Imagine


Imagine a world without hate. The ADL produced a powerful 80 second video that you should watch and share, as well as a list of actions we can all take to fight bigotry.

— by Steve Sheffey

President Obama’s trip to Israel left no doubt about his strong support for Israel. He emphasized America’s unshakeable alliance with Israel.  He told the world that Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust, but because of Israel, such a Holocaust will never happen again. He reiterated that the only path to Palestinian independence is through direct talks with Israel.

President Obama reaffirmed America’s commitment to Israel’s security and to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He reiterated that America stands with Israel because of shared values and because it is in our fundamental national security interest to stand with Israel.

More after the jump.
President Obama fulfilled two campaign promises last week: His own promise to visit Israel in his second term, and Mitt Romney’s promise that if elected, his first trip overseas would be to Israel. Please read the full text of President Obama’s Jerusalem speech on Thursday if you haven’t yet read it.

President Obama said little in Israel that he has not, in one form or another, said before. But by saying it in Israel, many Israelis are now seeing the president that we have known for the past four years, and by saying it in Israel, even some of President Obama’s critics in America are finally taking notice and seeing why the vast majority of American Jews voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

As important as that speech was, there was much more to this trip, and it was not the only speech he made in Israel.

President Obama received Israel’s Medal of Honor. No other American has received this honor. He visited the Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea Scrolls). He laid wreaths on the graves of Theodor Herzl and Yitzhak Rabin. He also placed a pebble on the grave of Rabin that President Obama brought from the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington.

At Yad Vashem, President Obama said  “Here, on your ancient land, let it be said for all the world to hear:  The State of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust. But with the survival of a strong Jewish State of Israel, such a Holocaust will never happen again.”

President Obama told the Palestinians that a settlement freeze by Israel should not be a precondition for negotiations and that the only way for the Palestinians to achieve an independent state is through direct talks with Israel.

This trip to Israel marked the tenth time that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have met as President and Prime Minister. At their joint press conference, President Obama said that  

We’ve spent more time together, working together, than I have with any leader. And this speaks to the closeness of our two nations, the interests and the values that we share, and the depth and breadth of the ties between our two peoples…

As President, I’ve, therefore, made it clear America’s commitment to the security of the State of Israel is a solemn obligation, and the security of Israel is non-negotiable.

Today, our military and intelligence personnel cooperate more closely than ever before. We conduct more joint exercises and training than ever before. We’re providing more security assistance and advanced technology to Israel than ever before. And that includes more support for the missile defenses like Iron Dome, which I saw today and which has saved so many Israeli lives.

In short – and I don’t think this is just my opinion, I think, Bibi, you would share this – America’s support for Israel’s security is unprecedented, and the alliance between our nations has never been stronger…

And finally, we continued our close consultation on Iran. We agree that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to the region, a threat to the world, and potentially an existential threat to Israel. And we agree on our goal. We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

President Obama explained why the United States stands so strongly with Israel. Right off the bat, upon landing in Israel, President Obama made the case for a strong US-Israel relationship:

I want to begin right now, by answering a question that is sometimes asked about our relationship – why?  Why does the United States stand so strongly, so firmly with the State of Israel?  And the answer is simple. We stand together because we share a common story – patriots determined “to be a free people in our land,” pioneers who forged a nation, heroes who sacrificed to preserve our freedom, and immigrants from every corner of the world who renew constantly our diverse societies.

We stand together because we are democracies. For as noisy and messy as it may be, we know that democracy is the greatest form of government ever devised by man.

We stand together because it makes us more prosperous. Our trade and investment create jobs for both our peoples. Our partnerships in science and medicine and health bring us closer to new cures, harness new energy and have helped transform us into high-tech hubs of our global economy.

We stand together because we share a commitment to helping our fellow human beings around the world. When the earth shakes and the floods come, our doctors and rescuers reach out to help. When people are suffering, from Africa to Asia, we partner to fight disease and overcome hunger.

And we stand together because peace must come to the Holy Land. For even as we are clear-eyed about the difficulty, we will never lose sight of the vision of an Israel at peace with its neighbors.

So as I begin this visit, let me say as clearly as I can – the United States of America stands with the State of Israel because it is in our fundamental national security interest to stand with Israel. It makes us both stronger. It makes us both more prosperous. And it makes the world a better place.

That’s why the United States was the very first nation to recognize the State of Israel 65 years ago. That’s why the Star of David and the Stars and Stripes fly together today. And that is why I’m confident in declaring that our alliance is eternal, it is forever – lanetzach.

NJDC Executive Director Aaron Keyak, who traveled with President Obama in Israel, wrote in the Jerusalem Post that President Obama understands that “A strong Jewish State of Israel ensures that that our people have a safe haven and will be protected from those who seek to murder us on a daily basis. Israel provides power and meaning to the words ‘never again’.” Said Keyak:

When I stand in Jerusalem and see President Obama reaffirming his commitment to Israel, I will remember the miracles that freed our ancestors thousands of years ago, that have sustained us, supported us, and brought us to this day. I will remember and be thankful that we now have a strong Jewish state and an unbreakable US-Israel relationship, and that our survival will never again rely on miracles alone.

Jewish Leaders Praise Amb. Rice for Pro-Israel Leadership at UN

— by Jason Berger

JTA’s Ron Kampeas provided a roundup of what Jewish leaders are saying about Ambassador Susan Rice, who could be nominated as Hillary Clinton’s successor for Secretary of State.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman stated:

She has proven herself as an ardent defender of major Israeli positions in an unfriendly forum… And I’m more comfortable with the person I know than the person I don’t know. She is close to the president and that’s important in that position if you have someone you can relate to and understands us.

Foxman was also “furious” at the recent attacks on Rice’s record:

People may differ about the effectiveness of certain tactics or, as we have often done, even seriously question whether bodies like the U.N. Human Rights Council will ever give Israel a fair hearing… But no one should use the U.N.’s anti-Israel record to cast aspersions on Ambassador Rice. She has earned her reputation as a fighter for Israel’s equality in a hostile forum where an automatic majority reflexively expresses its bias against Israel.

JTA quoted B’nai Brith International Executive Vice President Daniel Mariaschin:

‘One thing important to point out is that the votes have reflected administration policy.’ More specifically, in regards to Rice’s ‘no’ vote last week when the General Assembly elevated the Palestinians to non-member state status, Mariaschin exclaimed his approval. He stated, ‘There are ways of explaining your vote and ways of explaining your vote … She made kind of a good end to an otherwise disappointing day.’

In her vote explanation, Rice said, ‘Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade, and the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded.’

Veteran pro-Israel activist Steve Sheffey recounted Rice’s many pro-Israel accomplishments in his most recent piece for the Times of Israel. Last January, Rice said that defending Israel’s legitimacy at the UN is a “daily concern” for herself and America’s delegation. Rice’s work at the United Nations earned her the National Service Award from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in December 2011.  

Smears, Lies and Videotape: RJC and the Day after Yom Kippur

— by David A. Harris

It’s very said that on the day after Yom Kippur, Jewish Republicans have decided to jump right back into shamefully smearing the President’s record — on the same day in which the Israeli Prime Minister praised President Obama’s leadership and cooperation with Israel in front of the United Nations. Some of the experts featured in the video come from a small segment of the right wing, and are not reflective of Israel’s broad public opinion — let alone the leaders who have heaped praise upon the President. Worse, some of the key points in the video are factually misrepresented, including statements regarding President Obama’s support for Israel’s security, the scenes of Democrats, and statements regarding the so-called snub that never happened. This video offers nothing more than the same innuendo and smears that Jewish Republicans have tried to peddle for the last four years, and their smear campaign has not worked — and will not work.”

The video features many instances of distorted — if not factually incorrect — information.

  • The Israeli government has repeatedly debunked the snub myth from 2010. In fact, when NJDC issued a fact sheet authorized by the Israeli embassy debunking the myth, the Republican Jewish Coalition called the embassy-approved statements “BS.”
  • The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman, who is quoted in the video, has criticized prior instances of his quotes being cherry-picked for the sole purpose of making Israel a political football.
  • At 3:41, right wing pundit Barry Rubin contradicts statements by Israeli leaders who have effusively praised the President’s security cooperation with Israel, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak who said, “I should tell you honestly that this Administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.”
  • The Democratic legislators featured in the video have all praised the President’s leadership when it comes to Israel and Iran — and are supporting his reelection.
  • The video repeats the right wing’s baseless attack on this Administration for upholding the same position on Jerusalem as his predecessors.

Talkback on “Slaying the Dragon”

— by Hannah Lee

Teshuvah (repentance) is a prominent Jewish value, but what happens when a high Ku Klux Klan high official renounces his life?  The world premiere of the opera, Slaying the Dragon, was heralded by a Q&A session with a panel consisting of: Ellen Frankel, the librettist and managing director of Center City Opera Theater; Kathryn Watterson, author of Not by the Sword: How a Cantor and His Family Transformed a Klansman on which the opera is based; and Bob Wolfson, Associate National Director of Regional Operations for the Anti-Defamation League and formerly the local ADL officer in charge of Lincoln, Nebraska where the events took place.  The panel discussion took place on Sunday, June 3 at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

More after the jump.

In her 1995 book, Watterson, a professor in the English Department of the University of Pennsylvania, chronicled the stranger-than-fiction narrative of Larry Trapp, the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan’s Lincoln chapter who had a change of heart, renounced his life of hatred and violence, and embraced Judaism.  

A double amputee and blind from the complications of diabetes, Trapp — a black-sheep, distant relation of the von Trapp family singers of The Sound of Music fame —  was inspired by the love and kindness offered by Michael and Julie Weisser.  

A remarkable couple, Michael Weisser was then cantor and spiritual leader of the Reform Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, one of two synagogues in Lincoln, and Julie was herself a convert to Judaism.  Together they were raising five children, and they all welcomed Trapp into their home — with the teen sisters giving up their own room — and nursed him while he was dying from his illness.  When Trapp died at age 42, he was buried in the Jewish cemetery there.

There are still people in the Jewish community in Lincoln who doubt Trapp’s sincerity in his transformation.  Wolfson recounted the “surreal feeling” he had when Trapp, who’d previously threatened his family, rolled up to the ADL office in his wheelchair and asked to give Wolfson a hug.  This was the guy that he had to warn his children against, and the reason they had to monitor the in-coming mail to the house.  

Wolfson thinks it was because the Angel of Death was at his back that Trapp personally apologized to every person he’d hurt in his campaign of hate.  However, it took courage to leave the KKK, because it was a public betrayal — by a Grand Dragon, no less!  The opera deviates from reality in that Trapp is portrayed as vulnerable, being mocked by his fellow Klansmen for his physical disabilities.  In actuality, he was a strong leader and was admired by his Klan, despite his inability to physically carry out the acts of evil and spite that he advocated.

Michael Weisser, now a rabbi in Flushing, New York, was a strong believer in redemption — he’d had his own tragedy to overcome.  Neither he nor his wife were punitive people; their preferred motto was: “Educate, not punish.”  When two college boys were on trial in Lincoln for defacing his synagogue, Weisser offered to lead educational classes for them both in lieu of jail time.  Watterson pointed out that society has surely gained more by the time these misguided youth spent at Weisser’s side than in prison.

