B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International is appalled by comments made by Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, on his personal blog where he endorsed conspiracy theories charging the United States with orchestrating the 9/11 attacks and charged the U.S. government and media with covering it all up.
His preposterous endorsements of these fallacious statements have also been rightly decried by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan E. Rice, who recently made a statement calling Falk’s comments “despicable and deeply offensive,” and deplored his notoriously “one-sided and politicized approach” to Israel in the context of his position at the United Nations.
Falk’s latest comments follow a pattern of outrageous statements, including blatant disregard for the violent actions perpetrated by the terror group Hamas against Israel. Falk’s biased role, and his exploitation of it to malign and delegitimize Israel, are a tragic but fitting reflection of the record of the Human Rights Council.
B’nai B’rith applauds Rice for her condemnation of Falk, and joins in calling for his immediate ouster from any position of influence at United Nations.
In his State of the Union address on Jan. 25, President Obama called attention to some issues vital to B’nai B’rith International’s agenda. B’nai B’rith was encouraged that the president focused on safeguarding Social Security and alternative fuel ideas.
The president also indicated he will concentrate on fighting terror, immigration reform and protecting the much- needed health care reform law in place since March—other issues B’nai B’rith deals with on a regular basis.
B’nai B’rith is reassured that the president rejected cuts and privatization of Social Security and only hopes that he will continue to hold everyone accountable for an honest assessment of the impact of any proposal on future benefits and on the well-being of the poor, the disabled and the elderly.
"Yes, we need to reduce the deficit," B'nai B'rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. "But not at the expense of those who need government help the most. Solvency for Social Security at the expense of useful benefits makes no sense. The benefits to seniors are modest in the big picture, but a lifeline for too many individuals, and we must continue to provide benefits at fair levels. An across-the-board domestic spending freeze could have devastating results for many of our most vulnerable citizens."
B’nai B’rith supports the president’s call for investment in alternative energy. The nation’s current dependence on foreign oil undermines our security and often forces the United States to deal with countries that may not share our commitment to democracy and freedom. A revamped energy policy could help the United States achieve more energy independence.
“In calling attention to sanctions against Iran in response to its nuclear program, the president demonstrated how serious a threat Iran is globally,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It was also encouraging the president saluted the elections in Sudan. We have long advocated for free and fair elections in Sudan, and it was encouraging to see how the United States supports this.”
B’nai B’rith supports comprehensive immigration reform and welcomed the president’s renewed commitment to reforms that would allow the children of illegal immigrants to stay in this country, while also protecting our borders.
B’nai B’rith concurs with the president’s calls for more civility in public discourse. A robust democracy depends on free and open discussion. But respectful conversation can move debates forward in meaningful ways.
Recognizing that the address is presented as a broad outline of the president’s priorities, B’nai B’rith will analyze the details as they emerge and work to ensure action on our key priorities.
B'nai B'rith Endorses Findings of Turkel Commission: Israel Acted Legally in Responding to Gaza Flotilla Incident
B’nai B’rith International commends Israeli commission findings, released Jan. 23, that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) acted legally in its response to the May 31, 2010 flotilla incident, when six so-called humanitarian vessels attempted to break through an Israeli blockade preventing access to Hamas-controlled Gaza. The report affirms Israel’s right to defend itself, and that its actions in the flotilla incident are in agreement with international laws and practices.
Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel led the commission of Israeli members Shabtai Rosenne, international law expert (who died during deliberations); Amos Horev, former president of Technion and military expert; Miguel Deutch, a Tel Aviv University law professor; and Reuven Merhav, former Foreign Ministry director-general and including international observers Nobel Peace laureate David Trimble of Northern Ireland and Kenneth Watkin, a former judge advocate general from Canada. The report concluded that IDF forces had acted “professionally and in a measured manner in the face of extensive and unanticipated violence.”
The report went on to affirm the legality of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, instituted in response to the actions of the terrorist group Hamas, and its increasing control over the region and rocket attacks against Israel. The blockade does allow importation of humanitarian supplies and materials vital to the area’s residents, and Israel offered to receive the goods from the ships at a safe port, and then truck them into Gaza.
“The report affirms Israel acted within established international rights. Israel has the right to defend itself against the smuggling of rockets and other weapons, and the IDF has the right to defend its personnel who face violent resistance” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said.
