The Jerusalem Post
Sunday, July 1, 2018 - 11:27am

Poland and Israel are treating the Holocaust as if it was their property to decide what happened and what did not. It is not their prerogative and with that they took a step too far.

By Jack Rosen

For the past century the American Jewish Congress – an organization I have the privilege to lead – has stood as a staunch, robust opponent of any and all who would harm our people. While this is our primary mission, we are equally duty bound to call out friends and family should they stumble in their uncompromising defense of the Jewish people. In this vein, and with a heavy heart, I feel it is my obligation to critique the State of Israel for signing a joint statement with Poland praising the latter’s efforts to end a dispute over Holocaust legislation that would have criminalized identification of Poles complicit in Nazi crimes.

The Holocaust is one of the most significant events in modern history and the worst genocide in human history. It is an event that changed the course of the Western world and had a monumental effect on Jews across the world. The Holocaust is no one’s property and no one has the right to rewrite or decide on its facts and stories. Nevertheless, Poland and Israel are treating the Holocaust as if it was their property to decide what happened and what did not. It is not their prerogative and with that they took a step too far.

While the bill in question may have been rendered less dangerous, it goes nowhere near to ensuring that the legions of Poles who, by turning a blind eye to or through direct cooperation with German wartime crimes, enabled the Holocaust. By signing this cosmetic statement, the Israelis fail to address the underlying issue that gave rise to this problem in the first place: rising antisemitism and extremism in Poland, manifested by a concerted, strategic campaign of Holocaust denial.

Don’t just take the word of this one man, born in a post-World War II displaced persons camp, whose family was annihilated through direct Polish support for the German extermination campaign. Yad Vashem and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum – two institutions with unimpeachable credentials in ensuring that Holocaust research remains accurate and thorough – have been unsparing in their reasoned condemnation of Israel’s willingness to be party to potential Holocaust revisionism.

The Joint Israeli-Polish statement runs counter to objective historical research and, by failing to address resurgent Polish antisemitism, gives cover (inadvertently, I am sure) to revisionist arguments asserting that the Polish government-in-exile during World War II defended Jews in the face of the Nazi onslaught. The reality, precisely to the contrary, is not only that the government did not defend beleaguered Jews, but in many cases was an active partner in their destruction on an industrial level. I address this issue from a deeply personal place: My own Polish Jewish family was burned alive during the war by Poles who purported to protect them.

I am of a generation of Jews who, from the cradle, proudly looked to the Jewish state as a “light unto the nations,” an exemplar of righteousness, humanity and fealty to historical accuracy in the face of those who would deny the undeniable in furtherance of intolerance and hate. It is my sincere hope that Israel’s momentary deviation from this ethos is a fleeting anomaly.

As much as I love the Jewish state and would defend it with my life, I will never agree that it has the right or ability to alter history, especially when such revisionism is potentially so damaging to the Jewish people.

The writer is the president and chairman of the American Jewish Congress.

The National Interest
Sunday, July 1, 2018 - 11:20am

A remarkable new split within the Democratic party and between Democrats and Republicans on Israel has opened.

By Jack Rosen

A remarkable new split within the Democratic party and between Democrats and Republicans was on full display when members of the United States Congress reacted recently to the Gaza hostilities that greeted the U.S. Embassy's move to Jerusalem. Does some Democratic leaders' opposition to Israel's conduct reflect a nascent fundamental shift on Democratic party's position? Whether or not, such opposition does increase concerns that Democrats will be emboldened into criticizing Israel as part of a broader anti-Trump posture. If that happens, it could mistakenly give the impression that the Democratic Party can no longer be a viable choice for American Jews who are supportive of Israel.

Consider that the Democrats who criticized Israeli policy in Gaza ascribed no accountability to the internationally designated terrorist group Hamas or the Palestinian Authority for their violent provocations. The May 14 statement by Democratic U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, Keith Ellison, Henry C. Johnson Jr. and Raul Grijalva criticized the "lethal force" used by Israeli troops to contain the Gaza hostilities without a single mention of Hamas.

Additionally, a May 11 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo co-authored by Democratic Senators Bernie Sanders and Diane Feinstein, and signed by ten other Democratic Senators, identified Hamas as bearing “significant responsibility” for the humanitarian situation in Gaza. However, the letter still insisted that Israeli restrictions had “made the humanitarian situation worse.” This contextual addition comes after a Hamas official admitted that some fifty of the total sixty-two Palestinians killed by Israeli forces last Monday were in fact known members of the terrorist group, calling into question widespread claims of a “peaceful” Palestinian protest. The United Nations General Assembly followed similarly faulty reasoning, passing an unjust resolution that places the blame entirely on Israel, while again failing to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Senator Sanders' dismissal of Hamas' militant provocation and Senator Feinstein's omission of Hamas' role in her statement and the UN General Assembly in its resolution, are emblematic of the increasingly progressive wing of the party taking an ever-harder stance on the Jewish State. Equally disappointing is the silence that greeted the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem from the vast majority of Democratic party leaders. A recent report by The Forward identified that a charitable foundation gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations that promote the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). Senator Chuck Schumer was one of the few Democratic supporters of the embassy move, which he "applauded" the Trump administration for enacting.

Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats sparred over the legitimacy of America’s decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem. Figures from the Pew Research Center last January seemed to cement the idea that Israel has become a partisan issue in America, with 79% of Republicans claiming to favor Israel over the Palestinians, compared to just 27% of Democrats.

By contrast, the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which allowed for a waiver to postpone a mandated embassy move, was co-sponsored by two Republicans and two Democrats and adopted by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 95 out of 100 sitting Senators. As former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said, support of the Embassy should be a formality, as it’s a question of “celebrating the strength of our (American-Israeli) relationship, which has always been bipartisan.”

The Pew poll encapsulates the damaging polarization America is experiencing over Israel by implying that sympathy for one side automatically means hostility for the other. By failing to present a united front, Democratic party leaders risk further polarization within their ranks on Israel.

However, many in the Democratic Party have not changed their positions on Israel. Having spoken to U.S. decision makers privately, many are very critical of the stance Sanders and other Democrats have taken. Moderate voices in the Democratic party such as Senator Schumer should have their voices heard. What's needed is for Israel's supporters within the party to take a stand against its more vocal critics and stand up for Israel, serving as an example for the world.

While it is likely that many American Jews will continue to vote Democratic as they have historically done, the party cannot take their support for granted. Democratic party leaders need to refrain from divisive and incendiary rhetoric and unite behind their long-term support for Israel if they hope to retain the support of a somewhat disenfranchised, but by no means monolithic, American Jewish public. There are prominent voices that could turn the tide, but they need to mobilize before more damage is done—an anti-Israel position could emerge as part of the mainstream Democratic Party agenda. That cannot be allowed to happen.

Jack Rosen is the Chairman of the American Jewish Congress

New York Daily News
Thursday, May 3, 2018 - 1:19pm

By Jack Rosen

George Orwell wrote that "if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." As anti-Semitism continues to surge in the U.S., it's time to rethink our understanding of how we define anti-Semitism and to call out the perpetrators more robustly if we are to contain its corrosive influence in our society.

Language, therefore, matters a great deal. The old proverb that "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me" could not be further from the truth.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of anti-Semitism, to which the United States was a signatory on its adoption in 2016, sets a clear precedent for what constitutes anti-Jewish animus. Displayed on the State Department's website, it reads: "Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."

According to the IHRA, then, anti-Semitism must not just be limited to obvious physical attacks, but also to words that are equally if not more damaging.

The definition goes on to characterize as anti-Semitic the act of "applying double standards (to Israel) by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation." Using the IHRA definition, it becomes clear that, while legitimate criticism of Israel on a par with criticisms made of other countries cannot be deemed anti-Semitic, BDS rhetoric — advancing the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign — is inherently anti-Semitic as it holds Israel, the only Jewish state in the world, to higher standards than the rest of the world.

BDS rhetoric focuses much of its criticism on the concept of Zionism, an idea it defines on its website as a movement which "seeks to establish a distinct new society, take over control of land and resources and forcibly remove Palestinians." This stands at odds with the dictionary definition of Zionism as "a worldwide Jewish movement that resulted in the establishment and development of the state of Israel."

Last year was ground-breaking in the U.S. in that, according to ADL's Anti-Semitic Incidents Report 2017, an unprecedented 89% increase in anti-Semitic incidents was recorded on college and university campuses, where the BDS movement is most active.

The BDS movement re-appropriates human-rights arguments and rewrites history in an attempt to make a case for its real goal, undermining the right of the sole Jewish State to exist in the Middle East.

The American Jewish Congress this month launched a grassroots campaign on college campuses, collating video testimonies from students who have directly experienced anti-Semitism from BDS activists on campuses.

Among our contributors was the President of Students Supporting Israel at Columbia University, who told us she'd been harassed by a large group of BDS supporters who "called us racists who represent a country under Nazi rule." "Throughout the year we've been told that terrorism against Israelis is justified and that Zionism is a racist movement whose goal is to steal Arab lands and commit genocide," she added.

Students participating in the campaign have related to us that BDS activists use the terms "Jew" and "Zionist" interchangeably on campus, as well as referring to Jews as "whites" in an effort to draw an association with white supremacy and colonialism.

