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Dan Mariaschin opinion on the latest Human Rights UN Council meeting

Business as Usual at the U.N. Human Rights Council
March 18, 2016, 8:15 am, Times of Israel

Daniel S. Mariaschin Daniel S Mariaschin is the International Executive Vice President of B'nai B'rith


It has been business as usual at the U.N. Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva this month.

Here's why it matters.

Notwithstanding the need for urgent attention to such serial abusers as Syria's Assad regime, which continues to barrel-bomb its own citizens in the midst of a destructive civil war, and Iran, which most certainly vies for the lead in any number of human rights abuses, including the execution of juvenile offenders, Israel is still singled out for special opprobrium.

If this sounds like a broken record, it is. Each year, all countries up for discussion are lumped together into one agenda item, while Israel is always separated out from the rest for individual scrutiny under Item "7" which applies solely to the Jewish state, the only democracy in the Middle East. Subsumed under that item this year are a basket of separate resolutions, as well as six reports. The resolutions, which make no pretence at being objective, hammer Israel for "the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory," settlements, human rights abuses in the Golan Heights and a call for Palestinian self-determination.

The special reports include updates on the infamous Goldstone Commission Report, which was written in the wake of the 2009 Gaza war, and which suggested Israel might be guilty of war crimes. Judge Richard Goldstone, who chaired the group which wrote the report, ultimately backed away from its one-sided findings. In the U.N. system, however, vituperation against Israel has a life of its own, so the report lives on.

What does all of this have to do with the real world in 2016? The Middle East is not only in chaos, it is in meltdown mode in Iraq and Syria. Libya has now become the new ISIS target of opportunity. Iran, soon to be flush with cash from the nuclear deal with the P5+1, sends its Revolutionary Guards to Syria, along with its wholly-owned subsidiary Hezbollah, the terrorist organization that has taken over control of Lebanon, to back the Assad regime. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in this conflict, Christians and Yazidis have been massacred and subject to humiliation, eviction and dispersal, with millions becoming part of the biggest refugee migration in decades.

This situation has received scant attention from a U.N. body "re-formed and reformed" 10 years ago to address real human rights crises. Its 47 members have really done no such thing. It is dominated by countries from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, and something called the Like-Minded Group of Developing Countries, said to represent 50 percent of the world's population, whose worldview includes protecting many of those countries who are in the first line of human rights abusers.

This session, as a result of membership rotation, the United States is not on the Council. Nevertheless, it has spoken out strongly against the double standard Israel receives at the hands of the members of the body. Neither is Canada, which has been a staunch defender of Israel over the past decade. The EU countries choose not to participate in the debate on Item 7, though several of its member states, critical of Israel, find a way to do so. The EU could act more forcefully against this on-going diplomatic charade, but it refrains from doing that—another example of how its actions often don't measure up to the values it claims to uphold.

As for the Palestinians it once again proves that, though largely crowded out of the news because of events in the region, their ability to manipulate the U.N. system continues. Whether it was attaining full membership at UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), non-member state status at the General Assembly, or getting its flag flown in front of the U.N. in New York and other U.N. venues (including Geneva), they continue to plug away, not feeling any pressure to return to the negotiating table with Israel. And why should they? The Palestinians feel they have the international community's blindly supportive wind at their back—even at a time when the Middle East neighborhood in which the Palestinians are based, is imploding.

One European diplomat I met in Geneva, after a spirited discussion about how annual denunciations of Israel only embolden the Palestinians and discourage the Israelis, told me point blank that if they were to say "no' to Item 7, "the Palestinian door would be closed to us." My rejoinder was that if the EU—which has often been the Palestinians' friend in court and which has for years funded the salaries of Palestinian Authority (PA) civil servants—really sought to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, they would spend their time urging the PA to move to the negotiating table, rather than allow this yearly lacerating of Israel to continue.

So as the Middle East burns, Nero—in this case—the Human Rights Council, fiddles. An aversion to doubling down on real abusers of human rights, and a propensity to let the anti-Israel rhetoric flow in Item 7 and its accompanying reports, speaks to the hypocrisy and emptiness of the Council and the system that has produced it.

Living in a time where, from our smart phone screens we can learn, real time, about the abuses of human rights everywhere, a global conscience is AWOL. Each day it stays that way, real opportunities to help those who suffer, pass. Instead, at the Human Rights Council and elsewhere, there is always time to unfairly castigate Israel.

What a terrible waste.

Daniel S. Mariaschin, who has just returned from Geneva, is the executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International. As the organization's top executive officer, Mariaschin directs and supervises B'nai B'rith programs, activities and staff around the world.

B'nai B'rith leads members of the European Parliament on a mission to Israël



EP delegation


B’nai B’rith International led several members of the European Parliament on a five-day visit to Israel. This trip promoted the Jewish state as an influential leader in education, technology, agriculture and medicine. The delegation included the following members of the European Parliament Lars Adaktusson (Sweden), Ramona Manescu (Romania) and Davor Stier (Croatia).

“It is necessary for diplomatic leaders to receive accurate information regarding Israel and what it deals with on a near daily basis—such as violent terrorist attacks,” B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman said. “This mission provided an informative and vital experience that permitted members of the European Parliament to recognize that Israel is a dynamic and diverse country with a thriving economy.”

The trip, staffed by B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and Eric Fusfield, deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, allowed participants to immerse themselves in Israel’s culture by touring the Old City of Jerusalem, hearing from Israeli military officers at the Gaza border about the country's unique security challenges and visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial. The delegation also visited wounded victims of the Syrian war at Ziv Hospital and met with Knesset members Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), Anat Berko (Likud) and Nachman Shai (Zionist Union). The delegation also toured the Israel Museum, visited Kibbutz Magen (located in the northwestern Negev desert), met with Mayor Eliyahu Shaviro of Ariel and visited a plastics factory in the West Bank, where they learned about Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and job creation. Participants discussed religious pluralism in Israel with Christian and Baha'i faith leaders.

The mission also included a meeting with key officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the diplomats discussed European Union-Israel relations and the labeling of products made in the West Bank and Golan Heights. “B’nai B’rith is responsible for providing influential international leaders with information that demonstrates Israel’s vibrant democratic character,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “There is no better way to accomplish this than by bringing European officials to Israel, so they can experience the Jewish state’s culture and political environment firsthand, as well as its story of success as the ‘start-up nation.’ We will continue to do these missions in the future.” This diplomatic delegation to Israel was made possible by the generous support of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit bnaibrith.org.

Source: BBI press release

A delegation of B'nai B'rith leads MEPS on a mission to Israël

Picture



B’nai B’rith International led several members of the European Parliament on a five-day visit to Israel. This trip promoted the Jewish state as an influential leader in education, technology, agriculture and medicine. The delegation included the following members of the European Parliament Lars Adaktusson (Sweden), Ramona Manescu (Romania) and Davor Stier (Croatia).
 
“It is necessary for diplomatic leaders to receive accurate information regarding Israel and what it deals with on a near daily basis—such as violent terrorist attacks,” B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman said. “This mission provided an informative and vital experience that permitted members of the European Parliament to recognize that Israel is a dynamic and diverse country with a thriving economy.”
 
The trip, staffed by B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem Director Alan Schneider and Eric Fusfield, deputy director of the B’nai B’rith International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy, allowed participants to immerse themselves in Israel’s culture by touring the Old City of Jerusalem, hearing from Israeli military officers at the Gaza border about the country's unique security challenges and visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial. The delegation also visited wounded victims of the Syrian war at Ziv Hospital and met with Knesset members Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), Anat Berko (Likud) and Nachman Shai (Zionist Union).

The delegation also toured the Israel Museum, visited Kibbutz Magen (located in the northwestern Negev desert), met with Mayor Eliyahu Shaviro of Ariel and visited a plastics factory in the West Bank, where they learned about Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and job creation. Participants discussed religious pluralism in Israel with Christian and Baha'i faith leaders. The mission also included a meeting with key officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the diplomats discussed European Union-Israel relations and the labeling of products made in the West Bank and Golan Heights.
 
“B’nai B’rith is responsible for providing influential international leaders with information that demonstrates Israel’s vibrant democratic character,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “There is no better way to accomplish this than by bringing European officials to Israel, so they can experience the Jewish state’s culture and political environment firsthand, as well as its story of success as the ‘start-up nation.’ We will continue to do these missions in the future.”
 
This diplomatic delegation to Israel was made possible by the generous support of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.


B’nai B’rith Meets with European Commission Coordinator to Combat Anti-Semitism

Daniel Valerie Benjamin Katarina

B'nai B'rith Europe President Daniel Citone, B'nai B'rith Europe Vice-President Valerie Achache and B'nai B'rith International Director of EU Affairs Benjamin Naegele met with European Commission's Coordinator on combating anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein. Among the issues discussed were the challenges Jewish communities in Europe face as well as ways to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. The recent labelling of Israeli settlement products, the lack of an official definition of anti-Semitism and hate speech online were also discussed.

French potential recognition of "Palestinian State" likely to set back peace talks


France's announcement that it will recognize a "Palestinian State" if there is no progress soon in peace talks for a two-state solution prejudges the issue and will more than likely inhibit the pace of talks, rather than facilitate peace negotiations. This will serve as a disincentive to negotiations.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has dragged its feet for years on returning to the negotiating table. Learning that France will recognize a state if talks don't move forward is hardly incentive for PA leaders to sit down with Israel to engage in direct talks. Why would the PA talk, when it knows already that it has French recognition? It suggests a baffling example of "backwards diplomacy."

Such a unilateral recognition ignores Israel's vital, rightful and what should be mandatory role in peace negotiations aimed at a two-state solution. B'nai B'rith has long advocated bilateral peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

France's suggestion that it will recognize a "State of Palestine" is more than unhelpful. Instead France should urge the PA to return to the table without preconditions.

The Palestinians have repeatedly rejected talks. The PA has instead chosen to circumvent Israel, going to the United Nations and various world leaders rather than make hard decisions in bi-lateral talks. Such internationalization of the conflict with the Jewish Sate allows the PA to avoid talks aimed at compromise.

As a staunch advocate for Israel, B'nai B'rith will work to ensure that Israel's security is fairly considered.

Source: B'nai B'rith International Press release. Washington, D.C., Jan. 31, 2016

B'nai B'rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B'nai B'rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit bnaibrith.org.

Italian Newspaper Distributes Kippot on Holocaust Remembrance Day in Show of Solidarity With European Jews

An Italian newspaper distributed white yarmulkes with its daily edition on Wednesday as a show of solidarity with Jewish communities in Europe on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"We intended it as a gesture of closeness and solidarity with the Jewish people, now that antisemitism is getting stronger in Europe and that many Jews are abandoning our cities," said Giulio Meotti, a writer for Il Foglio, according to The Jewish Voice.

Meotti noted that many Jews in Europe have stopped donning the traditional Jewish skullcap out of fear of antisemitism. In Marseilles earlier this month, following an attack against a Jewish schoolteacher outside his Hebrew school, the local community head called on locals to refrain from putting on the kippah, a suggestion that drew condemnations from others in the French and international Jewish communities.

"Hatred of Israel has returned to dominate the media and politics," said Meotti, according to the Voice. "Anti-Semitism does not shock anymore. But we must pay attention. Because they start by hitting the Jews but they do not stop there: we are all in danger."

The initiative by Il Foglio Editor-in-Chief Claudio Cerasa, followed French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia's call on Jews to wear kippot in order to show a "united front" against antisemitism, especially in the wake of recent attacks. Simultaneously, an online campaign was launched under the hashtag #TousAvecUneKippa, also calling for individuals to wear kippot as a sign of solidarity. In addition, Strasbourg Chabad Rabbi Mendel Samama handed out 100 kippot to passersby in the city's center around the same time.

"Solidarity is the only weapon we have. That little kippah is the symbol of our greatest and most precious freedoms. And of Israel, the outpost that Europe should defend and love," said Meotti.

Source: the Algemeiner 

BBE secretary general Ernest Simon shares his story as a refugee child with the Guardian

Ernest Simon shares his story as a refugee child on the Kindertransport. (Full article published on The Guardian website here)

Ernest Simon, from Austria

Ernest Simon now

Ernest Simon: 'I didn't know the implications.' Photograph: Felix Clay for the Guardian

Ernest Simon was eight years old when he boarded a Kindertransport train at Wien Westbahnhof station in Vienna. It was midnight on 11 January 1939, and he recalls just two things: a number around his neck, and saying goodbye to his parents and younger brother. "I didn't know the implications," he says. "I didn't think I might never see them again. You don't think like that when you are eight years old. For me, it was something of an adventure. All I knew was that I would be living with a nice Jewish family in England."
The Kindertransport had begun a month earlier, propelled by the brutality of Kristallnacht. By 14 May 1940, when the last transport left the embattled Netherlands for Britain, 10,000 unaccompanied children aged from three to 17 had made the two-day journey from Austria, Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia to a country that, for the vast majority, would become their home. Many of the parents and extended families they left behind were murdered by the Nazis. Few of the refugees went back after the war.
"I remember so little of the journey," says Simon. "I must have slept a lot. I remember being sea sick. At Liverpool Street station I was taken to a hostel overnight – something I did not discover until years later – and the next day to Leeds." Simon's aunt was already there. She had managed to get a domestic service visa and secure Simon's sponsors: a Jewish family in Chapeltown, Leeds. She also found a couple who were willing to employ his parents as domestic servants. So just six weeks after Simon arrived in Leeds, his parents and younger brother followed.

