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 Schabas resigned last month in the wake of that revelation and has since been replaced by former-U.S. judge Mary McGowan Davis.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.”
B’nai B’rith International is pleased that William Schabas has quit his position as head of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) inquiry into Israel’s defensive operations in Gaza during the summer of 2014. The probe itself—tarnished from the start by the Council’s record of singular discrimination against Israel and its advance excoriation of the Jewish state—must be discontinued.
Schabas has been under fire since his appointment to head the “independent, international commission of inquiry” due to his prior, outspoken anti-Israel views. It also came to light recently that Schabas, a Canadian academic, was paid to provide legal advice to the Palestine Liberation Organization. Although Schabas says he is excusing himself to avoid overshadowing the results of the commission’s report expected in March, the probe’s “research” has reportedly already been completed.
“This latest U.N. kangaroo court targeting the world’s only Jewish democracy was illegitimate from the beginning. It was cobbled together following a Human Rights Council resolution that blasted Israel before the commission even launched and didn’t so much as mention Hamas,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “This inquiry has always been stacked against Israel and Schabas’ resignation only reaffirms how corrupt it is.”
Schabas’ bias against Israel has never been a secret. In 2013 he was quoted as saying, “my favorite would be [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu within the dock of the International Criminal Court.”
“While we welcome the departure of William Schabas from the ‘commission of inquiry,’ his biased, anti-Israel attitude will undoubtedly be present throughout its findings,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “The inquiry was specifically designed not to focus on years of cross-border terrorist attacks against Israelis, but rather Israel’s defensive response to them. Whatever the Human Rights Council releases in March is likely to attempt to draw equivalence between terrorism and a state defending its civilians from that threat—an outrageous and unacceptable conclusion.”
The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it will open a preliminary investigation into war crimes committed during the summer conflict in the Gaza Strip, hostilities that included, and were precipitated by, massive violence targeting civilians across Israel.
Though it is unclear whether prosecutors at The Hague will formally issue charges, B’nai B’rith condemns this unjustified probe prompted by the Palestinians as the latest page in their playbook that will undoubtedly continue to single handedly undercuts prospects for peace.
“We’ve seen in recent weeks that the Palestinian Authority seems incapable of making necessarily hard decisions to negotiate an agreement and would much prefer to have the United Nations Security Council and the ICC do its bidding,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
“It also speaks volumes that Mahmoud Abbas would to go to the ICC and spur this investigation while his regime is tied to Hamas terrorists who started the summer conflict by kidnapping and murdering three innocent Israeli teenagers and firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli communities.”
The ICC announcement comes on the heels of the U.N. Security Council's decision to reject a Palestinian ultimatum that would have attempted to force the unconditional fulfillment of the Palestinians' political demands on Israel.
What the Palestinians are attempting to do now perverts the original objective of a permanent international tribunal that would bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.
At the time of its creation many were concerned that, given the United Nation’s failed record in these matters, it would one day be used by the Palestinians to unilaterally advance its agenda against Israel.
“The methods that the Palestinian Authority has chosen in an attempt to create a state outside of direct negotiations with Israel by resorting to international pressure can only exacerbate the conflict, not resolve it,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.
“If the PA is really serious about this process, it should focus its efforts on ending incitement against Israel and making the compromises necessary to finally move toward an agreement.”
B’nai B’rith International is proud to announce Irene M. Thompson, president and CEO of the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC) as recipient of the National Healthcare Award, which has recognized outstanding leaders in the health care field for more than 30 years. A gala award dinner will be held in her honor on June 22 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago.
For three decades, B’nai B’rith has underscored the outstanding work of health care leaders and corporations that set the standards for health and education initiatives. The standards set by these distinguished professionals ultimately betters the lives of people throughout their communities and around the world.
“Irene Thompson’s resume in the health care field is one of the most extensive I’ve encountered while bestowing this honor. Her career and community involvement are nearly unmatched by her peers. It gives me great joy to confer the National Healthcare Award on Irene,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.
