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Morgan Lawnet Report: At swanky philanthropy convention, politics is the elephant in the room
Morgan Lawnet Report:
At the outlet gala of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress General Assembly on March 18, the wine and caviar flowed freely, as billionaires rubbed shoulders with renowned rabbis and politicians. A who’s-who checklist of oligarchs from the feeble Soviet Union, many of whose names in total seem in headlines, flew to Israel for the 2-day occasion at the swanky Dan Arcadia hotel in Herzliya, the place they listened to speeches, voted on resolutions, and watched shows from grateful recipients of their philanthropy.
Curiously, no topic the charming combination of money, vitality, religion, and global relatives on impart at this excessive-profile occasion, few journalists might possibly be noticed among the attendees.
The Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC), its spokespeople suggested The Cases of Israel, is regarded as one of 5 regional branches of the World Jewish Congress, a company basically based in 1936 to “act as the diplomatic arm of the Jewish individuals,” by combating anti-Semitism, serving to Jewish communities in need, and funding academic initiatives.
Organizers of the occasion explained that the EAJC represents the Jewish communities of 25 countries (Azerbaijan, Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, North Macedonia, Georgia, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine). Nonetheless, a majority of those communities are itsy-bitsy and the dominant language at the confab used to be, with out quiz, Russian.
Russian-talking Likud minister Ze’ev Elkin arrived early, chatting animatedly with attendees, some of whom possess financially supported his political campaigns. Other invited company, as evidenced by name cards delivery air the feast corridor, incorporated Likud Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Likud Minister Yoav Galant, Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion, Sephardi chief rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Israel Hayom editor Boaz Bismuth, and renowned Israeli grocery store chain proprietor Rami Levy. Elkin and Yosef delivered speeches in particular person, whereas Edelstein, President Reuven Rivlin and Top Minister Benjamin Netanyahu despatched video greetings to those attending the gala dinner.
Itzhak Belenkiy, a spokesman for the EAJC, suggested The Cases of Israel that what motivates the organization’s properly off donors to tumble what they’re doing and wing to Israel for the 2-day occasion are “proper Jewish sentiments and a favor to make contributions to the neighborhood.” If truth be told, he stated, one of the critical most EAJC’s philanthropists take their responsibility so seriously that they single-handedly abet one of the critical most organization’s smaller communities alive.
The Cases of Israel spoke to diverse such donors who expressed warm sentiments in the direction of Israel.
“Every Jew feels the same device about Israel,” stated Vadim Rabinovich, a Ukrainian politician and a vice-president of the EAJC. “Right here is why we ship our teenagers here, why we talk over with and why we make investments here.”
However there might be miniature doubt that for at the least one of the critical most 150 attendees, the opportunity to community with the extremely effective and properly off additionally exerted a extremely effective plot.
From left to honest appropriate EAJC Vice Presidents Boris Lozhkin, Temur Ben-Yehuda, Aaron Frenkel, EAJC President Michael Mirilashvili, EAJC CEO Haim Ben-Yakov (Courtesy)
For example, the EAJC’s president, and most generous philanthropist, is Mikhail Mirilashvili, a Russian-Israel who is ranked by the Russian-language newsletter “Exchange St. Petersburg” as the 2nd-wealthiest man in St. Petersburg, with a rep worth of 229 million rubles ($3.6 billion). He’s additionally reported to be on upright phrases with Netanyahu.
At the gala dinner, Mirilashvili presided over the head table, as a miniature team of a form of delegates buzzed spherical him in the hope of exchanging just a few words. “Would you contend with to talk to Mikhail?” this reporter overheard one invitee asking one other in Hebrew. “I’m in a position to derive the introduction.”
Within the middle of a session of the assembly dedicated to the EAJC’s philanthropic projects, one recipient after one other rose to thank Mirilashvili. A Chabad rabbi from Montenegro, as an example, suggested the crowd that JFuture, an initiative that funds Jewish Sunday faculties, had injected vitality into his neighborhood.
A neighborhood chief from Azerbaijan described continual worries that Jewish life in Azerbaijan “is coming to an discontinue and teenagers are disappearing.” He thanked Mirilashvili for his toughen and stated that the Sunday faculties had attracted unique families to the neighborhood. “These forms of families now reach to synagogue on a everlasting basis,” he stated beaming.