Watterson noted that white supremacists are under-developed emotionally.  So much energy is expended on projecting hate that there is no room for personal growth.  Wolfson said that people often prefer to think of these people as “nuts.”  “Some are, but not all are so.”  Larry Trapp was not intellectually impaired, he said, but it is harder to contemplate rational people who hate obsessively.

Could what had happened in Lincoln happen here?  Hatred can happen anywhere.  Wolfson said that Weisser was a radical, whose Reform temple had lost members.  The conservative Jewish community looked askance at him, whom he would describes as “to the left, politically, of Mao Zedong,” the late Communist dictator of China.  

The Jews of Lincoln were Zionist and middle-of-the-road politically and they couldn’t understand Weisser who believed in the prophet-to-the-nation philosophy of Reform Judaism, stressing tikkun olam (repairing the world) and protesting injustice.  However, Weisser built up his congregation and brought life to the synagogue.

Watterson said that she focused on Trapp’s life as a white supremacist, because it was so similar to that of Timothy McVeigh, the man who detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people and injuring more than 800 people, the deadliest act of terrorism within the United States prior to the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Frankel, the librettist, said that the composer, Michael Ching, urged her to make Larry Trapp and Michael and Julie Weisser–  re-named Grand Dragon Jerry Krieg and Rabbi Nathan and Vera Goodman in the opera — less black-and-white evil and goodness incarnate.  He wanted her to bring the characters closer together and find the commonality in them.

Are we in a post-racial world?  Wolfson noted that the world has moved to the right in recent times, citing hate crimes in France, Greece, and the United States. Economic hardship and instability bring out the worst in human nature.  However, liberal-minded people tend not to regard this evidence of persistent racism as a motivation to keep the fight against bigotry at the top of their social action agenda, preferring to think that the issue has been resolved.

It’s most important, Watterson urged, “to get to know each other, beyond our comfort zone, and acknowledge each other’s humanity.”  She noted the spill-over of hate words into general society (e.g., “femini-Nazis”) and the public shaming and blaming tolerated in our communities.  We should foster more creativity, said she, not demonize “people of color.”

Herbert Levine, Frankel’s husband, asked from the audience about how the KKK was able to get away with its open acts of violence?  Where were the police, the FBI?  Wolfson said that in the case of the Asian immigrant community, the Laotian leadership told the police to let them handle acts of violence against their community in their own way.  Thus, after their community center was targeted by “Operation Gooks,” defaced and destroyed by Trapp’s minions, it was re-built by the Asian community anew, but this time behind barbed-wire fencing and patrolled by armed guards.

How strong is the KKK nowadays?  Watterson said they’re very organized — “the movement inspires action.”  One aborted example: Trapp himself had planned on assassinating Jesse Jackson, the black civil rights activist and Baptist minister, figuring that, in his weheelchair, he could get close to his targeted victim.  

Of the white supremacists groups, White Aryan Nation is more powerful, but there are local KKK groups in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Wolfson pointed out that the Internet allows these groups to organize more efficiently, not announcing a public rally until “12 minutes before” — with the leaders texting one another — to avoid police intervention.  The ADL (and the FBI) used to infiltrate these groups, but they can now avoid unwanted scrutiny more easily.  Wolfson noted that the biggest problem is the lone wolf, one who operates outside of group sanctions.  Frankel added that the Philly chapter of ADL has a full-time staffer who monitors the communication of hate groups and who maintains an ongoing dialogue with the FBI.

Evening performances of Slaying the Dragon will take place on June 14 and 16, with a 2 pm final show on June 17  at the Helen Corning Warden Theater at the Academy of Vocal Arts, on 1920 Spruce Street.   Limited  seating is available.  For tickets, visit www.OperaTheater.org.

 

President Obama and Israel

— by David Streeter

Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa Steve Simon addressed the Anti-Defamation League’s annual conference in Washington, DC. During his remarks, Simon explained just some of the actions taken by the Obama Administration to support Israel and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

Highlights after the jump.

“The U.S. Government has done more to ensure Israel’s security under the President’s leadership than under any previous Administration. From providing record-level security assistance that is saving lives, to leading vigorous diplomacy that is defending Israel at the UN, to championing sanctions against Iran, our record is rock-solid. Based on my own firsthand experience working these issues day in and day out, I can assure you that Israel’s security is at the top of the agenda of President Obama’s national security team. And as for the President himself, he said he has Israel’s back-and he meant it. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m very proud to serve in this Administration.”

Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa Steve Simon addressed the Anti-Defamation League’s annual conference in Washington, DC. During his remarks, Simon explained just some of the actions taken by the Obama Administration to support Israel and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Highlights of Simon’s remarks appear below. Click here to download this information as a pdf.

Simon said on the state of the current state of the U.S.-Israel relationship:

“For more than 60 years since Israel’s founding, during periods of war and peace, and common crisis, U.S. administrations of all stripes have worked to safeguard Israel’s security-Republican and Democrat. But I would maintain that no administration and no President has done as much as President Obama has done to promote Israel’s security. And I say this having served in every Administration but one since Ronald Reagan was in office… Thus, Prime Minister Netanyahu has rightly said that our security cooperation with Israel is ‘unprecedented’ … and if you have relatives or friends in southern Israel they can tell you what this has meant in practical terms in recent months….

“In a period of sweeping regional change that brings new opportunities but also new challenges and uncertainties, the United States will continue to bear Israel’s security in mind as we develop and implement our foreign policy.”

He noted that in addition to the Obama Administration $3.1 billion aid request for Israel – the largest ever-the Obama Administration has:

  • Provided substantial funding-and intends to seek more-for the Iron Dome missile defense system that has protected southern Israel from nearly 80% of the rockets fired into the country.
  • Cooperated with Israel in developing the Arrow and David’s Sling missile defense systems that are designed to stop medium and short-range missiles, respectively.
  • Laid the framework for linking Israel into a U.S. satellite system that can provide early warning about incoming missiles.
  • Committed thousands of U.S. troops to operation Austere Challenge-the largest U.S.-Israel joint military exercise ever.
  • Participated in over 200 high-level exchanges between senior American and Israeli officials in 2011.

Simon explained many of the diplomatic steps taken by the Obama Administration to support Israel:

  • Working against the Palestinians’ attempt to unilaterally declare a state.
  • Fiercely combating the campaign to delegitimize Israel.
  • Standing up for Israel’s right to self-defense-including as the only country to back Israel following the flotilla incident.
  • “Always” rejecting efforts to equate Zionism with racism.
  • Working to preserve Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt.

Simon reiterated that the

Obama Administration is committed to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran

:

“We know that Israel sees the threat posed by Iran as existential. And make no mistake, an Iran armed with nuclear weapons would pose a direct and serious threat to the security of the United States as well. This is about both allies-Israel and the United States … And that’s why our policy is not to contain Iran, but to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon….

“We believe now is the time to speak softly and carry a big stick, to let our increased pressure sink in, to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built and to engage Iran in good faith as the window for diplomacy shrinks-and it is shrinking….

“We have backed up that commitment by building an unprecedented coalition to impose the most far-reaching sanctions that Iran has ever faced. As a result, Iran finds itself increasingly isolated from the international community….

“Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States or about Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself. As the President has said, ‘we take no options off the table.'”

He specifically noted that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared to Iran’s parliament, “the West has imposed the most extensive and dastardly sanctions ever. … This is the heaviest economic onslaught on a nation in history.”

Some of the reasons include:

  • Iran is having serious difficulties conducting international transactions.
  • Iran cannot access 70% of its foreign currency reserves.
  • $60 billion worth of foreign projects in Iran have been cancelled or suspended.
  • Companies like Shell, Total, ENI, Statoil, Repsol, Toyota, Siemens, and Lukoil have all pulled out of Iran-as well as foreign subsidiaries of American companies such as GE, Honeywell, and Caterpillar.

Simon also spoke about the Obama Administration’s efforts regarding the pursuit of peace:

“Israel’s own leaders understand the imperative of peace. And they speak about it. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, and President Peres have each called for two states, a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state. … Both Israel and the Palestinians continue to believe that our involvement is important to making progress. Both Israel and the Palestinians want the United States to persevere. So as President Obama said recently … ‘we will make no apologies for continuing to pursue peace.’ And that is why from the President down, we remain deeply engaged with Israel and the Palestinians to continue to work toward a resumption of direct negotiations….

President Obama has also made clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met. Period.

Simon made clear that the

United States’ policy of blacklisting Hamas as a terrorist organization “has not changed.”

ADL Honors Napolitano for Leadership in Fight against Terrorism

— by Max Samis

At its National Leadership Conference this past weekend, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano with the ADL William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award. The award commemorates Napolitano’s “leadership in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.”

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman presented the award saying:

At this time of great challenge and evolving threats, our nation is fortunate to have Secretary Napolitano at the helm of the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Napolitano knows that countering radicalization and violence is frequently best achieved by engaging and empowering individuals and groups at the local level to build resilience against violent extremism-a mantra the League also advocates. Her actions show that while law enforcement plays an essential role in keeping us safe, so too does engagement and partnership with communities.

Napolitano’s remarks follow the jump.
The ADL noted that:

Under Secretary Napolitano’s guidance, DHS has led efforts to protect critical infrastructure and cyber networks from attack, built partnerships with local and state law enforcement, identified foreign and domestic threat, coordinated with U.S. allies on issues such as arms trafficking, and enforced immigration standards.

In her remarks to the conference, Napolitano said she was “humbled” to receive the recognition from an organization such as the ADL. She said:

Receiving an award from an organization like the ADL, with its history of fighting inequality, bigotry and hatred is moving for me personally.

But I accept it tonight on behalf of the more than 240,000 men and women of DHS. This is truly a recognition of their collective efforts, day in and day out, to ensure the security of our country, while protecting fundamental human rights and civil liberties.

DHS does not do this work alone; we succeed through partnerships with organizations like yours. For nearly a century, Americans have known the ADL as a strong voice, standing against anti-Semitism, bigotry, and violent extremism, and for human rights and dignity.

I’m pleased that our partnership has expanded over the last few years, because at DHS, we believe that local authorities and organizations are best able to identify those individuals or groups exhibiting dangerous behaviors, and to intervene before they commit acts of violence…

As we know too well, hatred can inspire violence anywhere in the world, as we remind ourselves every year on Yom Ha’shoah.

On Monday, at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, President Obama reminded the nation of our duty, not only to remember the Holocaust, but to prevent and respond to atrocities today, because, as he said, “…remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing.”…

The President has identified the prevention of mass atrocities as a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United   States, and our actions have sent a message to war criminals and would-be war-criminals that they will face justice.

President Obama also spoke of what we must do, and will do going forward, to meet the challenge of “never again” – to, as he said, “defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security.”

This is not an issue that can or should be addressed by our military alone, and DHS is proud of its part….

I’m pleased to note that DHS has a particularly strong partnership with our friend and steadfast ally Israel. I need not remind anyone here of the special bond shared between the United States and Israel. Not only do our two nation’s share strategic interests and face common dangers, but we share common values. And that’s why we’ve have increased cooperation between our two countries to unprecedented levels…

We have learned that an engaged, vigilant public is essential to efforts to prevent acts of terrorism, and all of our work to collaborate with the public and non-profits is clear in DHS’ relationship with the American Jewish community.

It’s a partnership that didn’t necessarily begin with this Administration, but I’m proud that we have built upon and expanded it under President Obama’s leadership. We have depended on this partnership recently as we’ve witnessed a number of high profile domestic and international events that have directly impacted the Jewish community, both here and abroad….

As people of conscience, you’re engaged on issues like immigration, all the areas we’ve discussed tonight, and many more – both as members of the ADL and in your every day lives. In the spirit of “tikkun olam,” you stand for civil rights and civil liberties for all. And we strive for that every day at DHS, as we tackle many complex and difficult issues facing our nation today.

National security and civil rights and liberties are not at odds – to the contrary, they bolster and support each other. A free society that engages all its people is inherently more secure than one that does not provide opportunity for all.

The ADL understands that intuitively, and I look forward to continuing our work together.

Past recipients of the ADL Gorowitz award include:

  • NYPD Assistant Chief and Commanding Officer of its Intelligence Division Thomas P. Galati;
  • former Boston, New York and Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton;
  • former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff;
  • former CIA Director George Tenet; former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh;
  • NYPD Commissioner and former Commissioner of U.S. Customs Service Raymond W. Kelly; and
  • U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer.

Anti-Defamation League Honors Ambassador Dennis Ross

Ambassador Dennis Ross (left) accepts the Anti-Defamation League’s Distinguished Public Service Award from Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, in recognition of his role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East Peace Process.  Mr. Ross, who recently retired from his role as a top Middle East advisor in the Obama Administration, is currently a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  Mr. Ross was presented with the award, a crystal Eagle representing America’s commitment to pursuing the ideals of freedom and democracy abroad, in a ceremony during the League’s annual dinner, February 9, 2012 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo: David Karp/ADL)

Jewish Leaders Denounce Right-Wing Smear of Occupy Wall Street

We are publicly engaged American Jews who support both Israel and the ideas behind Occupy Wall Street and who also strongly oppose right-wing attempts to smear that movement with false charges of anti-Semitism.

It’s an old, discredited tactic: find a couple of unrepresentative people in a large movement and then conflate the oddity with the cause. One black swan means that all swans are black.

One particularly vile example was a television ad during Sunday talk shows paid for by something called the Emergency Committee for Israel that is organized by William Kristol and Gary Bauer.

It is disingenuous to raise the canard about Jews and Wall Street in order to denounce it.

Occupy Wall Street is a mass protest against rising inequality in America, a fact documented last week by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Anyone who visits Zuccotti Park understands that it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do “with liberty and justice for all.”

All of us irrespective of party or position should expose and denounce anti-Semitism where ever it occurs, but not tar hundreds of thousands of protestors nationwide because a handful of hateful people show up with offensive signs that can’t be taken down in a public park open to all.

We are pleased that the Anti-Defamation League agrees that some random signs “are not representative of the larger views of the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

List of co-signers follows after the jump.
 
Cosigners

  • Stuart Appelbaum, President, RWDSU*
  • Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and President, J Street
  • Richard Brodsky, former Assemblyman, New York
  • Richard Cohen, Washington Post
  • Danny Goldberg, President, Goldve Entertainment
  • Mark Green, former Public Advocate for New York City
  • Elizabeth Holtzman, former Congresswoman and District Attorney (Brooklyn)
  • Rabbi Steven Jacobs, founder, Progressive Faith Foundation
  • Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
  • Madeleine Kunin, former Governor, Vermont
  • Jo-ann Mort, CEO, ChangeCommunicaitons
  • Eliot Spitzer, former Governor, New York State
  • Andy Stern, President Emeritus, Service Employees International Union
  • Hadar Susskind, Vice President, Tides Foundation
  • Margery Tabankin, President, Margery Tabankin Assoc.
  • Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

*Institutions for identification purposes only.

Interfaith Passover Seder for Catholic and Jewish Middle School Students


— David Karp

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, left, and Abraham H Foxman, right, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, share a laugh as they eat matzah at a symbolic interfaith Passover Seder for Catholic and Jewish middle school students in Manhattan Thursday, April 7, 2011.  Sixty students from The Epiphany School and the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan joined together to learn the story of Passover and discuss common ties binding the Jewish and Christian communities. (Photo/David Karp)

Ross to ADL: U.S. Commitment to Israel “Iron-Clad and Unshakable”

— David Streeter

Dennis Ross, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region, addressed the Anti-Defamation League’s national conference and conveyed to the audience that the Obama Administration is standing squarely with Israel amid the changes taking place in the Middle East. Ross also outlined the Obama Administration’s priorities for the Middle East and emphasized that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible with the current regional changes taking place.

Ross reiterated America’s commitment and expressed similar sentiment as Defense Secretary Robert Gates regarding the current state of U.S.-Israel relations:

Our relationship with Israel becomes more important during a time of change and upheaval in the Middle East. Israel is an enduring partner whose stability can be counted on. We are bound by shared values and interests, and our commitment to Israel’s security is iron-clad and unshakable. For the Obama Administration, those are not just words.  Many of you may have heard what Secretary Gates recently said in Israel: ‘I cannot recall a time during my public life when our two countries have had a closer defense relationship. The U.S. and Israel are cooperating closely in areas such as missile defense technology, the Joint Strike Fighter, and in training exercises such as Juniper Stallion-cooperation and support that ensures that Israel will continue to maintain its qualitative military edge.’ Our cooperation contributes to Israel’s security every day, signified by Israel’s recent deployment of the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system, which we helped fund with more than $200 million in support this year. I too cannot recall a time when security cooperation between our two countries has ever been as intense or focused.

Ross also had strong words regarding Iran’s recent provocative behavior:

Iran, in particular is trying to exploit the political changes in the Arab world, and using its proxy Hezbollah to enflame sectarian tensions in countries like Bahrain at precisely a moment when sectarian differences and legitimate grievances need to be overcome politically and not exacerbated. Iran has also been quick to criticize Arab governments for using the very repressive tactics it continues to employ against its own people. Indeed, it is the height of irony that at a time when Arab publics throughout the Middle East are finding their voice, the Iranian leadership seeks to quash the voice of Iranians who are asking only for their rights.

The Iranians are fooling no one. And, they are also fooling no one as they continue to pursue their nuclear program in defiance of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions.  As National Security Advisor Tom Donilon stressed last week, ‘Even with all the events unfolding in the Middle East, we remain focused on the strategic imperative of ensuring that Iran does acquire not nuclear weapons.’ On our own and with others, we will continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian regime. On March 24, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution appointing a special rapporteur charged with investigating and monitoring human rights abuses in Iran – a move that the ADL praised. Iran continues to contend with sanctions that are far more comprehensive than ever before, and as a result, it finds it hard to do business with any reputable bank internationally; to conduct transactions in Euros or dollars; to acquire insurance for its shipping; to gain new capital investment or technology infusions in its antiquated oil and natural gas infrastructure-and it has found in that critical sector, alone, close to $60 billion in projects have been put on hold or discontinued. Other sectors are clearly being affected as well as leading multinational corporations understand the risk of doing business with Iran and are no longer doing so.

Unless and until Iran complies with its obligations under the NPT and all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, we will continue to ratchet up the pressure.  

 

In addition, Ross outlined the potential for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to flourish with the backdrop of a changing Middle East:

For too long, illegitimate governments have looked to blame others for their problems, to deflect attention from their own shortcomings by stoking hostilities toward the United States or Israel.

One of the most remarkable features of the peaceful protests movements across the region has been their focus on domestic issues – the abuses of security forces, government corruption, and the limited opportunities to participate in government decisions. I fully expect that when these populations are empowered and responsible for shaping the future of their countries, they will also see the importance of pursuing peace and cooperation as essential to their own political futures. The more that countries are able to invest their resources in their own future and the less they invest in conflict, the more they will be able to address the needs of their people that prompted the revolts of the Arab Spring.

Many of you will remember how Shimon Peres – who is having lunch with President Obama tomorrow – spoke about the New Middle East in 1993 that would be built on the foundations of peace, cooperation, and trade. Unfortunately, Peres’s vision was not realized two decades ago, because such a future could not be built on an authoritarian foundation. The Middle East today has very little internal trade and investment. The region also has very few domestic or transnational institutions when compared to other parts of the world. All that needs to change, and the democratic movements today offer the prospect of a truly new Middle East – a vision that we must strive to realize. The United States can help support this process by facilitating the work of civil society and non-governmental organizations, international financial institutions, and private-public partnerships to help countries in transition secure the resources and knowledge needed for a better future.

Specifically, Ross emphasized that any peace agreement take into account Israel’s security:

Peace is essential in the region not only to enhance the prospect of trade and cooperation, but to ensure that as a new generation of leaders emerge, they recognize the prospect that Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs can coexist in their own states without the ever-present prospect of renewed hostilities. New leaders need to see that peace is possible and not impossible. They need to see that negotiations can take place and actually produce. And, Israelis and Palestinians need to feel that their respective requirements for peace are understood clearly by each other and will actually be addressed. Israelis, particularly during a time of change with inherent uncertainty, must see that their security will be addressed meaningfully, and in a way that does not leave them vulnerable to the uncertainties of the future. Palestinians must know that they will have an independent state that is contiguous and viable. For Palestinians, that prospect is certainly made more credible when tangible steps are taken to show that the occupation is receding.

Ross concluded by summarizing the United States’ priorities in the Middle East:

We clearly have a full plate of challenges in the Middle East today. But our agenda is clear: support coalition forces in their mission to protect the civilians of Libya and support a peaceful, inclusive, and democratic transition there; help Egypt and Tunisia to conduct a successful, orderly, and credible transition; encourage others in the region undertake meaningful reform now before they too face destabilizing unrest; work to expand economic opportunities; continue the push for peace between Israelis, Palestinians, and their Arab neighbors; and build the pressure on Iran. This is a complex and demanding agenda, but it has the complete attention of the President and his full national security team.

Full transcript follows the jump.

Remarks by Ambassador Dennis Ross (as prepared), Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region to the Anti-Defamation League National Leadership Conference 2011

Washington, D.C., April 4, 2011

To say that a lot has changed in the Middle East since I had the opportunity to speak to you last spring would be an understatement.  Indeed, the Middle East has not experienced such political upheaval for as long as I’ve been working on the region — and unfortunately that has been a very long time.  If you had asked me last year about the chances that a popular revolt would drive Mubarak from Cairo and Ben Ali from Tunisia, that what is going on in Libya now, and that large-scale protests would be breaking out in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen on a regular basis, I probably would have placed the odds as slightly lower than Virginia Commonwealth’s run to the Final Four.

But it is happening, and in all seriousness, what we are seeing today in the Middle East represents a truly dramatic upheaval that carries with it both tremendous opportunities and significant risks:  opportunities for real freedoms, economic development, truly representative and legitimate governments, and the kind of interdependence that can produce genuine peace.  There is, however, also the risk of potential violence, instability, and the empowerment of radical actors hostile to the United States and our interests, if these transitions are not managed carefully.

I would like to talk to you this morning about how the Obama administration views the dramatic changes happening in the Middle East and what we are doing to try to seize this opportunity to advance a more peaceful, stable, free, and prosperous region.

Why did Middle East experts in the government and the academic world not foresee the changes that have occurred in 2011?  For many years, the analysis of the Middle East generally tended to be based on a set of assumptions:

  • regimes were too strong and ready to deploy their pervasive security apparatuses to instill fear and use force if necessary;
  • publics were simply to fearful with too little hope to challenge these systems, and  the more liberal actors in civil society were too weak and internally divided to bring about meaningful change;
  • the so-called Arab street cared more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than their own domestic needs, and governments would always be quick to exploit these emotions  to divert attention away from their own failings;
  • and that regimes and people across the Middle East preferred stability to chaos and were willing to tolerate the status quo in order to avoid uncertainty.

But those traditional assumptions clearly don’t stand up to the realities we now see sweeping the region and that began with the revolt in Tunisia and moved onto Tahrir Square in Egypt.  What accounted for this dramatic change?  Perhaps, more than anything else, the loss of fear helped launch what is now referred to as the Arab Spring.  It has been the youth of the region, the “Facebook generation” that has led the way.  Demographically, there is a youth bulge in the region.  And, the level of frustration in the younger generation has been building and for good reason.   In far too many places, governments have provided for a select few, creating little economic opportunity and no promise of a better future, much less the possibility of inclusion and participation in shaping the future for the many.  Greater exposure to the outside through widely available satellite television, the internet, and more recently, social media platforms, showed this young generation the enormous gap between their limited opportunities and the prospects for participating fully in the 21st century world.  Lacking hope for a better future and faced with daily humiliation from insensitive, often brutal regimes, a few brave souls who had enough decided to defy the state.

In Tunisia, it was Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old fruit vendor who was the catalyst for revolutionary change.  He set himself on fire in front of a government building after an official inspector sought to confiscate his fruit and slapped him in public when he tried to take back the goods that provided him a meager livelihood.

And in Egypt, it was the thousands of people who signed up to a Facebook page honoring the memory of Khaled Said, a 28-year-old businessmen brutally murdered by police after posting evidence of police brutality on the internet.  Those who joined the “We Are All Khaled Said” page knew they were signing up to be watched by state security services, but more than half a million people joined anyway.  And it was one of the creators of that page, the young Google executive Wael Ghonim, who himself became a powerful symbol of the opposition and galvanized thousands of protesters to join the movement in Tahrir Square after he emerged from 12 days in detention as defiant as ever.  The young people were not driven by any ideologies of religion or nationalism, but by the simple instinct to demand dignity in the face of humiliation.

In the face of the growing demands for change, how has the Obama administration responded?  Recognizing that we are neither the cause of what is happening in the region nor can we be the driver of these developments, we have established a set of basic principles to guide action:

  • First, we oppose the use of violence by governments and protesters alike.  Political change should emerge peacefully, not through force.
  • Second, we have insisted that governments must protect certain universal rights, such as the right for people to gather and express themselves peacefully and have access to information.
  • And third, the President emphasized from the beginning that governments should respond to inevitable change by instituting meaningful and credible reforms. As President Obama said very early on, “The world is changing; you have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East that is looking for greater opportunity, and that if you are governing these countries, you’ve got to get out ahead of change.  You can’t be behind the curve.”

We have committed to working closely with governments who have undertaken a meaningful effort to reform, and when governments have chosen the wrong approach and tried to preserve the status quo through their traditional but outdated modes of violence and coercion, we have spoken out.  On Friday, following another day of violence against demonstrators in Syria, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement saying: “We condemn and deplore the use of violence against citizens demonstrating in Syria, and applaud the courage and dignity of the Syrian people.  Violence is not the answer to the grievances of the Syrian people.  What is needed now is a credible path to a future of greater freedom, democracy, opportunity, and justice.”  Over the past few months, we have spoken out when violence has occurred against peaceful protesters in Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen, and we will continue to do so, because if governments in the region should learn anything over the past few months, it should be that they cannot prevent dissent and seek to stifle legitimate grievances through force and coercion.   The Government of Bahrain, for example, should also recognize that restricting freedom of expression by shutting down newspapers or arresting bloggers is not the way to produce a political dialogue or make a political outcome more likely.

But the Obama administration’s approach is not just guided by what we say, but what we have done.  Nowhere has our commitment to preventing violence been demonstrated more clearly than in our response to the Qadhafi regime’s brutal efforts to quell internal opposition.  As Qadhafi’s troops advanced toward the city of Benghazi and he promised “no mercy” on his own population, we helped to mobilize a broad international coalition committed to preventing what would surely have been a humanitarian catastrophe — a human slaughter and a moral disaster that could easily have led to chaos, instability, and potentially enormous refugees flows into neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, precisely at a time these countries are attempting to navigate their own political transitions peacefully.

Having helped produce two UN Security Council Resolutions, we joined a broad international consensus that included Arab contributions from the UAE and Qatar to enforce the UN-authorized no-fly zone and to protect the civilians of Libya.  From the outset of this conflict, the President made clear that the American contribution to this effort would be largely on the front end and we would use our unique capabilities to create an environment in which others would be able to take the lead in carrying out the No Fly Zone and civilian protection mission.  That transition happened last week when NATO assumed full operational command for all missions in Libya.  We will continue to support the NATO mission with electronic jamming capabilities, aerial refueling, and intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance.   Now that the international coalitions has created space and time for the Libyan people, we hope to see a democratic transition in Libya through a broadly inclusive process that reflects the will and protects the rights of the Libyan people.

Elsewhere in the region, we are actively supporting transitions and supporting governments seeking to undertake peaceful transitions, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia.  In Egypt, we have been in a regular dialogue with the Egyptian military and the new government since the transition as well as with a diverse range of nongovernmental and civil society actors, making it clear that we support principles, processes, and institutions — not personalities.  Egypt has made remarkable strides in just a short period.  On March 19, more than 18 million people turned out to vote in a referendum on proposed constitutional amendments.  They did so peacefully and orderly in a process fully supervised by Egypt’s respected judiciary.  Egypt faces many challenges ahead, including a struggling economy and the management of a complicated transition that will involve parliamentary and presidential elections this year as well as the drafting of a new constitution.

