Fast Track Bill Strikes Blow Against BDS Movement

bdsflyer1— by Ronald S. Lauder, president of World Jewish Congress

Yesterday, Senate approved a strong stand against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement included in the bill granting fast track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

The BDS amendment discourages actions by potential U.S. trading partners such as the European Union that prejudice or discourage trade between the U.S. and Israel, in particular “politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel and to seek the elimination of politically motivated nontariff barriers on Israeli goods, services, or other commerce imposed on the State of Israel.” It also seeks “the elimination of state-sponsored unsanctioned foreign boycotts against Israel or compliance with the Arab League Boycott of Israel by prospective trading partners.”

The legislation was already passed by the House of Representatives and can now be signed into law by President Obama.

The amendment by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL 6) throws a wrench in the works of the campaign to boycott Israel. It upholds the principle that those who seek to harm the Jewish state cannot subvert free global commerce for their own perverse political agenda. America’s elected representatives today made it again clear that they stand with Israel and against BDS.

Auschwitz Survivors Return to Camp After 70 Years

— by Ryan Greiss

Fifteen Auschwitz survivors, between the ages 80 and 94, returned this morning to the infamous camp, some for the first time, ahead of tomorrow’s 70th anniversary celebration of its liberation.

One American survivor who returned the death camp for the first time, Johnny Pekats (80) shared his experience:

When I arrived in Poland, the tall trees made me immediately anxious. They reminded me of my arrival to Auschwitz — the same day my mother and little sister were gassed. For years I refused to return to this horrible place, but I finally decided to come back with my son. I wanted to say Kaddish with him there.

This is my first and last visit to Auschwitz and my message for the word is that it’s not enough just to remember; we have to make sure that this never happens again.

70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

Left to right: World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer; Natan Grossman (Germany); Samuel Beller (US); Florence Sprung (US); Manny Buchman (US); Mascha Schainberg (South Africa); Marcel Tuchman (US); Rose Schindler (US); Jonny Pekats (US); Henry Korman (Germany); Ronald Lauder; Mordechai Ronen (Canada); Joseph Madrowitz (US); Edgar Wildfeuer (Argentina).

More than 100 Auschwitz survivors from at least 19 countries have arrived in Poland today as part of the World Jewish Congress’ delegation to participate in the upcoming ceremony and events. Joining the survivors on their visit was the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, who, organized the delegation along with the USC Shoah Foundation.

Lauder said that the survivors showed great courage in participating in the delegation:

For some of them, this was the first time they returned to the place of their nightmares. Each survivor is a living testament to the triumph of good over evil, of life over death, and they are my heroes.

Terrorist Linked to Charlie Hebdo Assailants Kills 4 in Kosher Market

Screen-Shot-2015-01-09-at-7.53.31-PM-e1420825891680-635x357[1]A terrorist linked to the men who killed 12 people in the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and suspected of killing a police officer, shot and killed four people, wounded many more and held at least five hostages inside a kosher market in Paris.

Police freed the surviving hostages and killed the gunman, reported to be Amedy Coulibaly. The Charlie Hebdo assailants were killed in a simultaneous raid on a printing business, where they also held a hostage, who was eventually freed.

B’nai B’rith International said that “terrorizing of a kosher market is not just an attack on Jews, but a reprehensible assault on free societies everywhere.”

March against terrorism, Newseum, Washington DC, January 11, 2014. (Photo: Helen Loeb)

March against terrorism, Newseum, Washington DC, January 11, 2014. (Photo: Helen Loeb)

The World Jewish Congress president, Ronald S. Lauder, praised the European government leaders for spontaneously traveling to Paris on Sunday to take part in a solidarity march, but urged a strong response from civil society:

We hope that this barbaric attack will trigger the same outcry among citizens in France and the rest of the Western world as did Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo. France has the world’s third largest Jewish community, and yet Jewish life in France will not have a future if the lethal threat posed by Islamic terrorists is not tackled effectively and quickly.

Jerusalem Bloodbath: Abbas Blamed for Incitement

— by Michael Thaidigsmann

At lnovember-19-2014-what-jerusalem-needs-now-webeast four people, including a rabbi, were killed and more than a dozen others wounded when two Arab terrorists burst into the synagogue during morning prayers and attacked worshipers with a gun, a meat cleaver and an ax.