Earlier this month, BDS activists at Columbia University chose Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, to protest against the Jewish State, arguing that the 1948 declaration of statehood represented an "ethnic cleansing of Palestinians." The decision to make such claims on a day commemorating the worst genocide in human history is far from accidental and suggests the origins of the movement's anti-Semitism pre-dates the State of Israel, which came in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

The fact that anti-Semitic BDS rhetoric has an undue influence on young minds, shaping the ideology of our future leaders, is especially worrying. Leading universities, such as Columbia, New York and Harvard, Massachusetts, are the educational institutions of choice for hundreds of world leaders, including more than 10 former U.S. Presidents.

Yet the response from university administrators has been underwhelming. Pro-Israel students at the more than 10 campuses participating in the American Jewish Congress' "BDS is Anti-Semitism — United Against BDS" campaign have relayed to us that when they reported harassment by BDS activists, university administrators were reluctant to act, claiming that the anti-Semitic rhetoric used against the students did not pose a "clear and present danger of bodily harm" and didn't constitute incitement.

University authorities have shown an ambivalence to anti-Semitism occurring on their campuses that is concerning. In failing to identify anti-Semitism for what it is, authorities empower the aggressors in their claims that Jews are weaponizing anti-Semitism and the victims are therefore positioned as the perpetrators.

While freedom of speech is an essential universal freedom, when anti-Semitism and incitement exploit our liberal values of tolerance, authorities must find a way of protecting those freedoms without leaving any minority group open to harassment. We need to protect free speech without enabling those looking to promote hate speech. As Martin Luther King said: "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress.



The Jerusalem Post
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 - 11:00am

More than any other nation, Israel continues to divide opinion, among individuals, nations and at international institutions.

By Jack Rosen

In 1915, David Ben-Gurion presented his vision for an Israel “built by an industrious People, rich in substance and spirit, who come to her from afar after history has proven the essential need to create for itself a Homeland.”

This vision predated the establishment of the American Jewish Congress. The AJC is this year celebrating its centenary, having been formed in the aftermath of the Balfour Declaration, which paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel.

Israel was founded in 1948 out of the ashes of the Holocaust. The AJC was instrumental in coordinating relief efforts for Jewish Holocaust survivors.

When the enormity of the Holocaust became public, the AJC campaigned for the creation of a Jewish state and played an integral role in winning US recognition and support for Israel.

Since then, the US has gone on to become one of Israel’s most loyal and vocal allies, yet recent data by the Pew Research Center found that just 46% of Americans sympathized with Israel over the Palestinians.

The fact that Israel’s Independence Day is celebrated just one week after Holocaust Remembrance Day is no accident.

Remembrance Day was even more poignant this year, coinciding as it does with the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the final act of Jewish resistance in the once vibrant Warsaw Jewish community, which resulted in the deaths of some 13,000 of the ghetto’s residents. This act of defiant resistance and its tragic consequences resonate with me especially. Both my parents were born in Poland and my grandfather and several uncles were killed during the Holocaust when the Polish family hiding them set their hiding place on fire, burning them alive.

The fact that Israel was founded as the Jewish state to provide a home for a Jewish demographic, an estimated 80% of which was wiped out in the Holocaust, left an indelible mark on the nation’s identity. As Chaim Weizmann wrote to Ben-Gurion during World War II: “Heretofore we were a people in search of a nation: when this is over we will be a nation in search of a people.” The fact that official data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics shows that world Jewry still hasn’t reached its pre-WWII levels only reinforces this idea.

More than any other nation, Israel continues to divide opinion, among individuals, nations and at international institutions, as it is held to higher standards of statehood than other Western countries, not to mention more unsavory regimes around the world.

The widespread condemnation that greeted the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a case in point. Yet despite this continued double standards and existential threats to their nation’s existence, the Israeli identity is resilient and robust, and Israelis somehow manage to continue to build their thriving country and economy.

As Israel prepares this year to mark 70 years since its creation, this small country, 58% of which is largely barren desert, has despite all odds become a world leader in the fields of energy and technology, a veritable breeding ground for innovative start-ups. Despite being in its infancy as a nation, Israeli innovation has spawned myriad inventions, from the USB memory stick and essential smart phone technology, to cherry tomatoes and water conservation technology.

Since 1948, the number of Jews in Israel has increased nearly tenfold, even though during this same period the number of Diaspora Jews has dropped from 10.8 million to about 8 million in 2016.

The 70th anniversary of Israeli independence will be marked as in previous years with the annual torch lighting ceremony, which at its inception featured 12 torches representing the 12 tribes of Israel. In 1979, the ceremony was expanded with the addition of a thirteenth torch representing peace.

Peace will only be achieved by furthering dialogue and cooperation by those with a common interest in helping to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

The US must continue to play a vital role in this process and organizations like ours can use our experience of grass roots activity and high-level diplomacy to help promote the necessary culture of cooperation for US-led efforts to engage both Israel and the Muslim world in constructive dialogue to yield results.

Israel now finds itself with a prime minister in Benjamin Netanyahu who is evolving his attitude on fostering relations with Gulf States. Netanyahu recognizes that in reaching out around the world beyond Israel’s traditional allies, showing them what Israel has to offer in terms of technology and innovation, not only will it aid its economy and regional development beyond Israel’s borders, but it will help on the path to coordinating an alliance of major powers necessary to bring the region back from the brink of war.

My own experience traveling across the region has shown a clear desire from Gulf leaders to engage with Israel, and the Saudi crown prince gave the clearest indication of his support for Israeli sovereignty on the road to achieving peace when he told US media on last month’s visit to Washington: “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

Middle East peace has long been elusive, but I firmly believe when we dare to dream big, we can realize those dreams and begin to make changes that impact the world. As Albert Einstein, co-founder of the AJC once said: “Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding.” As Israel approaches this landmark anniversary, all efforts must go toward maintaining its historic good relations with the Jewish community in the US and around the world over the next 70 years.

The author is president of the American Jewish Congress.

The Hill
Monday, March 5, 2018 - 6:30pm


Proponents of United Nation’s Palestinian refugee aid have recently called for a halt in funding reductions, claiming potential for catastrophic consequences. The United States, a major volunteer funder of this aid, recently withheld millions in aid. While President Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump should reaffirm his commitment to halting funding for the UN project that is no longer serving it’s stated purpose.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) began operations in 1950funded by individual UN member states to provide education, health care and social services to the Palestinian refugee population “until a just and lasting solution” could be found. Perversely, by allowing the descendants of refugees, many of whom are themselves citizens of other countries, to register on its list, the agency makes the likelihood of resolving the refugee issue near impossible, as the numbers of eligible and unaccounted for refugees are condemned to rise year on year.

The fact that the UNRWA is the only refugee agency in the world that counts a second generation as refugees intentionally perpetuates the Palestinian humanitarian crisis for political gain and this must be challenged.

The recent announcement by the State Department that it would be taking a closer “look at UNRWA” and making sure that its money, of which the U.S. is the largest single donor is “best spent so that people can get the services” was met with near-universal outrage by the international community.

UNRWA, unlike other UN agencies such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which seeks to aid refugees from civil wars, conflicts and natural disasters wherever they occur, was founded to address the Palestinian refugee issue alone. UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ definition of a refugee, as someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of persecution…is outside the country of his nationality,” highlights UNRWA’s distorted approach to the issue. While other refugee populations in the world have shrunk with time, UNRWA’s figures have risen from 750,000 at its inception to more than 5 million at the last count.

UNRWA receives its mandate directly from the UN General Assembly, and is subject to the majority vote of members. This is the same General Assembly that resoundingly passed a non-binding resolution last month criticizing President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by 128 votes in favor to nine against, with 35 abstentions. The same General Assembly that, in anticipation of the U.S. administration’s decision on Jerusalem last December, voted by a majority of 151 in favor to six againstto disavow Israeli tie to Jerusalem, one of six anti-Israel resolutions it passed.

This clear and consistent anti-Israel bias forms an integral part of UNRWA’s mandate and well accounts for the agency’s deeply prejudicial approach to the Middle East conflict. By grossly inflating numbers of Palestinian refugees on its list and perpetuating the so-called “right of return,” UNRWA calls its own legitimacy into question. In its claims the Palestinian refugee issue “should be resolved by the parties to conflict through peace negotiations based on UN resolutions,” the agency seeks to prejudice negotiations by dictating the substance of a political settlement that can only be determined by both Israel and the Palestinians engaging in direct negotiations.

Donations to UNRWA are made on a purely voluntarily basis. The fact that the U.S. now seeks to share the burden it has long shouldered as the body’s principle donor, to the tune of some $350 million, does not prevent the administration from reallocating this aid budget to other more effective agencies. While much has been made of the “cut” in funding, in reality, the U.S. was not bound by any specific schedule to provide specific amounts of aid. The response by UN member states including Belgium to increase their own funding to plug the gap goes some way to redressing the traditional disproportionality in its funding.

As the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stated of the decision not to “pay to be abused” by the UN, the U.S. decision to freeze aid to UNRWA pending its concerns over its legitimacy was a direct response to the disproportionate bias repeatedly directed at Israel by the UN General Assembly. Another cause for concern is its role in enabling Palestinian unilateral action at the UN General Assembly. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s comments in response to the Jerusalem designation made it clear that he foresaw no role for the U.S. in the Middle East Peace Process and declared his intention to proceed with further unilateral action.

While UNRWA arguably offers some stability in the West Bank and Gaza by providing education and health-care services, without which Israel would be forced to step in as provider, the agency is in desperate need of reform.

