B’nai B’rith International is dismayed at Yale University’s decision to close the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, the first institute of its kind in the United States. The institute’s fellowships and presentations and its sponsorship of research and advanced study in anti-Semitic trends are vital to educating the public on the horrific effects of anti-Semitism throughout the world.
B’nai B’rith urges Yale University officials to reconsider their decision to close the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, and affirm its critical role in teaching tolerance and understanding to future generations.
B’nai B’rith International leaders attended the Organization of American States (OAS) 41st General Assembly in San Salvador, El Salvador, to discuss several topics of pressing concern, including new policies to improve regional security, with attending world leaders.
B’nai B’rith Costa Rica President and Vice Chair of District 23 Marcelo Burman and Latin American Affairs Director Eduardo Kohn, along with various civil society representatives, met with OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza. Burman and Kohn also participated in a dialogue between civil society and the heads of various international delegations. The 35 independent states of the Americas that comprise the OAS, the world’s oldest regional organization, convene this annual meeting to work together on political and social issues. Among other issues, the B’nai B’rith representatives discussed the repercussions for the OAS of the new Community of Latin American and Caribbean States to be installed in Caracas next July 6.
“We already know this regional organization will be a serious challenge to the OAS. Policies on important economic, social and political issues will be decided there, which could undermine the OAS agenda,” Kohn said.
The assembly also discussed the return to the OAS of Honduras, which was suspended two years ago after the coup against former President Manuel Zelaya; the need for approval of the Convention on Racism; and expanded on the danger of regional terrorism and its links with drug and weapons trafficking. At the opening session of the General Assembly, El Salvador President Mauricio Funes reinforced these sentiments, expressing the need to combat the organized crime which he said “is destroying our democracies.” The assembly also addressed concerns about human rights violators such as Venezuela which do not allow the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to monitor the situation on the ground.
“These sessions are essential for the promotion of widespread democracy and human rights across the hemisphere,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “They provide civil society with an efficient forum to present serious issues to world leaders on a broad spectrum of subjects from regional security to foreign policy and much more.”
Burman and Kohn discussed the anticipated September vote on Palestinian statehood at the United Nations with Costa Rica Foreign Minister Rene Castro, a subject they also discussed in an important two-hour meeting with the delegation from Israel, which has observer status at the OAS. This meeting included discussions with Dorit Shavit, Latin American director of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Eliav Benjamin, counselor for political affairs of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. B’nai B’rith also had a detailed conversation with Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon about all Latin American nations and their policies. Ayalon is urging countries to not recognize a Palestinian state. For those that already have, he is working to prevent them from voting in favor of a Palestinian state in September at the United Nations.
“This is a key opportunity to work with Latin American nations to help rectify what has become a clear demonstration by the Palestinians that they have decided to do an end run around peace negotiations,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
In addition to the meetings, Burman and Kohn held an activity with El Salvador’s Jewish community in their community hall.
B’nai B’rith International praises the decision of the U.S. government not to participate in the United Nations racism conference known as Durban III, planned for September in conjunction with the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
The session is planned to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism that took place in Durban, South Africa. That conference degenerated into a wildly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel melee that showcased the United Nations at its worst.
“There is simply no reason to commemorate such a vile display as the original Durban conference,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The United States is making a bold statement that the singling out of Israel will not be tolerated. We hope other nations will also recognize that such anti-Israel behavior has no place at a global venue and will also decline to take part.” Canada and Israel had already announced they would not participate.
B’nai B’rith delegates and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) walked out of the original conference and corresponding NGO forums as these quickly came to embody frightening expressions of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments.
In a letter on June 1 to New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the U.S. State Department wrote: “The United States will not participate in the Durban Commemoration. In December, we voted against the resolution establishing this event because the Durban process included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we did not want to see that commemorated.” The letter also noted: “The United States is fully committed to upholding the human rights of all people and to combating racial discrimination, xenophobia, intolerance, and bigotry.”
At its recent Board of Governors meeting in New York, B’nai B’rith leaders passed a resolution urging “all United Nations member-states not to participate in the Durban III conference in September.” The resolution noted that “throughout the Durban process, the important goal of addressing and combating racism has been hijacked by those who seek to demonize the State of Israel, and any event that is meant to glorify or reaffirm the process or the outcome documents will certainly be doomed to repeat this history.”
