Media Center

May 28, 2015 – New York – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will address the AJC Global Forum 2015 on June 8, in Washington, D.C. The AJC Global Forum is the advocacy organization’s signature annual event, bringing together more than 2,000 participants from across the United States and 70 countries around the world. Kerry previously addressed the AJC Global Forum in 2013, shortly after President Obama appointed him Secretary of State.

“Our annual Global Forum is an absolutely unique, energizing, highly informative experience, a must for engaged Jewish advocates,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “There is simply no other Jewish gathering like it anywhere.” The Global Forum will take place June 7-9. The program is available at www.ajc.org/globalforum.

The Global Forum traditionally hosts presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers. This year’s World Leaders Plenary session will feature Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (from Berlin), and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (from Tokyo).

The 48-hour Global Forum will kick off on June 7 with Dr. Daniel Gordis, Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow, Shalem College, Israel, delivering AJC’s annual “State of the Jewish World” address.

Rising anti-Semitism and how to respond will be addressed in a plenary session, “Do Jews Have a Future in Europe?,” by Jeffrey Goldberg, National Correspondent, The Atlantic; Bret Stephens, Deputy Editorial Page Editor, The Wall Street Journal; and Konstanty Gebert, Associate Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations.

In a separate, but related, session, the directors of AJC’s European offices will discuss the “Fight against Anti-Semitism in Europe.” Earlier this month, AJC convened in Brussels “A Defining Moment,” a high-level strategy conference on anti-Semitism, and presented a detailed action plan for governments and civil society.

The sixth annual Global Forum “Great Debate” will focus on the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Caroline Glick, Senior Contributing Editor, The Jerusalem Post,and Ari Shavit, author, My Promised Land, will faceoff on the topic “Two-State Solution or Two-State Illusion?”

During the Global Forum, AJC will present its prestigious Moral Courage Award to Lassana Bathily, a French Muslim who saved lives during the fatal terror attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris in January, and posthumously to Dan Uzan, a Jewish volunteer security guard murdered while protecting a Copenhagen synagogue in February; and to Zidan Seef, an Israeli Druze policeman killed in a terror attack at a Jerusalem synagogue last November. In the cases of Uzan and Seef, members of their immediate families will be traveling especially to Washington to receive the awards in their memory.

In addition, a special highlight each year for Global Forum attendees is the opportunity to engage with top officials directly in a series of private dinners. This year there are more than 30 such dinners with ambassadors from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and the United States.

Moreover, Global Forum attendees will participate in informational and training sessions before leaving the hotel on Tuesday afternoon for advocacy sessions on Capitol Hill.

Over the June 5-7 weekend immediately prior to the Global Forum, AJC will sponsor the fifth annual ACCESS Summit for nearly 500 young activists from around the world.

AJC, founded in 1906 and with headquarters in New York, maintains 22 regional offices across the United States, 10 overseas posts and 30 international partnerships.



May 22, 2015 – New York -- AJC praised President Obama for his commitment to the Jewish people and to Israel, a devotion that he stated repeatedly is based on deeply held and historically based shared values. Speaking this morning at Congregation Adas Israel in Washington,  D.C., the President touched on several critical issues, including anti-Semitism, Iran’s nuclear program, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Our shared values compel me, all of us, to speak out against the scourge of anti-Semitism wherever it exists,” said Obama. “Anti-Semitism is, and always will be, a threat to broader human values to which we all must aspire. And when we allow anti-Semitism to take root, then our souls are destroyed, and it will spread.”

AJC Executive Director David Harris praised Obama’s strong repudiation of anti-Semitism. Earlier this month, AJC convened in Brussels a major international conference, “A Defining Moment for Europe,” on rising anti-Semitism and presented a multi-pronged action plan to combat it. U.S. government officials were in attendance.

Regarding Iran’s nuclear program, Harris urged the President to proceed cautiously as the U.S. and the other P5+1 countries aim to finalize an agreement with Iran by June 30.

Obama declared today that “Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to get a nuclear weapon,” promised that he “will not accept a bad deal” with Tehran, stated that he “cannot guarantee that a deal will be reached,” reaffirmed “all options are and remain on the table,” and welcomed, he said, debate on how to achieve the best deal.

“President Obama’s pledges are welcome to all who are genuinely concerned about the dangers of Iran attaining nuclear weapons capability,” said Harris. “Yet the statements and actions emanating from the Iranian leadership suggest that to attain the worthy goals the President laid out, the P5+1 powers must stand even more firm in the current talks, lest Iran’s leaders conclude that our desire for a deal is greater than theirs.”

Harris applauded the close military and intelligence cooperation with Israel that the President emphasized, as well as his description of U.S.-Israel ties as “unshakable.”

“Shared values compel us to reaffirm that our enduring friendship with the people of Israel and our unbreakable bonds with the state of Israel – that those bonds, that friendship, cannot be broken,” said Obama. “Our commitment to Israel’s security – and my commitment to Israel’s security – is and always will be unshakable.”

Harris also expressed agreement with Obama’s hopes for a negotiated two-state solution, tempered by the President’s recognition that “we can’t expect Israel to take existential risks with its security.”

“We appreciate President Obama’s understated observation that ‘the Palestinians are not the easiest of partners,’ and, at the same time, that ‘Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land’,” said Harris. “But the way to achieve the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, is to discourage the Palestinians from acting unilaterally at international bodies and elsewhere, and to overcome their pattern of rebuffing each two-state deal they have been offered by Israeli leaders, starting with Ehud Barak, joined by President Bill Clinton, in 2000 and 2001.”



 

May 21, 2015 – Berlin --Following the intervention of AJC Berlin, the German government has expanded its recently formed blue-ribbon commission on anti-Semitism, adding two long-time experts and professionals from the Jewish world.

"We applaud the appointment of additional members to the German experts commission on anti-Semitism who will represent the viewpoints and concerns of the Jewish community," said Deidre Berger, Director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations.

"We appreciate the response of the German government to our criticism of the original makeup of the commission. After all, how can such a body be called a commission of ‘experts’ without the expertise of those most directly affected by anti-Semitism?” Berger continued. “In light of the ongoing incidents of anti-Semitism in all sectors of society, it is not a moment too soon for the commission to begin its work."

Berger also announced that AJC, together with two German partners—the Moses Mendelsohn Center of the University of Potsdam and the Berlin-based Amadeu Antonio Foundation—will hold a conference in Berlin on July 2 on the challenges of addressing anti-Semitism. The three organizations have formed NEBA (Network for Researching and Combating Anti-Semitism) to raise awareness about the dangers of anti-Semitism and promote more extensive monitoring, research, and education. NEBA was formed in direct response to the controversy about the government commission.

Earlier this month, at the AJC strategy conference on combating anti-Semitism, “ A Defining Moment for Europe,” in Brussels, AJC presented a “Call to Action" that urges all European governments and  the European Union to create central coordinating bodies to accelerate responses to outbreaks of anti-Semitism and to work more consistently to prevent them. In this regard, Berger called on the German government to create an inter-ministerial authority to initiate and coordinate measures to combat anti-Semitism.

AJC Berlin hosts the European Forum on Anti-Semitism, which brings together European Jewish leaders and experts to discuss strategies on combating anti-Semitism, as well as the Task Force: Education on Anti-Semitism, a national forum of educators and representatives of civil society who create educational material to counter anti-Semitism.



May 21, 2015 – New York --AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement today on the 25th anniversary of enhanced Greek-Israeli relations.

“In 1990, Greece and Israel upgraded their diplomatic relations to full ambassadorial ties. Today, May 21, marks exactly 25 years since that milestone occasion, and we celebrate all that has been achieved in the past quarter-century.

“Indeed, the trajectory has been quite remarkable since Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis, joined by Foreign Minister Antonis Samaras, laudably initiated the move, overcoming more than four decades of lower-level ties and a decidedly chilly atmosphere in the relationship.

“Greece, it should be recalled, voted in 1947 against UN General Assembly Resolution 181 recommending the creation of Jewish and Arab states in Mandatory Palestine. It was the only European nation to do so. Moreover, it was the last of the then 12 members of the European Community (now the 28-member EU) to establish full de jure ties with Israel, while all along maintaining close relations with many Arab nations.

“In recent years, the bilateral links between Greece and Israel have increased impressively, as the two nations develop closer cooperation in many fields – from culture to tourism, from energy to research and development, from joint military exercises to counter-terrorism. Being in the turbulent eastern Mediterranean, it has become increasingly clear that these two democracies, joined by a third, Cyprus, have much to gain from deepening and widening their links. And the United States, with considerable interests in this part of the world, is also a direct beneficiary of the growing partnership.

“AJC was there at the beginning, indeed years before. In the early 1980s, together with our Greek-American friends, we started to focus intensively on the anomaly of lower-level ties between Greece and Israel. Inspired by Andrew Athens, a prominent Greek-American businessman, and Maynard Wishner, long-time AJC national leader, these two friends from Chicago spearheaded the effort. They were joined by many others in the Hellenic-American community, including U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes and Andrew Manatos, and AJC’s lay and staff members. There were frequent trips to Athens, and many meetings with Greek officials in the United States, as well as with representatives of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS).

“As we mark this 25th anniversary, we recall with gratitude the role played by the late Andy Athens and Maynard Wishner in helping write a new chapter in the history of Greece and Israel, indeed of the Greek and Jewish peoples. And we are proud that AJC’s role has been cited by many top Greek officials, then and now, as being instrumental in helping to advance the relationship.

“We believe that the next 25 years will shine even more brightly, as these nations, linked by common democratic values, aspirations, and concerns, continue to develop their potential. And, as always, we will do our part at AJC, believing, as the legendary Winston Churchill said, that ‘No two cities have counted more with mankind than Athens and Jerusalem. Their messages in religion, philosophy, and art have been the main guiding lights of modern faith and culture.’”



May 20, 2015 – New York – AJC was honored last night at an historic ceremony marking 50 years of German-Israeli diplomatic relations.

The Tuesday evening program, held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, was highlighted by remarks from UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, German Ambassador to the UN Harald Braun, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, German Consul General Britta Wagner, and Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni. More than 250 invited guests attended the event, including diplomatic representatives from 33 countries.

“AJC laid the groundwork for the occasion we are celebrating. And, for the past 50 years, AJC has continued to be a key partner for Germany in its dialogue with American Jewry and in our transatlantic relations,” said Braun, who presented the award to AJC. “It is obvious that no other institution could be more deserving to be honored for its immeasurable achievements and its unwavering commitment to the betterment of the relations between our three countries - to be honored on this 50th anniversary day of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel.”

“First and foremost, we want to pay tribute to the two visionaries—Konrad Adenauer and David Ben-Gurion—who, despite external and internal pressures, laid the foundation for this truly historic diplomatic bridge,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Looking to the next 50 years, we hope that similarly inspired leadership can help propel the German-Israeli partnership to new, unimagined heights.”

Earlier in the evening, Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor presented an Outstanding Achievement Award to Katharina von Muenster, who has worked tirelessly to advance German-Jewish and German-Israeli relations at Action Reconciliation Service for Peace. AJC has long hosted German volunteers from this group in its New York, Washington, and Berlin offices.

Besides last night’s event in New York, AJC regional offices in more than a dozen cities across the U.S. are working with German and Israeli consulates to mark this diplomatic milestone.

AJC was the first global Jewish organization to re-engage with Germany after the Second World War and to establish, thanks to the generosity of Lawrence and Lee Ramer, a full-time presence in Germany in 1998. Today, the office is directed by Deidre Berger, and co-chaired by Anthony Meyer and Steven Wisch.



May 18, 2015 -- Chicago -- AJC applauds the Illinois State House for passing a bill that will require the State of Illinois to divest pension funds from companies that boycott Israel. The bipartisan measure passed unanimously today, following unanimous adoption by the State Senate last month. Governor Bruce Rauner is expected to sign the bill into law.

“Illinois leaders are united in recognizing a strong Israel-Illinois bond and also that the insidious Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign does not promote peace, but rather seeks to isolate and delegitimize Israel,” said AJC Chicago Regional Director Amy Stoken.

“Overwhelming support in the state legislature for SB1761 is a victory for the state of Illinois and we thank the Illinois General Assembly and the coalition of citizens organizations that mobilized in support of this important bill.”



May 15, 2015 – New York -- AJC just learned from our partner organization, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), that municipal officials in Kavala have canceled a ceremony scheduled for May 17th to unveil a monument to the 1,484 Jews from the city exterminated by the Nazis. Only two days before the ceremony, the mayor and a majority of the city council are insisting that the image of the Star of David be removed before the monument can be displayed.

“There are no words to express adequately our shock and dismay at this news,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has visited Greece frequently over the past three decades.

“How can it be that the eternal symbol of the Jewish people – the very symbol that the Nazis required Jews to wear in the death camps and ghettos of Europe during the Second World War – is deemed unfit for public display in Kavala? What gall for the Jewish community to be asked to remove the Star of David as a condition for allowing the monument to be displayed!”

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Greek Jewish community, and indeed with all Greeks who are as outraged as we are, by this brazen insult to the memory of Greek citizens who were arrested, deported, and murdered simply because they were Jews. In this respect, we applaud the Greek Secretary General of the Ministry of Culture, Education, and Religious Affairs, Giorgos Kalantzis, who said in response to the news from Kavala: ‘As an Orthodox Christian, I feel deeply insulted by this issue, because it would be as if someone asked us to erase or modify for ’aesthetic reasons’ the symbol of the cross on the tombs of our grandfathers executed by the Germans.’

“Let us hope that reason quickly prevails,” Harris concluded, ”and that Kavala’s city officials reconsider and reverse their appalling decision.”



May 14, 2015 – New York – AJC applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for overwhelmingly passing, 400- 25, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. The House action comes a week after the U.S. Senate passed the measure by a vote of 98-1. President Obama is expected to sign the bill, which ensures that Congress has the opportunity to review a final nuclear agreement with Iran.

“Any deal with Iran, a country that poses a grave threat to regional and global security, must be thoroughly reviewed by Congress before it is finalized,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“Congress played a vital role in erecting the sanctions regime that led Iran to negotiate in earnest. Given the numerous unanswered questions surrounding the emerging deal, and the heightened concerns of U.S. allies in the region, Congressional review becomes all the more essential.”

The House vote took place as representatives of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations met with President Obama at Camp David to discuss the implications of any possible deal with Iran.

The P5+1 countries – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – are engaged in intensive negotiations with Iran in the hope of achieving a final agreement by June 30. A “framework agreement” with Iran was announced on April 2.



The American Jewish Committee (AJC) congratulates the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel for the celebration of 50 years of the launching of diplomatic relations.

AJC is marking this occasion with numerous events in the United States, Israel, and Germany.

“The initiation and development of this relationship is one of the great historical achievements of the 21st century. Who would have thought 50 years ago, after the horrors of the Holocaust, that it was possible for Israel and Germany to cultivate such extensive political, social, and economic ties?” said Deidre Berger, Director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations.

German President Joachim Gauch and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin took part in an official ceremony to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between both countries. During the official state visit, both presidents emphasized the importance of the fight against anti-Semitism.

Berger, who has over thirty years of experience dealing with the Germany’s relationship to Israel, added: “We salute the trailblazers of this remarkable partnership, with Ben Gurion and Konrad Adenauer leading the way. But we also wish to thank the upstanding citizens from all sectors of society, including churches, the Jewish community, and unions, who helped pave the way.”

AJC was also among the early promoters of relations between the American-Jewish community, Germany, and Israel. As early as the 1950s, AJC established contact with leaders in the German government, civil society, and the Jewish community in order to support the rebuilding of democracy.

AJC also played a critical role in the first negotiations between leaders in the Jewish community and Germany in discussions of reparations following the war.

The cultivation of German-Israeli relations remains an important component of AJC’s advocacy work. Last year, the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute initiated the trilateral dialogue program,“50/50: German-Israeli Relations – The Next 50 Years,” to strengthen relations among decision makers from Israel, Germany, and the United States. The goal of this strategic dialogue project is to discuss new parameters for the future of this partnership.

“Shared democratic values, close cultural relations, and—most importantly—shared security interests are deciding factors in this partnership. In order to secure positive relations for the future between these countries, the value of this relationship must be made more relevant to today’s generation,” emphasized Berger.

AJC offices have been organizing events in cities including New York, Boston, Miami, Berlin and, Tel Aviv to mark 50 years of German-Israeli diplomatic relations, honoring their strategic significance.

“At a time of political turmoil and changing political alliances in the Middle East, we—Germany, Israel, and the United States—need to emphasize the critical importance of democracies united by common values, together facing global threats, said Berger.

The next upcoming 50/50 event will take place in Berlin in cooperation with the Federal Academy for Security Policy on May 21- 22. The event will be opened by AJC President Stanley Bergman.



May 13, 2015 – New York – AJC regrets the announcement today that the Vatican will recognize the “State of Palestine.” The diplomatic move is part of a treaty to be signed this weekend in Rome between the Holy See and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"Yes, it's a recognition that the state exists," said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi.

“Formal Vatican recognition of Palestine, a state that, in reality, does not yet exist, is a regrettable move, counterproductive to all who seek true peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“There is a reason why the U.S., the European Union and others have long agreed that statehood can only be achieved through direct, bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” Harris continued. “Meanwhile, the West Bank is ruled by the Palestinian Authority, whose leader, Mahmoud Abbas, just marked the tenth anniversary of what was meant to be a four-year term, and Gaza is governed by Hamas, a terrorist organization. What and where exactly is the ‘State of Palestine’ today?”

“We are fully cognizant of the Pope’s good will and desire to be a voice for peaceful coexistence, which is best served, we believe, by encouraging a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, rather than unilateral gestures outside the framework of the negotiating table,” Harris concluded.



May 7, 2015 – New York – AJC applauded the U.S. Senate for overwhelmingly passing, by a vote of 98-1, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. The bi-partisan bill, co-authored by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), will ensure that Congress reviews any final nuclear agreement with Iran. The U.S. and the other P5+1 negotiators are aiming for a June 30 deadline to finalize the “framework agreement” with Iran announced on April 2.

“An anticipated nuclear deal with Iran, a country that already is a grave threat to regional and global security, must be thoroughly reviewed before it is finalized,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Congress played a vital role in erecting the sanctions regime that pressed Iran to negotiate in earnest, but given the numerous unanswered questions surrounding the emerging deal, and the heightened concerns of U.S. allies in the region, congressional review is essential.”

Harris noted that the Administration, by withdrawing a threat to veto congressional action, had helped to gain bipartisan support in the Senate. “We look to quick, similar action by the U.S. House of Representatives on this critical measure, assuring that Congress will assume its rightful role in reviewing any final nuclear deal with Iran,” Harris said.



May 6, 2015 -- Brussels -- AJC has presented an action plan for European governments to address the intensifying crisis of anti-Semitism. The Call for Action came during a groundbreaking AJC strategy conference, “A Defining Moment for Europe," in Brussels.

"Anti-Semitism is a cancer that, left unchecked, will mestatize and threaten to destroy the democratic and pluralistic nature of Europe," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. Unlike 15 years ago, when European governments would too frequently dismiss AJC's oft-voiced concerns about attacks on Jews and refuse to identify their sources, the recent tragic events in Belgium, France, and Denmark have led some leaders to begin addressing the threats head-on.

Jan Jambon, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Security and the Interior, and Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers, and Gender Equality, delivered keynote addresses at the opening session Tuesday. Both speakers recognized that the surge of anti-Semitic incidents poses a fundamental threat to individual European countries and, more generally, to the European Union.

Many EU officials, Members of the European Parliament, ambassadors of EU member states, and leaders of Jewish communities from across Europe participated in the gathering. Senior AJC leaders attended the conference, including AJC President Stanley Bergman, who kicked off the conference. Altogether, 25 of the EU's 28 member states, plus the United States and Canada, were‎ officially represented.

Jambon said the Belgian government is committed “to improve the level of security to the fullest extent” and to redouble efforts “to uphold and assert our own values and standards.” He reasserted his government's recent announcement that it will provide adequate resources for the security of synagogues and Jewish institutions, a move AJC welcomed.

"It is a tragedy, a disgrace for Europe, when Jewish communities feel unsafe in places of worship and in their homes," especially 70 years after they faced similar dilemmas on whether to stay or leave, said Commissioner Jourová, who has helped spearhead EU efforts to combat anti-Semitism.

The AJC action plan calls on European governments to make the fight against anti-Semitism an urgent priority for individual countries, and collectively for the entire EU. It specifies steps for governments to assess the severity of the problem; provide for the security of Jewish institutions and communities; invest in education that imparts European values; take on purveyors of anti-Semitism on the Internet and in social media; and recognize that vilification of Israel too often is a cover for expressions of anti-Semitism. The full Call to Action is available at www.ajc.org.

The current efforts of the U.S., French, and German governments were highlighted in a panel that featured Gilles Clavreul, France's Inter-ministerial Delegate on Racism and Anti-Semitism; Ambassador Dr. Felix Klein, Special Representative of Germany's Federal Foreign Office for Relations with Jewish Organizations and Anti-Semitism Issues; and Ira Forman, the U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

Another panel featured European Muslim leaders--activists committed to defending and reinforcing European values in their own communities. They discussed the challenges and necessary strategies to confront and defuse Islamist extremism. A third panel addressed the steps required to secure vulnerable Jewish communities and assure a European Jewish future.

There was general agreement among the speakers throughout the conference that investing in education is essential -- but not sufficient. Of immediate concern is radicalization in prisons, inadequate intelligence cooperation among EU member states, and, above all, a failure of some national leadership to honestly assess and confront the sources of anti-Jewish violence. In his remarks, Harris poignantly asked about the meaning of education in a demographically changing Europe.

"How do you teach in the 21st century about events that took place 70 years ago when witnesses are dying, and some teachers and especially students are pushing back” on accepting the curriculum, he asked.

The AJC plan "calls on the European Union to promptly organize a high-level governmental conference on the ominous rise of anti-Semitism,” and “calls on the political institutions of the EU and its Member States to express at the highest levels a fundamental commitment to fight anti-Semitism.”

It also calls on civil society -- including faith leaders and other opinion-shapers -- to carry the message that anti-Semitism is socially, politically, and religiously unacceptable.

"If necessary, and however tragically, the Jews will leave, but where will Europe go?" asked Harris. "Will Europeans uphold their values or will they succumb?"

Prior to the conference, a senior AJC leadership delegation, led by Bergman and Harris, met privately with Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers, and Gender Equality; Jan Jambon, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Security and the Interior; Fernando Gentilini, the recently appointed EU Special Representative to the Middle East Peace Process; Ambassador Walter Stevens, Chair of the Political and Security Committee of the European External Action Service; and Israeli Ambassador to the EU and NATO David Walzer.

In 2004, AJC established the Transatlantic Institute to foster close relations among the U.S., Europe, and Israel. The institute is chaired by Robert Elman and directed by Daniel Schwammenthal.



May 4, 2015 -- AJC condemned the shooting attack outside a Garland, Texas, arena where a controversial cartoon exhibit on the Prophet Muhammad was taking place. One security guard was wounded before police quickly responded and shot dead the two gunmen.

One of the gunmen, according to ABC News, was Elton Simpson, of Phoenix, who the FBI had suspected since 2007 of supporting jihadist groups. The other shooter reportedly was Simpson's roommate.

"Violence is an inexcusable form of protest no matter how provocative the target of the attackers," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "We praise the police for moving quickly to prevent further casualties."

The cartoon exhibit and contest were organized by the openly anti-Muslim American Freedom Defense Initiative, an organization which has sponsored outrageously provocative ad campaigns in major American cities.

The Texas incident is reminiscent of recent attacks in Europe, including, most recently, the fatal terrorist assaults against Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January and, the next month, at a free-speech event in Copenhagen.

"In America, we are blessed to live in a society that celebrates freedom of speech, including speech that some might find deeply offensive. The response to such language should be open discussion and debate, but never a resort to violence," said Harris.



May 4, 2015 – New York – AJC has named Jacob Levkowicz as the global advocacy organization’s newly-created Assistant Director of Campus Affairs.

The position will address the rise in activities targeting Israel and its campus supporters across the country, and monitor and combat incidents of anti-Semitism.

“The American college campus has become a front-line battleground for those who seek to denigrate Israel and to undermine the Middle East’s only true democracy,” said Daniel Elbaum, AJC Assistant Executive Director and Director of Regional Offices, who will supervise the effort.

AJC has long worked with university students, faculty, and staff to deepen knowledge about Israel, and to bolster efforts to respond to organizations that seek to use campus settings to vilify Israel. In recent years, resolutions to boycott and otherwise assail Israel have become a routine occurrence. In some instances, there have also been virulent acts of anti-Semitism of a nature not seen on the American college campus in many decades.

The new AJC position will help develop strategies to enhance Israel’s image on university campuses, and combat campus-based anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

“Jacob Levkowicz is a passionate advocate for Israel with deep and abiding relationships on college campuses across the United States,” said Elbaum. “I look forward to working closely with him.”

Levkowicz, a graduate of Weslyan University, has spent the past year at AJC as a Goldman Bridge Fellow with ACCESS, AJC’s acclaimed Young Leadership Program. Prior to joining AJC, he worked at The David Project, a Boston-based advocacy organization that focuses on Israel and young people.

“I am honored and delighted to represent AJC as the agency embarks on a new chapter of engagement with colleges and universities across the country,” said Levkowicz.  “AJC is well-placed to help provide student leaders, faculty, and administrators with the critical engagement, support, and resources to positively impact the campus conversation on Israel-related issues.”

Levkowicz pointed out that the stepped-up AJC effort to address the critical situation on campuses is both timely and essential. “I am thrilled to return to my campus roots and to again work with a robust network of talented pro-Israel student advocates, dedicated campus professionals, and other groups focused on the university community,” he said. “Sadly, these same voices standing on the front lines have borne the brunt of rising anti-Israel activity -- and, in some cases, unadulterated anti-Semitism -- on a growing number of campuses in recent years.”



May 3, 2015 -- Brussels -- AJC welcomed Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel’s announcement that the government will commit the resources necessary to protect the country’s Jewish community.

The pledge comes ahead of the AJC strategy conference on combating European anti-Semitism that will take place in Brussels on May 5. AJC established an office, the Transatlantic Institute, in Europe's capital city in 2004.

The Belgian Jewish community, as well as Jewish communities across Europe, has witnessed a rising tide of threats and assaults against Jewish individuals and institutions. Anti-Semitic acts in Belgium increased by 60% in 2014. The most violent attack was the terrorist assault on the Jewish Museum that left four people dead last May.

Michel, in an interview with a local Jewish newspaper, said his government would provide sufficient funding for security measures at Jewish institutions, and adopt a zero-tolerance law enforcement policy on anti-Semitic incidents.

“We applaud this commitment by the Belgian leader,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The threat is serious and, tragically, only getting more so. Standing up to those who would endanger the Jews of Europe not only serves to protect Jewish communities, but, no less, the democratic values at the heart of Europe today.”

AJC will present an action plan, “A Defining Moment for Europe,” at the conference it is holding in Brussels on Tuesday.

Jan Jambon, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Security and the Interior, will deliver a keynote address at the opening session. Many EU officials, members of the European Parliament, ambassadors of EU member states, and leaders of several European Jewish communities will be participating in the gathering, together with AJC leaders.

“My government and I are fully aware of the gravity of the situation. We are determined to clamp down hard on this resurgence in anti-Semitism,” Prime Minister Michel said in a speech to the Belgian Jewish community earlier this year.



April 29, 2015 -- New York – AJC is supporting IsraAID teams that are in Nepal responding to the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that left at least 5,000 dead in the country’s capital city of Kathmandu.

“The loss of life and damage wrought by this massive earthquake in Nepal challenges us to respond with humanitarian relief, medical assistance and search and rescue efforts,” said Shira Loewenberg, director of AJC’s Asia Pacific Institute. “Our thoughts are with the families who lost loved ones, and our prayers with the missing and with the many injured.”

AJC has supported IsraAID: The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid over the years in responding to a number of humanitarian crises in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. “IsraAID, our partner, often is one of the first non-governmental groups to reach the site of a disaster, no matter the distance from Israel, and provide urgently needed assistance,” Loewenberg said.

For Nepal, the Israeli military quickly responded, setting up a field hospital in Kathmandu to treat earthquake survivors. Nepal is a popular tourist destination, with more than 10,000 Israelis visiting annually.



April 27, 2015 – Jerusalem – A delegation of influential Latino journalists based in Miami, an important hub to Latin America and the Latino community, is currently in Israel with Project Interchange, an educational institute of AJC (American Jewish Committee). Participants will learn first-hand about Israeli politics, society and diversity, as well as the country’s technological innovation and the geopolitical challenges facing the region.

This impressive delegation of Spanish-language media elites is being conducted in collaboration with AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA). To ascertain a first-hand understanding of the challenges, accomplishments and complex issues of the region, the news anchors and journalists will interact with a diverse range of Israeli, Israeli-Arab and Palestinian experts.

As with all Project Interchange delegations, participants will explore various aspects of Israel, including its start-up economy, its democratic process and its political and societal diversity. Meetings with members of the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), Palestinian leaders, and academic elites, along with visits to historic, religious and strategic locations, will provide the delegation a first-hand look at the country and an opportunity to understand situations that regularly appear in the news.

The influence and prominence of Hispanic media in the U.S. continues to reach new heights; Univision TV is now ranked the fifth-largest network, reaching 94 million households across the country.Additionally, the participants from Miami’s Latino community, which accounts for 65 percent of the city, are eager to meet with their counterparts, explore areas of commonality, and share in best practices. This delegation will explore the strong, important, and ever-growing relationship between the Latino and Jewish communities and areas for continued collaboration.

Journalists in this delegation have greatly contributed to the field of broadcast and print media, with many anchoring their own radio and TV shows, including garnering six Emmy® awards and 17 nominations.

Robin Levenston, Project Interchange Executive Director, said, “Project Interchange has a long and proud history of taking senior Latino opinion leaders to Israel. The bridges between the Latino and Jewish communities are growing stronger every day. It is our hope that participants will gain a greater understanding of Israel’s diversity, politics and entrepreneurial landscape, and forge new relationships towards future collaboration.”

This initiative was made possible through the leadership and support of AJC's Latin American Task Force-Miami. The Project Interchange delegation is accompanied by Juan Dircie, Associate Director-Miami, AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs, and includes the following media outlets and media related institutions: Actualidad Radio, Diario las Américas, EFE News, Radio Caracol, Univision Network, and VOXXI.

AJC’s Project Interchange
For over 30 years, Project Interchange, a nonprofit educational institute of AJC (American Jewish Committee) has brought over 6,000 influential figures to Israel from 85 countries and all 50 U.S. states, offering them broad exposure and firsthand understanding of the complex issues facing Israel and the region. For more, visit projectinterchange.org

AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA)
AJC’sArthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairshas long been at the forefront of Jewish organizations working to establish and strengthen ties to the increasingly influential countries of Latin America and with the large U.S. Latino community. The Institute partners with local Jewish communities throughout Latin America and engages the diplomatic representatives of Latin American countries in the United States to advance relations among Latin America



April 25, 2015 -- New York -- AJC mourns the death of Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, a member of the Polish resistance movement and survivor of Auschwitz, who decades later served twice as Poland’s foreign minister.

“Bartoszewski was a Polish hero, defending his nation against Nazi invaders, helping re-establish a democratic country after four decades of Soviet occupation, and building post-war relations, on the one hand, with Germany and, on the other hand, with Israel,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. He met many times with Bartoszewski during AJC diplomatic missions to Poland and in the context of the International Auschwitz Council.

Bartoszewski, a Catholic who, as a young man, fought to defend his native Warsaw from the Nazis, was captured and sent to Auschwitz in 1940. Released a year later, he joined up with a resistance group protecting Jews in Poland. Israel's Yad Vashem later recognized Bartoszewski as a "Righteous among the Nations."

He served as foreign minister in 1995 and again between 2000 and 2001. He often joked that, while he was in this position, “Israel was the only country in the world that had two foreign ministers.”

He served since 2001 as chair of the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites. AJC also had contact with him in this post because of our joint project with the Polish government to preserve, protect, and memorialize the site of Belzec, the Nazi death camp in which an estimated 500,000 Jews were murdered in the span of less than a year.

“Preserving the memory of Jews and others who perished at the hands of the Nazis was central to Bartoszewski’s life mission,” said Harris. “As in everything else he did, he brought enormous passion, energy, and determination to this effort. He was a man of high principle and a constant source of inspiration. We are thankful for the gift of his unique life, even as we will miss his singular voice and abiding friendship. What an extraordinary individual he was!”



April 22, 2015 – New York – On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement:

“This week, AJC joins those around the world who pause in mournful tribute to the memories of the estimated 1.5 million victims of the Meds Yeghern, the genocide of Armenians, committed in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.

“We applaud the European Parliament, which passed a bill this month calling on Turkey to ‘use the commemoration of the centenary of the Armenian genocide as an important opportunity’ to provide access to its archives, ‘come to terms with its past,’ and initiate a ‘genuine reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples.’

“We welcome the powerful remarks in recent days of Pope Francis, who referred to what happened to the Armenians as ‘the first genocide of the 20th century.’

“Moreover, we praise German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said, ‘the fate of the Armenians during World War One serves as an example of the history of mass murders, ethnic cleansings, expulsions, and, yes, the genocides during the 20th century.’

“At the same time, we regret that the U.S. has indicated, at least as of now, that it will not recognize the Armenian genocide during commemoration events this week. This decision is particularly troubling in light of President Obama’s remarks (as a senator) in 2008, when he spoke poignantly about the Armenian genocide.

“And we identify with the core message of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, by then-Harvard University Professor, and now U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power. History, she wrote, must be faced and the dictates of conscience heeded – or we are doomed to endless brutalities by the powerful against the weak.

“In that spirit, and as we know from our own Jewish experience, no country of good will should succumb to political pressure – in this case, by Turkey – when confronted with a question of moral integrity and historical accuracy. We hope that the U.S. will reverse its announced decision, and publicly acknowledge this atrocity by its rightful name – genocide.”



April 21, 2015 – Rome -- AJC mourns the passing of Rabbi Elio Toaff, former Chief Rabbi of Rome. “He was a religious leader of great moral stature, a pioneer of interreligious dialogue, deeply rooted in traditional orthodoxy, with an enlightened, universal vision of the world,” said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s Director of International Interreligious Affairs. Toaff passed ten days before his 100th birthday.

Toaff served as Rome’s Chief Rabbi for half a century, from 1951 up to his resignation in 2001. He will long be remembered for his manifold contributions to Italy and to Italian Jewry. During World War II he joined the partisans, courageously risking his life by fighting the Italian Fascists and the German Nazi invaders. Then, as leader of the Roman Jewish Community, he bequeathed a new dignity, religiosity, and unity to the war-torn Jewish survivors.

“Nearly 30 years later, in 1982, Rabbi Toaff set an eloquent example of non-violence by heading a silent march through Rome in response to an attack by Palestinian terrorists on Rome’s Great Synagogue,” said Lisa Billig, AJC’s Representative in Italy and Liaison to the Holy See. “They killed a 2 year old child, Stefano Gaj Tachè, and left 37 worshippers seriously wounded. The attack came after months of hateful incitement against Israel by Italian media, unions and political forces. Rabbi Toaff thus made an exemplary choice: a resoundingly silent demonstration instead of empty words by government officials.”

The Chief Rabbi’s warm welcome of John Paul II on his historic visit to Rome’s Main Synagogue in 1986, the first ever papal visit to a Jewish house of worship after centuries of persecution and humiliation, and the ensuing lifelong friendship between the Pope and the Rabbi (mentioned in Karol Wojtyla’s Testament), marked a new beginning in Catholic-Jewish relations.

Toaff, descendant of a distinguished rabbinical family, was both a pious Jew and a man capable of introducing his community to fruitful dialogue with the surrounding world. His name will live on in his deeds that blessed the rebirth of the Roman Jewish Community and set an example for all future generations.



April 20, 2015 – Berlin -- In celebration of the 35th anniversary of German-Jewish collaboration between AJC and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), more than 100 high-ranking alumni from the United States and Germany will gather in Berlin for a ceremony on April 22. The keynote speaker will be former German President Christian Wulff, who is an alumnus of the program.

“The AJC-KAS exchange program makes an exceptional contribution to German-Jewish understanding in the wake of the horrors of the Holocaust,” said Deidre Berger, Director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations. Even after 35 years, this dialogue between American Jews and Germans has lost none of its verve. Participants continue to show enthusiasm for building bridges and creating partnerships. This was only possible because of the high regard in which our partner, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, continues to hold for this relationship.”

In 1980, AJC and the KAS initiated the first exchange program between Germany and the American Jewish community to build understanding through personal encounters. The program began at a time when German-Jewish relations, in the shadow of the Holocaust, were still tense, with few available platforms to build mutual understanding. To date, more than 800 American Jewish leaders and German policymakers have participated, visiting their respective countries and engaging in discussions about modern Germany, U.S. politics, and Jewish life.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel recognized the significance of the AJC-KAS partnership at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the program: “You who have participated in this exchange program have made an important contribution to the rebuilding of a relationship that has been nearly destroyed by the Holocaust,” Merkel said.

Establishment of an AJC-KAS German alumni association will be announced at Wednesday’s anniversary event.  “At a time when ever more people are allegedly seeking closure on the Holocaust era , it is all the more gratifying to see young leaders from Germany actively dedicated to maintaining and even expanding this partnership,” said Berger. 

In addition to former German President Christian Wullf, Hans-Gert Pöttering, Chairman of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and former President of the European Parliament, and Anthony Meyer, Chairman of the American alumni network and Co-Chairman of the Board of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute, will address the anniversary event.

The AJC Berlin Ramer Institute opened in Berlin in 1998 and works to underscore understanding for Israel, fight anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and promote diversity and intercultural understanding.



April 17, 2015 -- São Paulo, Brazil -- An AJC senior leadership delegation just concluded a three-day visit to Brazil.

The group, led by AJC Executive Director David Harris, included Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC's Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA,) as well as AJC leaders from Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, New York, Westchester, and El Salvador.

The visit featured separate 90-minute meetings with Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira and Defense Minister Jaques Wagner, as well as sessions with U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Liliana Ayalde, Israeli Ambassador to Brazil Reda Mansour, and Azerbaijani Ambassador to Brazil Elnur Sultanov.

Among the principal topics discussed with Brazil's government leaders were: (i) U.S.-Brazilian bilateral ties, which have continued for nearly 200 years; (ii) Brazil's key role in regional security and economic developments; and (iii) relations between Brazil and Israel, ever mindful of Brazil's essential support in the UN, in 1947, for Israel's rebirth.

"Brazil has continued to play an increasingly important role in regional and global affairs," said Harris. "We admire the pluralistic values that Brazil has embraced, and the message of peace and coexistence it regularly expresses. At the same time, our visit gave us the chance to discuss Brazil's regrettable decision to recall its ambassador from Israel last summer (returned a month later), as well as its troubling voting pattern on Israel-related issues in the UN and its specialized agencies, such as the Human Rights Council."

The AJC delegation was joined by leaders of the Jewish Federation of São Paulo, with which AJC has had a long-standing partnership, and CONIB, the political representative body of Brazilian Jewry, in the various meetings in Brasilia.

"We value our long-standing strategic partnership with AJC, which has proven very important for the Brazilian Jewish community, in the defense of Israel and other Jewish communities around the world," said Mario Fleck, President of the Jewish Federation of São Paulo, who joined the delegation in Brazil. "Together, we have had a voice in front of some of the most important leaders of the world. We are very proud of our connection with AJC and look forward to continuing our in-depth cooperation."

The mission also included an address by Harris to 150 professors and students at the prestigious Rio Branco University of International Relations in São Paulo.

The visit to Brazil marked the end of a three-country AJC diplomatic mission, which also included visits to the capitals of Uruguay and Chile. Muriel Asseraf is AJC's representative in São Paulo.



April 17, 2015 -- Chicago -- AJC mourns the passing of His Eminence Cardinal Francis George and offers comfort and consolation to the leadership and parishioners of the Archdiocese of Chicago, where he served as Archbishop from 1997-2014.

Cardinal George was a friend of AJC and the Jewish community of Chicago who strengthened the ties between Jews and Catholics. He supported the Archdiocese’s many interfaith endeavors and encouraged Catholics to embrace the Church’s Nostra Aetate document, which transformed Catholic-Jewish relations. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate’s promulgation.

“Cardinal George embodied the teachings of Nostra Aetate in his passion for interfaith engagement. We will remember and be thankful to Cardinal George for his warmth and his dedication to bridge our communities," said David Inlander, Chair of AJC’s national Interreligious Affairs Commission.



April 17, 2015 -- Paris – AJC praised the French government for launching a comprehensive plan to fight anti-Semitism and racism. The multi-pronged plan, announced today by Prime Minister Valls, comes three months after the fatal terror attacks against Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket in Paris.

“This ambitious plan reflects a true commitment by the government to confront the scourge of anti-Semitism that threatens French society,” said AJC Paris Director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, who attended the official announcement in Creteil at the invitation of the French government.

Valls has been outspoken on the need to rigorously combat anti-Semitism, stressing that attacks on Jews are assaults on all of France. “We have to make sure that security is provided but we also need to combat anti-Semitism and racism at its roots,” said Valls. “Words and acts need to be punished severely. Public policy needs to integrate the fight against anti-Semitism and racism."

Several French ministers joined with Valls in announcing the plan, including Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin, Deputy Minister for Digital Affairs Axelle Lemaire, and Deputy Minister for Urban Affairs Myriam El Khomri, as well as Gilles Clavreul, the interministerial delegate for the fight against anti-Semitism and racism.

The plan has four interrelated components dealing with community mobilization, strengthening the legal system to prosecute and punish purveyors of hate speech, training educators to teach about secularism and French civic values, and stepping up efforts, notably creating a special governmental unit, to confront hate on the Internet.

“It is through education, teaching skills and understanding of the other that we can counter the stereotypes and negative images,” said Valls.

AJC actively engaged with the government as the plan was developed, and will continue to work closely with senior officials, as well as with Jewish community and civil society leaders, in the ongoing efforts to combat anti-Semitism and racism.

“No doubt the process of implementing the plan and effecting real, substantive changes will be long and difficult, but for the sake of France defeating anti-Semitism will be essential,” said Rodan-Benzaquen.



April 16, 2015 -- New York – A new manual on genocide prevention prepared by AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) was launched at an event attended by more than 100 diplomats and human rights experts at UN headquarters.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson praised the JBI publication, a Manual on Human Rights and the Prevention of Genocide, as an “impressive and important tool” for helping governments make better use of UN human rights mechanisms to protect civilians and respond to warning signs of a risk of mass atrocities.

“Prevention should be our priority,” said Eliasson. “But prevention can only be effective if we pay serious attention to early warning signs and address such signs quickly, firmly and courageously.”

The need for action at the earliest indications of possible mass atrocities was echoed by Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana, Rwanda’s permanent representative to the UN. Gasana, who recently served on the UN Security Council, asked “Are we sitting here to manage conflicts or to prevent conflicts?”

Several speakers referred to the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda as an example of a mass atrocity that could have been prevented if the UN and international community had heeded the warning signs. “We should make every effort to prevent what happened in 1994 in Rwanda,” from happening again, said Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide.

JBI produced the genocide prevention manual at the request of Dieng, who lauded the Blaustein Institute's longstanding support for his work and that of his predecessors. The manual “makes excellent use of already existing human rights mechanisms and puts the expertise that comes from these mechanisms at the service of all who are engaged in efforts to prevent genocide,” said Dieng.

The JBI manual will be distributed to UN member states and to UN staff. “We hope the manual will provoke more thinking on what can be done to prevent genocide,” said JBI Director Felice Gaer.

The manual takes on a certain urgency as Eliasson expressed concern about the many recent episodes of horrific violence and suffering occurring around the world “characterized by violence targeting people, based on their identity, ethnicity, religion or race. This is a very dangerous trend.”

Eliasson also highlighted the Secretary-General’s “Human Rights Up Front” initiative, which he has spearheaded. Like the JBI Manual, it is also aimed at making the UN more effective in providing early warning about the risk of mass atrocities.

Jerry Biederman, Chair of JBI's Administrative Council, introduced the meeting and pointed out that since 2008 JBI has worked with the Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide to clarify the scope of the obligation to "prevent genocide" in the Genocide Convention.

The JBI Manual identifies 21 patterns of serious human rights violations that can trigger States' responsibility to prevent genocide. It also provides guidance on steps States can take to prevent such violations from spiraling out of control, all of which is derived from the work of independent UN human rights experts.

The Manual was prepared by JBI Associate Director Christen Broecker, with the assistance of an expert Steering Committee, which included members of the JBI Administrative Council and current and former UN officials. Steering Committee members included Thomas Buergenthal, Adama Dieng, Walter Kaelin, Roberta Cohen, Bertrand Ramcharan, Edward Luck, Laurie Blank, Naomi Kikoler, and Irwin Cotler, among others.

The Manual on Human Rights and the Prevention of Genocide is the latest product of AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute ongoing efforts aimed at naming, defining, and punishing the crime of genocide. To learn more about JBI, to obtain a copy of the Manual and to view the webcast of the UN event, visit www.jbi-humanrights.org.



April 15, 2015 -- Santiago, Chile -- An AJC senior leadership delegation just concluded a two-day visit to Santiago.

The 17-member group was led by AJC Executive Director David Harris and included Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC's Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs, as well as AJC lay leaders from Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, New York, Westchester, and El Salvador.

During the visit, the delegation met with senior Chilean government officials, including an hour-long session with Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz; other diplomats responsible for the U.S., Middle East, Latin America, and human rights in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; several Members of the Chilean Congress; the Israeli Ambassador; and the U.S. Deputy Ambassador and five of his embassy colleagues. 

The visit also featured a meeting with leaders of the Chilean Jewish community, with which AJC has enjoyed a long-standing association agreement.

Among the principal topics discussed were: (i) U.S.-Chilean relations, which are strong and getting stronger; (ii) Chile's key role in Latin American regional security and economic cooperation; (iii) Chilean engagement with the Middle East, with a particular focus on the country's current seat on the UN Security Council; and (iv) Chilean-Israeli bilateral ties, which have existed for decades and prospered in several fields of mutual interest.

"We were delighted to see our friends in the Chilean Jewish community," said Harris, who has visited Chile on numerous occasions. "We continue to admire their leadership, determination and vision. They have contributed greatly to Chile's remarkable development, while nurturing an impressively vibrant Jewish community."

Chile is also home to approximately 400,000 people of Palestinian descent, most of whom are Christians and immigrated about a century ago, as the Ottoman Empire was collapsing. The community is considered the largest outside of the Middle East, and has achieved prominence in Chilean society. Recently, the traditionally cordial ties between the Jewish and Palestinian communities have been frayed, as a widespread anti-Israel campaign has taken root in important segments of Chile's Palestinian population.

"During our government meetings, we expressed admiration for Chile's striking growth, making it one of Latin America's greatest success stories, as well as appreciation for its defense of democratic values and contributions to peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts in its region and beyond," said Harris. "At the same time, we conveyed our deep disappointment that Chile recalled its ambassador from Israel last summer, an act we did not believe was justified by the circumstances of a Hamas-triggered war against Israel, and the brazen use of civilians as human shields by the terrorist group in Gaza.

"Moreover, we voiced regret that Chile voted in favor of a resolution in the UN Security Council, in December, that we, like the United States and several other nations, believed was biased against Israel and, despite its stated purpose, would have set back prospects for relaunching the peace process. Fortunately, the measure did not get the required nine votes to pass."

AJC has partnered with the Chilean Jewish Community to bring Chilean political, academic, and media leaders to Israel through Project Interchange. In addition, AJC's Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs maintains close contact with Chilean diplomats serving abroad.
 



April 14, 2015 – New York – AJC applauded the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for unanimously passing today the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 and commended bipartisan leaders in Congress and the administration for striking a compromise that allows for congressional review of a final U.S.-led P5+1 deal with Iran on its nuclear program. Negotiators are aiming for a June 30 deadline to finalize the “framework agreement” announced on April 2.

“Today’s agreement by President Obama and the Senate committee’s action assures that Congress will assume its rightful role in reviewing any final nuclear deal with Iran,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy. “Broad recognition of the need for congressional review of a deal of such magnitude and strategic impact is a significant achievement. We urge the Senate to pass the measure in short order.”

The compromise legislation requires the President to submit the final agreement to Congress, which will have up to 52 days to weigh in on the deal. While language requiring the President to confirm that “Iran has not directly supported or carried out an act of terrorism against the United States or a United States person anywhere in the world” was removed, the revised bill does require the President to issue a series of reports to Congress on a range of matters, including Iran's nuclear program, its ballistic missiles materiel and possible military dimensions of the nuclear program, and the regime’s support for global terror. Further, the President would be required to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is complying with the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.



April 13, 2015 -- Montevideo, Uruguay -- A senior AJC leadership delegation just concluded a two-day visit to Uruguay.

The 17-member group was led by AJC Executive Director David Harris, and included Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC's Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA), as well as AJC lay leaders from Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, New York, Westchester, and El Salvador.

During the visit, the group met with Uruguayan Vice President Raúl Sendic, Deputy Foreign Minister José Luis Cancela, U.S. Charge D'affaires Brad Freden, and Israeli Ambassador Nina Ben-Ami. The mission also included a session with the leadership of the Jewish Central Committee of Uruguay.

Among the central topics discussed were: (i) U.S.-Uruguayan relations; (ii) Israeli-Uruguayan bilateral ties; (iii) South American security and economic challenges; and (iv) the UN and the Middle East. Moreover, the delegation discussed the Vazquez Administration's plans for Uruguay's term on the UN Security Council, which is expected to begin in 2016.

“We came to Uruguay, not for the first time, to express our support for this democratic nation,” said Harris. “Uruguay has long been admired as a Latin American country that strongly defends the values of human rights and human dignity, while being a major contributor to UN peacekeeping operations around the world. Moreover, we shall never forget that Uruguay was an early and ardent supporter of Israel's rebirth in 1948. We arrived in Uruguay as long-time friends, and we depart as even stronger friends.”

During the visit, Harris spoke about regional and global security concerns, among other topics, to faculty and students of international relations at the ORT University in Montevideo.

BILLA maintains close ties with Uruguayan officials through regular visits to Montevideo and discussions with diplomats across the U.S. and Europe. In addition, the current President of Uruguay addressed the AJC Global Forum in 2005, and a previous President spoke at the AJC Global Forum in 1998, when Uruguay was honored on the occasion of Israel's 50th anniversary for its key role in Israel's establishment.



April 8, 2015 – New York – AJC praised a federal jury for convicting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of carrying out the deadly terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Together with his brother, Tamerlan, who died in a police shootout following the attack, Tsarnaev perpetrated the worst terror assault on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001.

“The horror carried out by the Tsarnaev brothers was a wake-up call that Americans must be vigilant and united in confronting the ongoing threat of jihadist terrorism that  continues to challenge our country and the larger world,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“While the guilty verdict is very important in bringing some justice, we will forever remember the victims -- Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, and Lu Lingzi who perished in the bombings, as well as Sean Collier, the MIT campus officer shot dead, and the more than 240 who were wounded, many with significant injuries.”



April 2, 2015 – New York – AJC issued the following statement after the announcement of a framework nuclear deal between the P5+1, led by the United States, and Iran:

“We appreciate the determined efforts of the U.S. team, spearheaded by Secretary of State John Kerry, and joined by the other five countries in the negotiating process with Iran, and can only begin to imagine the time and effort that has gone into these very difficult and complex negotiations,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has followed the Iran nuclear issue for more than 15 years.

“Like so many, we earnestly hope for a diplomatic solution that will be durable and ensure the prevention of Iran's nuclear ambitions,” he continued. “Yet, we are fully cognizant that, as President Obama stated, ‘the work is not yet done and success is not guaranteed.’”

Given the nature of the Iranian regime, its pattern of seeking to deceive the international community on its nuclear program, its support for global terror and its regional hegemonic ambitions, its repeated calls for a world without Israel, and its clandestine weapons efforts, AJC is deeply concerned about whether Iran will abide by any undertaking it makes, and if any inspections regime will be sufficient to monitor Iran's full compliance.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will be mandated to conduct the inspections, has faced repeated obstacles from the regime in Tehran, especially when it comes to possible military dimensions of the Iranian program.

Moreover, we know that once sanctions are lifted, and that is supposed to happen in response to specific steps taken by Iran, they will be difficult to put back in place, given the realities of coordinating with other countries, should Tehran subsequently seek to violate commitments made.

Thus, AJC will closely follow the ensuing negotiations, and shall continue to support Congressional review of the agreement, precisely as majorities of Democrats and Republicans have sought.

“A deal of this magnitude, which has directly involved Congress over many years, calls for an appropriate role for our elected officials in the legislative branch,” said Harris.

AJC also seeks close monitoring of the region to see how countries that have threatened to introduce nuclear programs of their own in response to Iran's long-standing efforts react to today's announcement. There has long been fear of an escalation in the most explosive, arms-laden region of the world, where Shiite-Sunni and Iranian-Arab tensions have been growing stronger.

The announcement of the agreement came just before AJC leaders, led by Harris and AJC President Stanley Bergman, met at the State Department with Deputy Secretary Blinken for well over an hour.



April 2, 2015 – New York – AJC is outraged by a Belgian insurance company’s refusal to renew insurance for a Jewish kindergarten in Brussels. The firm denied the school’s request, saying “it is too risky to insure a Jewish kindergarten these days,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, told AJC today.

“This is another ominous sign that can only deepen Jewish fears about their own security in Belgium,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, maintains European offices in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, and Rome.

“At a time when Jewish communities in Belgium, indeed across Europe, are on edge due to rising anti-Semitism and violence against Jews, requiring additional protection by police and soldiers, the insurance company’s decision to deny coverage is unconscionable,” said Harris.

An Islamist terrorist fatally attacked the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels last year, and Belgian security forces have since carried out raids targeting radical Muslims suspected of links to jihadist groups.

Rabbi Margolin told AJC he is hopeful that another insurance company will be found soon to provide the general coverage requested. The kindergarten services 30 Jewish children in Brussels.



April 1, 2015 – New York – AJC issued the following statement today upon the announcement that a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., has indicted Senator Robert Menendez:

“AJC has had the pleasure and privilege of knowing Senator Menendez and working with him on a range of public policy issues over the years.

“His leadership in the defense of American values and interests around the world has been admirable, his thoughtful analysis of the threats posed by a nuclear-capable Iran persuasive, his identification with the aspirations and security concerns of Israel forthright and deeply appreciated, and his support for the protection of human rights, human dignity, and civil rights unflinching.

“Senator Menendez has stood up for victimized nations, persecuted minorities, and the least fortunate here at home. He has been a strong and clear voice for the interests of New Jersey – and for principled U.S. leadership in international forums.

“From AJC’s vantage point, our nation has been strengthened significantly in so many meaningful ways by the Senator’s long record of public service.

“Regarding this week’s news of a federal indictment, unless and until the government proves its case, the Senator is presumed to be innocent. We, therefore, intend to continue to work with him closely, as we have throughout his tenure. His leadership on pressing policy issues is too important to be silenced on anything less than proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”



April 1, 2015 – New York – AJC welcomes Spanish parliamentary action to strengthen punishment for anti-Semitic acts and rhetoric.

“Spain has taken a significant step in the fight against anti-Semitism, signaling with this reformed law that there will be zero tolerance for acts of hatred against Jews,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs. “Our concerns about rising anti-Semitism have been articulated, together with our partner, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, during meetings with Spain’s Justice Minister and other government officials in Madrid over the past several years.”

The revised penal code, adopted on March 31, will punish those convicted of inciting hatred, discrimination or violence against Jews, and those who deny or trivialize the crime of genocide. The code also applies to promotion of hatred towards others in Spain on the basis of gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

Anyone convicted could face imprisonment up to 15 years.



March 30, 2015 – Washington – AJC is urging the Virginia State Bar to reconsider its decision to cancel plans to hold its 2015 Midyear Legal Seminar in Israel. The cancellation, according to the Washington Post, came in response to a petition by some state bar members protesting Israeli security procedures regarding visitors.

“We urge the Virginia State Bar to reconsider its decision and work with Israeli authorities to ensure appropriate treatment of its members upon entering the country,” said Alan Ronkin, AJC Washington Region Director. “Israel must balance its security needs with its commitment to fair and equal treatment of all. There were other options that the Bar could have taken and we strongly urge them to do so.”

As Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell pointed out in a letter to the state bar, the decision to cancel “is inconsistent with the policy of the Commonwealth and sends the wrong signal about our relationship with Israel.” Israel and Virginia share common values as well as deep social and economic ties. Howell urged the state bar to reconsider its decision.



March 26, 2015—Austin—AJC applauds today’s passage by the Texas House of Representatives of a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, a measure that AJC has long advocated. In taking this action Texas is poised to become the fourth state to go on record against the rising tide of global anti-Semitism, following Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California.

The Texas resolution condemns both official and unofficial government sanctioning of anti-Semitism; expresses “continued commitment to combating anti-Semitism”; urges governments “to take all steps necessary to eradicate anti-Semitism”; and calls for expanded Holocaust education programs.

AJC was joined in its successful advocacy of this legislation by Latino leaders who are partners in the Jewish Latino Alliance, an interethnic initiative launched by AJC Dallas seven years ago. The chief sponsor of the bill, State Representative Rafael Anchia, is a longtime friend of AJC and the Jewish community.



March 22, 2015. -- New York --AJC is saddened by the death of Lee Kuan Yew, who served as Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. He was 91 years old.

Lee led Singapore’s separation from Malaysia and independence in 1965. He oversaw the country's transformation from a fairly underdeveloped colonial outpost lacking any natural resources into the thriving economic hub of Asia it is today.

"As Singapore’s storied first prime minister, Lee’s unwavering dedication to religious tolerance and racial harmony are admirable and praiseworthy,” said Shira Loewenberg, director of AJC's Asia Pacific Institute. “He had the rare ability to both envision and implement a prosperous and stable future for his country, overcoming serious challenges to Singapore’s security and self-reliance."

Lee spoke and wrote about Singapore’s deep connection to Israel from Singapore’s independence in 1965, when Israel provided training for the new Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Relations between Israel and Singapore continue to be strong.

AJC extends condolences to the Lee family and the people of Singapore.



March 19, 2015 – Jerusalem -- Despite recent anti-Israel incidents on several university campuses, a delegation of Rhodes Scholars from South Africa and the United States is currently in Israel with Project Interchange, an educational institute of AJC (American Jewish Committee).

The Rhodes Scholars, the 12th delegation of its kind by Project Interchange, will participate in a week-long educational experience that will include wide-ranging discussions on such topics as Israeli politics and society, Israel’s expertise in technology and innovation, Israeli-Palestinian coexistence programs, and integration of minorities into society. The participants, all graduate students at Oxford University, are Rhodes Scholarship recipients, one of the world’s most prestigious international graduate scholarships.

The trip itinerary is tailored to the specific interests of the delegation and is intended to provide a first-hand overview of Israel’s diversity, its vibrant culture, challenges and accomplishments, and its often-times complicated reality.

Delegation participants have already made significant contributions in their individual fields, including: developing a smart water system in rural Kenya, founding an organization to enroll the uninsured in affordable health insurance, and dissertation research with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency to understand how emerging technology can be harnessed by the intelligence community.

Throughout the week, the Rhodes Scholars will travel across Israel, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Sderot, for a first-hand look at the country. The group will meet with influential figures and officials across business, media, academia and politics, learn about Israel’s startup economy by visiting sFBI (Small Factory Big Ideas), meet with Israeli journalists, travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian leaders, and meet with professors and students from Israeli universities.

Discussions will range from Israel’s strategic environment to the country’s position as a worldwide high tech leader, to sharing best practices on fostering economic development and absorption and integration of immigrant and minority communities. Sessions dealing with diversity are on the agenda, including Israeli high-tech initiatives fostering Arab-Jewish coexistence.

Robin Levenston, Executive Director of Project Interchange, stated, “Project Interchange is delighted to welcome our 12th annual Rhodes Scholars program to Israel. The first-hand experience gained during this trip will help enhance the participants’ understanding of Israel’s complexities, and will also provide these international scholars the opportunity to learn together and engage in in-depth discussions with renowned experts. As the topics being explored by the Rhodes Scholars are also key priorities for Israel, we hope these future decision-makers will return home with an enhanced understanding of Israel’s challenges and its achievements.”

About Project Interchange
For over 30 years, Project Interchange, a nonprofit educational institute of AJC (American Jewish Committee) has brought over 6,000 influential figures to Israel from 85 countries and all 50 U.S. states, offering them broad exposure and firsthand understanding of the complex issues facing Israel and the region.
Project Interchange



March 18, 2015 – New York – AJC extends heartfelt condolences to the Tunisian government and the victims of today’s murderous Islamist terror attack at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis. At least 19 were killed and 22 wounded by three gunmen disguised in military uniforms.

“Tunisia’s transition to democratic rule has clearly unnerved radical jihadists in the region who exhibit boundless viciousness, slaughtering innocents in the capital of a moderate Arab country, showing such promise after the ‘Arab Spring’ was launched there in December 2011,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. Tunisia recently held presidential and parliamentary elections and experienced a peaceful rotation of political power.

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid condemned the “cowardly” attack. The dead included 17 tourists from Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain, and two Tunisians.

Several Tunisians were featured in a recent ISIS video threatening that Tunisians would not live securely “as long as Tunisia is not governed by Islam.”

AJC has visited Tunisia many times over several decades, meeting with government officials and Jewish community leaders, including the Communaute Juive de Tunisie (CJT), an AJC international partner.



March 17, 2015 – New York – AJC announced a grant to support IsraAID in providing humanitarian assistance and medical relief to the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. The island suffered extensive damage from Cyclone Pam, one of the worst storms in recorded history.

“Our thoughts are with the people of Vanuatu as they seek to rebuild after the loss of life and widespread destruction wrought by the category 5 storm,” said AJC Asia Pacific Institute Director Shira Loewenberg.

Humanitarian relief has been a core of AJC’s work for more than a century. "Our tradition commands us to respond generously and compassionately to those who are in need," said Loewenberg.

With help from AJC's Heilbrunn Humanitarian Fund, AJC has helped IsraAID humanitarian relief missions in a number of crises in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.



March 16, 2015 – Rabat -- An AJC leadership delegation, in meetings with senior Moroccan officials, hailed the kingdom's economic and political progress and its critical security partnership with the United States.

AJC, which has engaged the Moroccan government and civil society for decades, conveyed messages of support for the efforts of His Majesty King Mohammed VI to combat Islamist extremism and advance regional peace and prosperity. The global organization's leaders explored a range of issues with Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane and other officials.

"In an era of turmoil across the Arab world, Morocco, an exemplar and defender of moderation, plays an increasingly vital role‎," said Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy, who joined Board of Governors Chairman Richard Berkman, Board of Trustees Chairman John Shapiro, and Project Interchange Chair Harriet Schleifer in leading the 12-member delegation.

AJC reaffirmed its support for Morocco's security, bolstered by enhanced strategic cooperation with the United States and participation in the anti-ISIS coalition, and for the territorial integrity of the historic kingdom, including its sovereignty with local autonomy in the Western Sahara region.

The group expressed its solidarity and kinship with the two-millennia-old Moroccan Jewish community, and met with its leaders and visited Jewish sites in five cities‎. AJC maintains a formal association agreement with the ‎Communauté Juive Marocaine, headed by Ambassador Serge Berdugo.

Before its consultations in Morocco, the AJC d‎elegation met with officials, civil society representatives and Jewish community leaders in Tunisia -- the organization's fifth visit since the January 2011 revolution that sparked the so-called "Arab Spring." AJC seeks intensified U.S. and European political, security and economic investment in Tunisia as it embraces democracy and confronts growing regional threats.

‎The AJC delegation met with Jewish leaders and visited communal sites in Tunis and Djerba. The Communauté Juive de Tunisie is an AJC international partner.



March 13, 2015 -- New York – In a letter to University of California President Janet Napolitano and Board of Regents Chairman Bruce D. Varner, AJC has praised the UC leaders for their unequivocal condemnation of recent anti-Semitic incidents at UCLA and UC Davis.

Napolitano and Varner, in a joint statement, condemned expressions of bigotry, particularly anti-Semitism, directed against any members of the university community and reaffirmed the universal responsibility to preserve “bedrock values of respect, inclusion and civility.”

The UC leaders specifically referred to recent incidents at UCLA where students tried to block a Jewish student from serving on the campus Judicial Board, and at UC Davis where a Jewish fraternity was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti.

“Anti-Semitic incidents such as these, as well as bigotry directed against any members of the UC community because of their faith, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, will not be tolerated,” said Napolitano and Varner.

AJC also expressed appreciation for UCLA Chancellor Gene Block’s condemnation of “anti-Semitism as repugnant, as is any other form of prejudice,” and for UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi’s condemnation of anti-Semitism as “repugnant and a gross violation of our values.”

The “clear and unequivocal condemnation by the university chancellors in these cases is gratifying,” wrote Steven Bayme, AJC Director of Contemporary Jewish Life, in the letter to Napolitano and Varner.

“Hopefully, this incident will serve as a wake-up call that anti-Semitic prejudice has by no means disappeared, and that university leaders need both to speak out in opposition and initiate educational programs to counter it,” said Bayme.

AJC has engaged directly with Chancellors Block and Katehi. AJC Los Angeles met earlier this week with Block and initiated a dialogue with university leadership on how to enhance the campus climate positively. Katehi is a past participant in AJC’s Project Interchange, which brings U.S. university presidents to Israel for educational seminars to gain a greater understanding of the country.



March 12, 2015 – Athens -- A senior AJC leadership group just concluded a two-day visit to Greece.

The six-member delegation, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Director David Harris, was joined by leaders of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), an AJC partner organization, and Andrew Manatos, a prominent leader of the Hellenic-American community.

The visit was highlighted by a private meeting with recently-elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. During the discussion, Tsipras spoke of his commitment to addressing Greece's very difficult economic situation, and reaffirmed his country's ties with the U.S., the European Union, and Israel. Moreover, he underscored his strong commitment to denouncing all forms of anti-Semitism.

The group also met with other senior Greek officials, including Defense Minister Panos Kammenos; Minister of Culture, Education, and Religious Affairs Aristides Baltas; Alternate Foreign Minister Nikolaos Hountis (a previously confirmed meeting with the Foreign Minister was cancelled due to his illness); President of the New Democracy political party and former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras; and President of the Potami political party Stavros Theodorakis.

In addition, the delegation had in-depth meetings with the U.S. and Israeli ambassadors and their top staff colleagues, as well as with the national leadership of KIS.

Among the principal topics discussed during the visit were: (i) efforts to achieve progress in Greece's dramatic economic situation; (ii) attempts to combat anti-Semitism, including the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn political movement; (iii) the strengthening and deepening of ties among the U.S., Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, which has been a key AJC priority for more than three decades; and (iv) threats to stability in the eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, as well as the Russian-instigated crisis in Ukraine.

"We came to Athens as long-time friends of Greece. In our excellent meetings, we heard deep appreciation for the strong ties between Greece and the U.S., and an understanding among the country's new leaders of the importance of the strategic partnership between Greece and Israel," said Harris. "In this era of regional and global instability, the significance of Greece, as a vibrant democracy and NATO ally in a vitally important part of the world, where Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa all practically meet one other, cannot be overstated."

In addition to frequent visits to Greece over the past 30-plus years, AJC maintains close ties with Greek leaders through its diplomatic representatives abroad and via Diaspora communities across the U.S. and in Europe. During the far-reaching economic crisis in Greece, AJC has made several grants from its Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn Humanitarian Fund to help support the Jewish community and contribute to the country's public health needs.

Prior to Athens, the AJC group was in Sofia, where they met with the President of Bulgaria, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Speaker of the Parliament, and other political leaders and diplomats, as well as with the leadership of Shalom, the national Jewish organization.



March 10, 2015 -- Sofia, Bulgaria -- An AJC senior leadership delegation just concluded a three-day visit to Bulgaria's capital.

The five-member group, led by AJC Executive Director David Harris and including AJC Executive Council members Kim Pimley and Allan Reich, met with top Bulgarian government officials, including President Rosen Plevneliev, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, Deputy Prime Minister Rumyana Bachvarova, Speaker of the Parliament Tsetska Tsacheva, and Chair of the GERB parliamentary group and former Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

Among the principal topics discussed in the meetings were: (i) deepening U.S.-Bulgaria ties, particularly following Secretary of State John Kerry's recent visit to Sofia; (ii) the Middle East; and (iii) security challenges in southeastern Europe.

During the visit, the delegation also had private meetings with the U.S. and Israeli Ambassadors, and the leadership of Shalom, the main umbrella body of Jewish organizations in Bulgaria, with which AJC has maintained a long-standing official partnership.

"First and foremost, we visited Bulgaria to express our strong support, and to express gratitude for its ongoing alignment with the U.S. and the EU," said Harris. "As a country that faces serious challenges, Bulgaria has maintained its principled stance in defense of democratic pluralistic values. Its deep link to Israel, described by Prime Minister Borisov as "fantastic," is just one example of this strong position."

The visit also included a presentation by Harris hosted by Dr. Solomon Passy, who previously served as Foreign Minister, at the prestigious Atlantic Club of Bulgaria. During the program, which was attended by more than 200 diplomats, academics, and politicians, Harris spoke about relations among the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East.

Moreover, the delegation attended a ceremony hosted in front of the Bulgarian Parliament in honor of the 72nd anniversary of the rescue of the Jews of Bulgaria during World War II. The Israeli and U.S. ambassadors, and many other diplomats and government officials, were among the crowd of several hundred attendees.

AJC maintains close relations with Bulgarian officials across the U.S. and Europe. AJC leaders also regularly visit Sofia to further strengthen ties with the country.



March 6, 2015 – New York -- AJC has announced a grant to support IsraAID in assisting Israeli trauma specialists working with their Jordanian counterparts aiding refugees from Syria. Jordan is housing more than one million Syrians who have crossed the border seeking safety from the four year old civil war.

“We are delighted to support Israelis and Jordanians cooperating to provide much-needed medical relief to refugees from the horrendous conflict,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “It is our hope that this effort, which brings together Israelis, Jordanians, and Syrian refugees, will help foster greater mutual understanding in a region that would greatly benefit from such increased cooperation in the future.”

The AJC funds will cover expenses associated with the training of Jordanian trauma workers aiding Syrian refugees.

With help from AJC's Heilbrunn Humanitarian Fund, AJC has partnered with IsraAID humanitarian relief missions in a number of crises, including:

-- Typhoon Hagupit in the Philippines in 2014;

-- Humanitarian aid to beleaguered Christian and Yazidi refugees who fled to Iraq’s Kurdish region in 2014;

-- Bosnia-Herzegovina following massive flooding in 2014;

-- Bulgaria for Syrian refugees who sought a safe haven in the country in 2013;

-- The Philippines in 2013 after a typhoon;

-- Haiti following the massive earthquake in 2010;

-- The Philippines after a deadly tropical storm in 2009;

-- Sri Lanka after the unprecedented South Asian tsunami in 2004.


March 5, 2015 -- New York -- AJC mourns the passing of His Eminence Cardinal Edward Egan and offers comfort and consolation to the leadership and constituents of the Archdiocese of New York, where he served as Archbishop from 2000-2009. He was elevated to Cardinal by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Cardinal Egan was a friend of the Jewish people and served in New York and Chicago, home to two of the largest Jewish communities outside of Israel. Active with the rabbinic community and interfaith endeavors in Chicago, he spoke out in New York toward advancement of the gains of the Church’s Nostra Aetate document, which totally transformed Catholic-Jewish relations. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Nostra Aetate’s promulgation.

“The Archbishop of New York plays a critical role in advancing Catholic-Jewish relations and Cardinal Egan is remembered as a friend who humbly built upon his Jewish relationships and lived out with the Jewish people the Nostra Aetate ideal of the oneness of ‘the community of all peoples,’” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations.



March 3, 2015 – New York – AJC praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s clarion call for achieving the best possible deal to prevent a nuclear Iran.

Netanyahu's speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress today came three weeks ahead of the March 24 deadline for a framework political agreement between the P5+1 and Iran, an accord that, if achieved, could lead to a permanent deal by the end of June.

During his 45-minute address, Netanyahu stressed the strength and closeness of the U.S.-Israel relationship, underscored the longstanding bipartisan nature of that link, and emphasized the robust support of the Obama Administration for Israel.

“The remarkable alliance between Israel and the U.S. has always been above politics, and always must remain above politics,” said Netanyahu, who expressed deep gratitude for the support of American presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

“We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel,” said Netanyahu. “Some of what the President has done will never be known, but I know it, and I will always be grateful to President Obama for that support.”

“No doubt, the question of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington could have been handled more artfully by all sides. But that’s water under the bridge, or at least it should be,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“The laser-like focus now ought to be on his crystal clear message to Congress regarding Iran and the prospect of what he terms a dangerous deal over its nuclear program. American Jews are rarely unanimous about anything, but most, I believe, would agree that the issue needs to be about policy, not personality or politics,” Harris added.

The Prime Minister also stressed that details of the emerging deal, which, he warned, could leave Iran on the cusp of producing nuclear weapons, are a matter of public record. “The deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It all but guarantees that Iran will get nuclear weapons,” said Netanyahu. He cautioned that, “Iran could get the bomb by keeping the deal” because the agreement could leave intact Iran’s extensive nuclear infrastructure, and would expire “in about ten years,” after which “Iran [would] be free to develop a huge nuclear capacity to build many nuclear bombs.”

“This is a very bad deal. We are better off without it. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal,” Netanyahu added.

The Prime Minister asserted that an Iran motivated by a radical Islamist ideology with regional hegemonic aspirations would pose a threat not just to Israel, but to Israel’s Arab neighbors and the larger world. Netanyahu noted, "Iran's regime is not merely a Jewish problem, any more than the Nazi regime was merely a Jewish problem.”

Netanyahu also laid out the record of Iran’s ongoing human rights violations and support for terror over the past 36 years, since the theocratic regime seized power, including its support for Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations around the globe. “We must stand together to combat Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation, and terror,” said Netanyahu.

“We urge everyone to read the Prime Minister’s speech and consider it on its merits,” said Harris.



New York -- March 1, 2015 – AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement regarding a full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times, sponsored by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, assailing U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice:

“As AJC said in a tweet yesterday, this ad was ‘way over the top’ and ‘revolting.’ Indeed, if anything, those characterizations were inadequate in expressing the depth of our reaction to what Boteach did.

“First, to blame Susan Rice for genocide, surround her with the skulls of victims of the Rwanda tragedy, and suggest that the Jewish people may be next because of her, is beyond shocking.

“Yes, there was a genocide in Rwanda, yes, it happened on the watch of the Clinton Administration in which Rice served, and yes, President Clinton has since acknowledged his, and the international community’s, failure to stop it.

“But to lay the blame for all this on Susan Rice, and to assert that she has a soft spot for genocide, which could mean that it’s Israel’s turn next, is disgraceful in the extreme.

“Second, has Boteach helped the pro-Israel community, which, presumably, was the object of the exercise? Absolutely not. To the contrary, he has made our collective task more difficult.

“At a difficult moment in the U.S.-Israel relationship, when level-headed people ought to be devoting themselves to cooling the rhetoric, reinforcing the foundation of the Jerusalem-Washington link, reaffirming bipartisan American support for the Jewish state, and seeking to bridge any gaps between the Administration and Congress, Boteach comes along as a verbal arsonist to exacerbate the situation. With friends like these...

“Third, whether Rice’s use of the word ‘destructive’ to describe Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington was appropriate can be debated, but it is far from the alpha and omega of her record on Israel. Having worked especially closely with her during her tenure as our nation’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, I can attest to the fact that, on many occasions -- some heralded, others not – she was a stalwart, indeed indispensable, friend of Israel and the Jewish people.

“And fourth, may I remind Boteach that, while he has every right to like or dislike this president, national security adviser, and administration, it is here to stay for the next nearly two years, during which many crucial issues affecting Israel and the larger Middle East will inevitably come up.

“Boteach’s ad may (or may not) play to his bleachers, but he sure as heck won’t be taken remotely seriously by those in government with the position and power to make those decisions, so he has totally and completely marginalized himself.

“My unsolicited advice? Boteach ought to look within himself, recognize that he made a catastrophic mistake in which the only genuine beneficiary was the balance sheet of the New York Times, and apologize unconditionally and sincerely, first and foremost to Susan Rice.”



February 27, 2015 – New York – AJC mourns the passing of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, one of the most influential American Catholic leaders of our time. He distinguished himself as a renowned educator and spiritual leader, as a staunch defender of civil rights and social justice, and as a friend of the Jewish people.

In May 1971, AJC honored Hesburgh, then president of the University of Notre Dame and chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, with the organization’s prestigious American Liberties Medallion in recognition of his “exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty.”

Presenting the award, AJC’s Morris Abram said: “Father Hesburgh is an example to all, for when we despair because of our powerlessness and cry out, ‘What can we do as mere individuals?’”

Hesburgh was a role model and mentor for the Catholic implementation of Nostra Aetate, the historic Second Vatican Council document that transformed official church attitudes towards the Jewish people, and whose 50th anniversary we mark this year.

He was also a founding honorary sponsor of the National Interreligious Consultation on Soviet Jewry, a group established by AJC to help secure freedom for millions of Soviet Jews.

In 2002, Hesburgh, then Notre Dame President emeritus, joined with more than 400 presidents of U.S. colleges and universities in signing an AJC statement decrying intimidation of Jewish students on campuses.

“America has lost a towering figure,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The Catholic Church has lost a devoted son, and the Jewish people has lost a cherished friend.”

 



February 26, 2015 – Brussels – A senior American Jewish Committee (AJC) official urged European lawmakers today to move immediately to develop an action plan to confront the rising tide of anti-Semitism in their countries – and change the reality of Jews living in fear in Europe.

“What must come first is the will of European leadership to assure the security and the European future of Europe’s Jews, and to defend the values, the security and the future of Europe as a whole,” Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy, told a group of European Parliament (EP) members in Brussels.

Isaacson shared examples of what AJC colleagues and Jews generally are confronting across Europe. “Every day, my colleagues in AJC’s offices here in Brussels and across Europe – and Jews throughout the European Union – are facing a personal quandary and making wrenching personal decisions” about sending children to Jewish day schools, attending services in synagogues and Jewish communal events – indeed, weighing whether to stay or leave their countries of residence.

“It is an abomination that these are the thoughts – the entirely justified worries – of more than a million Jews in Europe, a continent that has been home to Jews and enlivened by Jews for more than two millennia, a continent that was saturated in the blood of Jews seven decades ago,” Isaacson added.

He called for “an action plan to combat anti-Semitism” to be implemented country by country across Europe. “Heads of state must speak out clearly and sincerely,” said Isaacson, adding that the first step, “already taken by many national leaders, including German Chancellor Merkel and French Prime Minister Valls, is to express at the highest levels that fundamental commitment to fight anti-Semitism.”

European governments should step up and better organize the collection of data on anti-Semitic incidents and perpetrators in order “to know as precisely as possible the dimension and the source of the threat we’re facing,” he said.

Isaacson called on the EU and its member states “to formulate and implement broad-ranging counter-radicalization programs, working in partnership with Muslim and other faith and civil society leaders.”

He stressed the need to halt “radical preachings now commonly disseminated in European prisons” and offered several recommendations for improving the teaching of tolerance and democratic values in European schools, adding that “educators must be encouraged to develop accessible new curricula imparting the core message that anti-Semitism is incompatible with fundamental European values.”

Another critical communications vehicle to confront is social media and the Internet. Isaacson called on European governments to consider modifying existing laws to allow for shutting down websites and social media accounts that promote and share anti-Semitism.

And, he urged governments to take steps to prevent European jihadists from traveling to and from Middle East conflict zones, substantially bolster security of Jewish communal sites, and institute other safeguards against anti-Semitic violence.

“Jewish communities and the general public need to hear directly from European leaders that anti-Semitism violates core European principles and will not be tolerated,” said Isaacson. “Civil society – including faith leaders – must be summoned to carry the message that anti-Semitism is socially, politically and religiously unacceptable.”

The hearing by the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Israel was the first time an official body of the current EP dealt with the issue of anti-Semitism. Isaacson’s testimony is part of AJC’s stepped up efforts to raise consciousness among European leaders about the increasing threats to Jews and European societies – and urge governments to make the fight against anti-Semitism a high national priority.



February 23, 2015 – New York – AJC welcomed today’s U.S. jury verdict against the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, holding the Palestinian leadership responsible for terror attacks in Israel that killed or wounded American citizens.

“Perpetrators of terrorism and their sponsors must be held accountable,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Though the legal process took a long time, the victims' families have finally seen justice in the admirable, reasoned decision of the jury in a federal court in New York.”

Ten American families initiated the lawsuit under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEPDA), which allows American nationals who are victims of international terrorism to sue in U.S. courts. The terror attacks took place in Israel between 2002 and 2004.

The jury in the Federal District Court in Manhattan awarded the plaintiffs $218.5 million in damages, to be paid by the PA and PLO. That number could triple under the terms of AEPDA.



February 23, 2015 -- Jerusalem – Top U.S. Latino Media and Entertainment leaders are visiting Israel this week in a pioneering initiative to explore joint ventures, scout location sites, and share best practices with their Israeli counterparts. The group is hosted by AJC’s Project Interchange and AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs (BILLA), in partnership with the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.

This initiative underscores AJC’s long-standing effort to build bridges with the Latino community, and marks Project Interchange and BILLA’s 22nd joint delegation for Latino opinion leaders to Israel.

The trip signifies a turning point in the growing relationship between the two communities. While roughly 17 percent of the U.S. population, the Latino community is significantly under-represented in the entertainment industry. Like Latinos in the U.S., Jews have faced stereotypical portrayals and struggle with discrimination. Israel has become an emerging power in the entertainment arena, forging new ground in film and television. The discussions and contacts that emerge from this delegation are expected to forge new understandings and capitalize on the creative energies of Latinos and Israelis.

The delegation will traverse much of Israel, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Umm El Fahm, for a first-hand look at Israel. The itinerary includes meetings with influential figures in Israel’s celebrated film and television industry, authors, artists, and leading cultural figures. Sessions dealing with Israel’s strategic environment, immigration, diversity, co-existence and interfaith relations are also on the agenda.

Noting how Israeli films and television programs continue to garner international attention, including prestigious film festivals and Hollywood development deals, the delegation will meet with leading directors and producers in Israel, as well as with individuals involved in content development.

Participants include Latino television and stage actors and writers, content creators for television and film, and executives involved in film and television production. Felix Sanchez, Chair and Co-Founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, and a Project Interchange alumnus, is traveling with the group, and noted, “As a proud alumnus of AJC’s Project Interchange and BILLA, I’m delighted to participate with this important contingent of Latino entertainment and media executives, producers, writers and actors, as we meet and engage with our entertainment counterparts in Israel and build strong relationships between our communities. The future is now.”

Robin S. Levenston, Project Interchange Executive Director, stated, “AJC’s Project Interchange is thrilled to host these prominent leaders in our 22nd delegation of Latino leaders traveling to Israel. This is a golden opportunity for artists, media and entertainment leaders in both countries to explore areas and themes of common interest and take the relationships in these industries to new levels.”

The Project Interchange delegation is accompanied by Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.



February 18, 2015 – Washington – Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs, told the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism today that Jews in Europe are living in fear and criticized the hesitancy of many European leaders to identify publicly the roots of rising anti-Semitism and the perpetrators of the violence that has struck fatally Jews and the general population.

“European Jews feel doubly at risk,” said Rabbi Baker. “They know the dangers are real, but how can they have confidence that their governments also know this?”

AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, has been warning for more than 15 years about ominous elements in European countries that specifically target Jews, but ultimately threaten the democratic societies in which they live.

“Some have been reluctant to identify the victims or to identify the perpetrators or even to call it anti-Semitism,” said Rabbi Baker, referring in particular to the recent Islamist terror attacks in Copenhagen and Paris. “It should be obvious that this radical Islamist extremism is also deeply anti-Semitic.”

Elaborating on his concerns about European readiness to respond adequately to the threats, Baker recounted his conversations about security for Jewish institutions two years ago with Belgian officials in Brussels and last fall with Danish authorities in Copenhagen.

“Even today the Belgian Jewish community is awaiting an answer from the government to its request for additional security and funding,” said Baker, though he pointed out that Belgian officials acknowledged to him that the Jewish community needs security on the level of the U.S. and Israeli embassies.

Similarly, Danish government officials told Baker last fall that they had rebuffed Jewish community requests for a police presence in front of the synagogue and Jewish school because they were concerned that armed guards in front of these buildings might disturb the sense of ease that Danish citizens so value.

While security has been enhanced in France, Denmark and several other European countries, Baker reminded the audience that government, civil society leaders, and media need to be crystal clear about who is responsible for the acts of terrorism already taking place and ongoing looming threats.

“In many Western European countries today elements of the Muslim population are the primary source of anti-Semitic incidents and of physical and verbal harassment,” said Baker. “These threats have slowly and steadily eroded Jews’ sense of security and comfort in their day to day lives. They are why nearly 40 percent of Jews in the EU, when surveyed over two years ago, were already considering emigration.”

Baker offered a ray of hope for responding to the crisis of violent extremism in Europe. Last November an OSCE conference on anti-Semitism in Berlin drew nearly 500 participants from governments and civil society organizations. Baker, who also serves as the OSCE Chair’s personal representative on combatting anti-Semitism, said that the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights delegation was one of the most impressive.

“This broad coalition of organizations delivered the message that anti-Semitism, at least here in the U.S., is everybody’s problem,” said Baker. Duplicating this approach in Europe “will not be easy,” added Baker, “but the crisis we face in Europe demands an urgency to respond and search for new tools and methods” to effectively fight anti-Semitism.



February 18, 2015 – New York – Ambassador Jarl Frijs-Madsen, Consul General of Denmark in New York, addressed a special ceremony at AJC headquarters today to commemorate the victims of the twin terror attacks in Copenhagen. Representatives of New York’s diplomatic, interfaith and political communities joined with AJC leaders for the somber event.

“The terror that has hit Europe this year has sadly now also become a part of Denmark’s recent history,” said Frijs-Madsen. “In these difficult times, it has given us enormous courage, comfort and strength to know that we are not alone, but surrounded by friends all over the world.”

A Danish Muslim first attacked a free speech event at a Copenhagen café, killing a Danish filmmaker, and several hours later murdered Dan Uzan, a Jewish security guard at Copenhagen’s Krystalgade synagogue, and wounded two Danish police officers. The shooter died in a confrontation with police after the two attacks.

“In the middle of our grief and shock, we are thankful that Dan Uzan and the Danish police officers posted at the synagogue did manage to protect the 80 people inside the synagogue who were gathered for a Bat Mitzvah,” said Frijs-Madsen.

The consul general vowed that, “Denmark will continue to protect our countrymen in the Jewish community” and that the Danish people will not allow anti-Semitism “to take root in Denmark,” as demonstrated by the “Prime Minister’s statements, the sea of flowers and condolences by the synagogue, and, perhaps the most powerful statement of all, 40,000 Danish citizens at a candlelight vigil in Copenhagen.”

AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has visited Copenhagen numerous times, spoke fondly of the Danish people, for their principled rescue of Jews during the Holocaust and for building in the post-war period a country that regularly comes at the top of the UN human development index. “Denmark is a world leader in human dignity and human rights,” he said.

Harris pointed out that the sequence of events in Copenhagen were similar to the deadly violence that transpired in Paris a month ago. “The first attack was on European values, and then the Jewish community was attacked,” said Harris. “Jewish security is inextricably interwoven with European security, and European security is equally interwoven with Jewish security.”

“What happened in Copenhagen is tragically consistent with what AJC has been saying to our friends in capitals across Europe for more than 15 years,” said Harris. “First and foremost, we need absolute clarity in confronting this challenge. The perpetrators of these terrorist outrages need to be named – they are jihadists, and they came after Denmark and France because these countries embody democratic and pluralistic values.”

Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC director of Intergroup and Interreligious Affairs, led the more than 100 attendees in prayer and remembrance. "Our solidarity today is inseparable from our long-held and deeply felt gratitude that Denmark played a historic role in saving Jews during our darkest hour. We are here today for you, Denmark, during this dark hour,” said Marans.

Diplomats representing Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Slovakia attended. Moreover, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Latter Day Saints, and the Episcopal Church, as well as officials from the offices of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Mayor Bill De Blasio were present for the ceremony.



February 17, 2015 -- New York – AJC is appalled by the ISIS execution of 21Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, the latest act of brutality from a terrorist organization that has already claimed thousands of victims across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in Europe.

“Christians have been under assault in the Arab Middle East, but this particular outrage, the kidnapping and subsequent beheading, is beyond monstrous,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris “We share the pain of our Christian brethren.”

Pope Francis, reacting to the ISIS beheadings of the Copts, said, “They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians.”

And Cardinal Dolan of New York said, “This is part of an orchestrated fanaticism that sees Christianity, Judaism, and any religion of peace as the enemy.”

ISIS is thriving and expanding by violently taking advantage of the political and security vacuums in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, seizing large swathes of territory, terrorizing local populations, and willfully murdering Christians and Yazidis, as well as Muslims with whom they disagree. The group has also struck with deadly violence in Egypt, Afghanistan and Algeria. Moreover, ISIS veterans and sympathizers have reached Europe, killing four people at a Paris kosher market, and four at the Brussels Jewish Museum.

“ISIS is a threat to civilization that must be vanquished,” said Harris. “Pure, grotesque terrorism glorified through video, online publications, and other media is the trademark of ISIS’s twisted ideology.”

AJC urges greater international resolve and cooperation to confront and destroy ISIS. “Certainly, defeating ISIS is not the job of any one country alone, but requires the active collaboration of the U.S., Europe, Japan, Arab nations, and other like-minded countries,” said Harris. “In the region, Jordan and Egypt, responding to direct attacks by ISIS on their own citizens, have taken important actions that others in the Arab world should emulate, making clear that ISIS is their enemy, too.”



February 15, 2015 -- New York -- AJC Executive Director David Harris called yesterday's attacks in Copenhagen, including against a synagogue, “deplorable and despicable acts of terror” that are another “wake-up call to European leaders of the urgent threats to democratic societies and the values they embody.”

Dan Uzan, a Jewish security guard at Copenhagen’s Krystalgade synagogue, was killed and two Danish police officers were wounded by a lone shooter. Earlier in the day, a man was killed when gun shots were fired at an event on free speech, where a featured speaker was the cartoonist who has faced repeated death threats since he drew caricatures of the prophet Muhammad in 2007.

Details about the shooter, who died in a confrontation with police, have not yet been released.

“One can only imagine the horror if the shooter had succeeded in actually entering the synagogue, where a Bat Mitzvah ceremony was in progress,” said Harris. Some 80 people were inside the synagogue at the time, a leader of Denmark’s Jewish community told a Danish radio station.

The Denmark synagogue attack comes barely a month after a radical Islamist terrorist killed four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris, which occurred two days after other jihadists carried out a murderous atttack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. In total, seventeen innocent people were killed in three Paris attacks.

“As AJC has been saying for 15 years to Europe's top political leaders, European core values such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship and pluralism are inextricably intertwined with the well-being and security of the continent’s Jewish communities,” said Harris. “European nations individually and collectively must confront anti-Semitism with utmost urgency. Jews should not once again have to live in fear in Europe.”

Harris and other AJC representatives, including the directors of AJC's offices in Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Rome, have been pressing European leaders to recognize the urgency of the danger, the specificity of anti-Semitism, and the need to take concrete steps to make clear that confronting anti-Semitism is a high and sustained priority.

AJC urges the EU and its member states to establish a high-level task force on anti-Semitism, enhance round-the-clock security at synagogues, schools and other Jewish institutions, and utilize all other tools available through education, law enforcement, justice, and transnational cooperation to confront the threat to Jewish communities and European democratic values.

“Sadly, no country can assume today that jihadist violence against Jews and other symbols of liberal democracy will not happen there,” Harris added.



February 12, 2015 – New York – AJC hailed the passage by both houses of Congress of legislation approving construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and urged President Obama to sign the bill into law. AJC has long supported pipeline.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is critically important for U.S. energy security, the economy and relations with Canada, our neighbor and ally," said AJC Executive Director David Harrris. “President Obama should reconsider his declared intention to veto the legislation approving the pipeline construction.”

U.S. government approval of the pipeline crossed a hurdle nearly a year ago when the State Department issued a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement concluding that the pipeline was not likely to have adverse repercussions.

AJC supports a multifaceted approach to energy security that includes support for enhanced efficiency and conservation standards, promotion of alternative fuels and technologies, and development of domestic and neighboring fossil fuel sources.

Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, and already provides oil through other pipelines. Transporting oil via pipelines is safer, more energy efficient, and more reliable than importing through tankers from the Middle East or elsewhere.



February 11, 2015 – New York – AJC is shocked by the brutal murders of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Deah Barakat, a student at the University of North Carolina; Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, who was to enroll at UNC in the fall; and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, a student at North Carolina State University, were shot dead by a lone gunman at a condominium near the UNC campus.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families, as we await further details from investigators regarding the shooter’s motive for these brutal killings,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “But some things should be absolutely clear and non-negotiable. In America, we must always affirm the sanctity of human life, the blessing of pluralism, and the commitment to freedom of worship for all.”

Craig Stephen Hicks was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Law enforcement authorities have not yet determined if the murders were hate crimes.



February 9, 2015 -- Jerusalem, Israel -- An AJC leadership delegation, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Director David Harris, just concluded a two-day visit to Israel.

The mission was highlighted by a private, 45-minute meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The group also met with Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi; former Finance Minister Yair Lapid; senior officials from the Ministry of Defense and the National Security Council; diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs focused on Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa, international law, public diplomacy, and global Jewry; and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel.

During the mission, which was organized by AJC Jerusalem Director Avital Leibovich and her team, the delegation was hosted by the Italian Ambassador to Israel for a panel discussion on rising anti-Semitism in Europe in the context of European-Israeli relations.

David Harris was featured alongside the EU Ambassador to Israel, a former Israeli national security advisor, and a prominent Israeli academic. The audience included many diplomats, including from Egypt, Japan, and Jordan, as well as Israeli officials.

During the visit, several topics were addressed, including: (i) the ongoing threat posed by Iran and the P5+1 talks; (ii) other regional security challenges, such as Islamic State, Hezbollah, and Hamas; (iii) recent developments in Israel's relations with the U.S., Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the EU; (iv) prospects for restarting the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process later this year; and (v) Israel's elections next month.

AJC was the first American Jewish organization, more than a half-century ago, to establish a permanent presence in Israel. Housed in Beit Moses, AJC Jerusalem regularly engages with Israeli government officials and society, as well as diplomatic representatives from dozens of countries.



February 6, 2015 -- New York -- AJC praised Uruguay for expelling a senior Iranian diplomat suspected of involvement with a bomb placed near Israel’s embassy in Montevideo. No one was hurt and the bomb was defused.

“Iran has a long record of complicity in terrorism in Latin America and around the world,” said Dina Siegel Vann, AJC Director of Latino and Latin American Affairs. “Extension of Iran’s state support terror network has come hand-in-hand with its aggressive expansion of diplomatic and economic ties in the region.”

Tehran is the chief suspect in the 1994 fatal bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. In 2007, Interpol issued “red notices”—arrest requests—for five Iranian officials, but the Iranians are still at large.

In 2013, Argentine state prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who led the AMIA investigation for a decade, issued a report detailing how Tehran has methodically placed terror operatives in several Latin American countries, using Iranian embassies, local mosques and front companies connected with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, to form "intelligence structures" that can strike when needed.

Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on January 19. His murder has raised anew questions about who might be responsible for trying to obstruct the AMIA investigation. After nearly 21 years, no one has been convicted.



February 5, 2015 – Berlin – AJC Berlin is disputing a new study by the Technical University’s Center for Research on Anti-Semitism (ZfA) that charges Jewish and civil society organizations with exaggerating and exploiting anti-Semitic incidents in Berlin for their own gain.

"We need studies that clearly define the problem of anti-Semitism instead of questioning its very existence," said AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger. “Trivializing hatred of Jews is dangerous.”

“At a time when the future of Jews in Germany and in Europe as a whole is being called into question, downplaying the danger of anti-Semitism is unacceptable,” Berger continued. “The new ZIA study displays a disturbing lack of sensitivity to the justified fears of Berlin’s Jews, which have grown considerably in the wake of the numerous anti-Semitic incidents last summer.”

Berger expressed surprise about charges of exaggeration, saying, “Instead of taking seriously concerns in the Jewish community about the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism, the study charges Jewish organizations and individuals with biased judgment. Such sweeping generalizations defame and vilify Jews and Jewish organizations.”

The recent study, “Anti-Semitism as Problem and Symbol – Phenomena and Interventions in Berlin,” was compiled by the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism on behalf of the Berlin state government’s State Commission against Violence. The goal was to obtain an overview of anti-Semitism manifestations and develop strategies for dealing with them.  Instead, the study focuses much of its attention on what it terms the “symbolism” of anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is not a symbol,” said Berger. “It is an attack on democratic values. Instead of providing insights into the nature and sources of contemporary anti-Semitism, the study delivers a political broadside against postwar German democracy, which the authors accuse of instrumentalizing anti-Semitism, German-Israeli relations, and Holocaust memory.”

She added: “Rather than providing an objective academic analysis, this report promotes an anti-Israel and anti-German government political agenda.”

Berger noted that the study seems to defend anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments within Muslim society by linking it to “direct personal painful experience, or experience of the parents’ or grandparents’ generations, related to the conflict in the Middle East,” and by asserting that anti-Semitic statements uttered by young Muslims are the consequence of the widespread discrimination and racism that they experience in Germany.

“Anti-Semitism – regardless of the circumstances in which it is expressed – can never be justified,” said Berger. “Characterizing Muslim pupils primarily as victims of discrimination is paternalistic and robs them of the opportunity to assume their rightful role as responsible citizens in the fight against anti-Semitism.”
AJC Berlin has issued a commentary, “Defining Anti-Semitism: The Battle for Interpretation,” which warns about the dangers of trivializing anti-Semitism by deeming it a justified reaction to policies of the Israeli government.

It suggests specific measures to fight anti-Semitism, including the incorporation of background information and counter-strategies in training programs for teachers, police, law enforcement authorities and other government officials.  Another suggestion is a major revision of police reports on anti-Semitic incidents to provide greater detail about the circumstances and perpetrators.

Since the opening of the AJC Berlin Lawrence and Lee Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations in 1998, AJC has worked on strategies and educational programs to combat anti-Semitism.  With its bi-monthly Taskforce: Education on Anti-Semitism meetings, AJC Berlin provides an ongoing platform for NGO representatives and educational experts to exchange best practices on pedagogical approaches to fighting anti-Semitism.



February 4, 2015 -- Kiev, Ukraine -- For the third time in the past ten months, an AJC leadership delegation has visited Ukraine's capital.

During the two-day trip, the 12-person group, led by AJC Executive Director David Harris, met privately with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk; Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin; President of the Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) Volodymyr Groysman; Head of Internal Security Services Valentin Nalivaychenko; the American, German, and Israeli ambassadors to Ukraine; and Jewish community leaders.

Among the principal topics discussed were: (i) the ongoing Russian-supported conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has cost an estimated 6,000 Ukrainian lives to date; (ii) financial, military, and other forms of international support needed by Ukraine; (iii) the well-being of the Ukrainian Jewish community; and (iv) relations between Ukraine and the U.S., EU, and Israel.

"First and foremost, we visited Kiev to express our ongoing solidarity with, and support for, the Ukrainian quest to chart its own destiny," said Harris, who has been to Kiev many times and was honored by the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Viktor Yuschenko in 2008. "We applaud the current government's determination in the face of overwhelming adversity. With so much at stake for Ukraine and regional and global security, it is critical that Western governments respond with appropriate support for the country. This is nothing less than a defining era."

During the visit, the delegation had dinner with many leaders of the Ukrainian Jewish community, with which AJC has maintained close ties, and several members of Parliament.

The group also visited Maidan Square, which became the symbol of the successful Ukrainian effort last year to oust President Viktor Yanukovich’s failed government. More than 100 people lost their lives there in the struggle to associate Ukraine more closely with the EU.

In 1991, AJC became the first Jewish organization outside Ukraine to call on President George H.W. Bush to recognize the country's independence from Moscow. Since then, it has staunchly supported a free and democratic Ukraine. In May, AJC's Director of Russian Affairs, Sam Kliger, who organized the mission, relocated to Kiev for four months to serve as AJC's temporary representative in Ukraine and demonstrate our support on the ground.



February 4, 2015 – New York – AJC is deeply saddened by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird’s sudden announcement that he is resigning, effective immediately. He has served as foreign minister since 2011.

“All who are committed to upholding democratic values worldwide will miss his passion and determination,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We at AJC have cherished his indefatigable defense of democratic values and human dignity, his steadfast support for Israel and the Jewish people, and his courage and principle in speaking the truth wherever and whenever it was needed.”

On two occasions, in 2012 and 2014, Baird addressed the AJC Global Forum in Washington, D.C., where he received resounding standing ovations. “Israel has no greater friend in the world today than Canada,” Baird declared at the 2012 gathering.

Last May, he told the AJC audience: “We will not apologize for the positions we take because we stand for what is right." He expressed Canada’s solid support for Israel, concern about the resurgence of anti-Semitism, and skepticism about Iran’s nuclear intentions. “Until we are given real reasons to trust their words, Canada's sanctions will remain in full force” against Iran, Baird said.

“John Baird has been a cherished friend, and a constant source of inspiration and admiration,” Harris added. “We will miss his tireless efforts, more than mere words can describe, to defend democratic values, advocate for human rights, and combat extremism and terrorism. We wish him only the best in his future endeavors.”



February 3, 2015 -- Baku, Azerbaijan -- An AJC leadership delegation just concluded a three-day visit to Azerbaijan's capital, the fifth in a series of visits since 2008 alone.

The trip was highlighted by a 75-minute private meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

While in Baku, the group, led by AJC Executive Director David Harris, also met with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Chairman of the State Committee on Diaspora Affairs Nazim Ibrahimov for private dinners, and with Senior Adviser to the President Vahid Aliyev; Deputy Foreign Minister Hafiz Pashayev; the Vice President of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR); and the Israeli, U.S., and German ambassadors to Azerbaijan.

Among the principal topics discussed were: (i) the U.S.-Azerbaijani bilateral relationship; (ii) ties between Azerbaijan and Israel; (iii) regional developments in the post-Soviet space; (iv) the energy sector; and (v) interfaith cooperation.

"Our message is clear and consistent: Azerbaijan is an important strategic partner for the United States and the West, as well as a valued friend of Israel and the Jewish people. In an increasingly turbulent world, Azerbaijan's contributions to regional stability, energy security, counter-terrorism operations, and religious tolerance are all things to be valued," said Harris, who received the "Dostlug" Order of Friendship, Azerbaijan's highest honor, in 2012. "We will continue to advocate for increased engagement by the West with Baku for these and other compelling reasons," added Harris.

During the visit, the AJC delegation also visited two synagogues and met with the local Jewish community leadership. Historically, the Jewish community of Azerbaijan has been an important and respected part of the society for well over two millennia.

Moreover, the trip included a visit to ADA University, located in the heart of Baku, where Harris spoke to nearly 100 students and faculty members about public diplomacy and the changing nature of advocacy in the 21st century, and the global Jewish agenda.

Prior to visiting Azerbaijan, several members of the delegation, including Harris, traveled to Rome, where, joined by AJC's representative in Rome, Lisa Billig, they met with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni; Democratic Party's Head of Foreign Policy and International Relations Enzo Amendola; Vice President of the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security Giuseppe Esposito; two former foreign ministers; and the ambassadors of Israel, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine to Italy. In addition, Harris was invited to speak at the diplomatic academy in Rome to faculty and students.



February 2, 2015 – Chicago – AJC is appalled by a DePaul University student group’s plan to host a fundraiser for a Palestinian terrorist. The event is scheduled for February 3.

The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) event is intended to raise money for Rasmea Yousef Odeh, a Palestinian in Chicago who faces possible deportation after it was revealed last year that she had concealed her terrorist record on forms to immigrate to the U.S. and to become an American citizen.

“SJP’s campus activities promoting hatred of Israel have no moral limits,” said Amy Stoken, Director of AJC’s Chicago Region. “SJP already has demonstrated its hostility towards Israel with its active promotion on university campuses of the BDS movement against Israel,” said Stoken. “Now, the SJP Chapter at DePaul has taken another egregious step by supporting a convicted Palestinian terrorist. Both support for BDS and for Odeh are counterproductive to efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

In 1970, Odeh was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Israel for her role in two terror attacks in Jerusalem, one that killed two university students at a supermarket and another that damaged the British Consulate. She was released in 1980 as part of a prisoner exchange, and in 1995 entered the U.S. from Jordan. She became a naturalized U.S citizen in 2004.

Last November, a federal court in Detroit convicted Odeh of immigration fraud. She will be sentenced on March 10, and could face imprisonment in the U.S. or deportation.



January 30, 2015 -- Chisinau, Moldova -- An AJC official addressed a Holocaust memorial ceremony and conference marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It was hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Moldova together with the country's Jewish community.

“It is symbolic that for the first time the Holocaust commemoration conference in Moldova is organized in close cooperation between the government and the vibrant Jewish community,” said Sam Kliger, AJC Director of Russian Jewish Affairs, at the opening session.

Hundreds attended the gathering in Chisinau, including diplomats representing Israel, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, the United States, the EU and Council of Europe, as well as Moldovan government officials.

A session at the conference on anti-Semitism in the media was co-chaired by Natalia Gherman, Moldova's acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, and AJC’s Kliger.

It was the third visit to Moldova by AJC in the past eight months. AJC signed an association agreement with the Jewish Community of Moldova during a visit last September, which included a ceremony at the memorial for the 1903 and 1905 pogroms in the city, then known as Kishinev.

“We attach particular importance to this partnership, as AJC traces our very founding to the pogroms here,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris at the time. Following reports of deadly violence, a group of American Jews came together and founded AJC in 1906, with the goal of using advocacy to help secure the well-being of Jews around the world.

"Moreover, AJC fully recognizes what's at stake in Moldova's future. We have visited Chisinau and met with Moldovan diplomats in an effort to stress our strong support for the Moldovan people's aspiration for a European and transatlantic orientation,” Harris added.

 



January 29, 2015 – New York – AJC praised the U.S. Senate Banking Committee for passing, with strong bipartisan support, a bill that will set the stage to impose additional economic sanctions on Iran if current negotiations on its nuclear program fail to yield a permanent agreement.

“Tehran must hear loud and clear from Washington that its traditional delaying tactics are no longer acceptable,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “It is important to tee-up this measure, with broad backing by both Democrats and Republicans, in case sanctions against Iran need to be reinforced and strengthened should the P5+1 not achieve an accord that blocks Iran from attaining nuclear weapons capability.”

Negotiators from the P5+1 nations – China, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the U.S. -- have set March 24 as a deadline for establishing a political framework that would lead to concluding a permanent accord by June 30.

The bill, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, introduced by Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and co-sponsored by 35 Senators from both sides of the aisle, is not expected to come up for a Senate vote until late March, at the earliest.



January 29, 2015 –Tampa,Florida -- Prominent Christian leaders and scholars from across North America are gathering in Tampa, Florida, January 30-February 1, for the second Christian Leadership Initiative (CLI) Alumni Study Symposium. The Symposium’s theme is “Land and Jewish Identity in Israel and North America.”

Participating fellows are alumni of CLI, representing diverse Christian denominations, seminaries, universities, and congregations. Now in its eighth year and co-sponsored by the Shalom Hartman Institute and AJC, CLI introduces prominent Christian leaders and change agents from North America to the central ideas of Jewish ethics and faith, the diverse ideologies and practices of contemporary Jewry, the meaning of Israel for world Jewry, foundations of religious pluralism, and interreligious study.

The intensive, 13-month CLI educational program begins and ends with 10-day seminars at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. During the initial fellowship year, the scholars participate in distance learning to continue their studies of Judaism and modern Israel while working in their home communities. The Alumni Symposium will explore the role of the Land of Israel in the formation of Jewish identity in Israel and North America, and will continue the ongoing CLI discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Symposium aims to better equip CLI alumni to engage more deeply with Jewish communities in Israel and North America and enrich the dialogues around Israeli-Palestinian issues in which CLI alumni engage.

“CLI gathers a unique core group of now 60 Christian scholars and introduces them to classical Jewish text study in the context of modern Israel,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. “The Alumni Study Symposium is another step toward realizing our dream of a multi-cohort CLI community that will have an indelible positive impact on Christian-Jewish relations.”

“The push and pull of the havruta (peer-study) experience allows us to learn from each other,” said Dr. Marcie Lenk, Shalom Hartman Institute Co-Director of New Paths: Christians Engaging Israel, “We each bring our own expertise, but we rely on each other to expand our own thinking.”

The CLI Alumni Study Retreat is generously supported by Berkman Family philanthropic funds.

The following CLI alumni are attending the symposium:

Dr. Paul Alexander, Palmer Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Radu Bordeianu, Duquesne University
Rev. Dr. William Borror, Resident Exile Consulting; Director of Adult Education and Stewardship Consultant, Church of the Holy Trinity
Dr. James Buchanan, Director, Brueggeman Center for Dialogue, Xavier University
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Campbell, Pastor, Highland Presbyterian Church and Past President, McCormick Theological Seminary;
Rev. Dr. Jerry D. Campbell, President Emeritus, Claremont School of Theology
Rev. Dr. Nick Carter, President Emeritus, Andover Newton Theological School
Rev. Dr. Robert Cathey, McCormick Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. R. Alan Culpepper, Dean, McAfee School of Theology
Rev. Dr. Katie Day, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
Rev. Dr. Lincoln Galloway, Claremont School of Theology
Rev. Dr. David Garber, Jr., McAfee School of Theology
Dr. Tommy Givens, Fuller Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. David Gushee, Mercer University
Dr. Angela Kim Harkins, Fairfield University; Marie Curie International Incoming Fellow, European Commission, University of Birmingham
Rev. Dr. Wallace Hartsfield, II, Central Baptist Theological Seminary
Dr. Sally Holt, Belmont University
Dr. Robert Hunt, Director, Global Theological Education and Director, the Center for Evangelism and Missional Church Studies, Perkins School of Theology
Dr. William Madges, St. Joseph's University
Rev. Dr. Molly Marshall, President, Central Baptist Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Doug Mills, First United Methodist Church, Roswell, NM
Rev. Dr. Martha Moore-Keish, Columbia Theological Seminary
Dr. Javier Orozco, Archdiocese of St. Louis
Dr. Elena Procario-Foley, Iona College
Dr. Brian Rainey, Princeton Theological Seminary
Dr. Michael Trice, Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry
Rev. Dr. Christine Yoder, Columbia Theological Seminary

About AJC

AJC (American Jewish Committee) is the global Jewish advocacy organization, with headquarters in New York, 22 regional offices across the United States, and 10 offices around the world, including one in Jerusalem. Founded in 1906, AJC’s mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.

Contact Kenneth Bandler, AJC Director of Media Relations, at bandlerk@ajc.org

About the Shalom Hartman Institute: The Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI) is a center of transformative thinking and teaching that addresses the major challenges facing the Jewish people and elevates the quality of Jewish life in Israel and around the world. A leader in sophisticated, ideas-based Jewish education for community leaders and change agents, SHI is committed to the significance of Jewish ideas, the power of applied scholarship, and the conviction that great teaching contributes to the growth and continual revitalization of the Jewish people.

For more information about CLI or the Shalom Hartman Institute, see www.hartman.org.il or contact Laura Gilinski, Chief Development and Public Relations Officer, laura.gilinski@shi.org.il, +972-54-435-3550.



January 27, 2015 -- Paris -- AJC welcomed French President François Hollande's renewed call for a government action plan to combat anti-Semitism in France. Speaking at Paris's Holocaust Memorial, Hollande said the rise of anti-Semitic acts in France was “an unbearable reality,” and that new laws would be implemented soon, including measures to penalize websites containing anti-Semitic content.

Hollande's speech, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, came as the Jewish Community Protection Service (SPCJ), in cooperation with the French Interior Ministry, issued a new report showing that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in France had increased by 101 percent during 2014.

“The SPCJ report is another wake-up call to the severity of anti-Semitism in France,” said AJC Paris Director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen. “The urgent need for concrete measures to eradicate this cancer is clearer and more pressing than ever before.”

There were 851 reported anti-Semitic incidents in 2014, compared to 423 in 2013, according to Interior Ministry statistics included in the SPCJ report. Violent incidents were up by 130 percent, with 241 reported in 2014, compared to 105 in 2013.

“Anti-Semitic acts represent 51 percent of racist acts committed in France while Jews make up only one percent of the French population,” the SPCJ stated.

“The jihadist terrorist attack and murder of four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris was only the latest, violent act of anti-Semitism in France, where we have seen a steady trail of rising anti-Semitism for years,” said Rodan-Benzaquen.

AJC Paris praised President Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls for their continuing commitment to fight anti-Semitism. “Recognition at the highest levels of government that this cancer threatens not only Jews, but endangers France, is vital for developing and implementing effective measures,” said Rodan-Benzaquen. "President Hollande's proposal to stipulate in the French penal code that anti-Semitic and racist content on the Internet and social media are criminal acts will be essential to this campaign.”

The Paris office of AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, works closely with authorities, Jewish community and civil society organizations on combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and racism. “Government alone cannot tackle this evil. All French citizens of goodwill must further step up their efforts against those who are consumed by hatred of Jews,” said Rodan-Benzaquen.



January 26, 2015 -- New York -- AJC congratulated Alexis Tsipras, head of the Syriza political party, which convincingly won Greece’s national elections yesterday. Tsipras will serve as prime minister in the next government, succeeding Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

“Greece continues to face enormous economic and social challenges that will engage the incoming government from day one. We wish the new leaders success, hoping they will continue the country's principal orientation toward the European Union,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Moreover, in recent years, Greece has built strong, mutually beneficial ties with Israel, and fostered closer quadrilateral relations among the United States, Israel, Cyrpus and itself, which we also trust will remain a pillar of Greece's international outlook.”

Over the past three decades, AJC has maintained robust relationships with Greek leaders, through regular visits to Athens, engagement with diplomats in the U.S. and Europe, and cooperative ties with Hellenic-American groups. AJC also has a long-standing association agreement with KIS, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. Last year, an AJC delegation met for an hour in Athens with Tsipras, the new prime minister.

“We are dedicated friends of Greece,” said Harris, who also expressed admiration for outgoing Prime Minister Samaras, with whom AJC met frequently in Athens, Brussels, and New York during his three years as prime minister. “He led Greece through enormously challenging times. Though many of those challenges remain, his determined efforts to reverse the economic travails facing Greece and work closely with the international community, his courage to confront and combat the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, and his vision to strengthen security in the eastern Mediterranean, including ties with Israel, will all be hallmarks of his incumbency.”

Following Syriza’s electoral victory, Samaras, head of the New Democracy Party, said, “For the good of this country, I hope the next government will maintain what has been achieved.”

Golden Dawn, despite a crackdown on its leadership during the past year, won enough votes to be the third largest party in the parliament.

“It’s dismaying that Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party that threatens the democratic fabric of Greece, a country brutally occupied by the Nazi regime in World War II, and menaces principally immigrants and Jews in Greece, continues to garner significant support,” said Harris. “We look to the Syriza-led government to continue the measures implemented during the past years, and assure all minority communities, who are an integral part of Greece, that they will continue to be fully protected and respected, and that there will be no place for anti-Semitism in mainstream Greek society.”



January 26, 2015 -- New York -- AJC heralded President Obama’s visit to India as a significant step in furthering relations between the world’s oldest and largest democracies.

“President Obama’s visit opens a new chapter in U.S.-India relations, and a new era for India in global affairs,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy, who has traveled to India regularly on AJC’s behalf over the past 20 years.

Obama’s visit, his second as president, came on India’s Republic Day, commemorating the day in 1950 when the post-partition democratic Constitution came into force. The president was feted as the chief guest of honor on this holiday – a first for a U.S. president. His visit follows on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the White House last September.

AJC praised this week’s achievements, including the breaking of the impasse on civil nuclear cooperation between the two nations, a goal AJC has shared since the signing of the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act in 2006. AJC actively supported the follow-on legislation for bilateral civil nuclear cooperation, enacted in 2008.

Obama and Modi also renewed a 10-year defense pact, and agreed on the promotion of clean energy sources and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

For more than two decades AJC has engaged with successive Indian governments, civil society figures and Indian American leaders to advance the expansion of ties between India and the U.S. – as well as between India and Israel.

AJC leadership delegations led by President Stanley Bergman, Isaacson and AJC Asia Pacific Institute Director Shira Loewenberg visited New Delhi twice in 2014, meeting with senior government officials. In addition, Bergman and other AJC leaders met with Prime Minister Modi in New York last September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Through its Asia Pacific Institute, founded in 1989, AJC has been actively engaged with India, and maintains close ties with Indian officials and other representatives in New Delhi, across the United States, in Israel, and other countries. Earlier this month, AJC announced the appointment of a new representative, Arjun Hardas, in New Delhi to help maintain and strengthen these relations.



January 26, 2014 – New York – AJC Executive Director will attend, as a member of the U.S. presidential delegation led by Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew, the commemoration event at Auschwitz, marking the 70th anniversary of the Nazi concentration camp’s liberation. In addition, AJC President Stanley Bergman will lead a delegation from the organization at the event.

The UN designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, when the world body and countries around the world recall and commemorate the Nazi destruction of six million Jews, including one-and-a- half-million children.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary, AJC issued the following statement:

We Remember

In the Jewish tradition, we are commanded to remember (zachor) and not to forget (lo tishkach). On January 27, we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this solemn occasion, 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz:

We remember the six million Jewish martyrs, including 1.5 million children, who were exterminated in the Holocaust.

We remember the entirely new alphabet created by the Nazis for the Final Solution — from the letter “A” for Auschwitz to the letter “Z” for Zyklon-B.

We remember not only the tragic deaths of the six million Jews, but also their vibrant lives—as shopkeepers and craftsmen, scientists and authors, teachers and students, parents and children, husbands and wives.

We remember the richly hued and ancient Jewish civilizations that were destroyed—from Salonika to Vilna, from Amsterdam to Prague.

We remember the slippery slope that began with the rantings of an obscure Austrian-born anti-Semite named Adolf Hitler and led, in the course of less than 15 years, to his absolute control over Germany.

We remember the fertile soil of European anti-Semitism—cultivated over centuries by cultural, political, and religious voices—that created an all-too-receptive climate for the Nazi objective of eliminating the Jewish people.

We remember the courage of Denmark, as well as Albania, Bulgaria, and Finland, for their extraordinary efforts to protect their own Jewish communities.

We remember the courage of thousands of Righteous Persons—whom we call, in Hebrew, Hasidei Umot Ha’olam—who risked their own lives so that others might live.

We remember the millions of non-Jews—Poles and Russians, Roma and the disabled, political opponents and homosexuals—murdered under the relentless Nazi onslaught.

We remember the valiant soldiers of the Allied nations who, at such great human cost, vanquished the Third Reich.

We remember the survivors of the death camps, who endured such unimaginable suffering and who have inspired us all with their indomitable courage, spirit, and will to live.

We remember the absence of an Israel in those war-time years—an Israel that, had it existed, would have provided a haven when so shamefully few countries were willing to accept Jewish refugees.

We shall never forget those who perished.

We shall never forget those who saved even a single life. As it is written in the Talmud: “He who saves one life has saved the world.”

We shall never forget the importance of speaking out against intolerance, whenever and wherever it occurs.

We shall never forget the inextricable link among democracy, the rule of law, and protection of human rights.

We shall never forget the age-old prophetic vision of a world of justice, harmony, and peace.

And we shall never forget that each of us, in ways large and small, can help bring us closer to the realization of that prophetic vision.



January 19, 2015 -- New York -- AJC warmly welcomes Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Israel. It is the first trip to Israel by a Japanese prime minister since 2006, and follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s successful visit to Japan last year.

“Prime Minister Abe’s presence in Israel confirms the vibrancy of the Japanese-Israeli relationship, as well as the potential for a further, dramatic expansion of ties,” said Shira Loewenberg, Director of AJC’s Asia Pacific Institute. “During our own recent visit to Tokyo, we underscored the importance of this critically important, and mutually beneficial, relationship, and witnessed the deep interest in Israel among the Japanese leadership.”

Accompanying Prime Minister Abe on his three-day visit is a delegation of more than 100 government officials and presidents of Japanese companies.

“Taking the opportunity of the visit by Prime Minister Netanyahu to Japan last year, we are now seeing steady progress in the development of our bilateral relationship in a comprehensive manner,” said the Japanese leader, who also spoke enthusiastically about “the great passion shared by the Japanese business community, major corporations and small to medium enterprises, as well as the independent administrative organs.”

For his part, Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed that “there are many economic areas, technological areas and other areas in which we can cooperate, and I look forward to doing that for the benefit of both our peoples.”

An AJC leadership delegation led by President Stanley Bergman and Executive Director David Harris met with Prime Minister Abe during a three-day visit to Tokyo in October, the second visit to Japan in 2014 and one of many by AJC over the past 25 years.

“We are delighted to see the deepening links between Tokyo and Jerusalem, highlighted by the close personal relationship of Japanese Prime Minister Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who have identified a number of key areas for closer cooperation,” Harris said at the time.

Through its Asia Pacific Institute, founded in 1989, AJC has been actively engaged with Japan, and maintains close ties with Japanese officials and other representatives in Tokyo, across the United States, in Israel, and other countries. Last week, AJC announced the appointment of a representative, Jerome Rosenberg, in Tokyo to help further advance relations.



January 19, 2015 -- New York -- AJC is shocked by the death of Alberto Nisman, the Argentina Special Prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which resulted in 85 fatalities and hundreds of wounded.

“This is a personal tragedy for the Nisman family and a national tragedy for Argentina,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who, together with Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC's Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs, met with him frequently. “Argentina’s Jewish community has suffered another mortal blow in the 21-year pursuit of justice.”

“Without question, Alberto was the right man for this challenging assignment," Harris continued. "Tenacious and undeterred, he was determined to bring to justice all who were responsible, Iranians, Hezbollah operatives and Argentineans, for the AMIA massacre. With his passing, will his tireless efforts be continued by others, as he doubtless would have wished, or will they be shelved? The world will be watching.”

The attack on the AMIA building was the worst terrorist atrocity in the Western Hemisphere before 9/11, and came two years after the deadly bombing of the Israeli embassy in the city.

In 2007, Nisman issued a report that blamed Iran and its Hezbollah surrogates. On the basis of that detailed report, and despite fierce Iranian opposition, Interpol issued “red notices”—arrest requests—for five Iranian officials, but the Iranians are still at large.

In 2013, Nisman authored a 500-page report detailing how Tehran has methodically placed terror operatives in several Latin American countries, using Iranian embassies, local mosques and front companies connected with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, to form "intelligence structures" that can strike when needed.

Last year, an Argentine federal court, backing Nisman, laudably declared unconstitutional the 2013 agreement between Argentina and Iran to establish a joint “truth commission” to investigate the AMIA bombing.

And just last week Nisman filed a lawsuit claiming that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timerman covered up for former Iranian officials accused of being involved in the deadly attack.

Nisman’s body was found in his apartment only hours before he was to meet with Argentine legislators to discuss his accusations against the president and foreign minister. "The timing and circumstances of his death are very much in question, and clear answers are absolutely needed, even if, like the AMIA investigation, the chances of getting a full, credible explanation are highly uncertain," said Harris.

AJC, a partner organization of the AMIA, has stood at the side of the Argentine Jewish community from the first moments of the tragedy in 1994, when an AJC group traveled to Buenos Aires to express solidarity with the victims and their families and to call for justice. Since then, AJC delegations have returned at least annually and met frequently with Argentine officials, including, since his appointment as Special Prosecutor in the case, Alberto Nisman.



January 15, 2015 – New York – AJCs pioneering Asia Pacific Institute (API) is expanding its engagement in the region with the appointment of new representatives based in Hong Kong, New Delhi, and Tokyo.

“Asia has long been a focus of AJC. It is a region of the world critical to the Jewish people, important for the State of Israel, and ripe with almost unlimited opportunity,” said API Director Shira Loewenberg. “Our new representatives are poised to expand AJC’s presence and amplify our voice.”

Howard Elias is the API representative in Hong Kong. Elias founded the Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival in 1999, and is an active board member of the Jewish Historical Society of Hong Kong.

Arjun Hardas is the API representative in New Delhi. He has more than 13 years of experience in broadcast journalism, and served as the India Affairs Associate for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, The Israel Project.

Jerome Rosenberg is the API representative in Tokyo. Rosenberg previously worked as President of Christian Dior Cosmetics Japan and Tumi Japan. He has served as president of Tokyo’s Jewish community.

API, based in AJC’s New York headquarters, was founded 25 years ago to focus on a region that in the last few decades has risen exponentially in economic and political importance globally. API is led by Shira Loewenberg, who is based in New York, and chaired by Jeffrey Stone of Chicago. The institute also has an India specialist, Nissim Reuben, who is based in AJC’s Washington office, a China specialist, Daniel Silver, who is based in New York, and a Southeast Asia Representative, Yael Amit, who is based in the region.



January 15, 2015 – New York – AJC denounced Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his ongoing diatribes against Israel and hateful, personal attacks targeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Erdogan condemned Netanyahu's participation in Sunday’s rally in Paris against Islamist terrorism, accusing the Israeli leader of “state terrorism.” Today, Erdogan compared the Israeli prime minister to the terrorists who carried out the murderous attacks in Paris last week. “Just like the terrorists who committed the massacre in Paris, Netanyahu committed crimes against humanity as he was the PM responsible for the massacre in Gaza's beach," Erdogan said.

“President Erdogan's words not only are slanderous but downright dangerous, increasing hatred against Israel in Turkey and the Muslim world,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Where are the voices around the world, other than laudably in Washington, condemning the latest in a litany of outrageous, hostile rhetoric from Erdogan and other Turkish leaders?”

The U.S. State Department yesterday, for the second time this week, expressed “strong disagreement” with Erdogan’s comments on Netanyahu.

Erdogan is not the only Turkish leader besmirching Israel. Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek blamed Mossad for the atrocities in Paris, and last summer, in a tweet, called for closing the Israeli consulate. “We don't want a representative of murderers in Turkey,” he tweeted. At the time, Erdogan declared that Israel had “surpassed Hitler in barbarism.”

Turkey under Erdogan, as prime minister from 2003-2014 and now as president, has expanded and deepened ties to Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization controlling Gaza.

In 2013, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President Obama roundly criticized Erdogan for labeling Zionism, the historic Jewish movement for national self-determination, a "crime against humanity.”

“Erdogan has tragically led Turkey in a direction that widens existing gaps with the U.S. and other NATO allies, including members of the EU, a bloc with which Turkey has been negotiating possible accession,” said Harris. “Erdogan’ s aggressive, combative posture is not only reckless incitement, but also sullies the standing of his country in the eyes of many around the world."



January 14, 2015 -- Washington -- More than 700 people gathered at Congregation Adas Israel for an AJC program of solidarity with France’s Jewish community and memorial for the 17 French men and women murdered by Islamist terrorists in Paris last week.

“We are at war against terrorism, against radical Islam,” declared Gérard Araud, Ambassador of France to the United States. “Journalists and Jews are on the front line of democracy,” he added, referring to the deadly attacks on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo and a crowded kosher supermarket.

"We will not waver in our commitment to defeat the scourge of anti-Semitism," said White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. “This is not an issue for any single community or nation to deal with by itself,” he continued. “From the President on down, you have my commitment that we will wage this fight together.”

The solidarity and memorial event took place four days after an Islamist terrorist killed four of his hostages shoppng hours before the onset of Shabbat at a kosher supermarket. The four Jewish victims were buried in Israel today.

A rising tide of anti-Semitic violence in France has placed the Jewish community, the largest in Europe, on edge and prompted 7,000 French Jews to move to Israel in 2014 alone.

Echoing French President Hollande's concern for the well-being and security of the country’s Jewish community, Ambassador Araud said, “We want the Jews of France to remain in France.”

Other Obama Administration officials attending Tuesday evening included Julieta Valls Noyes, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs; Ira Forman, State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism; and Charles Kupchan, National Security Council senior director for Europe. U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch and Jan Schakowsky participated. Representatives of the Muslim and French communities also attended.

“We are here to insist that anti-Semitism and all forms of religious and racial hatred are intolerable, that the fight against violent extremism must be waged comprehensively and relentlessly, and that the Jews must not and will not be driven out of Europe," said Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy.

Isaacson read aloud a letter from the Tunisian Ambassador to the United States, M'Hamed Ezzine Chelaifa, who eulogized one of those murdered at the Paris kosher supermarket, Yoav Hattab, a son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunis.

AJC has longstanding ties with the Jewish community in France and with the Fench government, and maintains an office in Paris, headed by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen.

A memorial gathering took place Monday at AJC headquarters in New York, addressed by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre, and Consul General of France in New York Bertrand Lortholary.



January 13, 2015—New York—AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement regarding Congressman Randy Weber’s outrageous tweet:

“The notion that President Obama and Adolf Hitler would be mentioned in the same sentence is beyond reprehensible, but that is exactly what happened in a tweet sent by Rep. Randy Weber of Texas last night.

“We fully understand the legitimacy of the debate over U.S. representation at the major rally in Paris on Sunday. However, resorting to comparisons with the leader of the Third Reich, who was responsible for nearly 60 million deaths, including six million Jews, as well as brutal occupation policies, including in Paris, should have no place in American political discourse.

“We urge Congressman Weber to withdraw his language immediately and issue an appropriate apology.”



January 12, 2015 – New York – U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre, and Consul General of France in New York Bertrand Lortholary addressed a crowd of more than 150 people gathered at AJC today to remember the 17 victims of the recent Islamist terror attacks in Paris.

The event, which was moderated by Rene-Pierre Azria, Chair of AJC Paris, was also attended by diplomats from ten other countries: Argentina, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, the Philippines, Poland, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom. Several religious leaders from the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints also attended the service.

Ambassador Power, speaking powerfully on behalf of the Obama Administration, told those gathered: “Anti-Semitism isn't just a threat to the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism is a threat to everything Europe stands for. It cannot be left to Jewish organizations and the Jewish people to fight this scourge alone.”

Echoing that sentiment and underscoring his long-time friendship with the Jewish community, Ambassador Delattre commented that: “The fight against anti-Semitism is an existential threat to all of us.”

And Consul General Lortholary, in a heartfelt address, stated: “Jews in Paris were murdered simply because they were Jews.”

 “We must be clear about the challenges that are ahead of us. We cannot fight transnational threats nationally. We must fight them together. The stakes could not be higher,” AJC Executive Director David Harris told the audience. “It is high time that we, as democratic societies, stand up resolutely to the threat posed by those who loudly invoke their Islamic faith and teachings to justify their heinous deeds.”

Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC's director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, led the audience in reciting a psalm and the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning.

The audience was also addressed, via live video, by AJC Paris Director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, who has appeared on CNN, Fox, BBC, and many other international media outlets in the past few days. Rodan-Benzaquen stated: “President Francois Hollande is determined to confront the issue of anti-Semitism. We hope to transform this terrible event into something good."



January 9, 2015 – Paris – AJC Paris called for stepped up efforts to combat Islamist terrorism in France as violent attacks in Paris over the past two days expanded to a kosher supermarket.

“What happened over the past 48 hours was a shock to the entire French nation,” said Simone Rodan-Benazquen, director of AJC Paris. “It was our 9/11.”

Terrorists carried out a massacre at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 10 magazine staff and two police officers, murdered another police officer in a Paris suburb and attacked Cash Cacher Naouri, the kosher supermarket.

French police, in separate operations today, killed the two brothers who had attacked Charlie Hebdo, and the terrorist in the kosher market. Three hostages died in the market.

“Hatred of Jews never ends with Jews,” said Rodan-Benzaquen, “Radical Islamists have struck violently, from the murders at a Jewish school in Toulouse two years ago, to repeated incidents of violence against Jews and synagogues in Paris, to the vicious rape of a Jewish woman in her own home, and today’s assault on a kosher supermarket in the middle of Paris.”

Rodan-Benzaquen praised French authorities for mobilizing quickly after the Charlie Hebdo and kosher market attacks.

“We have warned that the menace of rising anti-Semitism threatens French society at large,” said Rodan-Benzaquen. “The Charlie Hebdo massacre makes clear that the war against France’s democratic values is in high gear.”

AJC is the premier global Jewish advocacy organization, with headquarters in New York, offices across the U.S. and around the world.



January 8, 2015—Paris—AJC criticized the decision by key media outlets in Great Britain and the United States—such as the London Daily Telegraph, the New York Times, CNN, and NBC—to omit or blur the Charlie Hebdo cartoon images that, according to confirmed reports, motivated the reprehensible attack on the paper’s offices that killed twelve people.

“Through this act of self-censorship, these news organizations are depriving the public of its right to know exactly what Charlie Hebdo had done to arouse the ire of the jihadists,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Keeping this information from the public not only betrays the canons of free journalism, but also furthers the goal of the killers and their sympathizers: to create an atmosphere of fear where freedom of expression is limited and make Islam, alone among all other world religions and secular ideologies, immune from public criticism.”



January 7, 2015 -- Paris -- AJC is appalled by the terrorist attack on the office of a French newspaper. At least 12 are dead, and several of the wounded are in critical condition, after hooded gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar” and “Avenge the prophet,” stormed the office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the center of the French capital.

“Islamic terrorism has struck once again in the heart of our beloved France,” said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC Paris. “Their target was both those who worked at the magazine and the laudable values of an open, democratic society they embodied. There can be no compromise with such murderers and their heinous world view.”

The terror alert in France was raised after the attack to its highest level. French President Hollande, condemning the attack on Charlie Hebdo, said several other terror attacks had been thwarted in recent weeks.

Three years ago, Charlie Hebdo's offices were the subject of an arson attack in response to its publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed on its cover.

The perpetrators of today’s terror attack in Paris remain at large.



January 1, 2015 -- New York -- AJC welcomed an apology from HarperCollins for excluding Israel from one of its map books, and urged the global publishing house to do an immediate internal examination to understand what happened and ensure that it will not occur again.

“The fact that a major publishing corporation would exclude the State of Israel from some of its maps is inexcusable,” said Harris. “Erroneous, politically motivated maps only serve the interests of those who continue to reject the existence of Israel and seek its eradication. Shame on HarperCollins for contributing to the campaign to delegitimize Israel.”

HarperCollins, part of News Corp, issued an apology after reports emerged that one of its atlas books sold in some Arab countries omits Israel on Middle East maps.

“HarperCollins regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas,” stated the publisher on Facebook. “This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologizes for this omission and for any offense caused.”

Harris pointed out that the atlas, used mainly in schools, encouraged hatred towards Israel. “Peace will come only when Arab states and societies reconcile themselves to Israel's permanent presence in the Middle East,” said Harris.



December 31, 2014 -- New York -- AJC denounced Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s application for International Criminal Court (ICC) membership as an unconscionable blow to the peace process.

Abbas announced today at a Ramallah rally celebrating the 50th anniversary of his Fatah party that he had signed the Rome Statute, the ICC founding treaty, a day after the PA had failed to garner the nine votes needed for the UN Security Council to adopt a Palestinian resolution.

“Mahmoud Abbas has done his utmost to sabotage the path to a sustainable two-state solution,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “In the eight months since Abbas tragically walked away from U.S.-sponsored direct peace talks with Israel, Palestinian leadership has energetically sought to internationalize the conflict, sideline Israel, resort to incitement, and antagonize the United States. This Palestinian strategy is a surefire prescription for extended conflict, not for peace.”

Commenting on the Palestinian gambit, a U.S. State Department official said: "Today’s action is entirely counter-productive and does nothing to further the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign and independent state. It badly damages the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace.”

“The one and only path to sustainable peace is direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” said Harris. “Abbas must be held accountable for taking repeated actions that set back the peace process. No doubt, the White House and Congress will be evaluating our relations with the Palestinian Authority, as they should. Actions have consequences.”



December 30, 2014 – New York – AJC praised the United States, as well as Australia and five other countries, for preventing the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution pushed by the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League. The measure "is not constructive, sets arbitrary deadlines and fails to account for Israel's security needs," the State Department said prior to the vote.

Of the 15 Security Council members, eight voted in favor, two voted against and five abstained. Thus, the resolution failed to secure the nine votes needed to pass.

“Once again, the United States stands out as a voice of clarity, courage and reason,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power chastised the Security Council after the vote for hastily convening and taking action on the Palestinian resolution without any discussion. She said this “staged confrontation” will not advance the cause of peace.

“If Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had devoted as much time and energy to the peace talks with Israel as he has to the UN Security Council, there might have been real progress in achieving a negotiated two-state solution,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “But, alas, he proves once again that the Palestinian leadership would rather grandstand for its constituency than move the peace process forward.”

“Abbas’s capacity to undermine U.S. leaders shows no bounds,” said Harris. “In April, he dismissed Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to extend the peace negotiations with Israel and instead entered into a unity partnership with Hamas. And now, he blithely disregarded Washington’s appeal to hold off on UN Security Council action.”

Kerry had asked Abbas on Sunday to delay the resolution. However, the 22 Arab states, some more enthusiastically than others, agreed to force a vote, and Jordan, currently a member of the Security Council, introduced the measure.

“Only direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, not another UN resolution, can bring about sustainable peace,” said Harris, who also praised Australia for joining the U.S. in voting no, and Lithuania, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Korea, and the United Kingdom for abstaining.

The countries supporting the resolution were Argentina, Chad, Chile, China, France, Jordan, Luxembourg, and Russia.



December 22, 2014 – New York – AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) applauded today’s first-ever UN Security Council consideration of severe human rights violations in North Korea.

The meeting followed last week’s UN General Assembly adoption of a resolution, supported by 116 Member States, backing the recently released independent human rights Commission of Inquiry report, which concluded that the gravity, scale and nature of North Korea’s human rights violations are “without parallel in the contemporary world.”  Several Security Council members proposed referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court, but the Council did not take any formal action at this session.

“Security Council recognition that North Korea’s hidden gulag and other heinous human rights crimes threaten regional stability is a significant breakthrough in addressing the regime’s threat to global security,” said Felice Gaer, director of AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute.

Today’s Security Council meeting also came at a time of rising tensions between North Korea and the U.S. With its nuclear arsenal, support for Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, and sophisticated cyberattack network, which were recently on full display, North Korea is one of the most dangerous regimes on earth.

On North Korea’s despicable human rights record, the Commission of Inquiry found that up to 120,000 men, women and children are held incommunicado in a political prison camp system, subjected to starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape, and infanticide. The UN Special Rapporteur on North Korea has never been permitted to visit the country. The Commission called on North Korea to provide immediate access to camps and to ultimately shut them. Several Security Council members echoed this recommendation in their remarks.

JBI has long called on UN Member States and agencies to devote greater attention to North Korea’s appalling human rights record and to press the regime to curb its widespread violations. In recent weeks JBI worked in close collaboration with other human rights groups, including the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), to advance the findings and recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry report at the UN General Assembly and Security Council.



December 22, 2014 – New York – AJC is deeply disappointed with the European Parliament's failure to establish a task force to fight the rise of anti-Semitism across Europe.

"European Parliament inaction on an anti-Semitism task force is simply an inexcusable dereliction of duty," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has long been urging stepped-up European action to counter anti-Semitism. “Anti-Semitic violence and attitudes have increased in key EU member states, and an increasing number of Jews wonder what the future holds for them, yet the European Parliament refuses to establish a special body to deal with the resurgence of this ugly hatred targeting Jews -- and, no less, core European values.” 

While the European Parliament refused to establish a task force on anti-Semitism, despite strong support from a number of members, it did create an all-inclusive body to deal with racism and diversity in general.

“The roots and motives behind anti-Semitism are often different from other forms of bigotry,” said Harris. “Subsuming this very specific problem among other forms of racism (and diversity) reveals how some parliamentarians, despite the long shadow of anti-Semitism on the European continent, have yet to come to grips with the seriousness and uniqueness of the problem.”

"We urge lawmakers to revisit the proposal for an anti-Semitism task force at the earliest possible moment," Harris added. "The stark facts demand no less."



December 19, 2014—New York—AJC has announced a grant to IsraAID, a leading Israeli non-governmental relief organization, to help provide humanitarian aid to the people living in areas of the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Hagupit.

After making landfall on December 6, the typhoon caused massive flooding that has affected more than a million Filipinos. After many families had to be evacuated from their homes, IsraAID is supplying medical help and psychosocial support.

With assistance from AJC’s Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn Humanitarian Relief Fund, AJC has partnered with IsraAID relief missions in many crisis situations. A year ago, AJC helped IsraAID efforts in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan. Among other recipients of humanitarian aid from AJC earlier this year have been: Bosnia-Herzogovina after massive floods; Ebola victims in Africa; and Iraqi Christians and Yazidis who were forced to flee the terrorist onslaught of Islamic State.

“AJC is proud to continue our tradition of assisting people throughout the world in times of need,” said Shira Loewenberg, director of AJC’s Asia Pacific Institute. “Our thoughts are with those in the Philippines whose lives and well-being have been affected by the typhoon.”

 
 



December 18, 2014 – New York – AJC commends the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly that expresses concern about “serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations” in Iran. The measure passed by a vote of 83 in favor, 35 opposed, and 68 abstentions.

The resolution reflects the compelling findings of recent reports on human rights violations in Iran by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  In particular, it highlights ongoing abuses of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religion; denial of the equal rights of women; and the practices of torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and extensive due process violations.  It calls on Iran to cease discrimination and attacks against persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians, Jews, Sufi Muslims, Sunni Muslims, and Zoroastrians, and to end the imprisonment and abuse of leaders and practitioners of the Baha’i faith, Iran’s largest religious minority.

“We appreciate that so many UN member states have clearly recognized that the past year has seen no improvement in Iran’s poor human rights record,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We join them in calling on Iran to take immediate steps to bring an end to these violations, in particular its ongoing harassment and persecution of human rights defenders, lawyers, media professionals, women, and members of ethnic and religious minorities.”

This is the eleventh UN General Assembly resolution calling on Iran to cease its human rights abuses.  Last month, AJC called on Permanent Representatives to the UN to stand with the people of Iran and to support the resolution when it came before the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee on human rights. The Third Committee approved the resolution in November, with 78 states in favor, 35 opposed, and 69 abstaining, and then transmitted it to the full General Assembly for consideration.  The General Assembly adopted the resolution by an even greater margin, with 83 states in support.

AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights has campaigned for the release of political prisoners in Iran, including members of the Baha’i faith, whose leaders have been jailed for more than five years.

 

 



December 17, 2014—New York—AJC is dismayed by the decision of the European Union General Court to remove Hamas, for now at least, from the EU list of terrorist organizations, and urges a speedy reversal of the ruling.

The Hamas charter spews blatant anti-Semitism and calls for the destruction of Israel, and Hamas operatives have been engaged in numerous and documented bloody terror attacks over the years. The official EU designation of Hamas as a terror organization in 2003 made it harder for the group to recruit supporters and raise money in Europe. Today, eleven years later, the EU’s top court suddenly decided that the evidence for Hamas terrorism is somehow unreliable, derived only “from the press and the internet.”

While the General Court sought to minimize the impact of its ruling, calling it “a technicality” and not a redefinition of Hamas as in any way legitimate, AJC Executive Director David Harris said: “This odd decision ratchets up still further the terrorist threat to democratic societies, while terrorists cynically use legal procedures in those societies to protect themselves. Even though the Court is temporarily keeping in place the freezing of Hamas funds, the news that the group could find a procedural escape clause from the EU designation is profoundly troubling. The EU General Court should quickly revisit this case and reverse its decision.”



December 17, 2014—New York—AJC welcomed the release of 65-year-old Alan Gross from a Cuban jail. Gross, an American Jew working in Cuba for the U.S. Agency for International Development, was arrested in December 2009, charged with bringing in banned technology to set up an illegal internet service for the Jewish community, and sentenced to 15 years.  Mr. Gross’s health has been failing, and there was great concern about his future well-being.

While his release was explained as a humanitarian gesture, it is part of a larger series of exchanges. The entire package is seen as expressing a desire on both sides to renormalize U.S.-Cuba relations. In televised remarks to the nation, President Obama thanked the government of Canada for hosting the talks that led to the breakthrough, and the Vatican for its diplomatic help in reaching an agreement.

AJC Executive Director David Harris said that “the political and strategic implications of this move take a back seat, at this moment, to our immediate emotion of relief at the news of Mr. Gross’s freedom, opportunity to rejoin his family, and chance to celebrate Hanukkah and its message of freedom."



December 17, 2014 – Strasbourg –The  European Parliament today neutered a resolution on Palestinian statehood, refraining from calling for immediate recognition. The motion passed in the plenary no longer “urges" EU member states immediately to recognize Palestine, as originally demanded by the Socialist, Green, and left-wing groups. Instead, the joint resolution, agreed to in a compromise between the center-right European People's Party and the center-left Socialist Group, and backed by most major groups, watered the language down to: "Supports in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution." The motion passed with 498 votes in favor, 88 opposed, and 111 abstentions.

"We all support 'in principle' Palestinian statehood, but this can only come as the result of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The resolution reflects this position," said AJC Transatlantic Institute Director Daniel Schwammenthal. "Premature recognition would undermine the peace process by signaling to Palestinians that they can avoid negotiations and compromises while damaging Europe's standing in Israel as an honest broker," Schwammenthal added.

In October, Sweden became the first major Western European country to recognize “Palestine." Lawmakers in Ireland and Britain (where only a minority of parliamentarians actually voted) passed non-binding motions on this issue. Last month's Spanish resolution did not call for immediate recognition, stressing instead that such a step "should be the result of a negotiation process between the parties."



December 16, 2014—New York—AJC condemns the Taliban terror massacre of 145 innocent people, almost all of them children, at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, and joins the Pakistani nation in mourning the senseless loss of young lives.

The attackers burst into the school guns ablaze, took hostages, and set up explosive devices around the school. One of the terrorists, a suicide bomber, set off his own explosives, killing himself and others, before Pakistani forces brought the situation under control. The government of Pakistan has declared three days of mourning for the victims.

AJC Executive Director David Harris said: “This horrendous crime reminds us once again that Islamic extremism does not just target non-Muslims, so-called ‘unbelievers,’ but constitutes, as well, a standing threat to the millions of Muslims who practice their faith in a spirit of peace around the world. To defeat terrorism, it is necessary for nations and people of all faiths to reject such violence by reaffirming our common commitment to shared values and by demonstrating the necessary strength and resolve against those who would kill children in Pakistan or, for that matter, take hostages at a café in Australia.”



December 15, 2014 – New Delhi -- An AJC Asia Pacific Institute (API) leadership delegation just concluded a three-day visit to Delhi. This was the second AJC visit to India this year.

The visit was highlighted by an hour-long meeting with India’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval.

The delegation, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman,AJC Director of Government and International AffairsJason Isaacson, and API Director Shira Loewenberg,met with cabinet members and parliamentarians; senior members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Israeli Ambassador Danny Carmon; and journalists and executives of the Hindi-, English-and Urdu-language media. The delegation also met with top Israeli and Indian businesspeople who were in Delhi for the annual India-Israel Business Forum, which Mr. Bergman co-chairs.

Principal topics discussed during the mission included the U.S.-India relationship, regional political and strategic developments, and growing ties between Israel and India.

“India remains a key friend of the United States and of Israel, and an essential democratic ally in a volatile and threatening world,” said AJC Director of Government and International Affairs Jason Isaacson, who has made numerous trips to India on behalf of AJC over the last 20 years. Commenting on next month’s second visit to India by President Obama, in celebration of India’s Republic Day, and the recently announced planned visit of Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to Israel, Isaacson said, “The warming and increasingly open relationships among India, Americanand Israel make sound strategic sense. These three democracies share common concerns and interests, and their growing cooperation benefits global security and stability.”

In September, AJC met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New York on the sidelines of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.

Through its Asia Pacific Institute, led by Shira Loewenberg, AJC has been actively engaged with India for more than 20 years, and maintains close ties with Indian officials and other representatives in Delhi, across the United States, in Israel, and other countries, as well as with leaders of the Indian American community.



December 15, 2014—New York—AJC expresses its deepest sympathy to the victims of the hostage crisis in Sydney, Australia, and solidarity with the Australian government in its determination to combat Islamist terror.

After a 16-hour ordeal in which dozens of innocent people were held hostage in a café, a police raid today brought the crisis to an end. Tragically, two hostages were killed and four wounded. The Iranian-born perpetrator, Man Haron Monis, was also killed during the rescue attempt. Known to Australian authorities for his extreme Islamist views, he made a point of displaying a black flag with the Islamic Declaration of Faith, in Arabic, on it while holding the hostages. Monis also had a long record of criminal behavior, and was out on bail when he took control of the cafe.

It remains unclear whether he acted alone or as part of a broader plot. In recent weeks, Australian counter-terrorism forces, alert to extremist activity in the country, have raided Islamist hideouts and arrested a number of suspects.

AJC Executive Director David Harris said, “This horrific event is another telling reminder of the danger to all democratic societies of Islamist terror, as well as the need for constant vigilance in the face of such threats.”

“We take note of those Australian Muslim leaders, as well as leaders of other faiths, who quickly and unequivocally condemned this act of terror, and who recognize the need to defend democratic and pluralistic values,” Harris added.

In October, an AJC leadership delegation visited Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney, only days after the terror attack in Ottawa, Canada. During the mission, AJC met with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as well as other top-level government officials, and the issue of Islamist terror was high on the agenda in each meeting.



December 15, 2014—New York—AJC has joined with eight other civil rights and civil liberties organizations to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court decision that, the groups argue, imposes “unique and onerous” requirements on those claiming to have suffered religion-based discrimination. The case is titled EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch.

Samantha Elauf, a young Muslim woman wearing a hijab, applied for work at an Abercrombie & Fitch store. The person who interviewed her gave her marks sufficient to hire her, but the store supervisor asked that her score be downgraded because the headscarf worn by Elauf for religious reasons was incompatible with Abercrombie’s “image.” After she was not hired, Elauf was told that her scarf was the reason for the decision.The EEOC, charged with enforcing federal law barring religious discrimination, then sued the retail chain.

The United States Court of Appeals had dismissed the employment discrimination suit on the ground that Elauf had not asked Abercrombie when she was interviewed for an accommodation for her religious practice and the employer’s “image” rule—even though at the time she was unaware that the “conflict” would play any role in the disposition of her application.

The AJC amicus brief also noted another issue lurking in the case: “whether customers’ (hypothetical) negative reactions to Ms. Elauf’s ’look’ when she wore the hijab” was a legitimate defense to a charge of religious discrimination. Noting that customer preference may not be used to justify gender, racial, and other forms of discrimination in making employment decisions, the brief urged the Court not to accept Abercrombie’s invocation of its image as a basis for religious discrimination.

In their Supreme Court brief, AJC and its allies expressed concern that this decision will “provide a detailed roadmap for employers in making hiring decisions, to circumvent the statute’s equal opportunity mandate.” The brief stated:

Whatever the theoretical distinction between a clearly impermissible deference to customer aversion to Hindus, Sikhs, or Jews as such and deference to customer aversion to those who follow these religions’ teaching concerning hair, beards, garments, and head coverings, it is unlikely, especially in light of the sometimes intense public prejudice harbored toward members of these groups, that such a rule could be sustained without compromising the core antidiscrimination commitments of Title VII.

The organizations joining with AJC in filing the brief are Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Social Policy Action Network, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, National Center for Lesbian Rights & Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis and Women of Reform Judaism.

The brief was prepared by the University of Virginia Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, led by David T. Goldberg. Toby J. Heytens and Daniel R. Ortiz, and signed as well by Professor Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia Law School and Marc D. Stern, AJC’s General Counsel.

The case will be argued later this winter.



December 14, 2014--New York--AJC welcomes the Senate's confirmation on Friday of Rabbi David Saperstein as Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom. President Obama announced the appointment in July.

Rabbi Saperstein will head the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom. The office, created in 1998, monitors threats to religious freedom around the world, and develops and implements programs to enhance religious liberty.

Rabbi Saperstein served as the widely-admired Director and Chief Legal Counsel of the Union for Reform Judaism's Religious Action Center for over three decades.

AJC Executive Director David Harris called Rabbi Saperstein "an inspired choice for this vitally important post." Noting that AJC has worked closely with him on many public policy issues over the years, Harris said: "Rabbi Saperstein's proven commitment to religious liberty and his extensive experience in this field will stand him--and our country--in good stead, as he confronts the numerous, and rising, threats to the free exercise of religious freedom around the world."



December 10, 2014—New York—AJC today praised the Polish Constitutional Tribunal for invalidating the ban on kosher slaughter that had been in effect in Poland since the beginning of 2013.

Up until that time, Jewish kosher and Muslim halal slaughter had been exempt from a law that required the stunning of animals before slaughter. The Tribunal ruled that eliminating the exemption amounted to religious discrimination, as Judaism and Islam require the animal to be conscious at the time of slaughter.

It is expected that the country’s parliament will now act on legislation explicitly legalizing kosher and halal slaughter.

David Harris, AJC Executive Director, called the decision “a great triumph for religious liberty and a tribute to Poland.”

AJC had advocated reversal of the ban since it went into effect nearly two years ago, asserting that it violated the religious freedom of Jews and Muslims alike and sent an unwelcome message about their place in Polish society.

 

 



December 8, 2014—New York—AJC salutes the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for adopting a new declaration on combating anti-Semitism at its Ministerial Council Meeting in Basel, Switzerland. The declaration—which required consensus approval of all 57 participating states—was one important outcome of the high-level meeting in Berlin in mid-November that brought together over 500 government representatives and civil society leaders. That event was organized to mark the tenth anniversary of the OSCE’s Berlin Conference and Declaration on Anti-Semitism, but it took on added urgency following the surge of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe during the summer.

The new declaration reaffirms some of the most important elements of the earlier document, including the message that “international developments, including with regard to the situation in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism.” It goes on to commit governments “to investigate effectively, promptly, and impartially acts of violence motivated by anti-Semitism and prosecute those responsible.” It also calls on political leaders and public figures to speak out strongly when anti-Semitic incidents occur, and asks for increased efforts to monitor and collect data on hate crimes.

AJC’s Director of International Jewish affairs, Rabbi Andrew Baker, also serves as the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chair-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism. At the closing session in Berlin last month he called on governments to follow up on their individual statements of concern by adopting a formal declaration at the Ministerial Council. Swiss Confederation President Didier Burkhalter presented a draft declaration when OSCE foreign ministers met in Basel, which ultimately won approval.

The OSCE Berlin anniversary event also featured a daylong civil society forum that was co-chaired by AJC’s Berlin Director, Deidre Berger, who presented a detailed list of recommendations to the assembled plenary.

Speaking at its conclusion, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, who will assume the chairmanship of the OSCE in January, promised to give continued priority in the coming year to the problem of anti-Semitism. He also used the occasion to announce his intention to reappoint Rabbi Baker to serve as his Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism.



December 7, 2014 – Paris – An AJC delegation just concluded a two-day visit to the French capital. The visit followed two days of high-level meetings in Berlin.

During the visit, the delegation met with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius for the fourth time this year; Jacques Audibert, Diplomatic Adviser to President Francois Hollande; Gilles Clavreul, newly-appointed Inter-ministerial Delegate to Fight against Racism and anti-Semitism; former French President and newly elected President of the opposition party Nicolas Sarkozy; U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley; and Israeli Ambassador to France Yossi Gal.

The visit also featured meetings with French Jewish community leaders, including the President of CRIF (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions), Roger Cukierman.

“AJC leaders first visited France in 1919, in connection with the Paris Peace Conference,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Nearly a century later, AJC continues to recognize the critical role that France plays in regional and global affairs. Moreover, our visit took place just after the horrific anti-Semitic attack in Creteil. While we know that the French government stands steadfastly against anti-Semitism, it is clear that additional steps must be taken to ensure the security and well-being of French Jews, and the protection of core French values.”

During the mission, the delegation focused on (i) short-term and longer-term measures to combat rising anti-Semitism; (ii) France's essential role in the recently extended P5+1 negotiations with Iran; (iii) the threat posed to Europe by the estimated 3,000 European “foreign fighters” currently in Iraq and Syria, of whom about 550 are from France; and (iv) France's controversial efforts in the UN Security Council to craft a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as the French National Assembly's recent (non-binding) vote to endorse unilaterally a Palestinian state, which AJC strongly opposed.

Today, the AJC delegation attended a demonstration against rising anti-Semitism in Creteil, a suburb of Paris. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, local political and religious leaders, and representatives of the French Jewish community spoke at the event, which more than 1,000 people attended. The rally was organized in response to the recent heinous anti-Semitic attack in that city. It was the latest in a series of violent attacks that have caused distress among the French Jewish community and all French citizens committed to the defense of core democratic values.

AJC Paris is directed by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen.



December 5, 2014 – New York – AJC saluted a milestone agreement between the U.S. and France that will provide compensation to Holocaust survivors who were deported from France by SNCF, the French national railway, and live in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world.

“The U.S. and French governments have admirably found a solution that will bring a measure of justice to victims of the SNCF deportations,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s Director of International Jewish Affairs. Under the agreement, French government funds, totaling $60 million, will be made available and administered by the U.S. government to provide payments to SNCF victims or their heirs. It is estimated that surviving victims will receive individual payments in excess of $100,000.

Baker praised Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, the State Department’s Special Advisor on Holocaust Issues, for his determined role in leading the U.S. negotiating team.

The agreement brings to an end an acrimonious dispute that extended for years. While most French citizens who were victims of the SNCF deportations have long been eligible for compensation, those living in the U.S. and elsewhere after the war were not.

American victims of the deportations unsuccessfully sought to file suit against SNCF in U.S. courts. They then appealed for Congressional legislation that might have opened the door to a court filing, but with the prospect of lengthy litigation and no guarantee of success. When the French Government agreed to address their claims in bilateral negotiations with the United States, the path was set for reaching an agreement.

Baker also commended key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for their interest and involvement, which “surely gave positive impetus to the negotiations.”

AJC has been a long-time advocate on behalf of Holocaust victims. After the fall of Communism, AJC spearheaded efforts that led the German government to extend compensation to victims in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. AJC joined with other advocates in pressing Swiss banks and European insurers to make good on claims for dormant accounts and unpaid policies. And AJC’s Berlin Office marshaled German public opinion to support the claims of former slave and forced laborers that had been ignored by German industries for decades.



December 4, 2014 -- Berlin -- AJC marked 20 years of its pathbreaking partnership with the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) at a momentous ceremony in Berlin.

The Wednesday evening program was highlighted by keynote addresses from German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and AJC Executive Director David Harris. More than 150 invited guests attended the milestone event, including German military officials, cabinet members, parliamentarians, ambassadors, and members of the media.

“Twenty years is a proven partnership,” Minister von der Leyen told the audience. “AJC is a critical partner, as it shares our belief in the importance of freedom and security.”

The Minister added: “Our stance is clear, and can be summarized in one sentence: the security of Israel is non-negotiable.”

The evening also featured a panel discussion on “Germany’s Role as European Peacemaker.”  The panelists were U.S. Ambassador to Germany John Emerson; Member of the Bundestag Roderich Kiesewetter; and Dr. Gesa von Geyr, Head of the Political Division at the Ministry of Defense. Dr. Sylke Tempel, Editor in Chief of Internationale Politik, moderated the program.

“Our 'proven partnership,' to use the Minister's apt description, with the Bundeswehr emerged out of decades of engagement with the Federal Republic,” said Harris. “Indeed, AJC was the first, and for many years, the only, global Jewish organization that sought to write a new chapter in German-Jewish relations against the backdrop of the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust. That decision has been validated many times over in the ensuing years. Today, Germany is an essential partner of Israel, a leader of Europe, and a pillar of the transatlantic community.”

Through the AJC-Bundeswehr partnership, thousands of people on both sides of the Atlantic have been touched by interactions between German military officials and American Jews. Several Bundeswehr delegations have also visited Israel with AJC to gain a firsthand perspective of the region. One of the participants, Dirk Peddinghaus, spoke to the audience about the life-changing impact of his visit.

The celebration event highlighted a two-day AJC visit to Berlin, which also featured meetings with Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere; Deputy National Security Advisor Michael Flügger; President of the Domestic Intelligence Service Dr. Hans Georg Maassen; and fifteen Members of the Bundestag from various political parties. The AJC delegation, which included AJC Executive Council Member Kim Pimley, also met with the ambassadors to Germany from Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Ukraine.

AJC was the first global Jewish organization to re-engage with Germany after the Second World War and to establish a full-time presence in Germany in 1998. Today, the office is directed by Deidre Berger, and co-chaired by Anthony Meyer and Steven Wisch.

 



December 3, 2014 – New York – AJC is urging the U.S. Department of Education to take steps to ensure that education institutions receiving Title VI government funding do not boycott Israeli academic institutions. The AJC call follows a Middle East Studies Association resolution endorsing the “right” of scholarly associations to engage in such boycotts.

The MESA declaration “raises clear and troubling questions for the Department of Education’s administration of Title VI funding,” AJC Executive Director David Harris wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Harris stressed that MESA’s stance regarding academic boycotts of Israeli institutions undermines the purpose of Title VI funding “to promote access to research and training overseas, including through linkages with overseas institutions.”

“Nothing could be more inimical to that purpose than a determination by a university areas studies institute to exclude overseas institutions from scholarly and cultural interchanges for no reason other than the nationality of those institutions,” Harris wrote.

AJC also pointed out that the MESA directive contradicts the Title VI requirement that grant applicants provide “an explanation of how the activities funded by the grant will reflect diverse perspectives.”

Prior to the recent MESA conference, where the Israel boycott resolution was adopted, AJC had raised concerns with Education Department officials about ways to ensure that the Title VI diverse perspectives mandate is enforced when evaluating whether an American educational institution should receive funds under the program. At the time it appeared that provision of diverse perspectives is not among the weighted criteria utilized in determining whether a grant is approved.

In light of MESA’s action, the need for a review of education department policy on fully implementing Tittle VI “is more crucial and pressing than ever,” Harris wrote.

AJC urged Secretary Duncan “to heighten your scrutiny of applicants for Title VI funding “to assure that funded institutions are not involved in practices that are antithetical to the purposes of the program.”



December 3, 2014 – Paris – AJC is horrified by the brutal assault on a Jewish couple, an act of violence that French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has labeled anti-Semitism.

“Enough is enough!” declared Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Director of AJC Paris, who, together with AJC Executive Director David Harris, will meet this week with Gilles Clavreul, France’s new Inter-ministerial Delegate to Fight against Racism and anti-Semitism.

Three armed men broke into the home of a Jewish family in the Paris suburb of Creteil, gagged one of the sons and sexually assaulted his girlfriend. “Tell us where you hid the money,” demanded the attackers. “You people, you always have money!” After securing an ATM code from the victims, cash was stolen. Two suspects have been arrested.

This latest anti-Semitic incident in France, one of the most savage since the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Ilan Halimi eight years ago, comes amidst a dramatic rise in assaults on French Jews this year. According to the Jewish Community Protection Service (SPCJ), there was a 91 percent spike in the first seven months of 2014.

“While government officials at the highest levels have been mobilizing to fight anti-Semitism, a new action plan is urgently needed to confront this growing menace, which threatens not only Jews, but French society at large,” said Rodan-Benzaquen. “The fight against anti-Semitism is a fight for France's values.”

Regarding the Creteil attack, Rodan-Benzaquen pointed out that 25 percent of the French population believes Jews have "too much power" in economics and finance, according to a recent survey on anti-Semitism in France by The Foundation for Political Innovation (Fondapol), a leading French think tank.



December 2, 2014 – Manama – An AJC delegation met for more than an hour with Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Foreign Minister of Bahrain. AJC, a leading global advocacy organization with headquarters in New York, regularly visits the Gulf nation, a strategic ally of the U.S., and meets with Bahraini officials in New York and Washington.

This AJC visit came at a critical time for American interests and alliances in the Gulf, following the extension of the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran, the formation of an international coalition to confront ISIS, and U.S. congressional elections.

“Our ongoing conversations with senior Bahraini officials on shared concerns are beneficial to deepening understanding between a key Arab ally and American Jews,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC Director of Government and International Affairs.



December 2, 2014 – Paris – The National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, adopted today, by a vote of 339 to 151, a resolution urging the French government to recognize the state of Palestine as a step to achieve a resolution of the conflict.

“The path to sustainable, permanent Israeli-Palestinian peace is direct bilateral negotiations, and not resolutions in European parliaments,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “This action by France’s National Assembly undermines the peace process by so clearly telling the Palestinians they can skip the negotiating table with Israel, while telling Israelis that some European countries can’t be trusted as honest brokers.”

AJC has long supported efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but only through a negotiated settlement.

The French parliamentary action follows on similar non-binding moves by lawmakers in Britain (where a minority of parliamentarians participated), Ireland, and Spain. In October, Sweden became the first major Western European country to recognize “Palestine.”

“French recognition of a Palestinian state should be a consequence of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and not a condition for the resumption of such talks,” saidSimone Rodan-Benzaquen, Director of AJC’s office in Paris. “While some parliamentarians may have thought they are contributing to peace by voting for the resolution, the lack of understanding of the situation on the ground is evident in this endorsement of Palestinian unilateralism which will retard, not advance, the chances for peace.”



AJC Executive Council Member Kim Pimley, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, AJC Executive Director David Harris, and AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger celebrate 20 years of AJC-Bundeswehr partnership.

December 3, 2014 – Berlin – Seventy years after the Holocaust, representatives of the Jewish community and the German military are gathered in Berlin this week to celebrate their commitments to one another.

How did we get here? In 1994, a German army colonel asked AJC if he could bring a group of German youth and information officers to visit AJC headquarters and learn more about American Jewish life. It was the beginning of a unique partnership between members of the American Jewish community and German military officers that has touched thousands of hearts and minds. Joined by a common sense of mission to promote democracy, monitor human rights and uphold the rule of law, AJC and the Bundeswehr have engaged on a path-breaking relationship that demonstrates the power of dialogue and exchange.

This week, in a moving ceremony attended by German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen, AJC’s Executive Director David Harris, and many other German and Jewish dignitaries, AJC and the Bundeswehr gathered to toast the completion of 20 successful years as partners.

Indeed, this relationship has proven to be a beacon of German-Jewish dialogue, encouraging Jews and German military officers alike to confront stereotypes and anxieties. In the beginning, when German military officers hesitated to wear their uniforms to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., it was AJC’s David Harris who convinced them it was important and even necessary as representatives of a democratic country to indeed wear uniforms.

Since that first telephone call, David Harris and other AJC representatives have spoken to many dozens of groups of German officers. David Harris has been a popular guest lecturer at the Center for Leadership Training in Hamburg and at both the Hamburg and Munich campuses of the University of the Bundeswehr. In addition to frequent visits to AJC’s global headquarters in New York, as well as the AJC Berlin office, German officers have met AJC leadership on both sides of the Atlantic, including younger officers meeting with AJC ACCESS young professionals.  

Five years ago, the two organizations further intensified their partnership by launching an annual leadership training seminar on aspects of Jewish life for German officers teaching at training academies. Alternating between Berlin and Israel, the officers learn about Jewish life and Mideast affairs, visiting Israel to gain a deeper understanding of Israel’s security issues. As lecturers and trainers, these officers pass on their newly gained knowledge to their students, multiplying the value of their experiences exponentially.

As the AJC-Bundeswehr partnership moves into its third decade, the relationship has lost none of it dynamism, with younger generations learning anew why German-Jewish relations is a core part of identity, both for Germans and for Jews. AJC is an organization that promotes security for Jews and all minorities. How fitting to have a special partnership between AJC and the German military that focuses on transatlantic security and security for all minority groups. Together, we work for a safer and more secure world.



November 30, 2014 -- New York -- AJC condemned the overnight arson attack on a Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem.A classroom at the bilingual Hand in Hand school was badly damaged and hateful anti-Arab graffiti was scrawled on the walls of the building.

