CEO and Dir. of U.N. Affairs Op-ed in Newsweek: Holocaust Comparisons Are Holocaust Denial. It Has to Stop.
Newsweek published an op-ed by B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels urging members of Congress and all others to stop trivializing the Holocaust to score cheap political points.
The Holocaust is once again being trivialized in the name of the politics. On Wednesday, Ohio Congressman Warren Davidson compared COVID restrictions to the Nazis' treatment of Jews. "This has been done before. #DoNotComply," he tweeted.
The Congressman joins a long list of those reaching for the Holocaust for such cheap political points. In June, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene compared wearing a mask to wearing a yellow star and had to apologize. In November, Lara Logan compared Dr. Anthony Fauci to Joseph Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who did cruel experiments on Jews in concentration camps.
Across the globe, things are even worse; outright Holocaust denial is spreading like a virus. Earlier this week, outside a church in central Rome, a funeral concluded with a coffin draped in a Nazi flag, surrounded by participants giving Nazi salutes. In Iran, the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, often tweets things like "why is it a crime to raise doubts about the Holocaust?" and "#Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain." In 2019, right before attempting a mass-carnage attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur, a gunman livestreamed a video in which he said, "I think the Holocaust never happened."
The Holocaust—the most documented and systematic genocide in history—took the lives of two-thirds of European Jews. Among our own family members, in Poland and Lithuania, most were wiped out: innocent men, women and children.
Of the Jews who managed to survive, all are now at least 77 years old, and thousands are dying each year. That trend has likely been accelerated by the ongoing pandemic. And if Holocaust-denial can persist even as first-hand witnesses to the atrocities are among us, we can only imagine how malignant these pathologies will become once the survivors pass on.
The correlation between denial of past atrocities and indifference to new atrocities is clear. Whether it comes from the extreme right or radical Islamists, antisemites uniquely belittle or justify the Holocaust while also belittling or justifying current and prospective violence against Jews.
Of course, distortion or instrumentalization of the Holocaust is not new. Among white supremacists, denial of the Nazi gas chambers' existence has been an article of faith. Even in America, certain local legislators or educators were recently found to have urged "neutrality" in teaching about Nazism. In parts of the Baltics, the whitewashing and lionizing of Nazi collaborators has been commonplace. And through much of the Middle East, the Holocaust has long been tarred as a "Zionist myth" alongside a false narrative that Palestinians paid the price for Germans' misdeeds with the invention of a "colonial" Israel by foreigners.
And whether at the United Nations or street demonstrations, bigots wholly rejecting the history and legitimacy of a Jewish minority presence in the Middle East have sought to add insult to injury by weaponizing the Holocaust, saying Hitler hadn't gone far enough or that Israel is guilty of Nazi-like practices.
At a 2001 U.N. conference against racism in Durban, South Africa, activists asserted both. A decade later, Iran's president hosted Holocaust-denial conferences and cartoon competitions, attracting such luminaries as former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, a newfound champion of Palestinian nationalism.
A few years later, Malaysia's then-prime minister—a self-identified antisemite who had called Jews "hook-nosed" and said they "rule the world by proxy"—questioned the number of Holocaust victims. And during outbreaks of Hamas or Hezbollah hostilities with Israel, social media platforms have facilitated an unprecedented spread of hateful lies concerning Israelis, Jews and the Holocaust, with negligible intervention by those profiting from them.
Next week, the U.N. will have an opportunity to help more seriously address the scourge of historical revisionism. 15 years after the U.N. began marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a resolution on Holocaust-denial and distortion will come up for a vote. We hope member states will join in adopting an important working definition of Holocaust-denial, as well as, ultimately, an equally vital working definition of antisemitism.
While combating trivialization of the Holocaust is only one element of strengthening basic societal norms, it is a critical one. Let it be said once more: those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
Jewish Insider noted that together with other American Jewish organizations, we sent a letter urging Senate leaders to fund Iron Dome, which is crucial to saving lives and protecting innocent Israelis from terrorist rocket attacks.
A coalition of pro-Israel organizations sent a letter to Senate leadership on Tuesday taking aim at Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for blocking supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system and arguing that folding the funding into a larger package would “undermine Israel’s security.”
The funding passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in September of last year, but Paul has repeatedly blocked passage in the Senate, insisting that funding be reallocated from Afghanistan aid to pay for the $1 billion Iron Dome supplement.
A second letter, from some overlapping groups — the American Jewish Congress, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Agudath Israel of America, Ameinu, B’nai B’rith, Hadassah, the Israel Policy Forum, Jewish Women International, Rabbinical Assembly, Orthodox Union, Union for Reform Judaism and Zionist Organization of America — was also sent to the Senate leaders on Tuesday.
That letter does not directly attack Paul, but instead decries “unfortunate gamesmanship that is taking place right now in the Senate.” The signatories also do not directly criticize the omnibus strategy and instead “implore [Schumer and McConnell] to not allow any more needless delays in passing this legislation. Blocking immediate consideration of the legislation weakens our entire nation’s commitment to our Israeli ally’s security.”
A statement about the letter from the American Jewish Congress highlighted that it includes a “diverse array of Jewish organizations spanning diverse religious, political, and policy spectrums” and “shows the strong support that exists across the Jewish community for getting the funding approved.”
The Jerusalem Post spoke with B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin about our organization's top priorities on Capitol Hill in 2022.
As Congress prepares to return to its second session later this week, and with the midterm election in November on the horizon, Jewish organizations are working on their legislative agenda for 2022, deciding what they should promote and what they should oppose before the 117th Congress is dissolved.
The main priority for 2022, as several organizations noted, is securing $1 billion to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system.
The funding has been blocked in the Senate for three months over the opposition of Senator Rand Paul. The Republican from Kentucky said last month that he would support the bill if it would be offset with spending cuts elsewhere.
Some organizations reiterated the need for a permanent envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. In July, US President Joe Biden announced he would appoint Deborah Lipstadt to the position, but she is still awaiting her confirmation vote in the Senate.
Another item that is receiving wide support is the Israel Relations Normalization Act.
Marshall Wittmann, spokesperson for AIPAC, said that the pro-Israel lobby’s immediate priorities in the new year are “working to gain final congressional approval of $1 billion to replenish the Iron Dome system and $3.8 billion dollars in security assistance funding for Israel.
“We also will be urging quick final passage of the Israel Relations Normalization Act. We will continue to urge Congress and the administration to confront the Iranian push for a nuclear weapon and combine diplomacy with added economic pressure and the credible threat of military force. We will be developing additional legislative initiatives to enhance US-Israel bilateral cooperation, and to ensure that Israel has the necessary resources to defend itself against the threat of Iranian aggression.”
Daniel Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, said “High on our agenda for 2022 is the need to secure Iron Dome funding. It’s our top priority on Capitol Hill for the moment.”
He noted that Congress has passed legislation mandating the appointment at the State Department of a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.
“The administration has nominated Professor Deborah Lipstadt to fill the position,” Mariaschin said. “The Senate now needs to confirm her so that she can carry out the important work of this job in the fight against global antisemitism. We are also supporting bipartisan legislation in Congress that would impose sanctions on foreign individuals and agencies that support the terrorist activities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
Mariaschin noted that B’nai B’rith will also be advocating for adopting the Israel Relations Normalization Act, which mandates a government-wide strategy to expand and strengthen the Abraham Accords.
“On the domestic side, we are supporting the House-passed version of the Build Back Better Act, because of funds appropriated for affordable housing for seniors,” he said. “Senior housing is a major project of B’nai B’rith. As the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income housing for seniors, we sponsor nearly 40 residential facilities with over 5,000 residents around the United States.”
Jason Isaacson, chief policy and political affairs officer at AJCommittee, said his organization is focused on advancing the various items from its legislative advocacy agenda, including funding for the replenishment of Iron Dome; Senate confirmation of key presidential nominees including Lipstadt and Ambassador Barbara Leaf as assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, Sarah Margon as assistant secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and Tamara Wittes as USAID assistant administrator for the Middle East.
Another item, he noted, is the passage of S.Res.377/H.Res.558, urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in its entirety.
“With our ongoing national focus on raising awareness and providing necessary tools for the fight against antisemitism, we’ll continue working across the country to ensure adequate hate crimes reporting, reaching out to and securing commitments from governors, mayors, and other officials, and we’ll continue to press for the adoption by state and local authorities of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism,” said Isaacson.
The Jewish Federation of North America has a busy schedule as well. Among the items on its agenda: securing $360 million in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program; securing $10 million for the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program; and advocating for investment in home-based health care for older adults and people with disabilities through the Better Care Better Jobs Act.
JFNA will also focus on Holocaust education and addressing online antisemitism, including fighting the delegitimization of Israel and supporting the implementation of No Hate Act.
“We have important legislative work to do this year in order to ensure that our community is safe, healthy, and inclusive, and that our society protects the most vulnerable,” said Jewish Federations SVP for Public Affairs, Elana Broitman. “The pandemic continues to show how important the national system of local nonprofit services is to supporting our communities, and the need for strong, bipartisan support behind our priorities to continue enabling these services.”
Sam Markstein, national political director for the Republican Jewish Coalition, said that “RJC’s focus this year will continue to be opposing the Biden administration’s wrong-headed efforts, most notably their plan to revive a dangerously flawed nuclear deal with Iran, their scheme to open a US consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem, and their disastrous ‘Build Back Better’ bill.
“RJC will also be supporting measures to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome, broaden and strengthen the Abraham Accords, and compel the Palestinian Authority to end ‘pay for slay’ subsidies for terrorism.”
Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said that one of JDCA’s top legislative priorities for 2022 is passage of federal voting rights legislation “to defend our democracy and combat widespread Republican-led voter suppression. JDCA strongly supports the Freedom to Vote Act, which has the support of all 50 Democrats in the Senate, as well as efforts to abolish or reform the Senate filibuster in order to ensure its passage.
“Jewish Dems will also continue to support Democratic efforts to protect and expand abortion access, working with coalitions to advocate for passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act in the Senate, and to pursue reproductive justice,” said Soifer. “JDCA will continue to advocate for the confirmation of key Biden administration nominees in 2022, including Sarah Margon as assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Dilawar Syed as deputy administrator for the Small Business Administration; and Deborah Lipstadt as special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.”
Michael Koplow, policy director for the Israel Policy Forum, emphasized that while the organization is not a lobbying group and does not lobby Congress on legislation, it “absolutely has a policy agenda. There are a few policy items we hope that Congress takes up in the new year, including normalization between Israel and regional states that is furthered, and that is also leveraged to make progress on Israeli-Palestinian issues; continuing to robustly support Israeli security needs; Israel-Palestinian security coordination; and funding to the Palestinian Authority Security Forces that prevents terrorism and violence against Israelis.
Koplow said that the IPF also supports “people-to-people ties that further a viable peace process through continued support for Lowey funding, and continued support for UNRWA as the only entity currently able to provide critical humanitarian services in Gaza, predicated on its continued pledges to the US on transparency, accountability, and neutrality.”
Mishpacha Magazine quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin in its coverage of Iran's nuclear program and the U.S. administration's options in dealing with Tehran going forward.
Kicking the can down the road is no longer an option, it seems. The world is finally coming to a crossroads with Tehran’s nuclear program.
When Joe Biden entered the Oval Office in January this year, one of the most urgent tasks he set out was returning to the Iran nuclear deal. This goal was supposed to be an easy one to achieve. Obama administration veterans were brought on board: Rob Malley, a key figure in the original JCPOA negotiations, was made US special envoy to Iran, and Jake Sullivan was made national security advisor. Tony Blinken, Biden’s former advisor, was appointed secretary of state, and said the goal was for both sides to first return to the original deal, and then negotiate “a longer and stronger agreement.”
The feeling in Jerusalem was that a return to the nuclear deal was only a matter of time, that all it would take is sorting out a few technicalities. But the Iranians had different plans. Since Trump’s withdrawal from the deal in 2018, they continued uranium enrichment at an accelerated pace, and this time they’re coming to the negotiating table one step away from the nuclear threshold.
If Washington expected them to be desperate for a deal, they were soon disillusioned. The Iranians are not only no longer content with the 2015 terms, they want a lot more from the West in exchange for far more modest concessions on their own part. In their view, America has to not only lift all sanctions, but also commit to never impose sanctions in the future for Iran to even consider restrictions on its nuclear project.
The Iranians’ arrogance led to Blinken sounding pessimistic at the end of the week.
“Iran doesn’t seem serious,” he said, in what could signal a dramatic change of approach on Iran. “If the path to a return to compliance with the agreement turns out to be a dead end, we will pursue other options.”
“Other options” is a deliberately vague term, intended to leave the door wide open to interpretation, possibly extending as far as a military threat. But it could also mean imposition of further sanctions, something Iran will clearly find unacceptable.
Danny Danon, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, tells Mishpacha that for his part, he wasn’t particularly surprised by Iran’s conduct.
“We are not at all surprised at the breakdown of talks in Vienna,” he said. “Iran has been deceitful in the past, and they are playing the same game now. After months of hard work and negotiations between the parties, Iran no longer accepts the agreed-upon compromises and is demanding outrageous walk-backs and changes. The diplomatic approach didn’t work at the beginning, and it is clearly breaking down now.
“There is a recognition that we are at a critical crossroads,” Danon continued. “Now is the time for the United States and other countries to adopt a new approach with the Iranian regime, in light of its dishonest and shameless conduct. They should speak to the Iranians in a way that they’ll understand, and apply more sanctions.”
Danon’s call for additional sanctions would fit neatly into Blinken’s threat to pursue “other options,” without banging the drums for war — perhaps a stark recognition that Israel can’t get too far in front of its powerful ally.
Dan Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, has been active and vocal in opposition to the JCPOA since 2015. During this time, he has met with numerous leaders and diplomats and tried to convince them that any agreement should include not only the nuclear aspect, but also Iran’s malign regional activities and human rights abuses. His comments to Mishpacha echoed some of Danon’s rhetoric.
“It comes as no surprise that Secretary Blinken has said the Iranians are not serious about a resumption of negotiations,” he told Mishpacha. “For years, Tehran has done nothing but signal it is dead set on moving ahead with its nuclear weapons program.
“The first order of turning to ‘other options’ should be to hold fast to sanctions already imposed on Iran and adding additional measures to pressure the regime,” he said. “It’s long past time for the international community to stop treating Iran as a credible negotiating partner and to begin calling it out for the dangerous, rogue outlier it is.”
Mariaschin, in other words, sees sanctions as only the first step in Blinken’s unspoken threat; and if those don’t work, stronger measures would clearly be needed to deal with a dangerous adversary.
Richard Goldberg, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, brings up another point: The US should leverage its influence in the UN to prod the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the watchdog over Iran’s nuclear activities, to act as well.
“The most important issue to take up at the IAEA is Iran’s failure to cooperate with a three-year probe into undeclared nuclear material, which constitutes a breach of Iran’s obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT],” he said. “The IAEA board should pass a formal resolution finding Iran in NPT non-compliance and refer the matter to the UN Security Council. This investigation goes to the heart of Iran’s nuclear deceit and reminds the world of the folly of any nuclear agreement absent a full accounting of Iran’s nuclear program.”
This full accounting is something to which Iran has been implacably resistant. It was in this context that Mossad chief Dadi Barnea and Defense Minister Benny Gantz embarked on a whirlwind visit to the US. The purpose is to expose the Americans to more intelligence about Iran’s intentions. But what’s the goal of the visit? After all, America isn’t going to take military action against Iran, so what are Barnea and Gantz hoping to achieve?
Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to Washington and former deputy foreign minister, told Mishpacha that Israel’s security chiefs are bringing an “unequivocal message” to Washington: “Any deal that enables Iran to achieve breakout capacity — the ability to produce a nuclear weapon in weeks or even days — poses a strategic threat to Israel, which has the right and duty to defend itself by all possible means.”
Like Oren, Danny Ayalon served as Israel’s ambassador to Washington and then as former deputy foreign minister. He told Mishpacha that we are in an “extremely sensitive time period,” and that in the upcoming week we will know the faith of the Vienna negotiations — whether the sides are headed for a crisis and the end of the negotiations, or for another attempt to save the 2015 deal.
“Israel should be reasonable and rely on previous experience,” he said. “We should have a detailed discussion with the Americans about the different scenarios ahead of us.”
In the past week, we also witnessed tension brewing between Jerusalem and Washington. Thus, on Thursday Israeli media reported that Bennett had a “tough” phone call with Blinken, in which he warned the secretary of state that the US should not trust the Iranians. And Mossad chief Dadi Barnea said publicly that he “will not let Iran acquire nuclear weapons.”
Ayalon believes that a public feud with the US will not benefit Israel. “We shouldn’t fight with the US publicly. Gantz and Barnea’s visit is an opportunity to act wisely, and to try and convince the administration behind closed doors.”
JNS noted our letter, together with 20 other major Jewish organizations, to the heads of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as the next U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
Some 21 Jewish organizations wrote to the heads of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday urging them to swiftly approve Deborah Lipstadt as the next anti-Semitism envoy.
“As Jewish organizations dedicated to protesting the rights and security of the Jewish people, we believe that the U.S. Special Envoy position is crucial to addressing the global rise in antisemitic violence, harassment, vandalism, attitudes and incitement,” the groups wrote in a letter to Foreign Relations chairman Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and ranking member James Risch (R-Idaho).
The letter adds: “Every day that we delay filling this critical position, we are endangering people’s lives. We cannot let antisemitism become a wedge issue in today’s polarized politics.”
The organizations signing the letter include American Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League, Central Conference of American Rabbis, B’nai B’rith International, Hadassah, J Street, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish War Veterans, Jewish Women International, National Council of Jewish Women, NCSEJ, ORT America, Rabbinical Assembly, Reconstructing Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Jewish Federations of North America, Union for Reform Judaism, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and World Jewish Congress.
It is the latest in a series of calls by American Jewish organizations urging the Senate to approve Lipstadt. Last week, the Orthodox Union, Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Federations of North America also sent a letter to the Senate urging her approval.
Republicans have raised concern over Lipstadt’s past tweets, including calling Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) statements white supremacy when he said during a radio interview that he was not concerned by the mostly white insurgents at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but would be concerned if former President Donald Trump had won the election and those rioting at the Capitol were Black Lives Matters protesters or members of Antifa. She has also been criticized for appearing in an ad last year where she likened Trump’s rhetoric to Nazi Germany.
The Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Lipstadt is a Holocaust historian and author known for defeating a libel lawsuit from British Holocaust-denier David Irving in the late 1990s. She was nominated for the envoy position by Biden in July. The position was created in 2004, but upgraded to the rank of ambassador in 2020, requiring the nominee to be confirmed by the Senate.
The Algemeiner and JNS included our statement prominently in coverage of American Jewish organizations calling for the swift confirmation of Deborah Lipstadt to serve as the next U.S. anti-Semitism envoy.
Several US Jewish groups have called for the swift confirmation of Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt to serve as the Biden administration’s antisemitism envoy, following reports of delays in her Senate hearing process.
A professor of Jewish history at Emory University in Atlanta, Lipstadt was appointed in Julyas the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. The post will hold the rank of ambassador for the first time due to bipartisan legislation passed in January, thus requiring Senate confirmation.
Jewish Insider reported Wednesday that Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were still in the process of reviewing past tweets by Lipstadt that were harshly critical of committee members, including charges of “white nationalism.”
On Friday, B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin called on the senators to lift any hold on Lipstadt’s confirmation.
“Her distinguished academic background, along with her active engagement in the fight against antisemitism, makes her eminently qualified for the post,” they said in a statement. “The special envoy position is vitally important to the fight against the dramatic rise in antisemitism globally in all of its manifestations.”
In a letter sent Thursday to Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID), the Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union, and the Anti-Defamation League called the hearing “overdue.”
“Even for those of our organizations that generally have a policy to neither endorse nor oppose nominees pending before the Senate for confirmation, we are compelled to urge you to hold the Committee’s hearing on Prof. Lipstadt’s nomination without further delay,” the groups said.
“The global Jewish community needs the United States to be a leader in the fight against antisemitism and we must not waste more time leaving our lead official in this fight off the field.”
Lipstadt was the founding director of its Institute for Jewish Studies, and has penned works on the American press during the Holocaust, the trial of Adolf Eichmann, and her own successful court battle against British Holocaust denier David Irving.
If confirmed, she would succeed former Los Angeles prosecutor Elan Carr, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2019.
The Times of Israel published B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin's op-ed on former Secretary of State Colin Powell's 2004 speech on anti-Semitism. Powell died on October 18, 2021.
One of the 21st century’s first important speeches on antisemitism by a world leader was given by then secretary of state Colin Powell, in April 2004.
The occasion was the second dedicated conference on antisemitism, organized in Berlin, by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a group of then-56 countries whose mission is to “work for security, peace and stability” for the billion people living in Europe, Eurasia and North America.
I served as an advisor to the United States delegation to the 2004 gathering, which was headed by former New York Mayor Ed Koch. The host was Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister; the conference was chaired by Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, who was the OSCE chairman-in-office, the title given to the foreign minister of the country that chairs the OSCE that year.
The Berlin Conference, as it became known, materialized only three years after the infamous UN Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, which turned into a week-long hate fest of antisemitism and anti-Zionism. The rhetoric which spewed forth at that meeting, including branding Israel an “apartheid state,” also led to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign which has incessantly sought, to this day, to demonize and delegitimize Israel and its supporters.
Powell had planned to speak at the Durban conference, but decided against attending when it appeared that it would spin out of control, which it did. In the interim, as the antisemitism pot began to boil globally, the OSCE, whose agenda includes human rights issues, announced its conference in Berlin, tying the focus on antisemitism to the place from which the worst crimes against the Jewish people originated. Said Powell in his opening remarks: “Berlin is a fitting backdrop for our meeting. The firestorm of antisemitic hatred that was the Holocaust was set here in Berlin.”
“Now, in the opening years of the 21st century,” Powell said, “we…have come to stamp out new fires of antisemitism within our societies, and to kindle lights of tolerance so that future generations will never know the unspeakable horrors that hatred can unleash.”
Powell decried the dramatic rise in antisemitism that was occurring within democratic nations, saying, “We must send the clear message far and wide that antisemitism is always wrong, and always dangerous.”
He stated that “we must not permit antisemitic crimes to be shoved off as inevitable side effects of inter-ethnic conflicts. Political disagreements do not justify physical assaults, against Jews in our streets, the destruction of Jewish schools, or the desecration of synagogues and cemeteries. There is no justification for antisemitism.”
And then, perhaps the most telling line in the speech: “It is not antisemitic to criticize the policies of the state of Israel. But the line is crossed when Israel or its leaders are demonized or vilified, for example by the use of Nazi symbols and racist caricatures.”
The “crossing the line” concept was groundbreaking. Hitherto, those who engaged in castigating Israel for racist policies had hidden behind the “legitimate criticism of Israel” fig leaf. Now, Powell had lifted a veil that would more easily reveal the antisemitism intentions of those who engaged in such rhetoric. The Berlin Declaration, issued at the conclusion of the conference basically incorporated the secretary’s very words: “…International developments or political issues, including those in Israel or in the rest of the Middle East, never justify antisemitism.”
Powell’s speech would help to pave the way for important advances in the fight against antisemitism. In 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a consortium of now-34 countries committed to programs of remembrance, research and education, adopted a “working definition of antisemitism.” It serves as an invaluable baseline for addressing classic antisemitic stereotyping and tropes, accusing Jews of collective guilt and dual loyalty, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, or accusations that Israel is a racist endeavor.
In recent years, the definition has attracted the endorsement of an increasing number of nation states, provinces, non-governmental organizations, universities, sporting associations and others. After hundreds of years with no frame of reference to define this ancient hydra of hatred, the IHRA document has been, and will continue to be, an essential tool in combating it.
Powell closed his speech with a prescriptive for the future: “It is especially important that we instill in our children values and behaviors that can avert such calamities….Tolerance, like hatred, is learned behavior passed from one generation to the next unless the new generation is educated differently. Let tolerance be our legacy. May future generations of schoolchildren read that in the early decades of the 21st century mankind finally consigned antisemitism to history, never to darken the world again.”
Seventeen years on, no truer, or more prescient words, were spoken. Powell’s words are more relevant—and more needed—today, perhaps—then they were in 2004. Driven by social media, by doctrinaire politics and by extremists from the left, right and the Islamic world, antisemitism is seemingly veering out of control.
It’s good today to recall Powell’s speech, with its incisive analysis and his instinctive understanding of how to confront the problem. His voice may have been stilled, but the message he left is as meaningful as ever.
John Legend Says Israel Needs to Be Held to a “Higher Standard”: “What They’re Doing to the Palestinian People Is Not Fair”
The Jewish Journal included our criticism of singer John Legend's anti-Israel, anti-Semitic remarks in its coverage of Legend's appearance of “The Mehdi Hasan Show" on MSNBC.
Singer John Legend called for Israel to be held to a “higher standard” in a September 20 appearance on MSNBC, arguing that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is “not fair,” The Algemeiner reported.
Mehdi Hasan, host of “The Mehdi Hasan Show,” pointed out that Legend had tweeted “Palestinian Lives Matter” in May during the Israel-Hamas conflict and asked Legend how he became an advocate for Palestinian rights. Legend responded that he learned “what justice meant” through reading the works of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and writer James Baldwin.
“When I see what’s happening in Palestine, to the Palestinian people, where they’re clearly not being able to experience [the] full rights that they deserve, it’s an extremely unfair and difficult life they’re forced to live,” Legend said. “I had to say something. It’s not fair, it’s not just, and given that Israel is the recipient of so much American aid and support and named as one of our strongest allies, we should hold them to a higher standard, and what they’re doing with the Palestinian people is not fair and it shouldn’t be done in our name and with our resources contributing to it.”
Some Jewish groups criticized Legend for his remark. Stop Antisemitism tweeted to Legend that “Egypt is the recipient of nearly the same amount of aid as Israel and controls Gaza’s southern border. Why are you speaking only of Israel and ignoring Egypt??”
They added in a follow-up tweet: “Why did @johnlegend make no mention of the 4500 terror rockets blast into Israel in 11 days from Gaza? Those rockets were also made ‘in your name’ and with your tax dollars. Again why is your grievance only with Israel?”
B’nai Brith International similarly tweeted that they were “disappointed” with Legend’s remarks.
“Legend falsely accuses #Israel of ‘unjust’ treatment of Palestinians, while failing to mention the Hamas terror threats Israelis face every day,” they wrote. “We urge Legend to apologize for his anti-Semitic remarks.”
On the other hand, Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, tweeted in support of Legend. They argued that he was “speaking out for Palestinian rights and the need for the US to finally hold Israel accountable.”
Hanan Ashrawi, former member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee, similarly tweeted that Legend’s comments took “courage, empathy, & moral clarity.”
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.
The Jerusalem Post quoted B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin concerning the fall of Afghanistan and the strategic, regional uncertainty that it has unleashed – particularly with regard to Iran, the Palestinians and the future of the Abraham Accords.
WASHINGTON — US Jewish organizations were following closely as the drama was unfolding. Even before Thursday’s terror attack, it was already clear that the Afghanistan withdrawal will overshadow the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. But the deadly attack near the Kabul airport made it clear that the administration’s attention is currently elsewhere, as the President and his close staff monitored the developments from the situation room, postponing the meeting to a later timing.
William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, told The Jerusalem Post that “as we watch the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the alliance and partnership between the United States and the State of Israel is more critical than ever.”
Speaking about the meeting, Daroff said that he expected the two new administrations “to make significant progress on issues of mutual and fundamental importance to all Americans and Israelis during Prime Minister Bennett’s first US trip to Washington since assuming office — the first opportunity for the two leaders to meet face-to-face during their many years in public service.”
“These priorities include sharing knowledge and resources to counter the COVID-19 virus and its variants, how best to deter Iranian aggression and hold its nuclear program accountable and in check, and defending and promoting Israel’s security, peace, and stability,” he said.
Dan Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International, told the Post that with the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and all of the strategic uncertainty that it has unleashed, “events would hopefully dictate a further closing of the ranks between Washington and Jerusalem on Iran and the Palestinian issue.”
“This is clearly no time for risk-taking with Iran, including sanctions relief, especially given the election of Ebrahim Raisi, Tehran’s ratcheting up enrichment and other aspects of its nuclear program, and its malign behavior throughout the region,” said Mariaschin.
“With regard to the Palestinian issue, the PA’s pay-for-slay program and its incessant efforts at the UN and elsewhere to demonize Israel suggests more business-as-usual in Ramallah,” he continued. “There should be no rush to proffer additional incentives to the PA —such as re-opening of the PLO office in Washington and certainly not re-opening of the consulate in Jerusalem — in the face of its zero-sum recalcitrance.”
“Finally, we hope that the success of the Abraham Accords will move the administration to proactively seek out, together with Israel, new partners for peace and cooperation in the region, to join those already committed to this camp,” Mariaschin said.
Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) CEO Halie Soifer released a statement on Thursday morning, saying that the meeting between President Biden and Prime Minister Bennett is the first meeting between a new US president and new Israeli Prime Minister in more than a decade. “It ushers in a new chapter for the United States and Israel, and reaffirms the strength of our historic and mutually beneficial bilateral relationship,” she said.
“President Biden entered office with a longer and stronger record of support for Israel than any of his predecessors, and has been steadfast in his support for Israel’s security and right to self-defense,” she said.
She went on to say that The United States and Israel “share a common goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. With the future of a renewed Iran nuclear agreement remaining, at best, uncertain, we welcome close collaboration between the US and Israel in ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Jeremy Ben Ami, President of the progressive group, J Street, said in a statement on Thursday that “while the US builds common ground with the new Israeli government in a number of areas, we also must make clear that the “status quo” is too dangerous to accept.”
“J Street is urging President Biden to make clear in [the] meeting that a strong, enduring, bipartisan US-Israel relationship demands fidelity to our shared values of democracy, peace and respect for human rights,” said Ben Ami. “That means pushing for an end to harmful settlement expansion; an end to discriminatory evictions in East Jerusalem and demolitions in the West Bank; an end to the policy of perpetual occupation; an end to the twin erosion of Israeli democracy and Palestinian hopes for self-determination,” he said in a statement.
The Algemeiner, Israel Hayom and the European Jewish Press noted our statement applauding the U.S. administration's nominee for U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, in its coverage of the nomination.
The Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt will be nominated as the Biden administration’s antisemitism envoy, the White House said Friday, in a choice praised by American Jewish groups.