“In 2009 in Geneva, Durban II—a review of the conclusions of the original conference—included Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a speaker,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Obviously the United Nations is not capable of considering the very serious topic of racism in a meaningful way. If history is our guide, then this Durban conference will ignore the very real and dangerous issues of racism and intolerance in the world. It’s truly a shame that these vital issues get usurped time and again.”
B’nai B’rith mobilized the largest multinational Jewish NGO delegations to both the 2001 and 2009 conferences.
Active at the U.N. since it was founded, B’nai B’rith closely monitors events at the world body.
B'nai B'rith Deeply Troubled by Bolivia's hosting of Iranian Official Accused of Planning the Amia Bombing
B’nai B’rith International condemns the invitation of Iranian Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi by the Bolivian Defense Ministry. Vahidi has been accused of being one of the officials behind the July 18, 1994, attack on the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building. The devastating bomb attack on the Argentinean Jewish community killed 85 and wounded 300. Since 2007, Vahidi has been on an Interpol wanted list for his connection with the horrendous attack.
“Bolivia’s welcoming of an Iranian official accused of planning and executing a terrorist attack against a neighboring country is outrageous,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
The Bolivian government apologized to the Argentine government and stated that the Defense Ministry was not aware of Vahidi’s affiliation with the bombing. Vahidi was asked to leave the country on May 31.
“I find it hard to believe that no one in the Bolivian government or Defense Ministry knew of Vahidi’s connection to this terrorist attack,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Bolivia’s close relationship with Iran, a regime that sponsors terror worldwide, is despicable.”
B’nai B’rith, with its deep ties throughout Latin America, has long demanded that those responsible for this attack be brought to justice.
Memphis Teen Winner of Book Writing Contest Announced; Winning Entry Published; Scholarships Awarded
“The Peanut Butter Bee,” written and Illustrated by Joel Cox, a junior at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis took top prize in the B’nai B’rith International Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge. Cox earned a $5,000 college scholarship and his book was professionally published. The story of a bee who prefers peanut butter to honey, will be distributed to libraries and elementary schools in and around Shelby County.
The contest challenges teens to write and illustrate children’s books that explain diversity and tolerance to elementary school-aged children. This education and awareness initiative was created in conjunction with B’nai B’rith programs that promote tolerance and communicate a message of equality. 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 winners were announced May 31 at the National Civil Rights Museum.
A panel of judges from B’nai B’rith International, as well as the Memphis worlds of education, the arts and government reviewed the submissions and selected the winners. Taking part in the award ceremony: Peggy Seessel, ArtsMemphis and Karen Woodard, director, Middle & Secondary Education, Shelby County Schools. Beanie Self from Rep. Steve Cohen’s office read a proclamation from the congressman. Teachers and principals from five local schools also took part.
Molly Brakha and Shoshana Somer, seniors at Margolin Hebrew Academy earned second place for “World of Color,” and took home a $2,000 scholarship.
Third place went to the writer/illustrator team of Eric Ruleman and Brett Wagner, juniors from Germantown High School for their work, “Pedro at the Plate.” They received a $1,000 scholarship. This was their second effort—they took second prize last year.
In addition, Dawn Kelso, the teacher who oversaw the creation of ”The Peanut Butter Bee” earned a $500 stipend to use for classroom or organizational materials, and Christian Brothers High School also received a $500 grant.
“All of the book entries truly demonstrate that these kids aren’t just waiting for the world to change, they are attempting to make it happen,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
“These books exemplify the best hope for positive change that the next generation can bring,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Tolerance and acceptance have always been at the heart of B’nai B’rith International. The contest entrants took these values and brought them to life.”
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 contest, which is also held this year in New York, is now in its fifth year. This is the second time the contest was offered in Memphis.
Additional program information can be found at www.bnaibrith.org/diverseminds.
At a recent G8 meeting, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted that the Group of Eight of the world’s top economies not endorse pre-1967 lines as a basis for negotiations between Israel and Palestinians.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs, Honorary President Moishe Smith and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin sent Harper a letter commending “the unswerving nature of your commitment to both Middle East peace and the security of Israel.”
The letter states: “B’nai B’rith International, which is proud of its presence in your country through B’nai B’rith Canada, strongly believes that direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is the only prescription for lasting peace in the Middle East.”
The letter continues: “We recall with admiration and appreciation the words of your landmark speech at the Ottawa Conference on Anti-Semitism last year: ‘When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack—is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand.’ You further pledged, ‘As long as I am Prime Minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost.’”
The letter concludes by praising Harper as a “voice of moral clarity on an urgent international issue. We welcome your strong leadership in the struggle to defend Israel’s security.”