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WJC President Lauder commends Comerica for closing anti-Israel group’s bank account

WJC, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder on Friday praised the Dallas-based Comerica Bank for its decision to close an account held by an anti-Israel organization, calling it a “bold and commendable” move and an encouraging demonstration of the State of Texas’ commitment to enforcing its anti-terror and anti-BDS laws.

“On behalf of the World Jewish Congress, I applaud Comerica for this bold and commendable decision to shut down the bank account of the virulent anti-Israel organization, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers,” Lauder said.

“The IADL consistently demonizes Israel and defends those who incite against it. In penalizing the IADL, Comerica has demonstrated that it is committed to helping the State of Texas enforce its strict anti-BDS laws, and that it will have zero tolerance for any person or organization that seeks to undermine democracy or promote terror.”

This is believed to be the first time a US-based bank has closed an account over the anti-Israel stance of an organization.

Hate speech and incitement on the internet must be curbed, German minister tells WJC delegation

WJC, World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer was in Berlin this week for talks for senior German government officials and others.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas (r) with WJC CEO Robert SingerGerman Justice Minister Heiko Maas (r) with WJC CEO Robert SingerSinger met with German Justice Minister Heiko Maas and his deputy Christian Lange to discuss measures to curb the spread of hate speech, Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic incitement on the internet. Maas indicated that he was prepared to act through legislation if the problem was not contained effectively.

The WJC delegation, which included WJC Deputy CEO for Diplomacy Maram Stern, also met with representatives of Facebook to learn about the company's efforts in fighting fake news, hate speech and incitement on its social media platform.

A meeting with Germany's former President Christian Wulff on Wednesday focused on the rise of far-right parties in Germany and Europe, the fight against anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, the integration of refugees and migrants, and the fight against incitement and hate speech. Both Wulff and Singer stressed the positive aspects of diversity.

On Monday, the WJC delegation met with Berlin's Governing Mayor, Michael Müller, and his State Secretary Sawsan Chebli, who is in charge of integration.

Meetings were also held with members of the Bundestag, Germany's legislature, with journalists and with the heads of major foundations in Germany.

WJC laments shocking rise in number of anti-Semitic incidents registered in UK

The Community Security Trust (CST) of the British Jewish community recorded a stark rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2016.

WJC, The CST, a charity that has monitored anti-Semitism and provided security for the UK Jewish community since 1984, said that 1,309 anti-Jewish incidents were recorded nationwide during 2016, up 36 percent from the 960 incidents recorded the previous year. A further 791 reports were received by CST in 2016, but were not deemed to be anti-Semitic by the watchdog and therefore not included in this total.

In its report, the CST noted that unlike in previous years that saw a spike of anti-Semitism, there had been no specific “trigger event” in 2016 that could explain the high incident totals. The high number of incidents was spread uniformly through most of the year. Every month from May to December saw a monthly incident total above 100 incidents, an unprecedented run of consistently high totals over an eight month period. For comparison, in the decade prior to 2016 monthly totals above 100 incidents had only happened six times.

The most common single type of incident recorded by CST in 2016 involved verbal abuse randomly directed at visibly Jewish people in public. In 385 incidents (29 percent of the overall total), the victims were Jews, male or female, attacked or abused while going about their daily business in public places. In at least 186 of these incidents, the victims were visibly Jewish, usually due to their religious or traditional clothing, school uniform or jewellery bearing Jewish symbols.

Social media has become an essential tool for coordinated campaigns of anti-Semitic harassment, abuse and threats directed at Jewish politicians, student activists and other individuals, perpetrated by transnational networks of online anti-Semitic activists, some of whom are involved in extremist politics.

The CST recorded 287 anti-Semitic incidents that involved social media in 2016, comprising 22 per cent of the overall total.

The 1,309 incidents recorded in 2016 included 107 violent anti-Semitic assaults, an increase of 29 per cent from the 87 cases recorded in 2015.

There were 65 incidents of Damage & Desecration of Jewish property, 1,006 incidents of Abusive Behavior, including verbal abuse, anti-Semitic graffiti and abuse via social media and one-off cases of hate mail, 100 direct anti-Semitic threats, and 15 cases of mass-mailed anti-Semitic leaflets or emails.
The totals for Abusive Behaviour and Threats are the highest CST has ever recorded in those categories. Over three-quarters of the 1,309 incidents were recorded in Greater London and Greater Manchester, the two largest Jewish communities in the UK.


Ronald S. Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, said about the findings of the report: “The 36-percent rise of anti-Semitic acts recorded by the Community Security Trust in 2016 is alarming and truly shocking. Such levels of anti-Semitism are unacceptable. It is clear that the problem lies increasingly with some elements of civil society.

“We welcome the commitment made by the British government to do more to fight hatred against Jews and to upgrade safety measures for Jewish institution across the country, including the attribution of more resources, and we know that ministers are aware of the problem. A particular effort needs to be made to combat verbal abuse and anti-Semitic incitement on the internet.

“As we have seen in France, where anti-Semitism fell last year, it is possible to achieve positive results in this field if the problem is tackled with the necessary political determination,” declared Lauder.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “Anti-Semitism is a deplorable form of hatred that has absolutely no place in a tolerant, open and diverse Britain that works for everyone. It is vital we ensure the safety and security of our Jewish community, and this Government will continue to do all we can to stamp out these vile attacks and encourage those who experience them to come forward.

Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party, declared: “The findings of this report are extremely distressing. I don't want to live in a country where any member of the Jewish community feels unsafe, afraid or discriminated against and it is shocking that the number of anti-Semitic incidents is on the rise in the UK. It's vital that we continue to highlight the abuse Jewish people are experiencing and as deputy leader of the Labour Party I have made a commitment to do exactly that. We must root out anti-Semitism whenever it takes place and wherever it exists, as a party and as a country.”

World Jewish Congress Vice-President Jonathan Arkush, who is president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the umbrella body of UK Jewry, responded to the report with the following statement: “While the UK remains a very good place for the Jewish community, these highest-ever figures are deeply worrying, particularly in light of the fact that there was no single trigger event in 2016.

“It is clear that combating anti-Semitism will take a concerted effort by the country’s political leadership, government and civil society. In these uncertain times, we should strive to make the UK a beacon of a society that abhors racism and champions respect between all its citizens.”

WJC President Lauder: Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos deserves Nobel Peace Prize

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder on Friday welcomed the Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision to give this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos. "President Santos thoroughly deserves this award. He really is a peace-maker," Lauder said.

Ronald S. Lauder with President Santos in 2015Ronald S. Lauder with President Santos in 2015He declared: "President Santos has worked incredibly hard for peace, and he has proved that even the most entrenched conflicts can be resolved if all parties are willing to sit down, negotiate, and commit to peaceful solutions. He has set an example for other parts of the world.

"Reaching peace after more than five decades and a conflict that cost the lives of so many Colombians is a major achievement. President Santos can be proud of that. Trying to make peace requires a lot of courage and tenacity, and he has shown that many, many times.

“I sincerely hope that it will be possible for him to secure a permanent end to this conflict, despite the outcome of last Sunday's referendum, and I am sure he will succeed eventually.

"As the Nobel Committee rightly remarked, this award is also a tribute to the strength and sense for justice of the people of Colombian who have not given up hope of reaching a just and lasting peace. The Colombian peace process is not completed yet, but hopefully Colombians will feel encouraged by this important award for their president," the WJC president stated.

Lauder has met with Santos numerous times. In March 2016, Lauder was honored in Washington, DC by Colombia's ambassador to the United States, Juan Carlos Pinzon.

According to the Nobel Committee, Santos was selected from a list of 376 candidates, 228 individuals and 148 organizations.

“This is a great, great recognition for my country,” Santos said in an audio interview posted on the Facebook page of the Nobel Prize. “I receive this award in their name: the Colombian people who have suffered so much in this war, especially the millions of victims who have suffered in this war that we are on the verge of ending.”

The award came just days after Colombian voters narrowly rejected the peace deal that Santos helped bring about. Nobel judges conspicuously did not honor his counterpart, Rodrigo Londono, the leader of the rebels. "The referendum was not a vote for or against peace," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, insisting the peace process wasn't dead. "What the 'No' side rejected was not the desire for peace, but a specific peace agreement."

WJC officials to meet with leaders from 30 nations in New York this week

The World Jewish Congress will be holding talks with top government officials from more than 30 different countries gathered in New York this week for the high-level session of the United Nations General Assembly.

