The Hill
Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 4:20pm

By Jack Rosen

“People all over the world are looking to the United States for leadership. We are known as the indispensable nation for good reason. No nation has more opportunity to advance the cause of democracy and no nation is as committed to the cause of human rights as we are.”

When Secretary of State John Kerry made this statement in his confirmation hearing four years ago, no one could have predicted what that would mean for the Middle East and the international community.

In the immediate aftermath of Rex Tillerson's confirmation hearing, it is important to reflect on Secretary Kerry's time in office and understand what a secretary of state can achieve.

Kerry’s credentials were second to none — a former presidential candidate, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, well-travelled and well-connected to many heads of state.

At the time, commentators believed that there could not have been a more worthy choice. For some, Tillerson is the opposite of that model. Questions have been raised considering his business associations, including his dealings with Putin, but it would be wrong to use the Kerry profile to judge Tillerson.

Anyone, myself included, who has been working long enough in international business and with foreign leaders on policy, will have come across people whose ideals they don't agree with, but who they dealt with to advance their company or organisational interests.

Who you have done business with does not necessarily lessen your support for America and it would be a mistake to assume that Tillerson’s business relationships disqualify him to be the next secretary of state.

Kerry looked like the perfect mould for the position, but the decisions he made may result in history judging his tenure very harshly.

Four years ago, no one present at Kerry's hearing would have thought to ask him, "Would you be happy to sit by and allow hundreds of thousands of people to be slaughtered in Syria?"

Or, "Is it acceptable to allow a country that openly declares it wants to wipe out its neighbor to be a threshold nuclear power?"

Yet, with the Iran nuclear deal and his policies regarding ISIS and Syria, that is exactly what has happened.

Culminating in his late December speech, Secretary Kerry’s record on Israel has been disastrous. He has targeted Israel in the U.N. and made the chances of constructive bilateral discussions less likely.

Rather than maintaining the long-standing U.S. policy of vetoing any resolution that interferes with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he allowed for the further isolation of Israel.

Kerry should have been preparing for a smooth transition to the new administration's policy goals, which would have included a veto on the previously mentioned resolution. Instead, Kerry chose to allow the U.N. to classify the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, as “occupied territory”.

Furthermore, while Israel has been the leading democracy in the region for generations, Kerry declared that it cannot be both Jewish and Democratic. The damage he caused in two weeks may take years to repair.

This is the position that Rex Tillerson will inherit. His approach to the U.N., which he has outlined on social media, will begin to correct the damage that has been done.

We will only be able to judge Tillerson by his actions, as we hope he will stand up and change the policy direction on Israel and the Middle East. 

Times of Israel Blogs
Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 5:04pm

Louis D. Brandeis, the great U.S. Supreme Court Justice who took his seat almost exactly 100 years ago, famously wrote that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” In another illustration of that wisdom, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to delegitimize Israel was unable to survive the scrutiny of the United Methodist Church, which voted last week to reject four resolutions aimed at taking punitive action against Israel.

The 12-million-member Church voted on pro-BDS measures at each of its last three quadrennial policy conferences, culminating this year in another defeat for BDS supporters in what one proponent of the resolutions described as an effort that “pretty much went down in flames.”

Jewish Journal
Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 2:42pm

Bernie Sanders’ appointments of Cornel West and James Zogby as his representatives to the Democratic party’s platform drafting committee are drawing strong condemnation from U.S. Jewish leaders...

“Of all the social activists that Senator Sanders could have nominated to help advance his message, we are particularly troubled by the selection of Cornel West, a prominent supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement,” American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen said in a statement. “Ultimately, we will judge the committee based on their actions at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this July, but considering Sanders’ extremely misinformed comments about Israel last month, the American Jewish Congress is especially concerned about West’s policy positions on the Middle East.”

The Jerusalem Post
Tuesday, April 19, 2016 - 10:46am

For most of the 2016 Presidential campaign, foreign policy issues have played a secondary role, but Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ response to questions about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has generated considerable attention on the eve of the New York primary.

Recently, Sanders threw around random numbers with respect to civilians killed in the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist organization ruling over the Gaza Strip. Confusion about the precise figures is not disqualifying, but even more troubling than having only a distant familiarity with one of the most high profile issues a sitting US Senator confronts is the language Sanders chose to criticize Israeli conduct in its war of self-defense.

Sanders is among those who argue for a “proportional response” to terrorists. This is a notion many find baffling, as the merciless attacks by terror groups focus overwhelmingly on their attempts to murder as many innocent civilians as possible. In such a political and military context, one wonders what the advocates of proportionality really mean given Webster’s definition of “having a size, number or amount that is directly related to or appropriate for something.”

Fair Observer
Monday, April 4, 2016 - 9:22am

Argentina is the only major player in Latin America with a forward looking agenda that offers hope to its people.

In the crush of events that always weigh down a US president, and the daily eruptions of the 2016 election campaign, it would be a monumental mistake to underestimate the importance of President Barack Obama’s recent meeting with newly elected Argentine President Mauricio Macri. US outreach to Latin America never seems to garner sufficient priority, and the personal attention by Obama to one of the most interesting new leaders in a hugely influential country south of the border should not go unremarked.

Macri’s electoral victory in 2015 represents a long awaited change from the path taken by many of Argentina’s neighbors, where corruption and ineptitude seem pervasive in places like Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil. Succeeding Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose fame, or infamy, rested on her accommodations with neighborhood thugs—not to mention her various deals with Iran’s ayatollahs—Macri brings to Casa Rosada the promise of a new day for his people and a new model for Latin America.

The Hill
Friday, March 4, 2016 - 12:00pm

By Jack Rosen

Even in the midst of an astounding 2016 presidential campaign that is gripping the attention of most Americans, the U.S. - Iran nuclear deal is back in the news. The IAEA says that, so far, Iran appears to be in compliance. But that is not the whole story.

Now we learn that the regime of the Ayatollahs has a new program to support Palestinian murderers of Israelis. Iran has committed to give $7,000 to families of attackers who have used knives, hammers, scissors and other crude implements to kill and maim. For families that have their homes destroyed by Israel as a form of deterrence against future would-be murderers, Iran will provide $30,000.

None of this can come as a surprise, as Iran has increased financial support of both Hamas and Hezbollah, its two best-known proxies devoted to Israel’s destruction. Nor was any this unanticipated at the time the nuclear agreement was signed.

Even the agreement’s supporters in Congress, and elsewhere, warned that the unfrozen $100 billion of Iranian assets would end up in the hands of terrorists determined to create instability in the Middle East and beyond. Though Israel wears the largest bulls-eye on its back, many other U.S. allies in the region also voiced their fear that the financial bonanza would embolden Iran’s aggressive aims.

Now that the fear that Iran would be emboldened in its support of terrorism is coming to pass, many rightly will argue in favor of applying new sanctions. Former Secretary of State and presidential contender Hillary Clinton spoke out quickly to condemn Iran’s promise to fund Palestinian murder, and no doubt Congress will consider various options.

But presidential leadership will be essential if the U.S. is to pursue the dual policy of blocking Iran’s nuclear weapons program while also opposing Tehran’s destabilizing actions, including support of terrorism, throughout the region. For President Obama, this is an opportunity to show the nation that the White House and the Congress can come together to speak with one voice.  

While the U.S. has argued that the nuclear agreement was essential to keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of Iran’s leaders, it also indicated that many other differences remain between the two countries, and that the U.S. has other tools it will employ to confront Tehran when its behavior crosses red lines.

Applying meaningful American pressure against Iran’s new program to use unfrozen financial assets to kill Jews will have strong bipartisan support, taking politics out of the equation in demonstrating that America’s moral influence and economic might are still credible weapons in the fight to deter Iranian aggression.  

Providing financial stipends to Palestinian terrorists and their families for gruesome killing sprees surely rises to the level of unacceptable behavior that must trigger a clear response by the U.S. government. The American people look forward to Congress and the president making good on the promises made just a few short months ago.

Rosen is the president of the American Jewish Congress and chairman of the American Council for World Jewry.

The Jerusalem Post
Thursday, March 3, 2016 - 1:59pm

The American Jewish Congress lauded the state of Indiana on Thursday for passing in its Senate an bill against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

The Indiana Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure 47-3 on Tuesday.

"We thank Indiana for being a friend to Israel and for making a wise decision -- both economically and politically -- to stand up against detractors of the Jewish State," said AJC President Jack Rosen. "We expect Indiana’s Governor Mike Spence to sign the bill into law, making Indiana the sixth state to adopt an anti-BDS provision in recent months."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 4:18pm

By Jack Rosen

At a time when European nations are turning their backs on Israel, Italy has held steadfast in support of both the Jewish State and its own Jewish citizens. Polls consistently show Italians with the lowest percentage of anti-Semitic views compared to other Europeans, even as anti-Semitism is making a resurgence throughout the continent.

Last week, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, as the world paid formal tribute to one of the darkest periods in modern history, Italy took it a step further when a local newspaper distributed skullcaps to all of its subscribers in a show of solidarity with Jews.

The daily paper, Foglio, emphasized the move was in response to a French Jewish leader who recently advised Jews to hide their religious identities in public after a French Jew was assaulted with a machete for donning a yarmulke.

In an article that accompanied the free token, the paper asserted that “the West should not obscure its roots and its religious symbols,” and that in response to the surge in anti-Semitism across Europe, “this year we must do more.”

Italy has led the way in commemorating Jewish culture and protecting the rights of Jews in Europe since World War II, and is an active contributor to the fight against anti-Semitism today.

Indeed, Italy was the first country to make January 27, the date of the 1945 Soviet liberation of Auschwitz, a national day of remembrance.

This year, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Italian ambassador to Israel Francesco Maria Talo echoed Foglio’s sentiment, emphasizing Italy’s special responsibility to remember the Holocaust: “It is especially important to remember what was done to participate in the persecution.... We have more responsibility and we need to do more,” Talo said.

While these words regrettably will fall on the deaf ears of the many Europeans who support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, they will resonate with Israelis, who face a multi-tiered threat from those who continue to seek to undermine the Jewish state. BDS has played a role in inciting the recent wave of killings by Palestinian knife-wielders, and it encourages baseless and misguided rhetorical attacks at academic institutions and college campuses across the world — some of which have produced violent protests and veiled threats directed at Jewish students and faculty from BDS supporters.

Italy’s brave and lonely position last week is a barometer of its support for Israel. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is an ally of the Jewish State, and last year delivered an eloquent speech to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, on the dangers of the BDS movement. The American Jewish Congress was lucky enough to have him as a guest at our 2012 International Conference of Mayors in Israel while he was the mayor of Florence.

Italy’s ambassador to the UN, Sebastiano Cardi has also been outspoken on the subject of anti-Semitism, addressing the issue at the United Nations General Assembly last year:

“Italy supports multilateral initiatives against anti-Semitism....We must clearly and unanimously condemn every act of anti-Semitism and its ideological roots,” Cardi said.

Given the growth of anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant sentiments on the continent, Cardi’s admonition is timely. Selling fear and demonizing the “other” in society is nothing new in Europe. Responsible leadership is an uncommon commodity, and the world should be grateful that Italian leaders have stepped forward to remind us that tolerance and inclusivity must be championed at the highest levels of government.

Italy has become a crucial ally of Israel, and Jews everywhere are thankful that Israel has such a reliable friend in Europe. Just as significant, though, is the example Rome is setting for its continental neighbors, for whom the lessons of liberty and freedom constantly must be reinforced.

The Huffington Post
Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - 4:56pm

Of all the criticism Donald Trump has taken in recent weeks for making provocative statements, the most interesting was uttered by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia. Following Trump’s call for banning Muslims from entering the United States, the Prince, a member of the Saudi royal family, said of the Republican presidential candidate, “You are a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America.”

Hearing that message from Prince Alwaleed is like the pot calling the kettle black. If intolerance to other religions is the criteria for a disgraceful policy, he ought to direct equal attention to his own government’s long-standing positions. Is it necessary for the “custodian of Islam” — by virtue of Saudi Arabia being the location of the Haj — to prohibit the practice of all other religions? Is it right that barriers to citizenship and even entry into the Kingdom can be enforced on the basis of religion?

The Hill
Friday, December 18, 2015 - 11:13am

The election of Mauricio Macri as Argentina’s new president is a promising development, not just for his long-suffering nation, but for the prospects that Latin America can move successfully into a post-Chavez period of reintegration with the West. As Argentina works to reinvigorate its economy, abandon a provocative and failed foreign policy and assure citizens that rule of law and an independent judiciary will be respected, the U.S. has a rare opportunity to make a real difference by supporting the fresh wind blowing through the Western Hemisphere.

Having personally gotten to know Macri over the past few years, I believe he has the leadership qualities to fulfill his vision of leading Argentina into a new era of economic prosperity. Renewing strong economic relations with the United States and other western nations will be part of Macri’s effort to repair the damage of Buenos Aires’ default on its debt and exit from the dollar in 2002 amid the Argentine Great Depression. Reversing his predecessor’s isolationist trade policies will be applauded in Washington and most other western capitals, and contribute to jump starting Argentina’s stalled economy.