“Hand in Hand is an inspiring example of the effort to strengthen Jewish-Arab relations in Israel, and to build a platform of coexistence and mutual understanding,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The perpetrators of this despicable act not only harm an innovative school, but also attack an essential pillar of Israel.”

Hand in Hand operates five bilingual schools across Israel, where hundreds of Arab and Jewish youngsters learn together in classes from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.

The Jerusalem Hand In Hand school was the target of such hateful graffiti as “Death to Arabs,” “(Meir) Kahane was right,” and “There is no coexistence with cancer."

"This is not the first time that our shared civic endeavor has been targeted. Even when they stain our school walls, they will not succeed in destroying our work,” said Hand in Hand CEO Shuli Dichter.



November 24, 2014 – New York – In response to the recently announced extension of the P5+1 talks with Iran, AJC Executive Director David Harris made the following statement:

“Continuing negotiations, led with determination by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, are far better than a potentially incomplete, hastily-signed deal or an end to the talks. But, at the same time, the P5+1 cannot allow the negotiations process to be endless.

“The seven-month extension is the second such agreement since the P5+1 and Iran reached an interim deal a year ago. Reports suggest that the number of centrifuges and the process of removing international sanctions are the two main sticking points. We count on the P5+1 negotiators to hold their ground to ensure that Iran is not permitted to maintain or expand its enrichment capacity, and that the suspension of the sanctions does not get ahead of verified Iranian performance.

“As Secretary Kerry said in his remarks in Vienna today, ‘First and foremost, the viable agreement would have to close off all of the pathways for Iran to get fissile material for a nuclear weapon.’ “Moreover, IAEA Director Yukiya Amano, addressing the board of the UN nuclear watchdog agency last Thursday, again warned that Iran has refused to fully cooperate—having failed both to provide access to suspect nuclear sites and information and to answer questions about the program’s military dimension.

“We trust that the P5+1 members are ever mindful of Amano’s warnings. He has repeatedly pointed out Iran’s failure to comply with IAEA investigations, raising profound concerns that the program is not for solely civilian purposes.

“At this point in time, the international framework of economic and financial sanctions in place remains absolutely critical. In that spirit, we applaud President Obama’s recent renewal of sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector. Additional sanctions, including measures on hold in the U.S. Congress, may be necessary to press Tehran—and to underscore our country’s ongoing determination to prevent a nuclear Iran.”

Harris added that the pressing concerns about Iran also include its weaponization programs, most notably the development of ICBMs, whose purpose is to deliver nuclear warheads; ongoing research on advanced centrifuges; and the heavy water reactor in Arak, whose sole aim, it can safely be assumed, is to produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon.



November 21, 2014 -- New York -- AJC has long supported comprehensive immigration reform that at once secures the nation’s borders and offers a humane alternative to the limbo in which 11 million undocumented immigrants find themselves. Though various bipartisan proposals to achieve that goal have been made, none, regrettably, has made it through Congress.

At this critical juncture, we underscore, as we have in the past, the urgent moral—and practical—need to bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. The continuation of the status quo is an unsustainable policy, and does not comport with American values to respect and defend human dignity. No matter where one stands on administrative action, the Administration and the Congress should make it the utmost priority to work together in fashioning comprehensive bipartisan legislation that will provide for a permanent fix to our broken immigration system.



November 19, 2014 – New York – AJC is urging the Obama Administration to expedite the Keystone XL Pipeline review process and approve the project, following the Senate’s failure to pass a bill that would have compelled its construction.

AJC has long advocated for the pipeline and supported the bill that was defeated by one vote. “The Keystone XL pipeline is critically important for U.S. energy security, our economy and relations with Canada, our neighbor and ally," said Richard Foltin, AJC’s Director of National and Legislative Affairs.

Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, and already provides oil through other pipelines. Transporting oil via pipelines is safer, more energy efficient, and more reliable than importing it through tankers from the Middle East or elsewhere.



November 18, 2014 -- New York -- AJC is appalled by the cold-blooded Palestinian terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue during morning prayers today. Four Jewish worshipers were killed by two men who used guns and axes, and six others were wounded, one in critical condition. The two terrorists were killed by Israeli police.

“Palestinians, encouraged by an increasingly fiery rhetoric from Hamas and Fatah leaders, including religious incitement, are seeking to murder with abandon,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. The synagogue attack brings to 10 the number of Israelis murdered in the past month, including a three-month-old child.

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s unconvincing statements do not calm the situation, but instead, tragically, are inciting more violence against Jews,” said Harris. “Abbas must be crystal clear in speaking to his own people that violence against Israelis is totally unacceptable and firmly rejected by the PA, or else he should give up any pretense of being Israel's putative peace partner in the quest for a two-state accord.”

In his comment on the synagogue attack, Abbas also called on Israelis “to stop the interference at Al-Aqsa,” referring to the mosque situated on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City.

“Abbas knows full well that Israel has no designs on the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, and, in fact, has made every effort to safeguard them,” said Harris. “Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that Israel will not change the status quo of the Temple Mount area, even as the site is sacred to the Jewish people as well -- and has been since long before the advent of Islam. Indeed, Israel deserves credit for respecting Muslim sensitivities and seeking to avoid interfaith tensions there."

“Meanwhile, will the international community, and especially those European nations which closely follow events in the Middle East, unambiguously condemn this latest attack and the incitement that surrounds it? It's high time to see the stark truth of the dangers that confront Israel -- and to voice it.”



November 18, 2014 – New York – AJC praised world leaders who have spoken out against today’s deadly Palestinian terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue during morning prayers. Four worshipers were killed and at least six others wounded by the two terrorists who struck with guns, axes and knives.

“Jerusalem is on edge, thanks to Palestinian incitement from the top of the Palestinian Authority, as well as its unity government partner Hamas,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We applaud those leaders who have spoken out quickly, forcefully, and unequivocally in the face of this barbaric attack.”

This is a sampling of statements to date:

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the attack “a pure result of incitement,” and laudably urged the Palestinian leadership “to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path.”
  • French President François Hollande condemned "the heinous terrorist attack carried out this morning in Jerusalem, as well as those people who dared to praise the act."
  • Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, denouncing what he called a "savage terrorist attack,” said “attacks on innocent worshipers, in what is supposed to be a place of peace and tranquility, are cowardly and must never be tolerated.”
  • German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: "The fact that a place of worship has now become the scene of deadly attacks targeting innocent believers is a terrible transgression in an already extremely tense situation.”
  • Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said: “The murder of Jews praying in a synagogue is a crime.”


November 17, 2014 – Paris – Three distinct groups in France are noticeably more anti-Jewish than the overall population, according to two new public opinion surveys on French anti-Semitism.

The groups are supporters of the National Front party (extreme right), to a lesser extent supporters of the Left Front coalition (extreme left), and members of the Muslim community.

“These groundbreaking surveys are important for understanding the complexities and sources of anti-Semitism in France,” said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC Paris. “Clearly, the government and civil society must not be afraid to identify and name the sources of anti-Semitism. Only then can a comprehensive plan be developed to address a problem that fundamentally threatens all of French society.”

The Foundation for Political Innovation (Fondapol), a leading French think tank, commissioned the surveys following a series of seminars, co-organized with AJC Paris, on anti-Semitism in France. The seminars met amidst a pronounced increase in anti-Semitic activity in France. According to the Jewish Community Protection Service(SPCJ), there was a 91 percent spike in the first seven months of 2014, with more than 200 incidents this summer, during the Hamas-instigated war against Israel, targeting Jewish individuals, shops and synagogues. The seminar discussions sought to gain a better understanding of the sources of anti-Semitism in France and to develop clear policy recommendations.

One survey, conducted by the polling firm IFOP on behalf of Fondapol in October 2014, was completed online by 1,005 respondents, who were asked if they are supporters of the National Front or Left Front. Separately, 575 self-identified Muslims were polled by IFOP in individual face-to-face interviews. The surveys are available here.

The surveys are both unprecedented, the first for breaking down respondents by political affiliation, and the second for exclusively polling Muslims. Both gauged attitudes towards Jews and opinions on the Holocaust, Zionism and other issues. Also, these surveys for the first time examined the correlation between anti-Semitism and heavy reliance on the Internet for information and news.

On the positive side, the surveys found broad support across all sectors of the French population for Holocaust education and for efforts to combat anti-Semitism and racism. Seventy-seven percent of all survey respondents agree and only 12 percent disagree that teaching the Holocaust to younger generations is important. Laudably, Holocaust denial is virtually absent in French public opinion.

On the other hand, significant percentages of the French general population maintain stereotypical views of Jews, particularly that they have too much influence in key sectors of society. For example, 25 percent of Frenchmen, 33 percent of Left Front sympathizers, 51 percent of National Front sympathizers, and 61 percent of Muslims say Jews have too much power in the media.

Perceptions that Jews use their Holocaust victim status “in their own interest” resonate strongly among National Front supporters (62 percent), Left Front supporters (51 percent) and Muslims (56 percent). But that view is held by 35 percent of the French population as a whole.

Regarding Zionism, the Jewish national movement, 46 percent of the entire sample agree,12 percent disagree, and 42 percent say they don’t know that Zionism is “an ideology which claims the right of Jews to have their own state on the lands of their ancestors.” Interestingly, majorities of Muslims (51 percent) and Left Front supporters (60 percent) agree, while only 37 percent of National Front backers agree.

And while 25 percent of all French people believe Zionism is “an international organization that aims to influence the world and society in favor of the Jews,” 57 percent of Muslims, 32 percent of National Front supporters, and 28 percent of Left Front supporters consider that statement true.

“The high numbers of French who assert no knowledge or a highly distorted view about the true nature of Zionism is disturbing, and doubtless is a contributing factor to misperceptions and lack of understanding of the movement and Israel prevalent in France today,” said Rodan-Benzaquen.

Rodan-Benzaquen also pointed out “the tolerance for violence targeting Jews among a rather significant percent of the population,” revealed in the surveys.

Seventy-three percent of all survey respondents said the protests and violence against Jews during the summer were unacceptable, while 14 percent said they were understandable. The 14 percent figure rose among the three groups under examination. Among National Front supporters, 65 percent considered them unacceptable and 20 percent understandable. Seventy-five percent of Left Front supporters found them unacceptable and 21 percent understandable. Among Muslims, 67 percent thought they were unacceptable and 25 percent understandable.

General attitudes towards fellow French Jewish citizens also are “disturbing,’ said Rodan-Benzaquen. While 84 percent of the French population says that a Jew is just as French as any other person, only 61 percent of National Front supporters do. More aligned with the general French population on this issue are Muslims (91 percent) and Left Front supporters (85 percent).

Within the Muslim community, the survey found that anti-Semitism tends to vary by degree of religiosity. For example, 51 percent of all Muslim respondents, compared to 19 percent of all survey respondents, say “Jews have too much power in politics.” But among the Muslim respondents, 37 percent of those who identify themselves as of "Muslim origin,” 49 percent as “believing Muslims,” and 63 percent as “practicing Muslims” agree with that statement. The Muslim sample consisted of 21 percent who identify as of "Muslim origin,” 34 percent as “believing Muslims,” and 42 percent as “practicing Muslims.”

Significantly, the surveys revealed for the first time a clear link between anti-Semitism and those who get most of their information online -- via social media, discussion forums, and videos such as YouTube.

Forty-two percent of those who watch videos online believe that Jews have too much power in finance, 59 percent that Jews have too much power in the media, 47 percent that Jews have too much power in politics, and 67 percent that Jews use their status of victims during the Holocaust in their own interest.

The surveys also found a correlation between views of French democracy and anti-Semitism.

Among those who say that democracy works well -- 32 percent of the total sample -- only 24 percent believe that Jews have too much power in politics. In comparison, of the 68 percent who say democracy does not work well, 76 percent believe Jews have too much power in politics.

“This confirms that anti-Semitism is linked to a more profound crisis that affects the very ideals of France, its democracy and republican model,” said Rodan-Benzaquen. “The fight against anti-Semitism is a fight for France's values.”



November 5, 2014 – New York – AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, is urging governments worldwide to condemn unequivocally Palestinian terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, and to press the Palestinian Authority to make every effort to deter, rather than incite, further assaults.

“Hamas rockets and missiles may be quiet for the moment, but Palestinian individuals, affiliated with terrorist organizations, are using other methods to kill and maim,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

A Palestinian drove a van into groups of people at two light rail stops in Jerusalem today, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen. Two weeks ago, another Palestinian drove a car into a group, killing two pedestrians, including a three-month old baby at a light rail stop. And, Yehuda Glick, an Israeli political and religious activist, was seriously wounded in a shooting attack by a Palestinian on a Jerusalem street.

“Whatever the alleged 'political' motivations, such terrorist attacks would not be tolerated by any UN member state against their own citizens,” said Harris. “Astonishingly, PA President Mahmoud Abbas lauded the Palestinian who shot Glick, and to date has said nothing against the other terror attacks. To the contrary, he has resorted to incitement. Is this the language of a reliable peace partner with whom Israel is to pursue a two-state accord?”

“Indeed, Abbas dangerously changed the discourse at the UN in September, when he outrageously charged Israel with committing 'genocide,' drawing a strong rebuke from the United States,” Harris continued. “Now, his uncompromising, threatening rhetoric regarding Jerusalem encourages those who, as we have seen in recent days, seek harm and violence. Who will stand up to condemn his stance? Such incendiary behavior must not be met by silence or rationalization in those countries that profess an interest in seeking to advance prospects for peace.”



November 5, 2014 – New York – AJC welcomed a federal judge’s ruling against the Pine Bush school district, which sought to dismiss a lawsuit by the parents of several children victimized by anti-Semitic bullying.

“The families of children traumatized by rampant anti-Semitism at Pine Bush schools waited far too long for relief from systematic religious harassment,” said AJC General Counsel Marc Stern. “The Pine Bush school district must be held accountable for a longstanding pattern of hatred targeting Jewish students. Even now monetary relief can only provide partial relief for the trauma these students suffered at the hands of their classmates and, worse yet, from indifferent school administrators.”

Denying the school district’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, Judge Kenneth M. Karas ruled that a jury could reasonably find that the children had “suffered severe and discriminatory harassment, that the district had actual knowledge of the harassment, and that the district was deliberately indifferent to the harassment.”

The parents of five Jewish children filed a lawsuit last year against the Pine Bush school district, asserting that each child was traumatized psychologically, and some were harmed physically, by other students. Swastikas were frequently drawn on school walls, desks, computers and other places -- and often left to stand, notwithstanding complaints to teachers and school administrators.

In one case, according to the lawsuit, a sixth grader was held by one student while another drew a swastika on her face. Coins were frequently tossed at students, and in another case an eighth grader “attempted to shove a quarter down [the throat of a Jewish student]” while another “held [her] arms so that she could not move.”

Despite repeated attempts by parents to get teachers and administrators to stop this pattern of anti-Semitic bullying, school officials seemingly did little or nothing. “Your expectations for changing inbred prejudice may be a bit unrealistic,” Philip C. Steinberg, superintendent of the Pine Bush Central School District, wrote to a parent of one Jewish student who had complained about the continuing harassment.



November 3, 2014 – New York -- AJC welcomes the Israeli Cabinet’s passage of the conversion reform that was originally introduced by MK Elazar Stern of the Hatnua Party, headed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet approved a modified version of the bill. The reform will permit local rabbis to set up conversion courts, which will ease the process for thousands of Israelis seeking state-recognized conversions.

“We hope the Israeli Cabinet’s action will establish a conversion process that is fair to many of those who seek change in the system,” said Dov Zakheim, chair of AJC’s Contemporary Jewish Life Commission.

“While this conversion reform neither recognizes the Reform and Conservative Movements nor diminishes the privileged legal status of the Chief Rabbinate, it is a step in the right direction,” Zakheim continued. “We hope the Israeli government will continue to pursue efforts related to issues of personal status and religious equality.”

AJC has warned repeatedly that the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over personal status issues, such as conversion, poses a threat to the democratic nature of Israel. While the reform approved by the Cabinet falls short of mandating full religious equality, it is a positive step in broadening accessibility to conversion.

AJC recently established a broad-based coalition of American Jews and Israelis dedicated to the realization of full religious equality in the Jewish state, and is mobilizing support for the creation of alternatives to the Chief Rabbinate. Failure to revise the laws governing personal-status issues risks alienating American Jewry, especially younger Jews, which could weaken overall American Jewish support for Israel.

 



October 31 - Sydney - An AJC senior leadership delegation has concluded a five-day mission to Australia. The visit included stops in Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney.

Earlier, the group traveled to Japan, Indonesia, and Singapore.

The program in Australia was coordinated with AJC's longstanding partner organization, AIJAC, led by its executive director, Dr. Colin Rubenstein.

The visit to Canberra was highlighted by a private meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

In the capital, the delegation also met with the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister of Defense, Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Permanent Secretary of Defense, Shadow Minister of Defense, Shadow Attorney-General, and both the Israeli and U.S. ambassadors.

Additionally, the group met with several top journalists and think tank directors, and had a dinner with many members of the Australia/Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group, one of the largest such groups in the Parliament.

“We came to Australia, first and foremost, to express our heartfelt gratitude and admiration for the country's indispensable alliance with the United States and steadfast support for Israel,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has visited Australia five times. “This is truly an exceptional nation, one that has stood with us shoulder-to-shoulder time and again. We are inspired by Australia's regional and global partnership in an increasingly turbulent world. And its Jewish community is among the most impressive, vibrant, and dedicated in the world.”

The visits to Melbourne and Sydney included meetings with leaders of the local Jewish communities, state parliamentarians and journalists, as well as several groups of young Jewish advocates.



October 30, 2014 -- New York -- AJC called Sweden’s recognition of the “State of Palestine” an act of empty symbolism that will not advance the peace process.

“Sweden’s misguided act will further complicate the quest for peace by telling the Palestinians they can skip the negotiating table with Israel, while telling Israel that some European countries can't be trusted as honest brokers,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

Sweden’s move today follows Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s inaugural address earlier this month, in which he said his new government would recognize “Palestine.”

“Sweden’s prime minister, whatever he may think are good intentions, has set back peace by recognizing a state that does not yet exist, has no final borders, and has divided local authority between the PA and Hamas,” Harris added. "Moreover, Sweden’s move comes after PA President Mahmoud Abbas delivered an incendiary address to the UN General Assembly last month, and while he and other Palestinian leaders are now encouraging escalated confrontation in Jerusalem."

"Alas, the turbulent Middle East, which is the reality of Israel's neighborhood, is not exactly tranquil Scandinavia, a point sometimes overlooked in Stockholm, it would seem,” Harris concluded.

AJC has long supported efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but only through a negotiated settlement.

Similarly, the position of the 28-member European Union, of which Sweden is a member, as well as the United States, is that an independent Palestinian state, alongside Israel, can only emerge through direct Israeli-Palestinian talks.

 



October 26, 2014 -- Singapore -- An AJC senior leadership delegation has concluded a two-day visit to Singapore.

The group, led by AJC Executive Director David Harris, met with senior members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar, Israeli Deputy Chief of Mission Liat Lazimi-Levi, influential members of civil society, and leaders of the local Jewish community.

The visit, organized in cooperation with Yael Amit, AJC's Southeast Asia Representative, was the third stop of an AJC mission to the region. The group first visited Japan, where they met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and subsequently traveled to Indonesia, where they met briefly with the country's new Vice President, as well as two recent foreign ministers, leading Members of Parliament, journalists, and Muslim intellectuals. The AJC delegation was joined by Dr. Colin Rubinstein, Executive Director of AIJAC, AJC's long-time partner organization in Australia.

Topics discussed during the visit included: U.S. engagement with Asia-Pacific countries, Israeli-Singaporean bilateral ties, and regional developments.

"We departed Singapore with a profound sense of admiration for the tremendous accomplishments of the small island nation," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "The breadth and depth of U.S.-Singapore cooperation are extremely impressive, and we continue to attach great importance to the strong bilateral ties between Israel and Singapore, which date back to the nation's founding in 1965."

Singaporean Foreign Minister K Shanmugam addressed the AJC Global Forum this past May in Washington, D.C., when more than 2,000 people, including Jewish representatives from dozens of countries and many Washington-based diplomats and officials, attended the annual gathering. AJC maintains close ties with Singaporean representatives in the U.S. and across the globe through its Asia Pacific Institute, led by Shira Loewenberg, who is also traveling with the AJC delegation.



October 22, 2014 – New York -- AJC supports the conversion bill introduced by MK Elazar Stern of the Hatnua Party, headed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. .Hatnua has pledged to press the measure, which already passed its first reading in the Knesset, even though it does not enjoy Cabinet support.

“Loosening the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly on conversion makes this bill especially timely,” said Dov Zakheim, chair of AJC’s Contemporary Jewish Life Commission. “This bill takes a step in the right direction by creating alternatives to the Chief Rabbinate and liberalizing the conversion process.”

AJC has warned repeatedly that the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over personal status issues, such as conversion, poses a threat to the democratic nature of Israel. While this bill falls short of mandating full religious equality, it is a positive step in broadening accessibility to conversion.

By permitting local rabbis to set up conversion courts and allow conversion candidates to go through the process in the court of their choice, the bill would ease the process significantly for thousands of Israelis seeking state-recognized conversion.

AJC recently established a broad-based coalition of American Jews and Israelis dedicated to the realization of full religious equality in the Jewish state, and is mobilizing support for the creation of alternatives to the Chief Rabbinate. Failure to revise the laws governing personal-status issues risks alienating American Jewry, especially younger Jews, which could weaken overall American Jewish support for Israel.



October 22, 2014 – Cairo -- An AJC delegation, after three days of high-level consultations, urged accelerated steps to normalize strategic relations between the United States and Egypt.

"Egypt has been, and remains, an essential ally in the global fight against terror‎ and extremism," said Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy.

U.S. military aid to Egypt, extended since the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, was suspended a year ago, a decision AJC opposed. AJC is seeking restoration of the $1.3 billion aid package.

"In the face of persistent Muslim Brotherhood terrorism and alarming gains by ISIS across the Middle East, continuing to hamper Egypt's ability to act as a full coalition partner is contrary to U.S. national interests, to a vital bilateral relationship, and to regional security and peace," said Isaacson.

The six‎-member AJC group‎, led by Allan Reich, Chair of AJC's International Relations Commission, met with Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry and other top government officials, senior military commanders, strategic analysts, journalists, business leaders, and a cross-section of political activists. It was AJC's fourth visit to Cairo since the 2011 revolution that brought down the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

The AJC delegation also toured Jewish heritage sites, and discussed communal concerns, with Magda Haroun Silvera‎, president of the Egyptian Jewish community.

"Egypt, long the keystone of the Arab world, faces enormous challenges -- an economy trying to get back on its feet; a political process still sorting itself out after two revolutions in three years; ongoing human rights, employment and education deficits; and hard-to-satisfy energy and water demands," Isaacson continued.

"Egypt must continue to confront these multiple challenges -- and continue to invite and welcome America as its partner. But without security -- internally, and on its borders -- Egypt's ability to progress and advance regional peace and stability will be severely compromised. Continued U.S. investment in Egyptian security is essential." Egyptian officials assured the AJC delegation of the country's ‎reliance on, and commitment to honoring, the peace treaty with Israel. The delegation concluded its visit on the eve of a terrorist attack launched from Sinai against Israeli soldiers manning the Egyptian border.



October 21, 2014 -- Tokyo -- An eight-member AJC leadership delegation just concluded a three-day visit to Tokyo. The trip marked the second AJC visit to Japan in the past four months alone.

The visit was highlighted by a 30-minute meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The delegation, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Director David Harris, also met with National Security Advisor Shotaro Yachi; senior members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Israeli Ambassador Ruth Kahanoff; United States Deputy Chief of Mission Jason Hyland; and senior representatives of the prestigious Middle East Institute of Japan. The AJC group met as well with top representatives of Keidanren, the renowned Japanese business group, and leaders of the vibrant Jewish Community of Japan.

Principal topics discussed during the mission included: (a) the U.S.-Japanese relationship, (b) regional developments in East Asia, and (c) bilateral ties between Israel and Japan.

“We came to Japan to express our enduring friendship with, and admiration for, an essential U.S. democratic ally in an increasingly turbulent region and world. Japan's importance as a strategic ally and like-minded partner will only continue to increase in the years to come,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has made many previous trips to Tokyo. “And we are delighted to see the deepening links between Tokyo and Jerusalem, highlighted by the close personal relationship of Japanese Prime Minister Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who have identified a number of areas for closer cooperation.”

Through its Asia Pacific Institute, currently led by Shira Loewenberg, AJC has been actively engaged with Japan for more than 25 years, and maintains close ties with Japanese officials and other representatives in Tokyo, across the United States, in Israel, and other countries.



October 20, 2014 – New York – AJC praised the New York Police Department for apprehending the suspect, Shawn Schraeder, in the brutal beating of Leonard Petlakh, executive director of the Kings Bay Y in Brooklyn, New York.

The assault occurred as Petlakh and others were leaving the Barclays Center earlier this month, following a basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and Maccabi Tel Aviv. Out of the blue, Schraeder, a pro-Palestinian activist, punched Petlakh, in front of his two children, causing a broken nose and other facial injuries requiring stitches.

“We are gratified by the rapid response of the NYPD in investigating and arresting Shawn Schraeder for the vicious and unprovoked attack on Petlakh,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “However, we are surprised and disappointed that Schraeder has not yet been charged with committing a hate crime. Clearly, this violent assault has every indication of being just that.”



October 20, 2014 – New York – AJC is delivering a firm message tonight at a demonstration outside the Metropolitan Opera to protest its staging of the “Death of Klinghoffer.” Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, is reading the statement on behalf of AJC Executive Director David Harris, who currently is traveling overseas.

The full text of the David Harris statement follows:

Dear Friends,

I'm very sorry I can't be with you in person today, as I am currently traveling overseas.

I applaud you for gathering together. In an attempt to downplay the importance of this gathering, some have sought to dub you "extremists". Nothing can be further from the truth.

Today is a sad day.

An otherwise great, indeed iconic, New York institution, the Metropolitan Opera, has chosen to stage a series of performances of a production that gives voice, even humanity, to terrorist murderers.

They most certainly do not deserve the prestigious platform the Met's stage offers them.

Let me be clear.

I do not question the Met's right to stage what it wishes.

I do, however, question its judgment.

For starters, the giveaway is in the title, as I wrote in The New York Times.

Leon Klinghoffer, wheelchair-bound and elderly, did not just die on the Achille Lauro. He was murdered in cold blood as a Jew, the reason for which he was targeted in the first place.

That's not a matter of debate. Four hijackers were found guilty.

Why, then, the title "The Death of Klinghoffer"?

Because both the composer and librettist didn't just set out on a journey of so-called artistic discovery and expression.

Their writings reveal their anti-Israel animus.

That, too, is not a matter of debate, though the Met's management has tried to suggest otherwise.

Yet the words of John Adams and Alice Goodman are on the record and have never been repudiated.

Moreover, the Met did something especially revealing.

It chose to incorporate Israel's security barrier -- built to prevent terrorist attacks against Israelis after more than 1,000 civilians in pizzerias, discotheques and Passover seders had been killed -- in its promotional material and on stage.

Why?

The barrier was built 20 years after Leon Klinghoffer's murder -- again, not death.

What in the world does the security barrier have to do with him?

And, in any case, what does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have to do with Leon Klinghoffer?

He was a handicapped American tourist on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean -- nothing more.

In addition, when AJC pointed out to the Met's general manager that the troubling image of the barrier was totally uncalled for, he personally pledged to me that it would be removed.

It obviously has not been.

Some argue that it's important to "hear" all sides in such a highly politicized performance.

Really?

Is this to be the new norm for the Metropolitan Opera?

What's next?

"Rigoletto," "La Boheme," and "Aida" -- stand aside and make room for what?

For "9/11 in 360-degree technicolor"?

For "ISIS beheadings: Legitimate or not?"

For "The 'death' of Daniel Pearl"?

No, some acts are so bestial and barbaric, so indefensible, that the last thing needed is to give sympathetic air time -- and so-called "artistic expression" -- to the murderers and their demented views.

In this city, where we continue to mourn the nearly 3,000 victims of Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda henchmen....

At this time, when we witness the depravity of ISIS legions and their jihadist brethren killing, crucifying, kidnapping, and enslaving Americans, Brits, Christians, Yazidis, and fellow Muslims with whom they disagree...

And now, when, as President Obama has said, there is a "rising tide" of global anti-Semitism.

New York's Metropolitan Opera has chosen to stage this production.

There's only one word to express it all:

Shame!



October 17, 2014 -- New York -- AJC applauded a Greek state prosecutor's decision to bring to trial leaders of the neo-Nazi political party Golden Dawn.

“Prime Minister Samaras and Greece's law enforcement and judicial authorities have pursued Golden Dawn with admirable courage and determination, demonstrating principled leadership,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The Golden Dawn Party threatens the very foundation of Greece, the cradle of democracy. Bringing party leaders to justice for their criminal activity is important for the well-being and security of Greek society.”

The prosecutor, Isidoros Doyiakos, announced that 70 Golden Dawn Party members, including imprisoned party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and 17 other lawmakers, should stand trial for murder, weapons offenses and multiple attacks on immigrants, leftists and gay people.

A panel of three judges received the prosecutor's 700-page document and is expected to issue indictments within weeks. The charges cover more than 30 years of criminality.

Golden Dawn has used violence, intimidation and neo-Nazi symbolism to promote its racist ideology, which targets immigrants, Jews and others deemed to be “non-Greek.”

Prime Minister Samaras, addressing an AJC reception in New York in September 2013, vowed to “deracinate” the Golden Dawn Party, and launched a crackdown on the party that led to the arrest of nearly all Golden Dawn members of parliament and parliamentary action cutting off funding for the party. "They are a criminal group of people, who will be tried in a democratic manner," the Greek leader said.

AJC has been visiting Greece regularly for over three decades, cooperates closely with Hellenic-American groups, and has an association agreement with KIS, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.



October 14, 2014 -- New York -- AJC condemned an overnight attack on a mosque in the West Bank village of Aqraba. Graffiti, including the words “price tag” and the name of a nearby Israeli settlement, Tapuah, were spraypainted on the mosque. Rugs, walls and holy books were damaged by the fire and smoke.

“Price tag” normally refers to vandalism and other hate crimes carried out by Jewish ultra-nationalists. Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases have been their targets in recent years. Israeli leaders across the political spectrum have condemned the “price tag” attacks.

“Jews who vandalize houses of worship and other Palestinian sites are fundamentally harming the state of Israel,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“Proposals by some government officials to toughen penalties and to take additional steps to end these senseless, provocative acts of violence are needed,” said Harris. “While such Jewish provocateurs are estimated to be no more than a few hundred, the damage they have done to Palestinian communities and to possibilities for Arab-Jewish coexistence, not to mention to Israel's democratic and pluralistic image, has been far greater than their mere numbers.”

The “price tag” attacks began in the West Bank several years ago as an illegal form of protest against Israeli government moves to close unlawful settlements. They have consisted mostly of property damage, including slashing car tires, arson and scrawling racist graffiti. Several mosques and churches in Israel, in addition to the West Bank, have been targeted.



Decades ago, in the early years of Monday Night Football, the famed broadcaster Howard Cosell from time to time injected some Latin vocabulary into his commentary. After one such reference, his partner, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith, queried: “Howard, is that another one of your Jewish holidays?” After a bit more banter, Meredith asked, “What was the one we had last week?” “Shmini Atzeret!” Cosell quickly retorted.

The good hearted exchange indeed was most appropriate, expressing the joy of the Jewish holiday season and the fact that most viewers, confused by the number of such holidays, had lost track of distinctions between them. Here are three reflections on Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, arguably the least well known and understood among Jewish festivals:

1. Shmini Atzeret: The name of the holiday connotes the “Eighth Day of Assembly.” Shmini Atzeret does not signify the eighth day of Sukkot, so much as an independent holiday in itself. The “Assembly” reference gives voice that our joy in the holiday is so great that we are commanded to extend the festival, and prolong the pilgrimage to Jerusalem associated with it for an additional day. In effect, the holiday means that our joy lingers, notwithstanding that Sukkot itself has formally concluded.

2. Simchat Torah: In Israel, Shmini Atzeret takes place on the same day as Simchat Torah. In traditional congregations in the Diaspora, Simchat Torah is celebrated on the day following Shmini Atzeret. On this day we complete the annual cycle of Torah readings. Three individuals are designated specially with the honor of being called to the Torah to complete the cycle, and are given the title of “grooms” or “brides” of the Torah. Appropriately the reading first concludes the Book of Deuteronomy, and immediately returns to the opening chapter of Genesis, signaling that the study of Torah never ceases, and that, like commencement, ending connotes a renewed beginning.

3. Soviet Jewry: For Soviet Jews, Simchat Torah became a symbol for Jewish renewal and rediscovery of Jewish tradition, one that the Soviet regime had repressed for decades. When Golda Meir arrived in Moscow in 1948 as the first Ambassador of Israel to the Soviet Union, she was greeted on Simchat Torah with an outpouring of joy and celebration in a Moscow synagogue. Perhaps owing to the memory of the Soviet crackdown on Jewish culture that ensued, in subsequent decades the celebration of Simchat Torah signaled the vitality of the Soviet Jewry movement and its call for freedom for Soviet Jews both to emigrate, and to experience their religion and culture. Given that the Soviet Jewry cause represents one of the greatest success stories of modern Jewish history, it is most appropriate that it be associated with that most joyous of days on the Jewish calendar.

Critical to these holidays is the message of joy. Judaism is not a faith that identifies with sorrow and mourning. To be sure, these have their place and time. The liturgy for these festivals includes memorial prayers dedicated to recalling departed loved ones. But the overriding message is that Jewish identity evokes celebration. To be a Jew is to rejoice in the beauties and heritage of Jewish tradition.

Steven Bayme serves as National Director, Contemporary Jewish Life, AJC.



October 2, 2014 – New York – AJC is providing assistance via IsraAID, a leading Israeli non-governmental relief organization, to Ebola victims in Africa.

“The Ebola epidemic in Africa is devastating,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Medical experts from our Israeli partner, IsraAID, are on the ground bringing urgent, vital humanitarian relief to Ebola victims through health education and awareness training, as well as psychosocial support training.”

AJC has been involved with several countries in the region since the AJC Africa Institute, headed by Eliseo Neuman, was founded in 2006.

With help from AJC's Heilbrunn Humanitarian Fund, AJC has partnered with IsraAID humanitarian relief missions in a number of crises over the years, including Sri Lanka after the unprecedented South Asian tsunami in 2004; Peru following a devastating earthquake in 2007; the Philippines after a deadly tropical storm in 2009; Haiti following the massive earthquake in 2010; the Philippines in 2013 after a typhoon; Bulgaria for Syrian refugees who sought a safe haven in the country in 2013; earlier this year in Bosnia-Herzegovina following massive flooding; and delivering last month urgent humanitarian aid to beleaguered Christian and Yazidi refugees who fled to Iraq’s Kurdish region.



October 2, 2014 – New York – AJC called on the U.S. and European governments to strongly condemn an international gathering in Tehran promoting hatred of Jews and Israel. The goal of the New Horizon Conference “is to unveil the secrets behind the dominance of the Zionist lobby over U.S. and EU politics,” reported Iran’s Press TV.

“This conference is proof-positive that the government of Iran has not mitigated its deeply entrenched hostility towards Jews and the State of Israel,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Iran, even under the supposedly moderate President Rouhani, remains intent on achieving the capacity to build nuclear weapons, actively supporting Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations, and promoting venomous hatred of Jews.”

Participants from the U.S., Europe, and Iran heard Mohsen Ghomi, advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, open the three-day gathering by declaring “American officials are puppets of the Zionist lobby who are taking advantage of American ignorance.”

According to Press TV, “The role of Zionist lobbies in the European and U.S. crises, introducing international anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist figures, and Islamic resistance against the Zionist regime are some of the topics of the conference.”

“American and European representatives engaged in direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program should seize the opportunity to convey directly in the strongest possible terms outrage over this hateful event,” said Harris. “Nuclear negotiations cannot continue in a vacuum separate from Iran’s other dangerous misdeeds.”



October 1, 2014 – New York – AJC honored Ambassador Philip Murphy with its prestigious “Ernst Cramer Award for Outstanding Contributions to German-American Jewish Understanding.”

The award was presented to Murphy for his service as U.S. ambassador to Germany (2009-2013), at an AJC event at the Jewish Museum in New York. More than 150 guests attended. Previously, Murphy served as head of the Goldman Sachs office in Frankfurt.

The inscription on the award states: “Presented to Ambassador Philip Murphy in recognition of his steadfast commitment and spirited dedication to Jewish affairs, Jewish-German relations and to the State of Israel.”

“I am proud to be a recipient of an award named after an extraordinary individual, bestowed on me by a pathbreaking American Jewish organization,” said Murphy. “I have always experienced AJC to be at the forefront of the critical transatlantic issues of our day.”

Ernst Cramer was a distinguished journalist and publisher with the Axel Springer publishing company in Germany. He was a German Jew who fled to the U.S., returning as an American soldier. He ended up staying to work with this unique publishing house that remains a bastion of pro-American, pro-Israeli sentiment in Germany.

When Murphy arrived in Berlin as U.S. Ambassador in 2009, he soon encountered and benefitted from Cramer’s transatlantic experience and wisdom. A conference room at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin was named for Ernst Cramer shortly before his death, at the age of 96, in 2010.

“Phil Murphy is a bridge builder across continents, laying the foundation for a new and more diverse generation of transatlanticists,” said Steven Wisch, co-chair of AJC Berlin, who presented the award to Murphy, and who has been a close friend of Murphy for nearly three decades. “He harbors a deep and abiding commitment to Jewish life and security for Jewish communities. He is a staunch advocate of U.S.-Israeli and German-Israeli relations.”

Anthony Meyer, a member of the AJC National Board of Governors, and who serves as the other co-chair for AJC Berlin, also attended the event.

The Ernst Cramer Award is given bi-annually to an individual or institution for outstanding contributions in the field of American Jewish – German understanding. The three past recipients were Michael Blumenthal, founding director of the Jewish Museum Berlin and former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury; the Konrad Adenauer Foundation; and Lawrence and Lee Ramer for their work launching the Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations that is an integral part of AJC Berlin.

Deidre Berger has been director of the AJC Berlin Office since 2000. AJC established the first American Jewish office in Berlin in 1998.



September 29, 2014 – New York – AJC hailed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address today to the UN General Assembly.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu powerfully spoke truth to power to the other 192 members of the United Nations,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

Netanyahu warned that Iran is proceeding on track to build a nuclear weapon. Moreover, he asserted that its revolutionary Islamist ideology is not dissimilar to ISIS and other militant jihadist groups that have violently emerged across the region.

“There is only one responsible course of action… Iran’s nuclear military capabilities must be fully dismantled,” said Netanyahu. “To defeat ISIS and allow Iran to remain a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.”

Regarding the P5+1 talks with Iran and looming November 24 deadline, Netanyahu cautioned that “the Islamic Republic is now trying to bamboozle its way to an agreement” that would lift sanctions while leaving in place thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium. “In the future, at the time of its choosing, Iran, the world’s most dangerous regime, in the world’s most dangerous region, would obtain the world’s most dangerous weapons,” he said.

Netanyahu warned that the war Israel fought against Hamas during the summer is not unlike the battles waged by the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. “ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree,” said Netanyahu. Further, he accused Hamas of using civilians, including children, as shields, noting “these are the real war crimes.”

The Israeli Prime Minister challenged each UN member state to consider what it would do if faced with thousands of rockets and missiles, terror tunnels and precious little time for its citizens to seek shelter.

“Israel’s fight against Hamas is not just Israel’s fight. It is your fight,” Netanyahu declared. “Israel is fighting a fanaticism today that your countries may be forced to fight tomorrow.”

The Israeli leader sharply criticized Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s UN speech, which the U.S. government had earlier called “counterproductive” and “offensive,” as well as the PA’s partnership with Hamas. At the same time, Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to seek a negotiated, sustainable peace, and challenged Arab countries to join Israel in advancing the peace process.

Arab states have an “indispensable role” to play in “advancing peace with the Palestinians,” said Netanyahu. “Many long assumed that an Israeli-Palestinian peace would facilitate a rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world. These days it can work the other way around,” he said. “A broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world may help facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

“I’m ready to make an historic compromise. I want peace because I want to create a better future for my people,” said Netanyahu, adding that it must be a “genuine peace” with “rock-solid security arrangements” on the ground. Israel, he added, cannot risk having “territories from which it withdraws taken over by Islamic militants yet again,” as happened with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

“Let’s hope Prime Minister Netanyahu’s clear, crisp and compelling messages are heard,” Harris concluded, “for the security of individual nations and the region are very much at stake. May his eloquent speech serve as a clarion call for the dangers that lurk – and also for the opportunities at hand.”



September 29, 2014 – New York – AJC honored Stanley M. Bergman and his family with its prestigious Global Interfaith Leadership Award.

The award was presented at a New York City gala, attended by 1,000 people, celebrating interfaith cooperation and understanding. Mr. Bergman, his wife Dr. Marion Bergman, their sons Paul and Eddie and their spouses Sara and Sharon, each received the award.

“We accept the AJC Global Interfaith Leadership Award with a renewed sense of optimism for a brighter tomorrow,” said Mr. Bergman.

“Bridging the chasms that separate people may seem impossible, but it is not,” Mr. Bergman added. “When we face what seem like the insurmountable challenges of immorality, each of us must be prepared to look at ourselves in the mirror five or ten years from now and answer the questions: Where was I? What did I do?”

Mr. Bergman, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Henry Schein, Inc., currently serves as president of AJC, the premier global Jewish advocacy organization. Since its founding, AJC has pioneered the advancement of interfaith relations across the United States and around the world.

As AJC President, Mr. Bergman has encouraged and expanded AJC’s outreach to Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other religious groups. In February, Bergman led an AJC multifaith delegation to Rome for a private audience with Pope Francis and a series of meetings with top Vatican officials.

“Our family firmly believes that safeguarding the place of everyone in society, including minorities, is the responsibility of us all,” said Mr. Bergman.

“I have only one request for each of you tonight,” Mr. Bergman told the audience. “Reach out to someone of a different faith, a different ethnic group, and add to the good of the world. Tearing down the walls of hate starts with building bridges.It starts with dialogue and partnership.”

Among those attending the New York celebration and award ceremony were leaders in New York’s business, diplomatic, political and religious communities, as well as international dignitaries who flew to New York especially to honor Mr. Bergman and his family.

“Interfaith dialogue is indispensable, the only means of creating harmony,” said Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, who delivered the keynote address. “In Tanzania, we all live together in one house. Apart from prayer, Muslims participate in Christian gatherings of every kind, and Christians participate in Muslim gatherings in the same way.”

The Honorable Oby Ezekwesili, former Nigerian Federal Minister of Education and World Bank Vice President for Africa, and Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, South Africa’s ambassador to the U.S., also saluted Mr. Bergman and his family in their addresses to the gala.

The evening featured a panel discussion moderated by Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s director of international interreligious affairs. The panelists were His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York; the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, Pastor, Abyssinian Baptist Church, City of New York; and Suhag Shukla, Esq., Executive Director and Co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation.

“If only there were more Bergman families in the world, we would all be so much better off,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who spoke at the gala tribute. “Truly committed to the democratic and prophetic ideals of protecting human dignity for all, advancing justice, and welcoming the stranger, the Bergmans make a difference, each and every day, in the four corners of the world, and they do so with the utmost humility and compassion. How fortunate we are at AJC to have Stanley Bergman as our President, all the more so at such a tumultuous time in world – and Jewish history – when his unmatched professional, philanthropic and interpersonal skills are more needed than ever!”

Rabbi André Ungar received AJC’s Moral Courage Award at the event. Born in Hungary, Ungar came to South Africa in the mid-1950s to be a rabbi at Temple Israel in Port Elizabeth. He was expelled from the country for his outspoken protestation against the apartheid regime.

“Exiled years ago from apartheid South Africa for your steadfast moral dissent, you have called out fearlessly, decade after decade, for the rights and dignity of all,” states the inscription on the Moral Courage Award, presented to Rabbi Ungar by Rabbi David Saperstein, President Barack Obama’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and Leslie Bergman, President of the European Union for Progressive Judaism.

Video messages were delivered by Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum; Dr. Amid Ismail, Dean of Temple University’s Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry; and Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, member of the board of directors of Henry Schein, Inc., former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and President Emeritus of Morehouse School of Medicine.



September 28 – New York -- At a gala dinner in New York attended by hundreds of leaders of the Hellenic-American community and top Cypriot and Greek officials, AJC was honored by the Cyprus Federation of America.

The presentation was made by Nicos Anastasiades, President of the Republic of Cyprus, who said: “This year’s honoree is AJC, the leading global Jewish advocacy organization, which has been active for more than a century promoting Jewish interests, as well as furthering a global agenda of peace, democracy, interreligious dialogue and interfaith understanding, and human rights. Cypriot-Hellenic community leaders have worked closely with AJC to advance these noble causes, and also towards the enhancement and promotion of Cypriot-Hellenic-Jewish links and friendship. These relations, both in the American context, as well as in the context of the Israel-Cyprus-Greece relationship, have seen an unprecedented strengthening in the last decade, a development which I salute and support.”

At the AJC Global Forum in Washington in May, Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides had stated: “Our relationship with AJC is one of genuine friendship, appreciation, mutual respect and common interests. The role of AJC in identifying and promoting the relationship with Cyprus, and in helping advance our ties with Israel and the United States, cannot be emphasized enough.”

Archbishop Demetrios of America, who also attended the gala dinner, declared: “I congratulate AJC for its leadership in promoting the growing political, economic, and security cooperation between Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and the United States, and for bringing to fruition the benefits this alliance creates for the advancement of human rights and the promotion of democracy.”

Other distinguished individuals participating in the dinner included the Greek deputy foreign minister; the Cypriot ambassadors to the United States and UN; the Cypriot and Greek consuls-general in New York; elected state officials from New York, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire; and leaders of many Hellenic-American organizations.

Accepting the award on behalf of AJC were Kim Pimley, member of AJC’s Executive Council, who traveled to Athens and Nicosia with an AJC delegation in March, and David Harris, AJC’s executive director, who has visited the region frequently.

“We are proud to receive this prestigious award,” said Harris. “Thirty years ago, a group of visionary Hellenic-American and AJC leaders, including Andy Athens, Andy Manatos, Phil Christopher, Peter Papanicolaou, Senator Paul Sarbanes, Maynard Wishner, David Roth, and others, began an effort to deepen Greek-Israeli and Cypriot-Israeli relations, which were still in their infancy. By the 1990s, progress was tangible. Moreover, the friendship blossomed between these communities in the U.S., leading to growing domestic cooperation.”

“In the last decade,” Harris continued, “our goal has been to build a triangular partnership among Cyprus, Greece, and Israel, with the active support of the U.S. This vision has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Anchors of democracy in the eastern Mediterranean have become allies in the cultural, economic, energy, strategic, tourism, and other spheres. But one issue remains to be resolved, namely, the 40-year occupation of one-third of Cyprus by Turkish forces, preventing the full realization of the potential of the island and, indeed, the region.”

“We hope that wisdom, justice, and common sense will soon prevail,” Harris concluded, “and Cyprus will be restored as a single nation to play its full part in this vitally important area of the world. It should not be beyond anyone’s imagination to think that one day, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and others could follow the example of the six founders of the European Coal and Steel Community, and become an eastern Mediterranean hub of economic cooperation, peace, and prosperity.”



September 26, 2014 -- New York -- AJC called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s address to the UN General Assembly a rhetorical cocktail of hatred, deceit and distortion. Once again, as in his previous UN speeches, Abbas undermined prospects for advancing peace.

“President Abbas today offered no fresh ideas, indeed no hope for peace,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Recycling well-worn and false accusations against Israel, ignoring the damage caused by his terrorist partner Hamas, playing to the rejectionist crowd, and pressing for UN intervention are not exactly the road to a two-state settlement and coexistence. Indeed, today Abbas took himself and the Palestinian people another step down into the abyss of failed peacemaking.”

In his speech, Abbas repeatedly called Israel “the racist occupying State,” which he accused of launching a “war of genocide” against the Palestinian people, even as the Palestinians have one of the highest population growth rates in the world. He did not utter a word of criticism of Hamas, which triggered the summer conflict by kidnapping and murdering three Israelis and firing endless volleys of rockets and missiles at Israel. Indeed, he managed to deliver his entire speech without once mentioning Hamas by name.

While Abbas repeatedly charged that Israel “refuses to end its occupation” of Palestine, in reality Israeli leaders have persistently sought to achieve a two-state solution to the conflict, including by leaving Gaza in 2005, and then by pursuing direct talks with the PA to reach a permanent accord on the West Bank.

Abbas announced that a resolution to “push forward the efforts to achieve peace” would soon be introduced to the UN Security Council.

“President Abbas knows well, even if today he acted as if he doesn't, that there's only one address for peace, and that's the office of Israel’s prime minister in Jerusalem,” said Harris. “And President Abbas knows that it was he, not Israel, who summarily ended the latest peace talks in April by rejecting Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to extend them, and instead chose to forge a national unity government with Hamas.”

Abbas also outrageously equated what he calls Israeli “state terrorism” with the terrorism of ISIS.

Harris concluded: “For those who aspire to achieve peace based on a two-state agreement, President Abbas's UN speech today will long stand out as one of the biggest disappointments of this world gathering. There was absolutely nothing, I repeat nothing, constructive or compelling about it. Rather, it was the work of a verbal arsonist, who, tragically, sabotaged the vital quest for peace.”



September 24, 2014 – New York – AJC praised President Obama’s call on Arab and Muslim countries to collectively address the sources of violent extremism raging across much of the Middle East and North Africa.

“It is time for the world – especially Muslim communities – to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL,” President Obama told the UN General Assembly today.

“No children anywhere should be educated to hate other people. There should be no more tolerance of so-called clerics who call upon people to harm innocents because they are Jewish, Christian or Muslim,” said Obama. “It is time for a new compact among civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source: the corruption of young minds by violent ideology.”

AJC Executive Director David Harris hailed the president’s challenge. “For too long, the U.S. and the world have faced escalating, security threats emanating from the Middle East,” said Harris. “President Obama’s challenge to Arab and Muslim countries, some of them longstanding U.S. allies, is critical, and will require direct follow-up to ensure they do indeed address the roots of the problem.”

“For years, AJC has been urging greater focus on the systemic and structural challenges in these nations that contribute to instability, stalled development and conflict,” Harris continued. “Thus, we couldn’t be more pleased that President Obama has now directly identified and confronted the core issues of the region.”

“Cutting off the funding that fuels this hate” is essential, said Obama. “It’s time to end the hypocrisy of those who accumulate wealth through the global economy and then siphon funds to those who teach children to tear it down.”

Obama also called on Arab and Muslim countries to “focus on the extraordinary potential of their people – especially the youth,” and to take steps to improve education and economic opportunities, and seek full participation of women in their societies.

“Where a genuine civil society is allowed to flourish, where people can express their views, and organize peacefully for a better life, then you dramatically expand the alternatives to terror,” said Obama.

Referring to the UN Security Council resolution to be adopted later today calling on all UN members to take action against violent extremism, Obama said: “Next year, we should be prepared to announce the concrete steps that we have taken to counter extremist ideologies – by getting intolerance out of schools, stopping radicalization before it spreads, and promoting institutions and programs that build new bridges of understanding.”

Obama also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to pursue a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace based on a two-state solution. But, importantly, he stressed that this conflict is not the main one in the region, or the world.

“The situation in Iraq, Syria and Libya should cure anyone of the illusion that this conflict is the main source of problems in the region; for far too long, it has been used in part as a way to distract people from problems at home,” Obama said.

On Iran’s nuclear program, Obama reiterated his call on Tehran to “seize this historic opportunity” for a diplomatic resolution. “Do not let this opportunity pass. We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful.”



September 21, 2014 -- New York -- AJC hails unanimous U.S. Senate adoption of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act (S. 2673). This important measure, co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), recognizes Israel is a major U.S. strategic partner, and broadens the U.S.-Israel alliance by promoting greater cooperation on security, energy, and trade. AJC regional offices across the country played a vital role in advocating for solid bipartisan support of the legislation.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed in March by 410-1 a similar bill (H.R.938), authored by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL).

“The U.S.-Israel relationship today, as always, is strong, based on shared values and common goals,” said Jason Isaacson, director of AJC’s Office of Government and International Affairs. “Given the new and growing security challenges in the region, and beyond, the Strategic Partnership Act not only reaaffrims but further deepens the all important U.S.-Israel alliance.”

The Act states that the U.S. should continue to provide assistance for acquisition and maintenance of Iron Dome and other life-saving missile defense systems, and encourages accelerated U.S.-Israel cooperation on cyber-security. The Iron Dome proved to be invaluable during the summer war between Israel and Hamas, the terror organization ruling Gaza that fired more than 4,000 rockets and missiles into Israel.

Included in the Strategic Partnership Act is the United States-Israel Energy Cooperation Act, legislation introduced by Senators Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), strengthening collaboration between the U.S. and Israel on energy development.

The Senate measure also calls on the Secretary of Homeland Security to designate Israel as a visa waiver program country so long as Israel satisfies the requirements for inclusion in that program.



September 19, 2014 – Washington – AJC Executive Director David Harris briefed this morning a dozen key members of the U.S. House of Representatives on the surge in anti-Semitism across Europe.

The briefing took place on Capitol Hill today, after the House unanimously passed Thursday evening a resolution on global anti-Semitism, an action Harris warmly applauded. AJC had advocated for passage of the House measure, which forcefully condemns anti-Semitism and calls on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to take additional steps to curb the rise in anti-Jewish incidents.

The Briefing on European anti-Semitism was hosted by Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Peter Roskam (R-IL), and Nita Lowey (D-NY). The other invited speakers were Professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University and Sara Bloomfield, Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Combatting global anti-Semitism has been a top AJC priority since the advocacy organization was founded more than 108 years ago in response to the pogroms against Jews in Tsarist Russia. A recent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe began in 2000 and has intensified in recent years -- some incidents have been violent, some have used vile language not heard since the Holocaust. They have taken place in major cities across Europe.

Harris, whose wife and children are EU citizens, visits European capitals frequently to meet with senior government officials. Moreover, AJC maintains offices in the EU capital of Brussels as well as in Berlin, Paris, and Rome, and has association agreements with several European Jewish communities.

“We are present, working with government officials, civil society representatives, and Jewish community leaders to energetically counter this surging tide of hatred that threatens not only Jews, but, make no mistake about it, the very fabric of the democratic societies where they live," said Harris.

Noting that most European heads of state now recognize the anti-Semitism virus that is spreading and must be checked, Harris cited Chancellor Angela Merkel as a laudable example. At a recent Berlin rally against anti-Semitism, the German leader declared: “Anyone who hits someone wearing a skullcap is hitting us all. Anyone who damages a Jewish gravestone is disgracing our culture. Anyone who attacks a synagogue is attacking the foundations of our free society.” He also praised the efforts of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and several other European leaders.

 



September 19, 2014 -- New York -- AJC voiced profound disappointment regarding the Metropolitan Opera commitment to proceed with Death of Klinghoffer. The Met premier of this controversial opera is scheduled for October 20, 2014.

The Met, apparently sensitive to mounting criticism of an opera that glorifies and romanticizes terrorism, has already canceled the simulcast broadcast of Klinghoffer. That action, however, has not alleviated serious concerns in New York City, the site of the 9/11 terror attacks, following a summer of increasingly horrific barbarism perpetrated against Americans and others across the Middle East.

Death of Klinghoffer is an “artistic rendition” of one of the most heinous acts of brutality that took place during a period of rising Middle East terrorism. In 1985, when Palestinian terrorists hijacked the Italian Achille Lauro cruise ship, 413 passengers were held hostage. Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled, wheelchair-bound 69-year-old American Jewish businessman from New York, was held separately, shot in the chest and head, and thrown overboard with his wheelchair.

“Today, with increasingly virulent anti-Western, anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel terrorism, all reminiscent of the cruelty perpetrated against Leon Klinghoffer, we should not rationalize or humanize acts of terrorism or terrorists,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “In this era of ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and other jihadi organizations, we must not desecrate the memory of terrorist victims, nor offer rationales, artistic or otherwise, that could be seen to justify or contextualize the targeting of civilians.”

The motives of the artists who brought the Klinghoffer opera to the Met stage are clear. The composer, John Adams, is animated by his misguided perception that “Israeli behavior on the world stage is off-limits to criticism,” and “The pro-Israeli lobbies...had a huge influence on members of Congress and were heavily funded, while Palestinians, vastly underrepresented in the U.S., were forever scolded or ridiculed...”

The librettist, Alice Goodman, has asserted that “Israel is not exempt from the problem I have with romantic nationalism. If it's an evil, it's an evil all over the world.”

As the daughters of Leon Klinghoffer recently wrote, “Our 69-year-old father was singled out and killed by Palestinian terrorists on his wedding anniversary cruise in 1985 solely because he was Jewish. His memory is trivialized in an opera that rationalizes terrorism and tries to find moral equivalence between the murderers and the murdered.”

Harris concluded: “As New Yorkers, we are both puzzled and upset by the Met’s decision. That said, we call upon all who are planning to protest the Klinghoffer opera to do so with civility, so that the focus of public criticism may remain, as it should, on the opera's totally inappropriate and insensitive messages.”



Follow @AJCGlobal on Twitter for the latest updates from the AJC Diplomatic Marathon

September 18, 2014 – New York – For the 24th consecutive year, AJC is engaging in substantive private meetings with the leaders of more than 70 countries, from every continent, attending the opening of the UN General Assembly. The session officially begins on September 23.

“The annual UN General Assembly session is a unique opportunity to have, in a very concentrated period, timely conversations with presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers about pressing issues of mutual concern,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Our meetings build upon long-term relationships, an integral component of AJC’s traditonal approach to international diplomacy.”

On the AJC agenda for diplomatic meetings this year are: the ominous threat of Iran achieving nuclear-weapons capability; the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge and Israeli-Palestinian peace process, emphasizing that only a negotiated settlement will ensure a lasting peace; and the continuing rise in global anti-Semitism.

AJC, the premier global Jewish advocacy organization, with headquarters near the UN in New York City, maintains regional offices across the United States, including major cities with diplomatic corps, and nine offices overseas.

“These meetings constitute a highlight of our year-round diplomatic activity because so many leaders are in New York,” added Harris, who returned to New York last week after a three-day visit to Kiev, followed by meetings in Jerusalem.

The annual AJC “diplomatic marathon” has been a hallmark of AJC’s global advocacy since 1991, when AJC launched the program, a first in the Jewish community.



September 18, 2014 -- New York -- AJC is supporting IsraAID, a leading Israeli non-governmental relief organization, in delivering urgent humanitarian aid to beleaguered Christian and Yazidi refugees who have fled to Iraq’s Kurdish region.

“As American Jews, we are proud to assist, together with our Israeli partner, IsraAID, in offering relief to the thousands of Christian and Yazidi refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIS and seeking shelter among Iraqi Kurds,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. The AJC funds will cover expenses associated with the distribution of hygiene kits, mattresses, blankets, kitchen utensils, and clothing.

With help from AJC's Heilbrunn Humanitarian Fund, AJC has partnered with IsraAID humanitarian relief missions in a number of crises, including Sri Lanka after the unprecedented South Asian tsunami in 2004; Peru following a devastating earthquake in 2007; the Philippines after a deadly tropical storm in 2009; Haiti following the massive earthquake in 2010; the Philippines in 2013 after a typhoon; Bulgaria for Syrian refugees who sought a safe haven in the country in 2013; and, earlier this year, in Bosnia-Herzegovina following massive flooding.

 



September 18, 2014 -- New York -- AJC praised Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for delivering a powerful and impassioned address today to a joint session of the United States Congress. “In Ukraine you don’t build a democracy; it already exists. You just defend it,” declared Poroshenko.

“How symbolic is the unity of the United States Congress and solidarity with Ukraine! This is exactly what Ukraine now needs most,” said Poroshenko. “I urge you not to let Ukraine stand alone... Democracies must support each other...otherwise they will be eliminated one by one.”

AJC Executive Director David Harris, who visited Kiev and met with senior Ukrainian government officials last week, said, “The very presence of President Poroshenko addressing our legislature and then meeting President Obama in the White House sends a powerful message to the Ukrainian and American peoples that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder for democracy and freedom.”

In his address, Poroshenko asked the U.S. for “special security and defense status” because the world could be on the "eve of the new Cold War."

“Our nation decided to be free and democratic,” said Poroshenko. “Another nation decided to punish Ukraine for this. The world simply cannot allow this kind of behavior.”

Since 1991, AJC has steadfastly supported an independent Ukraine aligned with democratic values and free to chart its own destiny. In May 2014, AJC's Director of Russian Affairs, Sam Kliger, relocated to Kiev to serve as AJC's representative in Ukraine.



September 17, 2014 -- New York -- AJC called on Bolivian President Evo Morales to urgently take concrete measures to counter the rise in anti-Semitism, some of it violent, in the South American country.

“President Morales’ hostility towards Israel has encouraged regular attacks against the country’s Jewish population in the media and violent attacks on Jewish institutions,” said Dina Siegel Vann, AJC Director of Latino and Latin American Affairs. “This is a very dangerous trend that only the government can and should vigorously turn back and end.”

In Cochabamba in Central Bolivia, the main Jewish cemetery was damaged in a dynamite attack last Saturday. The synagogue in that city has been attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails in April and again in July.

Ricardo Udler, president of the Jewish Community of Bolivia, has called on the government to fully investigate the latest incidents of anti-Semitism. “If these attacks continue to increase we are going to have problems to regret,” said Udler. “Now is the time to open the doors to ensure that this does not get out of hand and leave us lamenting the consequences.”

Morales severed diplomatic ties with Israel in January 2009, calling Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “a genocide,” and during the most recent Israel-Hamas war Morales called Israel “a terrorist state.” In another slight against Israel, the president also renounced a 1972 Bolivian-Israeli treaty that had exempted Israeli tourists from any visa requirements.



September 16, 2014 – New York – AJC applauds the simultaneous ratification by the European and Ukrainian Parliaments today of an association agreement that will bring Ukraine economically closer to the West and could set the stage for eventual EU membership.

“We salute Ukraine’s leadership for standing firm amidst current challenges in pursuing this long-sought pact with the EU,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who was in Kiev last week with a senior AJC leadership delegation, including AJC President Stanley Bergman. “Ratification of the association agreement is a major step forward in realizing Ukraine’s clearly-expressed aspirations for an ever closer association with the EU.”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine "has embarked on the European path and nobody will dare to shut the door to EU membership for Ukraine."

The AJC delegation met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, top representatives of the National Security Services, and the American, German, and Israeli ambassadors to Ukraine. It was the third AJC leadership visit to Kiev in the last six months alone.

“It is critically important that the world, particularly the U.S. and EU, continue to support Ukrainian independence and territorial integrity,” said Harris. “This is truly a defining moment in global affairs, and the most recent step taken by the EU should be viewed in that context.”

Since 1991, AJC has steadfastly supported an independent Ukraine aligned with democratic values and free to chart its own destiny. In May 2014, AJC's Director of Russian Affairs, Sam Kliger, relocated to Kiev to serve as AJC's representative in Ukraine.



September 12, 2014 -- Jerusalem -- A senior AJC leadership delegation just completed a two-day mission to Israel.

The group visited both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where they met with, among others, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin; Former President and Nobel Laureate Shimon Peres; Justice Minister Tzipi Livni; Chief of General Staff of the IDF Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz; Deputy (and Acting) Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzachi Hanegbi; Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat; the Ambassadors of the U.S., Greece, Italy, South Africa, and Spain; and IDF officers and soldiers.

The 17-member delegation, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Director David Harris, included Rick Berkman, Chair of the AJC National Board of Governors; John Shapiro, Chair of the AJC Board of Trustees; Matthew Bronfman, Chair of AJC Jerusalem; Harriet Schleifer, Chair of AJC's Project Interchange; and Avital Leibovich, who was named earlier this year as the Director of AJC Jerusalem.

"We came to Israel to express our solidarity with, and support for, this remarkable beacon of democracy, at a time of dramatic developments in the Middle East," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "We leave better informed, still more inspired, and greatly energized by the will, creativity, courage, and resourcefulness of this vibrant and dynamic country."

During the visit, several topics were addressed, including: the ongoing threat posed by Iran's nuclear program and the diplomatic negotiations of the P5+1 with Tehran; the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza; the impact on the region of ISIS; prospects for resuming peace talks with the Palestinian Authority; and Israel's ties with the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and other parts of the world.

AJC was the first American Jewish organization, more than a half-century ago, to establish a permanent presence in Israel. Housed in Beit Moses, AJC Jerusalem regularly engages with Israeli government officials and society, as well as diplomatic representatives of scores of foreign countries.



September 11, 2014 -- New York -- AJC welcomes adoption by the Greek Parliament of a new law to combat and penalize acts of racism and Holocaust denial.

“This legislation is an important step for strengthening Greek society, as the nation confronts extremists who promote hate and untruths, which can be accompanied by intimidation and the threat of violence,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

The bill, an initiative of Prime Minister Samaras to update a 1979 law, was under debate for more than a year. It passed by a vote of 55-44.

The law increases prison sentences to three years, and fines of $26,000, for “inciting acts of discrimination, hatred or violence” over race, religion or disability. Those denying or praising the Holocaust, genocide and war crimes against humanity will face similar punishment.

AJC and its partner organization, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), have long supported the adoption of anti-racism legislation. Prime Minister Samaras, addressing AJC in New York a year ago this month, spoke passionately about the need to use enhanced legal tools to combat the scourge of racism in his country.



September 11, 2014 -- Paris -- AJC France warned today that the dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents this year demands urgent attention and action.

A new report from the Jewish Community Protection Service (SPCJ) and the French Minister of Interior shows a 91 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents, 527 in total, from January 1 to July 31, compared with the same period last year when 276 were reported. Many of the incidents were acts of violence, up 126 percent over 2013.

“This is a chilling report,” said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Director of AJC France. “2014 could be even worse than the record year of 2012 regarding anti-Semitic acts.” In May 2012, three children and a teacher were murdered at a Jewish school in Toulouse, and anti-Semitic incidents rose sharply after that terror attack.

According to the SPCJ, anti-Semitism peaked this year in January, when controversy erupted over comedian Dieudonné’s remarks regarding Jews and the “Day of Anger,” and again in July during the anti-Israel demonstrations in and around Paris.

“All French citizens of goodwill must stand together to eradicate this cancer, which is not the problem of one minority but a challenge to our society as a whole,” said Rodan-Benzaquen. “We call on the French government and civil society to work together to complete a thorough analysis and to develop concrete initiatives to prevent anti-Semitism.”

In July, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: “The fight against anti-Semitism is not the problem of Jews, it is the problem of the Republic, of all of France…. It is a national concern.”

The French office of AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, works closely with authorities, Jewish community and civil society organizations on combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and racism.



September 9, 2014 -- Kiev -- An AJC senior leadership delegation has concluded a three-day visit to Ukraine's capital.

The group, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Director David Harris, and including several members of the AJC Board of Governors, met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, top representatives of the National Security Services, and the American, German, and Israeli ambassadors to Ukraine.

“We visited Ukraine to express our solidarity with the Ukrainian people, as well as our strong support for their clearly-expressed aspirations for an ever closer association with the EU and the transatlantic community,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

During the visit, the delegation discussed the conflict in eastern Ukraine and its regional implications, the state of the Jewish community, and recent developments in Ukrainian-U.S., Ukrainian-EU, and Ukrainian-Israeli relations.

“We commend the Ukrainian government's determination and courage in recent months, especially in light of the daunting challenges facing the country,” said Harris. “It is critically important that the world, particularly the U.S. and EU, continue to support Ukrainian independence and territorial integrity. This is truly a defining moment in global affairs.”

The trip also included meetings with Ukrainian Jewish leaders, with whom AJC has long maintained close, cooperative ties. The visit was the third such mission in the past six months alone.

Since 1991, AJC has staunchly supported an independent Ukraine aligned with democratic values and free to chart its own destiny. In May 2014, AJC's Director of Russian Affairs, Sam Kliger, relocated to Kiev to serve as AJC's representative in Ukraine.



September 8, 2014 -- Chisinau, Moldova -- AJC, the premier global Jewish advocacy organization, signed an association agreement today with the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova.

“Today's AJC visit is a remarkable event--not just for the Jewish community, but for Moldova in general,” said Alexandr Bilinkis, President of the Moldova Jewish community.

The signing took place at the end of a visit to Moldova's capital, which also included fruitful meetings with Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca, President of the Parliament Igor Corman, and U.S. Ambassador to Moldova William Moser. Topics discussed included: Moldova's desire to strengthen its relationship with Europe and the United States, as well as Israel, and the complex regional picture, in light of challenges in neighboring Ukraine and the frozen conflict in Transnistria, which historically has been part of Moldova.

The leadership delegation, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Director David Harris, also included a ceremony at the memorial for the brutal 1903 and 1905 pogroms in the city, then known as Kishinev.

“The growing network of cooperative links with Jewish communities around the world is a hallmark of AJC’s commitment to the interconnectedness of the Jewish people,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“We attach particular importance to this partnership, as AJC traces our very founding to the pogroms here,” Harris added. Following reports of deadly violence, a group of American Jews came together and founded AJC in 1906, with the goal of using advocacy to secure the well-being of Jews around the world.

With this new partnership, AJC has now signed 32 association agreements with Jewish communities and student groups around the world.



August 25, 2014 – Berlin – In a major interview with the influential German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, AJC Executive Director David Harris presents his perspectives on Gerrmany’s international role.

“Germany today is the undisputed leader of Europe, and also one of the leading powers on a global scale,” says Harris. The interview appeared in Monday’s edition of the paper.

In the interview, Harris also discusses the Middle East. “For Germany, there is a danger coming from hundreds of jihadists when they return to Germany from their battlefield experience in Syria and Iraq,” says Harris. ISIS and other jihadists groups cannot be considered “just American issues.”

Moreover, Harris encourages Germany’s continued leadership among European nations in supporting Israel. “For Germany, and for Europe in general, what’s most important for a successful peace process is to focus on the day after a peace deal, in terms of how to assure Israel’s security.”

“I don’t want people in Europe superimposing their idealized and romanticized visions of Europe onto the Middle East,” says Harris. Given Germany’s history and sensitivity to Israel’s reality, it “must be the one helping others to understand that no nation wishes for peace more than Israel,” but that Israel’s security situation is vastly different than that of European countries.

Harris, the son of Holocaust survivors, acknowledges that many in Germany, as well as in the U.S. Jewish community, may find his call for German leadership somewhat suprising.

“Seventy years after the war, Germany has evolved and matured in ways that I’m not sure all Germans fully appreciate,” says Harris. “Today, Germany is regarded as a moral authority, as a nation of moral leadership. With leadership comes responsibility.”

The full interview, in both English and German, is available at www.ajc.org.



August 7, 2014 – New York – AJC is calling on world leaders to urgently focus on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq, due to the advances of the ISIS terrorist organization, which aims to wipe out any population it deems heretical.

“ISIS barbarity is now a top threat to security and stability in the Middle East,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq are on the run, seeking refuge from ISIS forces who do not hesitate to use brutal violence against anyone who does not succumb to their extremist ideology.”

This week alone, some 50,000 Yazidis fled to a mountaintop in Sinjar, and tens of thousands more have fled the area. The ISIS calls the Yazidis “devil worshippers” and has vowed to kill them.

In addition to the besieged Yazidis, Iraqi Christians have been fleeing in droves from their ancestral homes and communities in Mosul, a major city seized by ISIS last month, and now from Nineveh, a center for Iraqi Christians captured by ISIS earlier this week.

ISIS has seized large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, controls parts of the border, and now also poses a serious threat to the Kurdish area of Iraq.

“International condemnation and concrete actions are needed urgently to stem the wave of ISIS mayhem and destruction,” said Harris.



August 3, 2014 -- New York -- AJC is urging Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his government to end immediately their incendiary statements against Israel, which have led to attacks on the Jewish community.

The climate of fear experienced by Venezuela's Jewish community over the past decade has been heightened still further since the Hamas-triggered war with Israel erupted a month ago.

“President Maduro is playing with fire and, if left unchecked, his incitement of state-sanctioned hatred against Jewish citizens could easily ignite with profoundly tragic consequences,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Ensuring the safety and security of Venezuela's Jewish citizens should be a government priority, but President Maduro seems intent on outdoing the hostility towards Israel of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, and that's saying a lot."

AJC has expressed concerns in the past about the government’s nurturing of a climate of hatred. Over the past few weeks alone, the Jewish community has been subjected to attacks and intimidation from government officials and the media.

Maduro has publicly accused Israel of pursuing "a war of extermination against the Palestinian people," and has compared Gaza to Auschwitz.

"In Israel, there's a smell of sulphur, the devil is there,” added Diosdado Cabello, President of the National Assembly.

Social media is full of vitriol against Jews, notably this chilling Twitter message: “A deputy of the government's party PSUV is organizing armed militias to attack THE Jewish community that lives in OUR Venezuela. They will attack synagogues and Jewish businesses.”

In the Caracas subway, this threat was scrawled: "Protect the Homeland… kill a Jew.”

And the website of the Jewish newspaper, Mundo Israelita, was hacked on Shabbat, July 26, by vandals who left a hateful anti-Israel message.

“We call on those throughout Latin America who value democratic values, human rights and a culture of inclusiveness to denounce the dangerous manipulation of the Gaza crisis for political gains,” said Harris. "This is not a time for silence.”

In 2004 and again in 2007, Venezuelan police raided the Hebraica, the Caracas complex housing the Jewish community center and school. In 2009, a Caracas synagogue was seriously damaged in a brazen attack.

“Ultimately, the Venezuela government will be held responsible for fostering this climate of hatred and its consequences,” said Harris, who, together with AJC lay and staff colleagues, has visited Caracas several times to show solidarity with the Jewish community.



August 1, 2014 – New York – AJC expresses its heartfelt appreciation to the United States Congress for approving additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Today, the Senate unanimously and the House by a vote of 395-8 passed the measure, providing an additional $225 million for Iron Dome.

“Iron Dome has been a genuine life-saver for Israelis enduring round-the- clock barrages of Hamas rockets and missiles from Gaza,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Thankfully, Congress, in the spirit of its long support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, recognizes the essence of the ruthless Hamas threat to Israelis of all ages. And Israel’s experience with this system will also no doubt prove invaluable to the U.S. and other democratic countries that may face the threat of violence from both state and non-state actors.”

Because of Iron Dome, a high percentage of Hamas rockets and missiles launched at Israeli towns and cities have been intercepted, resulting in the saving of countless lives. The anti-missile system was developed in Israel with important financial support from the U.S.



July 2014 – An AJC Asia Pacific Institute (API) leadership delegation just returned from Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The delegation, led by API Chairman Gary Jacobs and API Director Shira Loewenberg, met with senior members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, civil society representatives and journalists. The delegation also met with top businesspeople as well as experts from several Asian think tanks.

Principal topics discussed during the mission included: U.S. relations, regional political and strategic developments, and growing ties with Israel and the U.S.



July 30, 2014 – New York – AJC is urging several Latin American countries to reconsider their decision to recall their ambassadors from Israel.

“There simply is no rational reason for such a punitive action against the only truly democratic nation in the Middle East,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

El Salvador today joined with Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, which in recent days withdrew their ambassadors to protest Israel’s response to Hamas.

The recalls came as Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela convened in Caracas for the Mercosur summit, which brought together the trade bloc’s official and associate members.

Four of the Mercosur official members issued today a joint statement singling out Israel for criticism, while astonishingly not even mentioning Hamas. Paraguay did not join in the statement.

“What would any of these Latin American countries do if their citizens were subjected to the kind of sustained rocket and missile attacks, and terrorist infiltrations via tunnels, that more than half of Israel’s population has been forced to endure from Hamas-controlled Gaza?” Harris asked. “Recalling ambassadors will not end Hamas’ terrorist actions, and for certain will not advance the cause of peace. To the contrary, it will only complicate still further the quest for a durable peace agreement.”

"Moreover," Harris noted, "the notion that Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay would issue a joint statement with Venezuela voicing concern about human rights anywhere would be laughable, if it weren't so terribly tragic. Caracas has been one of the main defenders of Syrian President Assad, who is responsible for some 170,000 deaths and millions of refugees, and is a staunch ally of Iran, the principal state sponsor of terrorism in the world, including at least two deadly attacks in Argentina in 1992 and 1994. Shame!"



July 28, 2014 – New York – AJC is appalled by the anti-Semitic, threatening op-ed that renowned Spanish writer Antonio Gala wrote in El Mundo.

“Shame on Antonio Gala and shame on El Mundo for publishing his anti-Semitic screed,” said Dina Siegal Vann, Director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute.

In his op-ed, Gala cites the current war in between Israel and Hamas in Gaza as justification for the expulsion of Jews from Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries.

“The Jewish People could have done much good for mankind” but “it is a thought they were not made to coexist,” writes Gala.

“It’s not strange that they have been so frequently expelled,” Gala continues. "What is surprising is that they persist….Now you have to suffer their abuses in Gaza.”

The Jewish community of Madrid, which is a member of Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FICE), has vowed to file a complaint against Gala for violating a Spanish law prohibiting anti-Semitic hate speech. FICE is an international partner of AJC.

“AJC wholeheartedly supports the Spanish Jewish community as they are forced to confront this muck,” said Siegel Vann. “In the current environment across Europe, Gala’s scurrilous invectives are not only hurtful, but are downright dangerous.”



July 23, 2014 – New York – AJC is dismayed by the adoption of a UN Human Rights Council resolution that sharply criticizes Israel, while totally absolving Hamas of any role or responsibility in the current conflict.

The vote took place in Geneva today. The resolution was adopted with 29 nations voting in favor, the United States opposed, and 17 countries, primarily from Europe and Africa, abstaining.

“For anyone interested in knowing what’s wrong with the UN’s preeminent human rights watchdog, today’s vote is the perfect illustration,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“Because of the ‘automatic majority,’ Israel can’t get a fair hearing,” Harris continued. “Instead, Israel is held responsible for a conflict solely triggered by Hamas. That Hamas is a terrorist group that fires hundreds, if not thousands, of deadly missiles into Israel, that it seeks Israel’s annihilation, and that it uses its civilian population as human shields are all deemed immaterial. Shame on the UN Human Rights Council! Bravo to the United States for standing up for principle and integrity.”

The resolution describes Israel as the “occupying power,” though Israel left Gaza in 2005 and gave local residents their first chance in history – something no other nation had ever done – to chart their own destiny. It also calls for establishing a “commission of inquiry,” reminiscent of the ill-fated and one-sided Goldstone Commission created after the Israel-Hamas war in 2008-9, whose report was eventually repudiated in large part by Judge Richard Goldstone himself.

“Fact: The UN Human Rights Council has focused more on Israel than any other nation on earth,” Harris added. “Fact: The UN Human Rights Council has blithely ignored egregious human rights violations in those parts of the world that don’t suit the interests of the ‘automatic majority.’ Fact: The UN Human Rights Council discredits itself by this selective and skewed focus. And fact: The UN Human Rights Council has set back the cause of Arab-Israeli peace by empowering Hamas, an avowedly terrorist group.”



July 22, 2014 – New York – For the third time AJC has filed an amicus brief in support of a Jerusalem family seeking to list Israel as their son’s place of birth in his U.S. passport. The case, Zivotofsky v. the Secretary of State, will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the fall.

“The central issue is whether Congress or the President has a role to play in recognition of foreign governments and who has the constitutional prerogative to determine rules on issuing passports,” said AJC General Counsel Marc D. Stern. “The historical record is crystal clear that Congress has an important role to play in determining America’s decision on recognition of foreign governments and in setting passport policy.

The AJC brief details the history of U.S. law governing passports and recognizing foreign governments. “From the ratification of the Constitution through the present, Congress has consistently exercised legislative authority over recognition and passports, and the President has carried out its directives,” states AJC.

In an earlier decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeals needed to decide whether the President must follow a congressional directive to list “Israel” in the passports of Americans born in Jerusalem. The Appellate Court then decided that only the President has the constitutional authority to make that decision. The Supreme Court this past spring decided to review that ruling.

The provision at issue is Section 214(d) of the 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, legislation supported by AJC. The measure states that when a U.S. citizen is born in Jerusalem, “the Secretary [of State] shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.”

Based on that legislation, after their son Menachem was born in Jerusalem nine years ago, the Zivotofskys were surprised when the State Department turned down their request to list “Israel” as the country of birth in his passport.

“Congress has deliberated and has concluded that United States citizens born in Jerusalem should be permitted to identify their place of birth as Israel,” concludes the AJC brief. “The President may disagree with that decision, but it falls squarely within long-recognized areas of congressional authority, and infringes no plenary zone of executive authority.”

President George W. Bush, shortly after signing the law, directed the State Department not to enforce it, asserting that the Executive Branch determines relations with foreign countries, and this stance has continued under President Obama.

“An American passport, not the current and future status of Jerusalem, is the core issue in the Zivotofsky case,” said Stern. “There is no question that Section 214(d) is constitutional and should be upheld by the Supreme Court.”

The AJC brief was prepared by Gregory E. Ostfeld of the law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP.



July 22, 2014 -- New York -- AJC welcomed today’s powerful statement on European anti-Semitism by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy.

“At a time when ‘Death to the Jews’ chants can be heard at public gatherings in European capitals, allegedly in protests against Israel, the bold, timely and unambiguous words of the three foreign ministers send a strong message that should be embraced by all EU member states,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Now the challenge will be to translate the clear words into equally clear actions. Threats to Europe's Jews threaten Europe's core values and very future."

"Anti-Semitic agitation and hostility against Jews, attacks against people of Jewish faith and against synagogues have no place in our societies,” declared Ministers Laurent Fabius of France, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, and Frederica Mogherini of Italy.

The three foreign ministers denounced “the ugly anti-Semitic statements, demonstrations and attacks of the last few days,” and stressed that “nothing, including the dramatic military confrontation in Gaza, justifies such actions in Europe.”

Recognizing that anti-Semitism threatens not only Jews but the very fabric of European societies, the ministers vowed to use “all legal measures available to constitutional democracies when the threshold to anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia is crossed.”

“Together and in our individual countries, we will do everything to ensure that our citizens can continue to live safely and peacefully and free from anti-Semitic hostility,” the ministers concluded.

AJC offices in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Rome have been in frequent contact with French, German, Italian and EU officials regarding the surge of anti-Semitism in several European countries.



July 21, 2014 – Brussels -- AJC calls on the European Union to convene an extraordinary meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers to address the wave of violence against Jews across Europe.

“From Berlin to Paris, from London to Brussels, we are once again hearing the blood-curdling screams of ‘Death to the Jews’,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has been cited by ten European countries for his work in human rights. “Ministers responsible for security and combating anti-Semitism should meet urgently to deal with this poisonous hatred that threatens not only Jews, but the very societies that comprise the EU.”

Moreover, Harris called on the 28 EU foreign ministers, who are slated to meet in Brussels tomorrow, to “unequivocally and unanimously condemn the targeting of Jews in the streets of Europe.”

Most manifestations of anti-Semitic hatred have been taking place at so-called pro-Palestinian rallies. “Jews are physically attacked in broad daylight and Jewish houses of worship and property are firebombed ostensibly out of ‘solidarity’ with Gaza,” Harris said. “Now is the moment for all European governments to speak up, as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls did. Speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup of Jews ahead of their deportation from Paris in 1944 to Nazi death camps, Valls condemned recent anti-Semitic violence that occurred during protests in France against Israel.

“Traditional anti-Semitism, this old disease of Europe,” said Valls, “is joined by a new anti-Semitism that cannot be denied or concealed, that we must face. It happens on the social networks and in workers’ neighborhoods, among ignorant young men who hide their hatred of Jews behind a façade of anti-Zionism or hatred of the State of Israel.”

Harris pointed out that the recent spate of assaults on Jews is not an isolated phenomenon. Rather, it comes on the heels of the horrific attacks in Toulouse, which left four Jews dead in 2012, and the murder in May of four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels by a French-born Jihadi. The new attacks provide further evidence of the already documented steady rise in anti-Semitic incidents in a number of European countries over the past few years.



July 21, 2014 – New York – AJC announced today two grants to communities in southern Israel that have endured many of the Hamas rockets and missiles. The towns, Ofakim and Netivot, are located between Beersheba and the border with Gaza.

With grants from AJC’s Heilbrunn Humanitarian Fund, Ofakim will help build a shelter attached to the G’vanim paramedical center for children, and Netivot will purchase emergency lighting, air fans and an emergency generator for the town’s public shelters.

“Israelis of all ages are in an absolutely intolerable situation, with only 15 seconds to reach a shelter for safety and security from the ceaseless, indiscriminate, round-the-clock Hamas attacks,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Given their proximity to Hamas-ruled Gaza, the beleaguered citizens of Ofakim and Netivot need to have the best possible shelters.”

Earlier this month, following a long tradition of support for Israel's emergency needs, AJC made a grant to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon to purchase equipment for its urgent care facilities.



July 21, 2014 – Panama City – An AJC leadership delegation has concluded a two-day visit to Panama.

The trip was highlighted by a 90-minute private meeting with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela. During the discussion, President Varela, who assumed his current post on July 1, expressed his strong support for Israel's right to defend itself in the current conflict with Hamas. The President also expressed his hopes that bilateral relations with Israel will continue to strengthen over his five-year term, adding that he felt optimistic about Panama's future as a global crossroads for trade and commerce.

The AJC delegation also met with Minister of Interior and Justice Milton Henriquez, Mayor of Panama City José Isabel Blandón, and the U.S. and Israeli ambassadors to Panama.

"We visited Panama to express our appreciation for Panama's long history of support for Israel, and to express our hope that the strong bilateral relationship will continue well into the future," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who first visited Panama in 1989, immediately after the U.S. invasion. "We also continued to emphasize the importance of vibrant U.S.-Panamanian relations," Harris added.

The AJC delegation also included the Chair, Tom Kahn, and Director, Dina Siegel Vann, of AJC's Latino and Latin American Institute, leaders of the Jewish communities in El Salvador and Costa Rica, and AJC lay leaders from New York and Houston. Several prominent members of the Jewish Community of Panama accompanied the group.

"For 25 years, AJC has been the most persistently supportive global Jewish organization of our community," said Isaac Btesh, President of the Central Committee of the Hebrew Community of Panama.

AJC formalized ties with the Central Committee when an association agreement was signed during a solidarity mission in 2010. At that time, 20 senior AJC leaders traveled to Panama.

AJC has long maintained relations with Panamanian diplomats in the U.S. and Europe, and through regular consultations among Latin American Jewish communities organized by AJC's Latino and Latin American Institute.



July 20, 2014—Paris—AJC praised French Prime Minister Manuel Valls today for his forthright denunciation of a pro-Palestinian rally in Paris—conducted in defiance of a government ban—that turned violent and anti-Semitic.

He spoke on the anniversary of the notorious Vel d’Hiv roundup of French Jews in 1942 for deportation to the Auschwitz death camp. Prime Minister Valls declared that calls for “Death to the Jews,” heard yesterday at the pro-Palestinian gathering, clearly demonstrate the wisdom of the government’s move to seek to block such gatherings. That decision was taken after synagogues, with many Jews inside, were attacked last weekend.

The prime minster said: “The fight against anti-Semitism is not the problem of Jews, it is the problem of the Republic, of all of France…. It is a national concern.” At a time when rising anti-Semitism is causing many Jews to consider leaving France, the prime minister asked them “to have trust in their country.”

Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC France, said: “Prime Minister Valls clearly understands that what we are seeing today is not simply the importation of the Israel-Palestinian conflict into the streets of Paris, but rather the exploitation of the Gaza situation by a small group of Jew-haters to unleash raw, unadulterated anti-Semitism.”

“How sadly ironic,” she added, “that on the anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Vichy France to Nazi death camps, the French leader needed to speak not only of the tragic past, but also of the dangerous present.”

“His welcome, unambiguous remarks,” she concluded, “make us hopeful that the French authorities will continue to do all in their power, including considering additional urgent measures, to curb this ominous threat to France and its Jewish community, the largest in Europe.”



NEW YORK, July 19—AJC welcomed the limited extension in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran announced early today in Vienna.

“Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons capability poses profound risks to global peace and security, and must be blocked by every effective means,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “In the context of continued, and biting, financial, energy, and other targeted sanctions – and readiness, as a last resort, to take military action to prevent the preeminent state sponsor of terrorism from acquiring nuclear weaponry – a limited extension of the negotiations makes sense."

“The preferred option to relieve the Middle East and the world of the threat of Iranian nuclear capability is a diplomatic one. While we remain doubtful that Iran will relinquish its military nuclear ambitions, we recognize that the P5+1 diplomatic process has resulted in, among other things, more extensive inspections of the Iranian program, as well as the dilution of highly-enriched uranium stockpiles. Thus, it is worth continuing to pursue for a limited time.”

In the agreement announced today by the P5+1 powers – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia – and Iran, the six-month negotiating window, set to close on July 20, 2014, would remain open for an additional four months, to Nov. 24. The original P5+1 “Joint Plan of Action” with Iran provided for a possible six-month extension.

"That the extension is for only four months, not the full six months, sends Tehran an important message -- be warned that our patience is not infinite," Harris noted.

According to senior U.S. officials with whom AJC met yesterday in Washington, the existing sanctions on Iran would remain in effect throughout the four-month period, with Iran gaining access to $2.8 billion in oil revenues locked in restricted international accounts. More than $100 billion of Iranian oil assets have been frozen. The Joint Plan of Action initially freed $4.2 billion of those funds in exchange for Iran's agreement on inspections, dilution of its 20 percent stockpile of enriched uranium, and other concessions.

“It is essential that sanctions against Iran, which were adopted by Congress, successive administrations, and our international partners – and which were the reason Iran came to the bargaining table to discuss its illicit nuclear program – remain fully in place,” Harris concluded. "Iran's hope of finding a way around the sanctions, or driving a wedge in the international community regarding the issue, must not succeed."

“As talks proceed, we urge the administration to keep Congress fully informed. We, and all who recognize the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran, will be monitoring developments very closely.”



AJC sent the congratulatory letter below to Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker upon his recent election as President of the European Council.

July 16, 2014

Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker
President-elect of the European Commission
B-1049 Brussels, Belgium

President-elect Juncker:

On behalf of the American Jewish Committee, please accept my congratulations on your confirmation as the next President of the European Commission. The clear majority that voted for you in the European Parliament indicated the breadth of support for your mandate and vision to achieve a stronger and more unified Europe.

AJC stands with you in this critical effort. Our commitment to Europe is clear: founded in 1906, we have offices in Berlin, Paris, Rome and Brussels, where our Transatlantic Institute has just marked its tenth anniversary. We have long advocated NATO and EU membership for former Warsaw Pact states, encouraging them to make necessary democratic reforms. And we proudly proclaim that America’s greatest ally in the world will always be Europe.

On Tuesday, while appearing before the European Parliament, you outlined your impressive plan for tackling some of Europe’s pressing challenges. AJC commends your attention to one additional, urgent issue – the fight against anti-Semitism – that we hope you will address as a high priority early in your mandate.

Threats to the safety of European Jewish communities – and to European society in general – posed by anti-Semitism are regrettably not new, but recent events have underscored the growing severity of the danger. Brussels was brought to a standstill a few weeks ago by the horrific shooting at the Jewish Museum, which left four persons dead. Violent and hateful protests targeting Jewish communities took place over the weekend in a number of European capitals, including a firebomb attack on a synagogue near Paris. And on a political level, neo-Nazis from three member states now sit in the very legislature that just confirmed you as President.

The time has come for attention and action at the highest levels. It is our hope that, as President, you will play a central role in raising the European voice against anti-Semitism. We urge you to state clearly and forcefully that anti-Semitism is our common enemy – that it is an existential threat to Europe, a negation of the common and shared values of this noble Union.

AJC recognizes that this scourge will not be vanquished easily. But please know that, with our offices and historic ties across Europe, AJC will stand with you as a partner in this effort. To further introduce ourselves and discuss this and other common concerns, we hope to have the opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience; our colleagues in Brussels will follow up with your staff.

With the assurance of my profound esteem and best wishes, and my appreciation of your consideration of AJC’s views on this critical matter, I remain,

Respectfully,


David Harris
AJC Executive Director
Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director



July 16, 2014 – Jerusalem – Eighteen American Christian leaders from across the United States, representing diverse religious institutions, have begun studying Judaism in the 13-month Christian Leadership Initiative (CLI) in Israel this week. The intensive educational program, co-sponsored by AJC and the Shalom Hartman Institute (SHI) is taught by world-class SHI faculty.

“CLI provides open space for Christian leaders and scholars to experience and study Judaism and Israel from a Jewish perspective,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. “Interreligious understanding is deepened when Christian influentials engage in Jewish learning in ways that enable them to better understand Jewish texts and traditions.”

“The experience of Christian and Jewish scholars studying texts together is transformational.  SHI faculty look forward to welcoming the CLI group every year, because as we teach them, we are pushed to consider deeper questions and different perspectives,” said Dr. Marcie Lenk, Shalom Hartman Institute Co-Director of New Paths: Christians Engaging Israel.

The theme of the opening seminar (July 15 -24), “God and Judaism,” introduces the multifaceted approaches of Jewish doctrine, spirituality, and theology. After returning to the U.S at the end of July, CLI fellows will engage in monthly distance-learning sessions. They will return to Jerusalem in July 2015 for the concluding seminar on Jewish community. With generous support from the Allen H. and Selma W. Berkman Charitable Trust, CLI has been advancing professional development for top leadership of Christian seminaries, denominations, and theological schools since 2008. To date, 41 leaders, representing the full spectrum of Christian denominations in the U.S., have participated in CLI and maintain the connection with peers, faculty, and the institutions through alumni programming.

Fellows in the 2014-2015 CLI cohort are:

Dr. Bogdan G. Bucur, Associate Professor, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA

Rev. Dr. Gay L. Byron, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of New Testament, Howard University School of Divinity, Washington, DC

Dr. Michael J. Chan, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN

Dr. Andrew R. Davis, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Chestnut Hill, MA

Rev. Dr. Katie Day, The Charles A. Scheiren Professor, Church and Society, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, PA

The Rev. Laura Everett, Executive Director, Massachusetts Council of Churches

Rev. Dr. David Garber, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, GA

Dr. Tommy Givens, Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA

Rev. Dr. Wallace S. Hartsfield, II, Professor, Fred. E. Young Chair of Hebrew Bible, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, MO

Dr. Sally Holt, Professor of Religion, Belmont University, Nashville, TN

The Rev. Dr. Christine Hong, Associate for Theology/Interfaith, Presbyterian Mission Agency, PCUSA, Louisville, KY

The Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson, Executive Director, The Ministers Council – American Baptist Church USA, Valley Forge, PA

Rev. Belva Brown Jordan, Associate Dean of Curriculum and Assessment/Associate Professor Practice of Ministry, Claremont School of Theology,  Claremont, CA

Dr. Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, Associate Professor of Church History, Seminary of the Southwest, Austin, TX

Dr. F. Javier Orozco, Executive Director of Intercultural and Interreligious Affairs, Archdiocese of St. Louis, MO

Dr. Brian Rainey, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ

The Rev. Dr. Javier A. Viera, Dean and Professor of Ecumenical and Pastoral Theology, Drew University Theological School, Madison, NJ

The Rev. Dr. Frank M. Yamada, President and Cyrus McCormick Professor of Bible and Culture, McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL

About Shalom Hartman Institute
Shalom Hartman Institute is a center of transformative thinking and teaching that addresses the major challenges facing the Jewish people and elevates the quality of Jewish life in Israel and around the world. A leader in sophisticated, ideas-based Jewish education for community leaders and change agents, the Institute is committed to the significance of Jewish ideas, the power of applied scholarship, and the conviction that great teaching contributes to the growth and continual revitalization of the Jewish people. For more information on Shalom Hartman Institute see: www.hartman.org.il or contact Laura Gilinski, Chief Development and Public Relations Officer, at laura.gilinski@shi.org.il or +972-2-567-5333.

About AJC
AJC (American Jewish Committee) is the global Jewish advocacy organization, with headquarters in New York, 22 regional offices across the United States, and 10 offices around the world, including one in Jerusalem. Founded in 1906, AJC’s mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world. Contact Kenneth Bandler at bandlerk@ajc.org

 



July 15, 2014—New York—After Israel’s Security Cabinet agreed this morning to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire, Hamas rejected it and continue to fire deadly missiles at Israel.

"If this doesn't highlight in spades the true nature of Hamas, what does?" asked AJC Executive Director David Harris. "It should by now be abundantly clear that this terrorist group isn't remotely interested in peace, compromise, and coexistence. Let's hope that all nations and people of goodwill grasp this stark, unmistakable reality."

The latest military confrontation was triggered by the Hamas kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, and a barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

“To be clear, Israel did not seek this battle, but is duty-bound to protect the lives of its civilians threatened by Hamas, whose aim, pure and simple, is Israel's annihilation,” said Harris.

"We wish to express our appreciation to the government of Egypt for its negotiating efforts, as well as to the United States for its support," Harris concluded. "We would also like to use this occasion to acknowledge those countries whose leaders have had the moral clarity to condemn the brazen Hamas assault, including Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, and the U.S. We have watched in awe as the Iron Dome missile system, created by Israeli ingenuity and vital American assistance, protects Israel's cities and town from Hamas's lethal rockets. And, above all, we applaud the determination of Israel's armed forces and civilian population alike to stand up so courageously and resolutely to the latest round of jihadist-inspired Hamas aggression."



July 14, 2014—Paris—During a large pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris yesterday, a mob of 150 to 200 people tried to force their way into a synagogue in the center of Paris. Six policemen and four Jews were hurt by demonstrators shouting, "Death to the Jews!" “Hitler was right,” “We are going to burn you," and "Jihad, jihad, jihad."

"I am profoundly shocked by what happened yesterday in broad daylight in the center of Paris. The growing number of anti-Semitic attacks in France requires the strongest possible response,” declared Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Director of AJC France. "No one should be fooled. This anti-Semitic violence is not only the consequence of what happens in the Middle East, but it is also a clear and unmistakable pretext for expressing hatred and violence against Jews. Tragically, this life-threatening anti-Semitism is gaining more ground in France.”

The SPCI (the French Jewish security office) and the Ministry of the Interior have already recorded 169 anti-Semitic acts in the first quarter of 2014, a 44 percent increase over the same period in 2013.

In a press release, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls “condemned the violence with great firmness,” declaring that “such acts against places of worship are unacceptable. They are extremely serious and will always be faced with determination by public authorities."

AJC France thanks the authorities for seeking to protect the community and condemning these despicable acts, but also calls on the government to intensify its efforts by combining a policy of zero tolerance with a comprehensive plan for the prevention of further acts of anti-Semitism.

 



July 14, 2014 – New York – AJC marks with deep sadness the 20th anniversary of the terror bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. “The target was a Jewish institution, the victims were of different faiths, and an entire country, Argentina, continues to search for justice,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute (LLAI).

Eighty-five people, Jews and non-Jews, ranging in age from five to 73, died, and another 300 were injured, when a powerful bomb leveled the AMIA building at 9:53 AM on July 18, 1994. An Argentine investigation concluded that Iran was responsible.

 AMIA is an AJC international partner, and AJC has stood at the side of the local Jewish community from the first moments of the tragedy, when an AJC group traveled to Buenos Aires, calling for justice and warning about the ongoing Iranian attempts to gain a foothold in the Western Hemisphere.

Several AJC regional offices across the U.S. will hold community memorial events on July 17 and 18.

In Miami, on July 17, AJC LLAI will host its ninth annual commemorative ceremony. Miguel Bronfman, the principal lawyer for AMIA, will deliver the keynote address, and the consuls general of Argentina and Israel in Miami will speak.

Similar commemorative events will take place in Chicago, on July 17, and in Philadelphia on July 18.

The AMIA attack was the deadliest against a Jewish target in the Diaspora in decades. In 2007, Argentine government prosecutor Alberto Nisman concluded that Iran bears direct responsibility for the attack, and Interpol has since been seeking the apprehension of five Iranian officials. In addition, there are pending investigations into the local connection and cover up of this crime which hindered the pursuit of justice.

Families of the victims and survivors are forever scarred. “My life changed forever,” says Anita Weinstein, who was inside the building that morning, preparing for the organization’s centennial celebrations that year. Weinstein and AMIA Executive Director Daniel Pomerantz addressed the AMIA tribute session at the AJC Global Forum in Washington, DC in May.

 



July 10, 2014 – New York – In response to the emergency situation facing Israel because of the Hamas rocket and missile attacks, AJC announced today a grant to the Barzilai Medical Center in Israel. With the $50,000 grant from AJC’s Israel Emergency Fund and Heilbrunn Humanitarian Fund, Barzilai will purchase an anesthesia machine for its emergency room.

“The Barzilai Medical Center team, in this critical time of an intense rockets assault from Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza, continues to demonstrate exceptional resilience, compassion and love of life – even as Israel’s enemies in Hamas-controlled Gaza glorify death,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has visited Barzilai during previous conflicts with Hamas.

Barzilai, located in Ashkelon, is the main hospital in the southern region of the country, servicing Israelis, Jews and Arabs alike, including patients from Gaza.

An AJC delegation visited Barzilai Medical Center in 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, when Israel entered Gaza to quell Hamas rockets. Following that visit, AJC provided a grant to purchase emergency medical equipment for the hospital’s trauma center.

In 2012, during a Hamas escalation of firing rockets into Israel, a substantial AJC grant enabled Barzilai to purchase a mobile X-ray apparatus and a Plasma Sterrad Sterilizer.



July 8, 2014 – New York – AJC is outraged that Udo Voigt, of the German neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), will serve on the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee. “It’s revolting enough that Voigt was elected to the European Parliament, but his assignment to this particular European Parliament committee makes a mockery of everything all democratic forces hold dear,” said Stephan Kramer, director of AJC’s European Office on Anti-Semitism. The Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee is responsible for the protection of citizen rights, human rights, and measures to combat discrimination.

“The idea of a neo-Nazi as a guardian of European human rights is sickening,” Kramer added. Voigt has long belittled the Holocaust, glorified Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, and promoted racism and xenophobia. Looking ahead to the next European Parliament elections in 2019, Kramer called for serious consideration of setting an electoral threshold for political parties vying for seats in the regional legislature. “The threshold percentage for parties entering the European Parliament should be considered just as important as the rules in place in the German Bundestag, where it is a minimum of five percent, and most other national parliaments in Europe,” said Kramer.



July 7, 2014 – New York -- AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement following news of the death today of Eduard Shevardnadze:

Eduard Shevardnadze served as foreign minister of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1990. In that five-year span, he helped change the course of history.

He was an improbable choice for foreign minister, given his weak background in foreign policy. Yet he partnered with his boss, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, to usher in an era of sweeping, previously unimaginable, change.

Their new policy led, inter alia, to the dissolution of the USSR, the unification of Germany, the new Germany’s place in NATO, the removal of Soviet troops from what had for decades been satellite states, treaties with the U.S. on nuclear weapons, support for the American-led effort to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, and the placement of human rights concerns onto the Soviet policy agenda.

With respect to the last point, when Shevardnadze took office in the Kremlin, Jewish emigration had come to a screeching halt. Within a few years, though, the doors opened and hundreds of thousands of Jews left to start new lives in Israel and elsewhere. Among them were many Prisoners of Zion and refuseniks, including Natan Sharansky, who had spent nine years in the Soviet Gulag.

On behalf of AJC, I had the privilege of meeting Shevardnadze when he was a Soviet diplomat and again later, when he was leader of independent Georgia, his native land. Thus I had the opportunity to express our heartfelt appreciation and admiration for his courage, vision, and principle in helping change the course of history.

As a child of the Cold War, I witnessed the end of that dangerous era and a new chapter of cooperation between Moscow and Washington in the 1990s. As a supporter of the struggle for Soviet Jewry, I saw, at long last, the gates open. As a friend of Israel, I marveled at the infusion into it of so many determined immigrants from the USSR. And as an admirer of the determination of post-Soviet states to chart their own democratic destinies, I cheered on Georgia’s effort.

Shevardnadze was instrumental in each of these realms. It can be said about very few people that they truly changed the course of world history, but Shevardnadze was one such person. We owe him a great deal, far more than can be conveyed in these words, as he helped pilot the Soviet Union away from 70 years of totalitarianism and occupation. May his memory always serve as a blessing and an inspiration.



July 7, 2014 – New York – AJC called on the international community to condemn the horrific Hamas onslaught against Israel, and to express solidarity with Israelis who now must be prepared to seek refuge in bomb shelters on only 15 seconds notice of incoming rockets and missiles from Gaza.

“Hamas has shown again with utmost clarity its true nature by launching hundreds of rockets and missiles, forcing Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs, to seek shelter and the Israeli government to consider all options to defend the nation,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Indeed, Hamas gleefully claims credit for the current wave of attacks, including more than 80 rockets today alone so far.”

The Hamas surge began shortly after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to extend peace talks with Israel and, instead, formed a unity government on June 2 with the unrepentant terrorist group that controls Gaza. The frequency and reach of rockets fired into Israel increased after the bodies of three Israeli teens, abducted and murdered by Hamas, were found a week ago.

“Will the U.S. and European governments that welcomed the Palestinian unity government now reconsider their position?” said Harris. “Will the international community condemn without equivocation Hamas’s relentless attacks on Israel, and express full solidarity with Israelis – men, women and children – enduring the frequent assaults?  What would other countries do in Israel’s place if attacked in this way?”

“Let’s remember that Israel completely pulled out from Gaza in 2005, transferring the entire territory to the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas violently seized it from the PA in 2007,” said Harris. “The recent unity agreement, marketed as a step forward for peace, was actually a green light for further Hamas violence and terror. Let’s remember that the Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and its replacement by a sharia-governed state.”



July 6, 2014 -- New York -- AJC commended Israeli authorities for apprehending the suspects in the brutal murder of Muhammed Abu Khieder, while expressing shock and dismay about those who perpetrated such a heinous crime against a Palestinian youth.

“That several Israelis are believed to be involved in this murder is despicable and shameful,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “By taking the life of a young Palestinian as an apparent act of revenge, they have desecrated God’s name and, at the same time, done nothing to ease the immense suffering of all those who mourn the tragic murder of the three Israeli teenagers. By seeking to take the law into their own hands, they have undermined the authority of the state. And by the very nature of their crime, if convicted, they deserve the harshest possible prison sentence. No citizen in a democratic country, and Israel laudably is just such a country, is above the law. As Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly said, Israel has the capacity and will to defend itself. It cannot and will not condone those who wish to live by the law of the jungle.”

Abu Khieder was abducted last week from the Jerusalem neighborhood where his family lives and reportedly was burned alive by his abductors. Two days earlier, the bodies of three Israeli Jews -- Naftali Fraenkal, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach -- were found, after an 18-day search, near Hebron, having been kidnapped and killed by Palestinian supporters of Hamas.



June 30, 2014 – New York – AJC is horrified by the murder of three Israeli teens, who were kidnapped on June 12. The bodies of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were found today near Hebron. Hamas operatives are suspected of abducting the three Jewish boys and killing them shortly afterwards.

“We share the anguish of the parents and families of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal, and of the entire Israeli nation,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Cowardly terrorists chose three Jewish youths, innocently hitchhiking to return home for Shabbat, to seize and mercilessly kill.”

The kidnapping and murders took place shortly after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas established a unity government with Hamas. Since the kidnapping, more than 25 rockets have been fired into Israel.

"We can only hope that all people of goodwill will stand together in unambiguous, immediate condemnation of this murder, and give further thought to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas as one of its two pillars," said Harris.



June 30, 2014 – Rome -- AJC met today with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini in Rome, on the eve of Italy's assumption of the rotating EU presidency for the next six months.

The warm, productive discussion touched on a number of topics, including transatlantic relations, a range of Middle East-related concerns, and what President Obama has identified as a "rising tide of anti-Semitism" in Europe.

The two parties also discussed the current crisis in Ukraine, as well as issues of mutual concern in the Balkans, against the backdrop of a recent AJC visit to Croatia and the Minister's particular interest in the neighboring region.

"We were delighted to have this opportunity to meet with Minister Mogherini, who could not have been more welcoming, engaged, and knowledgeable on the many pressing issues of mutual concern," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has been closely connected to Italy since first going to work there in 1975 to assist Soviet Jewish refugees in transit. "We shall look forward to other opportunities to continue the discussion and deepen the collaboration."

At the conclusion of the meeting, both sides agreed to pursue cooperation in a number of important policy areas.

AJC has maintained long-standing relations with Italy through its office in Rome, directed by Lisa Palmieri-Billig, as well as close ties with Italian diplomats posted abroad.



June 27, 2014 – New York – AJC welcomes the association agreements between the European Union (EU) and Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova as vital steps for strengthening the former Soviet republics' democratic structures and economies.

“The most populous of the three countries, Ukraine, which has frequently been in the headlines in recent months, will benefit enormously from integration with the 28-member EU,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “President Poroshenko has fulfilled an election promise to put Ukraine’s relations with the EU firmly back on track, and he will need strong U.S. and European support to stay the course.”

The association agreement with Ukraine originally was to be signed earlier this year, but pressure and interference from Moscow, along with violence in the eastern part of the country, led to its delay. “President Poroshenko has demonstrated enormous courage in withstanding the ongoing threats from Russia, which seized the Ukrainian province of Crimea and continues to foster unrest in the eastern part of the country,” said Harris.

The agreements, signed in Brussels today, serve to deepen the political and economic ties between the EU and the three countries with a long-term goal of integrating Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova into the EU’s Internal Market that allows an unhindered flow of goods, capital, and people.

AJC was the first Jewish organization to call for U.S. recognition of the rebirth of Ukrainian independence in 1991, and to support the protest movement that led to the ousting of the corrupt regime of President Yanukovich. In April, an AJC delegation met with Mr. Poroshenko in Kiev. In May, AJC hosted Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, via video, at its Global Forum in Washington, D.C.

AJC has also maintained close ties with both Georgia and Moldova, most recently highlighted by an official visit to Chisinau, Moldova's capital, earlier this month, where AJC met with the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.



June 26, 2014 – Brussels – Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras addressed an AJC Transatlantic Institute dinner last night.

While acknowledging the immense challenges facing his country since 2008, including nearly 60 percent youth unemployment, he presented a generally optimistic outlook for Greece.

He said that “extremism of all kinds has started losing steam,” and the economy is improving with the “unemployment trend reversed and increased growth,” which, in turn, will bolster the country’s democratic core.

Dismissing predictions prevalent two years ago of Greece’s impending economic demise, Samaras declared: “We proved them wrong!”

The prime minister stressed that many countries, and not just Greece, face critical challenges to their democratic societies, which must be confronted head-on.

“The fights against extremism, racism, terrorism, and stagnation” are essential to ensuring the vitality of European democracies, Samaras told the audience of more than 100 ambassadors, European Parliament members, officials of the European Union, leaders of Jewish communities, including Benjamin Albalas of Greece, and AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Council member Kim Pimley. “This is an uncompromising fight. Democracy will prevail,” said Samaras.

When Samaras addressed AJC in New York last September, he vowed to "deracinate" the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, and pledged to strengthen Greece’s laws against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Samaras, who referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his "good friend," assured the dinner audience that efforts are continuing in Greece to “enhance our laws against racism with strict references to genocide and the Holocaust.”

Passage of the law, he said, “is not only an obligation to the innocent who perished then, but also to the present and future generations, who have to remember and protect themselves from the repetition of such atrocities.”

With Greece’s term in the EU presidency ending next week, Samaras reflected on the challenges that must be confronted together by the 28 EU member states.

“This is a fight of our new united Europe against the ghosts of our past,” said Samaras. "Democracies have no tolerance for racism and extremism.”

AJC Executive Director David Harris expressed his admiration for Samaras as a "cherished and long-time 'philos' (friend), who "embodies the Greek words 'tharos' (courage), 'simbonia' (empathy for others), and 'philotimo' -- the essential elements of which, as I understand a word I'm told is largely untranslatable, are dignity and honor."

The establishment of the AJC Transatlantic Institute was made possible through the generosity and vision of Rhoda and the late Jordan Baruch.

Under the professional leadership of Daniel Schwammenthal, it celebrated its tenth anniversary in February, when 50 AJC leaders, joined by European, American and Israeli officials, attended a multi-day gathering in Brussels.



June 25, 2014 -- Zagreb -- An AJC leadership delegation has concluded a two-day visit to Zagreb, Croatia.

The eight-member group, which included AJC President Stanley Bergman, met with Croatian President Ivo Josipović; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Ranko Ostojić; Minister of Justice Orsat Miljenić; Assistant Foreign Minister Dubravka Plejić Marković; U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Kenneth Merten; and Israeli Charge d'affaires Michal Hershkovitz. The delegation also met with leaders from the Jewish Community of Zagreb and Bet Israel Zagreb.

"We visited Zagreb to express our friendship and our support for deepening ties among Croatia, the U.S., and Israel," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

"As the EU's newest member, Croatia has become an increasingly important player on the regional and international stages," he added. "Moreover, its immediate neighborhood presents both opportunities and challenges that have profound implications not only for the country itself, but also for Europe as a whole, the U.S., and beyond. And it is apparent to us that Croatia and Israel, which enjoy close links, have the potential to deepen and widen their relations still further."

During their visit, the delegation thanked President Josipović personally for the powerful address he delivered in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in which he declared: "The Ustasha (pro-Nazi puppet regime in wartime Croatia) brutality was terrible, their crimes abominable. We do know this, but knowing is not enough... Here I am, standing before the Parliament of the Jewish State, and more important, before the children of Croatia, and with no ambiguity, I apologize, and I ask Holocaust survivors’, your and all the victims’ forgiveness."

The delegation also had an extensive discussion with the President and other officials on U.S.-Croatian ties and the transatlantic partnership, regional security developments, the Middle East, and Jewish communal property restitution.

AJC has long maintained frequent links with Croatian diplomats in both the U.S. and Europe. Most recently, Harris met with Croatian Ambassador to the U.S. Josip Paro in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.



June 25, 2014 – Warsaw – Polish, American, and Israeli government officials joined AJC leadership, including AJC President Stanley Bergman, in Belzec today to mark the tenth anniversary of the memorial and museum erected at the site of the Nazi death camp in southeastern Poland.

“Belzec is a stark lesson that we must never suffer from a failure of imagination about man's capacity for evil,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

In 1942, during a nine-month period, an estimated 500,000 Jews perished at Belzec. The Nazis, occupying Poland, then made every effort to eliminate any trace of the death camp, its gas chambers, and 33 mass graves filled with the crushed bodies of murdered Jews.

When the Germans left, they planted trees on the site in an attempt to hide their crime. For decades, the place was open to people and animals passing through it and atop the makeshift graves. Only a small memorial marker erected in Communist times gave any indication of what took place there.

Until AJC and the restored democratic government of Poland collaborated on a massive, multi-year project to preserve the 15 acres of killing fields, they were completely unprotected. All decisions and costs of the memorial were shared equally by AJC and Polish authorities, itself a reflection of the common commitment to Holocaust memory.

“The site where nearly 2,000 women, men, and children were killed daily – was demarcated, protected, and memorialized, with a museum added to educate future generations about what happened there,” said Harris.

One ambassador, who visited the site, said the Belzec Museum-Memorial is “the most remarkable concept to create a lasting memorial to Holocaust victims where they were killed.”

Addressing today’s ceremony at Belzec, U.S. Ambassador to Poland Stephen Mull said, “I commend the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Polish government for establishing this memorial in order to ensure that the victims are never forgotten. This memorial honors the victims and teaches today’s generation – and future generations – about the dangers of intolerance and hatred."

Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Lee Feinstein, some of whose family perished in Belzec, wrote a letter that was read aloud to the audience, in which he said: "But for the vision of the government of Poland and the AJC this site would be lost to history."

Representing the Polish Government, Jacek Olbtycht, Director General of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, read a letter from Malgorzata Omilanowska, the newly appointed Polish Minister of Culture. In the letter, Minister Omilanowska wrote, "We took the decision to protect this heritage – this place of memory of hundreds of thousands of Jews of Europe – as a place of solidarity.”

Israeli Ambassador to Poland Zvi Rav-Ner, who was born in the country, told the audience, "Indeed what AJC has done together with the Polish government is remarkable...It is important to remind ourselves and remind Europe and the rest of the world of Belzec."

The crowd of more than 200 was also addressed by Tomasz Kranz, director of the Majdanek State Museum; Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland; and Bishop Mieczysław Cisło, Auxiliary Bishop of Lublin.

The AJC leadership delegation included 15 leaders from across the U.S. who are traveling on an AJC mission to Lithuania and Poland.

To learn more about the Belzec memorial and museum, please see the AJC Belzec Memorial Dedication film.



June 20, 2014 – Detroit – AJC called today’s Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) decision to divest from major companies doing business with Israel a setback for efforts to attain a negotiated, sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and a breach with a Jewish community committed to Jewish-Christian relations.

By a vote of 310 to 303, the PCUSA General Assembly, meeting in Detroit, called on the church’s foundation and pension board to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions.

“The PCUSA leadership is facilitating the delegitimization of Israel in the guise of helping Palestinians,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations.

“It is a very sad day for Presbyterian-Jewish relations when church leaders from across the U.S. align with the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This is an affront to all who are committed to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The PCUSA decision is celebrated by those who believe they are one step closer to a Jew-free Middle East,” said Marans.

For more than a decade, voices within the PCUSA have sought to punish Israel by calling for divestment. While PCUSA General Assemblies have repeatedly rejected those efforts, BDS advocates within the church have been allowed to demonize Israel through one-sided reports and study guides, such as Zionism Unsettled, the latest and most outrageous church document on the subject.

“In response, PCUSA leadership could have declared clearly to church members, ‘We will not support misinformation, we will not condone propagandist indoctrination,’” said Marans. “Instead, they have empowered those within the denomination who are driven by hatred of Israel to undermine support for the peaceful resolution of the conflict via a directly negotiated two-state solution, with the Jewish state of Israel living in peace and security alongside the future Palestinian state.”

Marans and AJC Detroit director Kari Alterman, joined by AJC Detroit leaders, attended the PCUSA General Assembly. Both Marans and Alterman spoke before GA committees.



As they did every Thursday night, at around 10 pm on June 12, Eyal Yifrach, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, left their yeshivas in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank to hitchhike home for Shabbat. At 10:25 one of them phoned an emergency number to report that they were kidnapped, but the call was not taken seriously. When the authorities were alerted several hours later that the boys were missing, Israeli troops flooded the area in search of them. On Sunday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had proof that Hamas, the extremist Palestinian faction dedicated to the destruction of Israel that controls Gaza, was responsible for the kidnapping, a claim later echoed by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry. Since then, Israel has arrested hundreds of Hamas operatives on the West Bank, including more than 50 who had been released from prison in 2012 as part of the deal that freed the last Israeli kidnap victim, Gilad Shalit. The search has so far been unsuccessful and the boys have not been found.  

All of this was taking place within the broader context of Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic maneuvering. On April 23, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party is willing to recognize Israel and favors a two-state solution, pulled out of the peace negotiations with Israel engineered by Secretary Kerry that had been proceeding since the beginning of the year, and announced a rapprochement with Hamas. On June 2, a Fatah-Hamas unity government was announced that would prepare for elections in six months. Abbas said the new entity was committed to a peaceful two-state solution, and that all the appointed cabinet members, even those representing Hamas, were apolitical technocrats. Hamas leaders, however, said that their faction was in no way abandoning its refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept previous agreements. While Israel announced it would not deal with any Palestinian government that included Hamas, most other countries—even the United States and the EU nations, which officially categorized Hamas as a terrorist organization—said they would maintain relations with the unity government. That diplomatic posture has not changed even after the kidnappings of the three boys.   

On Wednesday, June 18, President Abbas condemned the kidnappings as counter to Palestinian interests, saying that the perpetrators “want to destroy us.” He also addressed the issue in human terms, stressing, “They are human beings and we are looking for them and we will hold their kidnappers accountable, whoever they are.” Hamas has not claimed credit for the act, but a spokesman said, “We emphasize our people’s right to defend themselves and counter the occupation’s crimes with all possible means.” Whetherthe aim of the operation was to embarrass Fatah in Palestinian eyes by making it seem insufficiently anti-Israel, or simply to exchange the latest victims for Hamas prisoners now in Israeli jails, by illuminating the wide gap between the Palestinian factions over relations with Israel the kidnappings raise serious doubts about the viability of the projected Palestinian unity regime.

Besides urgently seeking the return of the victims to their families, Israel’s determined actions on the West Bank are also intended to head off the unity government by dealing a body blow to Hamas and thereby strengthening the more moderate Fatah. The safety of three innocent young men and the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian dispute may hinge on the success of those actions. 



June 18, 2014 – New York – AJC announced today that Stephan Kramer will be appointed to a newly-created position -- Director, European Office on Anti-Semitism.

“The rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, which poses a threat to Jewish communities and to the very fabric and fiber of Europe's democratic societies, demands an enhanced AJC response,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Stephan Kramer has the requisite experience and vision to work closely with AJC's European offices and our many partner organizations throughout Europe -- and thereby to make a difference.”

Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s Director of International Jewish Affairs, who also serves as the Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), will continue to be centrally involved and work closely with Kramer. AJC’s European offices are in Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Rome.

“The beast of anti-Semitism is showing its ugly face again more often and violently than we would have expected in recent months across Europe,” said Kramer. “Combating anti-Semitism requires knowledge, networking, diligence and teamwork, together with passion and a deeply-felt sense of commitment. I am honored to join the AJC staff, who have excelled in establishing productive relationships with European governments and Jewish communities, ties that will be essential in our ongoing efforts to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism.”

Kramer previously served as Secretary General of the Central Council of Jews in Germany from 2004 until earlier this year, and as the council’s Executive Director from 2000 to 2004. He has also served as a press secretary and advisor on policy and government relations for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. Kramer was also previously employed as the chief of staff for three different members of the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag).



June 13, 2014 – New York – AJC joins with Israelis in expressing deep concern for three youths missing in the West Bank. A full-scale search by Israeli security forces is underway amidst concerns that they may have been abducted by Palestinian terrorists. The three, one of whom is a U.S. citizen, are students at a yeshiva in Gush Etzion.

“The apparent kidnappings, combined with reports of celebrations among Palestinians across the West Bank, are outrageous, though not unexpected after last week's announcement of a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We pray that the three teens are safe, but, ultimately, the leaders of the Palestinian government, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, must be held accountable for any acts of violence. There can be no two ways about it.”



June 10, 2014 – New York – AJC congratulates Reuven Rivlin on his election as President of the State of Israel. He succeeds Shimon Peres, whose seven-year term ends next month.

“We wish President-elect Reuven Rivlin much success in fulfilling the duties of this important office, which is vital to the image and standing of Israel in the global community,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “It is also critical that all Jews, whether in Israel or elsewhere, feel connected to, and welcomed by, the office of Israel’s President. In that spirit, as we have with each President since the state’s rebirth in 1948, we look forward to working closely with Mr. Rivlin after he takes office on July 24.”

AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, was the first American Jewish organization, in 1961, to establish a full-time office in Israel. Avital Leibovich is the director of AJC Jerusalem.



June 9, 2014 – New York – AJC praised the signing of a landmark agreement enabling Israel to participate in the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

“Forward-looking, ground-breaking cooperation between Israel and the EU further strengthens mutually beneficial ties,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of AJC’s Transatlantic Institute, based in Brussels. “Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020 brings critical research and innovation to the center of Europe.”

Horizon 2020 is expected to provide about $1.9 billion between 2014 and 2020 to Israeli researchers and universities.

“Israel is a strong player in research and innovation," said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who attended the signing ceremony in Jerusalem. "I am pleased that we are signing the agreement today since it reflects the mutual importance we attach to cooperation and partnership in research and innovation."

Barroso added that Israel is "an important partner for the EU to address societal challenges of common concern, such as ageing, food safety, environment protection or cleaner energy, and to strengthen the competitiveness of our industries."



June 9, 2014 -- Summit, New Jersey -- “Palestinians must choose between peace with Israel as a Jewish state and a marriage with Hamas, a terrorist organization,” Senator Robert Menendez declared at the AJC New Jersey Region Annual Meeting. The “marriage will have severe consequences.”

Last week's agreement between the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas to form a “unity” government has been condemned by the Israeli government. But the U.S. and many other nations have declared that they want to give the new Palestinian government a chance.

Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, vowed that he will review aid to a Palestinian government which shares power with Hamas. "U.S. law is explicit on this. We will not provide assistance to a Palestinian government in which Hamas has a role and exercises 'undue influence.'"

He also questioned the wisdom of Washington's decision to give "this two-headed dragon" a chance, based on "the empty assurances of one man, President Abbas," that it will recognize Israel, avoid violence, and respect previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

"I say this can only have a very short window,” said Menendez. "Whatever its alleged role, Hamas will wield power and influence, and Hamas, under our law, is a terrorist organization opposed to a two-state agreement and supported by Iran."

The Senator praised the long-standing and close U.S.-Israel relationship as vital to American national and global security interests.

“For 22 years, I have cast my vote in Congress in support of Israel because of our shared values, shared idealism, and shared belief in self-reliance,” said Menendez. “It is in our national interest to continue our strong, unwavering relationship with Israel, the one true democracy in a sea of autocracy” in the Middle East, our "one reliable ally in the region," and a nation whose history dates back not decades, but "thousands of years to the time of Abraham and Sarah."

Menendez, who has led Senate efforts to impose sanctions on Iran, also expressed serious concerns about the possible outcome of talks with Iran. The Administration is holding bilateral negotiations with Tehran this week in an effort to advance the process between the P5+1 and Iran, ahead of a July 20 deadline.

“I prefer to have no deal than a bad deal,” said Menendez. A good deal "verifiably dismantles" Iran’s nuclear program, "sets it back for many years," and has "a robust, intrusive inspections regime" in light of Iran's long record "of deceit and cheating."

Menendez pointed out that only Congress can remove some of the sanctions on Iran. “I will hold the deal subject to a robust review by Congress," he said.

"It was no surprise that Senator Menendez received a sustained standing ovation from the large audience," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who spoke immediately afterward. "He has a clear understanding of the global situation, is unafraid to speak out, and is widely regarded as a dedicated and proven friend of the U.S.-Israel relationship."

Amy Reisen Freundlich, who completed her term last night as president of AJC Metro New Jersey Region, introduced Senator Menendez. Genesia Kamen was installed as the new president.



June 7, 2014 -- New York -- AJC welcomed the inauguration of Petro Poroshenko as the new President of Ukraine.

“The successful democratic election on May 25th, and yesterday's swearing in of President Poroshenko, herald a new era for Ukraine,” said AJC's Sam Kliger, a specialist on the former Soviet Union, who was invited to attend the inauguration. “The challenges Ukraine still faces are daunting, but the new government, with the essential support of the U.S. and EU, is determined to restore this vital nation to the path of European-style democratic rule and a dynamic economy, free of external military threats and interventions."

"Indeed, President Poroshenko stressed these very themes when he said yesterday that 'European democracy, for me, is the best form of government invented by mankind,' and 'There can be no compromise on the issues of Crimea, European choice and state structure,' in his inaugural address," added Kliger, who joined an audience of dignitaries, including U.S. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Kliger recently relocated from New York to Kiev, where he will spend the next several months as AJC’s representative to the 300,000-strong Ukrainian Jewish community, Ukrainian government, foreign diplomats, and civil society.

AJC was the first Jewish organization to call for U.S. recognition of the rebirth of Ukrainian independence in 1991, and to support the protest movement that led to the ouster of the corrupt regime of President Yanukovich. In April, an AJC delegation met with Mr. Poroshenko in Kiev. Last month, AJC hosted Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, via video, at its Global Forum in Washington.



June 6, 2014 – Washington – The first-ever reunion of U.S. Latino leaders who traveled to Israel with AJC (American Jewish Committee) will take place on June 10 and 11, in Washington, D.C. Over the past 30 years more than 300 Latino leadershave participated in the hallmark AJC Project Interchange (PI) educational seminars program in Israel, and, AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute (LLAI) has been a co-sponsor since its founding in 2005.

“Latinos and Jews have so much in common, it is imperative that we share our experience as Diaspora communities to further deepen understanding about our common histories, values and priorities,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute. Siegel Vann, a native of Mexico City, has traveled with a number of the U.S. Latino delegations to Israel.  “Gaining a deeper appreciation for Israel, its dynamism and complexities, achievements and challenges, is critical to advancing Latino-Jewish relations in the U.S.”

In one reunion session Latinos in the media industry who visited Israel with PI and LLAI will discuss how their experiences affected their opinions and perceptions. Panelists includeArmando Guzman, Vice President, TV Azteca and Azteca America; Felix Sanchez, chairman and co-founder, National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, Luis Miranda, Managing Director, MDC Strategies; and, Lourdes Ubieta, talk-show host, Actualidad Radio Network.

In another session, PI Alumni who will discuss Israel’s resonance on Latino-Jewish relations include: Marty Castro, President and CEO, Castro Synergies; Alejandra Castillo, Director, Minority Business Development Agency, U.S. Department of Commerce; George Muñoz, President and Co-founder, MuñozInvestment Banking Group; Juan Andrade, President, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute; Ramona Romero, General Counsel, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and, Christy Haubegger, Founder, Latina Magazine.

The two-day reunion program also will include a reception on Capitol Hill with the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus.

“The enduring impact of Project Interchange seminars is what brings this group of prestigious Latino civic and governmental leaders together, with Israel as one of their common bonds,” said Robin Levenston, executive director of AJC’s Project Interchange.

“I learned more in one week with Project Interchange than I did in 25 years of reading and learning about Israel on my own,” said Cid Wilson, Commissioner, National Museum of the American Latino.

While Latino leaders in politics, media, business and education have visited Israel with AJC since1983, a comprehensive AJC survey, released in 2012, of U.S. Latino attitudes towards Jews reaffirmed the importance the global advocacy organization’s outreach to the fastest growing community in the U.S.

The survey showed that only 18 percent are highly familiar with Jews, while 31 percent are not familiar with them at all.On questions regarding Israel and foreign affairs, the “don’t know” responses were highest. This was not surprising, said Siegel Vann, since Latinos tend to focus on domestic issues, especially immigration, rather than foreign policy.

The survey found limited Latino familiarity with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sixty percent did not know who is responsible for the conflict, 15 percent said it was the Palestinians’ fault, 12 percent blamed both parties, 9 percent said it was Israel’s fault, and 3 percent responded that neither was at fault.

“Latinos engaging U.S. foreign policy issues will develop further as the community becomes more involved politically," said Siegel Vann. “Our trips to Israel are a way to sensitize them in foreign policy.”

The landmark AJC survey, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind is available here.

 



June 4, 2014 -- New York -- As world leaders convene this week on the Normandy coast in France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, AJC joins with them in lauding the heroes of that momentous operation.

That day, the Allied forces, composed of American, British, Canadian and other servicemen, began to turn the tide of World War II in West Europe, establishing a second front on the continent that, together with the Soviet push from the east, led directly, 11 months later, to the capture of Berlin and Germany’s surrender. More than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives on the first day, and thousands more were wounded. Many others were killed in battle in the ensuing days and weeks of the campaign that began on June 6.

“We cannot ever express enough gratitude for what those young soldiers achieved,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Their courage and determination helped destroy an unparalleled tyranny bent on world conquest and, in the words of Adolf Hitler, a thousand-year reign. In a brilliant and complex operation, Allied forces took the German positions on the coast by surprise, and began the liberation of France. The military cemeteries along the Normandy coast are poignant testimony to the heroic deeds—and the ultimate sacrifice—of so many young men.”

As historian Stephen E. Ambrose wrote: “They were the soldiers of democracy. They were the men of D-Day, and to them we owe our freedom.”

“Indeed we do,” Harris added.



June 4, 2014 -- New York -- AJC welcomes the Modern Language Association (MLA) membership rejection of a vicious resolution targeting Israel.

The measure, first introduced at the MLA convention in Chicago last January, failed to muster the minimum required for ratification, the MLA reported today.

“Reason and truth have triumphed over the hatred and hypocrisy at the core of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement against Israel,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

The MLA is the largest American academic association to consider a motion sponsored by BDS movement supporters, who seek punitive measures against democratic Israel, the only nation in the world, it should be noted, singled out by this pernicious effort. Two leading academic associations, the American Association of Universities and the American Association of University Professors, have long opposed the BDS movement.

“The MLA's repudiation of the BDS effort is yet another failure of those who have maliciously tried to use the American campus to delegitimize the State of Israel,” said Harris.

“Cooperation between American and Israeli academic institutions is flourishing, as befits two scholarly communities who have so much to share with each other, who both treasure the spirit of academic inquiry and open-mindedness, and who contribute so powerfully to advancing the frontiers of human civilization,” Harris added.

“AJC will continue to do our part to help expand still further these mutually productive and beneficial links.”



June 2, 2014 -- New York -- AJC praised French authorities for apprehending, in Marseille, a suspect in the fatal terror attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Three Jews were killed, and one remains in critical condition, shot in cold blood by a gunman on May 24.

The suspect, Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, is a French citizen from the city of Roubaix, near the border with Belgium. He has self-professed ties to radical Islam. Two years ago, another French citizen with similar links murdered four Jews, three children and a rabbi, at a Jewish school in Toulouse,

According to the French prosecutor, Nemmouche spent more than a year in Syria fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). But his extremism began while in prison in France, where he was incarcerated five times.

"In our many conversations with French and other European leaders, two themes have frequently surfaced," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "The first is the widespread concern that European citizens, from Britain, France, Germany, and other countries, are making their way to Syria to fight in what they view as a 'jihadist' cause and returning filled with battlefield training and violent impulses. The second is that prisons have too often become incubators for Islamic radicalization. In this particular case, it appears, both concerns have converged. European authorities would be well-advised, we believe, to step up still further efforts the monitoring of these perilous fronts.”

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.

 

 



June 2, 2014 -- New York -- AJC called on the U.S. and European governments not to recognize the new Palestinian "unity" government announced today.

"Let's be clear: The Fatah-Hamas unity government is a marriage involving an unabashed terrorist partner and, therefore, another setback to any prospect for peace," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

"The U.S. and EU must uphold their recognition of Hamas as the terrorist organization it is and long has been. No intellectual sophistry or diplomatic self-deception can hide that plain fact,” Harris said. “Indeed, Hamas continues to this day to proclaim its rejection of Israel's very right to exist, and deadly rockets are fired to Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza on a regular basis. What, then, can possibly be the meaning of a Hamas 'technocrat' other than a wolf in sheep's clothing? How sad and telling that President Abbas, given yet another choice between coexistence with Israel and confrontation, chose the latter!"

Hamas has refused repeatedly to alter its Charter, which explicitly calls for Israel's destruction, to renounce violence and terror, and to accept existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

"Whatever Abbas may think is gained by signing this pact with Hamas, there must be clear consequences from Western nations," said Harris. "It can't be business as usual. Beyond the veneer of 'technocrats' serving in the new Palestinian cabinet are Hamas leaders who will no doubt exploit this new arrangement to advance their goals, goals which are entirely inimical to the U.S., European Union, and all friends of the peace process."

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.

 



May 28, 2014 – New York – As a global advocacy organization that has long supported U.S. leadership as an essential means to advance and ensure peace and security around the world, AJC welcomes President Obama’s policy address today at West Point.

“Projecting core American values, promoting democracy and human rights, are central to the U.S. mission globally,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We wholeheartedly agree with President Obama that, ‘In the 21st century, American isolationism is not an option.’”

“As the President stated, ‘A world of greater freedom and tolerance is not only a moral imperative – it also keeps us safe,’” Harris continued. President Obama also pointed out that “because of America’s efforts – through diplomacy and foreign assistance, as well as the sacrifices of our military – more people live under elected governments today than any time in human history.”

Indeed, in Ukraine citizens determined to build a democratic country aligned with the West voted last Sunday for a new president. “Standing with our allies on behalf of international order has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future,” said Obama. AJC has supported Ukraine since its independence from the Soviet Union, and currently has a representative stationed in Kiev. ”Washington’s steadfast support for Ukraine is a clear example of the importance of U.S. engagement with the world,” said Harris.

Addressing the West Point 2014 graduating class, Obama declared that “America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will.”

The president identified terrorism as the number one threat to the U.S., both at home and around the world. He called on Congress to support a new Counter-Terrorism Partnerships Fund, which will allow the U.S. “to train, build capacity and facilitate partner countries on the front lines. These resources will give flexibility to fulfill different missions.”

The three-year-old Syria conflict, in particular, has become a breeding ground for international terrorists, individuals who came from other countries to fight and have already returned home or gone elsewhere with untold consequences. President Obama announced that the U.S. “will step up efforts to support Syria’s neighbors – Jordan and Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq – as they host refugees, and confront terrorists working across Syrian borders.”

“President Obama’s initiatives to combat the ever-growing threats of terrorism are not only welcome, but vital for global security,” Harris said. “As the president stated, ‘We have a real stake – and abiding self-interest – in making sure our children grow up in a world where school-girls are not kidnapped, where individuals aren’t slaughtered because of tribe or faith or political beliefs.’”

AJC also welcomed President Obama’s warning that the U.S. “reserves all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” His comments on Iran’s nuclear program come a few weeks before the next round of P5+1 talks with Tehran, with a July deadline looming for concluding a permanent accord – or perhaps extending the talks.

“Iran has to understand that failure to reach an acceptable deal, one that definitively prevents Iran from acquiring the capability to build a nuclear weapon, will lead to additional U.S. economic sanctions and other pressures,” said Harris. “The Iranian regime, which supports terrorism, suppresses human rights, meddles in the affairs of its neighbors, and calls for a world without Israel, cannot be permitted to get the bomb.”



May 26, 2014 – Brussels – The AJC Transatlantic Institute expressed its great concern over the success of extremist parties in a number of member states in the European Parliament elections.

While the center-right European People’s Party projected to finish first with 214 seats, followed by the center-left Socialists & Democrats with 189 seats, several parties that promote hatred had strong support.

Jobbik became the second biggest Hungarian party in the European Parliament with 14.3% (4 seats). Despite being under criminal investigations and with several party leaders in prison, Golden Dawn entered the European Parliament for the first time, coming in third place in Greece with about 9% of the vote (projected 3 seats). In France, the far-right National Front became the strongest party with 25% (projected 25 seats) and the far-right FPÖ in Austria came in a notable third with 20.5% (4 seats).

“The extent to which these parties will be able to unite to influence European policy remains to be seen,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute. “Nevertheless, their mere presence in the legislature for the next five years will, at a minimum, provide a soapbox from which to propagate their vile hatred.”

Golden Dawn and Jobbik are openly racist, blaming the economic ills of their countries on minorities like Jews, Roma or immigrants. Their anti-Semitism also often spills into vicious attacks against the state of Israel.

“These radical parties have been able to grow in their respective home countries for quite some time and are now cementing their presence also at the European level,” said Schwammenthal. “They must be confronted head-on or the danger will only continue to grow.”

Jobbik’s European success follows an even stronger showing in April’s national election, where it received 20% of the vote (up from 16% in the previous poll) and 23 of the 199 seats in the Hungarian parliament, making it the third largest party. Other parties, like France’s National Front and the FPÖ in Austria, are hoping to use the momentum from the European elections to increase their presence on the national political scene.

“MEPs from the shrinking pool of mainstream parties in the coming legislature will face the challenge of standing up firmly to any statements of hatred in the European Parliament,” said Schwammenthal. “Some European leaders, like Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, have already taken courageous stances, but only a strong, unified voice against hatred can truly stem this dangerous tide.”



May 26, 2014 -- New York -- AJC strongly condemns the horrific attack today in Creteil, near Paris, against two brothers, ages 21 and 18, wearing kippahs and walking toward a synagogue.

The French Ministry of Interior has confirmed the tragic incident.

Reports indicate that both individuals were severely beaten with brass knuckles, but, fortunately, are expected to recover. As of now, no suspects have been identified.

This assault follows yesterday's tragedy in Brussels, where four people were killed at the Jewish Museum. Belgian authorities are searching for the perpetrators.

"One anti-Semitic tragedy on the heels of another underscores the very real dangers for Jews today in the heart of Europe, even as we recognize that the governments stand steadfastly against any such manifestations," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Clearly, far more still needs to be done -- from beefing up security at Jewish institutions to stronger intelligence-gathering, from tougher judicial action to, in the longer term, better education in the school systems for fostering a climate of mutual respect."

AJC has been relentlessly calling attention to the growing menace of anti-Semitism in Europe since 2000, when a noticeable rise took place. Most recently, AJC took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal on May 13th to highlight the issue, while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking the day before at the AJC Global Forum, forcefully condemned all forms of anti-Semitism and said the government would not tolerate any such hateful acts.

AJC Paris director Simone Rodan is in very close touch with French government officials and Jewish community leaders in response to today's attack in Creteil.



New York – May 24, 2014 – AJC welcomed today’s presidential vote in Ukraine as a decisive victory for Petro Poroshenko and for the resilience of Ukrainian democracy.

“Mr. Poroshenko won an impressive mandate, with no need for a run-off,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “And the Ukrainian people showed their determination to ensure that the country’s fate is determined within its borders, not beyond. Bravo! President-elect Poroshenko will have more than his share of challenges going forward, both domestic and external, but this vote, we earnestly hope, represents a new beginning for a nation that deserves a bright – and independent – future.”

An AJC delegation met Mr. Poroshenko most recently in Kiev in April, shortly after his visit to Israel, where he saw President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He voiced appreciation for Israel’s willingness to provide top-flight medical care to several of the protesters wounded during the protest demonstrations in Maidan, the central square in Kiev, against President Viktor Yanukovich’s corrupt rule.

AJC has had a deep history of involvement with Ukraine since 1991, when it was the first Jewish group to call on U.S. President George H.W. Bush to recognize the rebirth of Ukrainian independence, which Washington eventually did.

More recently, AJC has stood firm in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and right to chart its own democratic destiny. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was a featured speaker, via video from Kiev, at the AJC Global Forum earlier this month. And the agency last week sent Sam Kliger, who was born in the Soviet Union and spent many years as a “refusenik” seeking the right to emigrate, to Kiev as its temporary representative there. He has been in close touch with the large Jewish community, government officials, and key diplomats. Dr. Kliger served as an election observer today and was a frequent guest in the media on the conduct of the elections.



May 25, 2014—New York—AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement:

AJC is deeply saddened and dismayed by the attack yesterday in Brussels that left four people dead outside the Jewish Museum and another person critically wounded.

Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet said that "it is likely that this is an anti-Semitic attack," with a search under way for the perpetrators.

If the Interior Minister is proved right, this is yet another frightening reminder of the growing danger of anti-Semitism in the heart of Europe, amidst an increasing number of assaults on Jews, including the murder of four Jews, three of whom were children, by a French Islamist in Toulouse, France, in March 2012, and the expected success of openly anti-Semitic parties in this weekend’s European Parliament elections.

We mourn with the families of those who lost their loved ones in today's attack. We pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And we count on the Belgian government to do everything possible to arrest the assailants and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, while taking additional measures to seek to prevent any further such attacks.

AJC's Brussels office, headed by Daniel Schwammenthal, is monitoring the situation closely and in the process of reaching out to Jewish community leaders and government officials.



May 22, 2014 – New York – AJC condemned the vetoes by China and Russia of a UN Security Council resolution today on the Syria crisis.

“Once again, a UN initiative to assist the Syrian people, victims of a war that has shown no bounds in cruelty, was stopped dead in its tracks,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We commend both France and the United States for their leadership in drafting the resolution calling for International Criminal Court action on Syria, and garnering majority support for it.”

While 13 members of the Security Council voted in favor, the two negative votes marked the fourth time that China and Russia have vetoed a Security Council resolution on Syria.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud, who introduced today’s resolution, warned, "A veto would cover up all crimes. It would be vetoing justice."

The resolution did not specifically target either the government or the opposition, a recognition that all parties to the conflict have committed acts that could be considered war crimes and crimes against humanity. An estimated 150,000 Syrians have been killed in the civil war since it began in 2011, and millions have become refugees or internally displaced persons.

"There should be accountability for those members of the Security Council that have prevented accountability," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power declared.

“It is the Security Council’s responsibility to stop atrocities if we can and – at minimum – to ensure that perpetrators of atrocities are held accountable,” Power added. “These vetoes have aided impunity not just for Assad but for terrorist groups as well.”



May 21, 2014 – New York – AJC is supporting the efforts of IsraAID, a leading Israeli non-governmental relief organization, to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia devastated by massive floods.

“The damage wrought by the floods is almost unimaginable in its scale and fury,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The Jewish tradition commands us to respond generously and compassionately to those in need. We are proud to assist, together with our Israeli partner, IsraAID, in offering a helping hand to the many flood victims in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.”

A team of IsraAID medical, trauma, and relief professionals has been dispatched to the two European countries.

With help from AJC's Heilbrunn Humanitarian Fund, AJC has partnered with IsraAID humanitarian relief missions in a number of crises, including Sri Lanka after the unprecedented South Asian tsunami in 2004, Peru following a devastating earthquake in 2007, the Philippines after a deadly tropical storm in 2009, Haiti following the massive earthquake in 2010, a typhoon in the Philippines in 2013, and Syrian refugees in Bulgaria last year.

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



May 21, 2014 – Los Angeles – AJC (American Jewish Committee) welcomes the UCLA Judicial Board decision that Lauren Rogers did no wrong by participating in an AJC Project Interchange educational seminar in Israel.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had brought the action against the UCLA junior after the Student Council on which she served rejected a resolution on divestment from companies doing business with Israel. The SJP, hell-bent on fostering a climate of hatred on campus towards Israel, had accused Rogers of violating a conflict of interest “code of ethics” by participating in the vote after her visit to Israel. The Judicial Board absolved her of any such violation.

“We are pleased with the Judicial Board decision,” said Dean Schramm, President of AJC’s Los Angeles Region.“However, we are deeply troubled that the UCLA Administration has abdicated its responsibility to its students. Ms. Rogers was subjected for months to a hurtful and threatening environment on the very campus she has served with distinction and to which she remains deeply committed.”The Daily Bruin gave Rogers high reviews for her performance in executing her duties as an elected member of the Student Council.

The Judicial Board decision comes six days after the student run tribunal held a three hour hearing on the matter on May 15.“While the members of the Judicial Board proved to be conscientious, Ms. Rogers should not have been hauled before it in the first place to answer to this baseless complaint and during mid-terms examinations no less,” said Schramm.

Moreover, in the run-up to last week’s student council elections, SJP, along with the Muslim Students Association, Jewish Voice for Peace and other like-minded groups asked candidates to sign a so-called “ethics pledge” stating that if elected they would not participate in trips by certain pro-Israel groups. No other groups or issues were singled out, confirming the singular and divisive anti-Israel focus of their campaign. AJC expressed outrage over SJP’s attempt to suppress student educational trips to Israel.

AJC urges UCLA student leaders and administration officials to take meaningful actions, and to do so expeditiously, to protect students from harassment and personal, vengeful attacks. “No student should be allowed to be treated this way,” said Schramm.“We hope the statements by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and UC President Janet Napolitano, issued after the May 15th Judicial Board hearing, will lead to concrete steps to ensure that vindictive campaigns are recognized as the real violations of campus ethics.”

For more than 30 years, AJC’s Project Interchange has exposed a wide range of emerging leaders, including college students, to the diversity and complexity of Israel, including, it should be noted, meetings in Ramallah and elsewhere in the West Bank with Palestinian leaders.



May 19, 2014 – New York – Sam Kliger, AJC’s director of Russian Jewish community affairs and a top expert on the former Soviet Union, will spend the next several months in Kiev to serve as the global advocacy organization’s representative to the Ukrainian Jewish community, government and civil society.

“Sam has the experience and expertise to represent AJC on the ground amidst the evolving situation in Ukraine,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The stakes are extremely high for Ukraine – and for the country’s Jewish community. AJC has played a path-breaking role since becoming the first Jewish group, in 1991, to call on the U.S. to recognize the re-establishment of Ukrainian independence, which the Bush Administration did eventually do.”

Kliger met with Jewish community leaders in Kiev in February, shortly after the departure of President Viktor Yanukovich.

In April, an AJC delegation, led by Harris and staffed by Kliger, visited Kiev to meet with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and other top government officials, as well as with Jewish community leadership. Several Ukrainian Jewish representatives attended the AJC Global Forum in Washington last week, and the prime minister delivered a special video message to the more than 2000 attendees.

“Especially during this turbulent time, we want the Ukrainian people to know that AJC is there in solidarity,” said Kliger. “I look forward to further strengthening the unique ties between AJC and Jewish community leadership, and to underscoring our concern for the well-being of the country as a whole."
Kliger immigrated to the U.S. from Moscow in 1990 after being a "refusenik" for many years. He has traveled regularly for AJC to Russia, Ukraine and the region since he joined the staff in 2003.



May 18, 2014 -- New York -- AJC is enraged by a Polish lawmaker’s claim that Holocaust-era restitution by Poland should cease. MP Slawomir Kopycinski, of the Europa Plus party, called the Regulatory Commission for Jewish Communities “the fourth partition of Poland,” and said the government body should be shut.

“Mr. Kopycinski’s claims are specious and completely divorced from the reality of Polish restitution, which has largely been a slow and incomplete process,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs.

Baker, who has long been involved in negotiations with the Polish government regarding restitution issues, also questioned the timing of Kopycinski’s “incendiary remarks.”

In addition to serving in the Polish parliament, Kopycinski is a candidate for a seat in the European Parliament. “By disparaging the legitimate claims of the Jewish community Mr. Kopycinski is injecting anti-Semitism directly into the elections campaign, a disturbing trend already seen in other European Union countries, but not in Poland until now. We hope that Europa Plus leaders will categorically repudiate Kopycinski’s offensive views.”

Legislation adopted in 1997, creating the Regulatory Commission, pertained to restitution claims on communal property -- buildings, houses of worship, cemeteries -- and excluded non-religious and commercial properties that may have been owned by Jewish communities.



May 16, 2014 – New York – On the 60th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v Board of Education, AJC celebrates the historic breakthrough in May 1954 and everlasting impact of that case and ruling.

AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement:

“The ‘self-evident’ claim of the Declaration of Independence that ‘all men are created equal’ was honored more in the breach than the observance until the Supreme Court compelled the nation to honor its promise in Brown v Board of Education.  

“Exactly sixty years have passed since that decision ended segregation in public schools. It changed the social and political fabric of our country.  Jim Crow’s legal regime is long since dead and buried, but the lingering effects of segregation and the racial bias giving rise to it are not. That remains unfinished business that we must address collectively.

“For us at AJC, Brown v Board of Education is more than a landmark case, one in which AJC filed a friend-of-the-court brief.  Much of the psychological research on the harmful impact of school segregation on minority children conducted by Professor Kenneth Clark was sponsored by AJC, and Chief Justice Warren cited that study in the decision. We look at that contribution to American society with great pride, indeed, as one of the most important things AJC has ever done.”



May 16, 2014 – New York – AJC, the global advocacy organization, congratulates the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on its victory in India’s general elections. BJP head Narendra Modi is slated to become India’s next prime minister.

For decades, AJC has engaged successive Indian governments, regardless of party identity, on matters of common interest and concern. “We look forward to working with Mr. Modi and the new government to further strengthen and deepen India’s extensive relations with the United States and Israel,” said Shira Loewenberg, Director of AJC’s Asia Pacific Institute (API). “BJP has long been a friend to Israel and the Jewish people.”

An API delegation met with Modi in 2012, when he served as chief minister of Gujarat. More recently, in March, an API delegation led by AJC President Stanley Bergman, met with officials of the Congress-led government and with BJP officials, including party spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad.

More than 800 million eligible voters participated in the five-week election process. The BJP secured 283 seats and its allies gained another 54, bringing the NDA coalition’s total to 337. A majority of 272 seats out of a total of 543 seats in India’s lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, is required by a party or a coalition to form a government.

AJC has worked closely with India’s vibrant Jewish community, numbering some 4,500, including 150 from Mr. Modi’s home state of Gujarat. In addition, AJC’s longstanding engagement with India – featuring periodic consultations in New Delhi and with Indian diplomats abroad, exchange programs, special events with Indian officials and analysts organized by AJC offices across the United States, and humanitarian efforts – also has involved close cooperation with the Indian American community.



May 16, 2014 -- New York -- AJC welcomed the Argentine federal court ruling that the country’s agreement with Iran to co-investigate the 1994 AMIA bombing is unconstitutional. “For two decades, the Jewish community has suffered an enormously frustrating pattern of delays in seeking justice,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Bravo to the court for rejecting this myth of criminals and victims cooperating on resolving one of the most heinous acts of terror in our time.”

The Argentine-Iran Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed in January 2013, aimed to establish a “truth commission” to bring to justice those responsible for the massive terrorist attack, which destroyed the AMIA Jewish community building in Buenos Aires, left 85 dead and 300 injured.

But the Federal Criminal Appeals Court justices ruled yesterday that the MOU conflicts with and undermines an Argentine investigation approved years ago by the government’s executive and legislative branches. That probe, spearheaded by prosecutor Alberto Nisman, concluded in 2007 that Iran bears direct responsibility for the attack, and Interpol has since been seeking the apprehension of five Iranian officials.

When the MOU provision for a “truth commission” was first announced last year, AJC’s Harris compared it to “asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht.”

Two survivors of the bombing -- Daniel Pomerantz, AMIA Executive Director, and Anita Weinstein, of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Argentina, addressed the AJC Global Forum in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday in an emotional tribute for the 20th anniversary of the attack. As they recounted the attack on July 18, 1994, photos of each of the 85 killed were displayed on the large digital screen behind them.  Watch the Global Forum session at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTjcj478QUI

AJC has stood at the side of the Argentine Jewish community from the first moments of the tragedy in 1994, when an AJC group traveled to Buenos Aires to comfort the victims and their families and call for justice. AJC delegations have returned at least annually since. AMIA is a longstanding AJC international partner.

The MOU was ratified by the Argentine legislature a year ago, but it has not yet been implemented because the Iranian legislature did not approve it.

 



May 15, 2014 -- New York -- AJC welcomes the U.S.-Iraq agreement that will keep the Iraqi Jewish Archives exhibition and all of the important documents and artifacts that are part of its collection in the United States for an extended period of time.

The exhibition that was presented at the National Archives in Washington in November 2013 followed years of repair and restoration work by the National Archives and Records Administration. It describes the story of how this collection was rescued in 2003 and with selected elements recounts the long history of Jewish life in Iraq.

Following the Washington show the exhibition was moved to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. With the agreement reached between the U.S. Department of State and the Iraqi government the Iraqi Jewish Archives exhibition is expected to travel to other American museums in the coming months.

"Ensuring that this invaluable collection of Iraqi Jewish items remains accessible is a paramount concern," said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s Director of International Jewish Affairs. "Extending the exhibit's schedule and making it available to other American communities will benefit all who have interest in the history of Iraq's Jews."



May 15, 2014 -- Washington -- Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird told the AJC Global Forum that his nation favors a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,“ but “there can be no constructive discussion with anyone wedded to Israel’s destruction. There can be no bargaining over Israel’s existence.”

Addressing the Global Forum closing plenary session, Baird explained that Canada’s strong support of Israel as “a truly special nation” derives from admiration for the way the Jewish people has overcome “extraordinary hardships” to achieve “extraordinary things,” creating an exemplary society that stands in stark contrast to other nations in the Middle East.

"Our support for Israel hasn't always won us popularity contests at the UN," said Baird. "But we will not apologize for the positions we take, because we stand for what is right." On the Iranian nuclear threat, Baird said, "I'm deeply skeptical about Iran's intentions." And he vowed that "until we are given real reasons to trust their words, Canada's sanctions will remain in full force."

If Iran were truly interested only in the peaceful use of nuclear power as it claims, Baird said, it would “build nuclear generation capacity out in the open, not buried deep beneath the rock,” and “allow for full transparency."

In addition to the nuclear issue, Baird said Canada is concerned about human rights and terrorism. Canada will remain doubtful of Tehran's intentions until the "Supreme Leader's words and actions produce the human rights that the Iranian people deserve, or ceases the sponsorship of terrorism abroad in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere."

Baird also warned of resurgent international anti-Semitism, often "cloaked in references to Zionism or the state of Israel."

He said the campaigns to boycott Israeli businesses "demand a vigilant response that repudiates hatred for what it is, and cherishes those who cling closely to our shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

The foreign minister spoke of Canada’s “deep, emotional and historical” relations with the United States, and recalled how the two nations have often “stood shoulder-to-shoulder on global issues”—as they do today on "Russia's provocations in Ukraine."He urged U.S. approval of the Keystone XL pipeline since it would further “prosperity and security” for both nations.

This was Minister Baird’s second appearance at an AJC Global Forum. He previously addressed it in 2012. More than 2000 people from across the U.S. and 70 countries around the world attended the 2014 Global Forum.



May 15, 2014—Washington—Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the AJC Global Forum that "no deal is better than a bad deal" regarding current negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program.

Speaking before an audience of more than 2,000 people from 70 countries gathered for AJC’s signature annual event and thousands more via live webcast, Clinton discussed Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both of which she dealt with as Secretary of State, as examples of the kind of “hard choices”—the name of her new book—that diplomats face. “Making policy at the highest levels is always a balancing act,” she said.

Iran, Clinton recalled, was rapidly expanding its quest for nuclear capability when she took the helm of the State Department. She described how the Obama Administration decided to “tear up the old playbook” and devise a two-track policy, engaging with Tehran and holding out the promise of better relations, but at the same time applying economic pressure through the use of sanctions. This, she said, placed the burden of “hard choices” on the Iranian leadership, since rejection of the American offer of cooperation would demonstrate to the world that Iran, not the West, was at fault. “That is, more or less, what happened,” she said, and even Russia and China, which at first were reluctant to confront Iran, voted in the UN Security Council for “some of the toughest multilateral sanctions ever.”

Those sanctions, together with additional ones imposed by the U.S. and the EU, “cut Iran off from global commerce,” and its oil exports dropped by more than half. And they had the desired political effect. In 2013, said Clinton, the Iranian people responded by electing Hassan Rouhani—who had said the sanctions were responsible for Iran’s problems—as president, and Iran had “no choice but to return to the negotiating table.” She said that the current negotiations on a permanent deal would test if Iran was serious about an accommodation with the West, and expressed her own skepticism. The United States, she said, “will have to be tough, clear-eyed and ready to walk away and increase the pressure if need be.” If the talks fail, Clinton noted, “Every option remains on the table.”

Referring to the stalled talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the former Secretary of State observed that “the parties were not ready to make the choices and compromises necessary to reach agreement on core issues,” even though it was “no mystery” what a peace agreement would look like. She considered the new cooperative arrangement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas a blow to peace, and insisted that Hamas would remain a “pariah” until it renounced violence, recognized Israel, and accepted all existing agreements.

Noting the close defense cooperation between Israel and the U.S., Clinton stressed “the friendship and partnership between the United States and Israel,” adding that she is “proud to have done my part to keep our relationship rock-solid over the years.” She called Israel “a dream nurtured for generations and made real by men and women who refused to bow to the toughest of all odds.”

Clinton, who said she had “long admired the leadership and the tireless advocacy of the American Jewish Committee” and praised its “clear moral voice,” has addressed the AJC Global Forum on three previous occasions—as First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State.



May 15, 2014 – Washington – White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough lauded AJC for its efforts in support of Israeli-Palestinian peace and opposition to Iran’s nuclear program. In remarks before the AJC Global Forum, attended by more than 2,000 people from across the U.S. and 70 countries around the world, McDonough conveyed the personal appreciation of President Obama for the global Jewish advocacy organization.

He recalled that Secretary of State Kerry, in the early days of the resumed Israeli-Palestinian talks last year “came to the AJC Global Forum because your organization understands that peace and security are inextricably linked.”

While the talks are currently suspended, McDonough stressed “the United States will never waver in our commitment to a just and lasting peace.”

On Iran, McDonough was direct and firm. During the current negotiations “our bottom line has not changed and will not change,” he said. “We are committed to doing what we must to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

In addition to the nuclear issue, “unprecedented” American support for Israel’s security, as well as the security of Gulf partners counters Iran’s support for terrorism and its destabilizing efforts in the region, he noted.

McDonough repeated the Administration’s consistently clear messages of strong support for Israel. “Throughout its history, the State of Israel has had no greater friend than the United States of America,” he said. “The unbreakable bonds between our two countries are as strong as ever.”

And, he referred to President Obama’s statement before the UN General Assembly last September that “the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.”

The Chief of Staff also thanked AJC for its advocacy for immigration reform. “You have been a key partner" in this effort "to fix a broken immigration system," he said. “Last year, thanks in no small part to your hard work, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together and passed a bipartisan, common-sense immigration bill.”



May 13, 2014—Washington -- Cooperation between the United States and Israel on “security, and especially intelligence, is better than ever,” Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence, told the AJC Global Forum. “In the last few years, under the Obama Administration, the relations have become so close, so intimate, for the benefit of both sides.“

Speaking to an audience of some 2,000 people from across the nation and more than 70 countries, Steinitz declared that the AJC gathering demonstrates that 70 years after the Holocaust “the Jewish people are alive and kicking.”

The Israeli Cabinet minister focused his remarks on the Iranian nuclear threat, the peace process, and Israel’s “remarkable” achievements since independence in 1948.

Steinitz stressed that despite occasional differences of opinion between Israel and the U.S., the two allies are engaged in an “ongoing dialogue” over how to get Iran to give up its nuclear program. He agreed wholeheartedly with President Obama’s statement that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

Before the Israeli minister spoke, Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a video message from Jerusalem in which he emphatically told the AJC Global Forum that the Iranian nuclear threat is the “main” agenda item, and urged the global Jewish advocacy organization to continue its efforts to press for maximum pressure on Iran to dismantle its centrifuges.

Steinitz said that Israel insists on preventing Iran not just from developing a bomb, but from attaining the capability to do so, with complete transparency and international inspections in place. However, if the current negotiations do not attain these goals and Iran is allowed to keep its centrifuges and heavy water reactor, it would remain “a threshold nuclear power,” poised to quickly develop a bomb.

Steinitz cited the example of North Korea, which had agreed to freeze its nuclear program in 2003, and a few years later announced it had a bomb. He contrasted North Korea with Libya, whose infrastructure was dismantled, a much more secure option.
Furthermore, Iran’s neighbors, feeling threatened, would also launch nuclear programs, endangering the stability of the entire region. Should no satisfactory agreement be reached in the current P5 plus 1 talks with Iran, Steinitz reminded the audience, “We keep our right of self-defense.”

Looking back at Israel’s 66-year history, he called it “a kind of miracle” that in the face of the constant threat of terrorist attack and the need to allocate much of its budget to defense, Israel had over the past three decades alone more than doubled its population, developed its “strong, vibrant, hi-tech economy” to qualify for entrance into the OECD, and enhanced its international status by establishing relations with such major powers as China, India and Russia. “The country is flourishing and growing decade after decade,” he said.

“We are eager to make peace,” said Steinitz. He noted that 70-80 percent of Israelis are willing to cede territory in order to attain “genuine peace and real security” side-by-side with a Palestinian state. But such an agreement would have to mark a definitive end to the conflict, recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people—as formulated in the 1947 UN partition resolution—and enable Israel to patrol the Jordan Valley to prevent the smuggling of rockets and missiles.

Minister Steinitz placed the blame for the failure of the recent American peace initiative squarely on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, “who suddenly decided to leave the negotiating table” after rejecting Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to extend the talks beyond the April 29 deadline.

“Nobody should tell us that we need peace in order to survive, exist and flourish,” Steinitz declared. “We will survive. Israel will survive as a democratic Jewish state whether our neighbors will finally agree to accept it and make peace with us or not."



May 13, 2014 -- Washington -- Cyprus is poised to play a greater role in the Eastern Mediterranean, and further deepen its links with Israel and the United States, Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told the AJC Global Forum at a plenary session this evening.

Addressing more than 1,800 people from the U.S. and 70 other countries attending the annual gathering in Washington, D.C., Kasoulides praised AJC for “helping advance our ties with Israel and the United States.” Those relations, rooted in shared values of democracy and freedom, have led in recent years to a significant expansion in political, economic and security cooperation.

“We have a responsibility to play a more active role in our immediate region, the Eastern Mediterranean, leveraging our excellent relations with our neighbors toward greater regional stability and prosperity,” said Kasoulides.

The discovery of substantial hydrocarbon deposits between the island nation of Cyprus and Israel has created new opportunities for the Cypriot economy and for expanding relationships with countries in the region, as well as with the U.S. and EU. “The enormity of investment required to exploit this offshore treasure creates an impetus of its own toward greater cooperation,” he said. Several U.S. and Israeli energy companies are already involved in the project of extracting the natural gas.

“Natural gas can become for the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean what coal and steel was for Europe...which was the precursor of the European Union,” said Kasoulides. He noted that 2014 marks a decade since Cyprus' accession to the EU.

For Cyprus, the discovery is a “game changer,” said Kasoulides. “It makes it potentially possible for Cyprus to undergo improvements that will affect all its citizens and serve as a catalyst for the reunification of the island.” Cyprus has been divided for 40 years, since the Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern third of the country in 1974.

Kasoulides emphasized that close, cooperative Cypriot-Israeli relations go back decades. “In Cyprus, Israel recognizes a steadfast, stable and predictable partner, one that is democratic, moderate and discreet -- a reliable partner through thick and thin,” he said.

In 2013 alone, there were 14 high-level visits to Israel, including one by President Anastasiades shortly after taking office. The more than 30 bilateral agreements signed in recent years have “established a solid framework for substantive cooperation in all fields,” he said. And he noted the role of Israeli engineers and agricultural experts in the 1950s and 1960s in “the development of our industries.”

Speaking ten days after Israel and world Jewry observed Holocaust Remembrance Day, the foreign minister recalled the experience of many Holocaust survivors who were interned in British-run camps in Cyprus after London blocked their entry to Mandatory Palestine.

“For many in Cyprus and Israel, the experience of the internment camps has brought our two peoples closer together,” he said. “Those bonds are now in their third generation, with the 2,000 children born in those camps, passing on to their grandchildren their friendship and love for Cyprus.”

In closing, the foreign minister expressed hope for a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. “For us, as for all our partners in the European Union, a better tomorrow for a secure Israel is the creation of a friendly, viable Palestinian state, which comes about as a result of negotiations, and not by unilateral actions.”

AJC leadership delegations have regularly visited Cyprus since the 1980s, often together with Hellenic-American leaders. During the most recent visit in March, President Anastasiades hosted the group, which included AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Director David Harris, for a private dinner in his home and the foreign minister attended.

“Our relationship with the American Jewish Committee...is a relationship of genuine friendship, appreciation, mutual respect and common interests,” said Kasoulides.



May 12, 2014 – Washington – Laurent Fabius, foreign minister of France, delivered a powerful speech to the AJC Global Forum on the Iranian nuclear threat, efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace, the war in Syria and rising anti-Semitism. He addressed the opening session of the Global Forum, attended by more than 2,000 from across the U.S. and more than 70 other countries, including a delegation from CRIF, the central organization of French Jewry.

With the July 20 deadline to achieve a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program looming, Fabius was clear on his country’s firm posture. “France wants an agreement, but it is clear that we shall not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons,” he said. “The P5+1 group must remain united” in negotiations to “guarantee the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian program.”

On the Syria civil war, Fabius said France is determined to “halt the regime’s attempt to gain control by military force, with the help of Iran and Russia.” He called Assad’s re-election effort “a tragic farce devoid of any legitimacy.”

Fabius also stressed that the Syria conflict has global security implications. The growing power of terrorist groups “is a threat to the whole world because the jihadist networks will not stop at their borders.”

Fabius expressed support for Secretary Kerry’s efforts to achieve a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace, and France’s support for resuming the talks. “The security of Israel is by no means negotiable,” said Fabius, “but we know that it would be reinforced by a negotiated settlement.”

Fabius’s appearance at the AJC Global Forum comes at a time of rising anti-Semitism across Europe, and the foreign minister acknowledged that France is not immune. But he declared that racism and anti-Semitism “constitute a violation of human dignity,” and reaffirmed that his government is taking actions to counter such hate.

Even one act of anti-Semitism “represents a blow to France,” he said. “France has assembled a legal arsenal which places it at the forefront of the struggle,” including a measure to counter racist content on the internet.

He also spoke about Holocaust remembrance, noting that the year 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of the last departure from France of a train carrying deportees to the Nazi camps. Since President Chirac declared, in 1995, French responsibility for the deportations, compensation mechanisms have been established for victims.

France is also seeking to establish, in cooperation with the U.S. government, “compensation for Holocaust victims deported from France who were not eligible for benefits of the French reparation regime,” he said. “These negotiations, which aim in particular to respond to issues raised before American courts, are being carried out in a constructive manner and are progressing rapidly."

AJC leaders last met with Fabius in February at the Foreign Ministry in Paris. AJC maintains an office in Paris, headed by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen.



May 13, 2014 -- Washington -- AJC presented its Moral Courage Award today to Latifa Ibn Ziaten for her determined efforts to counter the influence of radical Islam and other extremism in France.

Ziaten’s son, Imad, a French soldier, was murdered in March 2012 by Mohammed Merah, a terrorist who went on to kill another two French soldiers, and then a Jewish teacher and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse within a week after Imad’s death.

“I am very honored to receive this award,” said Ziaten. “This recognition is important for the fight I lead for peace between peoples and the fight against all forms of violence and hatred.”

Her son’s murder prompted Ziaten to probe the conditions and thinking that underlie the kind of hatred that motivated Merah to brutally kill seven people. “It was necessary for me to try to understand the reasons for my son’s death,” she said. What she discovered, initially by visiting with youths in the neighborhood where Merah had lived, was frightening -- disaffected youths existing in difficult socio-economic situations, full of hatred towards France, Jews and others, and susceptible to twisted ideologies that promote hate and violence.

Determined to ensure that another Merah does not emerge and wreak violence in France, she established, in April 2012, the Imad Ibn Ziaten Association for Youth and Peace. During the past two years, Ziaten has visited dozens of schools to meet with students and teachers, as well as inmates in juvenile prisons. “I am going into difficult neighborhoods to talk to those young people,” she said.

Ziaten has also been in contact with AJC France, directed by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, who has established a network of Jews and Muslims, working together for dialogue and pluralism, and against racism and anti-Semitism.

Presenting the award to Ziaten, Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs, said, “Latifa has overcome the enormous grief of personal tragedy and, with remarkable courage and fortitude, demonstrated that evil can be fought if only we choose to act.”

Recently, Ziaten also has focused on preventing French youngsters from joining jihadi groups in Syria. Several hundred French Muslims already are in Syria fighting. French authorities, like their counterparts elsewhere in Europe and the United States, are gravely concerned about the potential dangers when they return, after being exposed to further radicalization and violence in the Syrian civil war.

Past recipients of AJC's Moral Courage Award include Tatyana Sapunova, a Russian who suffered serious injury when removing a booby-trapped anti-Semitic sign in Moscow; and Mithal al-Alusi, an Iraqi politician who, after visiting Israel, lost his two sons to the murderous hands of other Iraqis opposed to his outreach.



May 13, 2014 – Washington – For the first time in its long history the Jewish people enjoys a secure and independent Jewish state as well as a free and vibrant Diaspora, but it also faces unprecedented challenges that can and must be addressed. That was the message that Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the recently retired Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, conveyed in his State of the Jewish World Address to an audience of more than 2,000 at the opening of AJC’s Global Forum.

Rabbi Lord Sacks identified three looming threats to the Jewish people. One is the resurgence of anti-Semitism, especially in Europe, where it places the very future of Jewish communities in doubt. Second, he noted the campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel by impugning its very right to exist. This effort, he said, has become the new anti-Semitism, which targets the Jewish state rather than the Jewish "faith" or "race."He identified the third threat as Iran, which supports anti-Israel terror groups, continues to pursue its nuclear program, and has stated its determination to wipe Israel off the map.

Rabbi Lord Sacks argued that Jews around the world must realize “the victim cannot stop the crime by himself,” and seek friends and allies. Anti-Semitism is bad for other minorities as well, he pointed out, and for society as a whole. The vast majority of victims of Islamist terror are other Muslims, and the Christian population of the Middle East has declined from 20% to 4% as a result of Islamist pressure. He said, “We will fight for the right of Christians to live without fear, but we need Christians to fight for Jews’ right to live without fear as well. We will fight against Islamophobia, but we need Muslims to fight against Judeophobia.”

Rabbi Lord Sacks emphasized the importance of Jewish solidarity and self-confidence in confronting the dangers facing them. “How can we expect the world to love us if we can’t love one another?” he asked. After all, while all Jews “do not share the same faith, we all share the same fate.” And he cited the example of AJC, with its long record of advocacy for the Jewish people as a whole, as an example of such solidarity. He went on to define Judaism as “celebration,” declaring, “We never loved power—we loved life.” Renewed recognition that Judaism is “less oy and more joy,” he suggested, would strengthen Jewish determination to persevere and prevail.



May 13, 2014—Washington, D.C.—Senator John McCain (R-AZ), addressing the AJC Global Form, made an impassioned plea for American leadership in the world and global engagement.

“Withdrawal from the world is a luxury we can’t afford, not now, not ever,” said the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, since “if America does not lead, others will, and they will most likely be those who seek to do us harm.”

He was critical of the Obama administration’s position on Iran’s nuclear program, asserting that it was “intellectually dishonest” to claim that anyone opposed to current American policy was a warmonger.

“No responsible person is opposed to a diplomatic solution,” he said, but it would be disastrous to get a “bad deal” that leaves Tehran with nuclear capacity, adding, “I fear that is where we are headed.”

Senator McCain said he could “not recall another time in my life when our international challenges have been more complex and uncertain.” Particularly in the Middle East, the old order has collapsed, and extremists, whom he described as “anti-Semitic and hostile to Israel and the U.S.,” were on the rise.

The Senator acknowledged that “record numbers of Americans want to pull away from the world” due to the country’s unfortunate experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that it was the responsibility of the country’s leaders, both Republicans and Democrats, to act on the knowledge that “the expansion of freedom, democracy and prosperity not only makes our world more just, but also more secure.”

Senator McCain stressed the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, noting that the two countries share common values and democratic traditions, and are similarly threatened by Islamic extremism.

The situation in Ukraine also drew the senator’s attention. “Shame on all of us,” he said, if the U.S. does not send “military assistance” to the Ukrainian government as it confronts attempts by Russia to undermine its sovereignty.

Addressing the Global Forum opening session, attended by more than 2000 from across the U.S. and more than 70 other countries, McCain also spoke of his long-time relationship with AJC, noting that the organization “has always spoken with moral clarity” and that “no organization has done more for the freedom and justice of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than AJC.”

He added that AJC’s global advocacy “has played a critical role in advancing American leadership in the world, and you must continue to do so.”

The Senator received AJC’s Congressional Leadership Award in 2002.



May 11, 2014 -- New York -- AJC is outraged by the strong-arm, hypocritical, anti-Israel tactics several student groups used during the just-completed UCLA student council elections.

“McCarthyism has returned, only this time it's directed against Israel and takes place in a university setting,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Cherished values of open-mindedness and inquiry on campus are being trashed by groups obsessed with a sinister political agenda. What a sad day for the American university!”

In the run-up to the elections that ended Friday, notoriously anti-Israel student groups launched an aggressive campaign to compel council candidates to sign a pledge to foreswear engagement with well-established Jewish organizations that sponsor educational trips to Israel.

Strikingly, there were no attempted restrictions on similar activities -- trips, conferences -- by other organizations. Presumably it is fine to sponsor trips abroad as long as they align with the ideology of those groups.

“Suggesting that students participating in educational trips to Israel are incapable of making their own decisions about their experiences reveals extraordinary contempt for fellow students, not to mention an off-the-charts animus against Israel, the only truly democratic country in the region,” said Harris.

For more than 30 years, AJC’s Project Interchange has exposed a wide range of emerging leaders, including college students, to the diversity and complexity of Israel, including, it should be noted, meetings in Ramallah and elsewhere in the West Bank with Palestinian leaders.



May 9, 2014 – New York – Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator John McCain, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, the foreign ministers of Canada, Cyprus, France, and Singapore, and a top Israeli Cabinet official, will be among the featured speakers at the AJC Global Forum 2014, May 12-14, in Washington, D.C.

Moreover, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine will deliver special remarks to AJC from Kiev. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will also address the Global Forum via a video message from Jerusalem.

"Our annual Global Forum is an absolutely unique, energizing, highly informative experience, a must for engaged Jewish advocates," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "There is simply no other Jewish gathering like it anywhere."

AJC is the premier global Jewish advocacy organization, and this year's Global Forum will bring together more than 1,800 participants from across the U.S. and 60 Jewish communities around the world. This is the second highest attendance figure ever for the Global Forum, topped only by the 2,200 people who attended AJC's centennial celebration in 2006. The full Global Forum program is available at www.ajc.org.

Senator John McCain will be among those addressing the opening plenary session on May 12, and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will speak at the closing session on May 14.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird (who addressed the Global Forum in 2012), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, Singaporean Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, and Yuval Steinitz, Israel's Minister of International Relations, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs, will share their respective views on regional and global political and security challenges.

Iran's nuclear program will be tackled in the "Great Debate," another regular feature of the Global Forum. Roger Cohen of The New York Times, and Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal, will face-off in a reprise of their 2010 Global Forum debate on Iran.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of Great Britain will deliver a major address at the opening session on the state of the Jewish world.

Two U.S. Senators – Mark Kirk of Illinois and Chris Murphy of Connecticut – will speak at Global Forum breakfast sessions. Senator Kirk and AJC's David Harris, who recently visited Kiev, will address the Ukraine crisis. Senator Murphy will speak about Germany's increasingly important international role with AJC Berlin director Deidre Berger and German Parliament Member Philip Missfelder.

Reflecting AJC's commitment to understanding trends in the Muslim world, and how they influence U.S. and Jewish community interests, three leading Muslim activists -- Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, Creator, THE 99; Irshad Manji, Founder and Director, The Moral Courage Project; and Mustafa Akyol, Columnist, Hurriyet Daily News – will speak at a plenary session, "Courageous Voices from the Muslim World." In addition, a special highlight each year for Global Forum attendees is the opportunity to engage top officials directly in a series of private dinners. This year, there are nearly 40 such dinners with diplomats representing Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Further, Global Forum delegates will also participate in informational and training sessions on AJC priority issues before leaving the hotel on Wednesday afternoon for several hours of advocacy on Capitol Hill.

During the Global Forum, together with our Argentine Jewish partners, AJC will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Iran-sponsored terrorist attack against the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, resulting in 85 fatalities.

The Global Forum will also be marking 20 years of AJC's pioneering relationship with the German armed forces and the tenth anniversary of our Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.

Immediately prior to the Global Forum, AJC will sponsor the fourth annual ACCESS Summit for more than 400 young activists from around the world.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer will speak at the start of the gathering on May 11, and Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Israel's Consul General in New York, also will address the Summit. The full ACCESS Summit program is available at www.ajc.org.

AJC, founded in 1906 and with headquarters in New York, maintains 22 regional offices across the United States, nine overseas posts, and 31 international partnerships. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy described AJC as "the most effective, influential, and respected American Jewish organization."



May 9, 2014 – New York – AJC praised President Barack Obama for his powerful and moving remarks at the USC Shoah Foundation Dinner, where Steven Spielberg presented him with the Ambassador for Humanity Award.

“The President hit the nail on the head in this speech,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, noting that Obama did not just talk about the past, but also drew lessons for the present and the future. “In light of the horrific events of the 1930s and 1940s, President Obama has called on all of us to oppose the growing manifestations of anti-Semitism in Europe, and to challenge those who deny the right of the Jewish people to Israel, their national homeland.”

The President condemned Holocaust denial and eloquently explained how the Nazi onslaught on the Jews teaches “that silence is evil’s greatest co-conspirator.” He expressed pride that the United States had welcomed so many survivors to its shores, and laid out his plan for a Survivor Assistance Fund to enable them in their remaining years “to live in dignity and free from poverty.”

While “we cannot eliminate evil from every heart, or hatred from every soul,” Obama said, we must “make sure our children and their children learn their history so that they might not repeat it.” He drew the attention of his audience to “today’s headlines—the devastation of Syria, the murders and kidnappings in Nigeria” as proof “that we have not yet extinguished man’s darkest impulses.”

The President also cited the recent hate attack on Jewish sites in Overland Park, near Kansas City. The fact that the victims turned out not to be Jews, he said, underlined the truth that acts of intolerance inevitably spill over beyond the targeted group and threaten everyone.



May 9, 2014 – New York – Armenian President SerzhSargsyan, in a letter to AJC received this week, thanked the global Jewish organization for its April 23rd statement commemorating the victims of the Meds Yeghern.

The full text of the April 29th letter from PresidentSargsyan to AJC follows:

ToAmericanJewishCommittee
New YorkCity, USA

We,Armenians, children ofthe nationthat survived thecatastrophe of Genocide,are gratefultoallcountries, organizations andindividuals whoputuniversalhumanvaluesabove short-term political and economic considerations of theday and explicitly recognize and condemnthis horrendous crime against humanity. Historical memory and unbiased assessment ofthepastareimportant notonly forbeingvalues,butalsofortheirrolein preventingthiskindofcrimes fromhappeningagaininthefuture.

Armenians and Jews have a specialmissiontocarry outinordertopreventsuch atrocities. Ourtwopeoples, aswellas [the] international community asawhole,havetostand unanimouslyagainstdenial,thefinalstageofanygenocide.

Ifinditequallyimportantto fightagainstthe conceptsthatnurturesuchcrimes.Only through jointeffortscanweeradicateracism,xenophobia, anti-Semitism, hate propaganda andsimilar viciousphenomenathatinevitably leadtocrimes againsthumanity.

Iexpress mydeep gratitude toAmericanJewish Committee for recognizing and condemningtheArmenianGenocide. Yoursupportisespeciallyappreciated as weapproach the CentennialoftheGenocide.

Verysincerely,

SerzhSargsyan
President of the Republic of Armenia



May 6, 2014 – New York – AJC has expressed “gratitude and admiration” to Secretary of State John Kerry for “the noble initiative” for Israeli-Palestinian peace he launched last June at the AJC Global Forum. Kerry’s address to AJC was his first speech in Washington as Secretary of State.

“When you spoke to us in Washington last June, you were clear-eyed about the challenges the United States and the parties themselves would face,” wrote AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Director David Harris.

“That the United States, under leadership deeply invested in a strategic partnership with Israel, was willing to undertake the formidable task of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace – and that the Secretary of State was willing to devote the full measure of his skill and fortitude to this urgent project – are sources of pride to us as Americans and as advocates for a secure Israel.”

The AJC letter concluded with hope “that the experience of the last year encourages new thinking – not despair – and that, with the benefit of lessons learned, the vital task of pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace will remain a high priority of the United States.”

The full text of the AJC letter to Secretary Kerry follows:

May 5, 2014

The Honorable John Kerry
The Secretary
Department of State
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We write to express our gratitude and admiration for the noble initiative you launched at the AJC Global Forum last year and guided through nine difficult months: the effort to negotiate a durable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, establishing at long last two states for two peoples and fulfilling the long-held Israeli dream of peace with its neighbors.

When you spoke to us in Washington last June, you were clear-eyed about the challenges the United States and the parties themselves would face in the process you outlined, about the deep distrust that separated the antagonists, and about the dangers looming for both peoples should the conflict remain unresolved.

Against formidable odds, and under relentless pressure to turn your attention to other foreign policy concerns, you proved tireless in seeking common ground between Israeli and Palestinian leaders – and effective in keeping these most sensitive negotiations out of the public spotlight.

That the ambitious goal you set – the achievement of a final-status agreement in nine months – eluded the United States and the two parties was another telling reminder of the fraught complexities of Middle East peacemaking. Nonetheless, that the United States, under leadership deeply invested in a strategic partnership with Israel, was willing to undertake the formidable task of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace – and that the Secretary of State was willing to devote the full measure of his skill and fortitude to this urgent project – are sources of pride to us as Americans and as advocates for a secure Israel.

We recognize that, with the expiration of the nine-month negotiating period, the Administration may wish to pause for reflection. We expect the parties themselves to do the same. It is our earnest hope, however, that the experience of the last year encourages new thinking – not despair – and that, with the benefit of lessons learned, the vital task of pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace will remain a high priority of the United States.

With the assurance of our profound esteem, we remain,

Respectfully,

Stanley Bergman, AJC President
David Harris, AJC Executive Director



May 5, 2014 – New York – AJC regrets the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the town board may continue to begin its meetings with a prayer. Historically, those prayers have been almost exclusively Christian, a practice that prompted the lawsuit.

AJC, in an amicus brief, had urged that the court find unconstitutional the town’s use of prayers because they suggest that government prefers one faith, in violation of the Establishment Clause.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision is regrettable in not insisting that those prayers be required to reflect our nation’s religious diversity,” said AJC General Counsel Marc Stern.

Stern noted that the dissent in the Supreme Court decision “had it right when they said that the Town’s opening prayer practice, which favored the Town’s Christian majority, failed to comply with the ‘remarkable guarantee’ embodied in the Constitution.”

“When the citizens of this country approach their government, they do so only as Americans, not as members of one faith or another,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan for the minority. “[T]hey should not confront government-sponsored worship that divides them along religious lines.”

The majority of the court, however, argued that since the Town did not intend to slight its non-Christian citizens, the Constitution was not violated. Citizens are more concerned with what government does than with what some anonymous bureaucrat intended, AJC observed.

Despite our disappointment with the result, Stern noted, there is an important silver lining in the majority decision: “Those who would deliberately limit legislative prayers to those of the dominant religious group—or use legislative prayers to attack or proselytize others—have been told by the Court that they will find no solace in the Town of Greece decision,” said Stern.

 

 

 



May 4, 2014 -- New York -- AJC decried the so-called “price tag” vandalism attacks that have spread to Arab communities in Israel in recent weeks.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that such attacks “contradict our character and our values,” and ordered Israeli security and law enforcement agencies to step up efforts to apprehend those responsible.

The “price tag” attacks began in the West Bank several years ago as a twisted form of protest against Israeli government moves to close illegal settlements.

In the past year, the hate crimes have spread to some Israeli Arab communities near Jerusalem and in the north of the country. The attacks have consisted mostly of property damage, including slashing car tires, arson and scrawling racist graffiti. Several mosques and churches in Israel also have been targeted.

“As Israelis and friends around the world celebrate this week Israel’s 66th birthday, we are once again reminded that Israel is a vibrant democracy that will withstand such assaults on its core values by those tragically infused with hatred of the other,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We know the Israeli government will make every effort to identify and arrest the perpetrators, prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law, and take the measures necessary in an effort to prevent future such attacks.”



May 4, 2014 – Brussels – AJC’s Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute (TAI) praised Belgian authorities for preventing an anti-Semitic conference that was planned for today in Anderlecht, one of the 19 municipalities in Brussels. The planned “European Congress of Rebellion” would have brought together Jew- and Israel haters from Belgium and France.

“Government and civil society leaders must join in combatting the alarming rise of anti-Semitism and extremism across Europe,” said TAI Director Daniel Schwammenthal. “By ensuring that this obscene hate-fest will not be permitted in the capital of Europe, Belgium has demonstrated solidarity with the Jewish community and a reaffirmation of democratic values that are threatened by anti-Semitism and racism.”

The “European Congress of Rebellion” was organized by Laurent Louis, a far-right member of the Belgian Parliament. Addressing parliament in January, Louis said, “the Holocaust was set up and financed by the pioneers of Zionism.”

Among the scheduled speakers at the banned “European Congress of Rebellion” today was French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala. He has been convicted several times in France on anti-Semitism charges and his shows have been banned for their anti-Semitic content. Another planned participant was Franco-Swiss author Alain Soral. A former National Front member, Soral has a history of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist statements, calling Judaism, for example, “something that verges on mental illness.”

Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC France, warned that “extremists have forged pan-European alliances based on their hatred of Jews. Democracies across Europe must stand firm against anti-Semitism and racism, and create a comprehensive plan to fight those who defy European values and principles.”

AJC, the global advocacy organization, maintains European offices in Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Rome. TAI celebrated its tenth anniversary in February.



April 30, 2014 -- New York -- AJC honored Chelsea Clinton and Linda Mills with the global advocacy organization’s Interfaith Leadership Award for co-founding the Of Many Institute at New York University. The award was presented at the AJC Women’s Leadership Spring Luncheon, attended by more than 350 at The Pierre Hotel.

“Your visionary leadership in advancing interfaith partnerships in pursuit of the common good has paved a vital pathway for all who seek to build a world based on generosity and mutual respect,” states the inscription on the award. Cori Berger, chair of AJC’s Women's Leadership Board, and Betty Cotton, president of AJC’s New York Region, presented the award.

Following the award presentation, Clinton, Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, and Mills, NYU’s Chancellor for Global Programs and University Life, engaged in a 30-minute conversation about their vision and work with AJC Executive Director David Harris. The Of Many Institute offers academic courses, dialogue programs and other events to deepen understanding among different faiths on campus and in the broader New York City community.

“I am deeply optimistic that this work will be taken up on other campuses and in other communities,” said Clinton. “It is important to recognize people’s potential for doing this work and to support them. Sometimes it is a rabbi and an imam, and sometimes students will be in the vanguard.”

The genesis of the Of Many Institute was the increasingly cooperative relationship between Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, NYU’s Muslim and Jewish chaplains.

Mills emphasized that the relationship between Latif and Sarna set a tone for Jewish-Muslim interaction and cooperation that is the basis for the Of Many Institute. “When conflicts emerge, the tests for dealing with them are the bridges, friendships already built,” said Mills. “At NYU, we live in a much more embracing space. Of Many has built a bridge between Jewish and Muslim students that can allow us to get through a conflict.”

AJC has been a pioneer in interfaith relations for more than a century. AJC’s leadership in the 20th century advanced Christian-Jewish relations. Even as that commitment continues, AJC has expanded its dedication to furthering Muslim-Jewish relations in the United States and abroad in the 21st century.

 

 



April 30, 2014 – New York – The American Jewish Committee (AJC) honored Dr. Julie L Gerberding, president of Merck Vaccines, with the global advocacy organization’s Women’s Global Leadership Award. The award was presented today at the AJC Women’s Leadership Spring Luncheon, held at The Pierre Hotel in New York City.

“Dr. Gerberding is a true champion of global health,” said AJC President Stanley M. Bergman, who presented the award to Gerberding. “Through Julie’s tireless advocacy, tremendous contributions to the development of innovative health solutions, and commitment to educating the next generation of health care leaders, she continues to improve the lives of countless individuals around the world.”

The AJC award recognizes Gerberding as an acclaimed global business leader, tireless advocate for access to medical care, and devoted healer and humanitarian. She is the first recipient of the AJC Women’s Global Leadership Award.

"Health is a precious resource, essential for building strong and prosperous communities throughout the world," said Gerberding.  "I'm passionate about helping to protect people's health while in my role at Merck Vaccines and in my previous roles at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and University of California San Francisco.  My tenure at these institutions has also reaffirmed my belief that women can be especially effective champions for global health promotion."

Gerberding, a passionate advocate for sustainable solutions for global health, is responsible for Merck’s current portfolio of vaccines, planning for the introduction of vaccines from the company’s pipeline, and accelerating efforts to broaden access to Merck’s vaccines around the world. She served as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2002 to 2009.

 



April 28, 2014 – New York – AJC welcomed the White House announcement of new U.S. sanctions on Russia for its ongoing actions against Ukraine.

President Obama announced today that the U.S. is imposing sanctions on seven Russian government officials, including two members of President Putin’s inner circle and on 17 Russian companies. The White House declared that since the April 17 international agreement in Geneva regarding the Ukraine crisis, Russia has done “nothing" to meet its commitments "and in fact has further escalated the crisis."

"Russia's meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs is dangerous,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who visited Kiev last week and met with the prime minister and other top Ukrainian officials. “For the sake of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, democracy and well-being, it is incumbent upon the U.S. and our European allies to stand firm in support of the Ukrainian people and its government."



April 27, 2014 -- New York -- AJC is dismayed by the racial remarks of Donald Sterling, and urges the NBA to take appropriate action against the Los Angeles Clippers owner.

“Donald Sterling’s callous remarks regarding African Americans are a painful reminder that, 60 years after the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, and 50 years after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, there is still work to be done,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “And that someone so deeply involved in the NBA, which exemplifies the racial tapestry of our country, would think this way is all the more striking.”

AJC applauds NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for ordering an immediate investigation into Sterling’s remarks.

 



April 25, 2013 – New York – In observance of Yom HaShoah, which begins Sunday evening, AJC issued the following statement:

WE REMEMBER

In the Jewish tradition, we are commanded to remember (zachor) and not to forget (lo tishkach). This week we commemorate Yom HaShoah, the Day of Holocaust Remembrance. On this solemn occasion, 69 years after the end of World War II:

We remember the six million Jewish martyrs, including 1.5 million children, who were exterminated in the Holocaust.

We remember not only their tragic deaths but also their vibrant lives—as shopkeepers and craftsmen, scientists and authors, teachers and students, parents and children, husbands and wives.

We remember the richly hued and ancient Jewish civilizations that were destroyed—from Salonika, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania.

We remember the slippery slope that began with the rantings of an obscure Austrian-born anti-Semite named Adolf Hitler and led, in the course of less than 15 years, to his absolute control over Germany.

We remember the fertile soil of European anti-Semitism—cultivated over centuries by cultural, political, and religious voices—that created an all-too-receptive climate for the Nazi objective of eliminating the Jewish people.

We remember the courage of Denmark, as well as Albania, Bulgaria, and Finland, for their extraordinary efforts to protect their own Jewish communities.

We remember the example of thousands of Righteous Persons who risked their own lives that others might live.

We remember the millions of non-Jews—Poles and Russians, Roma and the disabled, political opponents and homosexuals—murdered under the relentless Nazi onslaught.

We remember the valiant soldiers of the Allied nations who, at such great human cost, vanquished the Third Reich.

We remember the survivors of the death camps, who endured such unimaginable suffering and who have inspired us all with their indomitable courage, spirit, and will to live.

We remember the absence of an Israel in those wartime years, an Israel which, had it existed, would have provided a haven when so shamefully few countries were willing to accept Jewish refugees.

We shall never forget those who saved even a single life. As it is written in the Talmud: “He who saves one life has saved the world.”

We shall never forget the importance of speaking out against intolerance, whenever and wherever it occurs, all the more so as anti-Semitism in Europe is again on the rise.

We shall never forget the inextricable link among democracy, the rule of law, and protection of human rights.

We shall never forget the age-old prophetic vision of a world of justice, harmony, and peace.

And we shall never forget that each of us, in ways large and small, can help bring us closer to the realization of that prophetic vision.



April 25, 2014 – New York – Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky visited AJC headquarters in New York today, only days after meeting in Kiev with an AJC delegation.

Speaking at a breakfast with AJC leaders, including AJC President Stanley Bergman, Lubkivsky spoke passionately about the efforts of the Ukrainian government and people to achieve the vision of the “revolution of dignity” that took place in the Maidan, and to defend against ongoing threats from Russia.

“We are doing everything possible to stop this madness,” said Lubkivsky, referring to the massing of Russian forces on the border, and interference in Ukrainian affairs.

People have a “moral right to live a normal life,” said Lubkivsky, adding that “this is not just about Ukraine, but is a universal human value.”

Lubkivsky repeatedly condemned the “diseases” of xenophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance. He pledged that the government would find and prosecute those responsible for the recent distribution of anti-Semitic fliers and other manifestations of hatred, blaming Moscow and pro-Russian separatists for the fliers, calling it “Middle Ages barbarism.”

He noted that units dedicated to combatting anti-Semitism and xenophobia have recently been established in several government ministries, including the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ukrainian equivalent of the FBI.

Lubkivsky stressed that what some are calling the “new Ukraine,” and its desire to be rooted in Western values, is actually the “real Ukraine,” a county that for so long was “hidden under the Soviet mask.”

He thanked the United States, and the Jewish community specifically, for supporting Ukraine. “You are real partners,” he told the AJC leaders.

The deputy foreign minister praised the UN General Assembly resolution adopted in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. “The UN resolution sent a strong message to President Putin, and Ukrainians felt a spirit of solidarity.”

He made clear that Ukraine seeks a peaceful resolution of the crisis and neighborly relations with Russia. But he also stressed that “nations have the right to fight for their homeland.”

An AJC delegation led by Executive Director David Harris visited Kiev earlier this week, and met with top

Ukrainian officials, including the prime minister and deputy prime minister, and with Jewish community leadership.



April 24, 2014 -- New York -- AJC Executive Director David Harris called the announcement of a Palestinian unity government "a game-changer that sabotages Secretary of State John Kerry's valiant efforts to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian two-state accord."

The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas sealed their latest effort at reconciliation in a pact to form a single, unified government and hold elections.

"If PA President Mahmoud Abbas's intention is to end peace talks with Israel and undercut the Palestinian Authority by jeopardizing the continuation of U.S. aid, then he can declare victory," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

"Regrettably, Abbas has demonstrated, in word and deed, his rejection of calls to extend the current talks beyond the April 29 deadline," said Harris. "First, he announced that the Palestinians, acting unilaterally, would join 15 international bodies. Now he has partnered with Hamas, listed by both the U.S. and European Union as a terrorist group. As the U.S. State Department spokesperson said yesterday, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a group that does not even recognize its very right to exist."

"Israel remains committed to working with Secretary Kerry to achieve a two-state deal, but once again, as in 2000-1 and 2008, the Palestinian leadership has squandered an historic opportunity for peace," Harris concluded. "That conclusion, sad as it may be, is simply inescapable."

 

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.

 

 



April 23. 2014 – New York – In a month of solemn remembrance of the atrocities of the last century – from the 20th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide to the annual commemoration in Israel and the United States of the Holocaust – we pause in mournful tribute to the memories of the estimated 1.5 million victims of the Meds Yeghern, the Genocide of Armenians, committed in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.

AJC calls on the government of Turkey, a republic founded years after the empire’s dissolution, to not only provide at long last full access, as the government has pledged, to the historical record of that dark period of mass murder, forced relocation, death marches, sundering of families, and other abuses – but to address the realities the records reveal. The process of healing of this nearly century-old wound can only begin when the truth of that sorrowful era is confronted.

“As our organization has testified and written on various occasions, the atrocities committed against ethnic Armenians under Ottoman rule were an unspeakable crime against humanity,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “For the often-invoked but too-seldom-fulfilled phrase ‘Never again’ to have real meaning, the full details of that period must be acknowledged.”

“We identify with the core message of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, by then-Harvard University Professor, and now U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power that history must be faced, the dictates of conscience heeded – or we are doomed to endless brutalities by the powerful against the weak,” Harris added.

“As successive horrors painfully remind us,” Harris concluded, “we each bear the obligation of remembrance as a necessary step toward preventing such acts in the future. We stand in solidarity with people of good will everywhere in marking the 99th anniversary of the onset of the Meds Yeghern – the first, and not the last, instance of ethnic massacre and genocide of the 20th century.”



April 23, 2014 – New York -- AJC congratulates the Catholic Church on the canonizations of Pope John XXIII and John Paul II.

"We rejoice with our Catholic friends at this unique recognition being given to the two Popes who were also the ones most responsible for the dramatic revolution in Catholic-Jewish relations in our times," said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC's International Director of Interreligious Affairs. Rosen will attend the canonization ceremony in St. Peter's Square on April 27.

“Thanks to their vision and leadership, the Catholic Church today affirms its unique profound rootedness in Judaism, promotes the closest of respectful relations with the Jewish people, and condemns anti-Semitism as a sin,” Rosen said. “It is no exaggeration to say that in terms of the Christian-Jewish relationship, these great men took us from darkness to light; from pain to joy, and from alienation to brotherhood."

Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, which promulgated the document Nostra Aetate that ushered in the transformation in Catholic teaching regarding Jews, Judaism, and Israel. Pope John Paul II was the first pontiff to visit a synagogue and the State of Israel.

On May 26, Pope Francis will follow in his predecessors’ footsteps and be received in Israel by the country’s political, religious and civic leadership.



April 21, 2014 -- Kiev -- Amid dramatic and still unfolding developments in Ukraine, a five-member AJC leadership delegation is visiting Kiev for three days to meet with top government officials, Western diplomats, and leaders of the Jewish community.

The visit included a 70-minute meeting today with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who spoke about the many challenges facing his government, including especially what he described as substantial Russian activity in the east and south of the country, as well as the country's pressing economic challenges and the need for sustained American and European support and commitment.

In addition to the meeting with the Prime Minister, the delegation met with Chief of Security Services Valentin Nalivaichenko; Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky; U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt; Israeli Deputy Ambassador to Ukraine Itzhak Carmel Kagan; and Member of Parliament Petro Poroshenko. The group also held sessions with leaders of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, as well as with other Jewish representatives.

“Since 1991, AJC has staunchly supported an independent Ukraine aligned with democratic values and free to chart its own destiny,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has visited Kiev many times and was honored by the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Viktor Yuschenko in 2008. “We applaud the progress following the dramatic Maidan protests, even as we fully recognize the myriad challenges facing the country each and every day. It's vitally important for the world to grasp just what's at stake -- and not just for the country itself, but also far beyond -- in ensuring that Ukraine remain free and united.”

Several government officials condemned unequivocally the recent acts of anti-Semitism in Donetsk and Nikolayev. “The current Ukrainian government stressed to us its commitment to combating anti-Semitism and all forms of racism and xenophobia,” Harris said.

“There is real concern about the dangers posed by outside provocateurs playing the ‘anti-Semitism card’ and also about far-right, ultra-nationalist groups in Ukraine. In response, we were told, the clear message from the government is that acts of anti-Semitism are intolerable, are contrary to the ‘new Ukraine,’ and will not go unpunished,” Harris added.

The group visited the imposing Maidan Square, which became the symbol of the successful Ukrainian effort to oust President Viktor Yanukovich’s government, and where over 100 people lost their lives. Bullet holes can be seen in buildings surrounding the square, the result largely of sniper fire by the forces deployed by Yanukovich against the massive crowds of protesters.

The AJC visit will conclude on Tuesday, when Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to hold meetings with top Ukrainian officials.

This is the second AJC fact-finding and solidarity mission to Ukraine in the past seven weeks alone.

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



April 20, 2014 -- Kiev -- AJC condemned the firebombing attack on a synagogue in the Ukrainian city of Nikolayev. The attack comes days after a virulent anti-Semitic leaflet, whose origin remains in question, was distributed in Donetsk.

Both anti-Semitic incidents were condemned by Ukraine's Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who vowed to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators.

"The quick condemnation by the Ukrainian government to these intolerable attacks is laudable," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who participated in meetings today with Jewish community leaders in Kiev and will see Yatsenyuk on Monday.

Harris is leading a five-member AJC delegation on a visit to Kiev, the second AJC fact-finding and solidarity visit to the Ukrainian capital in the past two months.



April 18, 2014 -- New York -- AJC praised Thai authorities for preventing a terror attack by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah on Israelis visiting the country.

"Global terror requires global vigilance," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Thailand is a country that has recognized the threat and continues to cooperate with other like-minded nations in countering Hezbollah’s relentless, dangerous activities.”

Two Hezbollah operatives detained in Thailand this week told authorities they had planned to attack Israelis in Bangkok.  Thailand is a popular vacation destination for Israelis, and many were visiting during the Passover holiday.

It was not the first time Hezbollah and Iran attempted to carry out a terror attack in Thailand.  Last August, an Iranian was sentenced to life in prison, and his Iranian accomplice to 15 years, for a failed bombing plot aimed at Israeli diplomats in 2012.

"Iran and Hezbollah's terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s,” stated the U.S. State Department report on terrorism last year.

“Hezbollah’s mission is to wage war against Israel, and it has taken that battle to all corners of the globe,” said Harris. “The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should seriously consider taking unified action against Hezbollah, and label it a terrorist organization.”

The EU last year designated the “military wing” of Hezbollah a terror group, following on the deadly 2012 terror attack on Israelis tourists in Bulgaria and foiled terrorist surveillance against Israelis in Cyprus.

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.

 

 



April 16, 2014 -- New York -- AJC called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to remove Rima Khalaf from her position as UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

“Under-Secretary General Khalaf’s profound and all-too-obvious animus against one UN member state, Israel, has betrayed her fundamental responsibility as a UN official,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

An ESCWA report, “Arab Integration: A 21st Century Development Imperative,” released in February, is full of invectives against Israel. Ostensibly a study of economic development challenges and prospects in the Arab world, the report accuses Israel of a “flagrant breach of all international conventions and resolutions,” and of supporting “discord aimed at establishing sectarian Arab mini-States.”

Khalaf highlighted the accusations against Israel when she released the report. “Israel’s adamancy that it is a Jewish State...violates the rights of both the Muslim and Christian indigenous populations and revives the concept of a state ethnic and religious purity, which cause egregious human suffering during the twentieth century,” Khalaf declared.

"It's painfully ironic, isn't it, that Khalaf has no problem with Arab states that self-define as both Arab and Muslim, but has a big problem when it comes to the notion of Israel as a Jewish state," Harris observed. "And yet, it was the UN itself that first laudably recommended the creation of a Jewish state -- the General Assembly's words, not ours -- in 1947."

In a letter to Secretary General Ban this week, Israel formally requested Khalaf’s suspension as the head of ECSWA.

“It is unacceptable that inflammatory anti-Israel messages continue to be produced under the banner of the United Nations and using UN resources,” wrote Ambassador Ron Prosor, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the UN. “By demonizing Israel, Ms. Khalaf is advancing a personal agenda rather than furthering the cause of peace or advancing regional Arab development.”

Prosor added that the accusations against Israel in the ECSWA report and expressed by Khalaf “represent the epitome of modern day anti-Semitism and cannot be condoned under any circumstances.”

"We could not agree more with the conclusions reached by Ambassador Prosor," Harris noted.

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



The Times of Israel

April 14, 2014

Washington - The Spanish diplomat knew the drill. He sang his way through “Dayenu,” and daintily dipped his finger in the wine glass to symbolize the ten plagues. The Latvian ambassador’s grip was more tenuous and he asked about every dip, every tradition.

In the social hall of Washington’s Adas Israel Congregation, the two, along with some four dozen of their colleagues, had gathered for what has become an icon among Washington’s many symbolic pre-Passover Seders — the American Jewish Committee’s Diplomats Seder.

It looked like one of the model Seders held in Hebrew schools across the country in recent weeks – complete with take-home haggadot and little plates of horseradish and charoset. But few Sunday-schoolers had their model Seder meal served by gloved staff on fine china. And for members of the diplomatic corps, representing every inhabited continent on Earth, the Passover story struck myriad resonances.

The Latvian ambassador listened politely as the AJC member leading the Seder at his table engaged in traditional exegesis. “Why is matzah, which is translated as ‘this bread of affliction,’ really known as ‘this bread of poverty?’” the member asked, adding that the poverty itself – the process of ridding the Jewish people of their material ties and obligations – was part of the meaning of freedom.

The question hung in the air – and was immediately grabbed by the diplomat, reflecting on his own country’s history of Soviet rule.

“When we were part of the Soviet Union, we always used to say that. Poor but free. We are willing to be poor if it means to be free,” he recalled.

At another table, a Bosnian diplomat examined a reprinted edition of the Sarajevo Hagaddah passed from hand to hand. For him, the story was one of interfaith cooperation in a country ravaged by sectarian violence.

He recounted to his table members how the 700-year-old manuscript volume was rescued from the Holocaust by Bosnian Muslims, who, according to a popular account, hid the book under the floor of a mosque.

That kind of exchange is exactly what the Seder’s organizers at the AJC hoped for when they started the tradition in 1996.

“We are so frequently on diplomats’ doorsteps to ask for things and push them,” said Jason Isaacson, the AJC’s director of government and international affairs. “This is an opportunity to meet them in a different field. We wanted to tell them about ourselves – about our history, concerns, why we look at the world the way we do,” he added.

The Seder seemed to the AJC’s Washington office a natural idea for an annual event that would offer meaning as well as Washington-style socializing.

“Of all the Jewish events in the calendar, the Seder seemed to me and to my colleagues the best living example of what motivates Jewish public policy concerns, what is behind so much of what we advocate,” Isaacson explained. “It emphasizes themes of freedom, liberation and frankly determination, and also unity among the Jewish people as well as a common universal identification with Israel,” he said.

The first Seder was held in a conference room in the AJC’s former offices, but the gathering has long outgrown its original lodgings. It has changed in other ways as well. Isaacson recalled with a tinge of nostalgia a rudimentary menu featuring matzoh ball soup and the required Seder components of horseradish, charoset, spring vegetables, bitter herbs, salt water – plus of course, matzah. Isaacson said that he had “the pleasure of sitting next to a Chinese ambassador when he tried his first matzah ball.”

Modern-day attendees had to rely on diplomatic etiquette when confronted by a chilled slice of jellied gefilte fish. At the recommendation of AJC members seated side-by-side with the diplomats, horseradish was liberally applied.

Here, the Latvian envoy found another similarity. “My father made this stuff too,” he said, pointing at the horseradish. “But I think it was much stronger.”

The rituals of the Seder – dipping celery in salt water, spilling out wine to commemorate the plagues – were an important part of the experience.

“To introduce ourselves over a social occasion, a pleasant meal with good company and interesting rituals that may seem strange and charming to people who may not be familiar… it’s a way of breaking down some defenses and helping people understand who we are and what we do,” Isaacson said.

The event has become a fixture for members of the diplomatic corps. The current ambassador from Cyprus attended the Seder first as a more junior member of his country’s delegation, and when he returned to Washington, now as ambassador, he renewed his annual attendance.

And while it may not yet have solved the world’s problems, the Seder this year did bring adversaries together under one roof, as Ukrainian and Russian delegation members broke matzah. They were seated at separate tables, but they were both listening to others’ tales of freedom, redemption, and national liberation.



April 13, 2014 -- New York -- AJC is deeply saddened by today's fatal attack at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, a Kansas City suburb.

"Our hearts go out to the victims of this heartbreaking tragedy," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

Two people were killed at the JCC and one person at the Village Shalom assisted living center. A 15-year-old boy is in critical condition at a local hospital.

Police have arrested one suspect in the shooting spree. The gunman reportedly shouted "Heil Hitler."

"As we await more details on the attack and its motive, we join in solidarity with the entire Kansas City area community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, in expressing shock, sadness and dismay," Harris added. "We can't help but note that this attack comes on the eve of Passover, a celebration of Jewish freedom from oppression and violence."

AJC maintains an office in Kansas City, together with the Jewish Community Relations Bureau.

 



The Jerusalem Post

April 13, 2014

NEW YORK – When called upon to discuss the meaning of freedom at the American Jewish Committee’s annual Diplomatic Seder on Thursday night, South Korean Ambassador to the UN Oh Joon told a tale of modern oppression and familial hardship that resonated deeply with all the guests, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

More than one million Korean people, he said, were separated from their families after the borders between North and South were fixed in 1953 following the Korean War, and passage between the two countries was forbidden. One of those was his father-in-law, who at the age of 18 was cut off from the rest of his family in the North.

Despite entering a lottery every year to try to be reunited, his father-in-law died 10 years ago without ever knowing what happened to them.

“There have been 18 rounds of reunions since the year 2000, and the South Korean government chooses only 200 people every time,” Oh said. “But sometimes I think it might be better to not have been given a chance. These are people in their 70s and 80s. They’re meeting their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, whom they haven’t seen in 50 years. They meet for a few days, and then they are parted and expected to never see each other again. It’s heart wrenching. And it gives me the thought that there are some freedoms that we take for granted, like the ability to be with our families.”

Delegations from over 40 countries, from Andorra to New Zealand, gathered at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the Seder. B’nai Jeshurun is one of New York’s oldest Jewish congregations, and a sense of history and cultural education imbued the slightly abbreviated service, which was led with gusto and wisdom by Rabbi Rolando Matalon.

“It’s not common to see so many people together from different countries and faiths,” Matalon said. “Events like this, when we have so many people from so many countries, show us that we’re not doomed to be aggressors toward each other.”

Betraying his Argentinian heritage with some humor, he then added: “Except during the World Cup.”

The other diplomatic speaker of the night, the Hungarian consul-general in New York, Károly Dán, reached into his country’s history for what freedom means today. He read aloud a 166-year-old letter written during a time of revolutions in Europe by the Jewish citizens of Hungary, who called for “equal rights” and demanded to “share in the burdens and blessings of our country.”

For some diplomats it was their first experience with up-close-and-personal Jewish traditions.

“I like it. This is my first time,” said Martin Dvorák, consul- general of the Czech Republic. “For many years I never knew why I felt so connected to things that were Jewish, and then I found out that my grandmother was Jewish.”

Nevertheless, Dvorák added that he didn’t think his family would be incorporating these traditions anytime soon.

“We’re still celebrating Christmas,” he said with a smile.

Yvonne Walker Borobo, consul- general of Gabon, said this was her second AJC Seder.

“For a lot of people who are not familiar with the Jewish culture and way of living, it’s interesting to understand where the Jewish people are coming from,” Borobo said.

“The only thing they really want is peace. We have to stop being slaves of each other and always work to shape and understand our cultures.”



April 6, 2014 -- New York -- The resignation of Takis Baltakos, chief of staff to Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, was entirely warranted, following the revelation of his meeting with a senior official of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.

“What Mr. Baltakos did is an affront to Prime Minister Samaras and to the vast majority of the Greek people,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Meeting with Golden Dawn is shocking enough by itself, but expressing sympathy for the party -- or, in reality, the criminal organization, as the government has declared -- is beyond belief.”

In the video, Baltakos tells Ilias Kasidiaris, a Golden Dawn Member of Parliament, that the prime minister initiated the investigation against Golden Dawn for political gain. In what appears to be a friendly conversation, Baltakos refers to Samaras’s vow “to deracinate” Golden Dawn when he spoke at AJC in New York last September.

“The video is damning,” said Harris.

In a radio interview the day after he resigned, Baltakos said, “There may be more videos and I may have said more things,” the Greek newspaper Katthimerini reported.

“This incident must have been a real shock for Prime Minister Samaras, who has shown such strong moral and political leadership in confronting Golden Dawn,” said Harris. “At the same time, we are encouraged that the prime minister and Greece’s judicial and legislative bodies will continue to pursue Golden Dawn, whose racism and xenophobia threaten democratic Greece.”

Six Golden Dawn MPs, including the party’s founder, have been imprisoned pending trial on charges of operating a criminal organization. Last week, the Greek Parliament lifted the immunity of another five MPs from the party. Orchestrating attacks against immigrants, gays and political opponents are among the allegations brought against Golden Dawn's leaders.

AJC has been visiting Greece regularly for over three decades, cooperates closely with Hellenic-American groups, and has an association agreement with KIS, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



April 4, 2014 – New York – AJC remembers with profound sorrow the more than 800,000 victims of the Rwanda genocide 20 years ago. The UN General Assembly designated April 7th as the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.

"This unimaginable slaughter ended the illusion that after the Holocaust genocide would not happen again," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "The refusal of governments and international institutions to intervene as systematic murders and related atrocities consumed Rwanda only furthered the magnitude of the genocide."

"The Rwandan people admirably have pursued the difficult path of recovery, rebuilding their society, but tragically many in the world have forgotten the lessons of genocide and the international community's promise of never again," said Harris. "From Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Syria, to the Central African Republic and other nations, deep-seated hatreds fuel the evil of genocide."

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, established by the UN Security Council, has been instrumental in pursuing justice. Over the last 20 years, nearly 30 individuals — including some of the key architects of the mass murder — have been convicted by the Tribunal for their involvement in the genocide.

On the eve of the 20th anniversary, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: "We draw inspiration from the ability of the Rwandan people to unite and show that reconciliation is possible even after a monumental tragedy. Together, let us commit to remember, unite and renew for the people of Rwanda and for our actions to prevent genocide around the world."

AJC presented its 2008 Moral Courage Award to Jacqueline Murekatete and Yolande Mukagasana, two Rwandan survivors of the genocide who are engaged in public advocacy on genocide prevention. At its 2005 Annual Meeting, AJC honored the director of the film Hotel Rwanda.

AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights was a strong advocate for creating the UN's international criminal tribunals and works to prevent genocide. AJC's Africa Institute has organized visits to Rwanda to raise awareness of the genocide and its continuing impact.



 

AJC Welcomes Senate Vote on CIA Detention and Interrogation Report

April 3, 2014 – New York – AJC applauds the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its bipartisan 11-3 vote to release the executive summary of its report on the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program. President Obama recently announced that he is committed to declassifying the report.

“We urge the President to promptly declassify and release to the American people the executive summary, and the findings and conclusions covered by the Senate Committee vote,” said E. Robert Goodkind, Chair of AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI).  “Looking ahead, the Senate Committee’s study of the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program should be made public in full.”

“Releasing the Committee’s 6,300-page report would demonstrate the United States’ commitment to developing national security policies based on the facts surrounding the CIA’s interrogation, rendition and detention programs,” Goodkind added. “This is important for bringing transparency to the issues.”

On a related note, Goodkind urged “the U.S. to fully comply with its international legal obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

AJC had sent letters to Committee members urging them to vote in favor of releasing the executive summary, findings and conclusions. AJC had previously welcomed the support of Committee members and Vice President Biden for releasing the Senate report.

 



April 1, 2014 – AJC denounced Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s announcement that he will seek membership for Palestine in another 15 international organizations.

"If the Palestinian leadership wants to keep a two-state prospect viable, internationalizing the conflict at this sensitive moment is totally counter-productive," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "The only path to sustainable peace is direct negotiations."

Palestine became a member of UNESCO soon after the UN General Assembly recognized Palestine as a non-member observer in 2012. However, in agreeing to resume direct bilateral peace talks with Israel last summer, Abbas also committed to not pursue membership in other UN bodies.

"Abbas's latest ploy endangers the peace process, and is a slap in the face of Secretary of State Kerry, who has worked tirelessly with both Israelis and Palestinians to achieve peace," Harris said.

Kerry was set to meet with Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday, after meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem this week. Whether the meeting will take place after Abbas's declaration is uncertain.

"So many opportunities for peace over decades were lost because of so many Palestinian 'no’s'," said Harris. "Isn’t it high time for a Palestinian 'yes' and stay the course to the end in achieving with Israel a two-state settlement?"



April 1, 2014 – New York – Avital Leibovich has been named director of AJC’s Israel/Middle East Office, located in Jerusalem.

“After a long and fruitful service in the IDF, I feel a natural transition as I begin my mission with the AJC family. I look forward to new challenges and interesting opportunities," said Leibovich.

Leibovich comes to AJC after a distinguished 22-year career in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), where she was the principal spokesperson. She was the IDF face during wars and other crises in which Israel’s military was engaged.

Leibovich created and headed for the past two years the interactive media and communications branch of the IDF spokespersons unit. This robust, around-the-clock operation, utilizes the latest in social media and internet outreach in multiple languages --- Hebrew, English, Arabic, French, Russian and Spanish.

Prior to that position, Leibovich served for eight years as the official IDF spokesperson to international media. She was also spokesperson for the Northern Command for three years.

Leibovich retired from the IDF in March, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

“Avital’ s commitment to Israel’s security, well-being and quest for peace, to the essential ties linking American Jews and Israelis, and to enhancing the bonds between Washington, Jerusalem and other capitals are well-established and a perfect match for the AJC mission,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “AJC is fortunate to have Avital Leibovich join our global advocacy team.”

Leibovich has met with numerous AJC delegations visiting Israel and addressed the 2012 AJC Global Forum in Washington, D.C.

Leibovich holds a B.A. in English literature and political science from Bar Ilan University and an M.A. in international relations from the University of Haifa.

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



March 28, 2014 – New York – AJC applauds the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) for expressing serious concern about human rights violations in Iran. The Council resolution also renews the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed.  The resolution was adopted by a vote of 21 in favor, 9 against, and 16 abstentions.

“The UN message to President Rouhani is clear. The Iranian people’s human rights are a priority concern of the international community,” said E. Robert Goodkind, Chair of AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI).  “The Special Rapporteur mandate is an essential tool for the international community to address the Iranian government’s continuing egregious human rights violations.”

The resolution is based on the most recent reports of Special Rapporteur Shaheed and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who emphasized that extensive human rights violations in Iran are ongoing.

Shaheed told the Council “the rhetoric and modest steps taken [by the Iranian government] to date are yet to translate into the kinds of deep reforms required to respond to the human rights concerns raised by the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary-General, Treaty Bodies, all Special Procedures, human rights defenders and international organizations.”

He expressed concern that a lack of adherence to Iran’s international law obligations and rule of law continues to undermine human rights. “The coordinated mass arrest of human rights defenders has served to effectively dismantle the most important Iranian human rights organizations,” Shaheed said.

The Secretary-General reported that there has been “no significant improvement” on key human rights, despite pledges made by President Rouhani during his campaign and after his swearing in.

JBI has welcomed the release of some political prisoners, including women’s rights advocate and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, and statements pledging rights improvements. But JBI remains concerned that, as of January 2014, 895 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience were unjustly detained.

Moreover, Iran continues to assault the freedoms of expression, assembly, association, religion and the equal rights of women. And torture, arbitrary arrests, detentions and unfair trials, including extensive due process violations, remain widespread.

JBI continues to call on “President Rouhani to immediately and unconditionally correct the gross violations documented by Special Rapporteur Shaheed,” said Goodkind. The HRC resolution calls on Iran to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to permit him to visit Iran.

 



March 28, 2014 – New York – AJC denounced the UN Human Rights Council for adopting today five separate resolutions condemning Israel. “This shameful annual exercise of excoriating Israel does nothing to advance the cause of Israeli-Arab peace –or of truth,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Obsessively singling out one UN member, Israel, totally undermines the very credibility of this UN body.”

“Precisely when Israelis are seeking through negotiations a permanent, sustainable peace agreement, the Human Rights Council has once again seen fit to embolden those Palestinians who believe they can skirt the peace process and rely on international pressure on Israel,” Harris added.

 

Moreover, particularly galling – indeed, deserving of a Nobel Prize in Chutzpah – was the Human Rights Council resolution on the “Syrian Golan,” sponsored by the Assad regime, responsible for more than 150,000 deaths, millions of refugees and unlimited use of violence against innocent Syrians over the past three years.

 

“The robotic response of a majority of Human Rights Council members to the anti-Israel measures is appalling,” said Harris. “Only the U.S., to its everlasting credit, has demonstrated by action its principled commitment to the Council’s mission and to opposing this international diplomatic charade against Israel.”

 

Four of the resolutions that dealt with the Palestinians were adopted by a vote of 46 to 1. The resolution on the Golan passed by a vote of 33 to 1, with 13 abstentions. Only the U.S. voted no on all five resolutions.

 

“None of the world’s worst human rights violators, some of whom are the object of resolutions at this session, have their own stand-alone agenda item at this Council. Only Israel, a vibrant and open democracy, receives such treatment,” said Paula Schriefer, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, told the Council before the vote.

 

“Not only are the resolutions under this agenda item biased, but they work against our collective efforts to advance a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” added Schriefer, who led the U.S. delegation to the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.  “This Council continually singles out Israel for criticism without acknowledging the violent attacks directed at its people, nor the obligations and difficult steps of both sides to resolve the conflict.”

 

Although the Human Rights Council, established in 2006, was supposed to be a substantial improvement over its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, Israel remains the only UN member subject to separate scrutiny. Debate on Israel is handled in one agenda item, while the other 192 countries that are UN members, including some of the world' s worst human rights violators, are dealt with in another, single agenda item.

 

“Once again, the primary human rights organ of the UN has sabotaged its promise of fairness, a vow central to the UN Charter itself, and to the resolution creating the Human Rights Council,’ said Harris.

 

The UN General Assembly resolution establishing the Council in 2006 determined that “the Council shall be responsible for promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner.”

 

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.

 

 

 



March 28, 2014 – Detroit – A survey of Detroit area Jews and Muslims reveals high levels of interest to learn more about the other, find ways to experience each community’s practices and customs, and engage in joint activities.

“Both groups express willingness to engage with each other,” concludes the survey, Building a Shared Future: Understanding the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Southeast Michigan. “Those who have already experienced an activity with the other group are likely to do it again.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) -- Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC) survey will be released at a conference, “A Shared Future: Jews and Muslims in Metro Detroit,” co-sponsored by AJC Detroit and MMCC, on Sunday.

The University of Michigan-Dearborn conducted the survey during July and August, 2013. Of the 600 survey respondents, 41 percent were Jewish and 59 percent were Muslim. The survey and the conference were generously supported by a grant from the Ravitz Foundation.

The survey found substantial commonality among Detroit area Jews and Muslims, a good basis for a variety of social interactions. Ninety percent of all respondents are “willing to consider activities with the other community,” such as working or eating together, visiting someone’s home, or being friends. Forty-nine percent reported they already are friends with someone in the other community, and 78 percent have shared a meal with someone in the other community.

Asked whether they would do something with someone from the other community, 43 percent of Jewish respondents said they already have visited a Muslim home, and 74 percent have eaten with a Muslim.

Nearly 60 percent of Muslim respondents indicated they have visited a Jewish home, and 86 percent said they have Jewish work colleagues.

Muslims respondents tended be more observant than Jewish respondents. Ninety percent of Muslims and 35 percent of Jews observe dietary laws. Ninety percent of Muslims and 32 percent of Jews agree that prayer is part of daily life. Asked if they take religious advice into consideration for serious personal problems, 83 percent of Muslims and 34 percent of Jews said they “almost always” or “usually” do.

“While there are differences between the communities in the role religion plays in daily life, they share similarities in the ways they engage in observing and practicing religion,” the survey concludes.

The survey also explored interest within each community in engaging in joint activities, including education, distributing food to the homeless, protecting women and children from violence, and visiting a Jewish or Islamic museum.

The survey found that “individuals who regularly apply their religious teachings and who are regularly influenced by their religion, regardless of community re more interested in a wide range of activities and program possibilities to build a shared future.”

The survey and the conference were generously supported by a grant from the Ravitz Foundation.



March 27, 2014 – An AJC Asia Pacific Institute (API) leadership delegation just concluded a six-day visit to New Delhi and Mumbai.

The delegation, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman, AJC Director of Government and International Affairs, Jason Isaacson, and API Director Shira Loewenberg, met with cabinet members and parliamentarians; senior members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and journalists. The delegation also met with top Israeli and Indian businesspeople as well as experts from the ORF Foundation, India’s largest and most influential think tank.

Principal topics discussed during the mission included the U.S.-India relationship, regional political and strategic developments, and growing ties between Israel and India.

Through its Asia Pacific Institute, led by Shira Loewenberg, AJC has been actively engaged with India for more than 20 years, and maintains close ties with Indian officials and other representatives in Delhi, across the United States, in Israel, and other countries, as well as with leaders of the Indian American community.



March 26, 2014 – New York – AJC is asking President Obama to press the Kingdom’s rulers to fulfill their long-standing pledges to revise hate-filled textbooks during his visit to Riyadh this weekend.

Hatred of Christians and Jews is taught in Saudi schools, according to an unpublished U.S. State Department study. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), in a new report, revealed highlights of the U.S. government study, which was reportedly completed in 2012, but, inexplicably, still has not been released.

“It is disheartening and dismaying that Saudi Arabia has done little, if anything, to revise and update their hate-filled textbooks since AJC first exposed them more than a decade ago,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. AJC issued the first comprehensive study of Saudi textbooks, together with the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), in 2003.

AJC’s study reviewed 93 textbooks published by the Saudi Ministry of Education and used in first through tenth grades. They covered a wide range of subjects, from literature to math. The textbooks were replete with anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and anti-Western references. “Official Saudi school books indoctrinate children in hatred of the West, Christians and Jews,” the AJC study concluded.

“The FDD has done a great service by bringing to light the current state of Saudi education materials, and the unpublished U.S. study,” said Harris.

David Andrew Weinberg, author of the FDD report, Textbook Diplomacy: Why the State Department Shelved a Study on Incitement in Saudi Education Materials, concludes that “The Saudis had committed to completely resolving the issue by the middle of 2008, but the White House failed to hold them to that deadline.”

AJC urges the U.S. to publish the State Department report on Saudi textbooks in full, and to pursue additional measures to ensure that Saudi Arabia indeed makes the long overdue and necessary changes.

“Teaching hatred is reprehensible under any circumstances. It is especially alarming when it forms an integral part of the school curriculum in a country long viewed as a close friend of the U.S. and regarded as a center of the Muslim world,” said Harris.

“And our 2003 study also suggested that the textbooks were used in at least some Saudi-funded schools abroad. In all, how many children have now been infected with hatred that can last a lifetime because so little has been done since the problem was brought to light 11 years ago? Action is needed – and now.”



March 23 2014 -- New York -- AJC praised Japanese Prime Minister Abe for visiting the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam today.

“Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the place where Anne Frank and her family hid, where she wrote her diary, until their capture by the Nazis is a strong demonstration of remembrance and solidarity with the Jewish people,” said Shira Loewenberg, director of AJCs Asia Pacific Institute.

Abe’s visit came a month after the discovery of vandalized copies of Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl and other Holocaust related books in Tokyo public libraries. More than 265 books were willfully damaged. At a news conference at the Anne Frank house, Abe said the extensive damage done to the books was "regrettable, quite regrettable.” A suspect has been arrested.

Following the discovery of the vandalized books last month, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the widespread defacement of copies of Anne Frank’s diary “a shameful act.”

For decades, Anne Frank’s diary has been extremely popular and widely read in Japan. More than 33,000 Japanese visit the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam annually.



March 23, 2014 -- Paris -- AJC is appalled by the violent assault on a Jewish teacher in Paris. The man, who was wearing a kippah, was brutally beaten after he left a kosher restaurant on Thursday evening. The assailants broke his nose, drew a swastika on his chest and reportedly shouted anti-Semitic epithets in French and Arabic.

“We pray for the recovery of the teacher, who clearly was targeted because he is a Jew,” said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC France.

The attack occurred the day after France commemorated the second anniversary of the terrorist murder of four Jews, including three children, in Toulouse. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Interior Minister Manuel Valls powerfully reaffirmed the government's determination to combat anti-Semitism in France, which has posed serious challenges for French society.

A European Union survey of Jews in eight countries, released last year, found that 60 percent of French Jews are worried they may become victims of physical attacks. A majority avoids wearing, carrying or displaying things in public that would identify them as Jews. And as many as 46 percent have considered emigrating because of the unfolding situation.

“We are confident that French authorities will fully investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of the horrendous attack on the Paris teacher,” said Rodan-Benzaquen. “But there is also a larger and longer-term challenge: Taking concerted action to address the roots of anti-Semitism and prevent this vicious cancer from growing in France. This must be a government priority, ever mindful that anti-Semitism poses a threat both to the largest Jewish community in Europe and to the very fabric and fiber of France's laudable democratic values."



March 21, 2014 – New York – On the second anniversary of the deadly terrorist attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls issued a powerful attack on anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism has been on the rise in France in recent years, and largely comes from the extreme right,” said Valls. “What is new is an anti-Semitism that feeds on hatred of Israel and Zionism.”

“Criticism of Israel that is based on anti-Zionism – that’s anti-Semitism today – is the refuge of those who do not accept the State of Israel,” the Interior Minister added.

Valls spoke at a Paris rally commemorating the four Jewish victims of the March 19, 2012, attack in Toulouse. Mohammed Merah, a French-Algerian, shot and killed Rabbi Jonathan Sandler; his two sons, Arieh, 6, and Gabriel, 3; and Miriam Monsenego, 8, at the entrance to the Jewish school. Merah died in a gun battle with French police at his home after the attack.

“Minister Valls’s powerful message is a clear recognition of the sad reality of today’s malicious campaign against the State of Israel and its very right to exist,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “At a time when some French Jews are feeling increasingly uncomfortable, it is encouraging to hear such profound empathy and support from the country’s Interior Minister.”

“French Jews, without you, France is not France,” declared Valls. The Paris rally was organized by the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities. AJC France director Simone Rodan was on the stage at the rally.

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



March 19, 2014 – New York – The government of Spain “wants to right an historical wrong” against the Jewish people, declared Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Spain’s Minister of Justice, at an AJC luncheon today. The government initiative would offer Spanish citizenship to Jews who can trace their ancestry to the time of the forced expulsion of Jews in the 15th century.

The new law, expected to be approved by Spain’s Parliament in the coming weeks, would “reverse more than 500 years of injustice,” said Gallardón. The effort is aimed at restoring Sephardic Jewish ties to Spain, and to do so with minimal demands on those deemed eligible. They would not be required to take up residency in Spain or to relinquish their current nationality to obtain citizenship.

While at this stage it is not clear how many Sephardic Jews may be eligible, or apply, the minister said the “response has been overwhelming” since the law was first announced. Some 3,000 Jews, mainly in Turkey and Venezuela, already have applied, he added.

The minister spoke of the rich history of Sephardic Jews, who, after the expulsion from Spain, established communities in Portugal, the Netherlands, Morocco, France, Italy, the Ottoman Empire, the United States, and elsewhere, and maintained their unique heritage, culture and customs. “There has been no such case in the history of peoples expelled where the exile maintained their culture and language of origin for so long and in such distant locations,” Gallardón said.

“It is tempting to wonder what Spain would look like today had it not forced its Jews to decide in four months whether to convert to Christianity or leave the country,” he said. “We have to right the wrong, and educate the next generation so as not to repeat it.”

Gallardón emphasized that Spain has long been welcoming of Jews, and that today they are secure in his country. “Spain’s laws against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are among the strongest in the European Union,” he said.

“We have gone beyond the European Union requests and have developed a criminal code that is pioneering,” said Gallardón.  “In Spain, nobody can say that the Shoah did not take place, with the purpose of harassing Jews, without being prosecuted and punished by the court.” But he also stressed that “punishment alone is not enough to fight anti-Semitism; education also is crucial

The minister also spoke of his family’s connection to assisting Jews. His grandfather was honored as a Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jews in Bucharest during the Holocaust when he was Spain’s ambassador to Romania. “We cannot be indifferent to the past, we must tell the truth, we cannot deny the reality of the Shoah,” said Gallardón.

Gallardón also targeted those whose criticism of the State of Israel crosses the line into outright anti-Semitism. “You can legitimately criticize Israel as a state, but not as a Jewish state.”

The event was organized by AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute, directed by Dina Siegel Vann. AJC has long maintained ties with Spain and has an association agreement with the Federacion de Comunidades Israelitas de España.



March 17, 2014 – New York – AJC announces the publication of Exit Berlin: How One Woman Saved Her Family from Nazi Germany. Authored by Charlotte Bonelli, director of AJC Archives, and published by Yale University Press, Exit Berlin offers unique insights into Nazi Germany and the Holocaust from the perspective of one young German Jewish woman.

“Always illuminating, full of moral tension and high drama, the letters of Luzie Hatch exchanged with her relations amount to an eyewitness account that allows us to penetrate the myths and statistics that sometimes obscure the hard facts of the Holocaust,” says acclaimed writer Jonathan Kirsch.

The entire collection of 300 letters was discovered in Luzie’s Forest Hills, NY, apartment, where she had lived alone for more than 61 years. She was meticulously organized in saving copies of letters she sent to relatives and friends, and then filing them together with responses she received. “It is almost unheard of for personal correspondence from this period to be matching,” says Bonelli. “The collection is extremely valuable.”

With the vital help of an American cousin, Arnold Hatch, Luzie had managed to flee Berlin shortly after Kristallnacht in November 1938, resettle in New York, and then do what she could to assist her parents and other relatives left behind. She changed her name from Hecht to Hatch.

The correspondence to and from Germany, Shanghai, Vichy France, Bolivia, England and Canada reveals much history, some new to even those well-acquainted with the Holocaust. “Just when you think there is nothing new to write on the Holocaust here it is.How an average Jewish American family responded to the Holocaust,” says Carol Mann, the literary agent who represented the book.

In addition to 85 letters Bonelli chose to include in Exit Berlin, her own interviews with Hecht family members, correspondents’ descendants, survivors of the Vichy transports, and historians in the U.S.,Germany, Israel, England, and Canada, weave a saga of one extended Jewish family during the Holocaust.

“Your intention of coming to America is sheer insanity and you would find the situation horrible,” writes Ida Hatch in May 1933, when Luzie’s father first appeals in writing for help after Hitler’s rise to power. The bulk of the letters are with Ida’s son, Arnold, who assumed responsibility for the family business after his father passed. He also assumed the contact with Luzie’s family. Luzie herself is persistent and persuades Arnold to help get her to New York, so she can be free and, hopefully, arrange for her family to follow.

The letters Arnold wrote to Luzie and to relatives in Germany offer insights into his own thinking regarding the plight of his relatives, most of whom he did not know. Conflicting with his sense of moral obligation to assist were the economic and political realities that influenced his cautious approach. There was the Depression’s lingering impact, demands of running his own business, and the everyday realties and challenges of rescue, including immigration laws, transportation challenges, and options other than the United States.

“Luzie Hatch found herself sandwiched between two profoundly conflicting forces: her American cousin’s reasonable caution and the desperation of her relatives in Germany,” says Bonelli. “It was a delicate situation for a single 27-year-old who was attempting to make her way in a new country.”

Arnold, living and working near Albany, NY, was crucial to the cause. Luzie not only maintained direct contact with her American cousin about her own situation, but she also became the intermediary between him and relatives who, after learning of Luzie’s successful immigration and transition to American life, sought the same. Since Arnold did not know German and his relatives could not write in English, Luzie was both translator and advocate.

And she did all this while working at the American Jewish Committee (AJC). By chance, she landed a job there four months after her arrival in New York, and would work at AJC until her retirement in 1977.

In her early years at the organization, Hatch was indispensable to an AJC initiative, working as project assistant on a White Book on Nazi Germany, a multi-volume chronicle of Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitic policies from1933 to 1939. The volumes treated the full scope of Jewish life in Germany at the time -- the civil service, education, army, agriculture, special tax regulation, registration of Jewish property, and many other subjects.

Years after the war, Luzie was able to reconcile with her homeland. Working at AJC during the 1960s and 1970s, she became a principal interlocutor for German groups visiting the AJC headquarters in New York. AJC pioneered the development of postwar Jewish ties with Germany, and established a permanent office in Berlin in 1998.

“Luzie could easily have disappeared into the abyss of history,” says Bonelli. But after her death, the estate executor cleaning out the apartment found the letters and contacted Bonelli.

Exit Berlin will be released on April 29. Copies can be ordered from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For more information, including audio readings of select letters, visit www.exitberlin.org.



March 12, 2014—New York—AJC expressed profound appreciation for British Prime Minister David Cameron’s extraordinary speech to the Knesset today on his first visit to Israel as prime minister.

AJC Executive Director David Harris stressed the significance of Prime Minister Cameron’s remarks. “Great Britain is a major power—a permanent member of the Security Council and a key component of the P5+1 group that is negotiating with Iran over its nuclear ambitions,” he said.

Speaking with great warmth to the Israeli legislature, Cameron issued a passionate condemnation of anti-Israel boycotts, declaring that “Britain opposes boycotts. Whether it’s trade unions campaigning for the exclusion of Israelis or universities trying to stifle academic exchange, Israel’s place as a homeland for the Jewish people will never rest on hollow resolutions passed by amateur politicians.”

In addition, Cameron had strong words for Iran, saying “I am not starry-eyed about the new regime. A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to the whole world—not just to Israel…Britain will ensure that it is never allowed to happen.”

“For the prime minister of such a diplomatically and strategically vital country to endorse Israel’s quest for peace and security, and especially to denounce boycotts so unequivocally and, importantly, Palestinian incitement, is highly significant. We applaud the British leader for his laudable courage, conviction and common sense,” said Harris.

The prime minister also condemned manifestations of anti-Semitism in Europe and pledged to safeguard the right of British Jews to practice ritual slaughter.

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



March 9, 2014 – Nicosia – An AJC leadership delegation has just concluded a visit to Cyprus.

The trip's highlights included a private dinner at the Presidential Palace hosted by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the First Lady, as well as meetings with Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides; Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism Yiorgos Lakkotrypis; U.S. Ambassador John Koenig; and Israeli Acting Ambassador Sami Abu Janeb.

"We visited Cyprus to express our support for the deepening links with neighboring Israel, which serve the highest national interests of both democratic countries," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has been to Nicosia on several occasions.

"We also wished to underscore our appreciation for current U.S. efforts to help Greek and Turkish Cypriots to reunify the island, since its division in 1974 as a result of the Turkish military invasion. More broadly, the importance of the Eastern Mediterranean region is great and growing, which makes the increasing links among Cyprus, Greece and Israel all the more significant as key factors for enhanced stability, security and prosperity."

During the two-day mission, the 12-person delegation, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Director David Harris, discussed regional developments, explored ideas for increased cooperation, and addressed efforts to revitalize the Cypriot economy.

AJC has long maintained relations with Cypriot diplomats in the U.S. and Europe, as well as with Hellenic-American leaders, several of whom were present at the Presidential dinner.

The Cyprus visit concluded a three-country AJC diplomatic mission that included stops in Azerbaijan and Greece.



March 6, 2014 – Athens – An AJC senior leadership delegation just concluded a three-day visit to Greece.

The 12-member AJC delegation, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman, and Executive Director David Harris, was joined by leaders of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, an AJC partner organization, and Andrew Manatos, a prominent representative of the Greek-American community.

The group met with top-level officials in the Greek government, including Prime Minister Antonis Samaras; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Evangelos Venizelos; Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Minister of Public Order Nikos Dendias; Minister of Culture Panos Panagiotopoulos, who hosted a dinner for the group; and Minister of Education and Religious Affairs Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos.

The delegation also met with the U.S. and Israeli ambassadors to Greece, as well as members of the Greece-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Committee, including its chairman, Kostas Karagounis of the New Democracy Party, and representatives of four other political parties -- PASOK, Syriza, Democratic Left, and Independent Greeks.

"In all our meetings, we heard strong support for strategic ties with both Israel and the United States, as well as condemnation of racism, including the vile, neo-Nazi ideology promoted by the Golden Dawn,” said Harris. "Moreover, we were heartened by the progress being achieved in Greece's economic situation, even as much more remains to be done in the months and years ahead. We came to Greece as deeply committed friends, and we leave Greece as deeply committed friends."

Aside from regular visits to the Greek capital over the past three decades, AJC has maintained robust relationships with Greek leaders through engagement with diplomats and diaspora communities in regional offices around the country and AJC's network of offices in Europe.

Reflecting the views of several of the Greek leaders with whom the group met, Defense Minister Avramopoulos described AJC as "one of the architects of the strategic partnership" that today characterizes the relationship among Greece, the U.S., Cyprus, and Israel.


David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



March 5, 2014 – New York – AJC is profoundly disappointed with a senior UN official’s endorsement of blatant attacks on Israel in a new UN report on economic integration in the Arab world.

Rima Khalaf, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), declared that the report accuses Israel of a “flagrant breach of all international conventions and resolutions” and of supporting “discord aimed at establishing sectarian Arab mini-States.”

Khalaf also declared that “Israel’s adamancy that it is a Jewish State...violates the rights of both the Muslim and Christian indigenous populations and revives the concept of a state ethnic and religious purity, which cause egregious human suffering during the twentieth century.”

The report, Arab Integration: A 21st Century Development Imperative, is a product of the UN commission that the Beirut-based Khalaf heads.

“The accusations leveled at Israel, highlighted by Under-Secretary General Khalaf, are a gross distortion of reality that helps neither the cause of peace or of regional Arab development,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“Israel has accepted the concept of a two-state solution,” said Harris. “But achieving that outcome, in the interest of reciprocity, requires the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people just as Israel would recognize the future Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people. Israel also remains committed to guaranteeing equal rights to all its citizens, Jews and Arabs alike.”

Harris expressed regret that Khalaf praised the Arab Integration report’s blatant attacks on Israel.

“The UN Charter is clear that UN officials ‘shall refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization,’” Harris said. “By acting on her prejudices against a UN member state, Under-Secretary General Khalaf has betrayed her fundamental responsibility as an international official.”



March 4, 2014 -- Baku -- An AJC delegation concluded a three-day visit to Baku, Azerbaijan. This was the global Jewish agency's fourth visit to the nation since 2008 and fifth meeting with President Ilham Aliyev.

In addition to the 75 minute-long meeting with the President, the delegation was also received by Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov; Chair of the State Committee on Diaspora Affairs Nazim Ibrahimov; Israeli Ambassador Rafael Harpaz; U.S. Ambassador Richard Morningstar; German Ambassador Heidrun Tempel; Military Adviser to the President Vahid Aliyev; and a top official of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR).

The main topics of discussion included Azerbaijani-U.S. and Azerbaijani-Israeli relations, as well as recent developments in the region, including the current situation in Ukraine.

The ten-person AJC delegation also met with leaders of the local Jewish community during visits to three synagogues in Baku. Azerbaijan is a predominately Shiite Muslim country that is staunchly secular and pluralistic in its identity. The Jewish community of Azerbaijan is an integral part of the nation's cultural fabric and has lived largely free of anti-Semitism.

 

Azerbaijan is also a critical geopolitical partner of the United States and enjoys warm relations with the State of Israel.

"Unless and until you visit Azerbaijan and see the country first-hand, you cannot imagine the dynamism and strategic importance of this nation -- to the U.S., to Europe, and yes, to the State of Israel," explained AJC Executive Director David Harris.

"Sandwiched throughout much of its history among the Persian, Ottoman, and Russian empires, the independence, development, and potential we witnessed in Baku is truly something to behold," said Harris. "We shall eagerly look forward to our next visit."

 

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David Harris is Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director

 



March 4, 2014 – Los Angeles – AJC welcomed the decision of the Appellate Division of the California Superior Court in Orange County in State v. Sayeed, et al. The court upheld the conviction of 10 individuals who repeatedly interrupted Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech at the University of California at Irvine in February 2010. They had violated a California statute which bans anyone from willfully disturbing or breaking up a lawful assembly, the court ruled.

“We are pleased that the appellate division concurred with our view that the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech may not be invoked to protect those who intentionally disrupt a lawful meeting,” said AJC General Counsel Marc D. Stern.

AJC filed an amicus brief in State v. Sayeed, joined by the Jewish Council of Public Affairs and Jewish National Fund.

A “no disturbance” rule does not silence protestors, the brief stated. For example, “[protestors] could have picketed outside of the University’s auditorium;…attended the speech wearing buttons or T-shirts protesting Israel’s policies; they could have…participated in the question-and-answer period; and they could have organized their own meeting.”

“The California statute attempts to resolve the conflicting freedom of speech rights of a heckler and of a speaker and his listeners,” said Honey Kessler Amado, lead author of the AJC brief. Under the guise of freedom of speech, the heckler cannot intentionally disrupt a lawful meeting and effectively destroy the free speech of a speaker and his listeners. As to the convictions, Amado said, “The California Supreme Court has stated that the guarantee of free speech does not ‘guarantee immunity from liability for those who abuse it.’” 

“What they could not do is what they are being punished for—preventing Ambassador Oren from speaking,” Amado added. Ambassador Oren’s speech was curtailed to 12 minutes, instead of an hour-long appearance.

The brief was written by Amado, a member of the AJC Los Angeles Region Board; Avital Blanchard, AJC Assistant General Counsel; and AJC General Counsel Stern.



February 27, 2014 – Washington – Dozens of interfaith, intergroup and political leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. for a daylong AJC conference on the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Participants explored the history and impact of the landmark legislation, and focused on bipartisan efforts to restore its efficacy in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision striking down a key provision of the Act. 

Recalling that Washington, DC, was once a segregated city in which such a gathering would have been unthinkable, Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said, “AJC and the American Jewish community played an essential role in promoting equal rights for all. In joining in this campaign for voting rights, we are reclaiming that legacy of blacks and Jews working together to make a difference.”

Henderson called on conference attendees to mobilize in order to make a difference, especially in assuring bipartisan support for the Voting Rights Amendment Act introduced in January.

“This conference is not only about the need for progress on voting rights,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer in his keynote address. The breadth of attendees “portrays a picture of cooperation among America’s diverse communities.” 

The AJC conference was cosponsored by the National Urban League, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), and Asian Americans Advancing Justice/Asian American Justice Center. Partner organizations were the National Council of Churches, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), and United Church of Christ. Representatives from the African-American, Asian-American, Latino-American, Arab-American, Hindu-American, Christian and Jewish communities attended.

“Voting rights are at the core of civil rights,” said Richard Foltin, AJC’s director of National and Legislative Affairs. “There is much to be done to assure a well-functioning electoral system in which all Americans have access to their precious franchise,” Foltin continued.  “First and foremost, we must act collectively to undo the damage done in the battle against racially discriminatory voting practices when the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”

The conference featured the nation’s foremost experts on voting rights, including Barbara Arnwine, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights; Rev. Edward Hailes of the Advancement Project; Tefere Gebre of the AFL-CIO; Rev. Dr. Raymond Rivera of NaLEC; Terry Ao Minnis of AAAJ/AAJC; Leslie Proll of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; and, Julie Fernandes of Open Society Foundations. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Bobby Scott; and senior staffers for Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. James Sensenbrenner also addressed the conference.


 

 



February 27, 2014 – New York – AJC sharply criticized Amnesty International for its new report on Israeli military activities in the West Bank.

“Sadly but tellingly, starting with the title, this Amnesty International report has all the hallmarks of those groups that excel in lambasting, with what can only be described as calculated bias, the State of Israel,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

The Amnesty report, “Trigger-Happy: Israel’s Use of Excessive Force in the West Bank,” was issued today. It accuses Israel of “war crimes,” asserting that the IDF has used "excessive force to stifle dissent and freedom of expression" among Palestinians in the West Bank over the past three years. Amnesty also calls on the U.S. and EU to stop supplying Israel with military equipment.

 

“Amnesty’s skewed perspective not only grotesquely ignores the immense security challenges Israel faces, but also disregards the fact that right now Israeli and Palestinian leaders are engaged in direct negotiations to end the conflict,” said Harris.

 

“We certainly hope the quest for a two-state agreement will be successful. Meanwhile, it is irresponsible for Amnesty International to focus almost exclusively on Israeli actions, as if they somehow occur in a vacuum, and to disregard the precipitating actions of those Palestinians who have continued to plan and use violence even as the peace talks continue,” Harris added. “Moreover, Amnesty’s call for a curb on weapons sales to Israel will surely be welcomed by the leaders of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other state and non-state actors openly committed to Israel’s destruction.”

 

According to the IDF, the number of Israelis injured by Palestinians in 2013 was double from the previous year, and terrorist attacks, some fatal, also increased. “In 2013, there were 66 terror attacks, which included shootings, the planting of IEDs [improvised explosive devices], blunt weapon attacks, and the abduction and murder of a soldier,” the IDF spokesman stated.

 



February 25, 2014 – Berlin – AJC welcomed the successful conclusion of the fifth annual Germany-Israel bilateral consultations. A large German delegation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, including 16 Cabinet ministers, visited Israel for two days. They engaged in intense discussions on a wide range of issues with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Cabinet.

“The German-Israel relationship is dynamic and strong,” said Deidre Berger, director of AJC Berlin.

Merkel and Netanyahu agreed on the threat posed by an Iran with nuclear weapons, and on the need to achieve through negotiations a sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Germany “supports a two-state solution – a Palestinian state and a Jewish state of Israel,” said Merkel. “We also support Israel’s security requirements to be able to finally live in secure borders.”

President Shimon Peres, speaking at a dinner he hosted honoring Merkel praised her for “consistently supporting the peace process between us and the Palestinians.”

Peres presented Merkel with the Presidential Medal of Distinction, the country’s highest honor, noting that “You stand steadily by Israel’s side to help us reach the greatest of heights.”

The two governments signed a wide range of agreements, including in the areas of defense, foreign relations, development aid, trade, research and development, and culture. Notable was an agreement to allow German consulates to represent Israeli citizens in countries without Israeli diplomatic representation. German government officials also pledged to propose legislation soon to settle a long-standing dispute regarding pensions for Holocaust survivors who worked in ghettos.

The Chancellor’s remarks opposing boycotts of Israel were welcomed by Israeli leaders.

“I hope that others in Europe follow your lead in rejecting boycotts,” said Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. “Those who call for the boycott of Israel are not calling for the boycott of any other country.”

At the same time, the Chancellor said that Germany, as an EU member state, is obligated to abide by the EU’s planned guidelines for labeling Israeli products made in West Bank settlements. But this apparent disagreement on the EU labeling policy did not diminish the overall success of Merkel’s visit.

Planning for next year’s celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of German-Israeli diplomatic relations was discussed extensively. Marking this anniversary is also a high priority for AJC Berlin, which was established in 1998 as the first such office in Germany.

In January 2011, at a ceremony in Berlin, AJC presented Merkel with AJC’s “Light unto the Nations Award” for her abiding friendship for the Jewish people and Israel. The Chancellor was also a keynote speaker at AJC’s 100th anniversary dinner in Washington in 2006.

 

 



 

February 24, 2014 – Berlin – AJC salutes the historic visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Israel. She arrives today with a large delegation that includes her entire Cabinet.

“Germany is a vitally important ally and partner of Israel,” said AJC Berlin director Deidre Berger.

Chancellor Merkel reaffirmed over the weekend that Israel’s security is an intrinsic part of Germany’s raison d’etre. The 15-member ministerial group travelling with her is the largest government delegation to date to participate in the annual German-Israel government consultations, which the Chancellor instituted in 2008 to intensify bilateral relations.

The visit is expected to produce a series of bilateral agreements to deepen further German-Israeli technical, academic, military, and political cooperation. Israel is Germany’s largest trading partner within the 28-member European Union.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in an op-ed in the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, stated that “Israel does not stand alone. Germany and Europe are important partners that act decisively for Israel’s legitimization and its right of existence.”

And, in a rare interview on German television, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the visit a “sign of friendship.” In addition to face-to-face meetings between Merkel and Netanyahu, the Israeli and German Cabinets will hold a joint business meeting.

“This visit is a golden opportunity to underline Germany’s long-standing and robust support for Israel and strengthen Germany’s increasing role in Mideast affairs,” said Berger. “Germany and Israel have strong common interests and values. Now more than ever, this should be expressed in projects and agreements that can make a marked difference in the region.”

During the visit, Israeli President Shimon Peres will award Chancellor Merkel with the “Presidential Medal of Distinction,” Israel’s highest honor for civilians.

The meetings will also address planning for next year’s 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. Marking this anniversary is a high priority for AJC Berlin, which was established in 1998 as the first such office in Germany.

In January 2011, at a ceremony in Berlin, AJC presented Merkel with AJC’s “Light unto the Nations Award” for her abiding friendship for the Jewish people and Israel. The Chancellor was also a keynote speaker at AJC’s 100th anniversary dinner in Washington in 2006.

 

 



February 24, 2014 – New York – AJC welcomes the historic events in Ukraine, which have captured the world’s imagination and underscored the yearning for freedom and a new direction for the people of this country.

AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has visited Ukraine many times and been honored by the Western-oriented government of President Viktor Yushchenko, issued the following statement:

“We have taken a deep and abiding interest in Ukraine since it first sought to break away from the Soviet Union in 1991. Indeed, we are very proud that AJC was among the first voices calling on U.S. President George H.W. Bush to recognize the rebirth of Ukrainian sovereignty and independence. Since then, we have sought to foster vibrant U.S.-Ukrainian relations, including successfully calling on the United States Congress to ‘graduate’ Ukraine from the provisions of the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik Amendment.

“In recent weeks, we have issued several statements expressing admiration for those Ukrainians who bravely chose to assert their right to peaceful assembly and protest in challenging the rule of President Viktor Yanukovich, who did a sudden about-face and pulled Ukraine out of an historic deal with the European Union, instead turning his gaze to Moscow. We also condemned the government’s use of deadly force in killing scores of dissenting Ukrainians. In the end, remarkably, the protesters prevailed, but we shall long remember those who gave their lives to help achieve this milestone outcome.

“We are fully aware that many challenges remain ahead for the people of Ukraine. They must now seek responsible new leadership to guide the country forward, keep the country geographically intact, ensure full democracy, transparency, and pluralism, overcome economic stagnation and endemic corruption, and steer the country’s foreign policy. And we count on the United States and European Union to seize the opportunity to offer help in stabilizing the situation, providing sustained assistance, and setting guidelines to help foster responsible political and economic stewardship. We also join with our government in urging the Russian Federation to respect the will of the Ukrainian people and build good-neighborly relations with Ukraine.

“For now, as the Ukrainian people rejoice at this dramatic turn of events, brought about by determined and courageous individuals who would not allow their wishes to be steamrolled by an out-of-touch leader, we rejoice with them.”



February 21, 2014 -- AJC praised the Japanese government’s response to the vandalism of hundreds of copies of Anne Frank’s diary in Tokyo public libraries. For decades, the Holocaust-era book has been extremely popular and widely read in Japan.

“This is a shameful act and I am confident that the police authority is making a thorough investigation,” said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. The widespread defacement of Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl and other Holocaust related books “cannot be tolerated, and is extremely regrettable,” he said. At least 265 books were vandalized in 31 municipal libraries.

“The Japanese government's forthright response is both a firm message of empathy to the Jewish people and a strong warning to Holocaust deniers and other purveyors of anti-Semitism,” said Shira Loewenberg, director of AJC’s Asia Pacific Institute. “We are hopeful that the perpetrators of these acts of hatred will be apprehended and fully prosecuted.”



February 20, 2014 -- New York -- AJC called on member states of the OAS to bring maximum pressure on the Venezuelan government to end its crackdown and respond positively to the demands of its own citizens.

"Venezuela's denial of the right of assembly, of freedom of speech and dissent, are intolerable human rights violations," said Dina Siegel Vann, Director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute (LLAI).

"Repression of Venezuelans, scapegoating of Jews, and other harsh practices of the late Hugo Chavez regime are, tragically for this troubled country, continuing under the present government."

Clashes between peaceful opponents of the government and police, as well as government-backed armed gangs, on the streets of Venezuela’s capital city have escalated in recent days.

“The Venezuelan government’s deliberate use of violence to disrupt peaceful protests is alarming and, predictably, has led to more attacks on protesters," said Siegel Vann. "We call for the release of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and the scores of other detained Venezuelans."

Disturbingly, in recent days, the Chavez practice of targeting the Jewish community has resurfaced. The deputy of the National Assembly, Yul Jabour, said that "international Zionism is involved in the wave of Nazi-fascist violence in Caracas.” His statement was reproduced in a government newspaper and distributed by the Ministry of Communications.

AJC, an NGO member of the OAS, supports the regional group’s calls for the full respect of human rights and the right to dissent.

CAIV, the umbrella organization for Venezuelan Jewry, is an AJC international partner.



February 20, 2014 – Brussels – AJC’s Transatlantic Institute (TAI) celebrated its tenth anniversary with a gala dinner in Brussels.
 
The evening was a celebration of the vital importance of the relationship between Europe and the U.S. "We are here tonight to celebrate our shared values," AJC TAI Director Daniel Schwammenthal told the audience of more than 250. Dozens of members of the European Parliament, ambassadors to the European Union and Belgium, Jewish leaders from across Europe, and civil society partners, as well as AJC leaders from across the U.S., joined in the festive evening.
 
Launching TAI in 2004 fulfilled a vision of AJC, the global advocacy organization, to establish a permanent presence in the political and administrative center of the European Union.
 
"As a global agency, AJC conceived of the TAI in 2003, at a time of tension between some European countries and the U.S.," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "The concept became a reality because of the visionary support of Rhoda Baruch and her late husband, Jordan."

Accompanied by her children and grandchildren, Rhoda was presented with a special gift from AJC in gratitude for her family’s continuing and exceptional commitment to the TAI mission.
 
One key issue on the TAI agenda is growing anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. “Hate crimes are a growing problem in Europe,” Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said in her keynote address. “It is time for the EU and its Member States to act firmly against it.” Commissioner Malmström's portfolio includes migration and anti-Semitism, as well as other forms of prejudice.

The EU has reported a rise in hate crimes against gays, Muslims, and Jews. But the commissioner made special reference to manifestations of anti-Semitism. “Anti-Semitic hate crime was experienced by one in every four Jews in Europe,” according to a recent EU survey, she said. “Young Jews are afraid to go to school, even in my own country of Sweden.”
 
Preventing and combating hate crimes requires political leadership that all too often is not adequate, she said. “Hate crimes affect us all, no matter where we are from or where we live and work,” said Malmström. The 28 EU Member States "must act to prevent intolerance from turning into violent hate crime.”

Pointing out that concrete actions are more important than political statements to effectively combat hate, the commissioner shared several of her office’s initiatives. 
 
The EU Radicalization Awareness Network, established in 2011, has more than 700 experts across Europe, working on preventive action by educating youths about misuse of the internet and encouraging them to think critically about bigoted material.
 
Malmström also pointed out the urgent need to “rebuild trust in the police,” after a survey last year revealed that many hate crimes go unreported because “victims do not feel anything will happen.”
 
Notwithstanding tight budgets in European countries, all EU Member States are "obliged to ensure that hate crimes are investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted," she added.
 
Other speakers at the gala included Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders; Francois-Xavier de Donnea, Chair of the Belgian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee; Israeli Ambassador to the EU David Walzer; and the U.S. Acting Chief of Mission to the EU Rpbert Wood.
 
"Transatlantic cooperation today is vibrant, and the AJC Transatlantic Institute is making an important contribution to the strengthening of this relationship," said Donnea.
 
Earlier in the day, AJC President Stanley Bergman led a small delegation to meet with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. They discussed, among other issues, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and rising European anti-Semitism.
 
In a separate session, the large AJC delegation was briefed on current EU foreign policy priorities by Ambassador Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary General of the European External Action Service.

The AJC group also visited the European Parliament to discuss EU-Israel Relations and the Iranian nuclear threat, as well as challenges confronting Jewish students on campuses across Europe with the leadership of the Brussels-based European Union of Jewish Students.

 



February 20, 2014 -- Brussels -- AJC Transatlantic Institute Chair Harold Tanner and AJC Executive Director David Harris were honored by the Belgium government for their efforts to advance and strengthen the partnership between the U.S. and Europe.

The Commander of the Order of the Crown, one of the Belgium King's most prestigious medals, was presented to Tanner and Harris at the AJC Transatlantic Institute Tenth Anniversary Gala.

Didier Reynders, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, praised Tanner for "strengthening connections between both shores." He praised Harris for "establishing Europe as a priority for AJC's global work."

Tanner served as AJC National President from 2001 to 2004. He also served as AJC TAI Chair for two terms, from 2004 to 2005 and from 2010 to 2014. Harris has been honored by ten countries, including Belgium, for his global work.



February 20, 2014 -- Paris --  French Interior Minister Manuel Valls met today with an AJC delegation, led by AJC Executive Director David Harris, at the French Ministry of the Interior.
 
The hour-long session focused on strategies for combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.
 
“Minister Valls’ clarity of vision and strong determination are laudable," said Harris. “Once again, we welcomed the opportunity to continue our important dialogue with him, which has taken place both in Paris and New York. As always, we found him absolutely determined and resolute."
 
"It is reassuring for Jews, other minorities, and the French people  to know that Minister Valls and the  French government are determined to fight anti-Semitism and radicalization," said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, AJC Paris director. "We urge political, religious, and civil society leaders to unite in support of this national struggle against ignorance and hatred."

AJC maintains regular contact with France’s Interior Ministry via its Paris office, directed by Rodan-Benzaquen. AJC's last meeting with Minister Valls took place in New York in June 2013.

 



February 19, 2014 – Brussels – AJC is outraged by the Ukrainian government’s deadly response to peaceful demonstrators.

“President Viktor Yanukovich's use of naked violence has called into question his government’s very legitimacy,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“For those who cherish democratic values, including the right to peaceful assembly and protest, it is incumbent to be heard and to make clear that such behavior is totally unacceptable," Harris continued. "These events pose a particular challenge for Europe and the United States, which need to underscore that, if Ukraine is to have a bright future in the international community, there must be an immediate end to the use of violence and an intensive discussion about a change of direction."

Clashes at Kiev’s Independence Square, where demonstrators have gathered since November, escalated in the past 24 hours, leaving at least 25 dead, and the threatening prospect that the government’s security forces will attempt to forcefully clear the area.

Yanukovich was democratically elected in 2010, but a combination of corruption and his last-minute -- and unexpected -- refusal to sign an economic cooperation agreement that he had sought with the European Union, led to the mass protests. In recent days, the demonstrations have spread to other population centers in this country of 45 million.

“The promise of a democratic and peaceful Ukraine hangs in the balance,” said Harris. “The Ukrainian leadership, supported by Moscow, bears primary responsibility for the deepening crisis. They should heed the urgent calls of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President Obama, and European leaders to rethink their approach and respond with understanding to the legitimate aspirations of the Ukrainian people."



February 18, 2014 -- Paris -- French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met with an AJC delegation today at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

The 45-minute session focused on: the P5+1 negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear program; Israeli-Palestinian peace talks; the nearly three-year war in Syria; rising anti-Semitism; and Franco-American relations.

“Once again, we appreciated the Minister's warm welcome and his impressive analysis of critical global security challenges,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. The foreign minister and AJC have met frequently, including in September during the opening session of the UN General Assembly session.

“AJC's relations with France are of the highest priority, long-standing, deep, and cooperative,” Harris added. "We especially appreciate the firm stance adopted by France regarding the interim deal reached with Iran, and the government's uncompromising opposition to manifestations of anti-Semitism in the country." 

Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC Paris, also attended the meeting. She noted: “As a pillar of the European Union, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a major actor in the Middle East and North Africa, and home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, France has long been of the utmost importance to AJC."

 



February 18, 2014 -- New York -- AJC lauded Peruvian President Ollanta Humala's visit to Israel this week.

"Peru has raised the bar for South American relations with Israel," said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute (LLAI).

“We remember that Peru supported Israel's bid for statehood in 1947," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, after meeting with Humala in Jerusalem. "This is a relationship with roots, and I believe it will have big branches in coming years."

"Peru wants to cooperate with Israel and become its most significant Latin American partner," Humula said.

He said the visit was "important" for him and his delegation, and that it was a "great honor" to represent his country as a "friend of Israel." The Peruvian leader spoke warmly about increasing economic and political cooperation with Israel.

During his meeting with President Peres, Humala recognized "that Israel is currently going through a difficult period, and we are great supporters of the peace process.”

Fred Reich, a leader in Peru's Jewish community and member of the Board of AJC's Latino and Latin American Institute, accompanied Humala to Israel. The delegation included members of Humala’s Cabinet, Peru’s business community and Peruvian Jewish representatives.

"Peru has long viewed Israel as a strategic partner in the country's economic development," AJC's Siegel Vann, who has visited Lima on several occasions, added. "It has benefited from the Jewish state'sagricultural and security technology, and has received assistance in other areas as well. Israeli companies have invested more than one billion dollars in Peru, primarily in the fields of agriculture, medicine, energy and telecommunications."

Humala's visit came just days after Israel was invited to be an observer to the Alliance of the Pacific. The Alliance is a Latin American regional group trade bloc comprising Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Costa Rica. Israel is the first Middle Eastern country to become an observer.



February 18, 2014. -- Brussels -- AJC is dismayed by the neo-Nazi march that took place in Sofia, Bulgaria, over the weekend.

The march, held annually since 2003, glorifies Bulgarian General Hristo Lukov, who backed Nazi Germany and was a leader in the repression of Jews in Bulgaria before and during World War II. This year's march took place despite the decision of Sofia's mayor to ban it.

"This public display of anti-Semitism on the streets of democratic Bulgaria's capital is shocking," said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has visited Bulgaria on numerous occasions and been honored by the Bulgarian president. "Though Bulgarian political and civil society leaders had spoken out strongly against the march taking place, it is deeply disturbing that the police stood by when the march organizers proceeded with it."

March participants dress in Nazi uniforms and carry torches, reminiscent of the period before and during the Holocaust, when General Lukov and his allies sought to spread Nazi ideology in Bulgaria. Lukov was assassinated in 1943.

"Bulgaria today is home to a vibrant Jewish community that, Lukov's efforts to the contrary, was largely saved during World War II by the steadfast courage of other Bulgarians," said Harris. "Bulgarian authorities, joined by civil society leaders, should step up efforts to counter the Lukov march organizers and other extremists who spread xenophobia and anti-Semitism."



February 18, 2014 – New York – Two apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) visited AJC in New York today. The extraordinary visit marked the first time that LDS church apostles have come to AJC’s global headquarters, and follows upon a series of meetings at the LDS world headquarters in Salt Lake City last November.

During that visit the AJC delegation, led by AJC President Stanley Bergman, met with the apostles, Elders L. Tom Perry and D. Todd Christofferson, among other LDS officials, and engaged in extensive conversations aimed at advancing relations between Jews and Mormons.

Perry and Christofferson are members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the LDS Church’s second-highest governing body, the highest being the First Presidency.

“Elders Perry and Christofferson are good friends of AJC and influential leaders of the LDS Church,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. “We were honored to reciprocate their hospitality and engage in a spirited conversation regarding the AJC-LDS relationship and mutual concerns, including religious liberty, humanitarian disaster relief, sustaining religious identity, among others. We regularly communicate with the Church about and receive updates on the Church’s serious commitment to prevent posthumous proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims.”

The relationship with the LDS Church, a fast-growing faith group, is a priority for AJC in its pioneering interreligious work. High-level national AJC delegations visited LDS Church headquarters in August 2012 and November 2013. In addition, several AJC regional delegations have met with key LDS figures in Salt Lake City, and AJC has initiated LDS-Jewish dialogues in multiple cities across the United States.

 



February 16, 2014 – Berlin – AJC condemned as a blow against artistic freedom the Berlinale decision to award British film director Ken Loach “The Honorary Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement Award.” The Berlinale, the second largest film festival in Europe after Cannes, is co-sponsored by the German government.

"It is a disgrace that a prominent German film festival glorifies a director who has distinguished himself through bigotry and the denial of Israel’s right to exist," said Deidre Berger, director of AJC Berlin.

Loach is a leading figure in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement that, at its root, seeks Israel’s dismantlement. He has attempted to press a number of film festivals since 2006 to remove from their programs Israeli films. In 2009, he convinced the Edinburgh International Film Festival to return an Israeli government donation that had been made to cover the travel costs of an Israeli film director.

"Shame on the Berlinale for honoring an artist who calls for a total cultural andeconomicboycott of Israel, and to do so in a city that once boycotted Jewish shops and property due to anti-Semitic policies of the German government,” said Berger.



February 13, 2014 -- Vatican City -- AJC President Stanley Bergman led a leadership delegation in a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican today. A pioneer in advancing Catholic-Jewish relations over many decades, AJC enjoys close, cooperative relations with the Vatican, as well as with American Catholic leadership.

"I am very grateful to you for the distinguished contribution you have made to dialogue and fraternity between Jews and Catholics," Pope Francis said to the AJC leaders.

Looking ahead to the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate next year, Pope Francis said, "it is important that we dedicate ourselves to new generations the heritage of our mutual knowledge, esteem and friendship which has, thanks to the commitment of associations like yours, grown over these years."

“We come here feeling deeply that you are our true friend and we feel that we are yours,” said Bergman, addressing the Pope during today’s audience. “We are profoundly grateful for your commitment to the Catholic-Jewish relationship.”

Bergman noted that the Pontiff’s upcoming visit to Israel is “eagerly anticipated and we pray that it will be an inspiration to all in the region to reject the path of violence and pursue the path of peace.”

AJC has been outspoken on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world, especially regarding the future of Christian communities in the Middle East. “We take comfort in the fact that perhaps the safest place for Christians in the region today is in the Jewish state,” said Bergman.

The AJC President recalled the Holy See’s “categorical repudiation” of anti-Semitism, and praised Pope Francis for his life-long engagement with Argentina’s Jewish community.

AJC presented to Pope Francis a copy of the Jewish Museum in New York’s recent exhibit book, Chagall: Love, War and Exile, which includes one of the Pope’s favorite works of art, Marc Chagall’s 1938 painting, White Crucifixion. The book was enclosed in a personalized box. David Inlander, Chair of AJC’s Interreligious Affairs Commission, presented the gift.

The delegation of 50 AJC leaders included Executive Director David Harris, Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs; Lisa Palmieri-Billig, Representative in Rome and Liaison to the Holy See; and Rabbi Noam Marans, Director of Intergroup and Interreligious Affairs.

 



February 10 2014 – New York – AJC hailed Israel’s admission to the JUSCANZ regional group at UN headquarters in New York.

“JUSCANZ membership is another important step in rectifying the systemic discrimination against Israel at the UN,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We applaud U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power for her determined efforts to mobilize support among JUSCANZ members to correct this long-standing diplomatic anomaly. Both Ambassador Power and her Canadian counterpart, Ambassador Guillermo Rishchynski, were instrumental in achieving this long overdue breakthrough.”

JUSCANZ, comprising 15 democratic countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the U.S., is a sub-group of the Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group at the UN. Israel was admitted to WEOG in New York in 2000, and in Geneva in 2013. Israel had been a member of JUSCANZ in Geneva, but, until this action, not in New York.

"Even as we celebrate Israel’s admission to JUSCANZ, there still is much to be done at the UN,” said Harris. “Our ultimate goal is to see the end of the structural obstacles to Israel’s full participation in the UN system, and to ensure that Israel is, at long last, given equal treatment as a UN member state, exactly as the UN Charter calls for."

 



February 10, 2014 -- New York -- AJC supports the Hungarian Jewish community’s decision to boycott Holocaust commemoration events this year until the FIDESZ-led government reverses its actions that minimize the role of Hungary in the Nazi extermination of Jews.

“The Jewish community’s decision to protest planned Holocaust memorial events is painful, but then the efforts of the Hungarian government to rewrite history are absolutely traumatic,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC's Director of International Jewish Affairs. “The posture of FIDESZ is all the more surprising following the declaration that 2014 would be the year of Holocaust commemoration.”

Plans to build a memorial to the German occupation, controversial remarks by the director of a government-sponsored research institute, and refusal to share plans for building a second Holocaust museum in Budapest are all viewed with suspicion by the federation of Jewish communities in Hungary, known by the acronym MAZSIHISZ.

The Hungarian government thus far has refused to alter these plans for the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust or engage in a genuine dialogue with Jewish community leaders. They are increasingly concerned that the government intends to rewrite the history of the Holocaust in Hungary, relieving Hungarians of responsibility and placing all blame on the German occupation which came late during World War II.

“We urge Prime Minister Victor Orban to address the Jewish community’s concerns without delay,” said Baker. “On this 70th anniversary, the government has an opportunity to openly confront Hungary’s past and responsibility.”

Indeed, Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics, addressing an international conference on anti-Semitism in Budapest last October, declared “We Hungarians were responsible for the Holocaust here.”

Hungary is home to the largest Jewish community in Central Europe. Alongside a genuine revival of Jewish life and culture, there is growing anxiety brought on by the electoral success of the extremist Jobbik Party and increasingly populist messages coming from FIDESZ.

A recently released survey of Jews in eight EU countries conducted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights reported that 48 percent of Hungarian Jews have considered emigrating in reaction to growing anti-Semitism in the country.



February 10, 2014 – New York – Ambassador Samantha Power told the AJC Board of Governors today that the United States “strongly supports Israel’s candidacy” for a seat on the UN Security Council. “We have pushed relentlessly for the full inclusion of Israel across the UN system,” Power said.

Acknowledging the rampant hostility towards Israel within the UN, where a large number of member states are not democratic, and all 193 members cast votes to elect the Security Council rotating members, Power declared: “I will never give up.”

Israel became eligible to seek a Security Council seat after it was admitted to one of the world body’s five regional groups, an effort in which Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN at the time, played a leading role.

Building upon the WEOG success, the U.S. has advocated for Israeli membership in another regional group, JUSCANZ, which is comprised of 15 democratic countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the U.S.

“Israel has higher voting coincidence with JUSCANZ members than even the U.S. on human rights issues,” said Power. Israel became a member of JUSCANZ in Geneva several years ago, and, with U.S. assistance, is currently seeking the same status in New York.

Joining regional groups is an important example of the “continuing effort to chip away at systemic discrimination against Israel at the UN,” said Power. “Our country’s commitment to the security of Israel is unwavering, and the same is true of our efforts at the UN to eliminate bias against the Jewish state.”

Power also cited as examples of Israel’s valuable role in global affairs its quick response to the massive Haiti earthquake and the recent General Assembly action on entrepreneurship, initiated by Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor. Power also mentioned her support for Israeli diplomats to assume more leadership positions at the UN, as they are currently underrepresented because of political realities in the world body.

“I’d love to see more examples” of Israeli initiatives adopted at the UN, said Power, who spoke about her efforts to “showcase what Israel has to offer.”

On the peace process, Power declared that the U.S. is aggressively opposing unilateral challenges by the Palestinians and their backers at the UN that seek “the kind of status that can only be forged through a peace process.”

During the nearly hour-long conversation with AJC Executive Director David Harris, who recounted AJC’s long history of involvement with the UN, dating back to the founding conference in 1945, Power touched on several other priority issues on the U.S. agenda at the UN, including Iran’s nuclear program, the ongoing civil war in Syria, human rights -- including LGBT rights – protection, and genocide prevention.



February 9, 2014 -- New York -- AJC deplores the abominable treatment of gays in Nigeria. The harassment, imprisonment and torture of gays, sanctioned by a Nigerian law enacted last month, was the focus of a major front-page story in today’s New York Times.

“Nigeria’s unforgiving attitude towards gays violates the most basic human rights of individuals,” said Eliseo Neuman, director of AJC’s Africa Institute. “This is not a matter of cultural or religious norms, but one of basic humanity, respect for all human beings whatever their ethnicity, faith, or sexual orientation.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned that the law would promote prejudice and violence against gays. Indeed, according to the Times, since Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the law criminalizing homosexuality, arrests of gays have multiplied and many have sought to flee the country or gone into hiding.

Under the new law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage, civil union or domestic partnership could face up to 14 years in prison. In addition, gay and lesbian citizens meeting in public settings, or participating in gay organizations, could face prison terms of up to ten years. Meanwhile, as the Times reported, courts in Nigeria’s predominantly Islamic northern region have carried out severe beatings of “convicted” homosexuals.

To his credit, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the law “is inconsistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution.”

Homosexuality is illegal in at least 36 of Africa’s 55 countries. “The prevalence of hatred against gays throughout the African continent cannot for a moment excuse or explain Nigeria’s oppressive law,” said Neuman. “The UN, world leaders and human rights advocates should urge the Nigerian government to reconsider its hateful actions against its own citizens.”



February 7, 2014 – New York – AJC applauds the unanimous U.S. Senate adoption of a resolution strongly recommending that the United States renegotiate the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq.

“These invaluable items, some personal, some communal, rightfully belong to the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s Director of International Jewish Affairs. “Given the political and security situation in Iraq today, Jewish religious items may not be secure or accessible to those who are most interested in them.”

AJC has urged the State Department to review the understanding with the Iraqi government and find a way to ensure that they will be kept in a place where their long-term preservation and their accessibility to scholars and Iraqi Jews can be guaranteed.

AJC also has discussed this option with Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Lukman Faily who has expressed the hope that a creative solution might be found.

The archive is a collection of Jewish religious items and other artifacts, discovered after U.S. forces overthrew Saddam Hussein, and brought to Washington ten years ago for restoration and preservation by the National Archives. The understanding has been that after a public exhibit of some Iraqi Jewish items in Washington, D.C. and New York, the full collection would be sent to Baghdad this summer.

 



February 6, 2014 – Brussels – AJC’s Transatlantic Institute (TAI) will celebrate its tenth anniversary with a gala dinner on February 19. European political leaders, diplomats, Jewish leaders, and civil society partners are expected to attend.

Belgium Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders and Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy. will deliver keynote addresses.

Earlier in the day, TAI and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation will co-sponsor a conference on Transatlantic Security Challenges and Relations. One panel will assess the status of Iran’s nuclear program and negotiations with the P5 + 1 for a comprehensive agreement following the six-month interim deal. A second panel will examine the issue of transatlantic data protection.

Launching the Transatlantic Institute in 2004 fulfilled a vision of AJC, the global advocacy organization, to establish a permanent presence in the political and administrative center of the European Union.

“AJC has for decades been a trailblazer in building bridges between Europe and the United States,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris at the opening of TAI.

“The ties that bind us -- shared democratic values, mutual defense commitments, interwoven histories, and common foreign policy concerns -- are central to the transatlantic partnership,” said Harris. “The AJC Transatlantic Institute works to strengthen this essential relationship and deepen understanding of its vital role in key policy sectors in Europe and the United States.”

Since TAI was launched in February 2004, EU membership has grown from 15 to 28, an expansion that AJC has supported.

Under the leadership of TAI Director Daniel Schwammenthal, the institute engages decision-makers across the political spectrum in all three major European institutions—the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament—as well as with NATO and the diplomatic missions to the EU, think tanks, journalists, and others in the civil society sector.

During its first ten years, TAI has informed a broad range of European leaders in Brussels on a number of pressing issues of concern to the transatlantic community, including Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli-Arab peace process, terrorism, human rights, energy security, integration of immigrants, and, not least, anti-Semitism in Europe.

The opening and operation of TAI has been made possible by a generous donation from Rhoda and the late Jordan Baruch. In addition to Brussels, AJC maintains European offices in Berlin, Paris and Rome.



February 6, 2014 – New York – AJC is challenging the Presbyterian Church (USA) commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace, following the publication of Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide.

This study guide, billed by the church as an educational resource, wasproduced by the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), one of the church’s educational arms. “It is a devastating distortion of Jewish and Israeli history, aimed at nothing less than eradicating the State of Israel,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s Director of Intergroup and Interreligious Relations.

“Remarkably, Zionism Unsettled contravenes the 2008 Presbyterian Church vow ‘to become nonpartisan advocates for peace,’” said Marans. “Unfortunately, the PC (USA) continues to allow the completely partisan and unrepresentative IPMN to operate as its educational arm regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The study guide, for sale on the PC (USA) website, was released in advance of the PC (USA) General Assembly, which will take place in June, and is expected to vote on a resolution supporting the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement against Israel.

Zionism Unsettled, according to its introduction, provides Christian, Jewish and Muslim perspectives on Zionist history, and advises how churches can contribute to the cause of just peace and promote relationships among followers of the three Abrahamic religions.

“The seemingly balanced approach is a façade,” said Marans. “The study guide is reminiscent of medieval Christian polemics against Judaism, with the authors claiming to know better than the Jewish community how Jews define themselves. This is another example of the ongoing effort to demonize Israel by a cadre of people who want to see the dismantlement of the Jewish state.”



February 5, 2014 -- New York -- AJC is gratified that the New York State Assembly will not consider a bill to bar state funding of colleges and universities that support boycotts against Israel. The New York State Senate had adopted the proposed legislation, but the measure’s sponsors in the Assembly decided to withdraw it.

“There is no question that the academic boycott against Israel is a gross violation of academic freedom,” said Steven Bayme, AJC’s Director of Contemporary Jewish Life.

“But the proposed legislative action, which itself raised academic freedom questions, is not the answer to discriminatory acts against Israeli academics, such as boycotts.”

The American Studies Association has called for a boycott against Israel, an act denounced by more than 200 university presidents across the country. In response, the proposed New York State bill would have cut funding to any institution in the state that participates in ASA programs or other anti-Israeli boycott movement activities.

AJC reiterated its appreciation for the American Association of University Professors, and many New York colleges and universities, that have consistently condemned threats to academic freedom, including boycott resolutions and legislative proposals.



February 5, 2014 -- New York -- AJC is appalled by the anti-Semitic statements of a Syriza Party candidate for upcoming elections in Greece. Theodoros Karypidis, who is running for Governor of Western Macedonia, claims that Greece’s new public broadcasting channel, NERIT, has Jewish roots and that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s recent visit to the Thessaloniki Synagogue was an act threatening Greece.

“Vile, outrageous expressions of anti-Semitism in Greece are coming not only from Golden Dawn on the far right but also, as Theodoros Karypidis's Facebook post illustrates, from the far left,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Prime Minister Samaras and his government laudably reject these dangerous attacks and recognize the right of the Greek Jews, like all Greek citizens, to live in peace and dignity.” Greece today has a Jewish population numbering approximately 5,000 in a country of 11 million, having lost the overwhelming majority of its members during the Nazi occupation of the country and deportation to the death camps.

NERIT (New Hellenic Radio and Television) was established last summer after the Samaras government shut down the Hellenic Broadcasting Authority. Karypidis claims that the new station’s acronym is linked to the Hebrew word for candle -- Ner -- and that candles lit during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrate Jewish victory over ancient Greece.

“Samaras is lighting the candles (Nerit) in the seven branched candelabra of the Jews and lighting Greece on fire after his visit to the Thessaloniki Synagogue... He is organizing a new Hanukkah against the Greeks,” wrote Karypidis.

“Whipping up hatred of Jews, for all kinds of alleged conspiracies, is an all-too-familiar and long-time tactic of political extremists with nothing constructive to offer about real-life issues facing their country,” said Harris. “It also reveals once again that, for all their purported differences, far right and left politicians can have more in common than they might otherwise admit -- the capacity for blind hatred, bigotry and demagoguery.”

The left-wing Syriza is the main opposition party, coming in second nationally after Prime Minister Samaras’s New Democracy Party, while the Golden Dawn ranks third in the polls. So far, his party’s leaders have not reacted to Karypidis’s Facebook post. Meanwhile, the prime minister’s spokesman called the statements "unacceptable, racist and anti-Semitic."



February 2, 2014 -- New York -- AJC applauds U.S. and EU support for Ukrainians protesting against their increasingly repressive government. U.S Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, addressing the Munich Security Conference, condemned the Ukrainian government crackdown on demonstrators gathered in central Kiev.

The latest outrages involve the kidnapping and torture of leading Ukrainian human rights activists. Dmytro Bulatov, who had disappeared for several days, was found so severely mutilated that he is being transferred to Germany for medical treatment. Yuri Verbitsky was found dead with indications of torture. Igor Lutsenko, who also was kidnapped and beaten, survived, and like Bulatov has been able to retell his experience. Dozens more remain missing.

“The promise of Ukraine’s return to democracy, after decades of stifling Soviet rule, is waning,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Tragically, the current Ukrainian government has revealed its true character by brutally cracking down on citizens who, braving frigid weather and brute force, are giving voice to their quest for the country's pro-Western orientation.”

Mass protests began two months ago, after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych abruptly changed course and, at the last minute, refused to sign a long-anticipated agreement with the European Union.

“As we have said before, as long-time friends of Ukraine who advocated for Washington's recognition of Ukraine's return to independence in 1991, we believe that a closer association with the EU and its institutions is the likeliest path for it to ensure a bright, prosperous future, anchored in democratic values, the rule of law, a robust civil society, and government accountability,” said Harris. “The current posture of the Ukrainian leadership, encouraged by Moscow, is suffocating the country’s enormous potential and darkening its future prospects.”



February 1 – New York – AJC condemned in the strongest possible terms Israeli Knesset Member Motti Yogev’s verbal assault on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Yogev, of the Bayit Yehudi Party, declared on Israel Radio that “[Israeli] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is acting under Kerry’s obsessive pressure, which may have anti-Semitic undertones” and “anti-Israel roots.”

“Such assertions are totally unfounded, dumb, and damaging,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Anyone who has followed Secretary Kerry’s long public career knows that he has been a rock-solid friend of the U.S.-Israel relationship and the Jewish people.”

“MK Yogev certainly has the right to express his concern about the direction of the peace process, but his personal attack on Kerry is unwarranted,” said Harris, “Yogev should offer a heartfelt apology or his party’s leader, Naftali Bennett, should take swift action.”

“Let’s remember, Bayit Yehudi is part of Israel’s governing coalition, which is dealing with Washington on a minute-by-minute basis not only on the peace process, but also on a range of vital security, defense, intelligence, economic, and other key fields,” Harris added.



January 31, 2014 – New York – AJC applauds Scarlett Johansson for her resignation as Oxfam International ambassador. The humanitarian aid group criticized the award-winning actress for teaming up with an Israeli company, SodaStream, as its spokesperson. A SodaStream TV ad featuring Johansson is slated to air during the Super Bowl on Sunday, but already has gone viral on the Internet.

“Bravo to Ms. Johansson for her principled stance against critics of Israel and support of those who not only seek peace, but right now are working to better relations between Israelis and Palestinians,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. SodaStream employs hundreds of Palestinians in its main factory in the Maale Adumim Industrial Zone outside Jerusalem, and has been lauded for fostering an atmosphere of workplace respect and dignity.

Johansson, who represented Oxfam for eight years, said she is “a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.” She also called SodaStream "a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights."

SodaStream has attracted criticism from leaders and supporters of the so-called Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that, at its core, represents a challenge to Israel’s very legitimacy as a sovereign nation.



January 31, 2014 – Washington – AJC welcomed the House Republican leadership decision to reengage immigration reform by issuing a set of principles, but expressed concerns about serious shortcomings in their approach. The Standards for Immigration Reform document was released at a House Republican retreat.

“We are glad that House Republicans are taking steps to move the legislative process forward on immigration reform,” said Richard Foltin, AJC’s Director of National and Legislative Affairs. “2014 should be the year that this issue, so critical for American society, finally is resolved.”

“But, of utmost concern, the principles fail to establish a clear and reasonable path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented individuals in the United States,” said Foltin.

“Moreover, the Republican principles would require the implementation of certain enforcement triggers before the undocumented could even live legally in the United States,” Foltin continued. “Bringing these individuals out of the shadows and immediately giving them a legal status must be the first step in any immigration reform package.”

AJC also pointed out that the principles overlook the importance of the family immigration visa system. “Family reunification is a core issue,” said Foltin. “Any immigration reform proposal must include positive reforms to make it easier for families to reunite with their loved ones.”

On the positive, the principles include important improvements to the U.S. immigration system, such as citizenship for undocumented youth who came to the U.S. at a young age, important updates for employment and temporary worker visas, and enforcement measures.

AJC urged House Republicans and Democrats to work together in the coming weeks to craft a solid and workable bill for comprehensive immigration reform.

Since its founding in 1906, AJC has been outspoken in support of fair and generous immigration policies, characterized by the rule of law. Comprehensive immigration reform will strengthen America’s global competitiveness and enhance our national security, as well as allow hard-working immigrants an opportunity to succeed in the United States, for themselves and for future generations.



January 31, 2014 – New York – AJC urged the Obama Administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, following the release today of the State Department’s long-awaited environmental impact statement. The report concluded that the pipeline will have little impact on global climate change.

“AJC has long advocated for the Keystone XL pipeline because it is critically important for U.S. energy security, not to mention our economy,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The pipeline will contribute significantly to further reducing our reliance on oil from unreliable sources, create new jobs, and deepen still further our relations with our cherished neighbor and ally, Canada.”

Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, and already provides oil through other pipelines. Transporting oil via pipelines is safer, more energy efficient, and more reliable than importing it through tankers from the Middle East or elsewhere.

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



January 25, 2014 -- Rome -- AJC called for increased vigilance following grotesque manifestations of anti-Semitism in Rome during the Jewish Sabbath.

A box with a pig’s head was delivered to Rome’s Grand Synagogue on Friday and similar packages were delivered on Saturday to the Israeli Embassy and to the Museum of Rome, which is featuring an exhibition on the Holocaust. In addition, Nazi swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti were scrawled on the walls of a municipal building.

“The consequences of indifference towards such acts, as history teaches us, can lead to a serious degeneration of peaceful coexistence, and of the democratic fabric of society,” said Lisa Palmieri-Billig, AJC’s Representative in Italy and Liaison to the Holy See.

Coming on the Jewish Sabbath as well as on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday, these “vile and cowardly acts” constitute “a serious signal of alarm,” said Palmieri-Billig.

AJC called on Italian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for these anti-Semitic outrages, and for both government and civil society leaders to step up efforts at teaching a culture of mutual respect aimed at reinforcing the moral and ethical values.



Over 45 diplomats, including 18 UN ambassadors, from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North and South America, joined a large AJC delegation, organized by AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, to participate in the ninth annual official UN Holocaust Memorial Ceremony.

In these moving remarks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reflects on his 2013 visit to Auschwitz, saying, “we recall the suffering of millions of innocent people and highlight the perils of anti-Semitism and hatred of any kind . . . I will never forget my visit [to Auschwitz], I saw the horrific remnants of the machinery of genocide.” 

WATCH Video of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit to Auschwitz


January 25, 2014 – New York – In observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, AJC issued the statement below. The United Nations designated January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, as the day for the world body and countries around the world to recall and commemorate the Nazi destruction of six million Jews.

For this occasion, AJC re-released its short film on the Nazi death camp, Belzec. More than 500,000 Jews were slaughtered there in less than a year. Only two Jews survived. Ten years ago, a memorial and museum were dedicated at Belzec, a joint project of AJC and the Polish government.

Full text of AJC statement:

We Remember

In the Jewish tradition, we are commanded to remember (zachor) and not to forget (lo tishkach). On January 27, we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this solemn occasion, 69 years after the liberation of Auschwitz:

We remember the six million Jewish martyrs, including 1.5 million children, who were exterminated in the Holocaust.

We remember the entirely new alphabet created by the Nazis for the Final Solution — from the letter “A” for Auschwitz to the letter “Z” for Zyklon-B.

We remember not only the tragic deaths of the six million Jews, but also their vibrant lives—as shopkeepers and craftsmen, scientists and authors, teachers and students, parents and children, husbands and wives.

We remember the richly hued and ancient Jewish civilizations that were destroyed—from Salonika to Vilna, from Amsterdam to Prague.

We remember the slippery slope that began with the rantings of an obscure Austrian-born anti-Semite named Adolf Hitler and led, in the course of less than 15 years, to his absolute control over Germany.

We remember the fertile soil of European anti-Semitism—cultivated over centuries by cultural, political, and religious voices—that created an all-too-receptive climate for the Nazi objective of eliminating the Jewish people.

We remember the courage of Denmark, as well as Albania, Bulgaria, and Finland, for their extraordinary efforts to protect their own Jewish communities.

We remember the courage of thousands of Righteous Persons—whom we call, in Hebrew, Hasidei Umot Ha’olam—who risked their own lives that others might live.

We remember the millions of non-Jews—Poles and Russians, Roma and the disabled, political opponents and homosexuals—murdered under the relentless Nazi onslaught.

We remember the valiant soldiers of the Allied nations who, at such great human cost, vanquished the Third Reich.

We remember the survivors of the death camps, who endured such unimaginable suffering and who have inspired us all with their indomitable courage, spirit, and will to live.

We remember the absence of an Israel in those war-time years—an Israel that, had it existed, would have provided a haven when so shamefully few countries were willing to accept Jewish refugees.

We shall never forget those who perished.

We shall never forget those who saved even a single life. As it is written in the Talmud: “He who saves one life has saved the world.”

We shall never forget the importance of speaking out against intolerance, whenever and wherever it occurs.

We shall never forget the inextricable link among democracy, the rule of law, and protection of human rights.

We shall never forget the age-old prophetic vision of a world of justice, harmony, and peace.

And we shall never forget that each of us, in ways large and small, can help bring us closer to the realization of that prophetic vision.



January 23, 2014 – New York – AJC praised the Israeli government for thwarting a planned Al-Qaeda attack against the American Embassy in the heart of Tel Aviv, as well as other targets in the country.

“Bravo to Israel’s intelligence and security services for nipping this in the bud,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Without Israeli vigilance, this could have resulted in a major tragedy. It is another telling reminder that Israel and the U.S. stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the jihadist forces taking aim at Western sites, and that both countries rely on one another in confronting this transnational threat.”

Israeli officials announced they had apprehended three Palestinians. Two of the suspects are from Jerusalem and one is from the West Bank. Reports suggest they were recruited by a terrorist in Gaza with links to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Their goal reportedly was to attack the American Embassy, the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, and Israeli buses, with the aim of killing, maiming and kidnapping.

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.

 



January 20, 2014 -- Jerusalem -- AJC Executive Director David Harris lauded Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for delivering a memorable speech before the Knesset, Israel's parliament.

"Prime Minister Harper has conveyed with exceptional clarity the moral grounding of Canada's consistent support for Israel," said Harris, who will see the Canadian leader at an event tomorrow night hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Israel and the Jewish people have few better, more courageous, and more principled friends than the Prime Minister,” said Harris. “In a world too often consumed by double standards, hypocrisy, and apathy, Prime Minister Harper stands out for his defense of what's right, and not simply what's convenient or expedient."

Harper, on a four-day visit to Israel, with a large delegation of ministers and business leaders, is the first Canadian premier to speak before the Israeli parliament.

"Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so,” said Harper. "Canada and Israel are the greatest of friends, and the most natural of allies.”

Harper spoke about the democratic values Canada and Israel share, and the common threats they face. “Support today for the Jewish State of Israel is more than a moral imperative. It is also of strategic importance,” Harper said.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East, he noted, that has rooted itself in the ideals of “freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.”

He warned that the "forces which have threatened the state of Israel every single day of its existence...threaten us all.”

And he cautioned that some criticism of Israeli policies is "the new anti-Semitism. It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel."

The Canadian leader conveyed a deep appreciation for the security challenges confronting Israel.

“If you act to defend yourselves, you will suffer widespread condemnation, over and over again,” Harper said. “But should you fail to act, you alone will suffer the consequence of your inaction and that consequence will be final, your destruction."

Harper was warmly greeted upon arrival in Israel by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who called him "a great friend of Israel." In meetings with Netanyahu, and, separately, with Palestinian Authority President Abbas, Harper expressed support for a negotiated two-state solution.

"We share with Israel a sincere hope that the Palestinian people and their leaders will choose a viable, democratic, Palestinian state, committed to living peacefully alongside the Jewish State of Israel,” said Harper.



January 19, 2013 -- New York -- AJC praised a congressional initiative to declare firm opposition to the American Studies Association (ASA) decision to boycott Israeli colleges and universities.

“We believe that the decision to blacklist Israeli academic institutions for Israeli government policies with which ASA disagrees demonstrates a blatant disregard for academic freedom,” states the House letter to ASA President Curtis Marez. To date, 134 members of Congress have signed on to the letter, led by Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Doug Collins (R-GA), and Brad Schneider (D-IL).

“The ASA call for an academic boycott against Israel never should have happened,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “But the outpouring of outrage against the ASA and support for Israeli academia is encouraging. Members of Congress now are joining with more than 200 university presidents and chancellors in publicly repudiating the disgraceful ASA action.”

Asked on the eve of the ASA convention last month why Israel was being targeted, Marez said, “one has to start somewhere.”

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



January 19, 2014 -- New York -- AJC praised the U.S. and Canadian governments for their rigorous objections to UNESCO’s decision to postpone indefinitely an exhibit on the Jewish people and Israel.

The exhibit, “People, Book, Land -- The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land,” was slated to open at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on January 20. But the exhibit’s co-sponsor, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was informed just before the weekend that it would not open as planned due to protests by Arab countries, asserting that it could harm the peace process.

“UNESCO’s abrupt reversal on hosting an important exhibit about Israel is outrageous,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We agree with U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power’s declaration that ‘UNESCO's decision is wrong and should be reversed.’ Indeed, UNESCO should reinstate the exhibit immediately.”

“Arab claims that the exhibit will ‘harm the peace process’ are disingenuous,” Harris continued. “Whether the Arab world at long last recognizes the age-old connection between the land and the people is precisely the heart of the peace process.”

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs said there “is no appropriate rationale to delay the exhibition and [we are] deeply disappointed by the decision made to postpone it.”

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said the UNESCO exhibit “would not harm the negotiations. Negotiations are based on facts, on the truth, which is never harmful.”

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



January 17, 2014 – Washington – AJC applauds the introduction of bipartisan legislation amending the Voting Rights Act of 1965 so that it will continue to ensure fair treatment of all voters.

“Voting rights are a foundation of democracy,” said Richard Foltin, AJC Director of National and Legislative Affairs. “The Voting Rights Act remains an important bulwark against discrimination in exercising the right to vote.”

The U.S. Supreme Court last year, in Shelby County v. Holder, struck down as unconstitutional a key pre-clearance requirement of the landmark 1965 legislation that had protected against discriminatory laws and practices. Following the court decision, several jurisdictions moved to implement changes in voting practices that thwart full access to the ballot.

The Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, introduced by Representatives James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI), aims to enhance voter protections in a way that is responsive to the issues raised by the high court.  A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

“Congressional action is imperative to guarantee that the franchise for all Americans is protected,” said Foltin. 

AJC, a longstanding champion of civil rights, supported passage of the original Voting Rights Act 49 years ago.

To spur effective advocacy on behalf of voting rights, AJC will convene a national conference next month in Washington, D.C. The conference will be held in coordination with the National Urban League, NALEO, and other civil rights organizations.

 



January 15, 2014 -- New York – AJC continues to be deeply concerned about Iran's motives in negotiations with the U.S. and five other world powers over its nuclear program.

Ahead of Monday's start date for the six-month interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared in a tweet that "the world powers surrendered to the Iranian nation's will."

“President Rouhani’s gloating is telling," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Is Iran truly committed to negotiating a permanent agreement to end its quest for nuclear-weapons capability, or has President Rouhani revealed an unaltered Iranian strategy of deceit, with which he has also been associated earlier in his career?"

For more than a decade, Iran has ignored IAEA and UN Security Council actions, as well as U.S. and EU sanctions, aimed at stopping its nuclear-weapons program. The interim agreement announced in November was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough. It was seen by its backers as a first step in resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis, setting the stage for further negotiations on a permanent accord to be concluded by mid-2014. 

"The fact that European and other companies, some encouraged by their own governments, are already visiting Iran, and others are lining up, even before Iran has taken concrete steps, could very well weaken the carefully constructed sanctions regime," said Harris. “That alone may give Rouhani undue comfort, and perhaps reason to savor success.”

In a separate but related development, and again underscoring the profound questions about Iran, Foreign Minister Zarif honored the memory of Imad Mughniyeh, one of Hezbollah's top terrorists. Mughniyeh was a terrorist par excellence, who was responsible, among other attacks, for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut. Zarif laid a wreath at Mugniyeh's grave in Lebanon. Mugniyeh died in 2008.

"To honor the Hezbollah leader responsible for, among many other terrorist attacks, the murder of 241 U.S. Marines is to spit in the eye of the U.S.," said Harris. “And this is by the very same person, Zarif, who is overseeing Iran’s team in the talks with the P5+1.”

Hezbollah, created more than 30 years ago, has long served as Iran’s terror proxy around the world. Both Iran and Hezbollah are on the ground in Syria working hand-in-hand with the Assad regime, in its nearly three-year-long war against rebel forces, which has resulted in an estimated 120,000 deaths and  millions of refugees and internally displaced persons.”

 

 



January 11, 2014 – New York – AJC mourns the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

“With the passing of Ariel Sharon, a defining chapter in Israel’s history goes with him,” said David Harris, executive director of AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization. “He was a man of towering strength, uncompromising commitment, steely determination, and creative vision.”

The full AJC statement on the passing of Ariel Sharon, at age 85, follows:

AJC mourns the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

He was a man of towering strength, uncompromising commitment, steely determination, and creative vision.

He was among the giants of Israel’s founding generation. Against all the odds, they established the democratic state, defended it against those who sought its destruction, and participated in its remarkable growth and development over the last nearly six decades.

Sharon loved the land, both literally and figuratively. Never happier than when he was on his farm, he was a devoted son of the Jewish people who cherished the return to the land of their biblical roots.

While he fully understood the importance of military strength and strategic acumen to ensure Israel’s security in a turbulent region, he also displayed a political pragmatism that surprised his external and domestic critics. His withdrawal of all Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 was one telling example. Despite his earlier support of their presence, he concluded that Israel’s long-term security goals could best be met by their removal. In doing so, he changed Israel’s political map and, not for the first time, outmaneuvered his adversaries.

And while he was long viewed as a “hard-liner” by his critics, as prime minister he spoke of a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, a goal that tragically proved unachievable because of the Palestinian failure to seize Israel’s outstretched hand. He also devoted considerable attention, over many years, to relations with Jordan and developed close personal ties with its leaders, as he did with several other Arab rulers.

AJC had many fruitful exchanges with Ariel Sharon, both in his capacity as prime minister and in his many previous government posts. On a personal level, he was always warm and welcoming. On a professional level, he was always engaged, passionate and focused on the challenges of the day.

With his passing, a defining chapter in Israel’s history goes with him. We shall miss him. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his grieving family and to the nation to which he devoted his entire life.



January 11, 2014 – New York – AJC mourns the passing of Ernest Weiner, who led the global advocacy organization’s office in San Francisco until his retirement in 2008. He was 89 years old.

AJC Executive Director David Harris, a long-time colleague of Ernie, issued the following statement:

“During his 37 years with AJC, Ernie was widely beloved, admired, and respected. He had that all-too-rare combination of wisdom, wit, eloquence, feistiness, compassion, and charm – the perfect ingredients to be a superb advocate. And advocate he did, in defense of Israel’s well-being, the security of the Jewish people, the promise of America for all, and cooperation among America’s faith and ethnic communities.

“Ernie was a proud American, who served his country valiantly in the Second World War. He was an equally proud Jew, who cherished his Jewish heritage, sprinkled his speech with Yiddishisms, and could not have been more proud of the rebirth of Israel.

“One of the many remarkable things about Ernie was his uncanny ability to befriend people in all walks and stages of life. He found the humanity in everyone, took an interest in their lives, showed empathy for their concerns, and always had a memorable turn of phrase at the ready.

“AJC honored him at a gala event in San Francisco. In addition to the formal award, he was presented with a pair of boxing shorts embroidered with the words ‘Bayonne Bomber’ to recall his days in New Jersey as a boxer, a sport he remained associated with long after his retirement from the ring.

“He also was honored by the French government. In 2007, the Consul General of France in San Francisco, Frederic Desagneaux, presented Ernie with the medal of Knight of the French National Order of Merit. It was given ‘as a testimony of France’s gratitude for his outstanding service in the American Army in the European theater during World War II, and in recognition of his accomplishments as the head of AJC San Francisco, where he endlessly promoted French-American friendship and cooperation.’

“In 2008, on the occasion of Ernie’s retirement from AJC, there was a wonderful tribute to him written by John Tateishi in the Pacific Citizen.

“He recalled how he had first met Ernie in 1978. Ernie had reached out and explained that AJC wanted to help the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) seek redress from the U.S. government, after what had shamefully happened to many Japanese Americans in 1942. ‘And thus,’ Tateishi wrote, ‘AJC became the first and most important organization to endorse the JACL’s Redress campaign,’ which ultimately proved successful. And, he added of Ernie, ‘This man, who is no bigger than I, is in many ways so much bigger than life. Probably because he has given so much meaning to so many people.’

“Exactly. Ernie touched the lives of countless individuals and communities in his career. America, Israel, the democratic world, and the Jewish people are all the beneficiaries of the heart and soul he gave to everything he did. In his extraordinary lifetime, Ernie proved how one person can make an enduring difference.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to Ernie’s four children and their families, who have lost an adoring father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Ernie’s wife, Shirley, the love of his life, predeceased him. May Ernie’s memory always serve as a blessing and an inspiration. He will be missed by so many!”



January 9, 2014 – New York – AJC condemned a Bangladeshi court decision to sentence Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the Weekly Blitz, to seven years in prison for attempting to visit Israel more than a decade ago and for “harming the country’s interests” through his articles. The paper is the largest tabloid English-language weekly in Bangladesh.

“Shame on Bangladesh! Shoaib Choudhury is a voice of reason who has courageously charted a path of engagement with the larger world, including Israel, and has sought to advance Muslim-Jewish relations,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “That these are considered ‘crimes’ in Bangladesh, and worthy of harsh punishment, is deplorable and severely damages the country's image. We shall not remain silent, and we call on leaders of democratic countries to express their dismay directly to the government of Bangladesh.”

In 2006, AJC presented Choudhury with its Moral Courage Award in recognition of his deep commitment to interfaith dialogue and his steadfast determination to speak out when others sought to silence him. While Bangladesh authorities prevented him from traveling to Washington to receive the award at AJC’s Annual Meeting, he did manage to visit AJC headquarters in 2007 and spoke to a standing-room-only audience.

Over the years, his newspaper offices have been bombed and he has been targeted with death threats. He attempted to travel to Israel, in 2003, to attend a conference on coexistence.



January 8, 2014 -- New York -- AJC is dismayed by the destruction of more than 50,000 books in an arson attack on a major Christian library in Tripoli, Lebanon. 

A Muslim mob targeted the Al-Saeh library, owned by Greek Orthodox priest Ibrahim Surouj, after a pamphlet insulting the Prophet Mohammed was allegedly found in one of the library books.

“The Jewish people knows all too well the ominous implications of burning books,” said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC International Director of Interreligious Affairs. “As the 19th century German poet Heinrich Heine poignantly observed, ‘Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.’”

AJC called on the Lebanese authorities to do their utmost to protect the well-being of all its religious communities.

The fire burned two-thirds of the library’s collection of 80,000 books and manuscripts built up over decades by Father Sorouj.

"Violence in the Arab world, inspired by radical, unforgiving ideology, has too often targeted with impunity the cultural, historical and religious sites of minority faith communities," said Rosen. "The arson attack on Father Sarouj's library is terrorism, driven by obscurantism and bigotry."



January 1, 2014 -- Paris -- AJC praised French President Francois Hollande for his New Year’s pledge to fight anti-Semitism and racism.

In his televised end-of-the-year address to the nation, Hollande declared that he “will not condone anti-Semitism, racism and any form of discrimination...The values of the French Republic are not negotiable."

“Confronting the scourges of anti-Semitism and racism requires a sustained national effort,” said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC Paris. “It is reassuring for Jews and other minorities, indeed for all people of goodwill, that President Hollande and Interior Minister Manuel Valls have made it their priority to combat anti-Semitism and racism. All political, religious and civil society leaders should join in this national battle against ignorance and hate.”

The French president’s traditional New Year’s Eve address to the nation comes after months of controversy over the use of a salute called the "quenelle,” which has been made popular by the notoriously anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. He has been convicted seven times for racial incitement against Jews, and French prosecutors last week opened an eighth investigation against him.

Minister Valls, announcing a legal review aimed at banning the comedian’s public appearances for public disorder said, “Dieudonne M'bala M'bala doesn't seem to recognize any limits any more.”

In recent days, the quenelle has gained further notoriety after a French professional soccer player, Nicolas Anelka, made the gesture during a football match in Great Britain.

The quenelle also has been used by individuals at Jewish sites, including earlier this week in front of the very same Jewish school in Toulouse where three schoolchildren and a teacher were brutally murdered in an anti-Semitic terror attack in 2012. In September, two soldiers were punished by the army for making the gesture in uniform in front of a Paris synagogue.

In addition, 2013 witnessed racist attacks against French Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who was born in French Guiana and is black.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) survey of Jews in eight EU countries, released in November, found that 85 percent of French Jews see anti-Semitism as a problem and 70 percent fear becoming the victim of a hate crime in France.



December 30, 2013 – New York – AJC condemned the terrorist bombings in Volgograd, Russia.The attacks at the city’s main train station yesterday and on a trolley bus today left at least 32 dead.

While no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, they appear similar to other terror assaults carried out by the Caucasus Emirate, a Chechen separatist group, including the 2010 bombings of Moscow’s subway system and 2011 attack at Moscow's Domodedovo airport. With the 2014 Winter Olympics set to take place shortly in Russia, there is concern that this week’s bombings may be the beginning of a new terror campaign, which had been threatened in a video by Doku Umarov, leader of the Caucasus Emirate.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those murdered in the Volgograd bombings, as well as with the injured in the hope they will achieve a full recovery,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “All people of good will must stand together with Russia in the face of those who pursue terrorist strategies of murder and mayhem.”

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



December 30, 2013 – New York -- Israel’s release of another 26 Palestinian prisoners reaffirms Prime Minister Netanyahu’s commitment to the current direct talks with the Palestinian Authority aimed at achieving a sustainable, permanent peace. Today’s release is the third in a series of four that will free a total of 104 Palestinian prisoners, most convicted of fatal terrorist attacks on Israelis, and many sentenced to life for their brutal crimes.

“We’re talking about people with a lot of blood on their hands, convicted of some of the most horrific crimes imaginable,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

”Painfully, for Israelis, releasing more terrorists doesn’t come after a peace deal is signed, but in the hope of getting to one,” said Harris. “It hurts profoundly, for we know that the freed terrorists will be lionized by Palestinian leaders, and, if past is prologue, some of the released prisoners likely will plot and commit terror again.”

Twenty-three of the prisoners released today were convicted of murdering Israelis, one of them an immigrant from the United States, and Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. They have all served between 19 and 28 years of their terms.

“What should be recognized widely is the fact that the Israeli government is fulfilling a commitment it made when peace talks resumed in August,” said Harris. “It would be hard to imagine any other government, even the U.S., agreeing to such a release of prisoners with blood on their hands – and not at the end of a peace process, but rather in order to sustain it.”

David Harris is AJC Executive Director, Edward and Sandra Meyer Office of the Executive Director.



December 24, 2013 New York – AJC welcomed the UN Security Council decision today to dispatch more peacekeeping troops to South Sudan in an effort to quell the violence that has gripped the nation in recent days.

“AJC celebrated the birth of South Sudan in July 2011, heralding a new era for the people of this troubled, but promising region,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “However, something went wrong in recent days. The loss of life, rising numbers of refugees, and expanding violence are deeply painful as they threaten the future of this new nation.”

The UN Security Council action provides for another 6,000 international troops and police officers to join the more than 7,600 peacekeeping forces already on the ground in South Sudan.
“The U.S. and international community were essential to creating the conditions for South Sudan’s independence, and now will be critical to ending the bloodshed, and to stabilizing the country and setting it on a hopeful course,” said Harris.

As U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said, the leaders of South Sudan “can return to the political dialogue and spirit of cooperation that helped establish South Sudan, or they can destroy those hard-fought gains and tear apart their newborn nation.”

AJC has been involved in advocacy concerning South Sudan, including several visits, since the creation of its Africa Institute in 2006.



December 20, 2013 – New York – AJC welcomes the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky from a Russian prison. The Russian entrepreneur had become, before his arrest more than a decade ago, one of Russia’s leading businessmen, heading a major energy company. He was incarcerated in harsh conditions for the past ten years.

“Whatever the motivation of Russian President Putin to pardon Mikhail Khodorskovsky, his release today is a long overdue, welcome development,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“Khodorkovsky suffered gross human rights abuses for ten years as a prisoner, who many believe was originally sentenced for politically-motivated reasons, in Russia’s notorious penal system,” said Harris. “We wish him well as he savors his first days of freedom in Germany, the warm welcome of German officials, and the embrace of his family.”

Long viewed as rival of Putin, Khodorkovsky has vigorously and consistently denied the charges of fraud and tax evasion brought against him that led to his long-term sentence.



December 19, 2013 – New York – AJC is dismayed by the Huffington Post homepage headline on Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) posted today.

The headline states “Saboteur Sen. Launching War Push,” suggesting that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a leading supporter of a new bipartisan initiative to ready new sanctions on Iran, is unpatriotic and advocating for reckless military action.

 “The Huffington Post has launched a shameful, unjust assault on Senator Menendez,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

 “Why this incendiary attack on a respected and experienced legislator, who has every right to express his viewpoints, without being depicted in such toxic terms?” Harris continued. “Senator Menendez believes, as do many of his Senate colleagues and a majority of the American people, that the best way to reach a diplomatic solution with Iran is through a hard-nosed, clear-eyed approach to a dangerous and wily adversary. So do we.”

 Menendez today joined with 25 other Democratic and Republican senators in introducing a measure to prepare new economic sanctions in case Iran does not comply with the interim deal to negotiate a permanent agreement ending its quest for nuclear-weapons capability.

 

 

 



December 19, 2013 – New York – AJC applauded Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for spearheading a new bipartisan Senate bill on Iran. AJC is urging Senators to move expeditiously to adopt the measure, the Nuclear Free Iran Act of 2013, introduced today with 26 Senators co-sponsoring.

“Until there are tangible, verifiable deeds by Iran to permanently end its quest for nuclear-weapons capability, Congress is doing the right thing, sending a strong message to Iran that it will pay a heavy price if a permanent agreement on its nuclear program is not achieved,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. AJC earlier this month sent a letter to all Senators urging them to support the preparation of new sanctions.

AJC has conveyed appreciation for the efforts of the Administration and the other P5+1 governments negotiating with Iran. At the same time, Harris emphasized that the new sanctions should be held in reserve to “underscore the seriousness of America’s determination -- and the consequences of an Iranian failure to act in good faith.”

“AJC has long believed in a diplomatic, not a military, solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, and has advocated for the toughest possible economic measures to persuade Iran to desist from its nuclear-weapons quest,” said Harris.

“Sanctions work,” said Harris. “What prompted Iran to come to the negotiations in Geneva with the P5+1 nations – the increasing toll of sanctions -- remains essential for ensuring that Tehran is committed to negotiating a final agreement to end its nuclear-weapons program.”

Numerous questions have arisen since the Geneva deal announced on November 23, and at least one P5+1 country, France, has expressed serious doubts about the Iranian commitment to reach a final deal.

“Iran’s charge that Congress will cause the collapse of the interim deal is a diversionary tactic,” said Harris. “If Iran is serious about a deal, then Iran has nothing whatsoever to fear from the bipartisan Senate initiative.”

The Senate measure includes a provision for President Obama to waive sanctions if the Administration can certify that Iran is complying with the Geneva deal and negotiating in good faith on a final agreement.

 

 



December 19, 2013 – New York – Twenty years ago the UN General Assembly established the position of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a position that AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights successfully advocated for, in order to advance the promise of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On the occasion of the UN’s top human rights position’s landmark anniversary, celebrated this month, JBI has released a ground-breaking volume, The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Conscience for the World. A collection of analytic essays examining the challenges faced by the six persons who have served as High Commissioner to date, it is the first comprehensive examination of the history and impact of the High Commissioner’s office and the prospects for its future role in reinforcing and safeguarding global human rights standards.

In a statement delivered at the UN last week, High Commissioner Navi Pillay praised JBI for its “crucial role in the creation of the High Commissioner’s office,” and said that the volume’s “expert and academic analysis” of the office will be “extremely helpful” as she and her team “take stock of where we are, what we have achieved and not achieved and what challenges lie ahead.”

Edited by JBI Director Felice Gaer and Associate Director Christen Broecker, the 400-page volume examines the challenges facing the High Commissioner in upholding universality of human rights, raising a voice to protect victims of abuse, and interacting with the UN Human Rights Council and Security Council, as well as international criminal tribunals. It also assesses the High Commissioner’s response to the “hard cases” of China, Russia, North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, Burma and Colombia. 

The 20 contributors to the book, published by Martinus Nijhoff as part of the Nottingham Studies on Human Rights series, are among the world’s leading experts on human rights. They include present and former UN policymakers, human rights practitioners, legal scholars and current High Commissioner Pillay. Many of them participated in JBI's 40th anniversary conference addressing the High Commissioner’s achievements, held in New York in February 2012.

The contributors “encourage the individuals who currently and in the future will hold the post of High Commissioner for Human Rights to maintain the independence of the office, to speak out with authoritative information on human rights so it can be brought to bear on public policy and to act firmly and rapidly to advance the protection of individuals within countries worldwide,” write Gaer and Broecker in their introduction to The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Conscience for the World.

“This publication will provoke renewed deliberations about how the High Commissioner can best lead the UN in advancing respect for and protection of human rights,” said E. Robert Goodkind, Chairman of the JBI Administrative Council and author of the book’s preface. “That conversation is all the more necessary as we face human rights abuses in Syria, North Korea, the Central African Republic, and beyond.”

For more information about The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Conscience for the World and to order copies, visit www.brill.com/united-nations-high-commissioner-human-rights-0 or contact JBI at jbi@ajc.org.



December 16, 2013 – New York -- AJC deplores the boycott of Israeli academic institutions announced today by the American Studies Association (ASA). Two-thirds of voting ASA members favored the resolution calling for the boycott.

“This abhorrent action is blatant discrimination against Israelis,” said Kenneth Stern, AJC’s director on Anti-Semitism and Extremism. “Why are Israeli academic institutions the only universities in the world to be shunned? Well, as ASA President Curtis Marez said, “one has to start somewhere.’”

“Frankly, Mr. Marez’s observation is shameful,” said Stern, who pointed out that academic organizations of much greater import than the ASA, such as the American Association of University Professors, have steadfastly rejected the idea of academic boycotts.

“Academic freedom is based on the principle that human civilization benefits from the free flow of ideas and knowledge,” said Stern. “This resolution – ghettoizing knowledge simply because it is tied to Israeli academic institutions – violates the core principles of the academy.”

The ASA National Council adopted the resolution on December 4, and members had until December 15 to vote. Of the 1,252 voters, 66.05% endorsed the resolution, while 30.5% voted no and 3.43% abstained.

Also disturbing were some of the comments in support of this resolution. “By using terms like ‘Zionist settler-colonialist project’ and ‘apartheid’ to describe Israel, the ASA is showing itself to be driven more by anti-Israel dogma than by scholarly interests,” said Stern.

 



December 11, 2013 – Brussels – AJC is concerned by the European Court of Auditors report calling for an "overhaul" of EU oversight for its Pegase Direct Financial Support (DFS) Program to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

"The fact that the EU, the largest donor to the Palestinians, does not have sufficient monitoring mechanisms in place is highly troubling,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of AJC's Transatlantic Institute in Brussels. "The EU must launch a full, in-depth inquiry into the PA financial abuses and implement the necessary safeguards, for the sake of the EU tax payer, the Palestinian people and, most of all, the peace process.”

The Court of Auditors criticized that the EU has not adequately addressed “the specific risks of corruption.” In addition, EU aid “is provided to the PA without conditionality,” thus reducing “the potential leverage its (the EU’s) considerable funding could give it to push for more reforms from the PA.” What’s more, the EU Auditors criticized the “considerable number of civil servants” who were receiving salaries without actually working, urging this practice to stop.

Most disturbing, the EU auditors also pointed out that while Pegase DFS funds go to “eligible beneficiaries,” the EU “has not paid sufficient attention to the fungibility of the funding provided.”

“In other words,” Schwammenthal said, “EU aid has freed up the PA’s own budget for funding that runs counter to the EU’s goal of promoting democracy and peace.”

Earlier this month, the Dutch Parliament passed a motion, by an overwhelming majority, condemning regular PA payments to reward convicted terrorists. It referenced how monthly payments to Palestinians in prison can range from €282 for someone jailed for less than three years to €2,419 for a sentence of 30 years or more, thus encouraging future crimes.

“The continuation of a culture of exploitation with no one held accountable, will only fuel the voice of extremism and harm the long-term goal of achieving peace with Israel,” said Schwammenthal.

A June 2013 survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed those concerns persist among Palestinians: 76.8% of those polled, including 80.1% in the West Bank, believe there is corruption within PA institutions.



December 11, 2013 – New York -- AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement today:

"We have been following with ever growing concern the unfolding events in Ukraine.

“As we said in our previous statement (Dec. 2), AJC has had a long and deep relationship with Ukraine, a country to which we attach the highest importance.

“The solution to the current crisis ought not to come from a violent government crackdown on those who believe their country made an epic error in failing to sign an agreement with the European Union. These citizens have every right to peaceful assembly and protest. They must not become the targets of state-sponsored violence and repression for their beliefs.

“Moreover, in a democratic society the path to decision-making is through dialogue, negotiation and compromise, not the use of intimidation and brute force.

“Further, Ukraine must have every right to determine its own destiny. That destiny is not for other nations to determine on its behalf.

“As we have said before, as friends of Ukraine, we believe that a closer association with the EU and its institutions is the likeliest path for it to ensure a bright, prosperous future, anchored in democratic values, the rule of law, a robust civil society, and government accountability. The country's potential is enormous. Ukraine should be given every chance to realize it.

“But, ultimately, of course, that decision rests, as it must, with the Ukrainian people. They should have the opportunity to decide, as befits a free nation, what is best for their destiny."



December 6, 2013 – New York – AJC is urging the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) to restore to its website the “working definition” of anti-Semitism.

“The working definition was a landmark achievement, its usefulness remains undiminished, and, in fact, it informed the FRA’s own comprehensive survey of anti-Semitism in EU member states,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s director of international Jewish affairs.

AJC worked closely with the director of the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) in drafting the working definition. Notably, the document, issued in 2005, acknowledged that a new form of anti-Semitism was emerging, one that demonized the State of Israel and questioned its very legitimacy.

The working definition has been an essential tool in the efforts to monitor and combat anti-Semitism across Europe. It has been included in police training materials prepared by the OSCE. In addition, the U.S. Department of State adopted the working definition, and it has been recommended by inter-Parliamentary commissions in the United Kingdom and Canada. Since it was released it has helped many people come to recognize that anti-Semitism can take multiple forms, including some that relate to Israel.

After the EUMC became part of the FRA in 2007, the working definition was included on the FRA website until it was inexplicably removed recently. “It is unfortunate that the working definition has disappeared from the FRA website, and we would urge its return if only in recognition of the important legacy of the EUMC,” said Baker.

“The FRA has shown that it is in the business of examining and confronting anti-Semitism,” said Baker. “Its recently released survey of Jews in the EU described in detail their experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism and demonstrated for one and all that the problem is acute and widespread.” 

 

 



December 5, 2013 – New York – AJC mourns the death of Nelson Mandela, the father of democratic South Africa and an icon of the cause of freedom and reconciliation. He was 95 years old.

“Our world stands united today in recognizing the extraordinary legacy of Nelson Mandela,” said AJC President Stanley M. Bergman, himself born and raised in South Africa. “He guided South Africa with his disarming courage away from the horrors of legalized racism, entrancing the world in the process. We are all poorer for his passing, but richer for his example.”

Mandela became the first president of democratic South Africa on May 10, 1994, following his release from prison four years earlier and his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with FW de Klerk, the last apartheid-era president, who had set him free. He had served 27 years in prison on Robben Island. By the 1980s, the cause of freeing him had become synonymous with the goal of liberating the country itself from the apartheid regime, a quest that found near universal sympathy around the world, including among Jewish communities.

During most of his active life, Mandela counted on Jews as mentors, colleagues, lawyers, and political supporters. Lazer Sidelsky, the only man Mandela called “Boss,” gave him his start as a lawyer when blacks were rarely hired. Israel Maisels led his victorious defense in the Treason Trial and Mandela asked at his funeral for one of his yarmulkes (skullcaps), keeping it until his own death.

The names of Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Harry Schwartz, Rusty Bernstein, Arthur Goldreich, Helen Suzman, and Arthur Chaskalson, among a long list of others, were all an integral part of Mandela’s life.

AJC Executive Director David Harris met with Mandela several times, including during his historic visit to New York City in 1993, seeking support for South Africa’s transition to democracy. Mandela made repeated mention of this discussion later that year in his address at the annual conference of South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), with which he established a fruitful relationship during his presidency.

At AJC’s 2012 Global Forum, at SAJBD’s request, AJC’s Africa Institute launched in the U.S. the Board of Deputies' moving commemorative volume, “Jewish Memories of Mandela.”

In a 1999 meeting with Mandela in a suburb of New York City, Harris appealed for his assistance in gaining the freedom of 13 Jews in Iran who had been arrested and were facing trial. During the two-hour private meeting, Mandela assured AJC that he would appeal for the well-being of the 13 Jews if they were convicted.

“There was a quiet strength and dignity about him, a charisma that was unmistakable,” Harris recalled.

Despite long-standing tensions between the African National Congress, with which he was intimately associated, and Israel, Mandela visited the Jewish state in 1999, calling it “the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream,”

“As Jews, we honor every year the miracle of freedom, teaching our children that ‘we were once slaves in the land of Egypt’,” said Harris. “Mandela’s life embodied a personal and national journey from subjugation to freedom. We are indelibly inspired by his example and can say of him, as we can say of few others, that he truly helped repair the world.”



December 4, 2013 – New York – AJC is urging American Studies Association members to reject a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

 

“The ASA action is despicable, contravenes the most basic values of academic freedom and does nothing to advance the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace,” said Kenneth Stern, AJC’s Director on Anti-Semitism and Extremism.

 

The resolution was adopted by the ASA’s National Council, but members of the organization have until December 15 to vote on it.

 

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) opposes academic boycotts, and wrote to ASA leaders urging them to reject the resolution. Academic boycotts are not consistent with “the free exchange of ideas,” and “the freedom of teachers and researchers to engage in work with academic colleagues,” said the AAUP.

 

Since the ASA, according to its website, “exists to promote and encourage the study of American culture,” Stern questioned why the organization has decided to engage at all the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

“Treating Israeli academic institutions in a way no other universities are treated anywhere else in the world is discrimination pure and simple,” said Stern.

 

Stern assailed the factually inaccurate and vile language the ASA uses to describe Israel. The ASA’s “Frequently Asked Questions” accompanying the boycott resolution claims Israel practices “apartheid,” and that Israel itself is a “Zionist settler-colonialist project.”

 

Finally, Stern noted the sad irony that “academics leading the ASA are willing to sacrifice their most cherished principle – academic freedom – to target Israelis.”

 

Six years ago, when England’s University and College Union supported the idea of boycotting Israeli academic institutions, over 400 American university presidents signed a statement written by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, and circulated widely by AJC.

 

“We will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment. In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of idea,” wrote Bollinger.

 

“At Columbia I am proud to say that we embrace Israeli scholars and universities…as we embrace scholars from many countries regardless of divergent views on their governments' policies,” he continued, adding that the British UCU “should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish.”



December 4, 2013 – Brussels – The AJC Transatlantic Institute welcomed the passing of a motion in the Dutch Parliament calling on the government to pressure the Palestinian Authority (PA) to end its use of aid to reward terrorism.

“The Dutch Parliament’s motion is an important recognition of an utterly shameful practice,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute in Brussels. “Aid from EU member states must be used for constructive, peace-building purposes, not to help fuel the conflict.”

The motion, passed by an overwhelming majority, notes that PA payments to convicted terrorists increase based on the length of sentence, thus encouraging future crimes. It references how monthly payments to Palestinians in prison can range from €282 for someone jailed for less than three years to €2,419 for a sentence of 30 years or more.

The EU is the single largest donor to the Palestinians. The Sunday Times (UK) cited in October an unpublished report by the European Court of Auditors detailing how EU aid to the Palestinians has been “misspent, squandered or lost to corruption,” to the tune of £1.95bn between 2008 and 2012.

“The time has come for a full inquiry into the how and when the PA has been using EU aid to encourage terrorism,” said Schwammenthal. “The EU cannot simply close its eyes and ignore a problem that is so clearly an obstacle to peace and a massive misuse of EU tax money.”

The Dutch Parliament action comes nine months after Norwegian state television (NRK) reported on PA payments to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons. NRK said then that the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, which previously denied the accusations, now concedes that “information that was first communicated to [Norwegian] Parliament, and which was based on information obtained from the PA at the time, in retrospect, is imprecise.”

“Enough is enough. Aid from the EU and its member states must further the goals of the common policy – a negotiated two-state solution,” said Schwammenthal. “Rewarding terrorism will not bring peace. Plain and simple.”

 

 

 



December 2, 2013 – New York – AJC welcomes the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) decision to invite Israel to become a member of the regional group at the UN in Geneva.

“Bravo to WEOG! This step ends the shameful anomaly whereby Israel was the only UN member state not fully integrated in the world body’s regional grouping system in Geneva, headquarters of the Human Rights Council,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We thank those WEOG countries, including, notably, the United States, that led the successful effort.”

The decision in Geneva comes 13 years after WEOG admitted Israel as a member at UN headquarters in New York. AJC conducted a multi-year campaign to secure that result, engaging in scores of private meetings with the leaders of WEOG member states, as it has in the more recent effort focused on Geneva.

After Israel was admitted to WEOG in New York, both U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke (1999-2001), whose leadership was critical, and Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold (1997-1999) publicly acknowledged AJC’s key role.

Moreover, the New York Times noted that AJC, which “had led the campaign” using “quiet diplomacy at the UN and European capitals,” still insisted that the “fight is not over” so long as Israel’s WEOG membership was confined to New York.

“The overall objective is to achieve permanent and equal status for Israel in the regional system, consistent with the UN Charter’s promise of equal treatment for all member states,” said Harris at the time. “We look forward to similar WEOG acceptance of Israel in other UN centers outside New York.”

Reflecting on the latest WEOG admission, Harris said, “Now that this important step in Geneva has been taken, another pressing issue awaits there.”

“The UN Human Rights Council permanent agenda assigns a separate item to Israel, judging it guilty unless proven otherwise, while the other 192 UN member states, including serial human rights offenders like Iran, Syria, North Korea and Sudan, are all lumped together under a different heading,” Harris added.

Harris stressed that “it is long overdue for Israel to be treated equally, and not in such a discriminatory fashion. We look to WEOG -- and others who value the principle of equality -- for leadership in reversing this.”



December 2, 2013 – New York – In response to the dramatic events unfolding in Ukraine, AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement:

“AJC has had a long and close relationship with Ukraine.

“We are proud to have been among the very first NGOs to call for American recognition of the rebirth of Ukrainian independence in 1991, at a time when Washington was hesitant to do so. And Ukrainian officials have credited AJC with a significant role in the Congressional action to graduate the country from the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. We felt these Cold War-era restrictions were no longer relevant to a post-Soviet nation that embraced democratic reform, the right of its citizens to come and go as they pleased, and the reemergence of vibrant Jewish life.

“It is against this backdrop that we are profoundly disappointed by the last-minute decision of President Viktor Yanukovich to pull back from signing the accords with the European Union late last month. Those agreements would have created new institutional links between Ukraine and the EU, and the chance for a brighter, more promising future for all Ukrainian citizens.

“Since the president’s pullback, many Ukrainians have taken to the streets to challenge the decision, exercising their right to gather and protest peacefully against a move they view as antithetical to their country’s best long-term interests, both political and economic.

“We condemn the use of force against the demonstrators. Violence, intimidation, and bans on rallies are not the tools of a democratic society, nor should they be Ukraine’s.

“We admire the courage and determination of those Ukrainians who say ‘yes’ to Europe and ‘no’ to the prospect of a bleaker future for their country. We proudly stand with them.”

 

 



November 30, 2013 – New York -- AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement on the passing of Israeli Ambassador (ret.) David Peleg:
“We mourn the loss of our dear friend, David Peleg, who passed away this week in Israel at the age of 71, after valiantly battling an unforgiving illness. 
“I first met David more than 25 years ago, when he was the Minister of Public Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. For me, it was respect and friendship at first sight. That link only grew over the years, as David took on other key positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“My AJC colleagues and I had the privilege of working closely with him when he served as Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and then as Acting Permanent Representative; as the Ambassador to the UN in Geneva; as Deputy Director-General for the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; and, in his last diplomatic post, as Ambassador to Poland.
“After retiring from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, David became Director-General of the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), where he brought his considerable diplomatic skills to bear in pursuing unresolved Holocaust claims in the nations of Central and Eastern Europe.
“David was an Israeli patriot, proud of the country he represented and angered by the efforts to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. He knew his nation was not perfect – what nation is? -- but he witnessed first-hand the hypocrisy and double standards too often employed in the international community when it comes to Israel, and especially in the UN in New York and Geneva during the time he served in those two posts.
“He was a proud Jew, who felt a visceral connection to Jews everywhere, be it the large community in the United States or the remnant and rebuilding community in Poland, where he lived for five years as Israel’s envoy. He was a voice for strengthening the bonds of Jews worldwide, and in particular between Israel and the Diaspora. He helped keep alive the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust through his work as a diplomat and later at the WJRO. 
“I will never forget his powerful speech in June 2004, when, as Israel’s ambassador to Poland and accompanied by 200 officers of the Israel Defense Forces, he joined the Government of Poland and AJC for the opening of the memorial site at the Nazi death camp Belzec, where 500,000 Jews were murdered in the span of less than a year. 
“’The sovereign State of Israel is a guarantee that such a Holocaust will never happen again” he declared on that occasion. ‘Who knows what would have been the fate of European Jewry if Israel had been established ten years before? Belzec wrecked our body, but didn’t succeed in breaking the spirit of the Jewish people.’
“And, last but by no means least, David was a mensch. I realize this is an overused term these days, but some people really do qualify for the description. He was one of them. He was unfailingly warm, compassionate, modest, and a devoted friend. We will miss him greatly.
“AJC extends heartfelt condolences to David’s three children and five grandchildren, as well as to the other grieving members of his family. May the memory of this wonderful man always be for a blessing and an inspiration.”


November 27, 2013 – Brussels – AJC welcomed the announcement that Israel will join the EU’s Horizon 2020 program. Under the cooperative agreement Israel will contribute 500 million EUR and could receive upwards of 1.4 billion EUR in support of research and innovation projects over the next few years.

“Participation in Horizon 2020 is an important step forward in Israel’s relations with the EU,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute. “Given Israel’s standing as a leading center of research and innovation, this is clearly a win for all involved.”

Negotiations between the EU and Israel had reached an impasse on Monday over the EU’s new guidelines to prevent its funding from reaching settlements. The guidelines are scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2014. The EU had rejected a compromise proposal from Israel, forcing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order senior officials to continue negotiations until a solution was reached. Today, it was announced that “the agreement fully respects the EU’s legal and financial requirements while at the same time respecting Israel’s political sensitivities and preserving its principled positions.”

“The EU guidelines, which created an artificial boundary to what was to be defined as Israel, effectively established a territorial solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the participation of either main party,” said Schwammenthal. “Final borders are to be determined in direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

 



November 26, 2013 – New York – AJC praised the New York Police Department for apprehending youths suspected of participating in violent “knockout game” attacks on Jews and other passersby. The goal of the so-called game is to fell a randomly chosen person with one punch. It has been carried out by groups of teens in a number of communities, and has led to serious injuries and even death.

“Knockout is an especially grievous form of violence that must be confronted,” said Michael Schmidt, director of AJC’s New York Region. “We trust that law enforcement in New York and across the country will continue to investigate these acts of brutal violence, bring to justice those responsible, and prosecute them with the full force of the law.”

In one attack in New Jersey, the victim died from his injury, and the three suspects arrested were ages 13 and 14.

“Who are these children? What motivates them to maim or even kill just for the sake of it? Where are their families? Are they known to school and community officials? How can a copycat phenomenon be prevented? These questions all need urgent answers,” Schmidt added.



November 26, 2013 – Salt Lake City – AJC President Stanley Bergman met today with senior leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) at the Church’s world headquarters in Salt Lake City.

“American Jews and Mormons enjoy a cooperative relationship built upon mutual understanding and respect, and AJC is proud to be a key catalyst in deepening those ties,” said Bergman.

“In Salt Lake City we were able to continue a gratifying AJC dialogue with LDS leadership on shared concerns, particularly regarding humanitarian relief efforts,” Bergman added. “Additionally, we appreciate the Church leadership's commitment over the years to preventing posthumous baptism of Holocaust victims.”

In addition to periodic regional delegations to Salt Lake City, a high-level national AJC group last visited LDS Church headquarters in August 2012. AJC has initiated LDS-Jewish dialogues in multiple cities across the United States. Last week, for example, AJC’s Los Angeles Region visited the local LDS Church center to meet with its leadership.

Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, accompanied the Bergman-led AJC delegation to Salt Lake City. The series of meetings included a visit with Elders L. Tom Perry and D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.



November 26, 2013 – New York -- AJC expressed warm appreciation for the affirmation by Pope Francis of the unique Catholic-Jewish relationship, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”). The 224-page document, his first Apostolic Exhortation, covers a number of issues, including interreligious dialogue.

“His emphasis on the ongoing Divine Presence in the life of the Jewish People and on the importance of the ‘values of Judaism’ for Christians, is particularly significant in further advancing the historic transformation in the Catholic Church's approach towards the Jewish people," said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC's International Director of Interreligious Affairs, who has met with Pope Francis four times since he became pontiff.

The Pope praised the current state of Catholic-Jewish relations, while bemoaning the treatment of Jews in the past. ““The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians,” Pope Francis wrote.

Rosen also praised “the Pope’s emphasis on the importance of interreligious dialogue to promote peace in the world and as a means to ‘learn to accept others and their differen(ces),’ as powerful encouragement for greater respect and harmony in our world.”

 

 



November 23, 2013 – New York – In response to the announcement that the P5+1 nations reached an interim accord with Iran on its nuclear program, AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement:

We appreciate the efforts of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – the P5+1 group – to reach an interim deal with Iran, which was announced today. This is a potentially important development.

We need, however, to understand more fully the elements of the accord, and whether it will indeed lead to the ultimate goal of preventing Iran from achieving the capability to build nuclear weapons.

A diplomatic solution is unquestionably the preferred approach to resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. But for years Iran has maintained an indisputable posture of deceit and defiance towards the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and nations around the world, including, centrally, the P5+1. 

Given this history, and the concomitant lack of trust, the P5+1 will need to be ever vigilant in determining whether Iranian leaders are, in fact, sincere and will fulfill their part of the deal, or will rather play for time while trying to advance their nuclear program.

Serious questions for us to consider in evaluating the merits of this agreement with Iran include:

-- How do America’s closest allies in the Middle East view the deal, since, after all, they are the nations most immediately threatened by the prospect of Iran's belligerence, nuclear weapons capability and delivery systems?

-- Does the agreement preserve, explicitly or implicitly, an Iranian “right” to enrich uranium? And, specifically, what are the implications for permitting Iran to continue to enrich uranium to 3.5% during the six-month interim deal?

-- Are there precise, satisfactory monitoring arrangements for halting all construction, inside and outside, at the plutonium facility in Arak?

-- Is Iran permitted to continue building centrifuges, for potential installation later -- say, at the end of the six-month interim deal -- to enhance still further its enrichment capability?

-- Is Iran required to provide full access to all of its enrichment facilities, centrifuges and nuclear material holdings, including yellow cake?
 
-- Does Iran have to declare and allow inspections of all work related to nuclear-weapons development, as the IAEA has identified, including triggers, computer simulations of nuclear explosions, ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads?

-- Have the six world powers received any concrete commitment on Tehran’s involvement in the brutal war in Syria, support for Hezbollah, and efforts to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles?

Ultimately, the true test of this agreement will be the ability of the world powers and UN agencies to verify Iranian compliance, including openness to, and full cooperation with, regular, intrusive inspections of all of its nuclear facilities.

Meanwhile, we believe that existing sanctions should remain in place and new sanctions, whose trigger date would not necessarily be immediate, should be pursued to underscore the seriousness of America’s determination -- and the consequences of an Iranian failure to act in good faith.

Tangible deeds, not poetic words, will ultimately determine whether Iran has embarked on a new path of cooperation and compliance, or is pursuing the same aggressive and destabilizing policies, which pose such a threat to regional and global security, simply wrapped in new packaging.

 



 

November 21, 2013 – New York – AJC applauds the UN General Assembly Third Committee for overwhelmingly supporting a resolution criticizing human rights violations in Iran.

“The UN is sending a clear message to Tehran that the international community stands with the people of Iran, and will not ignore the regime’s ongoing, extensive abuse of their human rights,” said E. Robert Goodkind, Chair of AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI).

The resolution, based on the most recent report of Dr Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, “expresses deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations in Iran.” 

Last month, JBI called on “President Rouhani to immediately and unconditionally correct the gross violations documented by Special Rapporteur Shaheed.” 

The Third Committee resolution was supported by 83 member states, with 36 voting no and 62 abstaining. This is the tenth consecutive UN General Assembly Third Committee resolution calling for human rights protections in Iran. The full General Assembly is expected to adopt the resolution in December.

The  resolution calls on Iran to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience; to firmly implement extensive measures to end Iran’s ongoing assault on the freedoms of expression, assembly, association, religion and the equal rights of women; and to stop the widespread use of torture, arbitrary arrests, detentions and unfair trials, including extensive due process violations. It also calls for comprehensive accountability measures, and an end to the systematic targeting and harassment of human rights defenders, media professionals, lawyers and opposition activists, and ethnic and religious minorities.

“Iran’s laws and practices must be reformed to fulfill President Rouhani’s pledges to restore and expand freedoms for all Iranians,” said Goodkind.

 



November 20, 2013 – New York – AJC congratulates Malala Yousafzai on receiving the Sakharov Prize, Europe’s highest human rights award.

The 16-year-old Pakistani was shot in the head a year ago by the Taliban in an attempt to silence her for the simple act of affirming her right to attend school. Since her recovery, she has been even more outspoken and addressed the UN in September.

“If opportunity and hope are to triumph over oppression and obscurantism, it will only be because of the moral and physical courage of a Malala Yousafzai,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “She is an inspiration for people around the world of all ages to confront tyranny and advocate for the most basic human rights.”

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded by the European Parliament annually in memory of the legendary Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. “You have given hope to millions of children,” said European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who presented the award in Strasbourg, France. "It is our responsibility to ensure that your dream becomes a reality," he added, referring to Yousafzai’s persistent advocacy for making education accessible, especially to girls, around the world.

“I dedicate this award to the unsung heroes of Pakistan and people all over the world fighting for basic human rights,” said Yousafzai, "Many children have no food to eat, no water to drink, and children are starving for education,” she said. “It is alarming that 57 million children are deprived of education. This must shake our conscience."
Yousafzai called on the European parliamentarians to “look beyond Europe,” and assist people in countries around the world who are “still deprived of their basic rights, their freedom of thought is suppressed, and their freedom of speech is enchained."

 



November 20, 2013 -- New York -- On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement:

AJC recalls with profound sadness the tragic day, November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The violent death of this young, vigorous president, whose eloquent words and ground-breaking policy initiatives inspired the American people to renew our nation’s greatness at home and abroad, dealt America a grievous blow that in some respects has still not been fully overcome. No one old enough to recall that fatal day will ever forget it. How could we?

As a nonpartisan organization, AJC took no position in the 1960 presidential election. Nevertheless, it strongly denounced expressions of anti-Catholic bigotry aimed against Mr. Kennedy. Years later, his son, John F. Kennedy, Jr., recalled that AJC “was one of the first to come forward and support the right of his candidacy, and it made a great deal of difference in changing sentiments.” 

By demonstrating that a Catholic could be elected to our nation’s highest office, a first in our nation’s history, President Kennedy opened the door for members of other communities to be realistically considered for the presidency. In that sense, he made a mighty contribution to American democracy.

In 1961, President Kennedy publicly praised AJC, saying, “For decades, the American Jewish Committee has provided outstanding leadership in implementing our great American ideal of equal rights and opportunity for all regardless of religion or place of birth or race or color. I am glad to associate myself with you in the achievement of an America where every citizen and resident of this land is free to pursue those goals which his talents and capacity permit, unhindered by artificial barriers of ignorance or prejudice.”

Of great importance, President Kennedy ended the U.S. embargo on arms for Israel, in place since 1948, by initiating the sale of anti-aircraft weapons to the Jewish state. AJC met with the president in the White House about this issue, and on another occasion met with him to discuss, among other matters, Arab League discrimination against American Jews.

 



November 18, 2013 – New York – AJC praised French President François Hollande’s trip to Israel this week as a timely demonstration of the solidity of ties between France and Israel. "I will always remain a friend of Israel," Hollande declared in Hebrew on his arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport.

“President Hollande’s visit comes at a critical time for global security, and a reminder that an Iran with nuclear weapons capability would threaten not only Israel, but the world,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “France gets it, and we again salute President Hollande for standing firm.”

Hollande was explicit at a news conference in Israel about France’s determination to maintain all sanctions against Iran until it meets four conditions: Iran must place all nuclear installations under international supervision; suspend uranium enrichment to 20 percent; reduce its existing stock of 20 percent enriched uranium; and halt construction of the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor.

The visit comes just days before the P5+1 nations convene again with Iran in Geneva to continue talks. “We hope the views of France will prevail,” said Harris.  “Weakening any sanctions, without Iran first taking verifiable, concrete steps on its nuclear program that meet longstanding UN Security Council and IAEA demands, would be a tragic mistake.”

During the three-day visit, his first as French President, Hollande addressed the Knesset, where he again delivered strong words regarding Iran. “We will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons because that poses a threat not only to Israel and regional countries, but also to the world," he declared.

He also spoke about France’s support for Israel since the country declared independence in 1948. "France has always supported Israel's right to exist,” said Hollande. “Sixty-five years later, I come to say in Israel, in the name of France: The friendship between us is firm, more than the passing leaders who come and go, and even more than the ups and downs of international life."

On anti-Semitism in France, Hollande stated: “I reaffirm, from this stand, the French republic’s commitment to guarantee in all circumstances the safety and integrity of the Jews of France.”

AJC Paris Director Simone Rodan was invited to be part of the official French presidential delegation visiting Israel.

 

 



November 14, 2013—New York—AJC strongly supports the request of Argentine Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman to declare unconstitutional the agreement by Argentina and Iran to establish a joint “truth commission” to investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Back in February, when the Argentine National Congress approved the agreement, AJC Executive Director David Harris compared it to “asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht.”

The attack on the AMIA building, which killed 85 people and injured some 300, was the worst terrorist atrocity in the Western Hemisphere before 9/11, and came two years after the deadly bombing of the Israeli embassy in the city.

Nisman, who has doggedly investigated the AMIA case, issued a report in 2007 that blamed Iran and its Hezbollah surrogates, and on the basis of that report Interpol issued “red notices”—arrest requests—for five Iranian officials, but they still at large.

The proposed truth commission, with Iranian representation, would undoubtedly erect further roadblocks to bringing the perpetrators to justice. Nisman has asked a judge to overturn the agreement that created the commission, charging that it constitutes “undue interference of the executive branch in the exclusive sphere of the judiciary,” and might lead international human rights bodies to sanction Argentina.

Harris said, “We salute Alberto Nisman, who has steadfastly sought to solve this case of state-sponsored terrorism, and who clearly understands that the proposed joint commission is just the latest Iranian tactic to drag out the investigation indefinitely. We hope that the Argentine judiciary will take up his request promptly, and affirm his view.”

AJC has stood at the side of the Argentine Jewish community from the first moments of the tragedy in 1994, when an AJC group traveled to Buenos Aires to comfort the victims and their families and call for justice. AJC delegations have returned at least annually since. AJC has also been monitoring persistent Iranian attempts to gain influence in Latin America.      

 



November 13, 2013 – New York – AJC hailed the U.S. State Department designation of Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization.

“Boko Haram’s murderous attacks in Nigeria, targeting Christians in particular, have been a deep concern for a long time,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The U.S. designation both recognizes the reality of the threat Boko Haram presents, and gives a boost, we hope, to the Nigerian government’s efforts to defeat this terrorist scourge.”

Boko Haram means “Western education is sacrilege.” In the name of its radical Islamic ideology, it has carried out dozens of deadly assaults in northeastern Nigeria, notably against Christian churches, worshipers and schools.

Ansaru, a faction of Boko Haram that has focused on attacking Nigerian military and Western targets, also was designated by the US. as a terror group. Boko Haram is linked to al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), according to the State Department.



November 13, 2013 – New York – AJC praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for again reaffirming his commitment to the peace process by cancelling a plan to build more housing units in Jewish communities in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

“Israel has once more demonstrated concretely, even at domestic political cost, its steadfast commitment to the process,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We await similar steps from the Palestinian side.” 

Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations resumed in July at the initiative of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who set a deadline of April 2014 to reach a permanent, sustainable accord.

Harris pointed out that until now only Israel has taken concrete steps to move the peace process forward, notably an agreement to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, convicted of carrying out terrorist attacks that killed Israeli men, women and children. Fifty-two already have been freed. The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, has done painfully little to stem incitement, end the glorification of terrorists, and begin to nurture a culture of peace.

Netanyahu sharply criticized the Israeli Housing Ministry announcement this week of a plan to construct another 20,000 units in settlements. The prime minister reportedly had not been notified in advance.

"This step does not contribute to [a peace] settlement," Netanyahu said. "This is a meaningless step -- legally and in practice -- and an action that creates an unnecessary confrontation with the international community at a time when we are making an effort to persuade the international community to reach a better deal with Iran."

 

 



November 12, 2013 – Berlin -- AJC welcomed the German government decision to appoint a task force to investigate the circumstances surrounding the recent discovery in Munich of more than 1400 artworks looted by the Nazis.

“The task force is a positive first step,” said Deidre Berger, Director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute. Berger, in an interview last weekend with the German online newsmagazine Focus, had urged the German government to set up a special commission to investigate the status of Nazi looted art in Germany and to oversee the return of objects to their rightful owners.

The task force announcement comes amidst growing criticism of how and why the discovery of the stolen art in Munich was kept quiet for so long.

"Holocaust survivors are aging and precious time has been lost. Everything must be done to determine the rightful owners of the paintings," said Berger. “The government must ensure that the task force has adequate resources, as it is incomprehensible that until now only one art historian was tasked to investigate the more than 1,400 pieces of art.”

Berger called for immediate transparency in the process of returning the artworks to survivors. “The government should make every effort to post on its looted art website all the artworks found in Munich,” she said.

In addition, Berger called on the German government to review all existing laws on art restitution. “The 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht is the right time to send the signal that change is necessary.”



November 11, 2013 -- New York -- AJC called on New York State authorities to fully investigate incidents of anti-Semitism in public schools, following a New York Times report on rampant anti-Semitism in Pine Bush. The State Department of Education reportedly only learned about the targeting of Jewish students in Pine Bush after the Times published its story.

“If we are truly going to have a policy of zero tolerance for anti-Semitic bullying, a statewide investigation into the problem is essential,” said Kenneth Stern, AJC’s Director of Anti-Semitism and Extremism.

The parents of five Jewish children filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the Pine Bush school district, asserting that each child was traumatized psychologically, and some were harmed physically, by other students. Swastikas were frequently drawn on school walls, desks, computers and other places -- and often left to stand, notwithstanding complaints to teachers and school administrators.

In one case, according to the lawsuit, a sixth grader was held by one student while another drew a swastika on her face. Coins were frequently tossed at students, and in another case an eighth grader “attempted to shove a quarter down [the throat of a Jewish student]” while another “held [her] arms so that she could not move.”

Despite repeated attempts by parents to get teachers and administrators to stop this pattern of anti-Semitic bullying, school officials seemingly did little or nothing.

“Your expectations for changing inbred prejudice may be a bit unrealistic,” Philip C. Steinberg, superintendent of the Pine Bush Central School District, wrote to a parent of one Jewish student who had complained about the continuing harassment.

AJC’s Stern said “incidents like Pine Bush are shockingly becoming commonplace.” Last year a Jewish student in Northport, Long Island reported that he was a victim of anti-Semitic bullying, and Stern said similar anti-Semitic bullying has taken place in recent years in Westchester and Queens counties.

“How many Jewish middle and high school students have to suffer this type of abuse, and how many do so in silence out of fear or embarrassment?” asked Stern. “We do not know how many parents feel the deep frustration when their complaints are dismissed by school officials, or promises are made which are not kept. It is difficult to imagine their feelings of despair and abandonment when their kids are harmed by other kids, and supposedly responsible adults do little if anything.”

In 2011, AJC filed a complaint against the Vestal Central School District near Binghamton, New York. The New York State Department of Education investigation led to the school district agreeing to a resolution which included putting meaningful procedures in place so the schools would not pose a hostile environment for Jews, and providing counseling to help the Jewish students harmed.



November 10, 2013 -- Berlin -- Deidre Berger, director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute, is urging the German government to launch a concerted effort to restitute art stolen by the Nazi government from its rightful owners. Her call for action, in an interview with the online German newsmagazine Fokus, comes in the wake of the discovery in a Munich apartment of more than 1,400 paintings and artworks confiscated or purchased under value by Nazi officials. Most of the artworks are believed to have belonged to Jewish owners.

Berger suggested that the German Parliament establish a special commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the works of art, much of which was modern art deemed “degenerate” by the Nazis. During Nazi rule, officials confiscated hundreds of thousands of works of art, keeping them for private collections or selling them via select dealers to earn hard currency.

Despite declarations by Allied occupation authorities deeming the thievery to be a crime against humanity, as well as the 1998 Washington Principles on looted art calling for restitution on a voluntary basis of moral justice, the legal situation in Germany regarding ownership of the paintings remains unclear.

“The entire legal situation must be reviewed,” said Berger. “It is a disgrace that laws are still in existence that justify injustice. Undertaking this review would be the right signal to send, given the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht.”

Berger also called for photos of the discovered paintings and artworks to be made accessible immediately on the Internet to help former owners identify their property.

Given the advanced age of Holocaust survivors “it is incomprehensible that a single art historian has been working for several years to identify more than 1,400 artworks without this information being made public,” said Berger. “Valuable time has been lost.”

Munich law enforcement officials located the paintings nearly two years ago in the apartment of an art dealer, and took them to a secret location. German officials have refused to comment on the reasons for the secrecy shrouding the investigation.

The restitution of stolen art remains an open chapter, according to Berger, who called the discovery of the paintings a great opportunity to address the issue. Despite declarations of good will in Germany about investigating the provenance of all works of art in public institutions, little has happened in past decades.

“The task can no longer be left to the museums,” Berger told Fokus. “Similar to the ways in which the federal government coordinated negotiations on compensation for Nazi slave and forced labor, it needs to coordinate measures to determine ownership of all works of art in German museums.”

The Berlin office of AJC, the global advocacy organization, played a key role in revealing the extensive list of German companies that were engaged in slave and forced labor during Nazi rule. “Holocaust restitution is an ongoing, unfinished task and the recovery of stolen art works is one important matter that still needs attention.”



November 10, 2013 -- Berlin -- AJC Executive Director David Harris addressed the opening ceremony of the Deutscher Israel Kongress (German Israel Congress) in Berlin today.
“I stand before you as the son of a father who grew up in Berlin. We come here to mourn the past, but also to affirm the future with optimism and conviction,” Harris told the audience of 1,500, including Israeli dignitaries, Members of the German Parliament, government officials, diplomats, and leaders and friends of the German Jewish community.
The theme of the conference is “Connecting for Tomorrow,” with the aim of strengthening German-Israeli relations and understanding on the political, cultural, scientific, and business levels. It is the third German Israel Congress ever held, and this year takes place on the 75th anniversary of Reichspogromnacht (Kristallnacht).
“Against the backdrop of Kristallnacht, I look at what has been achieved since, most significantly, the rebirth of the State of Israel, which is the result of the age-old link among a people, a land, and a faith,” said Harris.
“I'm an optimist because today the German flag stands for democracy, European integration, a growing Jewish community, NATO membership, and a relationship with Israel that is part of the Federal Republic's Staatsräson (reason for being),” Harris continued. “In partnership, Germany and Israel can do amazing things in the world; not just bilaterally, but broadly in food security, water security, cyber security, public health security, environmental security, knowledge security, etc.”
Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, addressed a separate session at the Kongress on the subject of interreligious dialogue in the context of German-Israeli relations.
AJC was the first American Jewish organization to open an office in Berlin, which is led today by Deidre Berger.


November 10, 2013 -- New York -- AJC announced a grant to IsraAID, a leading Israeli non-governmental relief organization, to help bring humanitarian assistance to the Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful and destructive storms in history, struck the country.

“It should be the duty of all people of goodwill to assist in relief efforts. We are one human family,” said Shira Loewenberg, director of AJC's Asia Pacific Institute. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families."

A team of IsraAID medical, trauma, and relief professionals has been dispatched to the Philippines. 

"Our tradition commands us to respond generously and compassionately to those who suffer a natural disaster," said Loewenberg.

AJC has partnered with IsraAID humanitarian relief missions in a number of crises, including Sri Lanka after the unprecedented South Asian tsunami in 2004, Peru following a devastating earthquake in 2007, the Philippines after a deadly tropical storm in 2009, and Haiti following the massive earthquake in 2010.



November 8, 2013 – Brussels – AJC is calling for greater pan-European coordination in combating anti-Semitism, following today's release of an EU survey of Jews across Europe.

The survey of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency’s (FRA) – Discrimination and Hate Crime Against Jews in EU Member States – was made public on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms in Nazi Germany. Comprised of responses from 5,847 Jews in the eight EU Member States with the largest communities, it is the first such study to collect comparable data on Jewish experiences of anti-Semitism.

 “Over the past few years, we have read report after report about the growing presence of anti-Semitism in Europe,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute. “The FRA survey confirms those troubling reports and truly gives voice to the concerns of Europe’s Jewish citizens.”

 According to the survey, 21% of respondents have experienced at least one incident of anti-Semitic verbal insult or harassment, and/or a physical attack in the past 12 months (an increase from 7% in the five years prior to the survey). More disturbing, 82% of those who “felt discriminated against during the period because they are Jewish did not report the most serious incident” to the authorities or competent bodies. As a result, 23% said that they, at least occasionally, avoided Jewish events or sites. Another 29% have considered emigrating in the past five years. In Hungary, France and Belgium the numbers are between 40% and 48%.

 “Police protection has long been a sad necessity for Jewish schools and houses of worship throughout Europe, but it is clear that current methods of protection are not sufficient,” said Schwammenthal. “The fact that the overwhelming number of anti-Semitic attacks go unreported and that almost a third of Jews have considered leaving Europe shows there is a lack of trust in the relevant authorities’ abilities to deal with the threat. That must change immediately.”

The survey findings underscore the severity of the threat of anti-Semitism to the Jewish communities: in Hungary, 92% of respondents felt it was among the top three social and political problems, while 80% of those in France said the same.

Moreover, it highlighted the prevalence of new forms of anti-Semitism – namely anti-Zionism. For example, 48% of respondents said they regularly hear people compare Israel to the Nazis. And around 60% of respondents in Belgium, Italy and France said that they are frequently or all the time blamed for Israeli actions. In the U.K., Germany and Sweden the corresponding proportion ranged from 40% to 50%.

 “The EU already has a working definition on anti-Semitism developed in 2005 by FRA’s predecessor organization which clearly spells out that such attacks, branding Israel as a racist entity or drawing comparisons to the Nazis, go well beyond the boundary of legitimate criticism,” said Schwammenthal. “This survey makes clear that it is now time for the EU to formally adopt this definition so that there is clarity and uniformity in the fight against anti-Semitism.”

Founded in 2004, the Brussels-based AJC Transatlantic Institute engages European lawmakers on issues related to anti-Semitism in the European Union.

 



November 7, 2013 –Washington -- AJC applauds today’s Senate passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) by a bipartisan vote of 64 to 32. This historic action represents a major step forward in the advancement of civil rights protections for all Americans. 
 
ENDA would extend existing federal workplace discrimination laws to cover an employee’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
 
“The Senate’s passage of ENDA moves us one step closer to realizing the lofty goal enunciated by Rev. Martin Luther King fifty years ago, that a person should be judged by his or her character, and not by characteristics that have nothing to do with the ability to do a job,” said Richard Foltin, AJC Director of National and Legislative Affairs. 
 
“We look forward to working with the House of Representatives to pass ENDA, and ultimately to the President signing into law this critically needed civil rights legislation.”
 
ENDA’s exemption of religious organizations from its coverage provides an important protection for religious liberty—an area of central importance to AJC. Under ENDA, no religious institution would be required to violate the religious precepts on which it is founded.
 
Since its founding in 1906, AJC has been an outspoken champion of civil rights legislation. As American Jews, we recall how our parents and grandparents suffered discrimination in the past and remain committed to ensuring that the civil rights of all Americans are protected.


November 2, 2013 -- New York -- AJC condemned the killing of two members of the Golden Dawn Party, and the wounding of a third, in a drive-by shooting outside the party’s office in northern Athens last night.
 
“In a democratic society, taking the law into your own hands is to be categorically rejected,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.  ‘As much as we steadfastly oppose the Golden Dawn’s vile neo-Nazi ideology and inflammatory tactics, we are dismayed by those who, for whatever reason, would commit acts of murder and attempted murder.”
 
A Greek government spokesman pledged that the killers would be caught, while all the major Greek political parties spoke out strongly against the attack. The Minister of Public Order, Nikos Dendias, declared that “We will not let the country be turned into a battleground for settling scores of any kind,” even as the Golden Dawn, in a statement after the shooting, blamed him and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, and their “anti-Greek government,” for the assault.
 
AJC has visited Greece frequently, stays in close touch with Greek leaders, cooperates with Greek-American organizations, and has an association agreement with the Jewish Community of Greece. On more than one occasion, Golden Dawn has publicly assailed AJC in the form of incendiary language and anti-Semitic imagery.


November 1, 2013 – New York – Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, will address a Kristallnacht commemoration organized by Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) at a Berlin church on Saturday, November 9, the 75th anniversary of the fateful night.

This service at the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche church is one of many annual services across Germany to recall the 1938 evening when scores of Jews were murdered as mobs attacked Jewish property, including the destruction of hundreds of synagogues, in what would be the beginning of sustained open violence directed atEurope’s Jewish population by the Nazis.

“We must understand and support those Germans today who reflect seriously about Germany’s horrific history,” says Marans, who will be the only Jewish speaker at the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche church.

Joining Rabbi Marans will be a group of 20 young Jewish professionals from across the United States. The group, led by Marans, will be visiting Germany from November 3 to 10, on a program sponsored by Germany Close Up, in cooperation with AJC’s Department of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, ACCESS: AJC’s New Generation Program, and AJC’s Berlin Ramer Institute.

“AJC works in Germany with a large variety of partners to retain memory as a building stone of cooperation in Europe today,” said Deidre Berger, Director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute. “It is critical to involve the younger generation in this dialogue, which is key to Jewish security.”

This will be the fourth annual joint AJC-Germany Close Up program focused on interreligious relations. During their week-long visit the young American Jews will meet with German government and party representatives, academics, journalists, Jewish leaders, and other high-level officials and opinion-makers. Participants will visit a former concentration camp, Jewish sites in Berlin, and Holocaust memorials.

“The AJC-Germany Close Up seminar exemplifies AJC’s work as the premier global Jewish advocacy organization,” said Rabbi Marans. “Participants will engage with key actors in Germany’s faith communities to better understand the intersection of religion and politics in modern Germany.”

“This program enables listening, learning, and asking about the German-Jewish and German-Israeli relationships and how they are embedded in a larger context,” said Dr. Dagmar Pruin, executive director of both Germany Close Up and Action Reconciliation Service for Peace. “We see it as an opportunity for young American Jews to reflect upon Germany’s past and present alike. These experiences and the knowledge gained during these trips are key factors in assessing one’s own view of Germany and one’s relation to it.”

AJC has long spearheaded Jewish outreach to other faiths, advancing interreligious understanding, and has worked closely with partners in Germany to foster friendship and understanding between Jews and Germans. Founded in 1906 to safeguard and strengthen Jews and Jewish life worldwide, AJC maintains headquarters in New York and offices across the United States and around the world

AJC began its work in Germany shortly after the end of World War II, reaching out to key opinion leaders and educators as part of an effort to reinstitute democracy and reinforce democratic values in Germany. In 1998, AJC opened the Lawrence and Lee Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations in Berlin, the only office in Germany of an American Jewish organization, to further its long-standing dialogue with German leaders in government and civil society.

Established in October 2007, Germany Close Up: American Jews Meet Modern Germany, is an initiative funded by a German government grant to enrich transatlantic dialogue and provide Jewish American students and young professionals in their twenties and early thirties with an opportunity to experience modern Germany up close and personally. Germany Close Up is an independent body regarding the organization and content of its programs.



October 28, 2013 – New York -- American Jews are generally pessimistic about current political developments across the Middle East, notably the "Arab Spring," Iran's nuclear program and Arab intentions regarding Israel. The skepticism is reflected in the just-completed AJC 2013 Survey of American Jewish Opinion.

The AJC survey, conducted annually, also gauged Jewish opinions on likely U.S. presidential candidates for 2016, U.S.-Israel relations, the role of religion in Israel, and President Obama's handling of a range of foreign and domestic policy issues.

"This annual survey, which AJC has sponsored for many years, reveals many fascinating insights about the Jewish outlook. Among them are that American Jews are highly engaged in, and concerned about, top U.S. foreign policy challenges," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Our survey shows that they are particularly worried about Iran's drive for nuclear-weapons capacity. And despite all the reports of a decline in American Jewish enthusiasm for Israel, over three-quarters of the respondents believe that caring about Israel is a key component of Jewish identity."

2016 Elections

On the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton is the candidate with the most positive sentiment, followed by Joe Biden, John Kerry, Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Among Democratic and Independent voters, Clinton is the preferred candidate and for Republicans it is Gov. Christie.

"Arab Spring"

The survey asked, for the first time, about the upheavals in the Arab world that began nearly three years ago.

  • Regarding the changes in several Middle Eastern countries, 56 percent are pessimistic, and 40 percent are optimistic.
  • Regarding the recent political developments in Egypt, 68 percent are pessimistic and 30 percent are optimistic.
  • On the civil war in Syria, 11 percent would like to see the government win, 24 percent favor the rebels, and 63 percent chose neither side.
Peace Process

 

While American Jews are distrustful of the long-term goals of the Arabs regarding Israel, half of the respondents favor the establishment of a Palestinian state.

  • 50 percent favor and 47 percent oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state. In 2010, 48 percent favored and 45 percent opposed.
  • 75 percent agree and 24 percent disagree with the statement: "The goal of the Arabs is not a peaceful two-state agreement with Israel, but rather the destruction of Israel."
  • 68 percent say the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace have stayed the same since a year ago, while 12 percent say the prospects have increased and 19 percent decreased.

Iran Nuclear Threat

While an overwhelming majority of American Jews continue to be highly concerned about Iran's efforts to achieve nuclear-weapons capability, support for military action, whether by the U.S. especially, or by Israel, to prevent Iran from crossing that threshold has declined.

  • 84 percent are concerned about the prospect of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. In September 2012, 91 percent were concerned.
  • 46 percent say it is likely, and 52 percent say it is unlikely, that a combination of diplomacy and sanctions can stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In 2012, 36 percent said it is likely and 64 percent unlikely.
  • 52 percent would support and 45 percent would oppose U.S. military action against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop the Iranian program. Last year, 64 percent supported and 35 percent opposed American military action.
  • 67 percent would support and 30 percent would oppose Israeli military action if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop the Iranian program. In 2012, 73 percent supported and 26 percent opposed Israeli military action.

 

Israel

As in previous AJC surveys, the state of Israel is a major factor in American Jewish identity. A majority, 70 percent, agrees and 30 percent disagrees with the statement "caring about Israel is very important part of being a Jew." For the first time, the AJC survey asked about the role of religion in the state of Israel, and found that most American Jews think that currently religion has too much influence. Forty-three percent favor separation of religion and state; 25 percent say religion should play less of a role; 23 percent say the current relationship of religion and state is best; and 6 percent say religion should play more of a role.

Separation between religion and state enjoys strong support across all denominations.

  • 47 percent of Orthodox, 31 percent of Conservative, 41 percent of Reform, and 50 percent of Just Jewish think there should be separation of religion and state.
  • The view that the current relationship between religion and state is best is supported by 22 percent of Orthodox, 30 percent of Conservative, 21 percent of Reform, and 23 percent of Just Jewish
  • Religion should play more of a role is backed by 22 percent of Orthodox, 6 percent of Conservative, 6 percent of Reform, and 2 percent of Just Jewish
  • Religion should play less of a role is supported by 10 percent of Orthodox, 33 percent of Conservative, 29 percent of Reform, and 22 percent of Just Jewish

 

President Obama Performance

President Obama receives a rather high approval rating from American Jews on his handling of several key foreign policy and domestic policy issues:

  • On national security, 67 percent approve and 33 percent disapprove
  • On the economy, 58 percent approve and 42 percent disapprove
  • On U.S.-Israel relations, 59 percent approve and 39 percent disapprove
  • On the conflict in Syria, 59 percent approve and 40 percent disapprove
  • On immigration, 63 percent approve and 35 percent disapprove

 

Anti-Semitism

American Jews remain highly concerned about anti-Semitism, especially in Europe and, above all, in the Arab world.

  • 14 percent consider anti-Semitism in the U.S. a very serious problem, 67 percent somewhat of a problem, and 18 percent no problem at all.
  • 38 percent consider anti-Semitism in Europe a very serious problem, 52 percent somewhat of a problem and 9 percent not a problem.
  • 88 percent consider anti-Semitism in the Arab world a very serious problem, 10 percent somewhat of a problem and 1 percent not a problem. Jewish Identity

 

Thirty-three percent say being Jewish is very important, 30 percent somewhat important, 22 percent not too important and 14 percent not at all important. But opinions about the importance of being Jewish vary by denomination and by age.

  • Among the Orthodox, 77 percent say it is very important, 14 percent somewhat important, and 9 percent not important
  • Among Conservative Jews, 50 percent say it is very important, 28 percent somewhat important, and 20 percent not important
  • Among Reform Jews, 34 percent say it is very important, 41 percent somewhat important, and 25 percent not important
  • Among Just Jewish, 11 percent say it is very important, 26 percent somewhat important, and 62 percent not important
  • Among 18-29 year olds, 52 percent say it is important (either very important or somewhat important) and 46 percent not important
  • Among 30-44 years olds, 46 percent say it is important and 53 percent not important
  • Among 45-59 year olds, 66 percent say it is important and 33 percent not important
  • Among 60+, 74 percent say it is important and 25 percent not important

 

The poll of 1,034 American Jews was conducted on KnowledgePanel®, GfK's probability-based online panel. The field period was from September 30 to October 15. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

AJC has commissioned surveys of American Jews for many years on a range of key questions, as a contribution to better understanding of the American Jewish community. All AJC surveys are available at www.ajc.org/surveys.



October 28, 2013 – New York – Israel’s release of 26 Palestinian prisoners this week is yet another confirmation of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s relentless dedication to pursuing a peace accord.

“Releasing Palestinians convicted of murder and attempted murder is extraordinarily painful for the Israeli people, especially when nothing tangible has yet come from the Palestinian Authority,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “But in the decades-long quest for an agreement, Israel has shown time and again the depths of its yearning for peace -- and the lengths to which it will go in search of a durable deal.”

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed in August, three years after the Palestinian Authority walked away from them. In order to help get the negotiations back on track, Israel said it would free 104 Palestinian prisoners in stages. The first 26 were released in August.

“Despite opposition among many Israelis to the release of prisoners, the government is going ahead to show yet again its good-faith commitment,” Harris added. “It would be hard to imagine another government, even the U.S., agreeing to such a release of prisoners with blood on their hands, some of whom may be tempted to resume their terrorist activities. Israel deserves appreciation and admiration for the extraordinary risks it is willing to take to keep alive the hope of an accord. Will a similar commitment, at long last, be shown by the Palestinian side?”

 


 



October 25, 2013 – New York – AJC is calling on the Chilean government to reprimand Senator Eugenio Tuma for his ongoing public threats against Jews and Israelis.

Tuma, who chairs the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, repeated in a recent Controversia TV interview his charge that thousands of Israeli soldiers “dressed as civilians are in southern Chile mapping out the region.” Tuma added that the Chilean government “decided to do nothing given the power exerted by Israel and the U.S."

AJC, which three years ago called on Chilean government and civil society leaders to publicly condemn Tuma, reiterated its warning about the legislator’s provocative remarks.

“Senator Tuma’s baseless accusations are extremely dangerous, all the more so in a country that has experienced an uptick in anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in recent years,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute.

“The real danger to Chilean society is ignoring Tuma’s campaign of hate against Israel and Chilean Jews,” said Siegel Vann, adding that the anti-discrimination law adopted last year by the Chilean Congress should be used to take action against Senator Tuma.

Tuma, who is of Palestinian descent, has accused prominent Chilean Jews, including the country’s Interior Minister, of being Israeli government agents. Chile is home to the largest Palestinian community, some 300,000, outside the Middle East.

Comunidad Judia de Chile, the representative body of the Chilean Jewish community, is an AJC international partner.



October 25, 2013 – New York – AJC welcomes the new UN report on human rights abuses in Iran by Special Rapporteur Dr. Ahmed Shaheed.In his report to the General Assembly, he expressed serious concern that there has been “no sign of improvement” in key human rights areas, and that “the heart of the deepening human rights crisis” is Iran’s disregard for its international law obligations.

“We call on President Rouhani to immediately and unconditionally correct the gross violations documented by Special Rapporteur Shaheed,” said E. Robert Goodkind, Chair of AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI).

“That includes immediately and unconditionally releasing all prisoners of conscience; and implementing extensive measuresto end Iran’s ongoing assault on the freedoms of expression, assembly, association, religion and the equal rights of women, and to stop the widespread use of torture, arbitrary arrests, detentions and unfair trials, including extensive due process violations.”

While the Special Rapporteur welcomed President Rouhani’s release of women’s rights advocate and lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and Rouhani’s statements pledging improvements to Iran’s egregious human rights record, Shaheed emphasized that real changes have not been implemented.

The Special Rapporteur reiterated his call for the release of “hundreds of other prisoners detained solely for exercising their freedom of expression, association and assembly,” including 15 journalists arrested in January 2013, the largest mass arrest of journalists since 2009; at least 500 detained human rights defenders; the seven leaders of the Baha’i faith, Christians and members of other religious and ethnic minorities, among others. The Special Rapporteur further highlighted an increase in legal discrimination against religious minorities, including “an escalating pattern of systemic human rights violations targeting members of the Baha’i community.”

The Special Rapporteur remains deeply concerned about ongoing impunity for egregious human rights violations, including Iran’s crackdown surrounding the 2009 presidential elections. Moreover, Iran’s new penal code expands overly broad and vague national security laws that are often used to persecute prisoners of conscience, and retains the punishments of execution by stoning, amputation and crucifixion.

“It is vital that Iran allow the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran to visit the country, for the first time, with access to all persons, areas, and information necessary to allow the Special Rapporteur to investigate any asserted improvements to human rights,” said Goodkind.

JBI has called for the unconditional release of Sotoudeh and all other Iranian prisoners of conscience.JBI and AJC’s Westchester Regional Office also contributed to the successful international campaign for Sotoudeh to receive the prestigious European Parliament 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.



October 24, 2013 – Washington – A leading Greek American organization honored AJC Executive Director David Harris today with its prestigious Metropolitan Chrysostomos Award at a ceremony in the Capitol building. The Oxi Day Foundation chose Harris in recognition of his “lifelong contribution to combating anti-Semitism, discrimination and intolerance, and for his efforts to forge strong bonds between the Greek and Jewish peoples.”

Ambassador Thomas Miller, former U.S. ambassador to Greece, presented the award during the Third Annual Washington Oxi Day Celebration, attended by Members of Congress, ambassadors and other dignitaries.

"This award is an inspiration to me and AJC to understand that there is always something else, something more we could do," said Harris, who has headed the global Jewish advocacy organization since 1990. “When it comes to moral courage, Metropolitan Chrysostomos set the bar incredibly high.”

The award is named after Metropolitan Chrysostomos, the Greek Orthodox Church leader on the island of Zakinthos who, together with Mayor Loukas Karrer, saved all 275 Jews on the island during the Nazi occupation. When the Nazis asked Chrysostomos for a list of all Jews living on Zakinthos,he produced a list of two names only, his and the mayor’s. In 1978, Yad Vashem named Chrysostomos and Karrer “Righteous Among the Nations” for saving Jews during the Holocaust.

Like the Metropolitan, Mr. Harris does not wait for a convenient time to put himself and AJC on the right side of history," said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, co-chair of the Hellenic-Israel Alliance.
The Alliance’s other co-chair, Rep. Ted Deutch, said, "David Harris is the Secretary of State of the American Jewish community."

Senator Ben Cardin praised Harris for his leadership in “fighting all forms of discrimination."

The Washington Oxi Day Foundation is a nonprofit, 501c3 organization dedicated to informing American policymakers and the public about the profound role Greece played in bringing about the outcome of World War II and celebrating modern day heroes who exhibit the same courage as the Greeks did in continuing to fight to preserve and promote freedom and democracy around the world.

"I cannot tell you how important, how very important, David Harris' voice is--in support of Greek-Jewish relations, in support of Greece-Israel relations, in support of Greece-U.S. relations," said Rep. Nita Lowey. "No matter what the injustice, David's voice is there. No matter what the issue, David Harris--with his eloquence, intelligence, and respect--is there."

Last year’s recipient of the Metropolitan Chrysostomos Award was Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.

 



October 23, 2013 – New York – AJC praised the latest Greek action against the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party. The Greek Parliament overwhelmingly voted today, 235 to zero, to suspend state funding for Golden Dawn, which currently holds 18 of the legislature’s 300 seats.

The bold parliamentary action comes a few weeks after Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, addressing an AJC reception in New York, declared that he would “deracinate” the Golden Dawn party, and launched a crackdown on the party that includes arresting the party’s leadership

“They are a criminal group of people, who will be tried in a democratic manner,” Samaras said to the audience of 100 AJC leaders. The party has used violence, intimidation and neo-Nazi symbolism to promote its racist ideology, which targets immigrants, Jews and others deemed to be "non-Greek."

“Those parliamentarians who voted to stop the funding should be applauded for taking this firm step against the Golden Dawn,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "The party threatens the very foundation of Greece, the cradle of democracy."

Several Golden Dawn leaders are currently in jail, and others have been ordered not to leave the country, pending their trial for involvement in a “criminal organization.”

The government also is investigating the possible involvement of some members of the Greek police in Golden Dawn.

Punitive steps against Golden Dawn come in the wake of the murder of a popular Greek singer. A Golden Dawn activist is accused of the crime.

 



October 23, 2013 -- New York -- AJC remembers with deep sorrow the 241 American and 58 French soldiers who were murdered by Hezbollah bombings in Beirut 30 years ago today.

"American and French marines came to Beirut as peacekeepers, to help write a new chapter of peace and stability for Lebanon,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Hezbollah and its Iranian patron had different plans, however. They have left Lebanon -- and other countries -- scarred by terrorist violence and destruction."

The twin bombing attacks on October 23, 1983, were preceded six months earlier by the Hezbollah bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, which killed 63 people.

The U.S. government designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization in 1999. The European Union designated the terrorist organization’s “military wing” in July 2013, a year after Hezbollah perpetrated a deadly attack in EU member state Bulgaria.

“Everyone should recognize the evil that is Hezbollah and the cold reality that it exists to carry out the will of Iran’s Islamist regime, the foremost state sponsor of global terrorism,” said Harris. “Let’s hope that, on this sad anniversary of the Beirut bombings -- as we recall the victims and their grieving and scarred families -- nations truly committed to confronting terrorism will redouble their efforts against the perpetrators and their sponsors.”
 


 



October 11, 2013 – New York – AJC is urging President Obama to reconsider his decision to withhold U.S. aid to Egypt.

The Administration’s action “sends the wrong signal to America’s friends in Egypt and across the Middle East,” AJC President Stanley M. Bergman and Executive Director David Harris wrote today to President Obama.

“The broad and mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries offers a variety of other measures that can be taken to uphold American values and protect American interests in that vital region.”

AJC has been extensively engaged in Egypt for more than a quarter of a century, and has followed with concern the developments in that important Arab country and their impact on the region since the overthrow of President Mubarak.

While AJC does not sanction the removal of a democratically elected government by non-democratic means, the Morsi government turned out to be “profoundly anti-democratic in nature and in practice,” and thus was broadly rejected by the Egyptian public and ousted by the Egyptian military in July.

U.S. allies across the region “recognize the danger posed by the form of political absolutism demonstrated by the Muslim Brotherhood in its year in power, stand with America against terrorism, and look to America to uphold values the Brotherhood was committed to subverting,” noted the AJC leaders.

AJC remains hopeful that the Egyptian people can achieve a “transparent, responsive and inclusive government.” Restoring U.S. aid would be helpful as Egypt strives to “transition to full civilian rule and demonstrable progress toward the establishment of democratic governance.”



October 7, 2013 – New York –The visit of Greek Prime Minister Samaras to Israel, which starts today, is a confirmation of the growing partnership between these two countries.

“We are privileged to witness an unprecedented time for Greek-Israeli relations,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Meeting at the highest level, government to government, or G2G as it is called, confirms the mutual interests in deepening and expanding these all important ties. Such G2G meetings between countries are reserved for the closest of friends and allies.”

The large Greek delegation accompanying Samaras includes eight Cabinet ministers and 100 business leaders. They will engage in a series of meetings with their Israeli counterparts that are expected to produce a number of signed agreements on cooperation in energy, investments, security and tourism.

“These two strong democratic nations are natural allies and anchors of stability in an increasingly turbulent region,” said Harris. “The Greek-Israeli relationship will benefit not only each country, but also the region and beyond.”

Addressing an AJC reception in New York last week, Samaras said his visit would “push forward for a true and comprehensive strategic partnership between Greece and Israel.”



October 3, 2013 -- New York -- AJC welcomes enhancement of the U.S.-Japan security relationship. The deepening of military ties, announced during a visit to Tokyo by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, comes amidst growing threats from nuclear-armed North Korea and friction on territorial matters with China.

“America’s longstanding commitment to Japan’s security is critical to ensuring stability in the region,” said Shira Loewenberg, Director of AJC’s Asia Pacific Institute. “Stronger U.S.-Japanese ties, and trilateral cooperation with South Korea, are essential to enhancing regional security in the face of North Korea’s military nuclear program and other common threats.”

U.S.-Japan talks focused on a renewed security alliance that calls for a new missile defense radar system in Japan, the deployment of U.S. drone aircraft, the relocation of American Marines from Okinawa to Guam, and joint efforts to combat cyberattacks. Japan has pledged to increase its military spending, strengthen its security capacity and expand its assistance to Southeast Asian countries resisting Chinese territorial claims.

The agreement states that the U.S. and Japan should be prepared to deal with “coercive and destabilizing behaviors” and calls upon China to adhere to international norms in its territorial disputes. The U.S. has not taken sides in the dispute between Japan and China over a group of uninhabited islands in the South China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.



October 3, 2013 – New York -- Shira Loewenberg, who directed AJC diplomatic outreach in the New York region for the last two years and has had extensive experience in Asia, has been appointed Director of AJC's Asia Pacific Institute.

"Shira Loewenberg brings global and regional experience, a wealth of diplomatic contacts, and a strong advocacy track record that will be of immense value to AJC’s expanding diplomatic efforts across Asia, and with our partners in Asian American communities,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC Director of Government and International Affairs. Loewenberg assumed her new position as AJC met with dozens of world leaders, including from Asia, during the opening of the UN General Assembly.

“I am delighted to head AJC's Asia Pacific Institute, to advance our global advocacy and diplomacy, and deepen relationships with countries key to U.S. interests,” said Loewenberg.

Loewenberg comes to API after serving as Associate Director of AJC’s New York Regional Office for the past two years. Previously, she worked for a number of organizations around the world, including United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Outward Bound Center for Peace-building.

She holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She has long experience in Asia, including two years working in Japan.

Founded in 1989, API was the first of its kind in the American Jewish community. In the past year, AJC senior leaders have traveled with API to China, Japan and South Korea. API is one of four international regional institutes of AJC, including its Africa Institute, Latino and Latin American Affairs Institute and Transatlantic Institute. API is chaired by AJC National Board member Gary Jacobs.



October 2, 2013 -- New York -- AJC is appalled that Iran, suspected by key UN agencies of pursuing nuclear-weapons capability, has been elected to a high-level position in the world body on disarmament and global security.

Iran was elected by UN member states to serve as the rapporteur of the UN First Committee on Disarmament and International Security. Iran, which had lobbied for the position for months, also serves as chair of the Non-Aligned Movement, the largest bloc of nations in the UN.

“The country that today is the number one threat to global security should be the last one to lead UN initiatives on disarmament,” said Harris. “Iran’s quest for nuclear-weapons capability, its longstanding support for international terrorist groups, its interference in Syria and other Middle East countries, among other military adventures, should have automatically disqualified Iran from such an influential position in the world body.”

The First Committee deals with disarmament, global challenges and threats to peace that affect the international community, and seeks out solutions to challenges in the international security realm.

“Rewarding Iran for misbehavior is a tragic stain on the UN,” said Harris. “Nonetheless, this should not in any way deter world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.S. -- from standing firm in current negotiations to ensure that Iran comes clean on its nuclear program and dismantles all elements that make possible the building of weapons of mass destruction. Such steps would demonstrate Iran’s own commitment to disarmament.”



October 2, 2013 – New York – AJC is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to find unconstitutional a town board’s use of prayers at its meetings.

While such legislative prayers are not inevitably unconstitutional, they cross a constitutional line when they suggest that government prefers one faith, AJC noted in an amicus brief filed in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway. Furthermore, AJC warned that any decision sanctioning such prayers may lead to further challenges to the Establishment Clause.

“The Supreme Court should reject pleas to undo almost 70 years of Establishment Clause decision-making,” said AJC General Counsel Marc Stern.

“The Court has long maintained that the government violates the Constitution by favoring one religion over others, even if it does not engage in outright coercion or explicit efforts to proselytize others,” added Stern. “But given that a majority of the prayers recited to open Town of Greece board meetings are Christian, the perceived favoritism is blatant.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had ruled that the practice of offering predominantly Christian prayers at the opening of Town of Greece board meetings created the impermissible impression that the town favored Christianity over other faiths.

AJC cautioned that more than prayers at town board meetings is at stake in the case, which raises directly the issue of whether outright coercion is necessary to constitute an Establishment Clause violation.

“The Court has struck down numerous government-sponsored programs relating to religion and religious exercises without finding any actual coercion, and for almost 70 years has been on record rejecting the argument that coercion should be installed as the sin qua non of an Establishment Clause violation,” states the AJC brief.

“The proposition that coercion is a sufficient but not a necessary predicate for an Establishment Clause violation—that it represents the floor, not the ceiling, of the Establishment Clause’s protective ambit—is deeply embedded in the Court’s precedents,” states the AJC brief.

AJC warned that honoring the Town’s request would open anew matters long since settled, such as the constitutionality of school prayer.

“To appreciate just how far [the Town] and its amici are asking this Court to depart from its settled precedent, it is instructive to look back to the Court’s earliest Establishment Clause opinions,” states the AJC brief. “Those decisions drew no distinction between coercion, on the one hand, and aid, persuasion, promotion, sponsorship, influence, approval, or encouragement on the other hand. Rather, a wide range of non-coercive conduct by which the government put its thumb on the scale in favor of religion was understood and described as plainly unconstitutional.”

The JCPA joined with AJC in the brief, which was prepared by Eric Tirschwell, a partner at Kramer, Levin and a member of AJC’s Legal Committee.



October 1, 2013 – New York – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eloquently urged the international community today to maintain the pressure on Iran until it dismantles its nuclear weapons program.

“The only way to peacefully prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is to combine tough sanctions with a credible military threat,” said Netanyahu in his address to the UN General Assembly. He maintained that “the only diplomatic solution that would work is one that fully dismantles Iran’s nuclear weapons program and prevents it from having one in the future.”

AJC Executive Director David Harris praised the Israeli leader’s speech.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered today a compelling clarion call for the entire world about Iran,” said Harris. “The stakes are very high, with no room for wishful or illusory thinking about Iran’s intentions. No one seeks confrontation for confrontation’s sake. But until the Iranian regime comes clean on its nuclear program and fully cooperates with the international community, maximum pressure is absolutely necessary. History’s lessons on this score could not be clearer.”

Netanyahu cautioned the international community not to be fooled by the new Iranian government’s facade of moderation and apparent willingness to compromise on its nuclear ambitions in return for easing of economic sanctions. “I wish I could believe it, but I don’t,” he said.

He argued that the current Iranian “charm offensive,” mounted to convince the world to drop the increasingly effective economic sanctions, was a ruse intended to allow Iran to continue its nuclear program, much as North Korea fooled the international community into allowing it to develop the bomb.

“Israel will never acquiesce to nuclear arms in the hands of a rogue regime that repeatedly promises to wipe us off the map,” said Netanyahu. “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. Yet, in standing alone, Israel will know that we are defending many, many others.”

“The last century has taught us that when a radical regime with global ambitions gets awesome power, sooner or later its appetite for aggression knows no bounds,” said Netanyahu. “The world may have forgotten” this central lesson of the 20th century, but “the Jewish people have not.”



September 30, 2013 -- New York – Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras declared today that the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party would be eliminated.

“All of the leading members of Golden Dawn have been arrested and are being prosecuted,” Samaras told an AJC reception in his honor this morning. “They are a criminal group of people, who will be tried in a democratic manner.”

Speaking in New York two days after his government launched a widespread crackdown on Golden Dawn, Samaras said that “It is important to me to deracinate this group.” The arrests, including the head of Golden Dawn and other members of Parliament, came soon after a Golden Dawn member murdered a popular Greek rapper, Pavlos Fyssas.

“There is no room for the neo-Nazis in any part of the democratic world,” Samaras declared. The actions launched against Golden Dawn, he stressed, are “something unique, and have not happened elsewhere in Europe,” where other extremist groups are active in national politics.

The prime minister spoke about the severe economic crisis Greeks have endured since 2007, a factor he acknowledged may have boosted support for Golden Dawn, which currently holds 18 seats in the Parliament. The party has used violence, intimidation and neo-Nazi symbolism to promote its racist ideology.

With an unemployment rate of 27 percent and youth unemployment at more than 60 percent, Greeks are living through the equivalent of the “Great Depression nightmare,” said Samaras.

However, on a positive note, Samaras said that Greece will soon have a budget surplus for the first time in ten years. “We have come a long way since last year, politically and economically, due to the sacrifices of our people, to the solidarity of our European partners, and to the support of friends and allies,” he stated.

“More and more people are talking about ‘Grecovery,’” in contrast to the doomsday scenario that was widely portrayed for Greece only a year ago, he declared.

An improving economy will help to diminish public support of Golden Dawn, which already has dropped since the rapper’s murder. “Now everyone realizes who they really are,” Samaras said.

On Greece-Israel relations, Samaras noted that he will visit Israel next week for high-level meetings “to push forward for a true and comprehensive strategic partnership between Greece and Israel.” He will bring his Cabinet ministers to meet with their Israeli counterparts. “This strategic relationship with Israel is long overdue,” said Samaras.

As one example, the prime minister cited the energy resources in the Mediterranean Sea that will be shared, and jointly extracted and exported, by Greece, Cyprus and Israel. Samaras said the estimated size of the natural gas reserves is so extensive that potentially the three countries could supply 50 percent of Europe’s energy resources over the next 30 years.

He also said that Greece, Israel and Cyprus, all strong democracies, can together “become a beacon for freedom and hope” in the Eastern Mediterranean, an area that is facing increasing challenges of political stability and security.

In addition to 100 AJC leaders from across the country, there were representatives from the Greek-American and Cypriot-American communities in attendance. Several references were made to the decades-long partnership of both communities and AJC.

AJC Executive Director David Harris, who has known the prime minister for nearly 25 years, introduced him to the audience, citing his key role in elevating Greek-Israeli relations, his family’s efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust, and his bold leadership in confronting both the economic crisis and extremist parties in Greece today.



September 29. 2013 -- New York -- AJC is horrified by the latest terrorist attack in Nigeria, this time targeting a college. According to reports, nearly 50 students were murdered in an overnight assault on their dormitory at the Yobe College of Agriculture.

Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist group fighting to create a Sharia-based state in Nigeria, is suspected of having carried out the attack, chillingly similar to other fatal terror actions in the region.

“This brutal rampage, gunning down innocent youngsters in their sleep, demonstrates again the cowardice of the perpetrators, driven by a demented ideology that celebrates the killing of children of another faith or background,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“We can only hope, as we have expressed before, that the Nigerian government will ultimately succeed it in its efforts to defeat the terrorist scourge, benefit from the support of the international community, and bring to justice those responsible for these brutal murders,” said Harris.

Boko Haram means “Western education is sacrilege.” It has been linked to dozens of deadly assaults in northeastern Nigeria against Christian worshipers and other targets, including schools. In July, Boko Haram attacked a secondary school in Mamudo, also in Yobe, leaving scores dead, almost all of them children.



September 28, 2013 -- New York -- AJC praised the Greek government for taking bold action against the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party.

“The very essence of democracy in Greece is at stake,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The message is clear from the Greek government that the forces of violent extremism are a threat to society and will not be tolerated.”

Greek police today arrested four Golden Dawn members of Parliament, including party leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos and spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, and ten other party officials. They are charged with founding a criminal organization. More arrests are expected.

The party currently holds 18 seats in the 300-member Parliament, making it the third largest political party in Greece. It has used violence, intimidation and neo-Nazi symbolism to promote its racist ideology.

Immigrants have been a main target of Golden Dawn. Moreover, the party has threatened the Jewish community, suggesting they are not part of Greek society. It has also physically menaced Greek politicians of opposing viewpoints.

The government was moved to act following the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, a popular rapper, whose songs protest the rise of extremism in Greece. A Golden Dawn member has been arrested for the murder.

“While we are mindful of the risks involved with taking on a political party that serves in the Parliament, there are limits, which in the case of Golden Dawn, were passed a long time ago,” said Harris. “Laudably, the government of Prime Minister Samaras has recognized the absolutely necessity to say enough is enough, and to take meaningful actions to stop the madness of Golden Dawn. A party cannot be allowed to cynically use the freedom that democracy offers to subvert that very freedom.”

AJC will host a meeting with Prime Minister Samaras during his visit to New York this week.



September 27, 2013 -- New York -- Addressing the UN General Assembly, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to continue the current round of talks with Israel “in good faith and with open minds, strong determination and an insistence on success.” Direct Israeli-Palestinian talks resumed this summer with active encouragement from the United States.

“Let’s hope this time Palestinian leaders will stay at the table, and also will nurture, in schools and media, an atmosphere of peace among the Palestinian people that will be conducive to the worthy goal of a negotiated two-state solution,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“Israel has been down this road with the Palestinians before, and has tried to close the deal, only to see it evaporate as the Palestinian leadership balked,” said Harris. “Most recently, Palestinian leaders tragically refused to accept, after intense negotiations, the peace proposals offered in 2000, again in 2001, and yet again in 2008.”

Abbas urged UN members to consider the “consequences of failure” if a peace accord is not achieved in nine months. “Failure must compel the international community to intensify efforts to seize upon this chance” for peace, said Abbas, referring to previous actions taken by the UN and other international organizations against Israel.

“The Palestinian leadership must make the hard decisions, and must end what has been an all too comfortable, reflexive reliance on the international community to pressure Israel,” said Harris.

“The road to sustainable peace does not run through the UN,” said Harris. “It is found in the hearts and minds of Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are ready and willing to work together.”

“Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, like his three predecessors, is ready, as he has said on more than one occasion and in no uncertain terms,” Harris added. “Will Abbas make the necessary decisions to bring about a true end to the conflict, and the realization of the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security?”

At the same time, AJC voiced disappointment that Abbas continued, in his UN address, to promote demonstrable falsehoods about the conflict, which can only undermine the climate of peacemaking.

“To tell the UN General Assembly -- indeed the world -- that, after the Oslo Accords were signed 20 years ago, the PLO ‘firmly repudiated violence’ and affirmed a ‘rejection of terrorism’ is simply not true,” said Harris. “The history of the past two decades, tragically, is replete with countless acts of terror -- and thwarted acts of terror -- from both the West Bank and Gaza, aimed at Israeli civilians and population centers. This is a stark reality that Abbas must confront, and not seek to sweep away under the rug of revisionist history.”



September 25, 2013 – New York – Golden Dawn, the Greek neo-Nazi political party, has threatened Greece’s Jewish community in an online article that AJC views as another alarming indication of the dangers the party poses to Greek society.

“Golden Dawn is a clear and present threat to Greece,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “This should not be in any doubt.”

The latest Golden Dawn threat comes as the party, which holds 18 seats in the Greek parliament, has come under scrutiny following the murder of a popular Greek singer, Pavlos Fyssas. A Golden Dawn member has been arrested for the crime. The Greek Government has also opened an investigation into allegations that members of the country’s police force are actively involved with the party.

An article on the party’s website accused the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) of “orchestrating the recent anti-nationalist hysteria” against Golden Dawn. “We call upon KIS not to get involved in the Greek affairs,” Golden Dawn declared.

“Imagine the sheer gall of this extremist party telling other Greeks that they have no place in public life, no right to speak their mind,” Harris added. “The Jewish community will not be silenced or intimidated.”

The Golden Dawn threat came in reaction to KIS press release that called on all Greek political parties to cooperate in passing “strong and effective legislation that will combat racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism.” KIS also called for legislative action to ban political parties that promote Nazi ideology.

Proposed anti-racism legislation has been under debate in the parliament for months, and the government of Prime Minister Samaras has vowed to press for its adoption.

Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, addressing the AJC Global Forum in Washington, DC, in June, said: “No one should ever believe that the country, which gave birth to democracy and respect for the human being, which has become the best example of resistance against Nazism, would ever tolerate and allow the revival of hatred and racism.”



September 24, 2013 – New York – AJC praised President Obama for highlighting in today’s UN General Assembly address the ongoing effort by Iran to achieve nuclear-weapons capability. The Iranian government, under newly elected President Hassan Rouhani, has yet to show any indication that it is slowing down its nuclear program.

“We insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN Security Council resolutions,” said Obama. “We reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, and undermine the global non-proliferation regime.”

Coming two days before a scheduled meeting in New York between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif, together with envoys of Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia (the P5+1 group), Obama stressed that America seeks to resolve “concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, peacefully, but we are determined to prevent them from developing a nuclear weapon.”

AJC Executive Director David Harris welcomed President Obama’s pursuit of diplomacy, but again cautioned that the Iranian record of deceit is long, deep and widespread. “Robust sanctions must be maintained in full as the U.S. tests again the commitment of Iran to engage in diplomacy,” said Harris.

“Given Iran’s track record of ignoring the UN Security Council and the IAEA demands on Iran, of delaying honest negotiations with the P5+1 group, which last met in April, the onus will be on Tehran to unequivocally desist from its assertive quest for nuclear-weapons capability.”

Obama, hopeful for a breakthrough, declared before the UN General Assembly: “The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested.”

Harris agreed with President Obama that recent “conciliatory” words by Iranian leaders “have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.” But Harris added that the talks “cannot be open-ended, as they have been to date – without resolution.”

On the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Obama urged UN member-states, especially Arab states, to support the goal of a two-state solution. “Arab states – and those who have supported the Palestinians – must recognize that stability will only be served through a two-state solution with a secure Israel.”

“The children of Israel have the right to live in a world where the nations assembled in this body fully recognize their country, and unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes or incite others to hate them,” said Obama.

“President Obama has rightly challenged the majority of member-states to once and for all end the UN’s institutional biases against Israel,” said Harris. “Even if six decades late, welcoming Israel, the Jewish state, as a full member of the international community can only advance the cause of peace.”



September 24, 2013 -- New York -- AJC is deeply disappointed with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s inaugural speech before the UN General Assembly.

“Given the opportunity to answer constructively and honestly the greatest global security concern today, President Rouhani chose to continue the long-standing Iranian line of avoidance of the truth about his country’s nuclear program,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The UN, the IAEA, indeed nations across the Middle East and around the world, are still waiting for Iran to drop its posture of defiance and come clean.”

“Nuclear weapons have no place in Iran’s security and defense doctrine,” said Rouhani, backing up his assertion that Iran is a peace-loving nation. He declared that the objective of Iran’s nuclear program always has been and will be for “exclusively peaceful purposes.”

But, as Senators Charles Schumer and John McCain wrote to President Obama yesterday, “Iran has quintupled its stockpile of low-enriched uranium since 2009 and has come much closer to possessing weapons-grade uranium by enriching up to 20 percent of it.” And, the Senators added, Iran has more than doubled the number of centrifuges at Fordow since July 2012. “[N]o one should question American intent to act against Iran’s nuclear program,” wrote Schumer and McCain.

The Iranian president appealed to the world body to recognize Iran’s “right to nuclear enrichment inside Iran and enjoyment of other nuclear related rights.” He stressed that Iran’s nuclear program is well advanced and “domesticated.” He criticized the sanctions imposed on his country, charging that they “violate inalienable human rights.”

But President Rouhani failed to address President Obama’s observation earlier in the day, from the same UN podium, that Iran’s choices – repeatedly violating agreements under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime, hiding enrichment and weapons-related nuclear programs from inspectors, and ignoring repeated UN Security Council resolutions – are responsible for the international sanctions against his country.

“Rouhani’s posture does not exactly bode well for Thursday’s meeting in New York of the U.S., Great Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia with Iran to discus the nuclear program and ways to resolve the very valid and growing concerns about it,” said Harris. “We hope Secretary Kerry and the other foreign ministers will stand firm in pressing Iran to come clean, answer the many requests of the UN Security Council and the IAEA, and cooperate fully with the international community, so that there is no longer any doubt about the true scope and intent of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Rouhani told the UN General Assembly today that Iran “is prepared to engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency.”

“Let’s hope that Iran is truly ready to change course, but in light of the country’s history of deceit – and its yet undeterred pursuit of nuclear weapons capability – extreme caution is essential,” said Harris. “So far, there has been no concrete indication that Iran is ready to change course. We need to remember that actions speak far louder than words.”



September 24, 2013 -- Washington -- AJC today expressed concern about the comments of E.W. Jackson, a Chesapeake pastor and candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia, that people who don’t follow Jesus Christ “are engaged in some sort of false religion.”

Noting that the remarks were made as part of a Sunday morning sermon, Alan Ronkin, director of AJC's Washington, DC Regional Office, said, "We do not question Mr. Jackson's right to hold views about the exclusive truth of Christianity. But that said, as a candidate for public office, his expression of those views at this time places a burden on him to assure Virginians of all faiths that these religious views will not prejudice his performance of the duties of the office he seeks."

Ronkin called on Jackson to publicly clarify his remarks and share how his sentiments about other faiths would affect his decisions as an elected official.

AJC is a non-partisan organization that neither endorses nor opposes candidates for public office.



September 22, 2013 -- New York -- AJC is appalled by today’s deadly terror attack on a church in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Two suicide bombers struck as worshipers were leaving the All Saints Church after celebrating Sunday Mass. More than 75 are dead, and at least 100 wounded. Observers on the scene say the toll may go even higher.

“Radical Islamic terrorists, motivated by a blinding, intolerant ideology to murder innocents and create mayhem, have now brought their recipe for horror to one of Pakistan’s oldest churches,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Clearly, the two suicide bombers chose the timing of their attack -- the end of Sunday morning religious services -- to produce maximum deadly harm.”

AJC has expressed deep concern about repeated attacks on Christians and other religious minorities in various Muslim-majority countries. The global advocacy group has also spoken out before about assaults against Christian targets in Pakistan.

In March, AJC urged Pakistan to step up efforts to protect the country’s Christian minority, after more than 150 houses and two churches were set on fire in the Joseph Colony, a small Christian neighborhood in Lahore.

“Following today’s double suicide bombings in Peshawar, we once again urge the Pakistani authorities to do everything possible to protect the country’s Christian minority” Harris stressed. “And there needs to be a sustained global outcry in the face of such deadly attacks, fueled by religious extremism. Sadly and inexplicably, however, that has been largely missing. Why?"



September 22, 2013 -- New York -- AJC stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the government and people of Kenya, as the country endures a horrific terrorist attack in a popular shopping mall in Nairobi.

Shabab, a Somali-based Islamist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, has claimed credit for the attack, which began yesterday, and has left at least 59 dead and more than 175 wounded.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and our prayers are with the wounded in the hope of their full recovery,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Tragically, the radical Islamist group Shabab has once again demonstrated the limitless depths of its depravity, having targeted innocent men, women and children who had simply set out to shop, dine and enjoy time in the shopping mall.”

The United States has designated the al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabab a terrorist group.

Several terrorists remain inside the Nairobi mall in a stand-off with Kenyan security forces.



September 18, 2013 – New York – AJC is set to engage in more than 70 private meetings with the leaders of countries from every continent attending the opening of the UN General Assembly.

“The UN opening in September is a unique opportunity to have timely conversations with presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers about pressing issues of mutual concern,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “It is also about the longer term process of relationship-building, which is an integral component of AJC’s approach.”

“These meetings are a core element of our year-round global advocacy, and the opening of the UN General Assembly session is a highlight in our diplomatic activity because so many leaders are in New York in a compressed period of time,” Harris added.

On the AJC agenda for diplomatic meetings this year are: the continuing threat of Iran achieving nuclear-weapons capability; the recently resumed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations; the Syrian conflict and other key developments in the Arab world; and rising anti-Semitism.

The annual AJC “diplomatic marathon” has been a hallmark of AJC’s global advocacy since 1990, when AJC launched the program, a first in the Jewish community.



September 18, 2013 – New York – AJC welcomed the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh from an Iranian prison today. A courageous women’s rights advocate and lawyer, Sotoudeh received the prestigious European Parliament 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Eleven other prisoners of conscience also reportedly have been released in advance of Iranian President Rouhani’s address to the UN General Assembly on September 24.

AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) has called on President Rouhani to firmly implement extensive measures to end Iran’s assault on the freedoms of expression, assembly, association, religion and the equal rights of women, and to stop the widespread use of torture, arbitrary arrests, detentions and unfair trials, including extensive due process violations.

“President Rouhani should fulfill his campaign pledge to restore and expand freedoms for all Iranians,” said E. Robert Goodkind, Chair of AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute. “A good place to start is the immediate unconditional release of all remaining prisoners of conscience, including leaders of the Baha’i faith, Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini, and the release from house arrest of 2009 presidential candidates Mousavi and Karroubi.”

“We are delighted to see Nasrin Sotoudeh free and call upon the Iranian government to ensure that her release is permanent, without conditions,” said Goodkind. During her three years of imprisonment, Sotoudeh was granted leave three times, but then quickly returned to the Evin prison.

“The Iranian government should fully restore her law license and allow her to travel within and outside Iran, so she can resume her staunch advocacy for an end to discrimination against women and defense of human rights advocates in Iran,” Goodkind added.

Sotoudeh was unjustly imprisoned in Iran’s notorious Evin prison in 2010. She held several hunger strikes to protest her unfair detention as well as harassment of her family members and lawyer. Her health suffered as a result of the hunger strikes, denials of adequate medical care, and time in solitary confinement.

AJC and its Jacob Blaustein Institute have been petitioning for the release of Sotoudeh andallother Iranian prisoners of conscience. JBI and AJC’s Westchester Regional Office also contributed to the successful international campaign for Sotoudeh to receive the Sakharov Prize.



September 17, 2013 – New York – AJC praised Israel’s High Court of Justice ruling that prolonged administrative detention of refugees and asylum seekers without trial is unconstitutional.

“The Court’s unanimous decision reinforces Israel’s democratic and universal values, and strengthens compliance with its international law obligations towards refugees and asylum seekers,” said E. Robert Goodkind, Chair of AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights.

The Court ordered the release over the next 90 days of some 1,750 asylum seekers and migrants currently detained under the unconstitutional law, following an individual examination of each case.

“This landmark decision can promote constructive dialogue in Israel surrounding the universal rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from Africa. It should encourage an end to any discourse about this group that may prompt violence,” said Marion Bergman, Chair of AJC’s Africa Institute. AJC has previously condemned such violence as “totally unacceptable.”

Israel has become a favored destination for asylum seekers and migrants from Africa, primarily from Eritrea and Sudan. Approximately 55,000 now live in Israel. Israel’s completion of a fence along the border with Egypt has led to a significant decrease in the arrival of new asylum seekers and migrants from Africa in 2013.

Since 2007, AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute and AJC’s Africa Institute have encouraged and supported strategic legal interventions, advocacy and programs to strengthen Israel’s asylum policy and system. The Jacob Blaustein Institute provided grants to one petitioner – the Tel Aviv University’s Refugee Rights Clinic – twice in recent years.

Israel was active in the drafting of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and was among the early signers of its 1967 Protocol.



September 13, 2013 -- Berlin -- AJC Berlin welcomed the German Press Council’s ruling that a July 2 cartoon in the Sueddeutscher Zeitung (SZ) is a violation of the press code.

In its formal complaint, AJC called on the press council to censure the prestigious German daily for publishing the caricature, which showed a young woman serving food to a monster with horns sitting at a table and holding up a carving knife. The caption stated that Germany for decades has provided weapons to Israel, which has allegedly provoked tremendous animosity toward Israel.

“This German Press Council ruling is a needed wake-up call for the media to exercise greater caution in depictions of Israel, which can all too easily slide into overt anti-Semitism,” said AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger.

The press council agreed with AJC that the caricature reproduces numerous anti-Semitic stereotypes. “The ruling reinforces the message that artistic freedom cannot be used as a cloak to disguise anti-Semitism,” Berger added.

While the press council determined that publication of the cartoon violated the press code’s policy regarding discrimination, it did not censure the newspaper due to “its self-critical confrontation and apology by management” soon after the caricature’s publication.

“Despite the extensive internal discussion at the newspaper regarding the incident, it is important that the case not be filed away and forgotten,” said Berger. “On the contrary, we hope this ruling will prompt the newspaper to delve more deeply into the problem of anti-Semitism, as well as the almost reflexive anti-Israel animus that often prevails in the media.”



September 10, 2013 – Berlin -- AJC is calling on Thomas Bach, the newly elected president of the International Olympic Committee, to immediately resign as Chair of Ghorfa, the Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Ghorfa has long been an advocate for an economic boycott of Israel.

“It betrays the principles of sportsmanship and fair play for the International Olympic Committee to be headed by someone who actively participates in ongoing Israel boycott campaign measures,” said AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger. “Thomas Bach should resign as Chair of Ghorfa and champion the cause of fair play for Israel in international sports events.”

In the 1970s, Arab countries launched an unsuccessful attempt to boycott Israeli products by pressing importers to declare that products did not originate in Israel.Although the WTO forbids boycott practices, a number of Arab countries continue to conduct trade boycotts against Israel.

Ghorfa was set up in Germany in the 1970s by Arab countries to assist with their trade boycott campaign of Israel.  German trade regulations later outlawed the measures but Ghorfa’s ongoing activities with the Arab world remain under scrutiny.   

In response to a query by Viola von Cramon, a Green Member of the German Parliament, the German government confirmed on June 20, 2013, that Ghorfa continues to issue certificates of German origin, verifying that no product parts were produced in Israel, for trade with Arab countries.

The German government says officials from various ministries have spoken on a number of occasions with Ghorfa representatives, including during a high-level discussion last summer with Mr. Bach, about the continuing practice of issuing certificates of origin.

Bach’s candidacy came under considerable criticism in Germany in recent weeks as he received strong support from Arab leaders, including Kuwaiti Sheik Ahmad Al-Sabah, a member of the International Olympic Committee. His candidacy also was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich.

Bach, an Olympic gold fencing champion, who previously served as a Vice-President of the IOC, supported the IOC refusal to hold a minute of silence during the 2012 Summer Olympics on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the murder of nine Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics.The IOC refusal came after heavy pressure from Arab states, whose leaders have yet to denounce the 1972 terrorist act against Israelis.

“A German Olympic Chair who chiefly serves the interests of wealthy Arab potentates would lead to moral bankruptcy of the Olympic system,” said Berger. “In addition to resigning as Ghorfa chair, Thomas Bach should announce that a moment of silence for the murdered Israeli athletes will be held at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.”



September 8, 2013 -- New York -- AJC is dismayed that former presidential candidate and Congressman Ron Paul will deliver the keynote address to the Fatima Center gala dinner on Wednesday, September 11. The Fatima Center “Path to Peace” conference takes place in Niagara Falls, Canada, from September 8 to 13.

The Fatima Center is a fringe, schismatic Catholic group, whose leader Father Nicholas Gruner was suspended by the Roman Catholic Church in 1996. He rejects the teachings of Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council's historic decision that ushered in an entirely new era in Catholic-Jewish relations, and he promotes anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

“[H]ow can you have six million die, and have 13 million left, when you only had 13 million to start with?” Father Gruner said about Jews during the Holocaust in a recent interview with Alana Goodman of the Washington Free Beacon.

“For Ron Paul to associate himself with such a disreputable, hateful religious movement is simply beyond comprehension,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "By doing so, he is conferring legitimacy on what ought to be beyond the pale. His name and photo are plastered all over the conference's marketing materials."

AJC praised Canadian Senator and retired general Romeo Dallaire, who pulled out of the conference as soon as he realized the hatred of the sponsoring group, saying he was “embarrassed” and "very unhappy."

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Fatima Center is part of a movement that is "perhaps the single largest group of hard-core anti-Semites in North America."

“Congressman Paul, please reconsider, follow Senator Dallaire’s example, and stay away,” Harris added. “Surely, there are better ways to spend the 12th anniversary date of the 9/11 tragedy than among those who promote enmity and division.”



September 8, 2013 -- New York -- AJC is urging the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to “do the right thing and authorize limited military action” against the Bashar al-Assad regime, following its chemical weapons attack in Damascus on August 21st.

“The stakes for the United States, and the world, could not be any higher,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris in an article published in the Huffington Post and Jerusalem Post. “If the United States now flinches, and despite our declared ‘red line,’ let’s Syria get away with the use of chemical weapons, then what is the message sent to the world?”

The renewed AJC call for firm Congressional action follows an AJC letter, sent to all Senators and Representatives last week, calling on them to support a resolution authorizing President Obama to respond militarily to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

Harris expressed profound disappointment in the international community’s lack of coordinated reaction to the Assad regime's use of sarin gas, in an attack that left nearly 1,500 Syrians, a third of them children, dead.

The G-20 was divided, with ten countries supporting the American position and nine unwilling to do so, on a condemnation of the Assad regime’s attack on his own people, even though it constituted a material breach of international norms, including the Geneva Protocol of 1925 which prohibits the use of chemical weapons. The Assad regime, under Bashar and, before him, his late father, Hafez, has amassed one of the largest supplies of chemical weapons in the world.

“Yes, it would obviously be better if the UN Security Council, could come together and act in unison against the Assad regime’s reprehensible use of chemical weapons,” said Harris. “But the U.S. ought to assert its moral leadership and take action, since China and especially Russia, as of today, will not allow the Security Council to act even in the face of these horrific crimes.”

Harris warned that a U.S. failure to respond now would lead to an even more dangerous world: “Would the Syrians or others revert again to chemical weapons, and would the death toll mount into the tens of thousands the next time?”

As Congress begins debate tomorrow on possible U.S. military action, and President Obama prepares to address the nation on Tuesday, Harris stressed that the world, especially America’s adversaries, are watching closely what the U.S. will do.

Inaction by the U.S. will be seen “as an abdication of American leadership, which, in turn, will invite still more challenges to American interests and values,” said Harris. “Leaders from Tehran to Pyongyang will become still more assertive, emboldened and threatening, as they conclude that Americans are unwilling to match deed with word.”

Harris also stressed in his article that AJC's position is not an act of partisanship in support of the Administration, as this is "not about an individual but our country."

He also emphasized that AJC does not support an open-ended military attack or one involving American boots on the ground. And finally, he pointed out that, just as America's adversaries were watching to see how the U.S. would act, so were America's allies in the region, who need to be reassured that Washington stands behind its word when it declares a red line, whether with respect to Syria's use of chemical weapons or, for that matter, Iran's nuclear ambitions.



September 4, 2013 – New York – AJC praised President Obama for visiting the Great Synagogue of Stockholm today during a stopover in Sweden. The President delivered a heartfelt speech, celebrating Rosh Hashanah and recalling the courageous legacy of Raoul Wallenberg. He demonstrated deep solidarity with Sweden’s Jewish community, as well as with the Wallenberg family, who still seek definitive answers to his mysterious disappearance, at the hands of the Soviets, 68 years ago.

“President Obama’s visit to Stockholm’s Great Synagogue was an important act of solidarity with a Jewish community that has faced challenges, including a few acts of violence, in recent years,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“We will stand against anti-Semitism and hatred, in all its forms,” President Obama declared in his Great Synagogue speech today. “And we will choose to instill in the hearts of our own children the love and tolerance and compassion that we seek.”

AJC also praised Obama for his remarks on Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat, who during World War II entered Nazi-occupied Hungary and issued false passports to save tens of thousands of Jews from almost certain death. Wallenberg was at the time employed by the U.S. War Refugee Board, which initiated the rescue effort.

Through a joint effort of Hungarian-born Congressman Tom Lantos and his wife, Annette, and AJC, Wallenberg was granted honorary U.S. citizenship in 1981. Obama pointed out that Wallenberg “is one of only a few individuals ever granted honorary U.S. citizenship.”

AJC, cited by the late Cong. Lantos as the first Jewish group to advocate on behalf of Wallenberg, has long called on the U.S. government to step up efforts to solve the mystery of what happened after his arrest in January 1945, by Soviet security services, and subsequent disappearance.

In 2000, on the 55th anniversary of his disappearance, AJC issued a publication, The Wallenberg Mystery: Fifty-five Years Later, by Dr. William Korey, that detailed Wallenberg’s heroic efforts to save Jews, his relationship with the U.S. government, and the current state of knowledge about his disappearance into the Soviet gulag. A year later, AJC published another report by Dr. Korey with updated information, The Last Word on Wallenberg? New Investigations, New Questions.

“We encourage President Obama to press again for a full opening of all archives, so that investigators once and for all can solve the tragic mystery of what actually happened to Raoul Wallenberg – and why,” said Harris.



September 3, 2013 – New York – AJC is calling on the U.S. Congress to support a resolution authorizing President Obama to respond forcefully to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Congress is expected to debate and vote on the measure next week.

AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Director David Harris, in a letter sent to all members of the Senate and House of Representatives today, expressed the global advocacy organization’s “support for the decision by President Obama to take limited military action against the Syrian regime in response to the overwhelming evidence of the regime’s use of chemical weapons targeted at Syrian civilians.”

AJC pointed out that the latest atrocity, committed on August 21 and resulting in the deaths of at least 1,400 people, “constituted a material breach of international norms, including the Geneva Protocol of 1925, prohibiting the use of chemical weapons.”

The Assad regime’s latest atrocity “also defied President Obama’s warning that the use of such weapons would cross a ‘red line’ – an act of defiance that, for reasons both profoundly moral and strategic, demands a decisive response,” AJC added.

The AJC leaders cautioned that “acquiescence in the face of the crimes evidently committed by the Assad regime would doubtless have wide-ranging consequences for U.S. interests and influence in the Middle East and around the world; invite further tests of American resolve and capacity to respond to declared threats; heighten instability in a volatile region; and amount to an abandonment of international responsibility to protect civilians from the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

AJC has monitored closely, and with increasing concern, the conflict in Syria, and its ramifications for Syria’s neighbors. The organization urged members of Congress to adopt a resolution that would “respond forcefully to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Such a resolution, we firmly believe, would uphold American principles and advance American interests in the Middle East and beyond.”

With 22 offices across the United States, AJC has a constituent base of over 175,000 individuals.



September 3, 2013 – Berlin -- In an open letter to Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, AJC has asked the Berlin government to take action against the scandalous use of an inflatable horned pig balloon emblazoned with the Jewish Star of David that will be used in former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters’ performance in Berlin on September 4.

“It is grotesque for Roger Waters to claim there is nothing anti-Semitic in floating a horned pig balloon with a Jewish star, together with symbols such as the dollar sign, the Shell Oil logo and the hammer and sickle, for his audience to destroy,” said AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger. “Roger Waters’ hateful statements about the state of Israel and the Jewish people leave little doubt that he deliberately chose a combination of symbols that evoke a broad range of anti-Semitic imagery.”

Berger added that “whatever perverse fantasies Roger Waters seems to have regarding the Jewish people, it is incomprehensible that Berlin would allow such an anti-Semitic performance to take place on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish high holidays, at a publicly owned stadium misused by the Nazis for some of the largest propaganda shows known to mankind.”

Roger Waters, who has labeled Israel an “apartheid state,” has called for a total boycott of Israel that would include an end to cultural and artistic exchange. This past week, the Jewish Community of Düsseldorf called for a boycott of his upcoming show there on September 6, claiming that his show evokes images reminiscent of those used by the Nazis.

AJC Berlin called on the Berlin government, the owner of the Olympia Stadium, to examine prior to the performance whether such a vile demonstration of anti-Semitic symbols violates existing stadium rules regulating public incitement.

 



September 1, 2013 -- New York -- AJC congratulates Archbishop Pietro Parolin on his appointment by Pope Francis as Secretary of State of the Holy See, and wishes him every success in his position.

"Both our AJC liaison to the Vatican, Lisa Billig, and I have enjoyed a long and warm association with Monsignor Parolin in the past," said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs.

"We are delighted to learn of in his appointment to this most important position and look forward to our continued close relationship, advancing the values and aspirations that we share for the betterment of the world at large."

Parolin, currently the Vatican envoy to Venezuela, served as the Vatican’s deputy foreign minister from 2002 to 2009.



New York – August 26 – AJC welcomed the clarification of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s comments on the UN and Israel.

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, was interviewed yesterday on an Israeli radio station and said: “I’ve been in touch with the Secretary-General’s office in New York, and I can assure you that what he meant there in New York was not a retraction [of his earlier comment that there is discrimination against Israel at the UN]. He has said, unfortunately, because of the conflict, Israel has been weighed down by criticism, and suffered from lies and sometimes even discrimination. This is what I know he has been saying here, and I know this is what he stands for.”

Serry spoke because the Secretary-General, after initially commenting during a visit to Israel earlier this month that Israel experienced discrimination at the UN, appeared to contradict himself when, later in New York, he commented that, “No, I don’t think there is discrimination against Israel at the UN.”

AJC, which has followed UN matters closely for decades, was quick to react to the surprising retraction. In both a press release and an op-ed that was published in The Huffington Post and Jerusalem Post, AJC set forth nine examples—by no means meant as an exhaustive list—of systemic and structural discrimination against Israel in the UN system.

“We are pleased that Mr. Serry has reiterated the Secretary-General’s belief that Israel is not treated fairly, and does indeed suffer from ‘lies’ and ‘discrimination’ in the world body,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “That said, what is most important is to confront and correct the injustices, both for Israel’s sake and, no less, for the integrity of the UN itself. After all, the UN Charter calls for equal treatment of all member states, which clearly is not operative in the case of Israel.”

 



New York – August 22, 2013 – In response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s surprising statement that, "No, I don't think there is discrimination against Israel at the UN,” AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following response:

Respectfully, Mr. Secretary-General, there is discrimination against Israel at the UN, and it is not new, either.

For starters:

  • Israel is the only UN member state that has been targeted for annihilation by another UN member state, Iran, which has suffered no sanction from a world body devoted to the pursuit of global peace and security.
  • Israel is the only country not included as a permanent member of one of the five all-important regional groups, which determine membership on key UN bodies. It has temporary status with WEOG (the West European and Others Group) in New York and no status in Geneva, while it is excluded from its natural home, the Asian group.
  • Israel is the only UN member state with a permanent agenda item devoted to it at the UN Human Rights Council.
  • Israel is the target of more than half the resolutions of the UN Human Rights Council, while many serial human-rights abusers get away, quite literally, with murder.
  • Israel is the only country subject to a battery of UN General Assembly resolutions annually, irrespective of the facts on the ground.
  • The Palestinians are the only “refugee population” in the world not covered by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Rather, they have their own agency – UNRWA.
  • Speaking of UNRWA, the definition of a Palestinian refugee is totally different from that of all others. Palestinian refugees and all their descendants without limit are included in the UNRWA definition.
  • Further to UNRWA, unlike UNHCR, its mandate is not to resettle the refugees, but rather to keep them in limbo, unsettled, and, yes, angry. As early as 1951, though, when John Blanford, UNRWA’s director at the time, proposed resettling up to 250,000 refugees in Arab countries, those countries refused, leading to his resignation. The message got through. No UN official since then has pushed for resettlement.
  • And how about the standing divisions in the UN – the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Division for Palestinian Rights in the UN’s Department of Political Affairs – and the special rapporteurs in Geneva, all devoted permanently to supporting the Palestinian cause and demonizing Israel? Is there anything remotely comparable in the UN for any other country in the world?

 

The list, I’m sorry to say, goes on.

There certainly is discrimination against Israel at the UN – as you yourself have acknowledged, publicly and privately, in the past. And it is in violation of the noble UN Charter, which assures the equal rights of all member states, big and small.

Mr. Secretary-General, as an organization whose link to the UN began at the founding conference in San Francisco in 1945, we count on your voice, and your moral authority, to be heard in condemning the systemic singling out and unfair treatment of Israel, a UN member state in good standing since 1949.



Washington, D.C.—August 21, 2013—AJC is participating in the national commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for racial equality. It was on that occasion that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

The commemoration begins tonight with a praise and worship service at Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Washington, and continues with events on the National Mall over the next week.

AJC is an official “partner” for the overall commemoration and a “host” for the worship service, where Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, will deliver remarks on racial reconciliation.

AJC Executive Director David Harris said: “Memorializing the dramatic march and Rev. King’s speech has special meaning for AJC. Our organization enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Dr. King going back to the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, when we worked closely in the cause of human equality and human dignity. And we proudly participated in the unforgettable 1963 event.

“One of the highlights of AJC history was Dr. King’s speech to our membership on receiving our American Liberties Medallion in 1965. He noted AJC’s support for a New York civil rights law as early as 1913 when, he said, ‘few dared to speak out’; our sponsorship of Dr. Kenneth Clark’s path-breaking research on the damaging effects of prejudice on schoolchildren that was cited, in 1954, by the Supreme Court in its landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education, banning public school segregation; and our credo that ‘Jews cannot ensure equality for themselves unless it is assured for all.’

“Tragically, Dr. King was murdered in 1968, but his legacy surely lives on. In the ensuing years, previously unimaginable progress has been achieved in overcoming our country’s shameful legacy of slavery and racial discrimination. To be sure, work remains to be done to fulfill the vision of a nation where all are judged by the ‘content of their character’ and not the ‘color of their skin.’ But we are a society today more free, more equal, and more inclusive because of the extraordinary leadership of Dr. King, symbolized by the 1963 march, whose 50th anniversary we now celebrate.”

 



New York – August 21, 2013 – AJC welcomed the strong condemnation by the White House of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s latest verbal attack against Israel.

Yesterday, Erdoğan accused Israel of manipulating events in Egypt. Speaking to members of his political party, the Turkish leader said: “What do they say in Egypt? Democracy is not the ballot box. What is behind it? Israel. We have in our hands documentation.”

In response, White House spokesman Josh Earnest commented: “We strongly condemn the statements that were made by Prime Minister Erdoğan today. Suggesting that Israel is somehow responsible for recent events in Egypt is offensive, unsubstantiated, and wrong,”

“Prime Minister Erdoğan has a habit of blaming Israel – and, for that matter, the Jews – when things go wrong in the region,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “It’s classic scapegoating. He tried the same thing earlier this year when there were widespread protests against his own rule in the streets of his own country.

“Indeed, ever since an AJC delegation first met him in Ankara in 2003, shortly after he assumed his current office, we took note of the Turkish leader’s barely concealed hostility. Thankfully, the United States has spoken out in this instance. Will other democratic countries do the same, or choose to remain silent in the face of such blatant anti-Semitism?”



New York – August 21, 2013 – A spokesman for the Golden Dawn, the Greek neo-Nazi political party, published an article today in the party’s newspaper, Chrysi Avgi, once again accusing Israel and “American Zionists” of a multitude of alleged “sins.”
The article, written by Ilias Kassidiaris, makes the astonishing claims that “Greece is being transformed into an energy protectorate of the American Zionists” and that “the so-called joint defense policy between Greece and Israel is treason for our national interests.” Rather, the author, characteristically ignoring all the evidence, asserts that “the Turks and Jews are de facto allies and partners” against Greece.
“Tragically, according to polls, the Golden Dawn today ranks third among political parties in Greece, which is why such patently ridiculous assertions can’t simply be ignored,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The party is not in the governing coalition. Indeed, the parties in power have categorically, and repeatedly, condemned its calls to racism and incitement. But the Golden Dawn, including Kassidiaris, sits in the Greek Parliament, where members seek to propagate their neo-Nazi, xenophobic platform.
“That such a party exists at all, especially in a country that fought so valiantly against the occupying Third Reich, and lost nearly ten percent of its entire population in the war, is profoundly upsetting for all friends of Greece,” Harris added. “It feeds off the severe economic crisis that has engulfed Greece, which is yet another compelling reason why Europe, the United States, and international financial institutions must continue to support efforts to restore a sense of hope, possibility, and growth for the nation’s future.”

 



August 20, 2013—New York—AJC is concerned about the emergence of anti-Semitism on the Bulgarian political scene.

As pro- and anti-government rallies have escalated, Bulgarian rap singer Misho Shamara, popularly known as Big Sha, has emerged as a leader of pro-government demonstrations.

In an interview on the Bulgarian station TV7, Shamara called Simeon Dyankov, the finance minister in the previous government, “the most incapable Jewish vermin.” Neither the interviewer at the time, nor the station afterwards, had anything to say about the outrageous slur.

AJC Executive Director David Harris commented, “We are saddened and shocked that Bulgaria, a country widely known for its spirit of tolerance and mutual respect, would allow an incident like this to pass without any repudiation by the television station or public officials, though, to their credit, other civic leaders immediately condemned the incident.

“Moreover, it comes at a time when elements of the Ataka party, which is not formally part of the government coalition but offers its support to ensure a parliamentary majority, have also expressed xenophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments. Ataka, created in 2005, is widely viewed as an ultranationalist party that advocates for a very narrow definition of Bulgarian identity. In the most recent Bulgarian election in May, it was the fourth highest vote-getter in the country.” 

 



August 19, 2013—New York—AJC urges the U.S. government and the European Union to proceed with great care in responding to the unfolding events in Egypt, and not withdraw financial aid from the country.

“U.S. and European aid to Egypt isn’t a gift and it isn’t a favor. It’s a strategic investment in the fight against terror and extremism, in the stability of the most populous Arab state, and in regional peace,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“Ending Western aid now would send exactly the wrong signal—encouraging the Muslim Brotherhood in its ongoing campaign to destabilize Egypt, its enlistment of Hamas terrorists and Sinai-based jihadists in the struggle against the transitional regime, and its rejection of calls to halt violence and participate peacefully and constructively in the political process.”

Harris expressed sorrow over the loss of life in the ongoing strife, but placed the responsibility on the Muslim Brotherhood for fostering a climate of violence and confrontation.

“An extremist group that hijacked Egypt’s emerging democracy and was forced from office by an outpouring of tens of millions of citizens cannot be allowed to continue wreaking havoc—sacking public institutions, destroying dozens of Coptic churches, desecrating mosques, unleashing a wave of both targeted and random killings, and trying to hold the country hostage to its radical agenda,” he said.

Harris stressed that simply winning an election, as the Muslim Brotherhood did last year in Egypt, does not necessarily constitute a victory for democracy, as the increasingly autocratic measures adopted by ousted President Mohamed Morsi revealed. Harris recalled the Palestinian election of Hamas in 2006, which resulted in the terrorist organization—an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood—seizing control of Gaza, and imposing dictatorship over the local Palestinian population.

Ever mindful of the threat posed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, AJC called on the transitional government in Cairo to begin to make good on its promises of political reform, pluralism, transparency, and the protection of universal human rights. “The world is watching Egypt, and should work with Egyptian authorities to assure a return to stability, and the pursuit of the democratic path created by the revolution of 2011,” Harris said.

 



August 19, 2013—Berlin—This week, German military officers will attend a seminar on German-Jewish and German-Israeli relations organized jointly by the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute, headed by Deidre Berger, and the Leadership Development and Civic Education Center of the German Armed Forces (Zentrum für Innere Forschung).

The program begins today at the Strausberg branch of the center before moving to Berlin. The prestigious group of participants is composed of army and navy officers who teach at the training academies of the German armed forces.

The goal of the program is to provide these officers with a better understanding of Jewish life and culture, German-Jewish relations, and developments in Israel and the Middle East.

During their stay in Berlin, the group will meet with a variety of representatives of public life, as well as diplomats, Jewish community leaders, and academic experts. The seminar will come to a close on Friday evening, when the participants will attend Kabbalat Shabbat services at Berlin’s famous New Synagogue.

AJC and the Bundeswehr established a cooperative partnership in 1994. This pioneering, ongoing dialogue includes regular visits by Bundeswehr officers to AJC headquarters in New York and the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute. In December 2009, AJC and the German Defense Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding to have a joint annual seminar for training officers at German military academies. The program’s location alternates on a yearly basis between Berlin and Israel.


 

 



August 14, 2013 – New York – AJC is appalled by the ongoing, targeted attacks on Egypt’s Coptic community. One of the oldest churches in Egypt, built in the 4th century, the Virgin Mary in Minya, was destroyed by fire today, an Egyptian human rights activist has tweeted. Media have reported attacks on churches in in the city of Suez and churches in other villages were also attacked, according to media reports.

“Organized violence against Egypt’s Copts, the murder of innocents and destruction of churches, is outrageous and unforgivable,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC Director of Government and International Affairs, who last visited Egypt in April.

“Lost in much of the reporting on the polarization and violence in Egypt is the apparent targeting of Copts and their institutions by followers of Mohamed Morsi, the ousted president,” said Isaacson. “In the absence of Muslim Brotherhood restraint on these elements, it is imperative that Egyptian authorities step up efforts to ensure the safety of the Christian Coptic community.”

More than 100,000 Copts have fled Egypt since the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, writes Samuel Tadros in his newly published book, "Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity."

Copts have been mistreated throughout Egypt’s history, but the increase in attacks in recent days suggest that supporters of the ousted government of Muslim Brotherhood leader Morsi are blaming the dwindling Christian population for the military crackdown.

“Scapegoating and brutally attacking a minority Christian community in the most populous Arab country does not bode well for the future of Christians in Egypt or for Christian communities across the Arab world,” said Isaacson.

In addition to the murder of a Coptic priest within days after the overthrow of the Morsi government, a 10-year-old Christian girl was shot dead last week on the way home from her Cairo church.

An AJC Board delegation, meeting with senior government officials in Cairo in April, expressed deep concerns to the previous government about the safety of the Coptic community. The AJC leaders arrived on their previously scheduled visit shortly after the St. Marks Coptic Cathedral in Cairo was attacked.




August 7, 2013 – Berlin – AJC has expressed concern about a new anti-Israel caricature in a major German newspaper.

In today’s Stuttgarter Zeitung, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is shown sitting on a park bench, holding a piece of bread for peace doves that he is poisoning with liquid from a bottle labeled “settlement construction.”

The cartoon caption falsely references a popular satirical song written in the 1950s by Austrian Jewish composer Georg Kreisler, ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.’ On Facebook, Kreisler’s daughter sharply criticized the caricaturist for a drawing she deemed “anti-Semitic and wrong in content.” Israel, she writes, has made numerous peace offers. She adds that her father never would have supported the view of the cartoonist.

AJC supports Sandra Kreisler’s demand that the newspaper publish an explanation of Kreisler’s Israel-friendly views and that the cartoonist apologize for using her father’s anti-Nazi song in a false context.

“Defaming the memory of a Holocaust survivor to attack Israel is a new low in Israel-bashing,” said Deidre Berger, Director of AJC Berlin.

“Such perfidious simplifications and one-sided judgments of Israel poison public opinion and have the opposite effect of what is intended,” Berger said. “Whipping up strong animosity toward Israel damages Israeli attitudes toward Europe and ultimately harms the peace process.”

Last month AJC Berlin took the lead in criticizing the German daily Sueddeutscher Zeitung for publishing a cartoon that depicted Israel as a monster with Germany as its handmaiden. AJC filed a complaint with the German Press Council.



August 2, 2013 – New York – AJC welcomes Samantha Power as U.S. ambassador to the UN. Her appointment by President Obama was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 87 to 10.

“The UN post is critically important for U.S. foreign policy, and we look forward to working closely with Ambassador Power, as we have with her predecessors, on issues of concern to our country and the American Jewish community,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“She brings impressive qualifications to the job, and represents a strong and principled voice on America’s global role. We especially count on her leadership when the UN falls short of its own noble ideals, as too often has been the case.”

AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, has been intimately involved with the UN from its establishment in San Francisco in 1945. AJC leaders have served as U.S. ambassadors to the UN in New York and Geneva, and on various UN human rights bodies. Several UN secretarys-general have addressed AJC gatherings, including Kofi Annan at the AJC Global Forum in 2006 and Ban Ki-moon, via video, in 2013.



August 1, 2013 – New York – AJC saluted the U.S. House of Representatives for overwhelmingly passing a bold measure tightening sanctions against Iran. The Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, which passed by a vote of 400 to 20, would, if fully enforced, severely curtail what is left of Iran’s ability to export oil.

“The U.S. House of Representatives has sent a clear message that implementing ever-tightening sanctions will continue until Tehran comes clean on its nuclear program, and honors the numerous international calls for it to desist from pursuing nuclear weapons capability,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “While some remain hopeful that incoming president Hassan Rouhani will alter Iran’s course, we urge the Senate to move expeditiously after the recess and adopt the measure in September and for President Obama to sign it into law.”

The bill, if enacted, would lead to a further reduction of Iran’s oil exports by another one million barrels a day. Previous U.S. and EU sanctions have already severely cut Iran’s oil exports. Importantly, the new legislation also threatens to impose heavy penalties on current Iranian customers if they do not find alternative suppliers.

In addition, the bill would further limit Iran’s already diminished ability to access money in overseas accounts, and penalize countries doing business with Iran’s automotive, mining, construction and engineering industries.

AJC has long advocated for ever-tightening economic and political sanctions by the U.S., EU and other countries concerned by the grave threat to regional and global security that an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability would present. To date, Iran has ignored UN Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency measures.

“There is no doubt that maximum pressure by the international community on Iran continues to be necessary, and once again the U.S. Congress is demonstrating admirable leadership,” said Harris.



July 26, 2013 – New York – The Japanese American Citizens League last night honored AJC for its role in the successful campaign to achieve redress for the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided an official U.S. apology and reparations for those shamefully held in detention during the war years.

“After the Japanese American community launched its quest for redress and reparations, the American Jewish Committee was the first non-Japanese organization to lend its support,” said JACL Executive Director Priscilla Ouchida, who presented the award at the JACL National Convention in Washington, D.C. “The support of organizations like AJC helped turn the tide.”

Ouchida cited former Cabinet Secretary Norm Mineta’s observation that the passage of the legislation was a universal alignment of sun, moon and planet. “AJC's partnership was a part of that alignment and the beginning of the formation of a broad mainstream coalition,” said Ouchida.

Richard Foltin, AJC’s Director of National and Legislative Affairs, told the JACL National Convention that participating in the JACL redress campaign was an “apt expression of AJC’s credo: You cannot effectively protect the rights of any one community if you do not support the rights of all—and where more so than in the case of a community that was singled out whole scale, as Jews all too often have been, for malign treatment for no other reason than who they are.”

Ernest Weiner, the long-time head of AJC’s San Francisco office, now retired, played a significant leadership role in galvanizing broad support for the legislation. He received JACL’s Edison Udo Award in 2008. AJC Executive Director David Harris, who at the time was director of AJC’s Washington Office, worked closely with Weiner and the JACL in advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill in support of the landmark bill.

“We are proud for many decades now to have been partnered with JACL—an effective and principled champion of the civil rights of Japanese Americans and of all Americans—in the quest for an ever better America,” said Foltin, who accepted the award on behalf of AJC.



July 24, 2013 – New York – Following today’s elections of Israel’s two chief rabbis, AJC reiterated its long-standing concerns about the institution of the Chief Rabbinate, its relevance to the State of Israel and world Jewry in the 21st century, and the urgent need for its reform.

Rabbi David Lau was elected Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef was chosen Sephardi chief rabbi. Both are sons of former chief rabbis. They will serve for ten years in their respective roles.

AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, has repeatedly expressed its concerns on key issues of Jewish peoplehood, including the office of the Chief Rabbi, which functions as the public face of Judaism in the Jewish State.

AJC has urged that the office be transformed into one of moral influence rather than coercive power. Of particular importance are the functioning of the chief rabbinate with respect to questions of personal status, particularly the human right of marriage and the process of conversion to Judaism, the respect due to the plural expressions of Judaism within the Jewish state, and the rights of women within Judaism. These questions affect the Jewish people worldwide.

As Rabbis Lau and Yosef assume their respective offices, we underscore the importance of the relationship of Israel to world Jewry and urge that the newly-elected chief rabbis recognize the intense interest of world Jewry in the resolution of these questions.

Today’s elections offered an opportunity to take a positive step towards transforming the office of Chief Rabbi to one more consonant with the humanistic values of the Jewish people. It is our fervent wish and hope that both Rabbis Lau and Yosef will enhance the dignity of the office, provide spiritual leadership, and service the needs of diverse Israeli constituencies.



July 23, 2013 – New York – AJC regrets today’s D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that an American citizen born in Jerusalem cannot list Israel in his U.S. passport as his place of birth.

The court ruled that the responsibility of issuing passports is shared by the legislative and executive branches of government, and that a ten-year-old law “infringed” on the prerogative of the executive branch.The law, Section 214(d) of the 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, was ruled unconstitutional by the appellate court.

Second 214(d) provides that when a U.S. citizen is born in Jerusalem, “the Secretary [of State] shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.”

“The appellate court’s ruling that section 214(d) is unconstitutional is unfortunate, as it undermines the existing balance of power between the Congress and Executive branch in foreign policy,” said AJC General Counsel Marc Stern.

The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision last year, had remanded the case of Zivotofsky v. the Secretary of State to the Court of Appeals to decide whether the President must follow a congressional directive to list “Israel” in the passports of Americans born in Jerusalem.

“An American passport, not the current and future status of Jerusalem, is the core issue in the Zivotofsky case,” said Stern. ““No one should be surprised if the Zivotofsky family petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case again.”

An AJC amicus brief filed in the Supreme Court last August was prepared by Gregory E. Ostfeld of the law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP.



July 22, 2013 – New York -- AJC welcomed the European Union (EU) decision today to designate the “military wing” of Hezbollah a terrorist group.

 

“The EU action is a significant step forward in recognizing the true nature of Hezbollah,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “While AJC, like the U.S., Canadian and Dutch governments, considers Hezbollah a single organization, we applaud this decision and the spotlight it shines on Hezbollah terrorist activity. We especially wish to thank the United Kingdom for its leadership, the Netherlands for its consistent stand, and Bulgaria and Cyprus for the courage and principle they demonstrated in the past 12 months in confronting Hezbollah.”
 

France was an early victim of Hezbollah terrorism, when a suicide bomber killed 58 French peacekeepers in Beirut in 1983. Later, Hezbollah established a presence in several European countries, where it has raised funds and recruited operatives. 

 

The turning point for the EU came a year ago, after Hezbollah bombed a bus in Burgas, Bulgaria. Five Israeli tourists and the Bulgarian bus driver were killed. Shortly afterward, a Hezbollah operative was apprehended in Nicosia, Cyprus. In March, a Cypriot court convicted him of plotting to attack Israelis on the island nation. In addition, Hezbollah has been complicit with the murderous Assad regime in Syria, which the EU felt it could not ignore.

 

Britain labeled Hezbollah’s “military wing” in 2001. London led the effort to secure unanimity among EU member states for today's action on Hezbollah. The support of France and Germany were also critically important to the outcome.

 

Immediately after the Burgas attack, AJC reached out to Bulgarian officials and urged EU member states to take action against the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah. Since then, AJC engaged in direct, ongoing diplomacy with senior officials of EU member states in their respective capitals, in Brussels, and with embassies and consulates in the U.S. AJC maintains offices in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Rome.

AJC experts published op-ed articles on the EU and Hezbollah in the Wall Street Journal, El Pais, and major U.S. media, and also have conveyed the urgency of EU action on Hezbollah in AJC’s weekly radio commentaries on the CBS radio network and in numerous media interviews.

 

An AJC full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal appeared last month urging EU designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
 

NOTE: AJC Executive Director David Harris and AJC Transatlantic Institute (Brussels) Director Daniel Schwammenthal are available for media interviews. Contact Kenneth Bandler at 212.891.6771 or bandlerk@ajc.org to arrange interviews.



July 22, 2013 – Washington – AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, praised the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus initiative, announced today, of declaring a set of principles on immigration reform.

 

“Latino and Jewish communities in the U.S. share interests and values that have been defined by their unique immigrant experiences which often navigate diverse identities, nationalities and cultures,” states the principles. “As longtime partners on these issues, we call for pragmatic common-sense solutions to fix our immigration system.” The principles detail contours of what both communities view as critical elements of immigration reform legislation.

 

The caucus co-chairs issued the principles document in an effort to build support for passage by the House of Representatives of the pending immigration reform bill. The Senate, with a strong bipartisan vote, adopted a similar immigration reform measure in June.

 

“The Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus initiative is critically important, emphasizing that both communities in the U.S. have been actively advocating for long overdue immigration reform,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute.

 

The establishment of the Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus two years ago was strongly supported by AJC’s Latino and Latin America Institute. Twenty-five members of the U.S. House of Representatives have joined the caucus, including its co-chairs, Reps Xavier Becerra (D.CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R.FL) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl).

 

The full text of the principles follows:

 

Latino – Jewish Congressional Caucus Principles on Immigration Reform

 

Latino and Jewish communities in the U.S. share interests and values that have been defined by their unique immigrant experiences which often navigate diverse identities, nationalities and cultures.

 

In both communities, immigrants resettled in the United States with the hope of securing a better future for their families. Both Jewish and Latino immigrants have struggled to overcome discrimination and find a balance between integrating into the American culture and preserving their rich heritage. Our communities have built strong coalitions across a number of issues, based on this common historical experience; nowhere is that more evident than in our mutual work on immigration issues and reforming our nation’s broken immigration system.

 

As longtime partners on these issues, we call for pragmatic common-sense solutions to fix our immigration system in a way that meets our nation’s economic needs, protects those who flee persecution, reflects our shared commitment to security, justice, equal opportunity, family unification, immigrant integration and human dignity. 

 

We rely on our mutual traditions to support reform that ensures that America’s opportunities and freedoms are accessible to all. Thus, we commit to bipartisan immigration reform legislation that includes:

 

·         A viable and efficient pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants;

·         Reforms to address both future flows and the backlogs in our current immigration system, acknowledging the economic, social and cultural contributions of immigrant workers and their families;

·         Reforms that are consistent with civil, constitutional and basic human rights;

·         An increased commitment to support the civic and economic integration of all immigrants; and

·         Smart, effective and humane enforcement measures that bolster national and border security.

 

Comprehensive immigration reform is not just about immigrants, it’s about us: Latinos, Jews and all Americans. Comprehensive immigration reform that reflects our values and interests as Americans will strengthen our nation’s global competitiveness in the 21st century and allow today’s immigrants, as well as future generations, an opportunity to succeed in the United States.



July 19, 2013—New York—AJC welcomed today’s news that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to restart direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians appear to be successful. 

Secretary Kerry announced the development to reporters in Amman, Jordan, after engaging in successive rounds of shuttle diplomacy between the two parties during his first six months at the helm of the U.S. State Department.

Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat, the chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, are expected to begin talks in Washington next week.

“If we don’t succeed now, we may never get another chance,” Secretary Kerry declared in his policy address before the AJC Global Forum in Washington, D.C., on June 3rd.

After Kerry’s speech last month, AJC Executive Director David Harris stated “AJC has consistently supported a peace agreement that would lead to Israel, the Jewish state, and Palestine, the Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace and security.  Indeed, this has been the declared vision of four consecutive Israeli prime ministers, dating back to Ehud Barak and continuing to Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Following today’s report, Harris reiterated this position.  “We admire Secretary Kerry’s determined efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiating table, and hope that this new round of talks will indeed bear fruit.  In the end, it is the negotiating table, not the corridors of the United Nations or the EU hallways in Brussels, that is the path to a durable outcome so many of us seek.”

 



July 19, 2013 -- JERUSALEM – Sixteen prominent American Christian leaders are completing an intensive 13-month educational program on Judaism, as part of the Christian Leadership Initiative (CLI), a partnership of AJC and the Shalom Hartman Institute.

The last stage of the CLI program, from July 17-25, takes place in Jerusalem where it began in July 2012. Participants engage in nine days of studying Jewish texts, focusing on Jewish concepts of community. In between the two programs in Israel, the 16 Christian leaders, representing diverse denominations, have engaged in monthly distance-learning sessions, studying classical Jewish texts with leading Israeli scholars.

“CLI fosters a unique approach in advancing interreligious relations. It provides an open space for Christian leadership to experience and study Judaism and Israel from a Jewish perspective,” said Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations. ”We look forward to working with the CLI fellows as they apply their learning to Christian education and Jewish-Christian relations.”

“The mixture of Jewish and Christian scholars challenges all of us,” said Dr. Marcie Lenk, Shalom Hartman Institute’s Co-Director of New Paths: Christians Engaging Israel. “There is an honesty and depth which comes from studying together.”

With generous support from the Allen H. & Selma W. Berkman Charitable Trust, CLI, co-sponsored by the Shalom Hartman Institute and AJC, has been training top leadership of Christian seminaries, denominations and theological schools since 2008. Most of the 41CLI alumni attended the February 2013 inaugural CLI Alumni Study Retreat in Los Angeles.

The 2012-2013 program is the third cohort of CLI fellows, and includes:

Dr. Paul Alexander, Professor of Christian Ethics and Public Policy, Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University, Philadelphia, PA

Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Baima, Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and Professor of Systematic Theology, University of St. Mary of the Lakes/Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein, IL

Rev. Dr. Radu Bordeianu, Associate Professor, Department of Theology, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA

Rev. Bill Borror, Consultant, Unity Center, Chester, PA

Dr. Lynn Cohick, Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

Rev. Dr. Lincoln Galloway, K. Morgan Edwards Associate Professor of Homiletics, Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, CA

Rev. Dr. David P. Gushee, Professor of Christian Ethics, McAfee School of Theology, and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University, Atlanta, GA

Dr. Angela Kim Harkins, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies and Center for Judaic Studies, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT

Dr. Robert A. Hunt, Director of Global Theological Education and Professor of Christian Mission and Interreligous Relations, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX

Rev. Dr. Hak Joon Lee, Professor of Theology and Ethics, Fuller Theological School, Pasadena, CA

Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Lewis, Senior Pastor, Middle Collegiate Church, New York, NY

Rev. Dr. Molly T. Marshall, President and Professor of Theology and Spiritual Formation, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Shawnee, KS

Rev. Dr. Gregory Mobley, Professor of Christian Bible, Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, MA

Rev. Dr. Martha Moore-Keish, Associate Professor of Theology, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA

Rev. Dr. Robert Nash, Associate Dean for Doctor of Ministry Studies and Professor of Missions and World Religions, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta, GA

Dr. Michael R. Trice, Assistant Dean for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue and Assistant Professor of Practical Theology, Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle, WA



July 17, 2013 – New York – AJC remembers the Israeli and Bulgarian victims of the Hezbollah terrorist bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria. On the morning of July 18, 2012, a bus carrying Israeli tourists who had just arrived at the Burgas airport, was deliberately targeted. Five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver perished, and another 33 people, including an 11-year-old child, were wounded.

“Remembering the Burgas victims on this first anniversary of the bombing is crucial, as the European Union continues to deliberate whether to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The time for action is now. Further delay would be inexplicable and only embolden Hezbollah, already fundraising and recruiting across Europe.”

The five Israelis killed in the bombing were Kochava Shriki, 44 and pregnant, from Rishon Lezion; Itzik Kolangi, 28, and Amir Menashe, 28, from Petah Tikva; and Maor Harush, 25, and Elior Priess, 26, from Akko. The Bulgarian bus driver was Mustafa Kyosov, 36, from Yurukovo.

The Bulgarian government’s investigation concluded that Hezbollah was responsible. In March 2013, a Cypriot court convicted a Hezbollah agent, who admitted during the trial about scouting potential Israeli targets on the island nation, eerily similar to what transpired in Bulgaria.

EU foreign ministers are poised to discuss again taking action against Hezbollah when they meet in Brussels on July 22. But any EU policy decisions require unanimity among the 28 member states. Britain has laudably spearheaded the current drive for EU action, which is expected to focus on designating Hezbollah’s “military wing,” a step London took in 2001.

The only other EU member state to act so far is the Netherlands, which, in 2004, designated Hezbollah in its entirety, as did the United States in 2001 and Canada in 2002.

Since Burgas, AJC has mobilized its global advocacy efforts to urge EU member states to join in recognizing the Hezbollah threat and taking action against the Iranian-sponsored group. AJC has engaged in direct diplomacy with senior officials of each EU member state in their respective capitals, in Brussels and across the U.S.

AJC experts have published op-ed articles on the EU and Hezbollah in the Wall Street Journal, El Pais, and major U.S. media, and also have conveyed the urgency of EU action on Hezbollah in AJC’s weekly radio commentaries on the CBS radio network.

An AJC full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal appeared last month urging EU designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

“At long last, we may be on the verge of EU action,” said Harris. “Though designating only the so-called ‘military wing’ would not be ideal, it nonetheless would be an important step in concerted European action against Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah’s global reach has struck around the world. Indeed, July 18 also marks the anniversary of the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA headquarters in Buenos Aires. The Iran and Hezbollah attack that destroyed the seven-story Jewish community center left 85 dead and 300 wounded. But 19 years later, the quest for justice remains unfulfilled, as no one has been arrested and brought to justice. In 2007, Interpol issued red notices for the apprehension of five Iranian officials, including Iran’s current minister of defense, and one Hezbollah operative, but no one has yet been detained.

“Nearly 20 years after Iran and its terrorist allies got away with mass murder in Buenos Aires, resolving the AMIA case remains an urgent task,” Dina Siegel Vann, AJC’s Director of Latino and Latin American Affairs, wrote in an op-ed in this week’s Forward.



July 17, 2013 – New York – AJC is dismayed by continuing violent attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christian community.

Churches have been looted and destroyed, a priest assassinated, and individual Copts threatened in recent weeks.

Copts experienced a similar spike in assaults following the overthrow of President Mubarak two years ago. The situation has again deteriorated in recent days, as Egyptian Islamists have stepped up their threats and resorted to violence.

“Reliable reports indicate that there are Copts living in fear and urgently needing protection,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “People of good will must impress upon Egypt’s leaders that every effort needs to be made to end the targeting of Copts.”

A Coptic church was looted and burned this week in the village of Dalga, about 220 miles south of Cairo. The priest, Father Ayoub Youssef, fled for his life. There have been arson attacks on Christian homes and shops in remote southern villages in Egypt, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, NBC reports that thousands of Copts already have emigrated from the country over the past two years, because of an uncertain future, for Europe and the U.S.

“The reported lack of security around Coptic churches is especially troubling, sending a message of communal vulnerability,” said Harris. “How the Coptic minority is treated will be a key indicator of the course Egypt takes in its historic struggle for democratic stability.”

Three days after President Morsi was removed from office, a Coptic priest in northern Sinai was killed by gunmen. Earlier in May, two churches in Cairo were burned, leaving at least 12 dead in the attacks. And, on January 1, 2011, before Mubarak’s overthrow, a suicide bombing at an Alexandria church during a New Year’s Day mass left more than 20 dead.

An AJC Board delegation, meeting with senior government officials in Cairo in April, expressed deep concerns to the previous government about the safety of the Coptic community. The AJC leaders arrived on their previously scheduled visit shortly after the St. Marks Coptic Cathedral in Cairo was attacked.



July 17, 2013 -- New York -- On the eve of the first anniversary of the terrorist attack in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver, AJC welcomed the forthright statement of Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev pointing the finger at Hezbollah for the deadly assault.

Speaking at a press conference in Bulgaria today, Minister Yovchev said that his country stands by its findings that Hezbollah was behind the attack. Indeed, he indicated that additional evidence had become available corroborating the previous government's findings, released in February, that Hezbollah was the mastermind.

"Minister Yovchev's latest remarks could not be more clear, consistent and courageous," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Now the ball is in the European Union's court. The group's 28 foreign ministers will be meeting on Monday in Brussels.

“Will they stand alongside member state Bulgaria, and the countless other countries that have experienced Hezbollah's long reach and deadly aims, and declare it the terrorist organization it so obviously is? The world will be watching. Nothing less than the EU's moral credibility hangs in the balance."



July 17, 2013 – New York – AJC, which has long supported a two-state accord for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called a planned European Union notice targeting Israeli organizations operating in eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan Heights a punitive action that will harm, not advance, the peace process.

David Harris, AJC executive director, said:

“The EU ought to recognize what should be obvious, namely, that Palestinian recalcitrance, not settlements, has been, and remains, the foremost obstacle to peace.

“It is not Israel that has been AWOL from the peace table for the past four year.

"It is not Israel that rejected several path-breaking two-state deals, involving major territorial adjustments, since 2000.

"It is not Israel that rejects the right of the Palestinian people to a state of their own alongside the Jewish state.

"It is not Israel that has a totally divided polity, with the two sides, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, designated by the EU as a terrorist group, barely on speaking terms.

"And, when the EU refers to the Golan Heights, does Brussels know something about a peace partner in Damascus today that the rest of us may have missed, amidst the widespread carnage there that has resulted in more than 100,000 fatalities to date?

"The key to achieving a two-state solution -- which, again, we wholeheartedly support -- is by encouraging direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, not taking steps now to penalize one party, in this case Israel, while emboldening the other.

"As long-time friends of Europe, where AJC has offices and partnerships, that's where we truly believe the EU can play a particularly constructive role at this important moment in time.”

New EU guidelines, expected to be published on Friday, will prohibit the 28-member regional body from cooperating with Israeli organizations and providing funding for research grants, scholarships and cultural exchanges, if they are located in eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan Heights. The EU also will require Israeli recipients of EU funding to declare that they have no direct or indirect links to those territories.

The guidelines will go into effect on January 1, 2014. AJC is urging the EU to reconsider the publication this Friday of the guidelines, to allow for full EU-Israel consultations, and to give current efforts to revive the peace process, led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a chance to succeed.



July 15, 2013 -- AJC is deeply concerned about Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’s candidacy for Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel.

Eliyahu, currently Chief Rabbi of the Israeli city of Safed, has in the past called for the expulsion of Arabs from Safed College, and told Jewish property owners in Safed that they are "prohibited" from selling or renting apartments to Arabs.

With his current candidacy for Sephardic Chief Rabbi, controversy surrounding Eliyahu’s earlier remarks, never repudiated, led Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to question his views regarding Israeli Arabs. "It appears that your choice to serve at the highest level (Sephardic Chief Rabbi) is likely to be found unsuitable and to raise legal difficulties," the attorney general wrote to Rabbi Eliyahu.

"While AJC normally does not comment on internal Israeli elections, including for Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Eliyahu’s intolerant statements compel us to speak out. We join with those in Israel who have cautioned that his election to one of the two top rabbinic positions in the country could prove disastrous,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“Those who aspire to hold the office of Chief Rabbi ought to be asked whether they, in fact, identify with the Jewish and democratic values cherished by the overwhelming majority of Israeli society and world Jewry,” Harris continued. “Tragically, Rabbi Eliyahu's statements undermine the social fabric of Israeli society and the core tenets of Judaism.”

The election of Israel’s two Chief Rabbis, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, is scheduled to take place on August 26.



July 13, 2013 -- New  York -- AJC is deeply disturbed by the harassment that a member of the New York Jets football team has endured due to his ethnicity. 
Oday Aboushi, recently drafted by the New York Jets, was maliciously targeted by several online publications, after he addressed the El Bireh convention, an annual gathering of Palestinian-Americans. Aboushi’s parents immigrated to the United States more than 40 years ago.
“We are privileged in the United States to live in a pluralistic society, where talented individuals of varying ethnic and faith backgrounds can pursue their dreams and excel in their professions,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. 
“Maligning Oday Aboushi because of his ethnic background should be widely condemned by all Americans,” Harris continued. “Aboushi is a young American of Palestinian descent, who aspires to fulfill his professional goal as an athlete and to contribute to American society. We look forward to seeing him play in the NFL and wish him every success.”


July 12, 2013 – New York – AJC is dismayed by the endorsement of the Sejm, Poland’s legislature, of a ban on the religious slaughter of animals. The Sejm, by a vote today of 222-178, rejected the government’s proposal to reinstate recognition of the religious practice.

“The first victims of this unconscionable Sejm action are Poland’s Jewish community,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “We urge Poland’s legislative and judicial authorities to move expeditiously to recognize by law the Jewish community’s right to prepare kosher meat according to Jewish tradition.”

The government had recognized, in 2004, the Jewish practice of religious slaughter of animals, known as shehita, in its agreement on relations with the Jewish community.When subsequent legislation was adopted mandating the use of electronic stunning equipment before an animal is killed—a practice not permitted under Jewish law—the Jewish community was granted an administrative exemption. However, last November a court ruled the exemption unconstitutional.

The Sejm vote today was on a government proposal to reinstate the 2004 exemption.

Polish Jewish leaders blame the defeat primarily on partisan political infighting, but also believe anti-Jewish sentiments among some Parliamentarians contributed to it.

A constitutional tribunal must now resolve the conflict between the government’s and parliament’s position. If the ban is upheld, then the Sejm must again take up the legislation.

“It would be beyond shocking if a democratic Poland prevented kosher slaughter, which is so integral to Jewish life in the country,” Harris said.



July 12, 2013 – Paris – AJC France commended Twitter on its long overdue decision to cooperate with French authorities and civil society groups to combat anti-Semitism.

Twitter announced today that it had given account information to judicial authorities "enabling the identification of some authors" of anti-Semitic and racist tweets. The decision comes six months after a French court ordered Twitter to provide the data. Last month the court of appeals in Paris upheld that decision.

France’s Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), and four other non-profit organizations dedicated to combatting racism, had sued the social media company last November after the appearance of several hashtags, including #unbonjuif and #agoodjew.

Twitter also announced its agreement with the UEJF "to pursue actively their collaboration in fighting racism and anti-Semitism.”

French Minister Fleur Pellerin welcomed Twitter’s decision to abide by the court’s ruling. “It is important because it ends the impunity of individuals who are guilty of criminal offenses,” said Minister Pellerin, who is in charge of innovation and digital economy, “but it does not question the anonymity of the immense majority of Twitter users.”

"Twitter’s decision to cooperate with French authorities and the UEJF sends an important message to authors of virulent anti-Semitic tweets,” said AJC France Director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen. “Going forward, these hate-mongers will be on notice. They cannot hide behind a digital screen to spread anti-Semitic messages and other messages that incite hatred."



July 9, 2013 – Berlin – AJC is calling on authorities in a German state to investigate threatening anti-Israel rhetoric at a rally in support of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. Chants of “Down with Israel” and “Israel be cursed” in Turkish were recited at Sunday’s demonstration in Duesseldorf.

“We are horrified that supporters of Prime Minister Erdogan are using political protests in Germany to fan anti-Israel sentiment,” said AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger. “Stoking the flames of anti-Semitism through denunciations of Israeli policies is dangerous.”

AJC called on state authorities in North Rhine Westphalia to investigate the degree to which the anti-Israel rhetoric at the pro-Erdogan rally was public incitement. “We call on German politicians and civil society leaders to speak out and condemn the anti-Israel agitation, which can only complicate current attempts to improve strained Israeli-Turkish relations,” Berger said.

The Turkish-language chants at the rally were brought to public attention by Lale Akgun, a former member of the German parliament, who witnessed the demonstration and reported it on her Facebook page. German television confirmed the report, adding that the anti-Israel chants were loud and frequent.

Tens of thousands of the estimated 3.5 million German residents of Turkish descent, the largest such community outside of Turkey, have participated in large demonstrations in recent weeks regarding the current disturbances in Istanbul.

At a June 22 rally in Cologne an estimated 40,000 demonstrators protested the Turkish government’s response to the peaceful protests against a building project in Gezi Park. In Duesseldorf on July 7 an estimated 25,000 demonstrators voiced support for Erdogan’s policies.

German government officials have criticized Erdogan, a frequent visitor to Germany, for making appeals to the Turkish-speaking community in Germany to maintain close ties with Turkey.

The demonstration in Duesseldorf follows public remarks in Turkey by representatives of Erdogan’s AKP party, who blamed “Jewish interests” for the ongoing demonstrations in Turkey. Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay claimed that the Jewish Diaspora is behind the demonstrations in Turkey and that Jews are responsible for negative media reports about Turkey. Istanbul Mayor Ybrahim Melih Gökcek tweeted that the protests in Turkey are “a game of the Jewish lobby.”

AJC has firmly condemned the anti-Semitic remarks of senior Turkish officials, including Erdogan, and called on responsible world leaders to speak out.



July 9, 2013 – New York – AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organization, congratulates Ron Dermer on his appointment as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States. Dermer, who has served most recently as senior advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu, will succeed Ambassador Michael Oren later this year.

“We have met with Ron Dermer numerous times during our frequent visits to Jerusalem,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “No doubt, he will continue the ongoing efforts of the Israeli government and embassy to further strengthen the vital bonds between the U.S. and Israel. We have every confidence he will succeed.”

AJC has worked closely with Ambassador Oren since he came to the Israeli Embassy in Washington four years ago.

“Ambassador Oren has been an exemplary, effective and passionate representative of the State of Israel,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “He has contributed in countless ways to widening and deepening the mutually beneficial ties between the U.S. and Israel, and to advancing the American people’s appreciation of Israeli society, of Israel’s manifold contributions to America’s well-being, and of Israel’s enduring quest for peace and security.”

Oren, an accomplished Middle East historian, author of five books and numerous articles in the American media, was appointed ambassador by Prime Minister Netanyahu in 2009. Born in New Jersey, he moved to Israel after completing his education at Columbia and Princeton universities.

“Ambassador Oren has brought to this most critical position, as Israel’s chief envoy in the U.S., a very deep and personal understanding of the United States and American society, as will his successor,” Harris said. “The Israeli ambassador in Washington is far more than an interlocutor with the Administration and Congress. Often called upon to meet with groups that are representative of America’s diversity, Ambassador Oren has consistently and eloquently made the case for Israel. In so doing, he has had an indelible impact on the vital U.S.-Israel bridge, as well as the link between Israel and American Jewry.”



July 8, 2013 – Los Angeles – AJC is urging the Appellate Division of the California Superior Court in Orange County to uphold the conviction of 10 individuals for repeatedly interrupting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech at the University of California at Irvine.

“The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech may not be invoked to protect those who intentionally disrupt a lawful meeting,” said AJC General Counsel Marc D. Stern.

The AJC (American Jewish Committee) filed an amicus brief in State v. Sayeed, in which the ten protestors are seeking to overturn their conviction for violating a California statute banning disruption of public meetings. As a result of the vocally disruptive protestors, Ambassador Oren’s speech on February 8, 2010, was curtailed to 12 minutes, instead of an hour-long appearance.

Joining AJC in the brief are the Jewish Council of Public Affairs and Jewish National Fund. The brief quotes Justice Stanley Mosk of the California Supreme Court, who stated: “[t]he freedom of everyone to talk at once can destroy the right of anyone effectively to talk at all.” The brief noted that “there is liberty in the marketplace of ideas, but that marketplace cannot thrive in anarchy.”

The brief cites other examples of government regulation of speech to maintain order in the marketplace of ideas, such as regulating access to broadcast frequencies and insisting on parade permits to ensure that different parades do not march at the same time.

These regulations and California’s ban on disruption of public meetings forbid the freedom of speech from being used to “snuff out free speech of others” and serve to prevent a heckler from vetoing speech which she or he finds offensive, Honey Kessler Amado, lead author of the brief, said.

A no disruption rule does not silence protestors, states the brief. For example, “[protestors] could have picketed outside of the University’s auditorium;…attended the speech wearing buttons or T-shirts protesting Israel’s policies; they could have…participated in the question-and-answer period; and they could have organized their own meeting.”

“What they could not do is what they are being punished for—preventing Ambassador Oren from speaking,” said Amado.

The 10 were sentenced to 56 hours of community service, and three years of probation.

The brief was written by Honey Kessler Amado, a member of the AJC Los Angeles Region Board; Avital Blanchard, AJC Assistant General Counsel; and Marc Stern, AJC General Counsel.



July 7, 2013 -- New York -- AJC urged the European Union to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization, after Bulgaria reaffirmed its conclusion that the Iranian-sponsored global terror group was responsible for the deadly attack at the Burgas (Sarafovo) airport a year ago this month. The bomb killed five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver. 


“There is no change in the Bulgarian position regarding the terrorist act in Sarafovo,” Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev asserted on July 4th. “I am familiar with all the facts and the investigation conclusions up to this moment. My expert opinion is that the assessment and the statement that followed are correct. I support them.”


Yovchev emphasized that he agreed with his predecessor, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, that there is a “justified assumption” that Hezbollah carried out the July 19th Burgas bus bombing. The minister’s announcement at a press conference was intended to dispel speculation that there might have been a policy shift since Bulgaria’s national elections in May and the formation of a new coalition government.


The new Interior Minister said “further evidence had been added” to the investigation which supported the conclusion that Hezbollah was behind the bus bombing.


“To its credit, Bulgaria, an EU member state, has delivered another strong and forthright indictment,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “In response, the 28 EU foreign ministers should demonstrate moral clarity, take meaningful action to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization when they meet on July 22, and end the group's current ability to fundraise and recruit in Europe.”


In addition to the Bulgarian government’s conclusion, a court in Cyprus, another EU member state, in March convicted a Hezbollah operative who had been tracking Israeli visitors to the island nation for a possible attack similar to the one in Bulgaria. And Hezbollah has been deeply implicated in supporting the murderous Assad regime in Syria, where an estimated 100,000 people have been killed in the ongoing civil war. 



July 7, 2013 -- New York -- AJC is horrified by the deliberate targeting and massacre of schoolchildren in the Nigerian village of Mamudo. 


The overnight attack on a government secondary school left dozens dead, almost all of them children. 


Boko Haram, an Islamist group, is widely suspected of carrying out the murderous attack at the Government Secondary School in northeast Nigeria. The name Boko Haram means "Western education is sacrilege." It has been linked to dozens of other deadly assaults in the region against Christian worshipers and other targets, including schools. 


“Deliberately targeting children, indeed burning some alive, all too vividly demonstrates the extreme depravity of the perpetrators,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. Our thoughts are with the survivors, who must now grapple with their wounds and the profound trauma they experienced. And our hope is that the terrorists who perpetrated this monstrous crime in the name of their demented ideology will be found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."



AJC Berlin Asks German Press Council to Censure Paper for Anti-Semitic Cartoon

July 3, 2013 – Berlin – AJC Berlin called on the German Press Council to censure Sueddeutscher Zeitung (SZ) for publishing a cartoon depicting Israel as a horned monster. The cartoon in the prestigious German daily appeared alongside a review of two books critical of Israeli government policy.

“A German newspaper publishing age-old anti-Semitic imagery of Jews is outrageous,” said AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger. “Cartoons that employ vicious stereotypes to criticize the Israeli government are insidious, and contribute to promoting hatred of Jews and Israel.”

The SZ caricature shows a young woman serving food to a monster with horns sitting at a table and holding up a carving knife. The caption asserts that Germany for decades has provided weapons to Israel, and that has allegedly provoked tremendous animosity toward Israel.

“We are shocked that a major German newspaper would publish a drawing that depicts the state of Israel in the form of an avaricious, bloodthirsty monster,” said Berger.“Ascribing savagery to Israel turns the tables on the perpetrator-victim relationship.This cartoon evokes primitive stereotypes of Jews while perpetrating the Nazi myth that Jews are allegedly responsible for their own misfortune.”

In response to an AJC inquiry, the SZ replied that the drawing was originally intended for other purposes and regrets misunderstandings related to its usage. AJC has filed a complaint with the German Press Council, a self-governing organ of German media, to investigate the incident.

“Publishing this cartoon is a major violation of press standards for ethical and balanced reporting,” said Berger. “The SZ explanation is totally unsatisfactory.”



July 3, 2013 – New York – AJC mourns the passing of Representative William H. Gray III, a distinguished legislator and member of the clergy, a champion of social justice, and a friend of Israel. The congressman from Philadelphia served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979-1991. A Baptist pastor, he regularly returned to Philadelphia on weekends to preach while serving in Congress. He was 71 years old.

“Bill Gray epitomized the strengths of cooperation between the African American and Jewish communities, in Philadelphia and across the country,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “His steadfast support for strong U.S-Israel relations, for the Soviet Jewry movement, and for working with other faith groups to advance civil rights and social justice in the U.S. will long be remembered as hallmarks of his extraordinary impact.”

Gray and AJC co-founded Operation Understanding, a landmark initiative to build mutual understanding and cooperation between young African Americans and American Jews in Philadelphia, The program, established in 1985, initially brought African-American and Jewish teenagers together for a summer trip to Israel and Senegal to learn about one another’s roots. “Gray was trying to bring blacks and Jews together when the forces out there were pulling them apart,” AJC Philadelphia Director Murray Friedman later said.

Today, the group travels in the U.S. to visit places significant to American Jewish and African-American history. Operation Understanding today is an independent not-for-profit organization, based in the offices of AJC Philadelphia.



July 3, 2013 – New York – After the Egyptian military confirmed today that President Morsi was ousted from office, AJC Executive Director David Harris issued the following statement:

“The dramatic events unfolding in Egypt offer an opportunity to reset a political course that had gone badly astray for many Egyptians. We believe the Egyptian people can achieve, as they so richly deserve, a politically stable and economically viable country. Indeed, we hope that Egypt will one day become a beacon of freedom and prosperity.

“The period since the overthrow of President Mubarak has been fraught with difficult challenges, as Egyptians have struggled to develop a new style of governance.

“As Egypt continues its dramatic political evolution, we earnestly hope the country will remain peaceful. We look forward to a continued strong relationship between Egypt and the United States, and an ongoing commitment by Egypt to the peace treaty with Israel and security along their shared border. That treaty is in the highest interests of both nations and serves as an anchor of stability in the region.

“The Egyptian people deserve a president and government committed to respecting human rights, women’s rights, and minority rights, and that offers the prospect of growing opportunity for the country's youth.

"AJC has visited Egypt annually, if not more often, for more than three decades, and maintains widespread contact with civil society and political figures. We look forward to our continuing engagement with the Arab world's most populous country.”



July 2, 2013 -- New York – AJC warned today that continuing accusations by senior Turkish officials claiming that world Jewry is behind the protests against the government are totally baseless and nothing less than blatant calls to incitement. “Incendiary words can have tragic consequences,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

The latest government charge came from Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who accused foreign powers and Jews of encouraging the protests that began in Istanbul at the end of May.

“There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey’s growth. They are all uniting, on one side the Jewish diaspora,” said Atalay, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported. “You saw the foreign media’s attitude during the Gezi Park incidents. They bought it and started broadcasting immediately, without doing an evaluation of the [case].” Atalay also said the international media had a big role in "the conspiracy."

Last month, Prime Minister Erdogan blamed the protests on “the interest-rate lobby,” a thinly-veiled term that in the past has been associated in the Turkish media with an alleged conspiracy of Jewish businessmen. Atalay’s reference to “International media” carries similar sinister connotations of conspiracy theories about Jews.

"Let’s be clear. Prime Minister Erdogan is responsible for setting this dangerous, indeed toxic, tone,” said Harris. He urged Turkey’s current political leadership and supportive media to “end the conspiracy peddling and bigotry mongering.”

AJC sent a letter three weeks ago to Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, expressing concern about Erdogan’s “delusional prejudices” regarding Jews.

“Whatever protests and opposition Prime Minister Erdogan may face domestically, they are home grown,” Harris wrote. “To blame such disturbances on external forces, and to resort to age-old Jewish conspiracy canards, is pure cowardice and runs the risk of incitement. [Prime Minister] Erdogan should be called to task by responsible world leaders for such crude tactics rather than his facing up to the reality that a significant segment of the Turkish public is challenging his increasingly authoritarian rule.”



June 30, 2013—New York—AJC congratulates Croatia on becoming the 28th member state of the European Union.

"This is wonderful news," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "We have long been admirers of the ambitious vision of the EU's founders, against the backdrop of Europe's past wars, to create a zone of peace, open borders, enhanced commerce, and greater understanding. Croatia's membership now further expands that zone."

"We applaud Croatia for its remarkably successful journey during a relatively short time span—just over two decades—to reach this milestone occasion. It augurs well for the people of Croatia and for the Balkans. With the former Yugoslav republics of Slovenia and Croatia now part of the EU, as well as Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania, and others in the neighborhood seeking to follow suit, we can envision an entirely new era for this promising region, which in the past was too often synonymous with conflict and enmity."

AJC has maintained close contact with officials in Zagreb, Croatia's capital, as well as with Croatian diplomats in the U.S., at the UN, and in Europe, and representatives of the Croatian Jewish community, which was profoundly devastated in the Second World War.



June 29, 2013—New York—An AJC leadership delegation met privately for over an hour with French Interior Minister Manuel Valls in New York on Friday.
Minister Valls was in the United States for a series of meetings with security officials, including Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder, and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community. A recent report, released by France’s Jewish community, documented a 58% rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2012 over the previous year. The data also revealed an alarming uptick in the number of incidents that occurred in the aftermath of the murder of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse in March of that year.
“Once again, we were profoundly impressed by our meeting with Minister Valls, the point person for combating anti-Semitism, racism, extremism, and terrorism in his country,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.
“Minister Valls’ clarity of vision and steely determination are to be admired," Harris added. "We welcomed the opportunity to continue our important dialogue with him. He reaffirmed that he will leave no stone unturned in the struggle against anti-Semitism. He also reiterated his government's position that France supports the European Union’s designation of the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and is optimistic that the EU will formally adopt this stance.”
Minister Valls is an alumnus of AJC’s Project Interchange, which conducts educational seminars in Israel for current and emerging leaders around the world.
The five-person AJC delegation included Stanley Bergman, who became the organization's president earlier this month.  Also present for the meeting  were French Ambassador to the United States François Delattre and Consul General of France in New York Bertrand Lortholary.
AJC last met with Minister Valls in Paris in February. During that same visit, both the AJC delegation and Minister Valls were guests of honor at a special interfaith dinner hosted by the Imam of Drancy, and attended by 150 Imams, the Israeli Ambassador to France, and leaders of France’s Jewish community.
AJC maintains regular contact with France’s Interior Ministry via its Paris office, directed by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen.


June 27, 2013 – AJC applauds the U.S. Senate for passing the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S.744) by a vote of 68 to 32, with strong bipartisan support.This historic legislation sets the stage for a complete overhaul of America’s broken immigration system.AJC looks forward to working with the House of Representatives to pass a companion immigration reform bill, and seeing the President sign into law legislation on this critical issue.

“The Senate measure, by providing a path to earned citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, recognizes that immigration is a key factor in bolstering America's economic strength and democratic pluralism,” said Richard Foltin, AJC’s Director of National and Legislative Affairs.

“Reforms to the family and employment visa categories are encouraging,” Foltin continued. “Allowing immigrant families to more easily reunite with their loved ones will foster a strong social fabric in our communities. In addition, making it easier for high and low-skilled immigrant workers to come to this country will help to ensure that American businesses have the labor they need to compete in a global economy.”

AJC supports the bill’s enhancement of enforcement measures, which are directed at assuring an effective and fair immigration system that also protects national security. However, AJC is concerned about the extraordinary level of funding for border security initiatives that was added to the Senate bill late in the process.

“We look forward to an eventual House-Senate compromise that will revise those added enforcement provisions so that they are more compatible with our country’s need for a strong and effective enforcement system that is cognizant of the economic strains and the challenges for border communities and individuals that those programs would impose,” Foltin said. “We also hope the final bill will reinstate the family visa categories that were eliminated in S.744, specifically for siblings and the age restrictions on adult married children.”

AJC, since its founding in 1906, has been outspokenly supportive of fair and generous immigration policies, characterized by the rule of law. As American Jews, we recall how our parents and grandparents made their way to this country seeking a better life, and know that we have prospered in and contributed to this country. That same opportunity should be available for others. AJC Welcomes Senate Passage of Historic Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation - See more at: http://www.ajc.org/#sthash.nvyg6aA6.dpuf



June 26, 2013 – New York – AJC welcomed today’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that gay married couples are entitled to federal benefits. The 5-4 decision found the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which had banned such benefits, unconstitutional.

In a second decision, however, the justices declined to decide whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The appeal of a decision striking California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage was dismissed due to a procedural technicality. AJC had filed amicus briefs in both cases.

AJC General Counsel Marc D. Stern issued the following statement:

“Full recognition of marriage equality—the right to marry the person one loves regardless of gender—is a right whose recognition is long overdue. Today’s decisions are a large, but, unfortunately, incomplete, step in that direction.

“One of the self-evident truths of the American experiment is that all persons are created equal. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments incorporate that aspiration into fundamental law: they guarantee all Americans the equal protection of the laws as of right. That promised equality is surely denied when literally thousands of laws treat some Americans differently because of whom they love.

“It has taken far too long to achieve recognition of the right to marriage equality, but given today’s invalidation of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and the Court’s decision leaving intact a District Court decision invalidating California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage, such recognition is inevitable.

“AJC is proud to have filed a brief in the cases decided today calling for the immediate recognition of same-sex marriage by both the federal government and the states. It also called attention to the need for careful consideration of the impact of that recognition on other constitutionally protected interests, including religious liberty.

“In the wake of today’s decision, AJC will continue to seek full legal recognition of same-sex marriages. Indeed, we will shortly join in one such brief in Illinois.”



June 25, 2013 – New York – AJC is disappointed with today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act. The court ruled, 5-4, that an important pre-clearance requirement of the landmark 1965 law is unconstitutional.

Section 4 of the Act has provided the formula for determining which states must have any changes to their voting laws pre-approved by the Justice Department's civil rights division. The Court, striking down Section 4, left it to Congress to rewrite the pre-clearance requirements.

“The pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act have been an important bulwark against discrimination in the exercise of the right to vote in jurisdictions with long, sordid and intolerable records of racism in affording access to that right,” said AJC General Counsel Marc D. Stern. The Court did not rule on Section 5 of the Act, requiring pre-clearance of voting laws in certain states, but that section may have been nullified by striking down Section 4.

“While today’s Supreme Court action nominally leaves intact the requirement of pre-clearance even as it invalidates the provision that triggers it, the result is to free all jurisdictions from the pre-clearance requirement, and that will harm the ability of all citizens, of whatever race, to vote,” said Stern.

Stern acknowledged, as the Court noted, that some jurisdictions currently subject to pre-clearance requirements no longer require pre-clearance. “But the law already allows them to ‘bail-out’ of the Act,” said Stern. “With Congress having just recently—on the basis of an extensive record—renewed the Voting Rights Act in its entirety, trigger provision and all, the Court was, in our judgment, wrong to invalidate the existing trigger.”

AJC strongly urges Congress to move forward quickly to develop a formula to require pre-clearance for those jurisdictions that stubbornly adhere to practices that thwart full access to the ballot. In the meantime, AJC urges the Department of Justice to make full, vigorous and innovative use of other authorities it possesses to thwart racial discrimination in voting.

AJC joined in an amicus brief filed by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in support of the Voting Rights Act.



June 25, 2013 – New York – The results of a new survey of Israeli attitudes towards American Jews regarding the peace process are “not entirely surprising,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

Israelis are divided on any role for U.S. Jews in the peace process, but value American Jewish advocacy for Israeli security, it was reported.

Commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation, the survey found that 31.9 percent think Israeli leaders should not take into account the positions of American Jews on the peace process at all, 33.6% said they should be considered to a small extent. Only 21.6% called for those views to be taken into account to a great extent, and 9.4% to a very great extent.

Regarding Israel’s national security, however, the survey found that 66.3% of Israelis see the Jewish community in the U.S. as having a very or somewhat positive influence.

Harris’s full statement on the survey follows:

"In our own experience, Israelis have been deeply divided -- what else is new? -- on their perception of the American Jewish role.

“Many have told us that, while our political support for Israel is vital for the country's well-being, it should not be seen as translating into involvement on life-and-death issues in the decision-making structure of a sovereign, democratic country.

"In that spirit, it also suggests a clear line between asking American Jews to stand up for Israel while pointing out that Israelis, not American Jews, will bear the direct consequences of decisions made in the national security realm.

"Conversely, some have told us that Israel cannot realistically expect to ask for the support of American Jews without taking into account their views, wherever they may fall on the Israeli political spectrum. In other words, with the desire for support comes the acknowledgment of a say in matters.

"For AJC, this has always involved a delicate balancing act, recognizing there are valid points in both perspectives.

"We are not Israeli citizens, though we have the choice to move to Israel tomorrow and become fully involved in the country's life, including serving in the military, paying taxes, voting in elections, and raising our children. We have to recognize these fundamental differences in the reality of Israelis and American Jews.

"At the same time, given our profound engagement with Israel, and with Israel-related issues in Washington and scores of capitals around the world, we have an outlook on pressing issues that needs to be shared and, at times -- yes, with appropriate sensitivity -- aired."



June 24, 2013 – Rome -- An AJC senior leadership delegation participated today in Pope Francis’ first audience with representatives of the international Jewish community at the Vatican. The four AJC representatives were part of an International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) delegation. AJC is a founding member of IJCIC, the Vatican’s dialogue partner with world Jewry.

“Pope Francis is a very good friend of the Jewish People and we rejoice in the fact that he will continue to advance the path of his predecessors in deepening the Catholic-Jewish relationship even further,” said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s Director of International Interreligious Affairs. “Our presence at this audience was significant as AJC is a founder of IJCIC and is the oldest American Jewish organization that pioneered the transformation in Catholic-Jewish relations.”

In addition to Jerusalem-based Rabbi Rosen, the AJC delegation included David Inlander of Chicago, Chair of AJC’s Interreligious Affairs Commission; Rabbi Noam Marans of New York, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations; and Lisa Palmieri-Billig, AJC Representative in Italy and Liaison to the Holy See.

Inlander presented two AJC gifts to Pope Francis. One is a framed photo of the historic March 31, 1963 meeting of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Augustine Cardinal Bea at AJC headquarters in New York. At AJC’s initiative, the rabbi and the cardinal had met to discuss preparations for a declaration from the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on the Relationship of the Catholic Church with the Jewish People. The other gift is a copy of Wide Horizons: Abraham Joshua Heschel, AJC, and the Spirit of Nostra Aetate, authored by AJC’s Gary Spruch.



June 18, 2013 – New York – Following the overnight acts of vandalism in Abu Ghosh, AJC urged Israeli authorities to further intensify efforts to apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators of the so-called “price tag” attacks.

Vandals slashed the tires of 28 cars and spray-painted graffiti stating “Arabs out” in the Israeli Arab village near Jerusalem.

Abu Ghosh is the latest Arab community in Israel and the West Bank targeted by vandals who have left damaged property and hateful, threatening graffiti on cars and walls. Israeli police suspect that Jewish extremists are responsible, using vandalism to express opposition to Israeli government policies they consider pro-Palestinian and anti-settler.

“Whether these despicable assaults are organized or one-off acts of hooliganism, price tag attacks are threats to Israeli democracy, and every effort must be made to put them to an end,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Targeting Abu Ghosh, historically one of Israel’s most peaceful and friendly Arab villages, illustrates the malicious aims of the perpetrators.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu, condemning the attack, said “what happened today in Abu Ghosh goes against Judaism’s mitzvot (commandments) and against the values of our people and our state.”

"We couldn't agree more with the Prime Minister," Harris added.

Israel political leaders across the spectrum condemned the attack, and conveyed empathy to the mayor of Abu Ghosh. At the same time, the attack came a day after the Israeli Cabinet failed to designate “price tag” attacks as acts of terrorism.

The terrorism label had been pressed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, and the Shin Bet. The Cabinet decided to label ‘price tag’ attackers as an illegal organization.

"'Price tag' attacks are terror acts for all intents and purposes,” said Aharonovich, after the incident in Abu Ghosh. “This phenomenon might bring about a serious deterioration in Jerusalem and the West Bank."



June 17, 2013 – New York – AJC condemned the shocking assault on Rabbi David Stav, candidate for Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, that took place at a wedding in the Israeli city of Bnei Barak.

“The unprovoked attack on Rabbi Stav by fellow Jews is both painful and inexcusable,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Whatever differences may exist among factions supporting one or another candidate for the post of Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, they should be debated and resolved with civility, not resort to violence.”

The attack took place a day after Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas party, used his weekly sermon to call Rabbi Stav “a wicked man” who is “dangerous to Judaism.” Yosef and others in the Orthodox community have openly opposed Stav’s candidacy.

Rabbi Stav has drawn criticism from some quarters for advocating a more inclusive Judaism that would engage all Israeli Jews and diminish ultra-Orthodox control of the Chief Rabbinate.

At the wedding party, youths shouted epithets and shoved Rabbi Stav, who finally left the celebration to avoid further insult and harm.

Rabbi Stav visited AJC headquarters in New York in January, shortly after he declared his candidacy for Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. Elections for both chief rabbis, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, are to take place in the coming weeks.



June 17, 2013 – New York – AJC criticized Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Minister of the Economy, for his call today, in a Jerusalem speech, for an end to the vision of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The attempt to establish a Palestinian state in our land has ended," said Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party. "The most important thing in the Land of Israel is to build, build, build," he said. "It's important that there will be an Israeli presence everywhere. Our principal problem is still Israel's leaders' unwillingness to say in a simple manner that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel.”

Bennett’s remarks come as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to secure agreement by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume peace negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strongly supported the resumption of talks with PA President Abbas, who walked away from the negotiating table more than four years ago and has been missing-in-action ever since.

“Minister Naftali Bennett's remarks, rejecting outright the vision of two states for two peoples, are stunningly shortsighted,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Since he is a member of the current Israeli coalition government, it is important that his view be repudiated by the country's top leaders."

“Bennett contravenes the outlook of Prime Minister Netanyahu and contradicts the vision presented earlier this month to the AJC Global Forum by Minister Tzipi Livni, chief Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians,” Harris continued. "Livni stated clearly that a negotiated two-state settlement is the only way to assure that the State of Israel will remain both Jewish and democratic. That is a view we at AJC have long supported.”

"We are under no illusion about the difficulties of achieving a two-state accord," Harris concluded. "But Bennett's alternative scenario offers only the prospect of a dead-end strategy of endless conflict and growing isolation for Israel."



June 17, 2013 – New York – AJC is deeply dismayed by the comments of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and others in Turkey suggesting that Jews are behind the protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

“Incendiary words have consequences,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris, who urged Turkey’s political leadership and media to end the fictitious conspiracy theories.

For several weeks, Turkish citizens have demonstrated against the government, which has responded with force and arrests. Erdogan has called the demonstrators “terrorists.”

In a letter to Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, AJC expressed concern about Erdogan’s “delusional prejudices” regarding Jews. The prime minister recently suggested that unrest in Turkey could be attributed to “the interest-rate lobby,” a term that in the past has been associated in the Turkish media with an alleged conspiracy of Jewish businessmen.

Over the weekend, the Turkish newspaper Yeni Şafak ("New Dawn") claimed that an American Jewish plot is behind the Istanbul protests. The paper asserted that a number of Washington, D.C., foreign policy experts, several of them Jewish, had developed a so-called “Istanbul Insurrection” plan that allegedly is a blueprint for the confrontation unfolding in Istanbul. The article further claimed without explanation that AIPAC and the American Enterprise Institute, misidentified as an Israeli organization, were involved in organizing the “plan.”

“Whatever protests and opposition Prime Minister Erdogan may face domestically, they are home grown,” said Harris. “To blame such disturbances on external forces and to resort to age-old Jewish conspiracy canards is pure cowardice and runs the risk of incitement. Erdogan should be called to task by responsible world leaders for such crude tactics rather than facing up to the reality that a significant segment of the Turkish public is challenging his increasingly authoritarian rule.”



June 16, 2013 -- New York -- AJC called the election of Hassan Rowhani as president of Iran potentially noteworthy, but warned against any rush to exultation.

“The election of the reportedly moderate Rowhani, following a large voter turnout and absent the violence that came with the 2009 reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is an encouraging sign,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "But let's not forget that those who ran for the presidency, including Rowhani, had to be approved by the ruling mullahs, meaning pass muster ideologically. Many aspiring candidates did not and were excluded from the ballot."

“At the end of the day, the proof of change in Iranian policies will come only from deeds,” Harris added. “What role, if any, will Rowhani truly have to effect any desired shift, when the unquestioned hub of power lies with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and his entourage?”

“Will Iran now take steps to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and UN on its nuclear program, when Rowhani, an Iranian nuclear negotiator in the past, showed no flexibility?” Harris asked.

“Will Iran end its appalling record on human rights? Will it stop support for Hezbollah and other deadly terror organizations? Will it halt its murderous complicity with the Assad regime that has already killed over 90,000 Syrians?"

"These will be the ultimate litmus tests of whether Friday's election in Iran has true meaning or not.” Harris concluded.



June 13, 2013 – Berlin – AJC praised the German Parliament for passing today by an overwhelming majority a resolution on combatting anti-Semitism.

“We trust the German federal and state governments will create an immediate action plan to implement the educational and security measures mandated by parliament to fight anti-Semitism,” said Deidre Berger, Director of the AJC Berlin Ramer Institute.

The resolution establishes a framework of annual reporting by the government to parliament on measures to combat anti-Semitism. It creates more government accountability regarding implementation of appropriate measures. And, it calls for the institution of long-term programs, rather than short-term model programs that are often dropped due to lack of funds for implementation.

Parliamentarians from three political parties thanked AJC and the Central Council of Jews in Germany for their assistance with the resolution.

The resolution accentuates the special character of German-Israeli relations, terming solidarity with Israel an integral part of Germany’s self-definition as a nation. It condemns Israel-related anti-Semitism, including support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups targeting Israel.

“The resolution highlights the problem of an anti-Israeli animus,” said Berger. “Exaggerated hatred of Israel is often a new form of anti-Semitism. Importantly, the resolution also recognizes that criticism of Israel that oversteps boundaries is anti-Semitism.”

The resolution cites the recommendations of a 2011 government-commissioned report on anti-Semitism prepared by an independent committee of experts. The report documented a 15 to 20 percent level of latent and overt anti-Semitism in Germany. The German Parliament came under increased pressure by AJC and other organizations to act on the committee’s recommendations after Rabbi Daniel Alter was assaulted in Berlin on August 27, 2012.

Earlier this week, release of the 2012 government report on extremism showed an increase in supporters of Islamic extremist groups. AJC has repeatedly advocated for programs to fight anti-Semitism in the Muslim community.

Today’s parliament resolution also proposes larger-scale programs to anchor knowledge of contemporary Jewish life and Holocaust remembrance, calling for a significant increase of German volunteers working with Holocaust survivors in a program sponsored by the German church-based organization Action Reconciliation.

“Each day fewer and fewer survivors are left,” said Berger. “When, if not now, will young people have a last opportunity to engage in direct interaction with Holocaust survivors? Time is running out for such programs.”



June 12, 2013 – New York – AJC, calling Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon’s comments on a Palestinian state "totally unhelpful to the peace process," commended Prime Minister Netanyahu for his strong response to the coalition dissenter.

"The end game for peace, as difficult and complex as it may be to reach, must be two states – Israel and Palestine – for two peoples," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Prime Minister Netanyahu, like his three predecessors, is committed to achieving that goal through direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and with the assistance of U.S. Secretary of State Kerry."

Danon, a Member of Knesset from Netanyahu's Likud party, who serves as deputy defense minister, charged in an interview with the Times of Israel that a majority of the coalition government would oppose a Palestinian state.

After Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon reportedly asked the prime minster to reprimand Danon, Netanyahu’s office said that his remarks "do not represent the position of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the government of Israel."

Harris added: "MK Danon's comments are singularly unhelpful when Prime Minister Netanyahu is dong his utmost to resume negotiations with the Palestinians, which is in the strategic interest of Israel."



June 5, 2013—New York—In a statement issued today, AJC Executive Director David Harris said:

"It is an inspired choice. We have worked closely with Susan Rice during her nearly four-and-a-half years as our nation's UN Ambassador.

"We know her to be a distinguished diplomat. She has stood tall and fearless to defend our nation's vital security and humanitarian interests; to call on the world body to uphold the noble ideals of its Charter when too often it falls short; to speak up repeatedly and relentlessly for democratic values and human dignity; and to oppose the hypocrisy, indifference and double standards that too often prevail on First Avenue.

"With regard to the Middle East, Ambassador Rice has strenuously opposed Iran's nuclear ambitions and human rights transgressions.

"She has sought to mobilize international action in the face of the ever mounting death toll in Syria, and stood up for Israel whenever needed, which in the UN, regrettably, is all too often, whether in the Security Council, General Assembly, or other UN organs.

"Again and again, she has tried to block Palestinian efforts in the world body to do an end-run around direct negotiations with Israel.

"For all these reasons, AJC was very proud to present Ambassador Rice with our Distinguished Public Service Award at a special luncheon in May at the UN Delegates Lounge. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor was the keynote speaker at the packed event.

"We wish Ambassador Rice well in her important new position by President Obama's side, even as we will miss her in New York."




AJC "Live From..." Global Forum 2013 with Dalia Ziada on "transforming revolutionaries into politicians."


June 4, 2013 – Washington – Two well-known Israeli rabbis, one Orthodox and one Reform, agreed before the 1500-strong audience at AJC’s Global Forum that the coercive powers of the Israeli chief rabbinate should be ended.

Reform Rabbi Uri Regev, who heads Hiddush, an organization that promotes religious pluralism, called for the “freedom of religion and conscience” guaranteed by Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of the city of Efrat and director of the Ohr Torah Stone educational network, stated that Jewish law provides far greater leeway for pluralistic interpretations of Judaism than the current Orthodox establishment allows. Discussing “Synagogue and State: The Battle Over Religious Pluralism in Israel,” they also agreed that more women should be on the electoral body that chooses the chief rabbi, and that a section of the Western Wall should be set aside for mixed-gender prayer.

Rabbi Regev emphasized that the issue’s importance transcends domestic Israeli politics and affects American Jews. He cited specific cases of Americans who were not allowed to marry in Israel because their conversions or those of their mothers’ to Judaism were not deemed valid by the Israeli rabbinate. Such disrespect for the Jewish streams that include the great majority of affiliated American Jews, said Regev, is already contributing to a decline of American Jewish support for Israel, and that could harm Israeli security.

Rabbi Riskin, who is Modern Orthodox, described his own tribulations with the Israeli Orthodox establishment, ranging from attempts at delegitimizing him because he is clean-shaven, to opposition to an educational program for women that prompted the rabbi to file a lawsuit. Rabbi Riskin bemoaned the recent assertion of power by Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) authorities, whose views he considers incompatible with authentic Orthodox tradition. Noting that the Talmud, the repository of classic Jewish legal discussion, is highly pluralistic, Rabbi Riskin said that legalizing civil and non-Orthodox marriages in Israel would solve many of the problems, and that such marriages are compatible with Jewish law.



June 4, 2013 – Washington – Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, addressing an audience of more than 1,500 at the AJC Global Forum, spoke about his country’s close ties to Israel and important strategic relationship with the U.S.

“Azerbaijan is a natural bridge that connects various civilizations and cultures,” said Mammadyarov. “Azerbaijan serves as a critical link for outreach to the Muslim world for our partners like the United States and Israel.”

Azerbaijan’s ability to develop and sustain relations with other countries of varied ethnicities and faiths is based, he said, on its long history of building a peaceful, productive society. Though predominantly Shia Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities have long existed in Azerbaijan.

“What really guarantees our security and domestic tranquility is our culture of tolerance and peace within,” said Mammadyarov. “Azerbaijan enjoys a centuries-long tradition of peaceful co-existence among its Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities.” The Jewish community of 35,000 has not experienced anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan, he declared.

Reinforcing the unique role Azerbaijan can play in international forums, the foreign minister noted that his county is a member of several important regional organizations, including the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Azerbaijan currently serves as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The foreign minister emphasized that close, friendly relations between Azerbaijan and Israel go “well beyond” diplomatic ties, “reinforced by the strong bonds between our peoples.”

Azerbaijan is Israel’s biggest trade partner in the South Caucasus. Last year, bilateral trade with Israel reached 4 billion do