Ernest Simon as a child

Ernest Simon as a child. Photograph: Felix Clay for the Guardian

Why was he, and not his brother, chosen for the Kindertransport? "The truth is, I don't know," Simon says. "My brother jokes that they kept him back because they loved him more." He laughs, then becomes serious again. "The thing is, you don't ask these questions of your parents. It's very strange. I only know that it must have been very difficult for them."

When war broke out, Simon and his brother were evacuated to a village in Lincolnshire. "I lived with a farming family who didn't speak a word of German." How did he manage? "My English improved dramatically," he laughs, "and my German deteriorated to the extent that when my parents came to visit, my mother spoke to me in German and I replied in English. She burst into tears."
Simon is 85 now and lives in north-west London with his wife, whom he met at a dance in Leeds while on leave from the RAF. They have one son, who lives in Brussels. Simon studied economics at Leeds University and went on to work in business all over Europe. It is the UK, though, that remains home. "I feel entirely British," he says. "When I visit Austria, I'm a bit of a stranger. I've been back to Eisenstadt, where I was born, many times and often thought what might have happened if there had been no Kindertransport. It's a very difficult question to answer." Chitra Ramaswamy


Henry Wuga, from Germany

"White bread and red apples," recalls Henry Wuga, 91 and as sharp as a tack. "That's what I remember when the train crossed the Dutch frontier and we were received by ladies handing out chocolate and sandwiches. Being children, this was what you remembered. The minute someone was kind to you, you felt better."

Wuga was 15 on 4 May 1939 when he left Nuremberg on the Kindertransport, the name given to the evacuation of an unspecified number of unaccompanied children from Nazi Germany and the European countries it then occupied to Britain. He remembers howling on the platform, and carriages full of screaming children. "It was all right for me," he adds. "I had been away from home, but these kids were six and seven; they had never left their mums and dads."

By the age of 11 Wuga, the only child of Jewish parents who ran a small stationery business, was forced to leave his school. "No one would speak to us, neither the teachers nor the pupils," he tells me from the home in Giffnock, Glasgow, he shares with his wife Ingrid, who also left Germany on the Kindertransport. "We were completely sidelined. Songs were sung in the classroom while we were sitting there in tears. I don't forget this easily."

It was Wuga's mother, who survived the war hidden in a village and died in Glasgow at the age of 89, who got him a place on the Kindertransport. She had a cousin who had reached Glasgow and found him a sponsor: a Latvian widow with five older children. "I knew what was going on," Wuga explains. "It didn't come as a surprise to me to be at that train station, but I do remember saying to my parents: 'Why must I go on that train? Why can't I go via Paris and spend a week with my cousin?' I didn't quite realise that was not possible."

He arrived at Liverpool Street station in London, which "was a black hole in those days," he says. "We were sent to a cellar to wait to be collected. There were 200 of us, many had sponsors, others had no one. Some people had volunteered to take a child and came to the station to pick one. It was a bit of a cattle market ... quite traumatic." Wuga was taken to a hostel overnight and the following morning boarded another train, this time the Royal Scotsman from Euston. "We were taken to the dining car and I remember the waiters with white gloves serving hot chocolate in silver teapots. It was unbelievable to me. I will never forget it."

In Glasgow, Wuga's sponsor enrolled him in a local school and took him to concerts and the theatre. "I was nurtured," he says. "I was fortunate. I never had any problems being foreign, German or Jewish." However, his letters to his family were intercepted during the war and Wuga was accused of corresponding with the enemy. At the age of 16, he was sent to the high court in Edinburgh and convicted without a lawyer. "Within half an hour, I went from being a refugee due to religious persecution to a dangerous enemy alien," he says with a wry laugh. "It was quite a shock, but there was nothing I could do." Wuga ended up being interned on the Isle of Man for 10 months. "I was the youngest prisoner there," he says. Many of the interned Jews were academics and he went to lectures on medicine and philosophy and watched men playing chess with their backs to the board, calling out moves without looking. "We were self governing. There was a lot of music."

He returned to run a Jewish catering business in Glasgow with his wife. They have two daughters and four grandsons and Ingrid likes to joke that the one thing Hitler did was introduce her to Henry. How did they meet? "At a Jewish club I formed with other refugees on Sauchiehall Street," Wuga says. "We were highly leftwing, we wrote communist pamphlets and wanted to fight Hitler by any means." Neither of them ever wanted to return to Germany though. "A tiny percent went back to rebuild the country but it was never for me," Wuga says. "I always wanted to stay in Britain. I belong here. This is our country." CR

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