The Trump administration has adopted a robust line against organizations acting out of America’s national interests. In transferring its funding from an ineffective agency that perpetuates rather than improving the Palestinian refugee problem to other agencies with a better track record, not only would funds better reach the Palestinians in real need of them, but it would send a powerful message to all the UN bodies that it will not tolerate unilateral appeals by the Palestinians and one-sided resolutions against Israel at the UN. Former Israel Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor is a leading advocate of merging UNRWA’s activities into the UNHCR’s mandate to better utilize available aid budgets and allow the UN to deliver a more cohesive approach to tackling the global refugee crisis.

In this way, the U.S. can build an effective roadmap for the international community to engage in decisive words and actions to facilitate constructive dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians in the hopes of reinvigorating the dormant peace process.

Jack Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress

Sunday, February 25, 2018 - 5:48pm

Opinion I Take Poland's Holocaust Revisionism Personally: Poles Hid My Grandfather and Uncle, Then Burnt Them to Death

This Polish government, schooled with a deeply sanitized version of their WWII history, also defended one of the largest far-right displays in Europe in the last decade. Now they're joining the league of Holocaust deniers like Iran and the U.S. alt-right


Auschwitz II-Birkenau in a thick evening fog, during the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the concentration and extermination camp. Oswiecim, Poland. January 27, 2018\ KACPER PEMPEL/ REUTERS

As Edmund Burke once wrote, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." While there were undoubtedly many instances of righteous Poles helping Jews during the WWII Nazi occupation of Poland, the current government cannot seek to promote recognition of their deeds by rewriting history.

In doing so, it risks stalling Poland’s path to democracy and relations with key international allies.

The fallout from Poland’s Holocaust legislation cannot be underestimated. Both my parents were born in Poland and my grandfather and uncles were killed during the Holocaust when the Polish family hiding them set their hiding place on fire, burning them alive.

The law itself is ideologically problematic. Its historical example is pre-Holocaust era law which set a maximum prison sentence of three years for insulting the Polish nation, the same sentence governed by its modern-day version.

For a generation of Poles - educated under Soviet rule, raised with a deeply sanitized version of their nation’s WWII-era history - to introduce legislation forbidding accusations of Polish collusion with the Nazis and penalizing research into Polish complicity is akin to historical revisionism at best.

Passing a law which prevents the Polish nation from acknowledging their own complicity in the Holocaust cannot be seem as a legitimate way to redress misconceptions of Poland’s war record.

The purpose of any such legislation is to deny the truth about the genocide of six million Jews, half of whom were Polish, and in doing so, it puts Poland in the same league as Iran, Islamist terrorists, the alt-right in the U.S. and proven Holocaust deniers.


Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits the Ulma Family Museum of Poles Who Saved Jews during WWII in Markowa, Poland. February 2, 2018\ AGENCJA GAZETA/ REUTERS

More worrying still is the ripple effect this move has already produced and which continues to reverberate.

Since the government announced the legislation, threats to the Jewish community have risen. Senate leader Stanislaw Karczewski last week asked Poles living abroad to inform the authorities of "anti-Polish comments and opinions" they saw or heard that could harm the state. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sought to defend the legislation from attacks at a security conference in Munich earlier this week by claiming that Jews were among the perpetrators of the Holocaust, as complicit in the Nazis’ crimes as the Poles who facilitated them.

In seeking to revise the true story of the Holocaust in Poland, the government has turned a blind eye to escalating anti-Semitism and given its tacit consent for the new emerging anti-Jewish rhetoric that equates the victims with the perpetrators.

Let us not forget that this Polish nationalist government defended the rights of far-right groups to march through Warsaw last November to mark Poland’s independence day. That rally, which drew 60,000 participants, was one of the largest far-right displays in Europe in the last decade.


Aerial view showing the layout of the largest concentration camp and death camp run by Nazi Germany during World War II at Auschwitz near the Polish town of Oswiecim, Poland, Aug. 25, 1944AP

I have recently returned from a trip to Israel as part of the 32nd International Mayors Conference. Our delegation included 33 municipal leaders from across Europe, the US, South America and Africa, as well as the Mayor of Poznan, Poland Jacek Jaskowiak.

I showed Mayor Jaskowiak around Yad Vashem, Israel’s National Holocaust Memorial. He told me what he'd learned about WWII at school had skimmed over the loss of those millions of lives lost in Nazi death camps, and omitted completely mentioning that 90% of those were Jewish. Those were facts he only learned later, once Poland had become an independent state again.

Yad Vashem pays tribute to the 6,700 righteous Poles who risked their lives to protect Jews during the Holocaust. It also makes clear that without the complicity, whether direct or indirect, of ordinary Poles, the Nazi extermination of three million Polish Jews would not have been possible. The term "Polish death camps" may not be technically correct, but the vast majority of Nazi death camps in Europe were built on Polish soil.

However unpalatable the true picture of Polish involvement in the atrocities of the Holocaust, Mayor Jaskowiak informed me, those facts that only emerged in the public consciousness in the 1990s at least went some way to addressing the issue and to facing Poland’s murky past under Nazi occupation.


Auschwitz death camp survivor Jacek Nadolny, 77, tattooed with camp number 192685, holds up a wartime photo of his family, as he poses for a portrait in Warsaw. January 7, 2015\ REUTERS

While contentious laws such as these may not succeed in their aim of erasing or rewriting the narrative of the Holocaust, we need society to collectively acknowledge the realities of European’s darkest chapter and ensure that never again is a commitment, and not just a slogan.

Facts are facts and must not be denied. It's a historical fact that some Poles were complicit in the Holocaust. I for one do not differentiate between the direct perpetrators of the Holocaust and those who were complicit with it.

While the Polish Justice Ministry has announced it is suspending the implementation of the law, following intense pressure from Israel and the Jewish world, it has made similar noises previously, and to no avail. I hope this time the Polish government can be prevailed on to listen to legitimate concerns and step back from this action.

Whitewashing history is a betrayal to the memory of Holocaust victims and the survivors who remained to tell their stories. Rather than denigrating their memory, it is our duty to cherish and protect it. History and all of our futures demand it.

Jack Rosen is President of the American Jewish Congress. Twitter: @JackRosenNYC
The Jerusalem Post
Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 12:32pm

By Tamara Zieve

Poznan Mayor Jacek Jaskowiak finds the recently adopted law that criminalizes talk of Poles’ complicity in Nazis’ crimes “difficult to accept.”

Jaskowiak, a member of the liberal-conservative opposition party Civic Platform, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday night that Poland is on the wrong path.

“This is not the way to face the problem,” he said, talking to the Post in Tel Aviv on the sidelines of the 32nd International Mayors Conference, hosted by the American Jewish Congress and the American Council for World Jewry.

It is important “to discover what happened in this horrible time, he said. “In my opinion it was much better the way we began after receiving freedom in the ’90s.”

He said the law was bad for relations with Israel, the US and Ukraine. “In the last 27 years we did a lot to make our [international] relations better,” but in the past two years, the running of international relations deteriorated, the mayor said.

The Civic Platform party came to power in 2007 as the major coalition partner when then-party leader Donald Tusk was elected prime minister. The current ruling right-wing Law and Justice party entered government in 2015.

Jaskowiak said that under Soviet rule, Poles were taught “half-truths.”

“For example, at school I was told we lost in WWII four-five million people in death camps, but nobody told me that some 90% of this was Jewish... now we discovered our history with new books and movies... there weren’t only the heroes, the righteous, there were also some Poles who helped the Nazis.”

Jaskowiak said it is better to face the past than to introduce legislation that forbids and penalizes certain research and points of view.

While the dominant voice emerging from Poland in recent weeks defends the law, Jaskowiak noted that “not everyone is happy with this change.” His party came out against the law, and he cites a letter signed by intellectuals and artists who also opposed it. “It’s not one point of view,” he emphasized.

He disagrees, however, with the characterization of the law as “Holocaust denial,” saying that this is something “completely different.”

AJCongress president and American Council for World Jewry chairman Jack Rosen, who spoke to the Post alongside the Poznan mayor, however, thinks it is exactly that.

Rosen was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany, the son of Polish parents, his father an Auschwitz survivor.

“The subject is dear to me,” Rosen said.

"The stories from my parents, especially in those years, are vivid in my mind, and certainly not all Polish people were complicit in atrocities,” he said, adding that while there are many Poles who helped Jews, “there are too many stories of those who were complicit and worked with the Nazis closely.

“I don’t differentiate between the Holocaust and those who were complicit in killing people,” Rosen said.

“I think it’s unfortunate that Poland passed the law. It puts them in the same team as Iran and other Islamic terror states and the alt-right in the US and Holocaust deniers. Seventy-one years after the Holocaust, for a nation like Poland to do that is a disgrace,” he said, describing the law as an effort to erase history, and a “stain” on the country.

“Poland is too good a country to put their citizens under that...,” Rosen said, warning that the law empowers the wrong people.

“Hopefully with leaders like the mayor here, who can speak to the subject, that can be overturned,” he said.

Friday, January 12, 2018 - 9:53am

By Jack Rosen

As Iranians take to the streets and the international community looks on nervously, President Trump is facing a crucial turning point on Iran.

Last October, he took a decisive step back from the nuclear agreement, which he has famously branded the “worst deal ever.”

This week, for the first time since then, the President must decide whether to continue both certifying the deal and waiving sanctions against Tehran.

The time has come for Trump to hold Iran to account. However, the task is complex. The process extends far beyond the end of this week. It will require Trump to create a unity of purpose both at home and abroad that has so far been lacking. But it can and must be done.

The first challenge for the President is to turn the existing nuclear agreement from a decade-long arrangement into a permanent deal, removing the so-called “sunset clause.”

The second is to see the deal curb Iran’s ballistic missile development, which also poses a serious threat to regional stability. Such changes will give real purpose to a deal which currently guarantees nothing.

The Obama administration hoped that by signing a deeply flawed agreement and waiving crippling economic sanctions, it could bring Iran in from the cold, and strengthen the regime’s moderates on the way to bringing stability to the wider region.

This plan has clearly and demonstrably failed. Since Washington and five fellow Western powers signed the nuclear deal in 2015, Iran has increasingly sown chaos in the region.

Tehran’s fingerprints are all over the Middle East’s bloodiest conflicts from Syria to Yemen and beyond. Unencumbered by sanctions, Tehran continues to spread terror across the region.

Meanwhile, the Iranian people have once again taken to the streets in wide scale protest against the Islamic Republic’s authoritarian rulers, who have not hesitated to brutally suppress their voice.

The crux of these public demonstrations is a disillusionment over continued price rises and economic hardship at home, while vital resources are funnelled towards bankrolling President Assad, Hezbollah, Houthi rebels and others to fight wars abroad.

The demonstrations have been a reminder that large swathes of the Iranian public are increasingly frustrated by a regime that seeks to isolate them from the international community and damaging economic progress, thereby depriving the people of a future.

The Hill
Saturday, December 16, 2017 - 10:40am
By Jack Rosen

As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” When it comes to relations between the U.S., Israel and the Arab world, while governments set the tone, American Jewish leaders can play an important role in fostering a culture of mutual understanding between both sides. Rather than stoking tensions, America’s Jews should recognize the encouraging signs of progress that are being made.

There is only one way to bring positive change to the Middle-East and the Gulf, and that is through dialogue and diplomacy. Although there is much to criticize and there are wrongs to right, we need to engage with all parties in the neighborhood if progress is to be achieved. If the ultimate goal is peace between Israel and the Palestinians, then the other countries in the region need to be on board. The Arab world needs to help bring the Palestinians to the table and support an agreement. They will do this if they are convinced it is in their best interests, both domestically on the Arab street and internationally when it comes to trade with the U.S. and other countries.

The signs that peace is achievable are there. In the past month alone, I have travelled to both Qatar and Saudi Arabia and have spoken extensively with leaders and high-level officials there. They are all clear that positive relations with the U.S., be it with lawmakers, business leaders or opinion-formers, is something all Arab countries see as valuable. The signs are also there that rejuvenating the Middle East Peace Process will continue to be a priority for the Trump administration.

The Trump administration is crafting a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace to be unveiled “by early next year,” according to The New York Times. Following his recent weeklong trip to the region, U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt declared the U.S. “will never impose a deal — our goal is to facilitate, not dictate a lasting peace agreement”.

Those that say Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a barrier to this peace are misguided. What matters is not the location of an embassy, which is trivial on a greater scale. What matters is the political will on both sides to come to the table and negotiate. This has to be the focus if we are to progress. Kushner’s efforts behind the scenes will hopefully also help achieve this. The number of visits he has taken to the Arab world can only be a good thing, and will hopefully contribute towards new channels of dialogue and a refreshed vision of optimism opening up amongst Arab countries. 

The question is, can American Jews play a part in this process and make peace more achievable? I believe so. Our contribution starts from a diplomatic level. There are signs of diplomacy emerging on both sides. Attitudes in many of the Arab States are going through a gradual metamorphosis and becoming more aligned with America’s position in many areas. How the administration and Congress speak about the Arab world makes a real difference in promoting dialogue. Americans, and American Jews, can help support this process. 

However, diplomacy requires two players, there needs to be a feeling of reciprocity. If there is a sense that neither side is willing to communicate effectively, they have no time for each other’s opinion and there is no appetite for cooperation, then dialogue has no chance of succeeding. 

For the first time in a long time, the Arab world is now making efforts to show they want to engage.

They may only be taking small steps, but they are no less significant for that. In the last couple of months UNESCO, a thorn in Israel’s side, has delayed a negative vote on Israel and not objected to a Jew becoming its new director-general.

Further afield, Qatar has made it clear that Israelis (and Jews) are welcome at its World Cup. Israel Judo Association officials also “shared greetings and positive discussion” with officials from their UAE counterparts following last month’s Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam. When taken together these developments represent the signs that a significant movement may be underway. I believe the tide is turning and American Jews need to play their part. 

Many argue that Qatar is different, that they support terrorist groups such as Hamas which refutes Israel’s right to exist and we should act to condemn them where their interests run contrary to Israel’s. The situation is extremely complex and nuanced and Qatar is viewed by many as an outlier in the region. But the fact remains that America is heavily invested in Qatar and Israel is engaging with them. There are shared interests between Israel and Qatar and both countries want to take those interests forward. Where Israel and America are aligned, American Jewry should be following suit. We should be sending a message to Qatari officials that we are ready to communicate and open to engagement. American Jewry is equally well-equipped to help support diplomatic mechanisms, by creating a positive environment conducive to peace.

Engaging in a comprehensive dialogue with the Arab world is sometimes delicate but stability will only be brought through mutual cooperation and that requires making tough and often difficult decisions. If we foster a climate of collaboration, welcoming the positive changes and opening the door to greater dialogue the rewards could be immense.  Attitudes are changing, but profound change doesn’t happen overnight and what’s needed now is some level heads, time and care to allow these small changes to develop and see where they lead.

Jack Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress and chairman of the American Council for World Jewry.
Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 9:40am
By Jack Rosen
Jerusalem is and has always been the heart of the Jewish people. This most ancient and controversial of cities is the capital of the Jewish state as recognized by the government of Israel and Jews all over the world.
Rather than being lambasted, US President Donald Trump should be applauded for taking the brave step to recognize officially Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city and committing to relocating the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This historic acknowledgement by the Trump administration recognizes Jerusalem’s just and rightful position as the centerpiece of the Jewish state.
US officials have been keen to quash claims that the designation would in any way prejudice final-status negotiations as part of any future peace deal. There is little reason why it should, so I say to my friends in the Arab world that they should not lose hope. It’s clear that there is still room for negotiations, and no reason why a settlement—one that is palatable for both sides—cannot be reached. As Ambassador Ron Dermer said following the announcement, “The US did not say they were deciding the boundaries of Jerusalem,” and so a comprehensive peace deal is still very much alive.

Recognizing Jerusalem is an acknowledgement of reality (Photo: Israel Bardugo)


Unfortunately, the international community does not see it this way. The reaction has moved from plain critical to outrage. Leaders from London to Montevideo, from the UN to the Vatican are falling over themselves to condemn President Trump. The reaction is both wrong-headed, misguided and, indeed, dangerous.

You can’t help wondering why it is that the Jewish state is singled out in this way, given the ongoing atrocities in countries like Syria and Myanmar that have not received the same reaction. What other country on earth has its own choice of capital city questioned? What moral right does any other country have to dictate to Israel where it chooses its Capital? The outrageous thing about this whole episode is that it is so controversial in the first place.

While it cannot be denied that the announcement represents a different approach by the US and a break with its long-time policy of ambiguity on its status, Jerusalem is and always has been the capital of the Jewish state. President Trump’s announcement, in this context, is little more than a belated acknowledgement of historical fact. Jerusalem is after all the designated seat of the Israeli government, the Prime Minister’s Office and the legislature. It is a pure charade to pretend otherwise. Every person travelling to Israel, from a casual tourist to a head of state is left in no doubt where Israel’s capital lies.

Much of the focus from opponents to the move has been on the obstacles it will present the US in its efforts to broker peace, which President Trump has described as the “ultimate deal.” In reality, the Palestinian attitude to the peace process has long been entrenched, with the Palestinian leadership preferring to embark on unilateral action and diplomatic terrorism at international institutions, such as the UN, the International Criminal Court and UNESCO, instead of returning to the negotiating table with Israel.

President Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital (Photo: AP)

President Donald Trump

We all understand the pain felt by ordinary Palestinians, but the Palestinian leadership really only has itself to blame for its current predicament. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ warning of the “dangerous consequences” for lasting peace as a result of the US action speaks of a cynical attempt, given legitimacy by the over-blown outcry of world leaders, to inflame tensions and justify further diplomatic and military terror.

US allies roundly criticized the policy deviation, with the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May declaring it “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region.” French President Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, condemned it as a move that “(went) against international law and all the resolutions of the UN Security Council”. Perhaps to be expected, Turkey also chipped into the furor, with President Tayyip Erdogan likening the announcement to “throwing the region into a ring of fire.”

The vehemence of the collective response from world leaders demonstrates yet again that where Israel is involved, the international community always seems to revel in its condemnation and faux-outrage. This is clear hypocrisy, the likes of which we have seen repeated countless times at the UN Security Council, as the same standards are not applied to Western countries, much less more unsavory regimes around the world. Such an outcry was simply not seen on the same scale when Assad unleashed Chemical Weapons against his own people in Syria and following the ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Rohingyas, which continues to rage on.

Recognizing Jerusalem is an acknowledgement of reality. Peace will only be achieved by furthering the dialogue between Israel and Sunni Arab states with a shared interest in helping to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. Overreacting on Jerusalem is not going to help and only serves to encourage and embolden Islamic radicals and their apologists in the West, which in turn entrenches the extreme Israeli right. These, in combination, are the real obstacles to peace.

Jack Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress.