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.
American Jewish Congress
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.
American Jewish Congress
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.
American Jewish Congress
The American Jewish Congress applauds Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for his decision to back Senate Resolution 120, which opposes the efforts to de-legitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. Senator Schumer’s support for this bill reflects the Democratic party’s long tradition of fighting against anti-Semitism and hate speech, and support for the state of Israel.
Opposing economic and cultural boycott of Israel upholds a fundamentally American value by not only standing by a close ally, but also by protecting U.S. businesses and interests abroad.
We also commend Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) for introducing the resolution and for enlisting such wide bipartisan backing with 63 co-sponsors to date. This underlines America’s unwavering commitment to fighting this modern-day manifestation of anti-Semitism and its support for the State of Israel.
American Jewish Congress
This week’s economic workshop in Bahrain, where the U.S. Administration will present its “Peace to Prosperity” plan for development of the Palestinian economy, is an opportunity to re-enter a process which has the potential to propel the Middle East towards a better future.
Despite the natural, and understandable, skepticism surrounding the workshop, we firmly believe that engagement on economic issues can be a springboard for further dialogue and engagement. We are proud to have been involved in similar economic development initiatives since the 1990’s, with belief that providing a sound economic foundation for the Palestinians makes peace more viable in the future.
We believe that if the Palestinians are given a sense that they stand to lose by not engaging, there is a greater chance they will embrace the process – both economically and politically. In addition, the plan must create an incentive for the Palestinian people to pressure their leadership to abandon its boycott of the U.S. administration, and return to full engagement.
The participation of key Arab states in the conference – Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the UAE and even regional adversaries Saudi Arabia and Qatar – proves that there is growing concern in the region, as well as a desire to give this process a chance. Enlisting the Arab states to invest in the future can be a game-changer, and we hope their participation will be help move the region closer towards peace. Much like the regional efforts to counter Iran’s malign activities, we hope the region’s leading powers will coalesce around the objective of assisting the Palestinians move towards a better future.
But we also believe that the economic discussions cannot replace a genuine political process – one which must aim to resolve the core issues that at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A solid economic foundation can only be sustained if it is followed up by a good-faith effort to address the Palestinian aspiration for self-determination, and to ensure Israel continues to exist as a peaceful, secure democratic Jewish state. History has shown that disillusionment can lead to violence, and we caution all parties that unless steps are taken on the political track, the results may be highly destructive.
Greater economic opportunity can help the next generation of Palestinians to choose partnership over extremism and peace over terrorism. We are hopeful that the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Bahrain will indeed provide the foundation for prosperity and will ultimately be combined with an honest political process. This is a first - but necessary - step toward a true Israeli-Palestinian peace and help present a better future for the region.
American Jewish Congress
As someone whose parents survived the horrors of the Holocaust, I have been repeatedly uneased by the willingness of our politicians to invoke comparisons to this stain on humanity in an attempt to jar the public. Just recently, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did so while discussing migrant detention centers in our country’s south. She explicitly stated that our government is “running concentration camps” and that such practices have been institutionalized. She summoned people to say “never again,” invoking the post-World War II cry to never allow the systematic slaughter of millions of Jews to reoccur. To say that what is occurring within our immigration system—as awful as it may be--is remotely comparable to mass murder on the scale of the Holocaust is a cheapening of the atrocities and their place in history, as well as of the power of the words we use to capture its unique inhumanity and violence.
I frequently recount the tragedy that my family endured during the Holocaust. My grandfather and uncle were burnt alive and after surviving Auschwitz my parents fled to a displaced persons camp, where I was born not too long after. We got off easy compared to those destined for the concentration camps. As heartbreaking as the images of children in detention centers on our southern border are, comparing them to Birkenau or Treblinka or Auschwitz concentration camps demean the memories of those exterminated thereby attempting to create a moral equivalence in the popular understanding. Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s comments are uneducated and insensitive. A Congresswoman from New York City, with the Nation’s largest Jewish Population, should do her homework before making such outlandish comparisons and learn that to a Jew, being sent to a concentration camp meant a death sentence.
Apologizing is not enough. By making these comments she is displaying ineptitude in representing her city.
American Jewish Congress
Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said in a speech this week: “If Prime Minister Netanyahu makes good on his threat to annex West Bank settlements, he should know that a President Buttigieg would take steps to ensure that American taxpayers won’t help foot the bill.”
By invoking assistance to Israel, Mayor Buttigieg used one of the most long-standing bipartisan issues as a political instrument in his fight for the 2020 Democratic nomination. In doing so, Buttigieg is feeding the growing and alarming debate within the Democratic party which legitimizes the idea that assistance to Israel – one of the U.S.’s closest allies – should somehow be on the table. Those who have engaged in this debate include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a senior advisor to Senator Bernie Sanders who tweeted that it was “good” that “conditioning U.S. aid to Israel to stop settlements and end occupation (is) quickly becoming the mainstream Democratic position.” It is not, and should not, be the case.
Democratic presidential candidates shouldn’t use this issue to help them gain momentum in the media ahead of the debates and endear them to the progressive anti-Israel flank of the Democratic party. They may soon find that using Israel’s security in such a political way will ultimately turn them off to American voters who care deeply about Israel. Taking long-standing alliances and politicizing them for short-term electoral gains is wrong and will ultimately backfire.
American Jewish Congress
The American Jewish Congress Launches
The first “Jewish Guide to U.S. Politics”
First-of-its-kind platform highlights voting record and public positions on issues important to the Jewish community
NEW YORK, May 29, 2019 –The American Jewish Congress is launching a one-of-a-kind Jewish Guide to U.S. Politics (www.jewishpoliticalguide.com) - a platform which summarizes the positions and voting records of the 2020 Presidential candidates and all U.S. Senators, on relevant facts that American Jews and pro-Israel voters should know about. The guide will continuously update as events unfold in the runup to the 2020 elections.
American Jewish Congress President, Jack Rosen said: “The Jewish Guide to U.S. Politics is all about civic engagement and education. We are at a point in our history where maximum information can make maximum impact on the way we vote - as individuals, and as members of the Jewish community. We are also letting our politicians know we are paying attention to what they do, what they say, and how they vote on the issues that are most pressing to us today.”
The Jewish Guide to U.S. Politics allows voters to examine voting records, executive actions, and public statements made by Senators, House Members, and presidential candidates – Republican and Democrat – on issues important to members of the American Jewish community and its allies.
Founded in 1918, the American Jewish Congress has actively worked to advance the rights of not only Jewish Americans, but of all minority groups in the United States through civic engagement and discourse.
The American Jewish Congress is one of the most active and influential Jewish advocacy organizations in the country. With that said, the Jewish Guide to U.S. Politics does not offer endorsements for any candidate.