A professor of Jewish history at Emory University in Atlanta, Lipstadt was the founding director of its Institute for Jewish Studies, and has penned works on the American press during the Holocaust, the trial of Adolf Eichmann, and her own successful court battle against British Holocaust denier David Irving.
For the first time, the State Department role of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism will hold the rank of ambassador, thus requiring Senate confirmation, thanks to bipartisan legislation passed in January.
“Having spent her career fighting antisemitism and Holocaust denial, Deborah Lipstadt will ensure the US remains a leader in combating antisemitism globally,” commented US Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV). “Her nomination has my full support, and I look forward to working alongside her in our shared mission of protecting Jewish communities and combating antisemitism across the globe.”
Leading US Jewish organizations also applauded the pick, with B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin calling her “eminently qualified” for the job.
“B’nai B’rith looks forward to working with Lipstadt as antisemitism has spiked exponentially in the United States and around the world, manifesting itself in many forms and variants, oftentimes fueled by social media,” they said in a statement. “It is vitally important that the US government, through the person of the special envoy, continue to assume a leadership position in the battle against this alarmingly growing challenge.”
Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s Executive Director for Public Policy, noted that the announcement “comes at a time we are witnessing a terrible surge in attacks and threats committed against the global Jewish community,” including violent assaults on individuals.
“While it’s unfortunate we need to have such a position at the State Department, Prof. Lipstadt is certainly the best person to fill this job,” he said.
American Jewish Committee (AJC) head David Harris called Liptstadt “one of this country’s, indeed the world’s, foremost experts on modern antisemitism, its constant morphing and multiple sources, and the current challenges to confronting it.”
Lipstadt would succeed former Los Angeles prosecutor Elan Carr, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2019.
She serves on the boards of the Jewish Forward Advisory Committee and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and has previously held several roles at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She is also a former member of the US Department of State’s Advisory Committee on Religious Persecution Abroad and was a Board Member of Hillel International.
The White House also announced on Friday its intended nominations for three other religious affairs roles, including Rashad Hussain as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, a choice praised by AJC for his “extensive engagement with the Muslim world” and his efforts to strengthen Muslim-Jewish relations.
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum will be tapped as Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Khizr Khan — a religious freedom advocate and Gold Star parent of US Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed while serving in Iraq — will be appointed Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
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
Major American Jewish Organizations Urge Biden to Send More COVID Vaccines to India Before Third Wave
The Algemeiner noted B'nai B'rith International as one of the major American Jewish organizations urging the U.S. administration (in a letter sent by the Conference of Presidents) to immediately provide surplus vaccine doses to India ahead of a third wave.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations transmitted an open letter to the White House on Tuesday calling on the Biden administration to immediately provide surplus vaccine doses to India.
The letter, sent to White House chief of staff Ron Klain and Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, was signed by 22 Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, Hadassah, and the Zionist Organization of America.
Citing the devastation India has recently experienced due to the “Delta variant” of COVID-19, the letter asserted, “As India emerges from this latest wave, there is a crucial window of time available. It is imperative that India be given the opportunity to vaccinate as much of its population as possible in order to avoid future and further catastrophe.”
The letter noted that the US has a stockpile of the Astra Zeneca vaccine that will likely not be distributed and could easily be transferred to India.
“We urge the administration to rapidly allocate an additional and greatly increased share of doses of COVID-19 vaccine to India,” the signatories said. “It is essential that the world’s largest democracy be provided the opportunity to stave off another disaster.”
“The Indian government came to the aid of the United States in its time of need during the first wave of Spring 2020 and has been a stalwart ally and friend,” the letter pointed out. “So too, the four million strong Indian expatriate community plays an integral role through United States society.”
“We believe that an enhanced US allocation of valuable COVID-19 vaccines to India would be an enormous boon to a democracy that has been ravaged by disease and is in danger of facing another wave,” it concluded.
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield as part of its reporting on Jewish organizations pushing the U.S. administration to swiftly appoint a White House Jewish liaison and nominate a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism at the State Department.
(June 22, 2021 / JNS) For months, Jewish organizations in the United States have been lobbying to appoint a White House Jewish liaison. And after numerous meetings between Jewish organizational leaders and administration officials when violence erupted last month between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip—followed by a wave of anti-Semitic attacks—that role and that of the State Department Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism have yet to be filled.
Most who spoke to JNS said that it was a matter of days or weeks before appointments are made, although they declined to speculate on particular nominees.
Jewish issues have gained a new urgency after first taking a back seat to other concerns—namely, the coronavirus pandemic and the distribution of vaccines in the five months since the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden.
Eric Fusfield, director of legislative affairs for B’nai B’rith International, said in addition to the Mideast conflict in May, concerns include the Iranian nuclear threat and ongoing discussions towards U.S. re-entry into a deal, Israel’s new leadership and, just this week, new Iranian leadership in the form of President-elect Ebrahim Raisi. American Jewish organizations want to make the White House aware of its opinions to make sure the U.S.-Israel relationship remains strong, as well as address how Jews are being treated in the United States.
“Our community is feeling some urgency right now about several things in particular, like combating anti-Semitism, because anti-Semitism in this country has taken a very disturbing turn lately, with more violence against Jewish individuals and institutions,” said Fusfield.
The liaison’s position, he said, serves as a focal point for Jewish organizations to contact the White House to make sure their message is heard by those who have the power to augment change.
While he said that every administration has a settling-in period where it works to nominate individuals for key positions, the six-month window is approaching, and the Jewish community is experiencing urgent needs.
“We need a mailing address for voicing our concerns, and the liaison fills that need for us,” he said. “We’re feeling a great deal of anxiety about certain issues right now, and having a conduit in the administration would help further communication and help us get our point across.”
Read the full article on JNS.org.
The Algemeiner included B'nai B'rith International's response to the U.S. administration's decision of continuing not to attend any events celebrating the 20th anniversary of the infamous Durban Declaration in its roundup of responses from Jewish and pro-Israel organizations.
Leading Jewish organizations welcomed the Biden administration’s decision to stick to the US policy of not attending any events to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration in September due to their “anti-Israel sentiment.”
A US State Department spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post Monday that the US would not take part in planned Durban anniversary events, saying that it “remains deeply committed to combating antisemitism at home and abroad. Furthermore, the United States stands with Israel and has always shared its concerns over the Durban process’s anti-Israel sentiment — used as a forum for antisemitism and freedom of expression issues.”
Commenting on the decision, B’nai B’rith International said it “salutes the US administration for taking a principled decision, like its predecessors, to deny legitimacy to a UN framework that purports to fight prejudice but is fundamentally marred by it.”
“The 2001 conference was poisoned by manifestations of virulent anti-Zionism and open antisemitism. We urge all countries of goodwill to do similarly — and we will continue to insist that all forms of hate, including those targeting Jews, not be given a platform by foremost international institutions,” B’nai B’rith stated.
The UN is scheduled to hold a special “Durban IV” event on Sept. 22 to mark the 20th anniversary of the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, from which the US and Israel previously withdrew over objections of anti-Zionism. Israel was singled out from the Durban conference declaration and was depicted as being racist and as committing “crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid” and “genocide” against the Palestinians.
“Kudos for rejecting hate. The 2001 Durban Conference was an orgy of hate so vile that the US and Israel pulled out in disgust,” Avi Mayer, Managing Director of Global Communications at the American Jewish Committee (AJC), tweeted in response to the US decision. “It was so bad that even the UN’s Mary Robinson, who chaired it, said there was ‘horrible antisemitism present.'”
New York, NY, May 5th, 2021 . . . Dianne Lob, Chair, William Daroff, CEO, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued the following statement:
“We applaud the Biden Administration’s decision to refuse to participate in commemorations of the 20th anniversary of the UN World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, which openly embraced antisemitism and anti-Israel extremism.