Israel as a ‘channel of communication’
Ariel Bulshtein, a authorized knowledgeable and Likud activist who heads the EAJC’s public diplomacy mission, spoke to the delegates about a definite factor of the organization’s work — its efforts to influence global public opinion in Israel’s decide. His presentation suggested that EAJC exerts huge in the assist of-the-scenes influence on Israeli diplomacy in one other country.
Talking Russian, Bulshtein began by explaining to those assembled that it is each and each in Israel’s hobby and in that of Diaspora Jewish communities that the general public in these countries mediate about Israel in “an operate and factual device.”
Ariel Bulshtein (Courtesy of EAJC)
To this discontinue, he stated, EAJC’s public diplomacy program cultivates relationships with thought leaders in its 25 constituent countries. These thought leaders consist of businesspeople, lecturers, journalists, politicians, cultural leaders, and bloggers. EAJC encourages these folks to chat over with Israel and likewise sponsors renowned Israelis to talk to such groups in one other country, with EAJC performing as an middleman between the Israelis and their international counterparts.
“Factual a miniature bit instance,” he stated. “We’ve reached an agreement with the Knesset that every person outgoing and incoming delegations of the Knesset to all countries of the Euro-Asian dwelling cooperate with us. This implies that we now possess the opportunity to host incoming delegations and derive special programs for them to boot to protest influence over the programs of outgoing delegations which will doubtless be heading to your countries.”
Bulshtein suggested his viewers that the EAJC is rarely any longer attempting to replace legit Israeli authorities constructions, but basically works closely with them.
“I deserve to give an instance here. The Moscow embassy of Israel closely cooperates with us. For example, we organized the most contemporary political talk over with of Knesset contributors to Russia.”
He added that the EAJC ceaselessly collaborates with Israel’s Authorities Press Space of job, its Ministry of Foreign places Affairs, and with the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. He talked about that the EAJC no longer too prolonged previously introduced Likud politician Uzi Dayan to talk at Russia’s National Examine University Elevated School of Economics, beforehand a bastion of anti-Israel sentiment.
He additionally stated that the EAJC has been collaborating with Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs to counteract the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) circulation.
Bulshtein’s checklist of accomplishments did not stop there. He went on to hint that EAJC is alive to with diplomacy at the excellent level.
“Many countries of the dwelling — I am intentionally talking covertly — are very grand attracted to developing channels with the political leaders of Israel and we present them with this channel. I deserve to inform that the importance of building such channels used to be expressed on all aspects — the Russian and Israeli one. It surely sounded contend with an verbalize — ‘plod and abet us build such channels.’”
Bulshtein then suggested the delegates about diverse moving programs the EAJC has planned for 2019.
“The main is a convention that we are planning to put collectively in Moscow alongside with the greatest Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom,” he stated. “This is in a position to perhaps well well be the vital global convention at this level delivery air Israel, excluding the identical events taking advise in the US, similar to the Saban and Jerusalem Post conferences,” he identified. “Events contend with this possess never taken advise delivery air the US and might possibly be organized at the head level. I invite you to take fragment.”
Bulshtein went on to describe a Republicans Out of the country convention planned for October, organized by Israeli Republican activist Marc Zell.
Mikhail Mirilashvili (Courtesy of EAJC)
“This Three hundred and sixty five days, the Republican social gathering of the US will care for a convention in Israel,” he announced.
“The absolute best level of American contributors will take fragment on this occasion. We possess approached the organizers suggesting that they consist of no longer only Israeli contributors but additionally contributors from the EAJC. For Jewish communities which will doubtless be contributors of the EAJC, here’s a proper opportunity to make stronger your authority in the eyes of political or a form of elites of your countries, because here’s a proper chance to make consume of Israel as a communication channel between your countries’ elites and the ruling elites of the US. It goes with out asserting what a a will deserve to possess political tool here’s brooding in regards to the most contemporary political pronounce.”
‘No longer a political organization’
Despite Bulshtein’s personal affiliation with the Likud social gathering, and the prominence of Likud politicians at the occasion, representatives of EAJC interviewed by The Cases of Israel were cautious no longer to tell political positions.
“The EAJC is awfully unsleeping no longer to derive political statements,” Belenkiy stated. “We derive no longer take half in political protest.”
A plenary session at the EAJC General Assembly, March 18, 2019 (Courtesy)
Asked what he thinks in regards to the upcoming Israeli elections, EAJC vp and Ukrainian media tycoon Boris Lozhkin stated “I am no longer a specialist in Israeli policies so I mediate it’s better to quiz politicians.”
Temur Ben Yehuda, additionally typically known as Teimuraz Khikhinashvili, first vp of the EAJC and chairman of the Israeli-Russian Exchange Council, replied: “I am no longer a political figure and am no longer attracted to politics. I’m in a position to talk of business ties between Israel and Russia and the most contemporary political team that leads those financial ties. I mediate they’re doing upright work, and I would contend with to need success to whatever team is elected and I’m hoping they continue the upright work.”
On the other hand, each and each men were happy and amenable to focus on financial ties between their countries and Israel.
“Israel is a actually frigid advise for me, especially spherical financial concerns,” stated Lozhkin, who hails from the Ukraine. “Despite your whole terrorist attacks, you mediate about most predominant projects and a expansive derive bigger in verbalize international investments etc. I mediate Israel is a actually upright instance of the precise formula to derive a novel contemporary digital financial system in refined circumstances.”
Ben Yehuda, who divides his time between Israel and Russia, suggested The Cases of Israel that “Russia is a expansive market with expansive attainable whereas Israel has expansive abilities. The mix of every and each can train each and each parties to most predominant achievements.”
He stated there might be attainable for cooperation between Israel and Russia on orderly cities technology, water technology, medicine and agriculture.
A united organization
Asked what he deemed to be an critical factor of the occasion, EAJC spokesman Asher Gold stated “there might be something unheard of in regards to the unity of this organization,” alongside with that the truth that the organization is so harmonious can also be perceived as lifeless.
“The real fact is that you just mediate about here the excellent profile representatives from the Ukraine and from Russia, and they take a seat collectively; there are no tensions, no concerns. On our board, we now possess Boris Lozhkin [from the Ukraine] and Vadim Rabinovich [from the Ukraine].”
Asked if Lozhkin and Rabinovich surely fluctuate politically from their Russian counterparts and, if, as an example, an oligarch contend with Igor Kolomoisky, who actively opposes and criticizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, might possibly be fragment of the EAJC, Gold identified that Kolomoisky’s industry accomplice Gennadiy Bogolyubov had accepted an invite to relief the gala dinner that evening.
Issues possess no longer repeatedly been so harmonious internal the EAJC. Last spring, the organization ended its relationship with regarded as one of its member associations, the Vaad Affiliation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine. The EAJC claimed that the Vaad’s chief, feeble Soviet political prisoner Josef Zissels, had violated the organization’s dedication to political neutrality by making anti-Putin statements.
In a phone interview with The Cases of Israel, Zissels, regarded as one of three co-founders of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress in 2002, accused Mirilashvili, who used to be elected president of the EAJC in July 2017, of redirecting the organization in a educated-Kremlin direction.
Josef Zissels is a Jewish neighborhood chief who spent virtually 10 years in a Soviet detention center and is an advocate of the knowledgeable-independence Ukrainian revolution. (Courtesy Vaad of Ukrainian Jews/by potential of JTA)
He stated that in 2015, Dr. Haim Ben-Yakov, a shut affiliate of Mirilashvili, created an Israeli non-income organization known as the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, a name the same to the organization Zissels had co-basically based in 2002 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Zissels claimed that after August 2017, Mirilashvili proceeded to funnel his monetary contributions via the unique Israeli-basically based fully mostly EAJC (which he calls EAJC-2015) in preference to the oldschool Kazakhstan-basically based fully mostly one (which he calls EAJC-2002), in a device that circumvented the democratic resolution-making processes that had existed in the oldschool organization. Within the April 2018 protocol of a gathering that explained the Ukrainian Va’ad’s resolution to head away the EAJC-2015, the Va’ad leadership stated they’d been made to enjoy that funding will doubtless be stripped from any member organization whose leaders spoke out against the “neo-imperial trends” and “blatant military aggression” of Russia.
Zissels suggested The Cases of Israel that the Va’ad of Ukraine had written to the World Jewish Congress asking it to rule on the pronounce that there are now two competing organizations known as the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.
As proof of what he described as the EAJC-2015’s knowledgeable-Russia trends, Zissels pointed to the truth that in December 2017, Mirilashvili’s Euro-Asian Jewish Congress signed a memorandum of cooperation with Rabbi Berel Lazar’s Federation of Jewish communities of Russia (FJCR), which he characterized as a staunchly knowledgeable-Kremlin organization.
Rabbi Lazar, whose public statements are continuously admiring of the Russian chief, featured prominently in a video the EAJC showed at its gala dinner.
Zissels additionally pointed to the truth that Netanyahu no longer too prolonged previously invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to chat over with Israel in Can even honest 2019, for the inauguration of a monument commemorating the Siege of Leningrad. This monument used to be basically funded by Mirilashvili’s EAJC, stated Zissels.
“Within the in the period in-between Putin is laid low with a extra or less global semi-blockade,” Zissels stated. “He has had some concerns with sanctions and with the reputation of his actions on an global scale, and when he is invited to events contend with this, he receives a extra or less legitimization.”
Zissels argued that what is at the coronary heart of his dispute with the Israeli EAJC-2015 is at the least an try to train the Jews of Eurasia and Israel into Russia’s sphere of influence.
“They need to derive the semblance that the general communities of the Eurasian Jewish dwelling, alongside with the communities in Europe, are knowledgeable-Putin. You can soundless device the head of every and each neighborhood and quiz them if they are surely knowledgeable-Putin or no longer.”
The EAJC firmly rejected Zissels’ claims. According to Zissels’ accusations, the EAJC issued the next response:
“EAJC assiduously protects the pursuits of Jewish communities wherever they would perhaps well well be. The Ukrainian Jewish neighborhood performs a a will deserve to possess feature in the work of EAJC. For years, Yosyf Zisels averted any collaboration between the Congress and Ukraine’s leading Jewish organizations, working only with groups closely related to Zisels himself. After Zisels stepped down from his leadership advise at EAJC, the Congress began fruitful collaboration with the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress, the Confederation of Jewish Organizations of Ukraine, and Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi Azman. EAJC has been collaborating with these organizations on a bunch of strategic programs. Yosyf Zisels had been warned on a form of events that his public toughen of Ukrainian radical nationalists is unacceptable internal the framework of EAJC activities.”
“As regards the memorandum on collaboration with the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, it signals a strategic partnership with Russia’s greatest Jewish organization and is geared toward supporting the Russian Jewry. Relating to President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to the outlet of the memorial dedicated to the victims of the Leningrad blockade talked about by Zisels, it ought to be reminded that Israeli high minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Putin for the length of his legit working talk over with to Moscow. It is far serious to abet in thoughts that the greatest selection of feeble victims and defenders of the Leningrad blockade delivery air Russia for the time being stay in Israel. The memorial will doubtless be funded by EAJC as a tribute to the memory of the individuals of Leningrad who perished for the length of the blockade, alongside with Leningrad’s Jewish population. Attendance of the outlet ceremony by Russian President and Israeli high minister underscores the importance of this mission.”
“After Alexander Mashkevitch retired from the presidency of EAJC in 2010, the Congress went via refined instances, alongside with your whole activities of the precise entity in Kazakhstan having been placed on care for and the organization being on the verge of a shutdown. All steps are being taken in strict compliance with the authorized guidelines of Kazakhstan, EAJC’s legit Statute, and in accordance to executive choices of this appropriate entity, which excludes Mr. Yosyf Zisels. It ought to be notorious that the Congress used to be officially registered in Israel in accordance to the resolution of the EAJC Board and Assembly in verbalize to compose transparency and effectivity in administration and additionally owing to the Israel’s central advise internal the contemporary Jewish world. All of the organizations, which possess been beforehand EAJC contributors, alongside with the Jewish neighborhood of Kazakhstan, officially joined the unique global organization registered in Israel. EAJC has legit recognition and coordinates its activities with a form of global organizations, similar to the World Jewish Congress, Jewish National Fund, Keren Hayesod, and the Jewish Company. All appropriate entities registered below the Kazakhstani appropriate entity will doubtless be shut down. Affiliation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine, or VAAD, cancelled its membership in EAJC voluntarily and stopped any collaboration with EAJC. Yosyf Zisels holds no positions internal EAJC and has no authority to relate the Group.”
Amongst the famous invitees at the EAJC occasion were Chairman of the EAJC Aaron Frenkel, feeble Israel Beitenu Knesset member Leon Litinetsky, and Govt Vice President of the World Jewish Congress Robert Singer, to boot to the businessmen, Victor Naishuller, German Zakharyaev, Boris Spektor, Alexander Levin, Nathan Zolotarevsky, Emmanuil Grinshpun, Stamp Shabad, Aleksandr Bilinkis, and binary alternatives kingpin Pini Peter.
Maxim Reider contributed to this document.