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Monday, February 11, 2019 - 1:04pm

The American Jewish Congress condemns recently-elected Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her anti-Semitic comments. Rep. Omar is often highlighted as one of the first Muslim women elected into Congress, which is worthy of celebration. Her history of anti-Semitic rhetoric and anti-Israel political stances, however, should concern the Jewish American community and indeed all Americans.

This Sunday, she reignited our concerns when she suggested on Twitter that the United States’ support for Israel is all about Jewish money. As a response to House Minority Leader Kevin McCathy’s statement that he will act against her and fellow Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for their anti-Israel vitriol, Omar suggested that Congressional support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins,” then clarified in a follow-up tweet that she believes AIPAC is responsible for buying Congressional support for Israel.

Suggesting that Jews manipulate our government, through monetary means or otherwise, is a classic anti-Semitic trope that has been used to harm Jews for hundreds of years. This is not the first time Omar has employed such a trope; in the past, she tweeted that “Israel has hypnotized the world,” for which she recently apologized and claimed she did not understand its implication. But when she uses these sorts of tropes consistently, it becomes progressively harder to give her the benefit of the doubt. In light of this, we urge her fellow Congressmen and women to reconsider her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“This latest comment from Congresswoman Omar should disturb us all,” said American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen. “Not only is this deeply offensive, but it also shows that a U.S. Congresswoman fails to understand the American values, security interests, and many other factors that make the U.S.-Israel relationship so important. Such ignorance on our foreign policy would be troubling for any Member of Congress, let alone one who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”

The American Jewish Congress is calling upon Americans, and especially those in Rep. Omar’s constituency, to contact Rep. Omar’s office and let her know that statements such as these do not belong in Congress. By calling 202-225-4755, we can encourage her to reflect on her problematic stances and hopefully become a better representative for the American people.

 

American Jewish Congress

Thursday, February 7, 2019 - 6:00pm

On Tuesday night, President Trump delivered his second State of the Union address. He spoke about many important issues, especially on topics of national security and our security interests in the Middle East. In the course of his speech, the President made some strong and encouraging statements for Jewish and pro-Israel Americans.

Last year, it was special to hear the President of the United States recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in a State of the Union speech for the first time. Then this week, another first: To hear the President refer to the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, not only when the U.S. Embassy is actually there, but also when several other countries have followed his courageous example.

It was also the first State of the Union speech since our withdrawal from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. As a lifelong advocate of Israel, I find it significant and reassuring that our President condemns the Iranian government for the extremist, anti-Semitic, genocidal, authoritarian regime that it is.

As a Jewish American, I was moved by how the President spoke out against the horrific massacre in Pittsburgh this fall. When the President celebrated two remarkable individuals who survived the shooting - Judah Samet, a Holocaust survivor, and Timothy Matson, a heroic SWAT officer who took the killer down - the nation celebrated. And to see another Holocaust survivor, Joshua Kaufman, reunited with Herman Zeitchik, one of the American soldiers who rescued him from Dachau, was beautiful beyond words.

Yet, it is also as a Jewish American and an advocate for Israel that I must address what President Trump did not say. As strong as his speech was in some areas, the gaps are just as significant.

President Trump spoke about the tragedy in Pittsburgh and the heroism of the SWAT officer who ended it, but he spoke about the shooting like it was an isolated incident. In actuality, the Pittsburgh shooting was the worst of an expanding pattern of anti-Semitic hate crime and violence. Violence against Jews has continued since that attack. President Trump mentioned neither these other attacks nor anti-Semitism nor white supremacy. Out of respect for those who were murdered in Pittsburgh, we must not neglect the broader picture.

Moreover, President Trump addressed the threat posed by Iran and its desire to destroy Israel, yet he neglected to mention that Iran's greatest threat to Israel today is its presence in Syria. While the President has every right to be proud of his role in taking down ISIS, he cannot forget that ISIS is not the only dangerous faction that took advantage of the Syrian Civil War; Iranian forces, as well as Iran-backed proxies like Hezbollah, have laid roots in Syria. If President Trump withdraws the U.S. entirely from Syria, Israel and other U.S. allies will be faced with a stronger, more confident Iran.

Overall, I was encouraged by the message of unity that pervaded President Trump's speech. My hope is that between now and the next State of the Union address, President Trump and all our other elected representatives will always keep the full picture in mind.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 - 6:00pm

This afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed the Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (S.1). This critical includes several measures - among them, the much-needed Combating BDS Act of 2019, which protects state and local governments that wish to "adopt measures to divest its assets from entities using boycotts, divestments, or sanctions to influence Israel's policies." Though we are pleased with the overwhelming support shown in the vote to advance this important legislation, it is deeply concerning that 22 Democratic Senators - almost half of the Senate Democratic Caucus - voted against.

The list of Senators that voted against includes elected officials that have professed support for the Jewish state, but the concerns that they have raised about the provisions dealing with the efforts to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel do not reflect that support. It is also deeply disturbing to see that officials such as Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, who have announced their ambitions for the U.S. Presidency, voted against these efforts to fight a movement that threatens the very existence of the State of Israel.

The passage of this legislation is an important victory against the BDS movement, which seeks to inflict economic harm on the State of Israel and its people. BDS not only hurts Israelis of all religions, ethnicities, and political beliefs, but also hurts countless Palestinians employed by Israeli businesses.

The American Jewish applauds all the Senators from both sides of the aisle who came together to make this possible. This vote should remind us all that no matter how divided our politics can feel, the protection of the United States and its allies is a bipartisan mission and should stay as such.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

Monday, February 4, 2019 - 6:45pm

The American Jewish Congress congratulates Nayib Bukele for his victory in El Salvador's Presidential Election. In 2018, we had the pleasure of having then-Mayor Bukele in our annual International Mayors Conference in Israel. These are challenging times for El Salvador, and we wish President-Elect Bukele success in addressing the many pressing issues the country faces.

Like many world leaders, President-Elect Bukele began his distinguished political career in municipal politics, first as Mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlán and later as Mayor of San Salvador, El Salvador's capital and most populous city. We are glad to see Mr. Bukele has risen to Head of State, as did other Conference alumni that eventually became leaders in their respective countries, including Mauricio Macri, the current President of Argentina, Matteo Renzi, the former Prime Minister of Italy, and William Lai, the former Premier of Taiwan.

The American Jewish Congress looks forward to closer cooperation with President-Elect Bukele and the Republic of El Salvador, and we hope he will further the relationship between El Salvador and Israel.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - 1:12pm

The American Jewish Congress supports the decision of President Trump and the United States administration to recognize Juan Guaidó as President of Venezuela, and to condemn the actions of the now-illegitimate President Nicolás Maduro.

Since assuming office in 2013, Nicolás Maduro has corrupted and degraded Venezuela's system of democracy. We have seen this in his subversion of the Venezuelan people's right to choose their leader, in his efforts to maintain power through rigged elections that have been denounced as "sham elections" by the international community, and in the continued political repression and jailing of representatives of civil society and political opponents.

Two years ago, we called for the release of political prisoners in Venezuela, including Mayor Antonio Ledezma, one of the leaders of the opposition and former Mayor of Caracas, whom we had the pleasure to engage with and host at our International Mayors Conference in Israel. The American Jewish Congress will continue to support and stand in solidarity with the freedom-loving people of Venezuela.

We hope that all the international community will join the United States, Canada, and other countries, as well as international bodies such as the Organization of American States (OAS), in pressing for the realization of democratic principles in Venezuela.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

Sunday, January 27, 2019 - 4:21pm

74 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

With each year that passes, the memory and the pain of the Holocaust seems all the more distant. 1945 may seem like a long time ago, a mere dot in history. But to our ancestors who fled the horrors enacted by the Nazi regime, as well as those that lost their lives or their loved ones, it is a vivid and enduring reality.

That is why International Holocaust Remembrance Day holds so much significance not only to me, the son of Holocaust survivors, but to members of Jewish communities around the world. It is a day where we recognize the suffering of our people, and promise those who came before us that we will cherish, preserve, and honor their memory.

By marking this day on the calendar, we said “never again.” Never again will we allow the mass atrocities of the Holocaust to happen. After the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and all the other demonstrations of white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and bigotry in the U.S., it is paramount that we learn from the past and stand vigilant to make sure hatred cannot gain power here.

The American Jewish Congress has fought against Nazism since the beginning. Our founder, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, was one of the first major American voices to speak out against the evils of Nazism. In 1933, we became one of the first organizations to call for the boycott of all Nazi goods. On March 27th of that year, Rabbi Wise organized an enormous rally in Madison Square Garden, which brought together 50,000 people to listen to then-Governor Al Smith and Senator Robert Wagner warn about the rise of the Nazi regime. Our organization has always advocated against that monstrous ideology; we have no intention of stopping now.

Join with me and the American Jewish Congress in building a better society for Jews, and indeed for all Americans. We firmly believe that freedoms and rights are not truly protected for anyone if they are not protected for everyone. As long as we live in a world where genocide can occur against any group, no group is truly safe.

Never again will we allow anyone to endure what millions of our people suffered. That is how we honor them.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

Monday, January 21, 2019 - 11:02am

Today, Americans celebrate the life and legacy of a true national icon, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The American Jewish Congress was founded a century ago, on the principle that in order to create a better society for Jews, a better society must be created for everyone.

Perhaps no one has better represented this core value than Dr. King, a visionary and a leader who knew that to truly lift up the African American community, all of society must be elevated and raised up to a standard of equality. When one among us is denied equality, true equality can exist for none of us.

During the Civil Rights Movement, American Jews, including members of our organization, worked closely with other minority communities to end various forms of discrimination, including coauthoring landmark legislation to end housing and workplace discrimination in a number of U.S. states.

Members of the American Jewish Congress also had the honor of marching alongside Dr. King in Washington. Rabbi Joachim Prinz, then-President of the American Jewish Congress, delivered remarks immediately before Dr. King began his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, saying: “The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful, and the most tragic problem is silence.”

Dr. King saw an American future in which all peoples, regardless of religious beliefs, ethnic background, or any other factor that makes us different, would stand together and live together. As a society, we have made tremendous strides toward that vision, but there is still much work to be done. Dr. King’s words and actions continue to inspire us to keep marching toward that future, and to never settle for anything less than true liberty, justice, and equality for all.

We hope you will join us in honoring the values Dr. King stood for, which reflect the best of this nation and the many communities and peoples that form it. In doing so, you help defend the universal values of respect and tolerance he fought for in his lifetime.

 

Jack Rosen

President

American Jewish Congress

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