Michal Cotler-Wunsh, a former member of Knesset for Israel’s Blue and White Party, said: “Durban was the ecosystem for declared escalation in the war waged on Israel, weaponizing international law and it’s institutions. The orchestrated, systematic implementation of this strategy threatens not only Israel, but shared values and foundations of democracy and human rights.”
“In declining to participate in celebratory events, the United States is rightfully rejecting the despicable hatred that was leveled against the Jewish State and the Jewish people twenty years ago. We encourage other nations to join the US in continuing to fight racism, bigotry, and antisemitism, while rejecting and not participating in such odious proceedings,” said Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Chair Dianne Lob, CEO William Daroff, and Vice Chair Malcolm Hoenlein, in a statement.
Israel Hayom referenced former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman's first speech as ambassador in 2017, which he made at a ceremony hosted by B'nai B'rith International.
(January 26, 2021 / Israel Hayom) One winter morning in 2017, a young man arrived at the Kesher Israel synagogue in the heart of Washington. He prayed fervently, as if his heart was filled with a special request. His tallit bag bore the name “Friedman,” and it was the only time he had come to the famous synagogue. That same day, his father, David M. Friedman, was undergoing Senate confirmation for his appointment as U.S. ambassador to Israel.
In the best tradition of Jewish divisiveness, powerful forces were aligned against Friedman Sr., led by the J Street lobby. But a few weeks later, in a ceremony organized by B’nai B’rith International, Friedman made his first speech as ambassador.
“If you were wondering about my middle name, Melech, it’s not because my parents expected great things of me, but because my grandmother was named Malka [the feminine version of the name],” he began, causing the audience to double over with laughter.
His son’s prayers were answered—not only was the appointment approved, but David Melech Friedman became the most influential U.S. ambassador in the history of U.S.-Israeli relations. And not only through the steps known to everyone—stamping down Iran, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli and shaping the Trump peace plan—but also through endless moves that never made headlines in the dramatic Trump era. For example visits to the Golan Heights, to Ariel in Samaria and the City of David in Jerusalem—all of which would have been inconceivable prior to Freidman’s arrival.
For decades, the American consulate on Jerusalem’s Agron Street served as a conduit through which the Palestinian Authority would spread its lies and incitement into Washington. Friedman shut down the consulate and turned it into the official residence of the American ambassador in Jerusalem.
After four intense years, Friedman sat down with Israel Hayom for an “exit interview.”
Q: Now that this journey is coming to an end, what are your feelings? Your thoughts?
A: I haven’t looked backwards yet, but it’s starting to sink in, especially after being at the Knesset and being with the Cabinet [last week] and people saying nice things about me. It’s been the honor of my life, and I wish I could keep this job forever. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished, I feel good about the last four years. It’s not just me, it includes the entire team both in Washington [and here,] from the president on down.
Read the rest of Ambassador Friedman's interview in JNS here.
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.”
The Algemeiner included our tweet in its roundup of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations' statements in honor of Joe Biden being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States.
US Jewish and pro-Israel organizations enthusiastically saluted Joe Biden on Wednesday as the Democratic leader was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States.
The statements and good wishes acknowledged that during a political career that has spanned almost half-a-century, Biden became a well-known and respected figure among American Jewish leaders and community groups. He first visited the State of Israel in 1973, just prior to the Yom Kippur war in October of that year.
Biden’s lengthy relationship with the Jewish community was highlighted by World Jewish Congress (WJC) president Ronald Lauder, in a statement congratulating both the new President and Vice-President Kamala Harris on Inauguration Day.
“I have known President Biden for over 50 years and know that the Jewish community could not have a better friend and ally in the White House,” Lauder said.
Lauder recalled that when the WJC gave Biden its highest honor in 2016 — the Theodor Herzl Award — he had said in his acceptance speech: “Indifference is silence, and silence is consent.”
Said Lauder: “I know that he will continue to stand by those words as he takes the helm of this country and steers us toward a future of equality, standing up and speaking out for what is fair and what is right.”
As Kamala Harris made history as the first woman and the first person of color to hold the vice-president’s office, Hadassah — the Women’s Zionist Organization of America — hailed the new administration as it took office.
“It is with great pride and full hearts that today America has a woman in the White House, serving the American people in the second highest office in the land,” Hadassah declared in a statement.
“We look forward to working with the Biden Administration on a wide range of issues of importance to Hadassah’s nearly 300,000 members, including enhancing the US-Israel relationship, combating antisemitism at home and abroad, and strengthening women’s rights and women’s health,” the group said.
The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) noted that Biden had taken office at a time of “grave circumstances now confronting the United States, the world’s greatest bastion of freedom.”
The SWC’s dean, Rabbi Marvin Hier, cited the Biblical prophet Isaiah in a prayer for the new administration.
“May the day come soon when… justice will dwell in the wilderness and righteousness return to the fertile fields. And may the work of righteousness bring… peace… quietness, and confidence forever,” Hier quoted. “May G-d bless our President-Elect, Joseph Biden, and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and may G-d bless all the members of the United States Senate and Congress. ”
Christians United for Israel (CUFI) founder Pastor John Hagee separately offered his prayers for the new president and his deputy.
“After a difficult and challenging year, I pray the Lord blesses President Biden, Vice President Harris and their administration with the wisdom of Solomon as they lead our nation and the world,” said Hagee in a statement, invoking the Biblical king of Israel who built the original Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
“Christians United for Israel looks forward to working with the new administration, as we continue to strengthen the US-Israel relationship and keep these two nations safe and secure,” Hagee said.
Other US Jewish groups took to social media to congratulate President Biden and his incoming team.
JTA included our statement in its coverage of the storming of the United States Capitol by rioters.
(JTA) — AIPAC hardly ever pronounces on any issue that does not relate to Israel. It’s also loath to criticize a sitting president.
But the preeminent pro-Israel lobby did both on Wednesday after rioters supporting President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop the count of electoral votes that would formalize Joe Biden’s win.
“We share the anger of our fellow Americans over the attack at the Capitol and condemn the assault on our democratic values and process,” AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said in a statement posted to Twitter Wednesday evening. “This violence, and President Trump’s incitement of it, is outrageous and must end.”
The statement, crafted during an emergency meeting of the lobby’s executive committee, was among a host of extraordinary comments on American democracy by Jewish groups, many of which typically steer clear of partisan politics.
AIPAC was not the only mainstream Jewish organization to speak out on an extraordinary day that resulted in what once was unthinkable: police spiriting into safe havens hundreds of lawmakers while marauders roamed and looted the Capitol. Its statement, crafted during an emergency meeting of the lobby’s executive committee, also was far from the only one to criticize Trump explicitly.
Trump invited protesters to Washington, D.C., and earlier Wednesday urged them to march on the Capitol. As the situation grew tense, he simultaneously urged his supporters to disband and told them that he “loved them.”
The Anti-Defamation League also named Trump. “The violence at the US Capitol is the result of disinformation from our highest office,” it said in a tweet. “Extremists are among the rioters in DC supporting President Trump’s reckless rhetoric on America’s democratic institutions.” ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called on social media to suspend Trump’s accounts; a number of platforms eventually heeded those calls.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish public policy bodies, also named Trump. “This was a direct assault on our democratic process, and nothing less than an attempt to disrupt the peaceful transition of power in a presidential election and an act of sedition,” it said in a statement. “We urge in the strongest possible terms that President Trump and others immediately cease incendiary rhetoric and restore order.”
Two legacy groups were cautious and condemned the violence while not directly blaming Trump. The American Jewish Committee called on Trump “to call for an immediate end to the riots and respect the certification process currently underway,” without noting that Trump started the fire, as many others had — including some leading Republicans.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the umbrella foreign policy group for the Jewish community, did not name Trump at all, although its statement was forceful. “We are disgusted by the violence at the US Capitol and urge the rioters to disperse immediately,” it said in a statement. ”Law and order must be restored, and the peaceful transition of administrations must continue.”
