B’nai B’rith International is deeply concerned about the current government shutdown, the looming showdown over the “debt ceiling,” and the potential impact on both older Americans and other vulnerable people.
“While Social Security checks will continue to be distributed during the shutdown, some programs that serve older adults are shuttered. Moreover, if Congress doesn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling and allow the treasury to pay for the spending Congress has already approved, Social Security checks could simply stop,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The shutdown itself will limit funding for so-called discretionary programs for older adults, impacting things like meals and transportation. Failure to raise the debt ceiling could put the treasury out of the business of writing the checks—which could be catastrophic.”
Under the terms of the current federal shutdown, mandatory programs like Social Security and Medicare are mostly functioning, but, for instance, people who need replacement Medicare or Social Security cards cannot get them. At the same time, spending on discretionary programs already cut by the sequester will dwindle to a stop as the shutdown lingers and reserves run out. This could leave vulnerable elderly without meal programs, personal care services and other things on which they rely.
“What’s making us very uneasy is that in the midst of a shutdown, which makes things challenging enough for vulnerable populations, we are also facing the ‘debt ceiling’ date. Voting on the debt ceiling used to be routine, but now, it has become part of the battle between parties in Congress,” B’nai B’rith International Associate Executive Vice President Mark D. Olshan said. “If the stalemate spreads to the debt ceiling, people could stop getting their Social Security checks for the first time ever. For millions of elderly and disabled Americans, Social Security is their only income.”
B’nai B’rith urges that both the funding of the government and the vote on the debt ceiling be dealt with expeditiously and independent of policy debates between parties over other issues. We recognize the right of all involved to contest any law or policy, but keeping public services available and preserving the credit and value of the U.S. dollar should not be mixed into partisan squabbles. Attending to these urgent matters will help prevent further damage to our elders.
Finally, we also ask Congress to resolve this situation without further penalizing federal workers who dedicate their careers to working for the good of the American people. We need an end to the shutdown, seamless action on the debt ceiling and to treat the federal work force with the respect, and back pay, it deserves.
Shutting down the government is an ineffectual way to provide for the needs of citizens and an inappropriate way for Congress to conduct ordinary legislative business. It is a no-win for all Americans and especially for those most vulnerable in society, including seniors, the disabled and others who rely on federal programs for important and necessary services. B’nai B’rith hopes bipartisan efforts to end this quickly and move forward with a continuing resolution will prevail.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International is outraged after member states of the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee elected Iran to the position of rapporteur of the Disarmament and International Security Committee. Iran’s brazen and cynical efforts to secure a leadership role on the committee have proven successful, as are its efforts in turning this committee into a farce. This is yet another example of the United Nations continuing to reward and legitimize a dangerous regime that has no regard for international security and nuclear disarmament.
Recently-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been on a “charm offensive” during his trip to the U.N. General Assembly, while back in Iran, Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei has shown no sign of slowing Iran’s nuclear development. Iran has continuously stonewalled international attempts to deal with its illegal nuclear weapons program.
In addition to Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program—for which the regime has been repeatedly sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council—Iran is the world’s most active state-sponsor of international terror, supplying funding and arms to a number of terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah.
Iran’s actions are antithetical to the objectives of this committee. The credibility of this committee has been undermined by Iran’s election as rapporteur and it will be difficult to take the committee’s actions seriously until Iran is removed from the position.
B’nai B’rith Praises Israeli Prime Minister’s U.N. Address Outlining Skepticism About Iran’s Nuclear Intentions
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
At the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged vigilance in protecting the world from Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Netanyahu noted: “The Jewish people's odyssey through time has taught us two things: Never give up hope. Always remain vigilant. Hope charts the future. Vigilance protects it. Today, our hope for the future is challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction.”
In the wake of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent campaign to present a moderate face, Netanyahu reminded the world body that the new Iranian president has a long history in his country’s nuclear weapons program.
“Rouhani was also Iran's chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005. He masterminded the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smokescreen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric. Now I know Rouhani does not sound like Ahmadinejad. But when it comes to Iran's nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf's clothing and Rouhani is a wolf in sheep's clothing—a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community. Like everyone else, I wish we could believe Rouhani's words. But we must focus on Iran's actions. And it’s the brazen contrast, this extraordinary contradiction between Rouhani's words and Iran's actions that is so startling.”
B’nai B’rith would very much like to see the issue of Iran’s nuclear program resolved in a way that puts Iran out of the nuclear weapons business. At the same time, we can’t dismiss 20 years of deception by Iran.
Iran’s centrifuges continue to spin. Tehran has made several feints before while negotiating the nuclear issue, and has continued to hide and build its nuclear program. This is why we must remain skeptical of Iran’s intentions this time.
Iran, Syria, Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks Among Issues Discussed
A B’nai B’rith International delegation met with presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and other senior officials attending the opening of the 68th United Nations General Assembly session. International President Allan J. Jacobs, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and Chairman of the Executive Committee Gary P. Saltzman led the delegation of nearly 20 B’nai B’rith members, supporters and staff.
Among the various topics discussed throughout the week of meetings, B’nai B’rith raised the urgent challenge posed by Iran and its ongoing attempt to acquire nuclear weapons capability, the civil war in Syria, a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and continued bias against Israel within agencies of the United Nations, not least its Human Rights Council (UNHRC). While B’nai B’rith leaders were meeting government officials in New York, a representative of the organization delivered a formal statement at the council in Geneva condemning the body for its unabated fixation on Israel, even as Arab civilians suffer grievously in Syria and other countries in the Middle East.
“B’nai B’rith’s meetings at the United Nations are always intensive and wide-ranging. They afford us the opportunity to speak with many world leaders on a number of important issues,” Jacobs said. “Iran is always a major topic of discussion. We were also able to get our message out on other issues, such as Syria, Israel’s mistreatment within the U.N. system and attempts to bring the Palestinians to the negotiation table.”
B’nai B’rith—which coordinated meetings on behalf of a broad coalition of international and American Jewish organizations—met with leaders of countries including Russia, France, India, Greece, Jordan, Spain, Hungary, Norway, Georgia, Paraguay, Italy, Palau, the Czech Republic, Azerbaijan and Honduras, among others.
“B’nai B’rith has been active at the United Nations since its founding. Our longstanding record of involvement at the world body is a vital component of our ability to hold high-level meetings with a wide range of delegations,” Mariaschin said. “We welcome the opportunity to meet with so many key countries and to be able to express our policy positions on a multitude of vital issues.”
B’nai B’rith included one of its largest-ever groups of young leaders in an array of high-level meetings. This new generation of involved Jews is dedicated to the goals and mission of B’nai B’rith, including a strong commitment to communal advocacy.
Joining Jacobs, Saltzman and Mariaschin in the delegation were: Seymour Reich, honorary president; Ira Bartfield, senior vice president; Charles Kaufman, senior vice president; Board of Governors Members Steven Horowitz, Mike Gellman, Jacob Reckess and Dan Tartakovski; Andy Borans, board of governors member and executive director of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity; Eric Sumberg, chair of B’nai B’rith’s New York Young Leadership Network; Brian Kaufman, B’nai B’rith Young Leadership Network; Jonathan Kamel, Alpha Epsilon Pi civic leadership chairman at Northwestern University; Aaron Leiner, Alpha Epsilon Pi Jewish identity chair at the University of Texas at Austin; Aaron Baskin, Alpha Epsilon Pi director of civic engagement; Eduardo Kohn, B’nai B’rith International director of Latin American Affairs; and Sienna Girgenti, assistant director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy. The meetings were coordinated and attended by David Michaels, director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs, and Program Officer for U.N. Affairs Oren Drori.