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Acknowledging ‘reputational risk,’ ADL chief defends partnership with undemocratic United Arab Emirates



(JTA) — The announcement was akin to several that Jewish groups have made in recent years: a new partnership with an Arab nation would advance coexistence in the Middle East.

Except that the group announcing the new alliance last week was the Anti-Defamation League, which devotes itself to fighting for human and civil rights. And the country it’s partnering with is the United Arab Emirates, an autocracy that, say the U.S. government and civil rights advocates alike, is guilty of a wide range of such abuses.

The new Manara Regional Center For Coexistence, based in Abu Dhabi, will “engage young leaders across the Middle East and North Africa, empowering them to build ties with peers and foster a shared commitment to coexistence,” according to a tweet by ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who traveled to the UAE for the center’s launch.

The ADL partners with a wide array of organizations in the United States and beyond to achieve its mission. But Greenblatt told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he recognized that working with the UAE could be complicated.

“There’s always execution risk,” Greenblatt said. “There can be, if things go south, a kind of reputational risk. You know, there are specific internal issues of UAE that we can’t control for.”

Those issues, according to the State Department, include placing “serious restrictions on free expression and media” and engaging in “substantial” repression of human rights groups, LGBTQ residents and international critics. Its latest human rights review includes “credible reports” of arbitrary arrest and detention, the jailing of political prisoners and a lengthy listing of other reported restrictions and abuses in the country.

Human rights advocates say the UAE prohibits free speech, banishes political parties, does not have a free media and tolerates slavery-like conditions for some of the large immigrant workforce it houses, which comprises the vast majority of its residents. 

And Freedom House, a democracy watchdog, scores the UAE 18 out of 100 on its freedom metric (“not free”) – including ratings of 5 out of 40 for political rights and 13 out of 60 for civil liberties. It has called a UAE press law “one of the most restrictive press laws in the Arab world [which] regulates all aspects of the media and prohibits criticism of the government.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, right, confers with Ali Al Naumi, the chairman of the Manara Regional Center For Coexistence, in Abu Dhabi, March 14, 2023. (UAE Embassy to Washington Twitter feed)

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, who heads T’ruah, a liberal rabbinic human rights group
that has collaborated with the ADL in the past, said she was “flabbergasted” by the partnership and that she did not understand how the ADL could advance its mission in an autocracy.

“I just don’t really see how any civil rights organization or any organization that claims to be a civil rights organization can justify partnering with a government that is completely autocratic,” she said.

An official at Human Rights Watch, which has criticized the UAE for an “alarming campaign of repression and censorship against dissidents,” among other abuses, also said the ADL’s mission seemed inconsistent with the values of a repressive regime. (The ADL and Human Rights Watch disagree over Israel, an issue that has caused the ADL to clash with human rights or civil rights groups. Human Rights Watch has said Israeli authorities are guilty of the crime of apartheid, an accusation the ADL has called inaccurate and offensive.) 

“The UAE’s rights record should be especially concerning for organizations who profess to ‘protect democracy and ensure a just and inclusive society for all,’” said Michael Page, the deputy director of the group’s Middle East and North Africa division, quoting the ADL’s mission statement. “This UAE record includes detaining scores of activists, academics, and lawyers serving lengthy sentences, severely restricting independent civil society, and maintaining a restrictive labor governance system that leaves millions of migrant workers vulnerable to abuse.”

The UAE has also drawn criticism from labor rights groups, which accuse it of turning a blind eye to abuses of its migrant laborers, who comprise as much as 90% of the workforce. The International Trade Union Confederation accuses the country of allowing “modern day slavery.” Reported conditions include letting employers confiscate passports; having laborers work off prohibitive fees that allowed them into the country; and making the laborers live and work in squalor.

An ADL spokesperson said that the group is “unaware of any issues related to the building” housing the Manara Center and referred questions on the issue to the UAE Embassy in Washington, D.C., which did not respond to a request for comment. 

Greenblatt said the ADL was bringing its decades of experience in promoting civil rights and democracy to the region.

“The UAE, again, let’s just say the country has a different tradition than the United States in terms of its governance, in terms of its law, in terms of its practices,” he said. “The ADL, which is a part of that civic fabric of America, is going to have the opportunity to initiate work here in the Emirates and in the Gulf more broadly.”

He said such a prospect “is incredibly exciting, if we can bring to bear some of what we’ve learned the hard way over 110 years.”

The partnership reflects the sometimes strange bedfellows created by the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and the UAE and three other Arab countries in 2020. Since the deals, a string of initiatives to invigorate business ties and Jewish life in the Arab countries have launched, and Dubai, the UAE’s most populous city, has become a vacation destination for Israelis.

Greenblatt said ADL’s venture would help address a neglected component of the accords: people-to-people encounters.

“It is worth trying to find ways to bring together the people of the region — Muslims and Christians and Jews of different ethnicities and nationalities — in pursuit of the greater good,” he said.

Jacobs, of T’ruah, said that outlook was naive. “It’s not like there’s slight differences” between the United States and the UAE,” she said. 

“They’re not stupid,” she said of the UAE’s rulers. “They know what international law is.”

A number of other Jewish and civil rights groups that have partnered with the ADL, including the American Jewish Committee and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, did not return requests for comment.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said he welcomes the chance for Jewish organizations to bring their values into unfamiliar territory. He likened criticism of the ADL to the flak he got a few years ago when he met the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has been accused of intensifying the kingdom’s already dour record of human rights abuses. Bin Salman was subsequently accused of ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

“People would say, well, how could we even meet with such a person? The answer is, how can you try to build a more, I would say, pluralistic, and a more respectful community,” he said in an interview. “And we don’t just do that in places that are already very friendly. I think that’s our challenge wherever we are and, you know, Jonathan Greenblatt and the ADL have made that a very pervasive mission. It’s an important one.”

The post Acknowledging ‘reputational risk,’ ADL chief defends partnership with undemocratic United Arab Emirates appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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