B’nai B’rith International “strongly urged” Trump “to publicly condemn the rioters.” “Though it’s horrifying to see the U.S. Capitol under siege, the seeds for this have been planted and nurtured for many years,” the statement said.
Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, called the attack on the Capitol a “brutal onslaught on our nation’s integrity and historical traditions.”
The Orthodox Union weighed in at first by endorsing the Presidents’ Conference statement, but on Thursday morning issued a statement pointedly aimed at Trump and with a tone of relief at the prospect of Trump’s term ending and a new administration incoming.
“We are deeply saddened and shaken by yesterday’s violent events at the U.S. Capitol that have badly upset our sense of peace and security,” the statement said. “There is no place for the kind of outrageous incitement that fed that assault on the pillars of our democracy. It must stop. We call upon President Trump to do all that is in his power – and it is indeed in his power – to restore that peace.”
It concluded: “We pray to the Almighty that He grant strength and wisdom to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect [Kamala] Harris as they lead this great country forward in unity, peace, and security.”
Agudath Israel of America posted on Twitter a statement by its longtime Washington director, Rabbi Abba Cohen.
“The U.S. Capitol is more than a majestic building,” Cohen said. “It is the true house of the people and the home of democracy. It is the hope of the nation. You feel it when entering its doors and walking its halls. Today, it was a place of shameful violence and tyranny. Stop or we are lost.”
The Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly called on Trump “to defend and uphold the constitution of the United States,” but did not blame him for what it called an “attack on democracy and its institutions.”
The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center was less shy, saying, “The fact that today’s events were encouraged by the President of the United States who has refused to accept his electoral loss is equally terrifying and heartbreaking.”
Liberal groups like the RAC have throughout Trump’s presidency had an adversarial relationship with him, criticizing both his policies, including his anti-immigration policies, and his expressions of bigotry.
It was no different on Wednesday. “Earlier today, an armed seditious mob stormed the Capitol at President Trump’s behest, with the aim of preventing elected Members of Congress from certifying the presidential vote in the Electoral College,” said the Israel Policy Forum, a two-state advocacy group. (A staffer describes his experience during the tumult here.) “We unreservedly and wholly condemn this.”
J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, said, “The president repeatedly incited far-right thugs to subvert our democracy, and now they’re trying to do just that.”
“I’m heartbroken for our country,” National Council of Jewish Women CEO Sheila Katz said on Twitter. Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization, alluded to Trump, saying that “The criminal behavior and events of this afternoon are abhorrent, as are attempts to disrupt democracy with incitement to violence. As Jews, we know the power of words and demand our elected leaders raise the level of discourse and lead with civility.”
Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, a group known for its support for Trump’s Israel policies, said on Twitter that the marauding in the Capitol was “thoroughly unacceptable & intolerable” but went on to cite an unsubstantiated report that an FBI agent reported a claim that a busload of the marauders belonged to Antifa, a catchall term for leftist protesters.
That allegation was circulating widely among Orthodox supporters of the president on Wednesday night, many of whom decried the violence in D.C. but not the pro-Trump movement that led the mob to convene.
The Republican Jewish Coalition’ on Thursday morning congratulated Biden on winning the election, and in its statement included a plea for a peaceful transition to power.
“After the abhorrent mob attack yesterday on our Capitol, our elected officials went back to work, fulfilled their duty under our Constitution, and certified the results of the 2020 election,” the RJC said. “Now is the time for the same peaceful transition of power that the U.S. has carried out for over 220 years,” the RJC said. “It is also time for healing and unity in our country, because we face many serious and significant challenges.”
The statement made no mention of Trump. The congratulations to Biden were late: His race was called on Nov. 7, but a number of groups allied with his outlook, among them Jewish groups, hesitated to congratulate Biden at the time, seemingly mindful of Trump’s refusal to accept the election’s outcome.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America was scathing, calling for Trump’s removal from power. “President Trump has abused his power, endangered American lives, and undermined our democratic institutions,” it said.
“Today, he intentionally jeopardized security at the Capitol to further his depraved autocratic agenda, risking the lives of the Vice President and Republican and Democratic lawmakers,” the JDCA said. “Donald Trump was impeached by Congress for abuse of power one year ago, and today he should be immediately removed from office for sedition, insurrection, and abuse of power.”
The Jerusalem Post covered our joint virtual conference with the Jerusalem Institute for Security and Strategy (JISS) on the future of U.S.-Israeli relations.
The incoming Biden administration may waste sanctions leverage the US has against Iran simply because of an emotional reaction to undo everything the Trump administration did, former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror said Monday.
Speaking at a virtual conference sponsored by B’nai B’rith International and the Jerusalem Institute for Security and Strategy, he said President-elect Joe Biden will enter office with a major advantage.
The Trump administration has used a “maximum pressure” campaign dating back to May 2018, which has heavily pressed the Islamic Republic to make compromises regarding its nuclear program and terrorism activities, even if Iran has not caved until now, he said.
“It would be a huge mistake not to use this leverage made by the previous administration, only because it was built by the Trump administration,” Amidror said.
There appears to be a feeling among many Biden supporters that anything Trump did needs to be torn down, similarly to how Trump wanted to tear down all of Obamacare regardless of wide support for aspects of the law, he said.
“With the new administration, we might have another problem,” he added. “It is the symbol of destroying the legacy of Trump and going back to president [Barack] Obama’s legacy.”
“The Iranians built their policy on the assumption that, after four years, Obama’s people will come back, and they can go back to stage one and have the bad agreement, which for them was very good,” Amidror said. “If this administration will make it clear when coming in that it will not go back to square one – that when he [Biden] spoke about a new and stronger agreement, he meant it – they [Iran] will have to reconsider their whole policy. This might succeed.”
“If, on the contrary, the next administration will [remove] the sanctions and say, ‘Let’s go back to the old agreement, and then we will negotiate a new one, taking care of all of the loopholes of the old agreement’… there is no chance,” he said.
Amidror suggested a 50-year deal would be needed to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The 2015 nuclear deal’s 10- to 15-year limit was far too short in the history of nation-states, he said.
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith International in its coverage of the U.S. government's request that the United Nations trigger snapback sanctions on Iran over its escalated nuclear activity.
(August 20, 2020 / JNS) Jewish and Israel-related groups immediately reacted to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement on Thursday that the United States has requested the United Nations enact its snapback sanctions on Iran.
The snapback mechanism is included under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the United States withdrew from in May 2018, reimposing sanctions lifted under it and enacting new penalties against the regime.
Enacting snapback sanctions would include extending the arms embargo indefinitely on the regime, following the Aug. 14 rejection by the U.N. Security Council of the U.S.-led resolution to extend the arms embargo on Iran.
In accordance with the 2015 agreement, the United States had to inform the Security Council a month earlier if it intends to enact snapback.
“Our message is very, very simple: The United States will never allow the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism to freely buy and sell planes, tanks, missiles and other kinds of conventional weapons,” Pompeo told reporters at the United Nations.
“I’m pleased to say, too, that these restored sanctions will also reimpose accountability for other forms of Iranian malign activity that the authors of the nuclear deal foolishly downplayed,” added Pompeo. “Iran will be again prohibited from ballistic missile testing. Iran will be back under sanctions for ongoing nuclear activities, such as the enrichment of nuclear material, that could be applied to a nuclear weapons program.”
Senior Israeli officials applauded the United States for activating snapback.
“I commend the United States for its decision to trigger snapback sanctions against Iran,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement. “This is the right decision.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan said “reimposing the U.N. sanctions on Iran is a critical step to curbing Iranian aggression, which threatens the entire world. The Security Council should not allow the world’s largest terror regime to obtain and trade lethal weapons and ballistic missiles freely. Nor should it pave the way for Iran to fulfill its nuclear ambitions.”
He said that “now is the time for the international community to act decisively and impose crippling sanctions on Iran—not to reward its malicious aspirations.”
Organizations, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, applauded the move, while J Street expressed objections.
“The U.N. Security Council’s refusal to extend the arms embargo on the world’s leading state sponsor of terror leaves the United States with no choice to retain the embargo other than to ‘snapback’ U.N. sanctions on Iran,” said AIPAC in a statement.
“We support this action, which comes in the wake of repeated Iranian violations of its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as well as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), including Iran’s denying International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors’ access to suspicious sites,” said AIPAC. “Our objectives must remain to ensure that Iran can never obtain a nuclear weapon, to prevent the regime from further destabilizing the Middle East, and to support regional allies confronting Iranian aggression.”
“We commend the U.S. government for its steps to trigger the snapback of United Nations sanctions on Iran over its impermissible & escalated nuclear activity. @UN must swiftly implement this snapback to deter conduct that poses an unparalleled threat to global peace & security,” tweeted B’nai B’rith International.
The Republican Jewish Coalition said in a statement, “The U.N. has confirmed that Iran is violating every provision of the JCPOA. While the Obama-Biden deal with Iran was always a calamity that gave Iran everything it wanted, secured none of the protections we needed, and made the world less safe, this provision will help to fight back against Iran’s malign activities.”
In a statement, United Against Nuclear Iran said “U.S. leadership is forcing the U.N. to fulfill its duty of maintaining international peace and security. By triggering the snapback provision, the interests of the U.S. and its allies will be greatly enhanced.”
However, in a statement, J Street called the U.S. move as “reckless” and warned that this “would not only significantly escalate the current crisis and further isolate the United States, but make it even more difficult for a new American administration to restore the JCPOA and the prospects for further diplomacy.”
The group added that “it’s incredibly damning that the Trump administration continues to act in this belligerent, hypocritical and ultimately ineffective fashion on the world stage.”
‘It’ll be a test for the Europeans’
Ilan Berman, senior vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, told JNS that the Trump administration’s decision to activate snapback “shouldn’t come as a surprise.”
“The White House had previously attempted a more measured, incremental approach, lobbying for the extension of the U.N. embargo on arms sales to Iran,” he said. “But the failure of that effort has forced the U.S. to take more significant steps in order to ensure that international restrictions on Iran don’t loosen further, making it an even greater threat to international security.”
Richard Goldberg, the former director for countering Iran’s weapons of mass destruction at the White House National Security Council, told JNS that enacting snapback “reflects the overwhelming bipartisan American commitment to extending the international arms embargo on Iran so that the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism cannot import advanced weapons from China and Russia.”
“Anyone who is against snapback is for Chinese and Russian arms sales to Iran to threaten America, Israel and other U.S. allies,” said Goldberg, now a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“If the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018 was the administration tossing out the dangerously flawed nuclear agreement, then today’s move at the U.N. effectively shreds what was left so that it cannot be put together again,” Matthew Brodsky, a senior fellow at Gold Institute for International Strategy, told JNS. “The original sin of the nuclear deal was Obama’s acquiescence in Iran having a so-called right to enrich uranium on its own soil.”
John Sitilides, a geopolitical strategist at Trilogy Advisors LLC, told JNS that snapback “is a logical extension of current White House policy to exert maximum pressure on Iran for continued non-compliance and outright violations of the nuclear agreement, such as denying international inspectors access to suspected undeclared nuclear sites and hiding undeclared nuclear material."
The president has “always criticized the agreement for excluding Iran’s continued sponsorship of regional and international terrorism and its ongoing regional destabilizing actions,” he said.
On the other hand, Barbara Slavin, who leads the Atlantic Council’s Future Iran Initiative, told JNS that enacting snapback was “a sad day for the United States and the United Nations,” claiming that since the United States has withdrawn from the 2015 nuclear accord, it had “no right to invoke snapback.”
But Danielle Pletka, a senior fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told JNS that “the administration’s actions are well-founded legally and substantively. It’ll be a test for the Europeans to see whether they place politics over international law.”
While countries such as Russia have said that the United States has no right to enact snapback since it withdrew from the deal, the United States has argued that under U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 deal and lifted six Security Council resolutions sanctioning Iran, Washington has the right to enact snapback.
Slavin acknowledged that “it is likely that the U.N. Security Council will also fail to validate it, using a variety of procedural mechanisms.”
A resolution could keep the deal—and thus U.N. sanctions relief for Iran—in place. However, it could be vetoed by a permanent member such as the United States.
“If the Trump administration truly cared about improving upon the JCPOA, it would not have quit the deal while Iran was in compliance but would have sought follow-on talks with Iran and the other parties,” said Slavin. “My hope is that the Iranians will wait until Nov. 3 before deciding on any further retaliatory steps,” a reference to the U.S. presidential election.
The Democratic presidential nominee, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, has said that the United States would return to the 2015 nuclear deal if and when Iran returns to compliance.
With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slated to address Congress this week on the ramifications of a nuclear agreement with Iran, the political ramifications of the address have taken center stage.
B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin was the lead quote in an article that appeared in The New York Jewish Week, saying that he did not anticipate the address creating long-term friction between the United States and Israel.
Read an excerpt from his reasoning, below:
With Israel now a wedge issue, observers split on fallout as Netanyahu’s Congress speech looms.
The top professional of a major Jewish organization has expressed confidence that the rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have no impact on U.S.-Israel relations.
“Our common values will keep us working together,” said Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International. “I don’t see this — even in the near term — as a sustained partisan issue because nothing has really changed. Iran is an issue that has ramifications for Israel, the U.S. and Europeans and it is a legitimate topic for discussion.”
Five years ago, B'nai B'rith International commemorated the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, in part, by urging the United States government to help support the Auschwitz Memorial that had fallen critically short of funding.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum serves as a tribute to the lives lost at the most notorious of Nazi concentration camps, and also serves as a crucial reminder of the danger of hatred and intolerance to future generations.
B'nai B'rith asked President Barack Obama and the Senate Appropriations Committee to consider a $5 million budget item that could be designated to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation Perpetual Fund to help restore and maintain the memorial facilities.
Highlights of the statement can be read below:
The 2010 budget, released that July, reflected that the United States government was listening.
Rather than the $5 million B'nai B'rith International requested, the United States devoted $15 million to the fund:
B'nai B'rith International live tweeted U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, responding to items of particular interest to the organization's policy advocacy.
Read a recap of the tweets, below:
B'nai B'rith International joined a group of 20 international Jewish organizations that signed a letter addressed to President Obama, calling for a holistic solution to the U.S. border crisis “that prioritizes safety and opportunity.”
The story was covered by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and The Forward
According to recent figures by HIAS, more than 50,000 unaccompanied children have crossed into the United States along its southern border in the past nine months and another 80,000 to 90,000 are expected by the end of the current fiscal year.
Read highlights from the JTA article below:
The statement released Tuesday, which was written by the refugee resettlement agency HIAS, calls on the government to “welcome the stranger” in dealing with those entering the United States through Mexico from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
“The safety and well-being of these migrants – and particularly the unaccompanied children – must be at the heart of every policy decision made in response to this humanitarian crisis,” according to the statement, which was signed by such groups as the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International and the Jewish Federations of North America.
In the statement, the Jewish organizations call for a long term, holistic solution “that prioritizes safety and opportunity.” They call for increased border enforcement in connection with measures to ensure that those in danger of persecution in their homeland can seek asylum in the United States.
The Jewish groups also are calling for increased funding for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Policy.
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