After careful study, B’nai B’rith International has concluded that the Iran nuclear agreement is unlikely to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We therefore call on Congress to reject the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
As we noted when the deal was announced on July 14, it is impossible to look at Iran’s track record and trust the regime to adhere to the terms of this pact.
The JCPOA requires an unprecedented suspension of disbelief that Iran has only peaceful intentions for its nuclear program. Given its decades of dissembling, it is infeasible to conclude that Tehran will honor its obligations under this agreement.
To be sure, the P5+1 (the United States plus China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany) worked hard during the long negotiating period to secure a deal. The goal of preventing an Iran with nuclear weapons is one shared by much of the world. But this deal is unlikely to fulfill that ambition.
B’nai B’rith appreciates the opportunities given us to meet with administration officials, to hear their explanation of the plan's details and to understand the reasoning behind some of the provisions of the agreement.
How to respond to Iran's nuclear weapons program is one of the most significant national security questions to face the United States in the past decade. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the issue has aroused such passion among so many. We respect that both Democrats and Republicans have approached this issue with great seriousness and have reached varying conclusions that sometimes cut across party lines. We further acknowledge that those who share the goal of blocking Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons may differ about the policy most likely to achieve that outcome.
Still, our reading of the agreement and our understanding of the political and historical context in which the JCPOA would be implemented have heavily influenced our decision to oppose it.
“We listened, we read, we analyzed and we have concluded that we cannot support this deal with Iran,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “We have doubts about elevating the international status of Iran, which has done nothing to prove it will keep its word.”
Even in the days leading up to the agreement, on “al-Quds Day,” government supported crowds shouted, “death to America” and "death to Israel," as U.S. and Israeli flags were burned across the country. These are not the actions of a nation ready to find common ground with the world’s democracies.
Our concerns about the lifting of sanctions also have not been adequately resolved. Iran is the largest state-sponsor of global terror with its proxies such as Hezbollah the world over. Tehran is likely to use the cash that will flow from the absence of sanctions to fund the regime's ongoing terrorist ambitions. The specter of "snapback sanctions" provides little comfort, as measures that took the international community years to coalesce around are unlikely to be rejuvenated once they have been dismantled.
Nor are our questions about the verification process satisfied by the JCPOA. Verification remained a sticking point throughout the labored negotiating process and, in the final document, is still not addressed to our comfort. In light of the deal's significant verification loopholes and Iran’s history of concealing its nuclear program and turning away inspectors, it is logical to conclude that inspectors will never obtain the unmanaged, unfettered or spontaneous access necessary to monitor Iran’s nuclear sites.
“There is no middle ground here. Iran’s credibility is illusory. The stakes are far too high to ignore Tehran’s history of deception by accepting this deal,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.
At no point during the nearly two years of negotiations has Iran lessened its support for terrorist organizations, its goals of hegemony in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East or its continued abuse of human rights.
Just days after the deal was announced, Iran again invoked its practice of deception. News reports indicate that Qassem Soleimani, the leader of the secretive, terror-orchestrating Iranian Quds Force, met with senior Russian leaders in Moscow, even though he was barred from leaving Iran by a U.N. Security Council resolution. The Quds Force reports directly to Iran’s supreme leader and has exported terror throughout the Middle East and beyond.
These are not the actions of a regime capable of demonstrating the transparency and cooperation required of it by the terms of this deal.
We firmly reject the notion that the only alternative to this agreement is war. We have long advocated that the best means of ensuring Iran's compliance with international demands is pressure—in the form of ever-tightening sanctions, combined with diplomatic isolation and the credible threat of military force. The international community should respond to Iran's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons by increasing, rather than relieving, pressure on the regime until it has produced meaningful results.
B’nai B’rith International urges Congress to vote next month to disapprove of the agreement.
Summer 2015 Issue Also Examines Integrated Jewish-Arab Schools in Israel
The roots of American-Jewish theater spring from Yiddish immigrant culture. Recent headlines, however, have focused on controversies in the Washington, D.C. scene.
But there is much more to the story. Today, the art form is thriving and evolving into new forms. Increasingly, efforts like the Jewish Plays Project competition search for emerging artists and plays seek to engage the Jewish community. Writer Barbara Blank explores the past, present and future of American-Jewish theater.
State-supported Hand in Hand operates five Israeli schools with 1,100 Jewish and Arab students learning together. Writer Michele Chabin examines the challenges the schools face as they continue their mission of creating a more inclusive society.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs explains the organization’s ongoing role at the United Nations to counter the U.N.’s blatant bias against Israel.
Through the use of personal stories, B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin reminds us to honor Holocaust survivors and to keep alive the memories of those we’ve lost.
Joined by a similar love for country, Christian and Jewish Zionists in Israel seem to find a common bond. While some Christians in Israel seek to convert Jews, most see their mission as one of religious purpose and cultural understanding. Writer Hillel Kuttler tells the stories of these Christian Zionists living in Israel, shining a light on their incredible journeys.
B’nai B’rith International Opens Disaster Relief Fund to Aid Kenyan University Attack Victims, Families
B’nai B’rith International has opened its Disaster Relief Fund in response to the horrific murders of 147 people in Kenya, most of them Christian college students.
On April 2, the Somalia-based Islamic militant group al-Shabab infiltrated Garissa University College to begin a murderous rampage. Over the course of the 15-hour siege, they gunned down anyone in their path, and specifically targeted Christians for murder or capture. This terrorist attack is another reminder of the dangers of Islamic extremism.
“B’nai B’rith is reaching out today to urge our members and supporters to provide aid to a country in need,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “As a founding member of IsraAID, we’ll be working with its emergency response teams to coordinate the administration of trauma treatment and post-trauma coping mechanisms within a community currently dealing with horrible grief.”
IsraAID is always among the first on the scene when a disaster, both manmade and natural, strikes. The non-profit humanitarian organization is committed to providing life-saving disaster relief and long-term support to people in need, regardless of gender, race, religion or national borders.
Recently the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund supported IsraAID’s response to combat Ebola in West Africa, and regularly assists with other projects in the wake of manmade and natural disasters, both domestic and international. B’nai B’rith and IsraAID also work together to arrange humanitarian assistance for refugees escaping violence and famine.
“We are working with IsraAID to help meet the psychological needs of the survivors and their families,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “We’re talking about college students murdered in the pursuit of education. The situation is beyond disturbing, and we want to meet the imperative need that has materialized from this horrific chain of events.”
To help, donate online at our secure website by clicking here.
You can also call 800-573-9057 to make a credit card contribution over the phone. Or, you can send a check payable to the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund to:
B’nai B’rith International
Disaster Relief Fund
1120 20th Street NW, Suite 300 North
Washington, DC 20036
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
In the wake of the announced framework of a deal between the United States, its five negotiating partners, and Tehran on the Iranian nuclear program, B’nai B’rith International believes there are still many questions surrounding the outcome—questions involving the viability of the deal and whether the notoriously sinister and secretive Iranian government will honor the terms in good faith.
B’nai B’rith is skeptical of the agreement’s ability to increase Iran’s nuclear breakout time from three months to a year, given the regime’s unwavering determination to continue enrichment and its history of evading inspections. The current deal, negotiated by the P5+1 (United States, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom), follows more than 20 years of deception by the regime in Tehran. If it was truly negotiated in good faith, then why did Iran run out the clock as the deadline approached?
We thank Secretary of State John Kerry and his team for their hard work over many, many months. But we still remain concerned.
Iran’s credibility has already been severely strained by its track record of saying one thing and acting on the complete opposite. Iran has always opposed international “interference” in the Syrian civil war, all the while supporting the Syrian government with troops and supplies. In the current conflict in Yemen, Tehran has taken the same stance, while simultaneously backing one side. These are just a few of many examples of Iran’s deceitful and aggressive behavior, a list which also includes Iran’s many ventures as the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.
