Expresses Deep Disappointment with Latin American Ambassador Recall from Tel Aviv
B’nai B’rith International condemns the special release issued by four of the five Mercado Común del Sur (MERCOSUR) members, castigating Israel for “the use of disproportionate force” during its defensive military incursion into the Gaza Strip and insinuating Israel might be guilty of violating international humanitarian law.
The presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela all signed the special release that echoed and endorsed last week’s anti-Israel resolution adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council, calling for an investigation into what it termed “human rights violations.”
B’nai B’rith salutes Paraguay, the fifth member of MERCOSUR, and its principled stance in refusing to sign the special release and thus denying it resolution status.
Though the special release does condemn attacks against Israeli civilians, it does not once mention Hamas by name or its deplorable tactics, including using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
The statement also calls for ending the blockade around Gaza while ignoring Hamas’ armament and terrorist infrastructure, including tunnels leading into Israel. This is clearly not the solution to ending the conflict because removing blockade measures potentially allows for further, unfettered mobility of weapons, tunnel building construction materials and Palestinian terrorists.
Overall, the special release ignores Hamas’ indifference to human life among Palestinians themselves. Combine that with an open-ended accusation of Israel of violating international law, and it shows an indifference to the complexities of the conflict as a whole.
Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador Withdraw Ambassadors from Israel
B’nai B’rith International leaders also wrote to the presidents of Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru expressing deep disappointment in recalling their respective ambassadors from Tel Aviv for “consultations” in their home countries.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin wrote of the ambassador recall: “Such actions do not contribute to promote calm and stability in the region, but rather serve to encourage the internationally recognized terror group, Hamas.”
They continued: “Recalling your ambassador from Israel is at odds with your stated commitment to oppose terrorism in all its forms. We ask that you address this concerning issue in order to once again restore our faith in your position among the community of democracies.”
Click here to read the full letter.
B’nai B’rith Encouraged by Social Security Trustees Report, Calls on Congress to Take Routine Action on Disability Insurance
B’nai B’rith International is encouraged by the relative stability outlined in the 2014 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Report, but concerned about the immediate need to address the funding challenges facing the Social Security Disability Insurance program (DI).
The big news out of the trustees report was the overall health of Social Security with a surplus of about $2.8 trillion, and income to the program set to exceed expenditures in 2014. These numbers are in line with last year’s projections and this year’s report expects Social Security’s surplus to grow to $2.9 trillion by 2020.
The other important but unsurprising “news” out of the report is that the DI trust fund is at risk of being depleted by 2016. B’nai B’rith International urges Congress to increase the DI’s allocation from the payroll tax—a measure which has been routinely carried out 11 times over the life of the program—or many vulnerable or impoverished people face dire consequences in their everyday lives.
“We've actually been aware that this would happen in or around 2016 since the DI’s tax allocation was last adjusted in 1994. But in the current political environment, adjusting the split between the two funds for the 12th time in Social Security's history may be harder to do than it should be,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
DI program funding, as a part of the Old Age Survivors (OAS) and Disability Insurance Fund, is currently allocated based on a formula, most recently adjusted in 1994. When the actuaries drew up the percentages, they quite accurately predicted the DI portion of the fund would become insolvent in 2016. Congress needs to act on replenishing the DI fund now or benefits will be slashed by 20 percent across the board.
“The DI benefits are meager—checks come in at about $1,500 per month—with half of beneficiaries bringing a combined-family annual income of $30,000 or less,” B’nai B’rith International Associate Executive Vice President Mark D. Olshan said. “These are the people who need whatever help they can get, and cutting an already small income source could be a catastrophic upheaval for many.”
Opponents of increasing DI’s payroll tax allocation point to an overly generous program with rampant fraud as the reason for DI's 2016 shortfall date.
“The truth is we've known this would happen for 20 years. And anyone who has ever applied for disability knows that the claims of lax standards or that the benefits can be easily obtained are simply absurd,” B’nai B’rith International Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg said. “We did hear of some outrageous acts of fraud carried out this year, but it’s important to note these people were caught. It's not perfect, but the system does work.
“The need to replenish the DI fund or to tilt the balance toward the OAS fund are both completely normal for these programs. This is a result of factors that were accurately predicted two decades ago. There's no reason or justification for making this reallocation an opportunity to make other changes to the disability program.” Goldberg continued. “The fact that the DI’s cash flow did not run out prematurely suggests a responsible federal program appropriately distributing benefits to those who need it. Congress must act quickly to secure the funding the DI needs to remain fully effective.”
This week the senate will have a second opportunity to discuss these programs when they take up the nomination of Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin to serve as commissioner.
“There are certain areas of Social Security Administration policy that should be open to legitimate debate, but we hope these hearings do not become an attack on the disability program, or to promote already debunked claims about the Social Security's program future,” Goldberg said.
B’nai B’rith hopes all involved will remember that reallocation is not a surprising or partisan issue. Disabled workers already face a process that is detailed and difficult to prove their disability to qualify for benefits. Less than 50 percent of all claims are eventually approved. Many legitimate claimants are then forced into an appeals process that can take years. Those who legitimately achieved benefits should not also have to face the possibility of cuts to their benefits, which could be easily avoided.
B’nai B’rith will continue to advocate for this sensible and responsible adjustment.
B’nai B’rith International decries a renewed call by several Christian denominations to single out Israel and the vital security assistance it receives from the United States for “investigation.” The signatories of a letter sent to the White House and members of Congress include the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Methodist Church, which were among those widely censured for urging legislators to investigate this one aid relationship alone in 2012.
The text of the letter makes plain the fundamental misapprehensions of its signatories who see the “underlying causes” of the conflict as Israeli “occupation” and the “siege” of Gaza, as well as the failure to reach a two-state solution.
“Are the denominations who signed this letter aware that Israel completely withdrew from Gaza nine years ago? It even uprooted every single Jewish settlement community there, yet was rewarded with relentless terrorist attacks,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Are the signatories unaware that governance of Gaza was assumed by Hamas, which is doctrinally and violently opposed to the two-state solution?”
The letter urges “lifting the Gaza siege” as a priority of U.S. foreign policy. This, however, is clearly not the solution to ending recurring bloodshed because unconditionally ending blockade measures would allow the further, unfettered mobility of armaments and Palestinian terrorists. The denominations’ letter ignores Hamas’ indifference to human life among Palestinians themselves, demonstrated in its corrupt use and abuse of Palestinian civilian infrastructure to attack Israelis.
“Why would these denominations pin the cause of the conflict on Israel, America’s key democratic ally, yet ignore those complicit in the atrocities carried out by Palestinian terrorists,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Repeatedly over the past week, rockets have been uncovered at U.N. schools in Gaza and cross-border infiltration tunnels were revealed to have been constructed with imported materials, not to mention the indiscriminate firing of rockets putting innocent Israeli civilians constantly at risk. Those civilians also include a Christian community that, unlike elsewhere in the region, is free and continuously growing.”
B’nai B’rith objects to the signing of the letter by a few groups associated with the Catholic Church, such as Pax Christi, in disregard for the pope’s own far more careful and responsible approach to the tragic and complex conflict in the region. He and his predecessors have called for recognition of Israel’s right to exist in secure boundaries, something that Hamas and similar groups openly reject.
We commend those churches not signing on to this unbalanced and unjust letter. One such denomination, though, the Presbyterian Church (USA), did direct its members to call on Congress to conduct an “examination into how U.S. military aid to Israel is being used” and pointing to the “illegal military occupation—including the blockade on Gaza” as a “root cause” of the hostilities. B’nai B’rith is confident that this one-sided, out-of-touch approach is not shared by a majority of Christians in America, and many others worldwide.
Disregarding Revelation of Hamas Rockets in Another U.N. School in Gaza, Non-Democracies Force Unprecedented 7th UNHRC Special Session on Israel
B’nai B’rith International condemns the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for having concluded yet another “special session” on Israel with the adoption of a resolution that—not sufficing with unimaginable one-sidedness in its condemnations and its narrative of hostilities between Israel and Hamas—institutes a new international probe to rubber stamp its own outrageous indictments of Israel alone. B’nai B’rith salutes the principled leadership of the United States in casting a lone vote against the resolution, and is deeply disappointed in European states’ decision to merely abstain on the text.
The resolution is replete with obscene, politically motivated attacks against Israel, even going out of its way to denounce Israel's defensive barrier in the West Bank, a non-lethal measure that has saved countless Israeli and Palestinian lives and is unconnected to current fighting in Israel and Gaza. The resolution goes on to make the patently absurd point that Gaza's situation will be unsustainable “as long as it remains geographically … separated from the West Bank.”
Most damagingly, the resolution launches yet another “independent, international commission of inquiry” to “identify” and hold “accountable” those responsible for “crimes” perpetrated in the Palestinian territories alone. It does not once mention Hamas, but does recommend the convening of state parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, in order to further malign and isolate Israel.
On the eve of today's special session, B’nai B’rith International directed urgent advocacy efforts at members of the body. At the meeting itself, B’nai B’rith delivered a public intervention, which can be read here.
“We knew that a Human Rights Council special session would be another chance for the most disreputable members of the international community to pile on Israel, even as that beleaguered democracy struggles to defend its people against Palestinian terrorists who reject the very concept of peace,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “This is the seventh time a special session has been called to discuss Israel—more than any other nation. It’s time for this to stop.”
Among those who urged the discriminatory session were Algeria, China, Cuba, Indonesia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Countries joining to vote in favor of the reckless anti-Israel resolution included Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, India, Kenya and Mexico. During an open discussion, both Cuba and Pakistan opined that Israel was guilty of “genocide.”
At the same time, many of these and other countries have remained stunningly silent on Palestinian terrorists’ use of civilians as shields for efforts to murder and harm Israelis. This silence has even persisted following the United Nations Relief and Works Agency's (UNRWA) second uncovering of terrorist rockets in one of its Gaza schools, which UNRWA again said was “vacant” despite having previously tweeted that all UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip were being depended upon for shelter by Palestinian civilians.
“B’nai B’rith renews its demand for a decisive U.N. response to Hamas atrocities and for transparency on whether or not UNRWA has allowed rockets to return to the hands of Palestinian terrorists,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “We’ll continue to press this issue until UNRWA explains its procedures and we have assurance that the U.N. will not be complicit in terrorist endangerment of Israeli and Palestinian civilians.”
B’nai B’rith Dismayed by U.N. Secretary-General Calling Israel’s Operations Against Hamas “Atrocious,” Calls for Action on UNRWA School Rockets
B’nai B’rith International is dismayed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s comments calling Israel’s defensive operation against Hamas “atrocious” upon arriving in the Middle East to pursue a ceasefire between the two sides.
In response to the secretary-general’s words, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David J. Michaels wrote a letter to Ban: “We submit that this characterization is disconnected from the complex reality of facts on the ground—and that the repeated subjection of Israel to a double standard in freedom to protect its citizens, and the singling out of Israel for unjust condemnation, does not help, but rather hinders, the goal of preventing new bloodshed.”
B'nai B'rith agrees with the secretary-general that the “status quo ante” is unsustainable and that peace, of course, is the desired objective. However, the letter to Ban points out, “the ultimate ‘root cause’ of Arab-Israeli conflict is not Israel, which accepts in word and deed the rights of its neighbors, but increasingly lethal terrorist groups like Hamas, which openly, violently and doctrinally reject a two-state solution and Israel’s right to exist at all.”
B'nai B'rith noted the rockets found in a U.N. Relief and Works Agency-run (UNRWA) school in Gaza and Ban’s lack of public comment on the discovery, as well as a failure to account clearly for the manner in which the weapons were handled after removal from the school: “When will this be personally and publicly condemned by you as atrocious? Most shocking, there has been no indication that the rockets were not again made accessible to terrorist elements in Gaza by UNRWA. This scandalous development demands your personal attention and accounting, as it is unimaginable that a United Nations agency might be complicit in directly, as a result of its recklessness, threatening the lives of Israeli and Palestinian children alike.”
Read the full letter here.
B’nai B’rith Outraged by U.N. Agency's Reported Failure to Prevent Return to Terrorists of Rockets Discovered in a Gaza School
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International is outraged by reports that the approximately 20 rockets found last week in a Gaza school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) were returned by the U.N. agency to local authorities, when control of Gaza continues to be dominated by Hamas terrorists.
The United Nations was provided a first-hand look at the heinous tactics that Palestinian terrorists employ—in this case using a U.N. facility for children as cover for operations targeting the people of Israel. Following the discovery, UNRWA condemned the storing of rockets at the school, saying this was a flagrant violation of international law and “endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestine refugees in Gaza.”
UNRWA itself, however, seems to have dramatically violated the spirit of its own ostensible humanitarian mission when it apparently failed to prevent the rockets from being available again for use by Palestinian terrorists, thus endangering the same people it expressed concern with protecting, along with Israeli civilians. This is a scenario where hypocrisy on the part of the United Nations has gone beyond rhetoric into potentially dangerous actions.
B’nai B’rith calls on the United Nations to immediately ensure that weaponry is never allowed by a U.N. agency to be transferred to terrorists, and to swiftly release documentation of the Palestinian weapons cache to member states and the international public. If, in fact, UNRWA has taken any appropriate precautions to prevent the weapons’ acquisition by terrorists and use against Israel, it is incumbent upon the agency to substantiate such steps without further delay.
B’nai B’rith International is stunned by the sentiments of a Catholic bishop in the United Kingdom holding Israel responsible for the intensified conflict with Hamas.
In response to a recent statement by Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, who serves as chair of the International Affairs Department at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, B’nai B’rith International Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels wrote: “Plainly, it risked adding grievous insult to the injury repeatedly experienced by Israelis, while emboldening fanatically violent Palestinian elements – something that does not serve the wellbeing of ordinary, innocent people on either side of the regional divide.”
The letter noted that the bishop’s statement “makes clear your assigning of guilt primarily to the State of Israel, and this indictment discounts the complexity of the conditions experienced by – and the full, actual record of – that country.”
Michaels expressed amazement that Lang accused Israel, despite its carefully targeted operations, of “indiscriminate” violence, but not Hamas, which went unmentioned in the bishop’s statement. B’nai B’rith found it telling that Lang awaited current Israeli operations before issuing his statement: “[T]he website of your diocese yields not a single mention of Sderot, an Israeli town whose children have never known a life free from indiscriminate, unprovoked cross-border rocket attacks from Gaza.”
Click here to read the letter.
Palestinian Terrorists’ Rockets Discovered in U.N. School in Gaza; International Community Must Respond
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), an agency that promotes the interests of Palestinian refugees, discovered a stockpile of some 20 rockets hidden by Palestinian terrorists inside an UNRWA school in Gaza. This discovery is further proof of Palestinian terrorists using Palestinian civilians and civilian infrastructure—in this case a U.N. facility for children—as cover for operations targeting the people of Israel.
Although UNRWA vaguely billed this event as “the first of its kind in Gaza,” there is extremely ample cause to see such abominable practices as rote for Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups. Furthermore, UNRWA reports that it “successfully took all necessary measures for the removal of the objects,” but it has not yet addressed whether rockets were removed from terrorists’ possession so that they cannot be used to kill and injure Israeli children. This question must be answered without further delay.
The United Nations and the international community must take immediate, decisive steps to ensure not merely that armed hostilities cease temporarily, but that Hamas no longer has the capacity to attack Israelis from among Palestinian civilians and to prevent peace.
The global community must finally recognize anti-Israel terrorists as responsible for ongoing bloodshed in the region and react fittingly to their exploitation of U.N. facilities in grave violation of international law.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International continues to be steadfast in its support for Israel as it continues Operation Protective Edge and launches ground operations into Gaza. The decision to launch a ground incursion into Gaza—targeting tunnels leading into Israel and other terrorist infrastructure—comes after Hamas refused an Egyptian attempt at securing a ceasefire between the two sides on July 15.
Even though Hamas agreed to a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire—first agreed to by Israel—on July 17, it adamantly refused the opportunity to extend it, by firing more than 50 rockets into Israel immediately thereafter.
Hamas decided it is more interested in continuing to stream rockets indiscriminately into the Jewish state rather than entering into a more permanent ceasefire, and, at the same time, is demonstrating its utter disregard for its own population.
Since July 8, nearly 1,500 rockets have been fired at Israel. No other country in the world would sit idly while its civilians are under attack, and neither will Israel.
B’nai B’rith International marks the 20th anniversary of the bombing attack on the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building—the Jewish center—in Buenos Aires. In a terrorist attack that has been well-linked to Iran during the previous two decades, 85 people were killed in the blast, while 300 were wounded. Even more disheartening, 20 years removed from that fateful July day, we’re no closer to justice for the victims.
In the decades following the worst terrorist attack in the history of South America, the search for truth and retribution has been an uneven one.
In 2005 and 2006—after years of failing to track down the terrorists and their masters—it seemed a competent investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators might be on the cusp of actually occurring. Then-President Néstor Kirchner issued a decree accepting state’s share of the blame for the disastrous inaction and incompetent inquiry into the bombing. Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was assigned to, and reviewed the evidence, detailing how top Iranian leaders including Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s president at the time, and Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s current minister of defense, ordered Hezbollah to kill Jews in Buenos Aires. Interpol eventually issued arrest warrants for five Iranians and a Lebanese national.
Despite all of this, nothing happened. Nisman was even barred by the Argentine government from travelling to the United States to testify before Congress on the investigation.
“The fact that it took more than a decade to order a proper investigation into the attack is absolutely shameful,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “What’s more shameful is that after appearing willing to make things right and go after those responsible, Argentina would not pursue Nisman’s findings and let the investigation languish.”
In an unexpected development in January 2013, Iran and Argentina signed a “Memorandum of Understanding,” creating a supposed “independent” group to investigate the 1994 bombing. This is in spite of widely held belief that Iran—the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror—and several of its senior leaders were behind the AMIA attack. It is incredible that anyone would believe that Iran has the slightest inclination to be a fair partner in the search for justice, especially with provisions in the agreement such as one that suspects may only be interrogated by Argentine officials in Tehran. This is the sort of stipulation that makes it difficult to see how anything truthful would come out of this commission.
“From the beginning, the ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ was an Iranian ruse, which should have been obvious from the outset,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It sought to give the impression that the two governments were taking action, when in fact, it actually took the case off track. Now, 17 months later, we are not surprised that absolutely nothing has come of it. To think Iran ever had intentions of offering up its own agents to be questioned by an Argentinean judicial officer defies credulity.”
Notwithstanding the “Memorandum of Understanding,” this past May, an Argentine federal court struck down the agreement between Argentina and Iran, ruling it unconstitutional. The government is appealing this decision all the way to Argentina’s Supreme Court.
For 20 years, B’nai B’rith, with its deep ties throughout Latin America and abiding concern about Iranian influence in this hemisphere, has pressed for those responsible to be brought to justice. In the meantime, we pledge to never forget the victims and their families and to keep pushing for the arrest of the attackers.