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, CEO Robert Singer, and other WJC representatives will lead the discussions with presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers. The WJC leadership will, amongst others, be meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Bulgarian President Roman Plevneliev and Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, and delegations from the Turkish and Ukrainian government.

In addtion, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder will host Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern for a special reception at his Neue Galerie on Tuesday. Lauder will also deliver a tribute to the late Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, at a UNESCO-sponsored reception honoring the “Heroes of the Global Campaign to Prevent and Overcome Violent Extremism” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Thursday.

WJC President Hails PM Cameron For Combatting Anti-Semitism and Islamic Extremism

NEW YORK, World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder today hailed British Prime Minister David Cameron for his proposal to combat the spread of Islamic extremism in England, which includes steps to counter the growth of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and rhetoric. Cameron unveiled the British government’s five-year plan to defeat homegrown extremism in a speech today in Birmingham.

“We congratulate Prime Minister Cameron for his strong stand against anti-Semitism and Muslim fanaticism. The resurgence of anti-Semitism and the spread of Islamic extremism across Europe is particularly troubling and Mr. Cameron’s plan takes a vital step toward combating these destructive forces.”

Lauder also urged other European leaders to follow the Prime Minister’s lead. “We urge other European leaders to show the same kind of bold leadership and address these critical issues in their own countries,” Lauder said. “Once again, we are seeing the rebirth of classic anti-Semitic conspiracy mongering targeting Jews across Europe – and it is vital that Europe act now before the situation deteriorates.”


WJC Urges Hungarian City to Stop Plans For Statue Honoring Anti-Semitic Minister

NEW YORK/BUDAPEST, The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is urging authorities in a Hungarian city to abandon plans to honor a Horthy-era government minister well known for his actions against the Jews. Municipal leaders in Székesfehérvár, a city of 100,000 inhabitants located between Budapest and Lake Balaton, are planning to erect a life-size bronze statue in honor of Bálint Homan (1885-1951). It is to be funded in large part through a grant from the Hungarian Justice Ministry.

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder called on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to block plans for the statue from moving forward. “Seventy years after the end of World War II, it is inconceivable and wrong for a city to erect a statue in honor of a known anti-Semite and a key figure in the persecution of Hungarian Jews before and during World War II. Homan was an outspoken supporter of Nazi Germany and the fascist Arrow Cross regime in 1944, and he remained unrepentant until his death,” said Lauder.

“Bálint Homan was an emblematic figure in the humiliation and deportation of Hungarian Jews. He was an anti-Semite who does not deserve to be honored, and doing so would insult the victims of the Holocaust,” declared WJC Vice-President András Heisler, who also serves as president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz).

In a letter to Székesfehérvár Mayor András Cser-Palkovics, a member of the Orbán’s Fidesz party, Heisler recently wrote: “From October 1932, Bálint Hóman, as culture minister in several Hungarian governments, played a key role in the systematic outlawing of the Hungarian Jewish people. His name is connected to the first anti-Jewish law. He supported banning Jews from exercising certain professions. Before the German occupation [in 1944], he wanted to expel Jews and later served as a member of the Arrow Cross regime.”

Heisler added that no Hungarian citizen today could be proud of a personality like Homan, and he stressed that Homan’s academic achievements could not outweigh the role he played before and during the Holocaust.


WJC: UN Report Puts Israel on Same Level as Hamas Terror Group

NEW YORK/GENEVA, World Jewish Congress (WJC) CEO Robert Singer strongly criticized today’s UN report on the 2014 Gaza conflict.

“It is most unfortunate that here is yet another UN Human Rights Council report that puts the democratic State of Israel and the terror group Hamas on the same level, that unfairly accuses Israel of deliberately killing civilians in Gaza and that fails to address Israel’s right under international law to defend its very existence against the threats coming from Gaza,” said Singer.

“If further proof was still needed that the United Nations is biased against Israel, this is it. It is slanderous and wrong to suggest, as the report does, that the Israel Defense Forces is an immoral army, a serial perpetrator of war crimes and a force that deliberately disrespects its international obligations. Repeating it for the umpteenth time doesn’t make it true.

“The cause of the Gaza conflict last year was the behavior of Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza. Hamas was the aggressor, not Israel. But strangely, Hamas is barely mentioned in this report.”

Singer announced that the WJC and dozens of other NGOs would organize a rally in Geneva next Monday (29 June) in support of Israel. It will coincide with the debate of the commission’s report in the Human Rights Council.


Knesset, WJC Reps Meet with Polish Leaders to Mobilize Support for Israel

WARSAW, An Israeli delegation from the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC) and the World Jewish Congress (WJC) was in Warsaw to mark the launch of the Polish Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus at the Polish parliament, the Sejm. KCAC and WJC representatives met with senior Christian parliamentarians in order to garner further support for the State of Israel through their shared Judeo-Christian values.

"As anti-Semitism continues to rise in Europe and around the world, I was moved to witness this historic initiative by members of the Polish parliament to publicly support the Jewish State,” said Shai Hermesh, a former member of the Knesset and current chairman of the World Jewish Congress-Israel.

Josh Reinstein, Director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, added: “This is an important day for faith-based diplomacy. Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we must turn the bulk of our efforts toward mobilizing support for Israel. Israel is the only guarantor of the Jewish people's survival."

In Warsaw, the delegation met with high-ranking Polish lawmakers including Jan Dziedziczak, who is one of the initiators of the newly established Polish Israel Allies Caucus. Sejm members from both the opposition and coalition parties joined Dziedziczak to further the relationship between Poland and the State of Israel.

Polish MP Michal Szczerba, who also chairs Polish-Israeli parliamentary group and is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee from the governing Civic Platform, welcomed the Israeli delegation and stressed the importance of this initiative in further fostering Polish-Israeli relations.

Witold Waszczykowski, a former Polish ambassador to Iran and former deputy director of Poland’s National Security Bureau, expressed his enthusiastic support of the establishment of the caucus.

The Israeli delegation included Andras Patkai, Israel Allies Foundation european director; representatives from the World Jewish Congress, including Shai Hermesh, chairman of WJC-Israel; Sam Grundwerg, director-general of WJC-Israel; Col. (res.) Moshe Leshem; Laurence Weinbaum, director of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, which operates under the auspices of the World Jewish Congress; Anna Azari, Israel’s ambassador to Poland; and Josh Reinstein, KCAC director.

The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus was established in 2004 and consists of 17 members of Knesset from six political parties. The caucus aims to open formal and direct lines of communication between Knesset members and Christian leaders, organizations and political representatives around the world.


WJC President Lauder addresses March of the Living in Budapest, denounces far-right Jobbik party

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder strongly denounced anti-Semitism and criticized Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party in his keynote address in front of thousands at this year’s ‘March of the Living’ in Budapest in commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust.

“The March of the Living reminds us what happens when the world is silent,” said Lauder. “We will never be silent again. And when it comes to anti-Semitism, the Hungarian government must never be silent.”

“Today, when the world looks at Hungary, it does not see its great culture. It does not see its beautiful cities. It does not remember its great and glorious past,” continued Lauder, adding: “Today, the world sees Hungary, and it sees Jobbik. It sees an extremist party that promotes hate.”

On its website, Jobbik calls for fighting “Zionist Israel’s quest for world domination." In the past, some of its leaders questioned whether the Holocaust took place and called for drawing up a list of Jewish lawmakers who may pose a “national security risk.” In 2013, the party held a protest rally against the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Budapest.

Later on Sunday, Jobbik party scored a narrow victory in a by-election, marking a breakthrough in its challenge to the Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. With more than 99 per cent of ballots counted, Lajos Rig, Jobbik’s candidate, topped the poll in the district of Tapolca, with 35.3 per cent of the vote.

In his speech, Lauder also condemned acts of anti-Semitism. “There are statues of shoes along the Danube. They are there as a memorial to the Jewish people who were murdered there. No-one has the right to spit in those shoes. No-one. In this great city we send one clear message to the entire world: The Hungarian Jewish community is alive and well. And the Hungarian Jewish community is not going anywhere. We march today to say: We are here. We are alive. And here we will remain.”

About 560,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, most of them in 1944. Today, Hungary’s Jewish community numbers around 100,000 and it is still the largest in Central Europe.

Lauder highlighted the contribution of Hungarian Jews to their country. “Jews helped make this country great. When Jews are part of a society, any society, countries prosper. Jews win Nobel prizes. Jews create jobs and they cure diseases. Jews build -- they don’t tear down! Anti-Semites tear down, they destroy, they create nothing, they save no-one. And when Jews are forced to leave, they take their success with them,” he told the crowd in central Budapest.

The ‘March of the Living’ in Hungary is organized every year by the March of the Living Foundation, with the support of the MAZSIHISZ, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary. Thousands participated in today’s event.

Transcript of the speech by Ronald S. Lauder at the March of the Living, Budapest, 12 April 2015

I stand here today as a proud Jew. Proud of my ancient heritage. Proud of my people. Proud of what we have created. I am also proud of my Hungarian heritage. But I know that if my grandparents had not left Hungary, if I had born here in 1944, I would have been one of the tens-of-thousands of Jewish children gassed at Auschwitz.

That is why we are here today. That is why we march together. Not just because of what happened 70 years ago, but because of what is happening here today.

70 years after Hitler and Auschwitz and the Arrow-Cross Jews are targeted once again. 70 years later, we see the same signs that we saw before. I stand here today to tell you that no one, no political party, no thugs in the night, No-one has the right to threaten our people. No-one has the right to deface our synagogues. No-one has the right to hurt our children.

There are statues of shoes along the Danube. They are there as a memorial to the Jewish people who were murdered there. No-one has the right to spit in those shoes. No-one.

In this great city we send one clear message to the entire world: The Hungarian Jewish community is alive and well. And the Hungarian Jewish community is not going anywhere. We march today to say: We are here. We are alive. And here we will remain. The March of the Living also reminds us of what happens when the world is silent.

Silence allows the lowest forces of mankind out in the open. We Jews learned this lesson the hard way. We know what happens when the world is silent. And the price we paid was too high. For that reason, we will never be silent again. I will never be silent. I will not be silent when Jews are the target. I will not be silent when Christians are the target. When any group is singled out by hate, I will not be silent. And when someone spits in those shoes along the Danube and the Hungarian government does not condemn that, it looks like the government agrees. When someone stands up in Parliament and wants to put Jews on lists, the government must not be silent. When it comes to anti-Semitism, the Hungarian government must never be silent.

Sometimes people forget the important role Jews played in Hungary. Jews helped make this country great. When Jews are part of a society, any society, countries prosper. Jews win Nobel prizes. Jews create jobs and they cure diseases. Jews build they don’t tear down! Anti-Semites tear down, they destroy, they create nothing, they save no one. And when Jews are forced to leave, they take their success with them.

Jobbik may think they are true Hungarians trying to save Hungary. But Jobbik hurts Hungary. In the eyes of the rest of the world, people see Jobbik, they see an extremist party that promotes hate. Jobbik does not even realize that they hurt Hungary’s future. Today, when the world looks at Hungary, it does not see its great culture. It does not see its beautiful cities. It does not remember its great and glorious past. Today, the world sees Hungary and they see Jobbik.

And when businessmen want to invest in Hungary, they also see Jobbik and they are afraid to come. Jobbik hurts Hungary. Do not allow a small percentage of the population to destroy Hungary. The people of Hungary are too good for that. This march is being covered by hundreds of news organizations.

In this world of instant pictures and the Internet, news is flashed around the globe in an instant. And when there is an act of hate against anyone that is the news that people see outside of Hungary. Everything good that Hungary did in 1956 and its push for capitalism, all of that is forgotten. In the end, you must decide the image you want to send to the world.

Look around you. Today, there are thousands of Hungarians, Jews and Christians, marching together against hate. You march together for a better future. That is the image you want people to see. You want people to know that Jobbik is not Hungary.

Hungary has a bright future. Hungary and the Jewish people are tied together. Thank you for standing with us. I believe strongly this is our only choice. We stand together and we say enough! Enough anti-Semitism. Enough hatred. Enough death and destruction. Today we turn an important corner and we start building together.

To everyone here I say: Thank you for standing against anti-Semitism and hate. Thank you for standing with the Jewish people. Thank you for remembering. And I say again: Jobbik is not Hungary. Hungary is the thousands of Christians who are here today to support the Jewish community.

Today we honor life, not death. This is the March of the LIVING! We will work together to make our world a better place. We look forward not backward. But we will not be silent.
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