As president and chief executive officer, Thompson is responsible for the overall operation of UHC. Under her leadership UHC’s membership has grown significantly to 117 academic medical centers and nearly 330 of their affiliated hospitals. UHC represents the majority of the nation’s nonprofit academic medical centers to help them improve clinical, operational and financial performance.
Thompson is a member and the immediate past chair of the American Heart Association Midwest Affiliate Board of Directors and a member of the American Heart Association National Corporate Operations Committee. She also serves on the boards of directors for America’s Essential Hospitals and the National Center for Healthcare Leadership. Previously, Thompson served as board chair for UHC and for the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Council of Teaching Hospitals and Health Systems. She was president of the Kansas City, Kan., Chamber of Commerce and has served on numerous other community not-for-profit boards. In 2013 and 2007, Thompson was named one of Modern Healthcare Magazine’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare.
“With her current position overseeing UHC and all of its affiliates, combined with her work at the American Heart Association and a number of other non-profits, it’s clear that Irene Thompson is truly a leader in the field of health care. Not only is her track record impressive, but the number of leaders in her field endorsing her with the announcement of this award speaks to how deserving a recipient she is,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said.
The recipients of the B’nai B’rith National Healthcare Award have shown a history of dedicated leadership and outstanding civic involvement in the health care field and in the broader community. Award winners support philanthropic causes benefiting health, youth, seniors and education programs.
Photos are available upon request.
To learn more about University HealthSystem Consortium, visit https://www.uhc.edu/.
Click here to learn more about Irene Thompson’s distinguished career.
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith strongly condemns the terror attack that left at least 12 dead and 10 wounded in the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Three masked gunmen stormed the building seeking out those who worked at the paper. They escaped after hijacking a car. A city-wide manhunt is underway.
In the letter to French Ambassador Gérard Araud, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin extend their thoughts and prayers to all those affected: “During this difficult time, we would also like to convey our deepest condolences to the families of all the innocent victims of these despicable attacks and express our sympathy and support to the city of Paris.
“For over 170 years, B’nai B’rith International has condemned all senseless acts of violence. Today we recognize global terror as one of the world’s greatest challenges, and we have remained steadfast in our efforts to combat it.”
It is being reported that the paper has been the recipient of threats following the publication of a Muslim-related cartoon.
Read the full letter here.
On Dec. 22, B’nai B’rith International sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to request a clear, public pledge of American opposition to Palestinian and other efforts to impose political demands on Israel through the United Nations. The Palestinian Authority has launched a new effort to deliver an ultimatum for Israeli compliance with its political objectives, this time at the U.N. Security Council. As B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin write to Kerry in the letter, this latest circumvention of negotiations with Israel is unacceptable and the United States must consistently push back against these efforts, employing its veto power in the Security Council when necessary, if peace is to be achieved.
Jacobs and Mariaschin write: “As you know, the Palestinian Authority has openly spoken of its strategy to ‘internationalize’ the conflict with Israel, and this further politicization of global institutions in the context of an already difficult regional reality is the last thing needed in the pursuit of calm, reconciliation and peace in the Middle East. Sadly, [last] week, a draft Security Council resolution was circulated that would unacceptably dictate demands of Israel outside the framework of direct negotiations and mutual compromise with the Palestinians. In the event that its inherent ultimatum is not met, the Palestinian Authority has even threatened to import tensions with Israel to the International Criminal Court, dangerously risking impediment to essential counterterrorism efforts. Reportedly, other actors in the international community have also considered advancing their own related proposals at the Security Council.
The UN – along, of course, with the U.S., the European Union and Russia – is a member of the Quartet on Middle East peace, which long ago established that Palestinian-Israeli disputes can be resolved only through serious, meaningful bilateral talks. As a critical element of foreign policy, and a reflection of broad-based bipartisan commitment, the U.S. has consistently stood against the exploitation of the UN as a political tool against our key ally, Israel. It is vitally in the American national interest, and in the interest of a genuine and lasting peace, that the U.S. make known publicly and unambiguously that it will oppose a Palestinian posture of unilateralism and confrontation in global bodies, let alone motions that fail to uphold Israel’s security needs and identity as a Jewish state.”
