JEWS ARRESTED IN IRAN
As you know, Iranian authorities have decided to proceed with the charges against the thirteen Jews that were arrested in Iran several months ago. The Iranian government has charged the thirteen Jews of spying on behalf of Israel and the United States, as well as violation of Islamic law. Espionage in Iran is punishable by death. It is not known at press time when a trial date may be set. Given the extremely sensitive nature of this situation and the fact that it is a case of pikuach nefesh, it is important that we direct our activities in the appropriate productive manner.
Direct correspondence or demonstrations of protest targeting the Iranian authorities are not appropriate at this time. We are urging our member synagogues to hold special Tehillim services on behalf of these imprisoned Jews. For more information and a copy of our Action Alert and Talking Points, please call 212-613-8123.
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ANTI-ISRAEL ACTIVITY AT THE UNITED NATIONS
The Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs applauded the recent passage of Senate Resolution 36, a resolution initiated and sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Connie Mack (R-FL) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-CT) that condemns the efforts to revive the original Palestinian Partition Plan of November 29, 1947 and condemned the United Nations Commission on Human Rights for its April 27th, 1999 Resolution endorsing Palestinian self-determination on the basis of the original Palestinian Partition Plan.
A nationwide call was issued to all our members to contact their Senators and urge them to support the resolution denouncing this attempt to side-track the direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. This act by the PLO and the Arab League was an invidious attempt to no longer limit the sphere of the territorial dispute between Israel and the Palestinians to the territories Israel acquired after the Six Day War of 1967, as outlined in the Oslo Accords, but would have also included such areas as Jerusalem, the Negev and Be’er Sheva, Acco and Lod.
The passage of this resolution rejected the notion of a negotiated solution in favor of a unilateral imposed action by the United Nations, totally undermining the peace process by prejudicing the outcome towards the Palestinian position. Particularly shocking about this resolution was the support it enjoyed by many of the European nations, particularly by the member nations of the EU who play an influential role in the peace process due to their good relationship with the Palestinians.
In July, 1999 the United Nations General Assembly called a meeting of some of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention. The purpose of that meeting was to attempt to adopt measures to enforce the Convention and to stop Israel from building in the “occupied Palestinian territory including Jerusalem”.
The PLO, supported by the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, which consists of over 100 countries and is currently chaired by South Africa, argued that the convening parties will mark a major development in the history of international humanitarian law. Israel, supported by the United States, noted that the parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention have never been convened in the entire fifty year period since the Convention was adopted in 1949, not even in the face of the most egregious violations. Adding to the obscenity of this resolution, the Fourth Geneva Convention was adopted in response to the Nazi atrocities during the Holocaust and to try to convene it for the purpose of protesting the building of homes in Jerusalem was an outrage.
The OU/IPA had urged the United States and its allies to discourage any attempt to have this Conference go forward and was pleased to note that there was much reluctance on the part of the international community to convene this Convention and that many of the High Contracting Parties did not participate. What resulted was a low profile meeting and a decision to postpone reconvening the Convention until an unspecified later date. We will continue to monitor any new developments in the upcoming General Assembly.
In recent meetings with the White House, the Russian Premier, and the umbrella organizations, the Jewish community has raised concern about the rise in political anti-Semitism in Russia due to the unstable political situation and chaotic economic conditions. Recently, there has been a string of violent attacks and threats against Jews in Moscow and all around Russia including attempts to bomb the Moscow Choral Synagogue and other main synagogues. At a meeting of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Presidents Conference this month, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, noted the vast difference between the United States government’s reaction to the horror of the California shootings and the lack of response by Russian leaders to what appears to be a growing momentum in anti-Semitic attacks not only in synagogues but in speeches and utterances by government leaders in parliamentary hearings, in the mass media and mass rallies.
The tendency to blame the Jews for societal ills and scape-goating Jews as the source for Russia’s economic and social problems is on the rise due to several factors. President Yeltzin’s poor health and his apparently uneven style of government have lead to a lack of confidence and a strengthening of nationalist groups who are becoming more and more vocal. The devaluation of the ruble and high prices on many basic consumer goods have also contributed to the atmosphere of instability.
Examples of anti-Semitic rhetoric include remarks made in recent months by members of the Parliament including Communist Party General Albert Makashov. His outburst in the Duma blaming the Jews for the country’s economic problems and advocating the establishment of a quota on the number of Jews allowed in Russia have reverberated world-wide. His derogatory remarks included the words “bloodsucker feeding on the misfortunes of other people” and “I will round up all the yids and send them to the next world” failed to elicit censure in the Duma. Other anti-Semites in the Duma include Genadi Zuganov who sent a letter to President Yeltzin repeating the same anti-Semitic accusations. Zuganov also made anti-Zionist remarks, stating that Zionism constitutes the “most aggressive imperialist circles striving for world domination”.
In recent Jewish community meetings with Former Prime Minister Stepashin, the Premier made strong commitments to the Jewish leadership that included consistent statements to the Russian people condemning anti-Semitic rhetoric and attacks, substantive police protection for Jewish institutions, and additional resources for the investigation and prosecution of hate crime perpetrators. We called on the new government to uphold and implement these commitments in light of yet more recent attacks on Moscow synagogues.
Since elections for president in Russia are scheduled for July 2000, more pre-election political battles that utilize anti-Semitism as a campaign tool and an increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric and attacks may surface. The OU/IPA will continue to monitor events and political developments in the FSU as information become available.
HOLOCAUST RELATED ISSUES
There are several important legislative initiatives relating to the Holocaust that warrant the support of our OU/IPA membership and we urge you to contact your representatives to encourage support for them. They include:
1. H.R. 390; H.R. 1292; and S. 779, are three bills which have been introduced in the United States Congress which call for federal income tax exemptions for restitution to Holocaust survivors or their heirs. These measures would help guarantee full compensation for all survivors and especially benefit the elderly survivors who are on fixed incomes.
2. H.R. 1788, the Nazi Benefits Termination Act, would assist the Attorney General to begin proceedings to end Federal public benefits payment, such as social security, to certain individuals who are proven Nazi war criminals.
3. H.R. 271, would allow US citizens who have not received other forms of reparations to sue the German government for personal injury and/or other damages accumulated as a result of World War II. H.R. 126, would require US insurance companies to reveal the names of all Holocaust beneficiaries whose policies were purchased between 1920-1945.
4. Swiss Bank Settlement. Following a settlement with the major private Swiss banks to resolve outstanding Holocaust era claims, a campaign is underway to inform potential claimants of the process which may eventually lead to payments from the settlement. Survivors who could qualify for the Swiss bank payments must complete a five page questionnaire. Copies of the documents can be obtained by calling 1-888-635-5483 or by downloading it from https://www.swissbankclaims.com/. The deadline for submission of forms is October 22, 1999.
5. Assistance in Nazi war criminal investigation. The US Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigation (OSI) is requesting information to assist in locating survivors who lived in Kupishok, Lithuania, or surrounding Lithuanian towns, during July, August or September, 1941. The testimonies of the survivors are important for a pending criminal case against an alleged Nazi war criminal. Survivors should please call the OSI at 202-616-2501 (collect) and speak with attorneys Steven Paskey or Susan Adams. All conversations will be confidential.
6. The OU/IPA is supporting a new bill introduced by Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) that would provide that aliens that commit acts of torture abroad are inadmissible to the United States and could be deported. The purview of the OSI would be expanded to include this new responsibility. It is important that modern day war criminals who have committed acts of genocide in recent conflicts be brought to justice and we support the strengthening of the OSI and its activities with respect to all its endeavors. To urge support for this important bill please refer to S. 1375 or the Anti-Atrocity Alien Deportation Act when you contact your Senator.
OU/IPA CALLS FOR ADMITTANCE OF ISRAEL INTO INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS
The OU/IPA lauded members of Congress for passage of an amendment sponsored by US Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Anthony Wiener (D-NY) which called for the recognition of Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent of the American Red Cross, by the International Committee for the Red Cross.
This amendment to the State Department authorization bill was passed overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives and basically urged the President to “work with other nations to achieve recognition of Magen David Adom as a full member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement at the forthcoming 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent”. Up until now Magen David Adom has been excluded from membership because the International Red Cross does not recognize the red Shield of David as an official emblem of a national organization as it does the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The Red Cross and Red Crescent, representing the Christian and Moslem faiths, are recognized and respected all over the world.
Since Magen David Adom carries out all the traditional roles of a voluntary medical aid society, including emergency medical services, maintenance of blood supplies and first aid and disaster relief, it is unacceptable that MDA is not accepted as a member of the ICRC. We applaud the decision of the US Congress passing this amendment and hope that the ICRC will, not only in recognition of the outstanding work of the Magen David Adom but also in promoting the interest of better international relations, accept Magen David Adom as a full member.
Recently, more than 1,000 Ethiopian Jews have been taken to Israel from Quara. Approximately 120 Jewish families remain in Ethiopia who will be processed expeditiously. Israeli government sources said that, weather permitting, they will all be in Israel within the next month and a half. The OU/IPA recently met with Member of Knesset Naomi Blumenthal, Chairman of the Knesset Immigration Absorption Committee on this issue. She reassured us that she will uphold the position that it is a matter of choice for the Ethiopians concerning the type of school they would like their children to attend. Overwhelmingly, they have always chosen Mamlachti Dati schools since Ethiopian Jewry has historically held to religious tradition. MK Blumenthal promised to be in touch with the Orthodox Union on this important matter.