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.”
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.
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