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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.

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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - 2:07pm

This morning, it was announced that President Trump is considering a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. The reason given is that the terrorist organization ISIS no longer holds territory in Syria, thus the primary objective of a U.S. military presence there is completed. Yet ISIS is far from the only Syria-based danger to America's interests and allies. Before reaching a final decision on the matter, the Trump Administration should consider the threats still posed from Syria's borders.

Israel shares a northeastern border with Syria. Since the Syrian Civil War began seven years ago, the threat facing Israel from that border has risen. The shifting power vacuum created by the war offered opportunities for several dangerous forces to gain a foothold. One was ISIS; another was Iran. It is now abundantly clear that Iran has installed forces in Syria in a fresh bid for regional hegemony. Like Lebanon, Syria offers a new front for terror and violence against Israel, a country it wishes to wipe from the map. Just this spring, an Iranian drone entered sovereign Israeli territory from Syria - the first ever direct attack on Israel by Iran. Additionally, Hezbollah, a terrorist organization backed and armed by Iran, has now established a presence in Syria as well.

The situation in Syria remains immensely complex and unstable. It is important that U.S. decision-makers fully consider the implications a fast and full withdrawal could have for Israel, for other American allies, and for containing the violent regional aspirations of the Iranian regime.

 

American Jewish Congress

 
Friday, December 7, 2018 - 2:00pm

Yesterday, the United Nations came closer than ever before to finally condemning the terrorist group Hamas. In other words, it failed. For the first time, a majority in the UN voted to condemn Hamas - yet it was not the necessary two-thirds.

This failure to condemn Hamas is so illogical, so backward, it is nearly farcical. Hamas is an organization that proudly advocates genocide and wears its bigotry as a badge. Children and families in southern Israel live in fear of Hamas rockets striking their homes and their schools. Palestinian and Israeli civilians alike suffer at the hands of Hamas, and the residents of Gaza most of all. This is not a perspective; it is the objective truth.

The United Nations passes more condemnations of Israel than for all other nations combined. Yet over the decades, it has never once condemned a group that flaunts its cruelty. Yesterday the international community decided it could not unite against the killing of innocents if some of those innocents are Israelis. The UN has become an arena for political posturing, where morals and values are set aside in favor of pride and self-righteousness.

I will remain cautiously optimistic. That the condemnation received majority support is significant, and I hope it is a sign that members of the international community are coming to their senses, one by one. Some of that credit is certainly owed to Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has fought valiantly for the UN to return to reason. I hope the day comes soon when all of us can come together to say that the slaughter of innocents is wrong. But until then, we have little to celebrate.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

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.

 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018 - 2:31pm

The American Jewish Congress congratulates the Democratic Party on earning a majority of seats in the US House of Representatives, as well as all candidates who won their respective elections last night, regardless of party affiliation. The American democratic process is a marvel of human progress, and remains an unshakable bedrock for our values even when our politics feel divided.

There were numerous factors that played into the results of the elections. One of these factors of special concern for the Jewish Community was the rise in white nationalism and hate we have witnessed across the country. It played a role in the outcome of this election. To an extent, it was this climate that created the sense of urgency which drove such high voter turnout yesterday - an encouraging result arising from adverse circumstances. In some states, voters resisted problematic candidates with fervor; in others, hateful candidates made it farther than we ever thought possible.

Hate is not a partisan issue; I encourage both parties to recognize that intolerance exists on both sides of the aisle, and not only in the far fringes. Democrats: Be mindful not only to cast blame across the aisle, but also to reflect on the anti-Semitism and prejudice exhibited by a few within your own party. Republicans: I hope this election will encourage you to reaffirm the egalitarian principles at your core, and remember the openness and sense of social justice upon which your party was built.

Part of America’s healing after Pittsburgh and the other terrible hate crimes we have seen must be to stand tall for all minorities across America. Not only is it key to electoral victory, it is also consistent with our national values.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

Monday, November 5, 2018 - 4:46pm

The American Jewish Congress supports President Trump's decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran. This is a strong next step toward resetting our Iran policy and holding Iran's regime accountable for its actions.

Iran's leaders are extreme, aggressive, and bent on regional hegemony. Time and time again, they have antagonized the United States, threatened Israel with annihilation, and sponsored terrorism and violence throughout the Middle East. The Nuclear Deal was based on the premise that Iran would behave better when given concessions; that premise is demonstrably wrong. With sanctions lifted, Iran continued its hateful rhetoric, established advanced weapons factories for Hezbollah in Lebanon, and flagrantly violated the restrictions placed upon it for missile testing. Additionally, the documents uncovered last spring by Israel's Mossad prove that Iran did pursue an extensive nuclear program in the past and lied about it repeatedly when negotiating the Deal. The mullahs cannot be trusted.

We call upon the international community to join the United States in sanctioning the volatile rogue state of Iran.

 

American Jewish Congress

Sunday, October 28, 2018 - 12:54pm

In the shadow of the still-unfolding tragedy in Pittsburgh, I write today with grave concern for American Jews and indeed for the soul of America.
 
As President of the one of the oldest and most prominent organizations dedicated to the issues and interests of American Jews, I have written too many messages of condolence and solidarity to ethnic and religious groups that have been the targets of the increasing hatred and violence gripping our nation. I have issued too many unheeded warnings about creeping anti-Semitism in our politics and discourse. 
 
Our nation is in danger. 
 
The survival and success of the Jewish people to whom the American Jewish Congress is devoted is not an end it itself, it is but an example of the American idea of tolerance and diversity at work. It is this very idea that was threatened in Pittsburgh. It is this very idea that was threatened in Charlottesville, in Charleston, and everywhere unchecked racial and religious intolerance has spilled into its inescapable outcome: violence.
 
I call today for greater leadership in countering the dark forces coursing through America. This is not merely the task of Donald Trump, who as President bears great responsibility for the tone of our nation’s politics and who can yet have enormous positive influence over it.  It also includes elements of the political right, which must reconcile their divisive rhetoric and policies with the pluralistic ideal we have inherited from our nation’s founders. It must also include figures on the so-called progressive left who are exacerbating divisions and turning against our American traditions and values, including taking avowedly anti-Israel positions. Between them all, Jews and the American ideal we represent are being threatened. The result is a dangerously intolerant tone that goes way beyond incivility, but into the potential to manifest into violence and for grievous harm to come to America herself. Armed security guards are not the answer. The violence we bear witness to is a symptom of a bigger, more insidious problem.
 

It is time for a national reckoning that can restore our commitment to one nation that is home to people of many beliefs and backgrounds. This is at once deeply personal and an intimate national process. We must all look within ourselves on how to live the American creed, and we must look to our leaders to help us fulfill our destiny as a shining example of tolerance, diversity, and human progress. The Jewish community in particular needs to recognize the seriousness of the threat before us, which can no longer be viewed as isolated spasms of ignorance and violence. We must come together and join with all people of peace and goodwill to fight this ugly, pervasive and growing stain on America’s character.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - 4:22pm

Today, Nikki Haley announced her resignation as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. To say we are sad to see her go would be a great understatement. In addition to being a diplomat and orator of the highest caliber, Nikki Haley is a true friend of Israel.

For decades, the United Nations has had a serious problem with anti-Israel bias, to the point that it substantially lowered the credibility of the institution. The Security Council repeatedly passes dramatic condemnations of Israel while neglecting to speak on the greatest humanitarian crises of the day; UNESCO routinely denies Jewish history despite archaeological evidence; and UNCHR continuously targets Israel, while failing to condemn regimes with some of the worst track records on human rights. Those are just a few examples of a systemic problem. From day one, Ambassador Haley vowed to stop tolerating this absurd and discriminatory behavior, and she lived up to her promise. Over and over, she called out UN member states and bodies on their hypocrisy and bias. She insisted that Israel be treated just like any other country, and the Jewish people like any other people. And she advocated for and defended the U.S. government's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Yet as significant as Ambassador Haley's defense of Israel was, no less was her understanding of why. She understood that the UN's anti-Israel bias obstructs the UN's noble goals of international peace, cooperation, and understanding; that treating Israel like any other country is necessary for the equal treatment of all countries going forward; that discrimination against the Jewish people is intertwined with other forms of discrimination as well, and to fight one form of hatred is to fight them all. In that sense, Ambassador Haley represented the core values of the American Jewish Congress, which we believe, by extension, are fundamental values of the United States: that our rights and freedoms are only truly safeguarded if they are for everyone.

Thank you, Nikki Haley, for your exemplary service to the United States of America, and for your bold defense of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. We wish you the best in all your future endeavors, and warmly remind you that you are among friends.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018 - 12:49pm

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke before UNESCO to condemn and call for an end to antisemitism. His speech had many strong and correct assertions about the nature of hatred and the long history of antisemitism. But perhaps his most noteworthy point was this: that to deny Israel's right to exist is a form of anti-Semitism. While this has long been recognized as fact among Jewish communities and supporters of Israel, many around the world, including here in America, refuse to accept this essential truth. 

The manner in which Israel is routinely slandered, delegitimized, and openly threatened on the world stage is unlike how any other UN member state is treated. The ancient historical connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, including the city of Jerusalem, is proven time and time again by archaeological evidence, yet other countries frequently deny these facts. Meanwhile, UN bodies continue to single out Israel for blame and condemn it for defending itself - echoing the language of antisemitic conspiracy theories. It's time we call these actions what they are: discrimination, bigotry, and hate. 

That's why this statement by Mr. Guterres sets such a powerful example. As Secretary-General, he is uniquely positioned to lead by example and change the tide in the UN. And especially in front of UNESCO, which has a long track record of antisemitic and anti-Israel bias, this needed to be said. I thank Secretary-General Guterres for standing up for the truth, and I look forward to a new day at the United Nations.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress