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Friday, December 6, 2019 - 5:18pm

The American Jewish Congress greets the passing of House Resolution 326 (H. Res. 326). We applaud the efforts of the House Leadership, especially Speaker Pelosi, to shepherd this resolution through, and we applaud Democrats for reiterating their commitment to the bipartisan consensus on the U.S. - Israel relationship. As movement in some quarters of the democratic party push for changes to the party platform that would condition military aid to Israel, today’s amendments position the House and the democratic party with the overwhelming majority of the American People.

Today's resolution reaffirms the central role that the two-state solution plays to affirming peace between Israelis and Palestinians. While we do not agree with every provision in the resolution, the amendments brought forth by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL-22), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5), and Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY-23) serve as strong repudiations of the proposal by some elected officials and presidential candidates to condition security aid to Israel. The amendments reiterate the commitment to the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding of 2016 between the United States and Israel, and the continuation of the critical security assistance as signed and without new conditions. 

Jack Rosen, President of the American Jewish Congress, greeted today’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and emphasized the importance of these amendments: “I want to thank Speaker Pelosi, the 192 democrat co-sponsors, and the 226 bipartisan legislators who voted for this important resolution. I want to also thank Representatives Reed, Gottheimer, and Deutch, for their tireless work in support of the Amendments to the resolution. 

“With the heat of the ongoing primary campaign towards the 2020 presidential race, some candidates have espoused radical positions in terms of reshaping the relationship of the United States with Israel, one of its most important allies. Senator Bernie Sanders shockingly embraced the talking points of radical anti-Israel progressives and said that he supported conditioning aid to Israel, going as far as to suggest that part of the security aid to Israel should instead go to Hamas-controlled Gaza. At the same time, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg disturbingly stated that they were open to considering conditioning aid. 

“Today’s resolution and particularly the bipartisan amendments show once again that efforts to politicize the alliance with Israel and calls to condition U.S. security assistance to Israel will be met by a bipartisan Congressional response. These calls go against the overwhelming bicameral majority in Congress and the unquestionable bipartisan support for Israel.”

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY-23), whose leadership was pivotal in the bipartisan effort to reiterate the strong support of the United States towards Israel through the proposed amendments commented:

“Israel is an unwavering ally to the United States and a critical partner in our combined effort to ensure Middle East stability. We should not let the dysfunctional state of extremist politics at home get in the way of critical defense funding for Israel. We hope the inclusion of this amendment in the text of this resolution will show both the American people and the world we care about Israel, and we want to ensure they have fair access to the resources they need to defend themselves from the constant barrage of threats they face on a daily basis.”

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5), a true friend of Israel and whose leadership contributed towards strengthening the resolution with the aid-related amendments stated: “This vote officially puts to rest the splinter view of adding new conditions on aid to Israel and reinforces our historic commitment to preserving a two-state solution. We know that this aid helps save countless lives, and we know the United States is better off when Israel is fully equipped to defend itself.

The American Jewish Congress will continue to work towards strengthening the United States-Israel relationship and will continue to fight against all efforts aiming to question the unbreakable bond between the U.S. and the Jewish state. 

Monday, November 18, 2019 - 4:00pm
The American Jewish Congress greets today’s historic announcement by the Trump Administration on the legality of settlements as a step in the direction of moving both sides towards a meaningful resolution. We reject the concept that policy changes that benefit Israel are zero-sum and will harm the stalled non-existent peace process.
 
The status quo is unacceptable. The nearly forty-year-old policy recognizing settlements as illegal has not brought Israelis or Palestinians closer to lasting peace. The history of the peace process informs us that some settlements will be in Israel and some in Palestine. Both parties must be prepared to engage in direct, bilateral negotiations. We believe the United States can play an important role in facilitating the talks, but ultimately both parties must dictate the terms of peace.
 
This action by the Trump Administration will create pressure on the Palestinians to return to the table and negotiate. As such, this decision in no way prejudges the eventual resolution and the final status of settlements with the Palestinian territories - leaving the two-state solution on the table.
 
 
Jack Rosen
President
American Jewish Congress
 
 
Tuesday, November 5, 2019 - 10:00am

 

The American Jewish Congress commends President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador for aligning with the United States and with all those that support freedom and democracy in Venezuela.

President Bukele recognized the evident truth that Nicolas Maduro’s government is illegitimate and ordered all Venezuelan diplomats serving the Maduro regime to leave El Salvador. In his statement, El Salvador’s President reiterated his decision to recognize Juan Guaido as interim President of Venezuela and condemn the actions of Maduro. This is a bold and decisive action from President Bukele, whom we had the honor to host at our 2018 International Mayors Conference in Israel, when he was serving as Mayor of San Salvador.

Since assuming office, Maduro has degraded democracy in Venezuela by rigging elections. Furthermore, he has recurred to violence and has jailed civil society representatives and political opponents. Two years ago, a victim of Maduro’s repression was Mayor Antonio Ledezma, the former Mayor of Caracas and a former participant in our International Mayors Conference. Together with other opposition leaders, Mayor Ledezma was unjustly arrested by Maduro, as part of the latter’s ongoing campaign to repress dissent and discourage the Venezuelan opposition.

The American Jewish Congress invites other countries in Latin America to follow the courageous example of President Bukele. We will continue to support a democratic Venezuela and its freedom-loving people.

 

Jack Rosen
President
American Jewish Congress 
Monday, November 4, 2019 - 10:59am

Dear Senator Sanders,

I write to you today to encourage you to reconsider Linda Sarsour’s position as your campaign surrogate. As the only Jewish Presidential candidate in the field, and as someone who may become the first Jewish President of the United States, you bear a special responsibility to the Jewish American community.

Linda Sarsour has a long history of flagrant anti-Semitism and hatred for the State of Israel. Her rhetoric on Israel goes far beyond criticism of the government and is well into the territory of anti-Semitism in its own right—one of the more infamous examples is her statement that “nothing is creepier than Zionism.” Her association with, and failure to condemn, Louis Farrakhan is inexcusable. She is also a longtime advocate for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, a thoroughly discriminatory organization which a new United Nations report called anti-Semitic.

As a candidate for the highest position in the land and the trust of the nation, what message are you sending to your constituents by embracing and supporting an anti-Semite? As a proud Jewish American, how can you justify being represented by someone who associates with Louis Farrakhan, a man who has called Jews “termites?”

With the tide of anti-Semitism rising worldwide, it is of utmost importance that Jewish political and community leaders, such as yourself, show Jewish Americans that they will stand up for them. Especially as anti-Semitism seeps into the political sphere from both sides, we need politicians who will take strong stands against it. Many in the Jewish American community including prominent advocacy organizations have taken serious issue with Sarsour, in particular her involvement in the Women’s March has alienated Jewish women from the movement.

Americans must stand together, now more than ever. Senator, I call on you to consider removing Linda Sarsour as your campaign surrogate. It is the right thing to do.

 

Sincerely yours,

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

 

Thursday, October 31, 2019 - 1:22pm

 

The American Jewish Congress is dismayed and deeply perplexed by Senator Bernie Sanders’ comments at the J Street Conference. Senator Sanders not only reiterated his pledge to use the US security aid to Israel as “leverage” to pressure our ally, but he also showed a concerning lack of understanding of the real impediments to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While Senator Sanders surrounds himself with individuals that have publicly expressed anti-Israel bias and rhetoric, he seems more inclined to embrace positions that are uninformed, misguided, and that disregard the viewpoints of the majority of the American people.

Senator Sanders referred to Israel in his speech and stated that “if you want military aid, you are going to have to fundamentally change your relationship with the people of Gaza." He also added that he believes "it is fair to think that some of that $3.8 billion [US aid to Israel] should go to humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

In his position, Senator Sanders diverges from the overwhelming bipartisan and bicameral majority in Congress, as well as the overwhelming majority of Americans that have historically favored a robust security aid to Israel. The aid helps our close ally to defend itself against multiple threats in the Middle East and to remain a point of stability in the turbulent region. Aid to Israel, which supports Israel's missile defense system, contributes to protecting the lives of innocent civilians from rockets fired into Israel from Gaza. At the same time, this aid serves the interest of the United States. As the US presence in Syria is diminishing, a safe and strong Israel is key in containing Iran and preventing its further entrenchment and expansionism in the country. Israel is also pivotal in keeping in check other malevolent actors in the region, including Hezbollah, the Assad regime, and the remnants of ISIS. 

In his speech, Senator Sanders fails to mention and condemn the destructive role of Hamas, the US-designated terrorist organization, which governs Gaza. Hamas denies Israel’s right to exist and is responsible for firing thousands of rockets at Israel. Hamas’ record with the Palestinians is not much better. In fact, Hamas represses dissent and beats protestors and the Palestinians that it claims to represent, all while instigating riots and violence toward Israelis. 

The situation in Gaza should be improved, but humanitarian aid has been previously squandered by Hamas. Assistance provided to the Gaza Strip to improve the life and wellbeing of Palestinians has been continuously directed by Hamas towards the acquisition of rockets used against innocent Israelis, and towards building terror tunnels that infiltrate into Israeli territory. Our elected officials should criticize and be vigilant against human rights violations, including from our allies. But this zealousness in criticizing Israel for the situation, while neglecting the actual rulers of Gaza, is not justifiable.

 

Jack Rosen

President 

American Jewish Congress

Friday, July 26, 2019 - 5:27pm

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting with Marito Abdo Benítez, President of Paraguay, at his home in Asunción. During our meeting, we discussed several important issues—among them, Paraguay’s decision to relocate the Paraguayan Embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv, just months after it was moved to Jerusalem. President Benitez explained to me he and his country endorse the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace as is written in several UN resolutions, enumerating that the core issues, including Jerusalem, should be addressed through negotiations by the concerned parties. In our meeting, the President made it clear to me that he is an unequivocal supporter of Israel.

Despite the strained relations the Embassy affair has caused between Israel and Paraguay, I am optimistic that relations can move forward to the benefit of all parties. Israel plans to reinstate its ambassador to Paraguay in the near future—a positive sign for the improved relations between the two countries. I believe the U.S. and Israel have a role to play in Paraguay as it continues to develop under President Benítez’s leadership.

After concluding my visit to South America, I feel confident that the two Presidents I met with, Mauricio Macri of Argentina and Marito Abdo Benítez of Paraguay, have their countries’ and peoples’ best interest at heart, and are capable to lead the region forward in the years ahead. Especially in a time when Latin America is taking a more active role on the world stage, and when Israel is expanding its efforts to connect with Latin American nations, the potential for lasting partnership is greater than ever. Both men understand the potential of their countries to make a difference, and I am honored by the opportunity to have these meaningful conversations with them.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

Friday, July 19, 2019 - 6:27pm
We are disappointed and offended by what President Trump said about his fellow Americans— U.S. Congressional Representatives, no less. Every American has an origin story, and our nation has always served as a crucible that treats our differences as strengths and allows us each to equally call America home. Make no mistake: the President's remarks were racist and have no place in our discourse. All politicians, Republican or Democrat, left or right, progressive or conservative, must work to heal the divisions that strain America today. Through their rhetoric, both sides can do great damage to the American idea of “E Pluribus Unum”: from many, one. We must reject all ideologies and statements that reject this quintessentially American idea of pluralism. We must stand against racism in all its forms, including anti-Semitism, and stand together as one nation.
Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - 12:30pm

On behalf of the American Jewish Congress, I want to extend my warm appreciation to Mauricio Macri, the President of Argentina, for officially recognizing Hezbollah as a terror organization. This is a significant step for Argentina and especially its Jewish community, and shows great leadership by President Macri in Latin America and around the world.

Last week, I had the honor of meeting with President Macri in Buenos Aires, where we discussed this issue in addition to other important matters. I have known President Macri for several years, since I invited him to the International Mayors Conference in Israel when he was Mayor of Buenos Aires. In that time, he has always shown himself to be a forward-thinking world leader, a true friend of the Jewish people in Argentina and abroad, and a strong ally of Israel. With this decision, he cements that characterization and more.

The decision also places Argentina in line with the United States, Germany, and other countries that recognize Hezbollah for what it really is. Recognizing terrorism is the first step toward fighting it; when prominent nations see the truth about the activities of Hezbollah and Iran, it benefits U.S. security interests in the Middle East, strengthens the security of the State of Israel and its neighbors, and aids the stability of the region as a whole.

Hezbollah is also responsible for terror attacks around the world. In 1992, Hezbollah launched a deadly suicide bombing against the Embassy of Israel in Argentina; and in 1994, Hezbollah was responsible for the AMIA bombing, the deadliest terror attack in Argentina's history. These horrific events hold painful memories for Argentina's Jewish community. President Macri and I both believe this decision will provide some measure of peace to the community by recognizing Hezbollah for what it really is.

I commend President Macri on this courageous decision and look forward to continuing our meaningful dialogue. President Macri is a good friend of Israel and the Jewish people, and I am fortunate to call him my friend as well.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

Friday, July 12, 2019 - 4:00pm

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting in Buenos Aires with my good friend President Mauricio Macri of Argentina. Several years ago, when he was Mayor of Buenos Aires and a rising star in Argentine politics, I welcomed Mauricio to Israel as part of our International Mayors Conference, and I have hosted him at my house before. He demonstrated then, as he does now, that he is a true friend of the Jewish community in Argentina. He has led by example when it comes to building new bridges between Latin America and the Jewish people.

President Macri and I engaged in a discussion on many important topics, but there was one that especially stood out. I urged President Macri to designate Hezbollah as a terror organization. By doing this, he would join Argentina with Germany, the United States, and other nations that recognize the dangers this violent radical organization--which is backed by Iran--poses to the world.

This action would be especially meaningful because of the painful history of Hezbollah and the Argentinian Jewish community. On July 18, 1994, Hezbollah was responsible for the bombing attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA). The bombing, directed at Israelis and Argentinian Jews, killed 85 people and injured hundreds more. To date, it is the deadliest terror attack ever to take place in Argentina.

I am sure President Macri’s decision would be welcomed by Argentina’s Jewish community, the international Jewish community, and all others who choose peace and tolerance worldwide. I am proud to call President Macri a friend, and I look forward to our continued partnership.  

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

Monday, July 8, 2019 - 11:11am

When Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently used the term “concentration camps” and the expression “Never Again” to refer to the detention centers on the U.S.-Mexico border, I found myself torn. The pain and urgency of America’s immigration and asylum crisis are immense. At the same time – and although my position is unpopular with some – I cannot ignore Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s continued politically-motivated marginalization and diminishment of the tragedies that define Jewish identity and concerns today. As President of the American Jewish Congress, one of America’s oldest and most visible organizations dedicated to defending the Jewish people and promoting their values, it is my duty to speak out on both matters.

All Americans have a duty to speak out against the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border, which is deplorable. Our treatment of these migrants who seek better lives in America, and especially the children, defiles our core values as a nation. It also goes against the Jewish traditions of compassion and empathy for others, the pursuit of social justice, and tikkun olam – healing the world and making it better. The American Jewish Congress condemns these human rights abuses in the strongest possible terms and call for their immediate end.

Because our values are at stake, the politics needed to resolve the crisis must transcend party and creed. Sadly, the politics on both sides of the aisle remains divisive and counterproductive. I was born in 1945 in a displaced persons camp in Germany, immediately after my parents survived the systematic murder of six million Jews by the Nazis. For me, the term “concentration camps” means something very specific and personal, and it pains me to hear it used lightly or improperly. This is the reason I will continue to vehemently call out Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – or anybody else, for that matter – for abusing the collective memories and intergenerational scars of the Jewish people for cheap political gains.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s theatrics are unacceptable. Her use of words and phrases which conjure painful emotional triggers for the Jewish people displays obliviousness to the feelings and history of Jews, and demeans her own cause by rendering these words elastic and adaptable for political purposes. Scholars and pundits now weighing in on the technical definition of a concentration camp are similarly misguided. “Never” and “Again,” likewise, are two words that can be found in dictionaries, and there they will appear devoid of any larger meaning at first glance; nonetheless, taken together, these words carry existential meaning and purpose for the Jewish people. These words and phrases are vessels of pain and identity bearing great significance to Jewish Americans, and our elected representatives should be cognizant of this.

The situation on the border is brutal and countermands America’s deepest-held values. But connecting it to the Holocaust in order to get attention and score political points is lazy and divisive; what we need is real effort and solidarity among people of goodwill to confront the problem.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress