tweeted on Tuesday. "'Zionism=Racism' is a vicious slander against the Jewish state and its supporters. America and many allies stand proudly with Israel in boycotting this despicable conference."
Alex Safian, associate director at CAMERA, which monitors bias in reporting on Israel and the Middle East, noted that there was no improvement in Durban IV and the passed resolution than in the previous three conferences.
"The original Durban Conference in 2001 created the firestorm of renewed and growing anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and the statements yesterday from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and her radical colleagues are just an example of this in our own Congress," he said in an email. "The United Nations was founded as a reaction to Nazism and the Holocaust, but the Durban process proves that fascists and bigots are still much more comfortable in the UN than Jews."
Anti-Israel members of the Democratic Party also motivated Zionist Organization of America national president Mort Klein to make a few phone calls to UN offices he had connections with to urge them not to attend Durban IV. His organization put out a news release lauding nations that announced they would not participate, though after that acknowledged following the proceedings only a little bit.
Klein said during one of his calls, one official him that "anti-Semites" in Congress had inspired a number of countries that were thinking of not participating in Durban IV to join.
"This one guy told me, you should know that inadvertently or directly, they've had an impact on several countries that participated, figuring they have to cover it because there are a dozen anti-Semites in Congress," said Klein, adding that the official also told him that he believed Jew-hatred will continue to grow in the United Nations.
20 years ago, the UN Durban Conference aimed to combat racism. It devolved into a ‘festival of hate’ against Jews.
B'nai B'rith International's Honorary President Richard D. Heideman and Director of Latin American Affairs Eduardo Kohn spoke to JTA about their experiences at the 2001 U.N. Durban conference that devolved into anti-Israel hatred.
Some of the Jewish organizational officials flying into the coastal city of Durban, South Africa, on the last week of August 2001 were excited. They believed the U.N.’s anti-racism conference there would be an opportunity to exchange notes on a cause that the Jewish world had worked on for decades.
Others, steeped in how the United Nations and its affiliates functioned, were wary of some of the players, who were known for tirelessly steering every international conference to complaints about Israel. Still others who had been tracking preparations for the gathering knew that Iran, Israel’s implacable enemy, was planning to take over the proceedings.
But no one was prepared for what it became — a carnival of antisemitic expression that drove Jewish participants to tears each night and had them fearing for their physical safety.
“It was worse than I had imagined,” recalled Irwin Cotler, a longtime Jewish human rights lawyer in Canada who would go on to be his nation’s justice minister. “Because it was a festival of hate.”
As is conventional at U.N. forums, the governmental conference, which ran Sept. 2-9, was preceded by the nongovernmental organization conference Aug. 27-Sept. 2.
Both would be overshadowed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But the NGO conference, say the Jewish participants who attended, was a template for the next 20 years of anti-Israel rhetoric, codifying the argument now increasingly prevalent on the left that Israel is an apartheid state deserving of isolation. It was also an eye opener for many in terms of how criticism of Israel, however legitimate, can be co-opted by an antisemitic agenda.
The failure of the human rights organizations present to come to the defense of the Jewish participants, who walked out to jeers and threats, created a rift that persists until today. Over a dozen countries, including the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, are boycotting this year’s Durban conference over its antisemitic history.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency spoke to nine Jewish officials who were at the 2001 conference, including Cotler, who was then a member of the Canadian parliament.
The others are:
— Stacy Burdett, then the associate government relations director at the Anti-Defamation League;
— Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center;
— Felice Gaer, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights;
— Richard Heideman, then the president of B’nai B’rith International;
— Phyllis Heideman, his wife, who had attended a number of U.N. conferences as a delegate of B’nai B’rith;
— David Killion, then the chief of staff to Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress, who headed the U.S. delegation to the governmental conference;
— Eduardo Kohn, the B’nai B’rith International director of Latin American Affairs;
— A top Jewish organizational official at the time who is now in a job where she is not permitted to speak on the record.
Heading into the conference: “There was a little bit of naivete going into it.”
Cotler: “In 1997, when it was first announced that there was going to be a world conference against racism in South Africa in 2001, I greeted it with anticipation, if not excitement, because this was going to be the first world conference against racism in the 21st century, and I felt that it would give underrepresented groups a voice and a presence. Second, it was going to be the first international human rights conference of the 21st century. Human rights had emerged as a new secular religion of our times, and this conference would be as timely as it would be significant. And third thing is, it was taking place in Durban, South Africa. I not only had a longtime involvement in the anti-apartheid movement but actually had been arrested.” [Cotler was arrested in apartheid South Africa in 1981 for delivering a lecture at a university in which he said that Nelson Mandela had as much right to freedom as Natan Sharansky, then a prisoner in the Soviet Union whom Cotler represented as a human rights lawyer. He went on to lead anti-apartheid advocacy in Canada.]
Burdett: “I was born in 1964, so for Americans of my age, it was like the antisemitism was over, right? So there was this aspect of, in preparing for Durban, my focus was trying to make sure ADL got a good spot for doing events on our anti-racism trainings. So there was a little bit of naivete going into it.”
Richard Heideman: “In 1985, there was a U.N. conference to assess and appraise the status of women that was held in Nairobi, Kenya. Phyllis was designated as a delegate by B’nai B’rith International, which is the oldest Jewish organization with standing at the U.N. When we arrived in Nairobi we found at the NGO forum and at the U.N. conference itself terrible hatred toward Israel and the Jewish people.”
The 1975 U.N. General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism permeated the Nairobi conference. In 1991, years of Jewish organizational advocacy and U.S. diplomacy brought about the revocation of the resolution, fueling hope that Israel would not be a focus at Durban.
Gaer: “We had a secretary-general who, for the first time in the history of the U.N., actually used the word ‘Holocaust,’ who was married to the niece of one of the great Holocaust-era heroes. [Kofi Annan, who was instrumental in the establishment of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, was married to Nane Lagergren, whose uncle was Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat whose actions saved thousands of Hungarian Jews.] And we had expectations that a world conference on racism could not only address the scourge of racism, which we have seen in such ugly ways in the former Yugoslavia, the Bosnia conflict and in Rwanda, but that could also address race issues in individual countries. Those of us who were engaged in Jewish organizations also felt this was an opportunity in which we could talk about combating antisemitism as one of a whole variety of forms of intolerance and racial discrimination and racism that needed to be eradicated.”
Cooper: “The truth is that when we went, we’d already seen storm clouds [after Iran maneuvered to set the agenda at a preparatory meeting in February], although no one had any clue about how bad it would be on the ground, how terrible it would be on the ground.”
Iran and a striking image set the stage
In retrospect, there were signs that there were actors intent on making Israel a focus of the conference. The main conference was preceded in late 2000 and early 2001 by regional conferences. The final regional conference, for Asian countries, took place in Tehran in February 2001. Iran refused to allow Israelis and Jewish organizations to attend.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, another Jewish organization accredited at the United Nations, asked the U.N. human rights commissioner — Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland who was organizing the conference — to move the venue to another Asian country. Robinson declined but pledged that she would make the Iranians allow Jewish and Israeli representatives to attend.
Cooper: “Mary Robinson promised us up the wazoo, ‘You guys have every right to attend the meeting in Tehran.’ But we didn’t get the right to go until after the last planes from Paris and New York left for Tehran so that it would be impossible for us to reach there. And that’s where a lot of the stuff was cooked.”
Whereas Jewish and Israeli delegates could influence summary statements at regional preparatory conferences in Africa, Latin America and Europe, Iran’s maneuver meant that the Asian summary document amounted to an indictment of Israel. It accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” of implementing “a new kind of Apartheid” and “a crime against humanity,” and said Zionism was “based on race superiority.” Much of the Iran-influenced document became a template for the NGO declaration at the Durban conference.
Cotler: “There was a six-point indictment of Israel at the regional conference in Tehran, one of the most scurrilous indictments of Israel since the end of the Second World War.”
The Second Intifada had been underway for almost a year by the time the conference started, and one of its most striking images, caught on video, persisted: The Sept. 30, 2000 killing of Muhammad al-Durrah, a 12-year-old Palestinian caught in the crossfire during a battle between Israeli and Palestinian forces. Images of al-Durrah proliferated at the conference, including on T-shirts. “Killed on September 30 2000, for being Palestinian,” a T-shirt said on one side. On the other side it read “Occupation = Colonialism = Racism. End Israeli apartheid.”
Burdett: “The Palestinians really had an edge here because they have the popular vote. There were pictures of Muhammad al-Durrah everywhere. They had the sympathy vote.”
Richard Heideman: “What we faced was phenomenal in terms of the visible expression of hatred, not just placards but photographs, and talking about Jews and Israelis as murderers.”
Burdett: “There was an NGO kind of infrastructure managing this [on the South African end], a South African NGO that received large grants from the U.N. [SANGOCO, a coalition of South African NGOs]. And even before Durban started they did a mission for NGOs for the West Bank, so there was a lot of writing on the wall.”
“I saw grown men crying, weeping.”
Not long after they landed, the conference-goers noticed a ubiquitous flyer with a picture of Adolf Hitler. “WHAT IF I HAD WON?’ it asked. “The good things: There would be no Israel and no Palestinian’s [sic] bloodshed. The bad things: I wouldn’t have allowed the making of the new Beetle. THE REST IS YOUR GUESS.”
The Arab Lawyers Union also distributed pamphlets filled with caricatures of hook-nosed Jews depicted as Nazis spearing Palestinian children, dripping blood from their fangs, with missiles bulging from their eyes or with pots of money nearby. Copies of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a notorious antisemitic text, were available. Calls to the organizers to remove the materials went unheeded.
The confrontational imagery was reflected in personal encounters. Protesters surrounded Jewish students who set up a stand near the press tent and screamed at them.
Kohn: “We couldn’t speak out in the meetings because in the moment we started speaking — any Jewish delegation — the shouts of ‘You kill the Palestinians, you’re like the Nazis you’re a racist, apartheid’ and whatever — it made us impossible to speak out.”
Cooper: “The Lawyers Guild from Egypt did political cartoons that literally would have belonged in Der Sturmer. Our attempts to get them removed were basically laughed at. So we called a press conference. At that press conference, before we started, a phalanx of Iranian women in black rush the press conference and try to push over the shtender [podium] and try to kill the press conference. They were eventually physically removed. So the physical intimidation was there.”
Kohn: “There was a Uruguayan minister [Education Minister Antonio Mercader] who came up to me and said it was risky, we need protection. I mean it was unbelievable. We were at a U.N. conference.”
On Friday, Aug. 31, the Jewish delegation learned that South African unions were staging a massive pro-Palestinian demonstration at the conference grounds, the Kingsmead Cricket Stadium. Security officials warned Jewish participants to stay away.
Cooper: “I was approached by the chief of police of Durban and told the following: ‘Rabbi, please, I’m asking you, do not try to go from here to the Jewish community center today.’ ‘Why not? It’s like 2 1/2 blocks away.’ He said, ‘We cannot guarantee your safety.’ And just then when we looked out — we went up higher [in the stadium] — 20,000 people have been brought in by train by the trade unions in order to do Israel apartheid protests, in which the famous picture of the banner ‘Hitler was right’ was hoisted. They were giving out free copies of the ‘Protocols of Zion.’”
Burdett: “We had put out an SMS to everyone’s cellphone, ‘Do not go near that demonstration’ because our information is that it’s going to be heavily laced with and motivated by antisemitism and that we should not be visible. They were carrying signs and wearing T-shirts that said ‘Apartheid Israel.’ Someone had gone to the townships and just distributed T-shirts to people who just could use a shirt to wear. And so that street demonstration was just filled with people wearing freshly minted anti-Israel T-shirts. And so the effort to make Israel such a prominent issue at this conference was very organized.”
Cooper: “The one lifeline for the Jewish groups was the Jewish community center of Durban. That was the place we came at night to lick our wounds, where I saw grown men crying, weeping. It was that bad.”
On the evening of Saturday, Sept. 1, the conference-goers convened to work out the final text of the NGO declaration. It was a chaotic scene, but the steering committee achieved a modicum of order by allowing each group to propose an amendment that defined the discrimination they suffer. That prompted the Jewish delegation to propose an amendment that pushed back against the conference’s anti-Zionism and referenced the spike in worldwide antisemitism after the start of the Second Intifada.
It said: “We are concerned with the prevalence of anti-Zionism and attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel through wildly inaccurate charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, as a virulent contemporary form of antisemitism, leading to the firebombing of synagogues, armed assaults against Jews, incitement to killing and the murder of innocent Jews for their support for the existence of the State of Israel, the assertion of the right to self-determination of the Jewish people and the attempts through the State of Israel to preserve their cultural and religious identity.”
The conference overwhelmingly rejected the amendment, with only delegations from Central Europe and the Roma joining the Jewish delegation in favoring its inclusion. That was a breaking point. The entire Jewish delegation rose to leave, and the crowd erupted in shouts and threats.
Richard Heideman: “We were walking out in a procession with people jeering us on the sides.”
Kohn: “While we were walking we received very, very, very rude insults, antisemitic insults and the threats of being attacked, I mean attacked physically, attacks that were averted by the guards of the conference, I mean, if we didn’t have the protection of the guards …”
Read the full story in JTA.
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.”
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