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World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder urges football associations worldwide to reject anti-Israel vote in FIFA

WJC, The World Jewish Congress and dozens of its affiliated communities around the world are urging national football associations to reject a forthcoming vote regarding the standing of the Israeli Football Association (IFA) within Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), set to take place at the international football body’s upcoming Congress in Bahrain.

In a letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder wrote: “The WJC strongly opposes any efforts by member countries to manipulate FIFA for their own political interests. The campaign of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) to sanction Israel has no place on the FIFA Congress’ agenda.

“We appreciate the recent efforts by FIFA and Mr. Tokyo Sexwale, chair of FIFA’s Israel-Palestine Monitoring Committee, to find an equitable solution to any questions concerning the IFA. As you must be aware, the IFA has complied wholeheartedly and in good faith with all FIFA requests and initiatives to resolve outstanding issues concerning its relations with the PFA. Jews and Arabs play together on Israeli football teams and the IFA is proud of the mutual respect fostered among them by the beautiful game. The IFA brings Israelis and Arabs together in the only democracy in the Middle East that provides equal rights to Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

“With anti-Semitism and other forms of extremism on the rise across the globe, it is vital that organizations like FIFA continue to promote the values of sportsmanship, goodwill, and harmony between different communities and nations. As violent manifestations of racism and intolerance resurface in football stadiums, we must be especially vigilant in preventing toxic and divisive political agendas from undermining FIFA’s mandate of inclusion and camaraderie.

"FIFA’s position as the most prominent regulatory body in the sporting world, one which bridges divides between countries and peoples, must be safeguarded. By keeping politics out of football, FIFA’s central role in the effort to promote respect among nations through sports will be secured.

"To emphasize FIFA’s commitment to global peace and international fellowship, we recommend that it hold a friendly exhibition match between Jewish and Muslim players. This would highlight the spirit of camaraderie that FIFA embodies and ensure that the Federation, which represents football for billions of people worldwide, does not become a political battleground. We stand ready to assist in any way necessary."

UN Secretary General Guterres to address World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in New York

Amid mounting concerns about the bias against Israel at the United Nations, the world body’s new secretary general, António Guterres, will speak to the more than 600 representatives of Jewish communities in over 90 countries who are gathering in New York from Sunday through Tuesday for the Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

Guterres’ speech at the opening dinner on 23 April 2017, at 18:00 EST (6 o’clock p.m.), marks the first time the UN’s most senior official will address such a gathering of international Jewish leaders.

The Plenary Assembly, which is supreme decision-making body of the WJC, will hear reports about the situation of Jewish communities world-wide and discuss major issues, including anti-Semitism and the rise of extremist political movements.

A WJC-commissioned report will be presented that details the proliferation anti-Semitism on the internet, and policies to combat such phenomena will be discussed. The delegates will also elect the WJC leadership for the coming four-year term. Current WJC President Ronald S. Lauder is standing for re-election.

Other speakers at the event include UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (tbc), Israeli Minister of Intelligence and of Transportation Yisrael Katz; Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, US Representatives Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey and Lee Zeldin, European Commission Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein, as well as the Jewish Nobel Prize laureates Roald Hoffmann (Chemistry), Daniel Kahneman (Economics) and Eric Kandel (Medicine).

Ambassadors Against BDS: 2,000 gather at United Nations HQ in New York in support of Israel

The World Jewish Congress and Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations on Wednesday hosted more than 2,000 dignitaries, public officials, NGO representatives at the UN headquarters for the second Ambassadors Against BDS summit. The opening session of the conference was held in the iconic General Assembly Hall of the United Nations.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said: "The effort to delegitimize the state of Israel being waged on college campuses and the anti-Israel obsession at the UN are one in the same. They both seek to deny Israel’s right to exist. [...] They are both extensions of an ancient hatred. And how tragic is it that, of all the countries in the world to condemn for human rights violations, these voices choose to single out Israel.

"Iran, Syria, North Korea and other barbaric regimes are excused by the BDS movement. It makes no sense. And it has no connection to any reasonable definition of justice," said Haley.

In his keynote address, WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert R. Singer, who spoke on behalf of WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, thanked Haley for standing with Israel and standing “up against the bias that prevails here.”

Singer also criticized the anti-Israel BDS movement, saying: “The boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement says it wants peace. It claims to fight under the banner of human rights. But this movement is based on lies, incitement, and deception. BDS is not about peace. BDS is not about helping the Palestinians. BDS is not about human rights. What BDS really wants is to deny the Jewish people’s right to a homeland in Israel.”

“We must tell all who question Israel’s very right to exist: The State of Israel is not up for negotiation. The State of Israel is here to stay,” Singer declared. Pointing to recent measures taken by governments and other institutions against BDS, he added: "Operation Fightback is underway, and we are winning." Singer noted that the "Winds of change are blowing even here, at UN Headquarters."

Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Danny Danon, welcomed the particpants of the summit, also criticizing the United Nations anti-Israel bias: "The halls of the UN are now being infiltrated by the boycott movement. The UN’s Human Rights Council is creating a blacklist of companies and corporations operating in parts of Israel. This is pure anti-Semitism, and together with the US, our greatest ally, we will keep fighting until BDS is eliminated.”

“We are here today with a simple message for those who seek to harm the Jewish state and the Jewish people. We will keep fighting until we eliminate BDS completely, from the campuses to the UN, and we will keep fighting until anti-Semitism is finally defeated,” Danon added.

Other speakers at the opening included Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky and Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.

World Jewish Congress launches petition to ICRC demanding Hamas return bodies of IDF soldiers

NEW YORK - The World Jewish Congress has launched a petition asking the International Committee of the Red Cross to press Hamas to return the bodies of IDF Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, 23, and Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul, 20, who were killed in action during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014.

“The World Jewish Congress is calling upon the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to act on its stated mission to ensure ‘humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence’ and help bring these brave young men home to Israel for proper burial,” said WJC CEO Robert Singer. “Burying one’s dead is a humanitarian right and a religious right, and the rights of the Shaul and Goldin families remain violated. Please join the World Jewish Congress in calling on the ICRC to use all available diplomatic channels to right this egregious wrong. There is strength in our unity."

Shaul was killed on July 20, 2014 when he left his armored personnel carrier to repair the vehicle when Hamas fired on his unit and took him prisoner. On August 1, 2014, Hamas kidnapped Goldin, 23, following a deadly ambush in southern Gaza. The attack came an hour and a half into an agreed upon humanitarian ceasefire which had been brokered by then US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The IDF has determined that both soldiers were killed in action, but nearly three years have gone by and their bodies have not yet been returned. The Shaul and Goldin families remain in an unresolved state, unable to give their sons proper burials in Israel.

The petition, which has already received nearly 1,000 signatures, will be delivered to ICRC President, Peter Maurer. Click here to sign 

World Jewish Congress welcomes Swiss lawmakers' push to protect religious communities, end government funding of BDS

NEW YORK - World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder on Friday praised Switzerland's National Council, the lower house of parliament, for its vote to stop government funding of any organization that supports racism, anti-Semitism, or boycotts of Israel. Lauder also welcomed the unanimous decision by the Council of States, the upper house of the Swiss legislature, calling on the government to ensure that all religious communities receive adequate protection against potential terrorist threats.

Both decisions, which Lauder called “admirable moves worthy of emulation,” still require the consent of the other house of Swiss parliament before they can go into effect.

Lauder said: “The decisions of the Swiss legislature to ensure protection of the country's religious communities against terrorist threats, and to recognize that boycotts of Israel belong in the same category as anti-Semitism and racism, are significant signs in defense of the Jewish community in Switzerland.

“The BDS movement claims to support Palestinians, but its real motivation is the delegitimization of the State of Israel. It is a movement based on the anti-Semitic denial of the Jewish people’s right to sovereignty in their own state. The Swiss parliament's push to cease government funding of organizations that support such an ideology may finally help expose the lies and hypocrisies of the BDS once and for all.

“We are encouraged by the fact that so many lawmakers chose to vote in favor of these important decisions, and look forward to seeing them go into effect after approval by the other house. We hope that other countries in Europe will follow suit,” Lauder concluded.

World Jewish Congress President Lauder demands Montana immediately ban planned neo-Nazi rally: ‘Alt-right march puts all of America at risk

NEW YORK - World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder is demanding that authorities in Montana immediately put a stop to an armed march being planned by neo-Nazis in the town of Whitefish on January 15, calling it “a dangerous and life-threatening rally that puts all of America at risk.”

“When notorious and self-professed neo-Nazis announce that they are planning to march through a town carrying ‘high-profiled rifles’ in an action targeting ‘Jews, Jewish business, and everyone who supports either,’ the local authorities must respond with quick alarm and vigilance.

“This rally crosses the line between freedom of expression and incitement to hatred. The intention of these neo-Nazis is not just to send a political message – they are organizing a dangerous and life-threatening rally that puts all of America, including the local Jewish community, at risk. There has been an upturn of late in public expressions of anti-Semitism and hatred of the other. It is unacceptable, and unfathomable, that such incidents could happen in America.

“When neo-Nazis planned their march through Skokie in 1977, to spit in the face of Holocaust survivors, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled after months of debate that it would be unconstitutional to stop them. The counter-response was deafening: Only a few dozen Nazis came out to protest, met by hundreds of Jews and their supporters.

“But the circumstances in Montana, and in the America of today, are different. In Montana today, it is legal to openly carry a weapon. And the America of today has seen far too many mass and targeted shootings of innocent people, far too many expressions of violent bigotry and lethal hatred, to sit by quietly and debate the constitutional right of armed militants to march against the Jewish people and ‘anyone that supports’ them.

“All around the world, from the Jobbik Party in Hungary to the Golden Dawn in Greece, fascism is on the rise. Anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Black incidents are jumping at alarming rates.

“Inflammatory rhetoric on the part of White Supremacists, whether targeting Jews, Blacks, Muslims or any other minority, can all too easily turn into incitement to violence and worse. ‘Constitutional’ hate speech can far too easily turn into unspeakable atrocities.

“We cannot allow the horrific massacres that occurred just recently – nine murdered in cold blood at a Charleston church, 49 lives ruthlessly wiped out at an Orlando night club – to replicate themselves in Whitefish. We must stop this rally from taking place and prevent a hate crime from happening before it even becomes a possibility. When we send the message that anti-Semitism is acceptable, it becomes acceptable. America is a beacon of tolerance – it cannot let itself become a beacon of hatred.”

The rally is being organized by The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, and is set to coincide with Martin Luther King Day. The World Jewish Congress, American Section, has sent a letter to Montana Governor Steve Bullock demanding that the rally be stopped.

Canada's PM Trudeau holds talks with World Jewish Congress

WJC, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder met in Ottawa with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Canadian officials for an exchange of views.

Lauder praised Trudeau for Canada's deep friendship with, and staunch support for Israel.

"The Canadian delegation that attended former President Shimon Peres ' funeral last week was led by Prime Minister Trudeau and included former Prime Ministers Harper and Chrétien.

"It was a most impressive demonstration of honor and respect for the State of Israel", said Lauder.

Also present at the meeting were WJC Vice-President Moshe Ronen from Canada, the WJC North America Executive Director Betty Ehrenberg, and Shimon Fogel, the CEO of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the umbrella body of the Canadian Jewish community.

The delegation also held meetings with Canada's Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, members of parliament, among others.

Discussions also focused on Canada's role in the fight against anti-Semitism.

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-US dismayed by court decision against victims of Palestinian terror

WJC, The World Jewish Congress-US expressed its deep dismay concerning the decision by the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to dismiss a $655.5 million terrorism judgement against the Palestinian Authority (PA), calling it a strong setback to the efforts to hold the PA liable for attacks in Israel during the Second Intifada, which included the murder of 33 American citizens, among others.

The court ruled that the American court system had no jurisdiction over the PA or the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

This decision overturns that of a lower court judge on 15 February 2015, who had made the anti-terrorism ruling against the PA based on the Anti-Terrorism Act passed by the US Congress after the PLO killed Leon Klinghoffer in 1985.

The families of the victims intend to appeal the decision of the Second US Circuit Court.

Rabbi Joel Meyers, chair of the WJC-US, said: "We are deeply dismayed by the decision of the Second US Circuit Court to dismiss the terrorism judgement against the PA. The families of the American citizens who were murdered by the Palestinian terrorists have waited too many years to see justice done.

"No amount of money can compensate for the pain and loss of loved ones but those who knowingly planned, financed and carried out vicious terrorist attacks that led to the murder and injuries of American citizens should be held accountable and punished as was decided by the lower court. We hope that this dismissal will be appealed and that terrorist entities and those who support them will be held responsible for their horrific crimes."

Ten American families sued over terrorist attacks in Israel in the early 2000s that left 33 people dead and more than 400 injured. After a trial in Manhattan federal court last year, jurors found the PLO and Palestinian Authority liable for the attacks and ordered the groups to pay the families $218.5 million, which was automatically tripled to $655.5 million under a US antiterrorism law.

On Wednesday, three judges for the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case. There was no US jurisdiction in this case, “no matter how horrendous the underlying attacks or morally compelling the plaintiffs’ claims,” wrote Judge John Koetl.

World Jewish Congress marks 80th anniversary of its creation

WJC, As the World Jewish Congress marks its 80th anniversary, President Ronald S. Lauder declared that vigilance and bold steps were as necessary today as they were in 1936 to defend Jews and Jewish community life, adding that the very existence of the WJC, the international Jewish umbrella organization, keeps the situation for Jews around the world from deteriorating to the level of pre-Holocaust Germany.

First WJC Plenary Assembly in Geneva in August 1936First WJC Plenary Assembly in Geneva in August 1936Ronald S. Lauder said: “In 1936, our founding fathers and mothers gathered in Switzerland to unite against the growing threat of Nazi Germany and to bring the Jewish plight to the world’s attention. Today, the world’s attitude toward Jews may still be hostile, but two things have certainly changed. Firstly, we have changed. The era of the quiet Jew, the timid Jew, the Ghetto Jew, is long over. Those leaders who set up the WJC 80 years ago buried that Jew – and he’s not coming back.

“Secondly, there is the State of Israel, the only Jewish state in the world. The World Jewish Congress works to defend Israel and its people in the international arena, and we hope to contribute to achieving peace and stability in the Middle East.

“The founding of the World Jewish Congress put Jewish interests on the map of international diplomacy for the first time. I am sure that the founding fathers and mothers of the WJC, who could not prevent the Holocaust but who did much to help Jews during and after World War II, would have been proud of what the WJC and what Israel have achieved in recent decades.

“Much needs to be done to fight anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, but as we look back over the last 80 years, it is clear that the world would be an even more dangerous place for Jews were in not for the establishment of the WJC as the representative voice and diplomatic arm of world Jewry.”

8-15 August 1936: Founding assembly of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva

The World Jewish Congress was formally established in Geneva, Switzerland, by a plenary assembly of 230 elected representatives from Jewish communities in 32 countries to serve as an umbrella body tasked to defend Jewish rights vis-à-vis governments and international bodies and to mobilize for the establishment of a Jewish home in what was then the Mandate of Palestine.

Today, the WJC has affiliated member organizations in over 100 countries and territories and remains the only truly global Jewish umbrella organization.

8 August 1942: Riegner Telegram alerts world to Holocaust

During World War II, the WJC set up a relief body to assist persecuted Jews in Europe and it alerted the world to the Holocaust. On 8 August 1942, the WJC’s Geneva representative Gerhart Riegner sent the famous telegram in which he informed the United States for the first time about the Nazis’ ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’, the plan to exterminate all Jews in the German-occupied territories. Riegner had received his information from the German industrialist Eduard Schulte.

Throughout the war, the WJC lobbied the Allied governments to grant entry visas to Jewish refugees. Despite the US State Department's opposition, the WJC obtained permission from the US Treasury Department, headed by Henry Morgenthau, to transmit funds to Europe for the rescue and assistance of persecuted Jews. According to a report by Riegner, these funds helped to bring 1,350 Jewish children from the occupied countries to Switzerland and 70 to Spain.

9 August 1944: WJC urges United States to bomb Auschwitz

On 9 August 1944, the head of the WJC’s Rescue Department, Arieh Leon Kubowitzki, sent a letter to the US Undersecretary of War John McCloy, relaying a message from Ernest Frischer of the Czechoslovak State Council urging the destruction of gas chambers and crematoria in Auschwitz-Birkenau and the bombing of railway communications in this area.

On 14 August 1944, McCloy replied to Kubowitzki by rejecting the idea, saying that “such an operation could be executed only by the diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations elsewhere and would in any case be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources.”

In April 1945, the WJC managed to obtain the liberation of 4,500 inmates from the women's concentration camp Ravensbrück through direct negotiations with top Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler.

Post-war rebuilding

In the aftermath of World War II, the WJC undertook efforts to rebuild Jewish communities in Europe, provided assistance to displaced persons and Shoah survivors, pushed for the indemnification of victims by Germany, and advocated for the punishment of Nazi leaders who committed crimes against humanity.

In 1951, WJC President Nahum Goldmann established the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany to handle Jewish reparation claims.

The World Jewish Congress also successfully lobbied the United Nations and governments to support the establishment of the State of Israel. After 1948, the WJC focused its attention on the plight of Jewish refugees in Arab countries and also drew international attention to the plight of Jews in the Soviet Union, who were ultimately granted permission to move to Israel or to remain in their communities.

During the 1980s, the World Jewish Congress exposed the Nazi past of former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, who was elected president of Austria in 1986.

During the 1990s, the WJC successfully lobbied for the restitution of assets of Holocaust victims held in so-called ‘dormant’ bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere, and it ensured that they were returned to their rightful owners, or that adequate compensation was paid. Commissions were set up in 17 nations to investigate Holocaust-era assets, including looted art, and the funds recovered have been used to support a multitude of programs worldwide.

The WJC also fought for justice for forced laborers – both Jewish and non-Jewish – whose agonizing hardship had gone uncompensated for decades, resulting in the setting up of a US$ 5 billion fund by Germany in 2001.

The World Jewish Congress has also been at the forefront of fostering a better understanding with other religions, notably with the Catholic Church, and the organization facilitated the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See in 1993.
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