Highlights from Sebastian Kurz's Keynote Speech on EU-Israel Relations and Jewish Life in Europe
On 19 April 1943, the vastly outnumbered and outgunned Jewish members of the Warsaw Ghetto underground rose up against the German Nazi occupiers. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the single largest act of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. Marking 78 years since the courageous uprising, Dr. Sebastian Rejak, Acting Director of AJC Central Europe, hosted Marian Turski, a 94-year-old Auschwitz death camp survivor, for a special conversation commemorating this heroic chapter in Jewish history and its enduring legacy.
Last week Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Israel of pursuing a policy of “apartheid and persecution.” AJC Director for Diplomatic Affairs Aaron Jacob exposes the HRW report’s most glaring biases, including the organization’s attempt to portray the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as racial in nature when, in fact, it is “a political conflict between two peoples with competing national goals – and should be addressed as such. Attempts to transform it into a racial or religious conflict make it much more difficult to resolve. By embracing the two-state solution and making generous peace overtures, Israel has made it abundantly clear that it does not want to rule the Palestinians.”
April 24th marked the annual commemoration of the Armenian genocide, the systematic annihilation of approximately 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. U.S. President Joe Biden’s recognition of the genocide was a groundbreaking event, one that American Jewish Committee (AJC) had long been advocating for. AJC CEO David Harris explains why in his latest op-ed in The Times of Israel.
Five years ago, Kuwait Airways denied boarding to a student living in Germany because of his Israeli citizenship. The state-owned airline cited the country's own antisemitic 1964 boycott law. AJC Berlin Senior Associate Annina Fichtner argues in Jüdische Allgemeine that Berlin must urgently take decisive action to end this anti-Jewish discrimination on German soil: “If the fight against antisemitism is not to be simply lip service, and as long as Kuwait Airways is not prepared to make any changes, Germany should resort to suspending the airline's take-off and landing rights.”
Backed by the city of Hamburg through an official state cooperation agreement since 2012, the Islamic Center Hamburg (IZH) is Iran’s direct affiliate in Germany. According to German intelligence, the IZH is Tehran's most important hub in Europe. "The Islamic Center Hamburg is not only tasked with spreading Iran's antisemitic, anti-democratic, misogynistic, and homophobic state ideology, but serves as a hub for Hamburg’s Hezbollah supporters," writes AJC Berlin Director Remko Leemhuis in this Welt opinion article calling on the city state to ban the IZH and its activities.
Both the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords and the bipartisan Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act - signed into law earlier this year – have the potential to advance the economic conditions needed to provide a foundation for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Benjamin Rogers, AJC Director for Middle East and North Africa Initiatives, writes in this op-ed in The Hill that the $250 million allocated by Congress over five years to expand peace and reconciliation programs and bolster the Palestinian economy through private sector engagement could be transformational: “While each instrument is revolutionary, the full power of the Abraham Accords and the Lowey Fund will emerge when applied together, unleashing their potential as a catalyst for the future of an integrated, symbiotic Middle East.”
As modern Greece marked its bicentennial this month, celebrating the nation’s emergence from 400 years of rule under the Ottoman Empire, the recent discovery of natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean continues to energize the Israel-Greece-Cyprus trilateral relationship. Backed by the U.S., the region is fast transforming into a real political and economic hub. For the first time, a major source of natural gas in the region is controlled largely by Western democracies. AJC Senior Director of Policy and Political Affairs, Julie Fishman Rayman, writes in the Greek daily Kathimerini that Greece and Cyprus, the U.S., and the entire region have much to gain from deepening this strategic partnership.
Over 70 legislators, diplomats, and officials from Europe, North America, and Israel gathered for an exclusive online discussion on the burgeoning NATO-Israel ties co-organized by the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) and the Mission of Israel to the EU and NATO. Co-hosted by TFI members MP Attila Mesterházy, NATO Parliamentary Assembly Vice President, and Canadian MP James Bezan, Vice Chair of the House of Commons National Defence Standing Committee, the panel discussion featured H.E. Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Ambassador of Israel to the EU and NATO, Colonel Nir Omer, Military Representative to NATO and to the EU, former NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges Dr. Jamie Shea, and AJC Jerusalem Director Lt Col (res.) Avital Leibovich as moderator.
Twelve prominent Polish community leaders launched the AJC-inspired “Community of Conscience – A Coalition of Mutual Respect,” an interfaith group that aims to fight discrimination against religious, ethnic, and cultural minorities. At the virtual launch ceremony, AJC Central Europe Acting Director Sebastian Rejak, who last year initiated the process to establish the group, said: “Truth and righteousness are like a symphony: many voices, many experiences together form a new whole – a harmony that we hope will transform people’s minds and hearts.”
The U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords achieved even more than the historic establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and three Arab nations. Jason Isaacson, AJC’s Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer, argues in Newsweek that the agreement’s critical ‘side deals’ ought to be honored. Both the $23 billion sale of F-35 warplanes to Abu Dhabi and U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara – with Sahrawi autonomy – will bolster ties with and among these critical allies to promote regional stability, counter extremist forces and address human needs.