The report was based on interviews with Israeli soldiers and top Israeli officials including the prime minister and was aided by studying hours of video footage taken by both the military and by the vessels’ passengers. B’nai B’rith supports the findings of the commission’s report, and praises Israel’s ability to investigate itself in a thorough and serious way.
“The independent research and results of the Turkel Commission proves Israel’s commitment to abiding by International laws and practices,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The hostile purpose of the flotilla cannot be denied. The Israel Defense Forces responded legally and professionally within the bounds of uncalled-for violent anti-Israel incitement.”
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement after Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said that citizens who don’t accept Jesus as their savior are “not my brothers and sisters:”
The governor’s comments, during his first public remarks after his inaugural address on Jan. 17, demonstrate a shocking lack of sensitivity for someone in his position.
In an apology on Jan. 19, following a meeting with members of the local Jewish community, the governor said he meant no harm and that a person’s color or religion are not reasons to hate.
Bentley’s original comments had suggested a troubling question: How could he represent all the diverse citizens of Alabama if in one of his first acts as governor, he discounted non-Christian constituents? What kind of representation will minority religions have in a state lead by someone with these views?
It is encouraging that his apology noted that he will be the governor of all Alabamans. Now the governor will have to demonstrate in word and action that he stands by the sentiments expressed in his apology.
Memphis Rep. Steve Cohen's Nazi References on House Floor Unacceptable: Congressman Compares Republicans to Nazis During Health Care Debate
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
Rep. Steve Cohen’s (D-TN) use of Nazi imagery on the floor of the House of Representatives to describe Republican health care repeal efforts is an example of the polarizing rhetoric the president spoke about just days ago, and has no place in any debate in the halls of government.
This is not, unfortunately, the first time Nazi and Holocaust imagery has been invoked in public discourse. No matter what the political issue is, injecting Nazis, the leader of the Nazi propaganda machine, Joseph Goebbels, and making comparisons to the Holocaust are never acceptable.
No reasonable comparison can ever be made to the genocide that destroyed six million Jews in the Holocaust. Using such imagery undermines a very specific, horrific event in modern history.
During the House debate, Cohen said of the Republicans: “They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels." He added, "You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel.” He also added: “The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it, believed it and you have the Holocaust. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care. Politifact said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover," he said.
The tough issues of the day deserve thoughtful and serious debate. Attempting to link opponents of one’s view to the worst evil man has known is neither productive nor prudent. We hope all members of Congress will view this incident as a learning experience.
B’nai B’rith sent a letter to Cohen expressing concerns in this matter.
Health Care Reform Law Vital for Millions - B’nai B’rith International Urges Congress to Keep Already-Passed Health Care Reform Measures
B’nai B’rith International continues to strongly support health care reform legislation signed into law last March because of its critical protections for older adults, and the expansion of coverage it offers to previously underinsured and uninsured Americans.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act made necessary and long overdue improvements to the insurance system while also providing incentives to the private sector that help us achieve our goals of healthy aging. With a longtime commitment to seniors’ issues, B’nai B’rith considers lifetime access to good health care imperative to ensuring a healthy aging population.
“Access to affordable, quality health care should be a right, not a privilege, and the new law recognizes that,” B’nai B’rith President Dennis W. Glick said. “Passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, this measure catches people who were falling through the cracks.”
The passage of health care reform last year gave millions of Americans an opportunity to enter a system that for many was previously out of reach.
The law includes such improvements to the system as: free preventive care for Medicare patients (the disabled and people over 65); better coordinated care in Medicare designed to facilitate better health outcomes; relieving the burden of the "donut hole" in Medicare prescription drug coverage that had many seniors paying exorbitant fees for prescriptions; making continued health care coverage possible for more early retirees; ending the outrageous discrimination against older uninsured adults in the private market, and completely ending the discrimination against women of all ages; and expanding Medicaid eligibility for low-income adults to make sure gaps in employment don't lead to gaps in health care, which can have lifetime repercussions.
“The health care reform law was greatly necessary when it passed last year, and the need is still great now,” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said. “We urge Congress to reconsider any moves to dismantle the measure that finally levels the playing field for so many Americans, especially seniors, in need.”
Rather than working to reverse legislation that makes important improvements, we should focus on implementation and making further enhancements wherever possible.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement on the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Spain:
On Jan. 17, 1986, Spain recognized Israel for the first time, marking a hopeful new chapter in a long and turbulent history between Spain and Jews.
While there is an active and growing Jewish community in Spain, the Israel-Spanish diplomatic relationship has proven increasingly troubling. But there have also been some positive developments.
