News Digest — 1/21/22

UN Adopts Israeli Resolution To Combat Holocaust Denial

A historic debate was held at the United Nations on Thursday (20th), at the end of which the General Assembly adopted, by consensus, an Israeli-proposed resolution to combat Holocaust denial.

At the beginning of the debate, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan presented the draft resolution he initiated on behalf of Israel on the issue of the fight against Holocaust denial and distortion, and told the personal story of his family.

“Beyond defining Holocaust distortion and denial, this resolution is a commitment to make sure that this phenomenon will be tolerated no more,” Erdan said.

“As Israel’s ambassador, this resolution is my most important initiative, but not only because I represent a Jewish state, not only because I am a Jew, but also because I am the grandson of Holocaust survivors.”

The decision includes the adoption of the definition of Holocaust denial, the imposition of responsibility on Internet companies to act to remove content that denies or distorts the Holocaust, and more.  The adoption of the decision by consensus, was only the second time since the establishment of the State of Israel that a rally decision on its behalf, passed at the UN.  The first was in 2005 when a resolution establishing International Holocaust Day was approved.

The debate was attended by Holocaust survivors and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, himself a son of Holocaust survivors, who were invited by Ambassador Erdan to attend the meeting.  Bourla and the Holocaust survivors met with General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid prior to the debate.

Erdan’s speech and the response of many countries to the resolution is broadcast live on the UN website.



‘A Critical Time For The American Jewish Community’

Jewish groups welcomed the passage of the UN Resolution Thursday (20th), saying it offers a clear definition of Holocaust denial at a critical time for the Jewish community.

“This resolution – the first of its kind – offers a clear definition of Holocaust denial as adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and provides substantial resources through the UN Outreach Program on the Holocaust for countries and other relevant UN bodies to develop their own programs to promote Holocaust remembrance and combat anti-Semitism,” said chair Dianne Lob, CEO William Daroff and vice chair Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

They noted that “the coronavirus pandemic has greatly exacerbated anti-Semitism.  This remains a critical time for the American Jewish community, where this weekend a gunman struck fear into our hearts by attacking a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, during Shabbat services and holding three congregants and their rabbi hostage.”

“Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City, Monsey, and now Colleyville, can never become the new normal for our community,” they added.  It is vital to commit additional resources to better secure our facilities and fight the age-old scourge of anti-Semitism, especially when it appears in the form of online conspiracy theories, which can originate anywhere and spread like wildfire from keyboard to keyboard.”

“The adoption of the resolution…is a powerful statement by the international community in combating Holocaust denial and distortion,” said Mark Weitzman, CEO of the World Jewish Restitution Organization.  “As one of the lead authors of IHRA’s working definition of Holocaust denial and distortion, I applaud the commitment of the United Nations and its international membership to uphold the integrity of the historical record to ensure that we can seek justice for Holocaust survivors and Jewish communities whose property was brutally taken by the Nazis and their allies as an integral part of the genocide.”



Why So Many People Still Don’t Understand Anti-Semitism – Yair Rosenberg

Most people do not realize that Jews make up just 2% of the US population and 0.2% of the world’s population.  This means simply finding them takes a lot of effort.  But every year in Western countries, including America, Jews are the No. 1 target of anti-religious hate crimes.

The congregants at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, were attacked in the first place because Jews played a sinister symbolic role in the imagination of Malik Faisal Akram, who traversed an ocean from the UK to America to accomplish his task.

The notion that such a miniscule minority secretly controls the world is comical, which may be why so many responsible people still do not take the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory seriously.  The FBI made an official statement declaring that the actions of the assailant were “not specifically related to the Jewish community.”  But the gunman did not travel thousands of miles to terrorize some Mormons.  He sought out a synagogue and took it hostage, believing that Jews alone could resolve his grievances.  That’s targeting Jews.

Anti-Semitism is not merely a social prejudice; it is a conspiracy theory about how the world operates.  Thanks to centuries of material blaming the world’s ills on the world’s Jews, conspiracy theorists inevitably discover that the invisible hand of their oppressor belongs to an invisible Jew.  One attack on one synagogue is not just a hate-crime statistic.  It is also a warning.  We must find a way to confront the conspiratorial currents that threaten to overtake our society.



Iran, Russia And China Begin Naval Drill To Boost Marine Security

Iran, China and Russia on Friday (21st) began a joint naval drill in the Indian Ocean aimed at boosting marine security, state media reported.

Iran’s state TV said 11 of its vessels were joined by three Russian ships including a destroyer, and two Chinese vessels.  Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is also taking part with smaller ships and helicopters.

The report said the maneuvers would cover some 17,000 square kilometers in the Indian Ocean’s north, and include night-fighting, rescue operations and firefighting drills.

This is the third joint naval drill between the countries since 2019.  It coincided with a recent visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Russia that ended on Thursday (20th).

“Improving bilateral relations between Tehran and Moscow will enhance security for the region and the international arena,” Raisi said upon returning from Russia on Friday (21st), the official IRNA news agency reported.

Tehran has sought to step up military cooperation with Beijing and Moscow amid regional tensions with the United States.  Visits to Iran by Russian and Chinese naval representatives have also increased in recent years.

Iran has been holding regular military drills in recent months, as attempts to revive its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers flounder.

Russia is also at loggerheads with the US and the West over its neighbor Ukraine, where it has sent some 100,000 troops that Washington, Kiev and their allies fear will be used to invade the country.

Russia on Thursday (20th) announced sweeping naval maneuvers in multiple areas involving the bulk of its naval potential – over 140 warships and more than 60 aircraft – to last through February.  The exercises will be in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the northeastern Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, in addition to the joint exercise with Iran and China in the Indian Ocean.



Older Americans Increasingly Choosing Israel For Retirement

Marilyn Berkowitz, 84, has a message for her fellow retirees thinking of heading south to sunny destinations: consider Israel.

“A lot of our contemporaries have gone to Florida,” the recent Israeli immigrant said.  “But I think they should become sandbirds, not snowbirds.” Berkowitz and her husband, Joel, 81 were profiled recently in the Jewish Telegraph Agency for a story on the record number of older Americans and Canadians choosing to retire on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean.

According to data compiled by Nefesh B’Nefesh, a non-profit organization that facilitates North American immigration to Israel, 762 immigrants to Israel from North America last year were 55-years-old and up, representing 17% out of the 4,478 total immigrants from across the Atlantic.

The record number of older olim (immigrants to Israel) in 2021 represent a 23% increase over the previous year’s total of 580 immigrants 55 and over.

“Israel is becoming a more attractive place, specifically for people at the age of retirement,” Marc Rosenberg, vice president of Diaspora Partnerships at Nefesh B’Nefesh, told JTA.

“With increasing technology, cell phones and internet use, Israel is much more international now, especially with apps that allow people to get around, navigate and do their banking online,” he added.

Nefesh B’Nefesh has brought over 70,000 olim to Israel since 2002, of whom more than 90% have remained in the Jewish state.