To read the full letter, click here.
B’nai B’rith International has been a leader in advocating for the United Nations to place Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the Jewish year, on the list of Christian, Muslim and other holidays officially recognized by the world body. In recent months B’nai B’rith has challenged members of the United Nations to quickly embrace a new initiative to add Yom Kippur, pushing the issue in a New York Times op-ed and bringing the conversation to the international forefront.
With the United Nations set to make a decision on Yom Kippur, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin and Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David J. Michaels wrote to U.N. missions urging them to support the Yom Kippur initiative.
In the letter, Jacobs, Mariaschin and Michaels write:
“The Jewish people have observed Yom Kippur, the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar, for thousands of years. It is a day when millions of Jews seek forgiveness and self-improvement in the hope of creating a better life and, ultimately, a better world.
We believe that the time has come for the United Nations to add Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, to its calendar. The initiative to add Yom Kippur to the UN calendar would represent a modest but meaningful step in helping the UN to better live up to its Charter's embrace of diversity and respect for peoples large and small.
The UN is headquartered in New York City, the city with the largest Jewish population in the Diaspora. There is an active Jewish presence at UN Headquarters, among secretariat staff, diplomats, and NGO representatives alike. These contributors to the work of the UN, hailing from some of the roughly 120 UN member states where organized Jewish communities can be found, should not be forced to choose between violating their religious beliefs and neglecting professional demands.
We strongly urge you to support adding Yom Kippur to the UN calendar, alongside other religious and civil holidays.”
Click here to read the full letter.
B’nai B’rith International sent a letter to Swiss Ambassador to the U.S. Martin Dahinden expressing serious concern over the upcoming meeting of the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Switzerland summoned the parties last week in response to a Palestinian Authority request, and the meeting is expected to attack Israel for its actions in Gaza and the West Bank.
In the letter, B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said, “As depositor of the Conventions, Switzerland is obliged to execute this function responsibly and impartially. However, over the course of over half a century, the state parties to the Conventions have exclusively been convened to focus on Israel, a small democracy struggling against violent extremists sworn to its very destruction and to the indiscriminate targeting of its citizens.”
Click here to read the full letter.
Winter 2014 Issue Also Highlights the Jews of Spain and the Kosher Food Boom
In the face of seemingly endless conflict, Israeli hospitals continue to provide Syrian and Palestinian patients with high-quality, low-cost medical care. Writer Michele Chabin speaks with many of the medical professionals and patients. She reports that the patients, many of them children, receive high-quality, affordable care.
The Israeli institutions do this as an expression of “tikkun olam”—the Jewish commitment to repair the world. Medical personnel treat many patients with life-threatening conditions, transcending politics and national boundaries.
Elsewhere in the issue, writer Miranda Spivack explores why Spain has been largely immune to the anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Israel protests that spread across Europe this year. There is even talk of granting citizenship to Sephardic Jews who can prove ancestral links to Spain, thereby recognizing and making amends for its historic persecution dating back to the Inquisition and expulsion order of 1492.
The kosher food business in the United States—valued at more than $12.5 billion annually—is booming, according to writer Uriel Heilman, who reports that most of the customers for kosher food today are non-Jews looking for healthier, higher quality products.
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs devotes his column to Chanukah’s rich history and reviews the many accomplishments of B’nai B’rith this calendar year.
In his regular column, B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin discusses B’nai B’rith’s recent Policy Forum in Panama and the organization’s fight against anti-Semitism in Latin America.
Rachel Goldberg, B’nai B’rith’s director of aging policy, in her “About Seniors” section advises readers on how to prepare financially for retirement and discusses the growing issue of a retirement deficit.
All this and more can be found in the current issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine.
And for exclusive digital content, visit the magazine website: www.bnaibrith.org/magazines