Avi Abraham Benlolo
Updated: Jan 23, 2021
'President Biden, please don't send Iran another plane load of cash'
TheFridayReport is a roundup of this week's most pressing issues.
01/22/21 - Shabbat Shalom - Candle Lighting 4:58 EST
This week's presidential inauguration fell smack dab on my 50th birthday and the 79th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference. January 20th was an auspicious date as America's new President, Joe Biden and its Vice President, Kamala Harris were sworn into office. The confluence of these events crashed together as the pandemic rages on locking us into what feels like a daily fight for survival and a struggle for normalcy.
The lessons of the Wannsee Conference are relevant today more than ever. It was a meeting of high ranking Nazi officials in 1942 meant to rubber stamp the so-called "final solution to the Jewish question". Hitler had already begun implementing the murder of the Jewish population. But what was needed, was a final "buy-in" from Germany's ministers and security services. At that meeting, over a fine breakfast on the outskirts of Berlin, it was decided that all 11 million of Europe's Jews would be eliminated.
In this day and age, when we witness a rising tide of neo-Nazi ideology displayed as "white supremacism", we need to react and reflect upon how easily ordinary people can be drawn into this movement. Many of the rioters on Capitol Hill on January 6th have since been discovered to have links to white nationalist groups. America is moving to designate such groups as "domestic terrorists" to investigate and condemn such groups and bring the nation back from the brink.
Why should we be surprised by the rising tide of white nationalism in general? An American survey conducted by the claims conference just a few months ago found the level of ignorance about the Holocaust is shocking. Nationally, 48% could not name a single concentration camp from the 40,000 camps; 63% of respondents did not know that six million Jews were murdered and 49% have seen Holocaust denial or distortion on social media.
These numbers are especially sobering as we are about to commemorate the 76th anniversary of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th. Marking this day allows the international community to think about the consequence of the Wannsee Conference and remember the Holocaust and the six million Jews who were murdered.
But an America divided is not only bad for America, its especially bad for the Jewish community that has seen a resurgence of Antisemitism and Holocaust denial in the last two decades. If the Biden administration warms to the Iranian Ayatollahs by renegotiating the "nuclear deal"; and if Israel's hand is forced to acquiesce to the Palestinians once again and if white supremacism is not put down in America - the Jewish community will become target practice once again.
Cracks began appearing even before Biden took office. Even a few leftist Jewish groups shockingly began taking aim last week at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of Antisemitism. A consortium of so-called left wing Jewish groups openly called for a reworking of the now internationally accepted definition arguing it limits free speech and criticism of Israel. Thats a farce. Israelis themselves are the biggest critics of Israel.
In a predictable move, some activists in Canada's left-wing NDP party began attacking the definition itself saying it must be condemned at the party's upcoming convention. But the IHRA definition, while imperfect, is the best tool the world has to counter hatred of the Jewish people. In fact, it has been accepted by some 34 nations and at least 27 British universities - setting a precedent for other universities to follow.
Canadian institutions should pay attention, especially to the movement in Europe to create tools to fight antisemitism. Austria announced this week that it was moving on a national strategy against antisemitism. It will include further protection of synagogues, improved education on Judaism and prosecution of hate crimes. It is a positive step in line with the recent news that the European Commission has published a booklet with recommendations on combating antisemitism.
On the heels of that development, Ukraine announced this week that it plans to construct the biggest Holocaust memorial in Babyn Yar where some 100,000 mostly Jewish people were shot to death. I visited that ravine in the late 1990s and paid tribute to its victims. It was overgrown, its horrific past hidden as Ukrainians mostly forgot this tragic past. A memorial of this scale, should it happen, would be a positive step for a nation with a history of antisemitism.
The recent international developments against antisemitism and Holocaust denial are indeed staggering and should be recognized. As far away as Iceland, MPs from the Social Democrat Party are submitting legislation that would make Holocaust denial a punishable offence. That signifies both a concern about the rising tide of denial and a comprehensive international effort to combat it.
Even 'Abraham Peace Accord' signing countries have moved to denounce antisemitism and strengthen Holocaust remembrance. Bahrain has adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism. And just a few days ago, I had the opportunity of congratulating my good friend Elmehdi Boudra for his organization in Morocco signing of a joint memorandum to combat antisemitism alongside the US State Department.
This is an incredible step forward considering that in recent days, the Tunisian president was forced to apologize for making antisemitic remarks blaming Jews for the country's unrest, according to Rabbi Haim Bitan, the Chief Rabbi of Djerba. The Abraham Accords have softened the stand of many leaders in Muslim countries as everyone appears to be seeking better understanding and reconciliation.
As the Biden administration takes hold, Israel and the international Jewish community is wondering how America will deal with the antisemitism and threat of destruction coming from the Iranian regime. Rumours are believed to be false that Twitter suspended one of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's accounts after he posted an image of former President Donald Trump playing golf under the shadow of a warplane. Either way, we know that Iran has already threatened him on several occasions. But more shockingly, Twitter still refuses to remove Khamenei's Holocaust denial postings or to delete his account completely.
Some say that with Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State, a harder line on Iran will be taken by the Biden administration. during the Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Blinken confirmed that he views Jerusalem as Israel's capital and would not move back the embassy to Tel Aviv. He further agreed, when asked, that he considers Iran as the world's largest sponsor of terrorism. He agreed that a Biden administration would be committed to Israel's security and said that while he remained committed to a two state solution, he said, "realistically, its hard to see near-term solution with the Palestinians".
Blinken added that "Biden is committed to the proposition that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon. Iran with a nuclear weapon or the threshold capacity to build one is an Iran that would act with potentially greater impunity than it already is." Nevertheless, we now know from new intelligence that Iran is working diligently for a possible nuclear breakout as soon as possible.
This is in effort to gain more negotiating leverage. The Tehran Times, a mouthpiece for the regime, posted today a warning to the Biden administration that Israel is trying to make it difficult for "any thaw in Iran-US relations". It also said that Qatar is ready to mediate between Iran and the US - given that Qatar hosts the largest US military base in the region and is an Iranian ally.
As it happens, today is a momentous day. Its the day the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comes into force. Its been said to have been signed by some 50 nations - none of which have nuclear weapons. No one in their right mind wants nuclear weapons to exist. But with despot regimes like North Korea and soon Iran having nuclear weapons, can the west and for that matter - Israel - afford not to have them?
Its a double edge sword for humanity. But we must strive every single day to right the wrongs of our world. We need to strive to eradicate hatred in all its forms and sideline regimes like Iran and others who profess hatred and intolerance. Our world needs so much work now more than ever and we must all pull together to recognize these needs.
As we close out another week on planet earth, with a new American administration, I only have one message for the new administration: President Biden, please don't send Iran another plane load of cash.
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Photo credit/CNN/New York Times