We have made a number of suggestions as to how this process can unfold freely, fairly, and peacefully, and we have committed to helping this transition in whatever way we can, because we understand what is at stake. We have reassigned $150 million in assistance to support Egypt’s transition, and we are working to establish a much needed Enterprise Fund that will stimulate private sector investment, support competitive markets, and provide business with access to low-cost capital — and we are working closely with our allies on the steps that can be taken to ensure economic stabilization over time.  If the Tahrir movement and the March referendum are any indication, there is reason to be optimistic that the Egyptian people will become increasingly invested in their government, establishing a degree of legitimacy that was missing for so many years.

Renewed legitimacy of governments in the Middle East will not only improve the stability of these countries internally, but will provide new opportunities for regional cooperation, and ultimately peace.  For too long, illegitimate governments have looked to blame others for their problems, to deflect attention from their own shortcomings by stoking hostilities toward the United States or Israel.

One of the most remarkable features of the peaceful protests movements across the region has been their focus on domestic issues — the abuses of security forces, government corruption, and the limited opportunities to participate in government decisions.  I fully expect that when these populations are empowered and responsible for shaping the future of their countries, they will also see the importance of pursuing peace and cooperation as essential to their own political futures.  The more that countries are able to invest their resources in their own future and the less they invest in conflict, the more they will be able to address the needs of their people that prompted the revolts of the Arab Spring.

Many of you will remember how Shimon Peres — who is having lunch with President Obama tomorrow — spoke about the New Middle East in 1993 that would be built on the foundations of peace, cooperation, and trade.  Unfortunately, Peres’s vision was not realized two decades ago, because such a future could not be built on an authoritarian foundation.  The Middle East today has very little internal trade and investment.  The region also has very few domestic or transnational institutions when compared to other parts of the world.  All that needs to change, and the democratic movements today offer the prospect of a truly new Middle East — a vision that we must strive to realize.  The United States can help support this process by facilitating the work of civil society and non-governmental organizations, international financial institutions, and private-public partnerships to help countries in transition secure the resources and knowledge needed for a better future.

Peace is essential in the region not only to enhance the prospect of trade and cooperation, but to ensure that as a new generation of leaders emerge, they recognize the prospect that Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs can coexist in their own states without the ever-present prospect of renewed hostilities.  New leaders need to see that peace is possible and not impossible.  They need to see that negotiations can take place and actually produce.  And, Israelis and Palestinians need to feel that their respective requirements for peace are understood clearly by each other and will actually be addressed.  Israelis, particularly during a time of change with inherent uncertainty, must see that their security will be addressed meaningfully, and in a way that does not leave them vulnerable to the uncertainties of the future.  Palestinians must know that they will have an independent state that is contiguous and viable.  For Palestinians, that prospect is certainly made more credible when tangible steps are taken to show that the occupation is receding.

If anything, our relationship with Israel becomes more important during a time of change and upheaval in the Middle East.  Israel is an enduring partner whose stability can be counted on.  We are bound by shared values and interests, and our commitment to Israel’s security is iron-clad and unshakable.  For the Obama Administration, those are not just words.  Many of you may have heard what Secretary Gates recently said  in Israel:  “I cannot recall a time during my public life when our two countries have had a closer defense relationship.  The U.S. and Israel are cooperating closely in areas such as missile defense technology, the Joint Strike Fighter, and in training exercises such as Juniper Stallion — cooperation and support that ensures that Israel will continue to maintain its qualitative military edge.”  Our cooperation contributes to Israel’s security every day, signified by Israel’s recent deployment of the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system, which we helped fund with more than $200 million in support this year.  I too cannot recall a time when security cooperation between our two countries has ever been as intense or focused.

All this is important because, as I noted earlier, political change in the Middle East does not come without risk, and it is occurring under the backdrop of ongoing threats.  Iran, in particular is trying to exploit the political changes in the Arab world, and using its proxy Hezbollah to enflame sectarian tensions in countries like Bahrain at precisely a moment when sectarian differences and legitimate grievances need to be overcome politically and not exacerbated.  Iran has also been quick to criticize Arab governments for using the very repressive tactics it continues to employ against its own people.  Indeed, it is the height of irony that at a time when Arab publics throughout the Middle East are finding their voice, the Iranian leadership seeks to quash the voice of Iranians who are asking only for their rights.

The Iranians are fooling no one.  And, they are also fooling no one as they continue to pursue their nuclear program in defiance of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions.  As National Security Advisor Tom Donilon stressed last week, “Even with all the events unfolding in the Middle East, we remain focused on the strategic imperative of ensuring that Iran does acquire not nuclear weapons.”  On our own and with others, we will continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian regime.  On March 24, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution appointing a special rapporteur charged with investigating and monitoring human rights abuses in Iran — a move that the ADL praised.   Iran continues to contend with sanctions that are far more comprehensive than ever before, and as a result, it finds it hard to do business with any reputable bank internationally; to conduct transactions in Euros or dollars; to acquire insurance for its shipping; to gain new capital investment or technology infusions in its antiquated oil and natural gas infrastructure — and it has found in that critical sector, alone, close to $60 billion in projects have been put on hold or discontinued.   Other sectors are clearly being affected as well as leading multinational corporations understand the risk of doing business with Iran and are no longer doing so.

Unless and until Iran complies with its obligations under the NPT and all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, we will continue to ratchet up the pressure.    

We clearly have a full plate of challenges in the Middle East today.  But our agenda is clear: support coalition forces in their mission to protect the civilians of Libya and support a peaceful, inclusive, and democratic transition there; help Egypt and Tunisia to conduct a successful, orderly, and credible transition; encourage others in the region undertake meaningful reform now before they too face destabilizing unrest; work to expand economic opportunities; continue the push for peace between Israelis, Palestinians, and their Arab neighbors; and build the pressure on Iran.  This is a complex and demanding agenda, but it has the complete attention of the President and his full national security team.

Thank you very much.