The framework deal calls for a reduction of Iran’s installed centrifuges by two-thirds of its current capacity, but Iran’s actions during negotiations seemingly offer a clear blueprint for how it would act once a deal is in place. Even under the preliminary agreement, the regime has continued to enrich and stockpile uranium, build centrifuges, defy the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other inspection requests from the international community, pursue plans to build intercontinental ballistic missiles and hide the military dimensions of its nuclear program. Will Tehran truly allow for the transparency of its nuclear sites with comprehensive inspections by the IAEA? We also question whether the Iranians will actually convert their clandestine enrichment center at Fordow into a center for nuclear physics and technology research, or whether they will downgrade their heavy-water reactor in Arak.
While Iranian double-speak is a legitimate concern, what’s even more disturbing is the regime’s straightforward talk when it comes to Israel. Just a few days ago a commander in the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, said that erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable”—a horribly frightening statement as negotiations were in the penultimate stage.
The incendiary remarks, obviously, don’t stop there. Several months ago, Iranian General Mohammad Ali Jafari said: “The range of (our) missiles covers all of Israel today. That means the fall of the Zionist regime, which will certainly come soon.” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei even stated that same month: “Whether a nuclear agreement is achieved or not, Israel will be more insecure each day.”
With a June 30 deadline set for a final deal, B’nai B’rith will be monitoring the specifics of the deal that are released in the coming months. B’nai B’rith urges Congress to carefully and stringently review the agreement during that time as well. A nuclear-ready Iran has consequences that would resonate far beyond Israel and the United States. Given the uncertainties of the deal and the enormity of the stakes, we hope that both parties in Congress will make their voices heard, as both the administration and Congress must play an active role in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Do we have a final head count for the Seder? Can you pull the folding table and chairs out of the basement? Who’s bringing the gefilte fish? Do we have enough matzah? These are typical questions cropping up this time of year as the preparation for Passover is underway. And while these conversations are being held in many households across America and the world, not everyone is so fortunate.
For the poor and elderly, Passover may be a difficult time. It can be a time that conjures thoughts about family that moved far away or passed on. It could bring to light an illness preventing someone from attending a Seder or the fact that there is no supermarket filled with kosher specialty items for Passover nearby. Some are living on a fixed income so the extra cost for the kosher-for-Passover product stymies them from setting up a Seder of their own.
B’nai B’rith leaders saw this happening in the late 1960s and created a program called Project H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Everywhere) as a means to help those who are unable to obtain and prepare the necessary holiday fare.
The program evolved over time, but continues to include the essentials of food for the holiday such as matzah, eggs, grape juice, canned goods, jam, cookies, oil, gefilte fish and horseradish for their Passover table. In some communities, there is fresh or cooked chicken included.
This year B’nai B’rith will distribute more than 2,600 kosher-for-Passover packages.
“Project H.O.P.E. is one of the most impactful programs that B’nai B’rith has to offer,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The genesis of it is uniquely B’nai B’rith. There was an unmet need with those unable to have a Passover meal and B’nai B’rith members rose up to fill that need, to help their neighbors, and eventually expanded the program to communities across the country.”
The program is currently underway with hundreds of volunteers already having turned out to buy, store, pack and deliver the food to those in need up and down the east coast. And these volunteers are not only B’nai B’rith members. Project H.O.P.E. works with community family service agencies, local Jewish social services and local synagogues to organize the people power it takes to perform a project of this scope. It also requires funding and B’nai B’rith is grateful to those who support this project each year. Donations are always welcome to ensure this project and allow for expansion.
“Once again Project H.O.P.E. has made a difference in the lives of our elderly who would not have had all of the Passover goodies,” Vivian Kantrow, director of development and community relations at the senior living community Tower One in New Haven, Conn., said of this year’s program. “You and your team really make a difference and on behalf of all of your friends at the Towers, a very big thank you!”
The community action project, created by B’nai B’rith leaders in Brooklyn, has expanded to communities throughout the Northeast and across the United States. The recipients include singles, couples, families, assisted living residents and group homes for the disabled. This year, in addition to distribution on Long Island, New York, the program is being held in Philadelphia, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, Michigan and Washington, D.C.
“Project H.O.P.E. is really a great example of what B’nai B’rith excels at as an organization,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It gives us an opportunity to fulfill our commitment to helping communities through ‘gemilut chasadim’ by making Passover memorable and accessible for those who might have viewed the holiday as just another day on the calendar.”
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulating him on his party’s success in Israel's national elections on behalf of all of the organization’s members and supporters. B’nai B’rith also extended its sincere hopes for the security of the State of Israel and overall welfare of the nation as Netanyahu shifts his attention to assembling a governing coalition.
In the letter, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin write: “Israel's vibrant democracy—very much in evidence during the recent campaign—is unique to the Middle East and therefore a source of great pride to the Jewish community. We hope that the spirited election campaign just concluded will give way to a renewed sense of national purpose, as Israelis confront the considerable international and domestic challenges facing their country.”
Mariaschin and Jacobs went on to pledge B’nai B’rith’s eternal support, “not only for the well-being of the Jewish state, but for the ongoing strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
They closed by wishing Netanyahu and the government “much success in your effort to lead Israel to a future that is at once secure, prosperous and peaceful.”
Click here to read the full letter.
B’nai B’rith International remembers the 23rd anniversary of the Israeli Embassy bombing in Buenos Aires. The attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who drove a truck loaded with explosives into the corner of the embassy on the afternoon of March 17, 1992. The terrorist detonated the bombs and killed 29 people, injured 242 and also destroyed a church and a school.
Until the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building was bombed in 1994, it was the deadliest terror attack in South America. In the tragedy at the AMIA building, 85 people died and 300 people were injured. Iran has long been linked to both bombings, but none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice.
Iranian involvement and alleged Argentinian complicity in the cover-up in the AMIA attack has been recently reinserted into the public consciousness. The suspicious death of Argentine Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman has sparked outrage among Argentinians and created a demand for answers. Nisman died shortly after he filed a complaint against Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman alleging they offered Iran impunity before jointly creating the “Commission of Truth,” designed to find those responsible for the attack.
“While we await more answers on Alberto Nisman’s death and the Argentine government’s actual role within the ‘Commission of Truth,’ we cannot forget where and when Iran’s savagery in South America began: at the Israeli Embassy on March 17, 1992. And B’nai B’rith will not forget that,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
The attacks on the embassy and on the AMIA building have been credited to Iran’s terror arm Hezbollah, making the news of Iran and Argentina’s creation of the “Commission of Truth” in January 2013 and the allegations of the president and foreign minister shielding Tehran from punishment all the more shocking.
“B’nai B’rith has followed Nisman’s investigation into the AMIA bombing over the years and we have strongly supported his efforts. We hoped that if he uncovered the truth behind AMIA, the perpetrators behind the embassy bombing may be brought closer to justice,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Iran, through Hezbollah, has carried out global terror attacks for decades. Tehran needs to be held accountable. His death creates a gaping void in the pursuit of terrorists.”
B’nai B’rith International sent its annual leadership delegation to Geneva to advocate on urgent issues facing the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), including the body’s just deferred “Commission of Inquiry” report on the Israel’s conflict with Hamas during the summer of 2014, the continuing abuse of the Jewish state more generally at the council, Iran's destructive domestic and regional policies, and the widespread unrest in the Middle East.
Some two-dozen B’nai B’rith International leaders and supporters, including with three representatives from the national Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), met with senior representatives from more than 40 countries. B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin led the delegation.
The B’nai B’rith delegation expressed deep concern over the council’s “independent, international commission of inquiry” into Israel’s defensive operations in Gaza during the summer of 2014. Under the chairmanship of Canadian academic William Schabas there was a sense this report would highly biased against Israel. Schabas had previously suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres (a Nobel peace prize laureate) should be brought before the International Criminal Court. Eight months into the commission’s “inquiry” it was revealed Schabas had served as a consultant to the Palestine Liberation Organization. Schabas resigned last month in the wake of that revelation and has since been replaced by former-U.S. judge Mary McGowan Davis.
This week the council announced the report’s delay until the June session, but most of the “evidence” had already been compiled under Schabas’ chairmanship. We urged diplomats in Geneva to carefully scrutinize the report that is issued in June for any one-sidedness against Israel.
“Every year B’nai B’rith leaders from around the world come to the Human Rights Council, and every year, sadly, it’s the same: an obsessive and outrageous focus on Israel that even the most deplorable regimes on Earth don’t receive,” Jacobs said. “It is our job to hold the U.N. accountable for this discrimination and hypocrisy.”
More broadly, the delegation focused on “Item 7,” the standing agenda item scrutinizing Israel apart from all other countries, and how the actions of the United Nations and its agencies dampen prospects for peace by encouraging Palestinian unilateralism. The international community’s too-frequent disregard for terrorism against Israel —whether it be car attacks on light rail stations or rockets raining down from Gaza—was also emphasized in the meetings.
“B’nai B’rith has been extremely vocal about the Human Rights Council’s “Commission of Inquiry” and especially about the chairmanship of William Schabas because of his record and that of the Human Rights Council on Israel,” Mariaschin said. “The deferral of the report until June bears watching, but we still remain wary of the outcome. In Geneva B’nai B’rith made sure to inform the international community that anything released that unfairly attacks the Jewish state is an unambiguous politicization of the council by Israel's non-democratic adversaries and should be rejected.”
U.S. Ambassador, Officials Address B’nai B’rith Diplomatic Reception
On March 11, B’nai B’rith leadership held its annual reception at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, hosting numerous ambassadors and other diplomatic officials. Highlights of the evening included remarks from U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council Keith Harper, Israeli Deputy Permanent Representative Omer Caspi and Chief of Cabinet of the Director-General of the U.N. Offices in Geneva David Chikvaidze.
On March 10, Jacobs and Mariaschin attended at dinner hosted by Harper in honor of Israeli Ambassador Eviatar Manor.
In addition to Jacobs and Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith was represented by: Chair of the Executive Board of Directors Gary Saltzman of Denver, Colo.; Senior Vice President Ira Bartfield of Arlington, Va.; Senior Vice President Daniel Citone of Rome; B’nai B’rith Europe President Erika van Gelder of Amsterdam; Helene Briskman of London; Menahem Briskman of London; Eric Engelmayer of Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; Mike Gellman of Washington, D.C.; Jacques Jacubert of Paris; David Matas of Winnipeg, Canada; Irving Silver of Mobile, Ala.; Dan Tartakovski of Mexico City; and Stéphane Teicher of Paris.
B’nai B’rith International’s Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels coordinated the visit in Geneva together with U.N. Affairs Program Officer Oren Drori, from New York.
Supporting B’nai B’rith on the ground before and after the arrival of the delegation in Geneva were local B’nai B’rith representatives to the U.N. Klaus Netter, Armand Azoulai, Richard Sadoune, Zary Acher, and Anita Winter from Zurich.
AEPi Executive Director and B’nai B’rith Board of Governors Member Andy Borans of Indianapolis, Ind., represented the fraternity, along with Civic Engagement Coordinator David Marias of Indianapolis and UC-Santa Cruz student Anthony Milgram.
B’nai B’rith Writes To Urban Outfitters CEO, Urging Discontinuation of Concentration Camp Uniform-Like Tapestry
B’nai B’rith International sent a letter to Chairman, President and CEO of Urban Outfitters Richard Hayne to express deep dismay over the inappropriate design used in a tapestry that clearly conjures up Holocaust imagery and trivializes the suffering of the victims.
In the letter, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin call on Urban Outfitters to immediately discontinue the product, writing: “As a Jewish organization dedicated to commemorating the Holocaust and upholding its lessons, we are deeply concerned about any action taken to dilute the historical meaning of this tragic episode and weaken its power to education future generations about the dangers of hatred and bigotry.”