B’nai B’rith president: Don't ignore anti-Semitism

Allan J. Jacobs tells 'Post' that Jewish organizations must fight anti-Jewish or anti-Israel manifestation in media.

Bnai Brith in Washington 390 (photo credit: REUTERS/Str Old)
Bnai Brith in Washington 390
(photo credit: REUTERS/Str Old)
Anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel are on the rise in the US and throughout the world and must be countered swiftly, according to B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post ahead of B’nai B’rith World Center’s journalism award ceremony in Jerusalem on Sunday evening, Jacobs said Jewish organizations in the Diaspora must fight every anti-Jewish or anti-Israel manifestation, including in the media.
“I think it’s sometimes very difficult to separate what is anti-Semitism and what is delegitimization of Israel,” he said. “But I think Jewish organizations should speak up, and not turn the other cheek, whenever there is any kind of incident.
“We have a responsibility as an organization and individuals to be in touch with legislators, if there is anything they can do, or the government or police, if there are anti-Semitic activities. I have never believed in turning the other cheek, because it doesn’t go away.”
Jacobs blamed the downturn in the global economy for rising anti-Semitism.
“Whenever there’s bad economic times, for some reason people seem to think that the Jews are to blame, and so that’s when anti-Semitism comes forth.
In the last few years, we’ve seen some increase in anti-Semitism in the United States and other countries like Germany, France and the United Kingdom as a result of difficult times,” he said.
Asked what B’nai B’rith is doing to combat anti-Semitism, Jacobs said: “One of the big things that we do is our representation at the United Nations, particularly when the UN is in session. We have a considerable number of meetings with ambassadors of other countries to try to promote our position against this delegitimization, the same way we did in Geneva in March, where we met at the Human Rights Council in a matter of over four or five days with over 30 embassies.
“I experienced one of those sessions, in which the ambassadors actually listened. I was sitting there with this ambassador and he said to me at the beginning, ‘I’ve got another meeting,’ and about half way through he picks up his cellphone and calls his deputy to go to the meeting, because he says, ‘It’s important that we meet with B’nai B’rith here.’ “Are we making an impact? We think we are.”
Jacobs said that while B’nai B’rith’s fund-raising is not significantly down due to the economic situation, the organization is undergoing fundamental reforms.
“If you make your cause available and sell yourself, you can still raise the money. The money is still there to be had,” he said.
“But the organization is changing.
We are still involved in three basic areas. One is human rights and public policy, which is probably our foremost activity. The second area, particularly in the United States, is both housing and senior advocacy. And the third area is disaster relief.
“People remember B’nai B’rith as this fraternal organization from way back, with lodges all over the place, but that is changing because the dynamics of life today are not the same. We’re moving ahead, and we’re trying to bring more young people into leadership roles, and I think we’ll be successful in that.”
Jacobs said B’nai Brith’s granting of its annual journalism award was one way in which it showed “it’s not just an old fraternal organization, and we’re reaching out to people who are doing good and important things in life.”
“The idea is to honor someone who is doing something important in what happens to be the journalistic area,” he said.
“Media are important. If it wasn’t for the media telling the story, how would people know what’s going on in the world?” He said he did not consider the American media “particularly anti-Israel.”
“There are some, but we’re in an election period right now, so a lot of what’s being said is for election purposes. Both parties are trying to get what they call ‘the Jewish vote.’” The guest lecture at Sunday’s B’nai B’rith journalist award ceremony will be former US under secretary of state Stuart E. Eizenstat.
The top award “recognizing excellence in Diaspora reportage” will be given to Channel 2’s Lee Abramovich for her television report on American Orthodox Jews donating kidneys to Israelis for transplants.
Foreign correspondent citations will be awarded to Jana Beris of the Uruguayan Jewish weekly Semanario Hebreo for her interview with Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, and to the Associated Press’s Diaa Hadid for her report on the Jewish community in Tripoli.