The Spanish government has vehemently denied reports that it sponsored a new ad running on Palestinian TV calling for a boycott of Israeli products. Despite the fact that at the end the message indicates it was sponsored by the Spanish government, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, the Spanish foreign minister said Spain absolutely did not sponsor the ad and disagrees with its message: “The substance of the advertisement is in frontal opposition to the government’s opposition to any boycott of Israeli goods, much less a blanket boycott like the one insinuated in the video,” he told the Post. He also said the Spanish government is absolutely not behind the ad and they were the victims of a “hoax.”
We welcome this clarification and prompt response by Spanish officials.
This could be seen as a positive step in light of unfavorable Spanish attitudes toward Jews.
The Pew Research Center’s 2008 Global Attitudes Project presents a disturbing look at attitudes in Spain. According to the results, 46 percent of Spain’s residents held an unfavorable view of Jews, more than double the rate from Pew’s 2005 study.
If there is to be any hope of regaining the positive traction started 25 years ago, these two developments should be viewed as an opportunity to recognize critical problems in the relationship, and to determine solutions for them. One move in that regard was the 2007 creation of Casa Sefarad-Israel, which is a Madrid-based educational facility to teach the public about Jewish culture and explain how the Sephardic culture is intertwined with Spanish culture. The program also aims to promote ties between Spain and Israel.
B’nai B’rith has had a branch in Spain since 1979.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International strongly endorses President Obama’s message of unity delivered Jan. 12 at a program honoring those killed and wounded, and commending those who helped save lives, during the Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz. that left six dead and 13 wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head while greeting constituents.
We welcome the message that people should work toward common goals and values, “in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”
Of course in our democracy, it is important that different opinions can be expressed freely and without fear. But that can be done in an atmosphere free of hostility and, as the president said, pettiness and finger pointing.
We hope the president’s message was heard, and taken to heart, by all Americans.
Diversity: The ‘Write Stuff’ in The Spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Challenge Returns to Memphis
Memphis high school students are once again invited to help younger kids understand and celebrate tolerance and diversity through a book writing contest that could earn winners up to $5,000 in scholarship money.
The B’nai B’rith International Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge charges teens with writing and illustrating children’s books that explain diversity and tolerance to elementary school-aged children. The first-place winner will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and will have his/her book professionally published. Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Memphis in May.
Last year’s winning entry, “Charlie’s Book,” can be found at each public library and elementary school in Shelby County.
This marks the fifth year for the contest and the second year it is offered in Memphis.
Memphis winners in the 2010 contest were:
1st: Charlie’s Book, written by Rachel E. Green, illustrated by Irene Makapugay
2nd: Luke and His Stripes, written and illustrated by Eric Ruleman and Brett Wagner
3rd: Amelia Ladybug Learns a Lesson, written and illustrated by Emily Harrison
This education and awareness initiative was created in conjunction with B’nai B’rith programs that promote tolerance and communicate a message of equality among all citizens. The contest aims to enlighten, inspire and educate America's young people and their families in an effort to destroy prejudices and strengthen the future of our youth.
The 2011 contest formally launches in Shelby County during the week of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday to honor his life’s work for the cause of equality.
Once again, the first place winner or winning team in Shelby County will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and will have their winning submission published as books and distributed to libraries and elementary schools in and around Memphis. The second place winner receives a $2,000 scholarship, and the third place winner earns a $1,000 scholarship. In addition, the teacher who oversees the creation of the first place submission will receive a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials, and the school will win a $500 grant.
A panel of judges from the Memphis worlds of education, the arts and government, along with B’nai B’rith International leaders will review the submissions and select the winners. B’nai B’rith is pleased to work in partnership with The Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc., whose grant funding made possible the launch of the Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge in Shelby County.
The deadline for contest submissions is Monday, March 7, 2011. Additional program information can be found at www.bnaibrith.org/diverseminds.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, responding to criticism of her after the Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., chose her words poorly when she described a “blood libel” to incite hatred against her and others in the wake of the attack.
The term “blood libel” is a heinous accusation against Jews, charging them with horrific, invented crimes such as kidnapping and killing Christian or Muslim children and then using their blood to bake matzot. It often has served as an excuse to perpetrate violence against Jews.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords remains critically injured after 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a constituent event Giffords was hosting. Six people were killed and 13 were injured in the attack.
Language matters, and we urge care and sensitivity to the sometimes painful and tragic history of the Jews.