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Meeting with Rep. Ruben Gallego
Monday, March 18, 2019 - 2:03pm

Board members of the American Jewish Congress met with Congressman Ruben Galego (D-AZ-7), the Vice-Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. We expressed our concerns on the weak House resolution following Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic statements. We also thanked him for his commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Our meeting with Rep. Michael McCaul and Consul-General Dani Dayan
Monday, March 18, 2019 - 10:59am

Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting U.S. Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), who currently is the Ranking Member in the critical House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman McCaul expressed his support for the Jewish community and condemned in the strongest terms anti-Semitism – including from elected officials on the far-left and far-right.

Among the various topics we discussed were the developments in the Middle East and the multiple threats that Israel faces, both directly along its borders and across the region. The conversation focused in particular on the complex and unpredictable situation in Syria.

I also had the pleasure of making the introduction between my friend Dani Dayan, the Consul-General of Israel in New York, and Congressman McCaul. The Congressman reiterated his support for Israel and emphasized the fact that Israel is and must remain a bipartisan issue, as the greatest ally of the United States in the Middle East and the only democracy in the region.

Our Executive Briefing Call with Florida Congressman Ted Deutch
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - 3:10pm

Congressman Ted Deutch: Bipartisan Congressional Support for Israel Will Continue

Rep. Deutch speaks with the American Jewish Congress about the Middle East, domestic politics, and Democratic support for Israel

New York (January 2019) – This week, the American Jewish Congress hosted an exclusive Executive Briefing Call with Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL-22), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s influential Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. Over the course of the conversation, hosted by American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen, Rep. Deutch touched on such topics as the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, the government shutdown, legislating against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and the standards to which the United States should hold its allies.

Born to the children of Jewish immigrants, Congressman Deutch has been involved in pro-Israel advocacy since childhood, and took part in pro-Israel campus activism as a student at the University of Michigan. In his roles as a Florida State Senator and again later as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he played a role in passing landmark items of legislation to combat Iran’s illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons. Today, in addition to his role on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, Congressman Deutch is the Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and the newly-elected Chair of the House Ethics Committee.

The American Jewish Congress hosts its Executive Briefing Calls in order to connect its audience with significant players in U.S. and Israeli politics, the American Jewish community, and beyond. Previous briefings have featured Members of Congress, Israeli security practitioners, journalists, and diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Roger F. Wicker, Congressman Joe Wilson, etc.

The conversation opened up on the subject of U.S. foreign policy priorities with the induction of the 116th Congress. “I think what you’ll see in the new Congress, in the new majority – certainly these are my priorities – that strengthening and protecting our allies is critical,” the Congressman said. “It is, I would argue, more important now than ever for Congress to have a strong voice in support of our allies…That’s especially true in the Middle East. Enhancing Israel’s security and working toward peace need to be priorities of the Foreign Affairs Committee.”

On the domestic front, the Congressman made it clear that, while he supports comprehensive BDS legislation, the debate over whether to pass Israel-related legislation during the shutdown is not a good indicator of support for/opposition to Israel. “I just want to take a moment to use this to highlight the fact that support for Israel is – and needs to be – bipartisan. And just as I will not ascribe to the Democrats who are focused on reopening the government any anti-Israel animus in their position, I will likewise not ascribe anti-Israel animus to Senator Rand Paul, who singlehandedly prevented the U.S.-Israel Security Systems Authorization Act from going forward.”

When it comes to newer Members of Congress who have expressed negative attitudes toward Israel in the past, such as Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congressman Deutch believes bipartisanship will ultimately win out, especially as new members become more educated on the issues and gain more experiences.

“When you have a conversation with new members about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and the goal of working toward a two-state solution, once they’ve developed a better understanding, I’m confident that the strong bipartisan support that we’ve seen in Congress is going to continue.”

He continued: “I also think it’s important for supporters of Israel…to help [progressives] understand that on the issues they care about – whether it’s LGBT equality or women’s rights or democracy or humanitarian aid – on the issues they care about, there’s only one country in the region who shares their views,” and that “they should embrace the U.S.-Israel relationship because it is consistent with who they are as progressives.”

The American Jewish Congress is grateful to Congressman Deutch for sharing his unique experience and perspective on these critical issues, and for taking the time to speak directly with fellow members of the American Jewish community.

Our Executive Briefing Call with Major General Yaakov Amidror
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - 11:23am

Retired IDF Maj. General Amidror: Syria Withdrawal is a Red Flag to U.S. Allies

Former National Security Advisor to the PM of Israel, Major General (R) Yaakov Amidror, says in exclusive call with the American Jewish Congress

New York (January 2019) – Last week, the American Jewish Congress hosted a special Executive Briefing Call with Major General (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, former National Security Advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This exclusive phone conversation, made available to the public, addressed such topics as President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, the role of Iran in the region, and Hezbollah activity on Israel’s northern borders. The call was hosted by American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen.

During his 36 years serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Major General Yaakov Amidror also served as Director of the Intelligence Analysis Division and as the Military Secretary for the Minister of Defense. Today, Amidror is a Senior Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies (JISS) and a Distinguished Fellow of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

The American Jewish Congress hosts its Executive Briefing Calls in order to connect its audience with significant players in U.S. and Israeli politics, the American Jewish community, and beyond. Previous Briefings have featured Members of Congress, journalists, and diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

The discussion focused largely on President Trump’s recent decision to withdraw American troops from Syria and the implications this policy move might have on Israel. Major General Amidror highlighted the complexity of the power balance in Syria, and how a withdrawal of American forces may be in Iran’s favor.

“The decision of the Americans to pull out means that the whole Kurdish area will be under threat from Turkey,” General Amidror explained. “And the question is: Is it good for the Middle East or is it bad for the Middle East? The more the Turks will be inside Syria, the less willing Assad will be to get rid of or to contain or to limit the Iranians, because it is a balance between these forces, and we don’t know what the reaction of the Russians will be.”

He added that the withdrawal will likely throw off U.S. allies who were not prepared to be left on their own. “It’s very bad for allies who cannot defend themselves,” he said. “Israel is in a unique situation because we decided in ’48 that Israel would build its capability to defend itself, by itself…Other allies who did not make this decision or cannot make this decision, or found themselves in a different situation like the Kurds and some Arab countries, they are hesitating, and they don’t know how to react to this decision.”

Discussing the subject of American foreign policy decisions being unpredictable, including for allies, Mr. Rosen said, “I think the [democratic] system maybe is being tested, but so far it seems to be holding up…That means all the planning and all the deals you can make – regarding Syria, Iran, everything else – can be blown up post-any election, in Israel and in America. So it’s a little bit of an unstable time.” 

General Amidror sees Iran as the key reason behind many of the challenges facing the region. This also includes the threat posed by Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, on Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria. The discovery and destruction of Hezbollah terror tunnels by the IDF sends a strong message to Hezbollah and Iran: “[The tunnels] gave them their guarantee that, in the case of a war, they would have something that might change the situation to their side…The fact that we succeeded to neutralize these tunnels means that Hezbollah understands that (a) they lost a very important card and (b) that they are more exposed than they thought they were.”

Although it is a gradual process, General Amidror is optimistic about thawing relations between Israel and Sunni Arab nations and cooperation to resist Iran. In today’s Middle East, “Arab states understand that for their benefit – not for the sake of the Palestinians and not for the sake of Israel – for their benefit, for their interest, they have to have a different kind of relations with Israel.”

The American Jewish Congress is grateful to General Amidror for offering his expertise and insight into this issue, rooted in his remarkable Middle East security career. The geopolitical landscape of the Middle East is complex and constantly shifting; in this time of rapidly accessible information and misinformation, conversations like this take on the important role of providing deeper understanding to the public straight from the sources that matter.

Miami Passes Resolution Against AirBnB's Discriminatory Practices Toward Israel
Friday, December 14, 2018 - 5:00pm
Yesterday, under the leadership of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, the City of Miami unanimously passed a resolution condemning Airbnb for its discriminatory practices toward Israel.
 
It's great to see Miami take a stand against Airbnb's blatant discrimination. This courageous move was made possible by the work of Mayor Suarez, as well as Gabe Groisman, Mayor of Bal Harbour, Florida. Both of these mayors participated in our International Mayors Conference, held annually in Israel.
 
Mayors Suarez and Groisman are a great examples of what makes our International Mayors Conference special. The Conference brings together local government leaders from around the world to experience the Jewish homeland firsthand, to witness what Israel has achieved, and to build a spirit of solidarity and understanding with Israelis and one another. Our hope is for other participants to be similarly inspired toward the defense of Israel.
 
The Miami resolution came after Airbnb recent announcement that it would end listings in the disputed West Bank. However, it would only restrict listings posted by Israeli Jews living in the region, not by Palestinians. Moreover, Airbnb has not acted similarly in other disputed territories around the world. This new policy is a shameless boycott of Israel which is inherently discriminatory and shows a clear double standard.
 
Good work to Mayor Suarez, Mayor Groisman, and all who made this possible.
 
Our Meeting with Egypt's Ambassador to the UN
Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - 12:00pm

A group led by our President Jack Rosen had a meeting with the Permanent Representative of Egypt to the UN, Ambassador Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees, and his Counselor, Mr. Tarek Tayel.

The group comprised Board Members and members of the executive team of the American Jewish Congress, as well as representatives of other Jewish organizations like the Lawfare Project, Students Supporting Israel, and Israeli-American professionals.

We discussed many issues, including the recent vote on the UN resolution to condemn Hamas and Egypt's crucial role in the Middle East. Furthermore, we talked about some other resolutions of the international body that concern Israel, the prospects for a peace deal, and the cooperation between Israel and Egypt.

Different opinions and perspectives were presented and discussed, and both Ambassador Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees and President Jack Rosen reiterated their firm belief that the path toward sustainable peace is through dialogue and mutual understanding.

We thank Ambassador Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees for his hospitality and look forward to future discussions and collaborations.

American Jewish Congress Celebrates 100 Years and Honors Congressman Joe Kennedy III
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - 5:30pm

American Jewish Congress celebrates 100 years of supporting the Jewish Community in the United States and honors Congressman Joe Kennedy III with Stephen S. Wise Award for Advancing Human Freedom.

The evening was attended by top political and diplomatic players, including New York’s Attorney General Elect, Letitia James, Congressman Adriano Espaillat, Congressman Jerry Nadler, former Congressman Charles Rangel, Permanent Representatives from the Missions of Mexico, Argentina, Slovakia, Mali, Kosovo, and Italy to the UN, and several Consuls General.

New York, NY (November 28, 2018) – On Monday evening, the American Jewish Congress honored Congressman Joe Kennedy at its centennial celebration at a venue in midtown New York. The event was attended by remarkable New York guests, including New York City’s Attorney General Elect Letitia James; Congressman Adriano Espaillat, Congressman Jerry Nadler Permanent Representatives of the Missions of Mexico, Argentina, Slovakia, Mali, Kosovo, Italy, and other nations to the United Nations; U.S. Members of Congress; Consuls General of China and Israel; businesspeople; Jewish community leaders; and many others. The event’s Honorary Chair was Len Blavatnik, along with Co-Chair Marvin Rosen.

Looking back on 100 years of activism and community leadership is no small task. Eliyahu Stern, Professor of Modern Jewish Intellectual and Cultural History at Yale University, guided the attendees through the remarkable history of this organization, and the achievements of its past leaders which set the standard for their present and future work. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer then addressed the attendees by video, congratulating the AJCongress for this historic milestone.

American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen delivered meaningful remarks on the crises facing the Jewish community and others today, and the urgency of continuing the work AJCongress’ founders began a century ago. Rosen said during his speech: “It is from a deep sense of personal responsibility that I am part of the American Jewish Congress, because sadly this organization is needed today more than ever. After the Holocaust, Jews everywhere committed to the mantra ‘Never Again.’ Yet today, here in the United States of America, we hear again hate on the march. In Charlottesville. In Pittsburgh. We will not remain silent as this threat festers and grows.”

As the evening progressed, young Alex Rosen, Mr. Rosen’s grandson, recognized his grandfather for his own contributions to the organization’s enduring legacy – and reminded the audience that the future of our work rests with our children. “The real question for the American Jewish Congress today is how to help the Jewish people and all people of peace win the future,” Alex said during his speech. “The answers come in the two life lessons that my grandfather always teaches us: work hard and be curious.”

At the conclusion of the night, Mr. Rosen presented Congressman Kennedy with the Stephen S. Wise Award. Named for visionary founder Rabbi Wise, this award has recognized a number of remarkable American and Israeli leaders in the last century – including the Congressman’s grandfather, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and others.

Upon accepting the award, Rep. Kennedy gave an impassioned speech about the impact made by the American Jewish Congress on U.S. history., and the roles played by the Kennedy family as well as the Congress in protecting American values over the years.

In his speech, Rep. Kennedy spoke about the important role of the Jewish people in American history and the contributions they have made. He spoke out against the resurgence of anti-Semitism, and emphasized the importance of unity and community across religious, ethnic, and racial lines. He also stated his support for the State of Israel and described his admiration the qualities that have allowed Israel to succeed and thrive. “The American Jewish Congress is greatly blessed to have him as a friend and partner as they enter our second century,” Jack Rosen remarked at the end of the evening.

 

Trump is right on UN refugee aid
Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 9:52am

BY JACK ROSEN, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 

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

POLISH MAYOR: DIFFICULT TO ACCEPT ‘POLISH DEATH CAMPS’ LAW
Monday, February 19, 2018 - 12:32pm

By Tamara Zieve
2/14/2018

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.

 
Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 7:12pm

In an interview with Reuters, Jack Rosen, the president of the American Jewish Congress, said Trump's move could offer a breakthrough in peace talks.

 

Rosen said naming Jerusalem as Israel's capital sends two messages: "One to the Palestinians that this could slip away from you, so let's get serious. Try to find a way forward to peace. But it may also send a message to the Israelis – that you can trust this administration; that it will work in a balanced way to find the security that you require and the terms that you require, at the same time satisfy the Palestinians and maybe work towards a solution."