President Obama referred to the fact that three of the victims were Americans in his statement:

I strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack on worshipers at a synagogue in Jerusalem, which killed four innocent people, including U.S. citizens Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary William Levine, and Mosheh Twersky, and injured several more.  There is and can be no justification for such attacks against innocent civilians.  The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the victims and families of all those who were killed and injured in this horrific attack and in other recent violence.  At this sensitive moment in Jerusalem, it is all the more important for Israeli and Palestinian leaders and ordinary citizens to work cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence, and seek a path forward towards peace.

november-18-2014-please-leave-us-alone-web

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) president, Ronald Lauder, said the bloodbath in the Kehilat Bnei Torah Synagogue in Har Nof was “obviously the result of an orchestrated campaign by Palestinian groups whose sole aim is to incite to hatred against Jews.”

Lauder welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas’ condemnation of the attack, but said that in order to be credible Abbas had to stop the “vicious incitement against Israelis that is happening on his watch”:

Instead of opposing the extremists in his own ranks, Mr. Abbas has been placating them. If he wants to retain any credibility he must show strong, unequivocal leadership now. Failure to do so would have catastrophic consequences and would probably put a stop to the peace process for many years to come. The next weeks will show if he is a credible Palestinian leader.

The WJC president called it “an outrage” that houses of prayer were now being deliberately targeted by Palestinian terrorists:

Houses of worship anywhere in the world must be sacrosanct. Whoever attacks peaceful worshipers in a synagogue, a mosque or a church is nothing but a despicable criminal.

The two perpetrators were killed by police officers arriving at the scene. It was the deadliest terror attack in Jerusalem in many years.

Cartoons courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @ http://cartoonkronicles.com/

Conference to Raise Cause of Jewish Refugees From Muslim Countries


Jewish refugee camp in Israel, 1950.

The “forgotten refugees” of the Arab-Israel conflict — Jews forced from their homes in Arab countries — will gain a hearing at the United Nations Building in New York tomorrow, at a conference named “The Untold Story of the Middle East: Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries.”

The conference will urge that American and international diplomacy recognize the rights of the Middle East’s Jewish refugees on an equal footing with those of other refugees in the region, including Palestinian Arabs — an especially salient topic given ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The conference will be convened by Israel’s Mission to the United Nations, the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.

“The world has long recognized the Palestinian refugee problem, but without recognizing the other side of the story — the 850,000 Jewish refugees of Arab countries,” president of WJC, Ronald S. Lauder, said.

More after the jump.
The conference will hear presentations from Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure Silvan Shalom, Israeli Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ron Prosor, Lauder, Conference of Presidents Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, and Co-President of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries Sylvain Abitbol.

The film The Forgotten Refugees, a documentary by Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, will be screened.

“For any Middle East peace process to be credible and enduring, it must ensure that all bona fide refugees receive equal rights and treatment under international law,” Lauder said.

May His Memory Be for a Blessing: Tadeusz Mazowiecki (1927-2013)

Mazowiecki served as the prime minister of Poland after the fall of Communism from 1989 to 1991.

— by Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress

Tadeusz Mazowiecki was one of the architects of the modern, democratic Poland and a friend of Israel and the Jewish people.

The Jews are grateful to Tadeusz Mazowiecki for his staunch defense of their rights as Poland emerged from communism, and for his help in resolving the crisis of the Carmelite convent on the grounds of Auschwitz in the early 1990s. He will also be remembered for speaking out against anti-Semitism clearly and unequivocally and exposing war crimes as special rapporteur for human rights in the former Yugoslavia. May his memory be for a blessing.

More after the jump.
The Mazowiecki government re-established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1990, and helped to open Polish airports for Jews leaving the then-Soviet Union. He was also part of the group that successfully fought for the repeal of the 1975 United Nations General Assembly Resolution, that determined that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.

Mazowiecki’s silent but effective diplomacy ensured that his country’s transition was successful. Together with Lech Walesa (pictured to the right), he laid the foundations for what is today the strongest country both economically and politically in Central and Eastern Europe.

WJC President: Netanyahu Did the Right Thing Apologizing to Turkey


Turkish and Israeli Prime Ministers Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Binyamin Netanyahu.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder today warmly welcomed the thaw in relations between Israel and Turkey. Lauder said the news has been met by “a sigh of relief” in many Jewish communities around the world. He praised Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and said it had been “the right thing to do in this situation”, despite the “very justified reservations” Netanyahu and others in Israel had had against such a step. Lauder expressed hope that the gesture by Israel would effectively end the diplomatic crisis between the two countries:

Turkey and Israel must work together. There are so many issues in the region where these two countries can make a difference. One of them is military cooperation in order to secure geopolitical stability in the Middle East.

B’nai B’rith International’s response after the jump.
Lauder said he had met with Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu seven times since the Gaza Flotilla incident in May 2010:

In these talks the Turkish side has always made it clear that if Israel apologizes a new beginning in relations is possible. We sincerely hope that they will keep their word.

The WJC president praised US President Barack Obama for brokering a breakthrough in Israeli-Turkish relations:

President Obama’s visit to Israel was extremely important. He has shown that American leadership is essential if any progress is to be made in the peace process. On behalf of the World Jewish Congress I wholeheartedly thank him not just for helping to restore Israeli-Turkish relations but also for his important visit to Israel. His visit further strengthened the bond between Israelis and Americans. We hope that this provide the basis for renewed efforts to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

B’nai B’rith International also welcomed the restoration of full relations between the two countries:

The normalization of relations between Israel and Turkey — the region’s only two democracies — sends a strong message of stability in a troubled part of the world.  

This positive development comes amid the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria, where human rights groups estimate 70,000 Syrians have been killed in the two years since the uprising against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and countless thousands have been displaced.

Jewish Community Welcomes Pope Francis

— by Ronald S. Lauder

Pope Francis is no stranger to us. In recent years he attended many inter-faith events co-organized by the WJC and our regional affiliate, the Latin American Jewish Congress. I personally met with him in Buenos Aires in June 2008. He always had an open ear for our concerns. By choosing such an experienced man, someone who is known for his open-mindedness, the cardinals have sent an important signal to the world. I am sure that Pope Francis will continue to be a man of dialogue, a man who is able to build bridges with other faiths.

During the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, Catholic-Jewish relations reached unprecedented levels. This was due to the determination of the pope to continue the work of his predecessor, John Paul II. We are convinced that new pontiff will continue on this path, that he will speak out against all forms of Antisemitism both within and without the Catholic Church, that he will take action against clerics who deny or belittle the Holocaust, and that he will strengthen the Vatican’s relationship with Israel.

More reactions follow the jump.
B’nai B’rith International

In November, then-Cardinal Bergoglio was the keynote speaker at B’nai B’rith’s Krystallnacht commemoration in Buenos Aires, where he helped light the menorah.

“We welcome Pope Francis I to his new role as leader of the Catholic Church,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Catholic-Jewish relations had remained a focus of Pope Benedict XVI and we look forward to continuing the solid foundation that already exists for interfaith dialogue.”


Cardinal Jorge Jorge María Bergoglio (now known as Pope Francis) and World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder in Buenos AIres in 2008.

Jewish Council for Public Affairs Chair Larry Gold

We offer our sincerest blessings and hope that our cherished friendship with the Catholic Church will continue to flourish and deepen. We are heartened by his profound statement of solidarity with the Jewish people and his identity with the pain that was caused by the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow

We look forward to our ongoing partnership with the Catholic church in combating poverty, a great legacy of the Pope during his tenure as Cardinal of Buenos Aires. In a world so awfully divided by wealth and opportunity, may his teaching and example help to heal our broken world and bring us closer to a time when no person goes to bed hungry.

Bronfman: Obama’s Support for Israel “Bone Deep”

— by Rachel Shabad

Former President of the World Jewish Congress Edgar M. Bronfman wrote an op-ed in Haaretz saying that President Barack Obama has led an incredible effort to strengthen the U.S.- Israel relationship. According to Bronfman, Obama’s support has made the Jewish State of Israel safer and more secure than in the past.

Bronfman wrote:

President Obama has led a resurgence of joint military cooperation between Israel and the United States. In fact, following President Obama’s directive, the United States Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces have increased their strategic collaboration on defense technology, deployment, tactics, and intelligence to levels never before experienced.

Whether it is joint military exercises to stave off threats from terrorist and rogue regimes, or advancement and deployment of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, President Obama has led a breakthrough in a mutually beneficial partnership with Israel.

Nevertheless, despite the clear facts and substantial evidence, political partisans and opponents of the president continue a coordinated campaign to sow seeds of doubt about President Obama’s support for Israel. The effort is not new. It began in 2008 when people stressed his middle name and used it as a weapon. From there, they began to call then-Senator Obama a Muslim. With the Muslim myth debunked, these same critics moved on and began questioning the president’s place of birth.

Now, they are claiming that President Obama cannot be trusted to keep Israel safe. Despite all evidence to the contrary, these political partisans believe the American people-and particularly the Jewish community-are uninformed and that we cannot tell the difference between rhetoric and reality.

The reality is that when confronted with rhetorical attacks and efforts to sow doubts about his support for Israel, President Obama could have simply adopted the swagger and bravado of his predecessor. It would have been easy for President Obama to go on a speaking tour pandering to the Jewish community and those in America who love Israel. But that is not his style. President Obama is a thoughtful, decisive and pragmatic leader. He values substantive solutions over political gamesmanship. Forgoing the bluster and bravado of others, President Obama continues his practical and deliberate support for the State of Israel.

I have had the great privilege to work with successive U.S. Presidents over the past half-century on countless issues. On matters relating to Israel, one comment now stands out in my mind more than any other. While sitting in the Oval Office not long ago, President Obama looked me in the eye and said, ‘My commitment to Israel’s security is bone-deep.’ It is reflected in his actions; it comes from a passion to secure the Jewish State, and it traces through his roots.

President Obama is a man who has taken those words and honored them with action. As a result, the State of Israel is more secure and I will be proud to vote for him this November.

Bronfman: Obama’s Strong Record on Israel is ‘Crystal Clear’

— by Max Samis

Despite repeated smears from Republicans desperate to disparage President Barack Obama, leaders in the American Jewish community know that Obama has consistently stood up for Israel. In an op-ed published by JTA, Edgar M. Bronfman, the former president of the World Jewish Congress, praised Obama for protecting Israel’s security and defending the Jewish state in front of the international community time and time again.

Bronfman wrote:

Throughout a half-century of international diplomatic work, I have learned to tell the politicians from the friends and the charlatans from the statesmen. Charlatans scream. They tell you what you want to hear and call other people names. Friends and leaders need not rely on rhetoric or boisterous bravado. They produce results and act on principle.

President Obama is such a friend and leader. In his 3 1/2 years in office he has deepened and strengthened the relationship between the United States and Israel. And today, Obama continues to implement a comprehensive pro-Israel agenda that has made Israel safer and more secure.

Under Obama, U.S. financial aid to Israel is at its highest levels ever. During the past four years, Israel has avoided becoming engaged in any substantial frontal military engagements, advanced its notable economic development and remains prepared for negotiating a comprehensive peace. Obama as president has led a mutually beneficial resurgence in the exchange of strategic technology, intelligence and cooperation between U.S. armed forces and the Israel Defense Forces.

Standing by Israel, Obama opposed the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and blocked its recognition at the United Nations. He supported Israel’s right to defend itself and confronted head-on the now-discredited Goldstone Report that condemned Israeli defensive action off its coast. He also ordered the United States to withdraw from the Durban Review Conference, whose namesake conference was supposed to be about racism but instead became an anti-Israel hate-fest. Obama stated unequivocally that ‘The United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum.’

Going even further, Obama has taken the floor of the United Nations to declare that ‘Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate’ and that ‘efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will be met only by the unshakable opposition of the United States.’

When Fatah and Hamas joined political forces and pressured Israel to enter negotiations with them, Obama told the world that ‘No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction,’ concluding that ‘Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist.’

And this is also why Obama has taken such a strong stand against the Iranian nuclear program-the single greatest threat to the State of Israel and the stability of the Middle East. After years of inaction and neglect by the Bush administration, Obama constructed an international coalition to impose the most crippling sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. These sanctions have already choked off Iran’s access to many capital markets and have had a profound effect on the way Tehran finances its nefarious operations. Covert U.S. operations targeting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure reportedly have also slowed their rate of progress.

While his opponents can talk tough on Iran, the president is doing what is necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Nevertheless, despite clear facts and substantial evidence, political partisans and opponents of the president continue a coordinated campaign to distort reality in a brazen attempt to fool the public. The same type of people who called Obama a closet Muslim and claimed he was not born in the United States now exercise linguistic calisthenics to obfuscate the truth and portray the president as hostile to the Jewish state. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Not long ago, while sitting in the Oval Office, Obama looked me in the eye and said, ‘My commitment to Israel’s security is bone deep.’ He did not have to say it. I already knew that President Obama would never forsake the Jewish state, its security and its people. His record of performance is crystal clear and the charlatans cannot change that.