Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Remember "The BDS 59" at election time

Those of us who feel passionately about our nation's security and the international fight against Islamists, and who are equally passionate about the State of Israel, have been snubbed time and again by the Obama administration and its fearful acolytes in Congress.  When that happens, people shake their fists and rant about those who are placing our security and that of our ally Israel in jeopardy, but too often we do nothing more.

I've spoken with so many individuals--passionate supporters of Israel--who have come to me with their anger about Barack Obama and his clearly anti-Israel actions.  Yet, when pressed, they admit that they voted for him not once but twice, the second time after his anti-Israel actions were--as they too admitted--on full display.  So with the 2016 US elections not that far away, from time to time, this blog will remind voters who snubbed them and did so expecting that they did not have the heft to administer the appropriate consequences.

Let's begin with "The BDS 59."

Do you remember when Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressed a joint session of Congress, and several members of that body publicly boycotted our friend and ally.  They did so even though were it not for our ally Israel, Saddam Hussein would have ten years of nuclear material for use against our troops in 1991; and even though were it not for our ally Israel, ISIS would have a bomb today.

Some of The BDS 59 tried to hide behind an excuse about protocol, however, there are historical precedents for the Netanyahu speech; and their anti-Israel boycott reflected their tacit or vocal support for the Obama's attempts to distance the US from Israel.  Here are The BDS 59 who do not deserve our votes in 2016 or any time:

Vice President Joe Biden
Sen. Al Franken (Minn.)
Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.)
Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)
Rep. Karen Bass (Calif.)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.)
Rep. Corrine Brown (Fla.)
Rep. G.K. Butterfield (N.C.)
Rep. Lois Capps (Calif.)
Rep. Andre Carson (Ind.)
Rep. Joaquin Castro (Texas)
Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.)
Rep. William Lacy Clay (Mo.)
Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.)
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.)
Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.)
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.)
Rep. John Conyers (Mich.)
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.)
Rep. Danny Davis (Ill.)
Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.)
Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (Texas)
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.)
Rep. Donna Edwards (Md.)
Rep. Chaka Fattah (Pa.)
Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.)
Rep. Marcia Fudge (Ohio)
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.)
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (Ill.)
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.)
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas)
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio)
Rep. Rick Larsen (Wash.)
Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.)
Rep. John Lewis (Ga.)
Rep. Dave Loebsack (Iowa)
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.)
Rep. Betty McCollum (Minn.)
Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.)
Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.)
Rep. Jerry McNerney (Calif.)
Rep. Gregory Meeks (N.Y.)
Rep. Gwen Moore (Wis.)
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas)
Rep. Donald Payne (N.J.)
Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine)
Rep. David Price (N.C.)
Rep. Cedric Richmond (La.)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.)
Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.)
Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.)
Rep. Mike Thompson (Calif.)
Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.)

They put partisanship over our security, and did so expecting that none of us will remember come election day.  We do remember, and this blog will put out more reminders in the coming weeks and months, including reminders of who voted for the Iran deal that places US and Israeli security in jeopardy.

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Saturday, August 01, 2015

US Congress Resolution to Protect Bangladeshi Minorities

On July 29, 2015, U.S. Congressman Robert Dold and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced a bipartisan resolution calling on the government of Bangladesh to increase human rights protections, strengthen democratic institutions and prevent the growth of extremist groups in the country. The resolution comes as ISIS and other trans-national radical Islamic groups continue to grow their influence in areas like South Asia. This represents an historic shift in U.S. policy toward Bangladesh.  It discards the inaccurate view of the world's eighth largest nation as a democratic ally and opponent of radical Islam; for one that recognizes the reality of its role in the spread of Islamism and ethnic cleansing of non-Muslim minorities.

“Religious persecution is on the rise around the world, with 77% of the world’s population now living in countries with high restrictions on religious freedom,” "As the greatest force for human dignity in the world," said Dold, "the United States has an obligation to send the unequivocal message that we will not tolerate countries that fail to protect the fundamental freedoms of all citizens, especially minorities."  He called on the Bangladeshi government "to protect the rights of minorities, eliminate violent extremist groups and restore the rule of law.”

After noting her concern about attacks on religious minorities, Gabbard added, "All too often perpetrators of crimes against minorities go unpunished. It’s up to the government of Bangladesh to take action to stop those who incite and commit violence and protect the rights of these minorities."

The resolution is now with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which Gabbard is a member.  Its Chairman, Congressman Ed Royce, is on the record with his concern about the persecution of minorities, especially Hindus, in Bangladesh.

Since 2007, I have been urging the U.S. government to recognize the "ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh" and take a clear stand against the atrocity itself and against the fairy tale that Bangladesh is a "moderate" nation.  Rather, Bangladesh has become Islamism's petri dish for additional campaigns internationally, as well as a test of our will to oppose its commitment to atrocities.

House Resolution 396 is an important step not only for human rights; it is also an important step in our open-eyed fight against our most implacable enemies.

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Monday, July 06, 2015

US Elections an Opportunity to Save Bangladesh's Hindus

I can remember talking with a US lawmaker and staff about the ethnic cleansing of Bangladesh's Hindus.  At one point, the staff person asked, "If this is such a big problem that we have to do something, why haven't we heard much from American Hindus?"  They had to attend to the needs of many constituencies, and ignoring those needs to focus on something not significant to the actual community involved did not seem right.  Since then, some US Hindus have made some noise, but it has been rather tepid at best.  Two pieces of evidence:
  • On April 30, 2015, the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs held hearings about the deteriorating situation in Bangladesh, but it did not recommend action and only slightly addressed the plight of Hindus and the danger it means for all of us.
  • Prior to its last visit to Bangladesh, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom asked for contacts who would confirm the persecution of Hindus and government complicity there, but it ignored the evidence it received in its report.
With US elections coming in 2016, however, Hindus and other have a chance to do something real about it.  Several presidential hopefuls can make this an issue.  Florida Senator Marco Rubio's staff, for instance, has been working with me and gathering evidence.  Florida Senator Jeb Bush once me with Bangladeshi officials.  And President Barack Obama once derisively called former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "the Senator from Punjab" because of Clinton ties with India.  There are tight and not so tight races nationwide for Senator and Member of Congress, many in districts and states with significant Hindu populations.  But the impact will be there only if we press our case.  And it becomes even stronger if Hindus align with other religious groups, as we have been doing with Jews and Hindus in the Chicago area.

I urge everyone who believes we have to seize these opportunities to contact me through this blog, my web site, facebook, or tumblr account (the latter is under the name bdhindus); or email me at

We CAN do something to save millions of innocents--or we can let the moment pass and see them destroyed.

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Thursday, May 07, 2015


In its just released report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) ignored overwhelming evidence of Bangladeshi government complicity in the ethnic cleansing of Hindus, while rejecting the path of cooperation with India, choosing instead a sterile form of confrontation.

·        USCIRF was established by Title II of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.  Its mandate is to “facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom [and make] policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.”

·        Along with a misguided minority in Washington, it has for years sullied the reputation of current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and observant Hindus with discredited claims of his complicity in anti-minority violence.

·        Its recently-released 2015 annual report continues that effort, using questionable material to claim religious freedom abuses in India, and attributes it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent election and "Hindu nationalist groups," while calling forced conversion of Hindus "media propaganda." When USCIRF staff brought the allegations to me for my advice, I provided evidence refuting it.

·        Fewer and fewer people and organizations continue this sterile line given Modi’s election as India’s Prime Minister, his actions since that election, the growing importance of India’s relations with other democracies, and India’s Supreme Court having cleared Modi multiple times.

·        USCIRF’s action is consistent with a pattern of anti-Hindu bias.

·        Its report on Pakistan, where Hindus face intense violence and have been reduced to one percent of the population, USCIRF calls violence against Hindus “allegations,” while not similarly qualifying the claims of any other minority group.

·        Its report on Bangladesh calls violence against Hindus “occasional,” despite sending staff on a fact-finding trip in which my associates provided ample and vetted evidence of ongoing ethnic cleansing of Hindus and the Bangladeshi government’s complicity that have reduced Hindus from one in five Bangladeshis to as few as one in 15.

·        In August 2014, I arranged a meeting between an Indian government representative and USCIRF’s Chairperson at which both parties agreed on a path of cooperation to undo decades of mutual animosity and work together toward common understandings.  In the end, USCIRF rejected cooperation and chose the course of confrontation instead with an increasingly important US ally.

·        Hindus are being persecuted out of existence in Bangladesh and Pakistan.  Yet, USCIRF minimizes or ignores that—despite being given ample evidence to the contrary choosing instead to pursue discredited accusations against one of our most sincere allies.  I have direct evidence of all of this and stand by my accusations against USCIRF and the government of Bangladesh.

·        USCIRF’S decision was a disservice to both India and the United States, to religious minorities in South Asia, and to the cause of religious freedom worldwide.  It also called its impartiality into question and with it that of the United States government.

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Thursday, April 02, 2015

Bangladesh Official dismisses crimes with anti-Semitic remark

On March 10, 2015, human rights activist and attorney Rabindra Ghosh met with H. T. Imam, Awami League Advisory Council member and one of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's closest advisers.  He met him to address Bangladesh's ongoing ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh.  It is an issue I addressed with Imam four years earlier in Dhaka.  As he did when I met with him, Imam rejected any suggestion that Hindus face persecution under the Awami League government.  When Ghosh raised my name and my eight year activism on the issue, Imam dismissed the notion that any of it could be correct, instead responding that “Dr. Benkin is working for the interests of the Jews.”

Is he serious?  Does he expect a man of Rabindra Ghosh’s stature—or other world leaders and captains of industry—to have any regard for a government whose Prime Minister gives credence to a man who thinks like that?   The short answer is that he does because Imam and other Bangladeshi officials have used that and other sorts of nonsense to try and cover up their horrendous treatment of Hindus.  You see, it's more important to Bangladeshi leaders that people continue buying their falsehoods about being a "moderate" country.  No amount of blustering and misdirection, however, can hide their crimes.  With each day, their atrocities against Hindus become known to more and more people.  I've also documented them in my book, A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: the Murder of Bangladesh's Hindus.

But there is more significance to Awami League anti-Semitism.  For while the Bangladeshi government is complicity in anti-Hindu atrocities and guilty of selling its soul to protect its export markets (which are dependent on their false image as moderate); the people of Bangladesh are not.  It takes a lot of care and time for non-Bengalis to understand how to interpret the actions and words of Bengalis, and I have been fortunate enough to spend a lot of quality time in Bengal (both Indian and Bangladeshi) and with Bengalis.  When I travel throughout Bengal to stop the atrocities against Bengali Hindus, I am accompanied almost invariably by Muslims and Hindus.  The reaction I have received from Bangladeshi Muslims to HT Imam's slanderous remark has been one of support and understanding.  They have without exception rejected Imam's comment as an attempt to avoid dealing with the persecution of Bangladesh's Hindus.

As I have written before, this is not a war between Hindus and Muslims but one between decent people and those who have no decency.  Personally, I want Sheikh Hasina to sack HT Imam and stop discrediting herself by associating her name with his.  That, however, will not end the problem.  My greater wish is for Hindus and Muslims to recognize what Bangladesh is and what it can be; and with the help of other nations, together move that country to a new future.

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Saturday, March 07, 2015

Ten Bangladeshi Hindus Charged with Murder, Denied Due Process

It is a cherished myth of the international elites that Bangladesh is a "moderate" country.  But would a moderate country allow the ethnic cleansing of its non-Muslim populations; admit to having anti-minority laws and then do nothing about it even when it had a chance; arrest journalists and authors for blasphemy and threaten their lives; allow human rights activists and their attorneys to be attacked or as in my case bar them from entering the country?  No, it would not; and though we need no more proof, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government keep giving us more.  Right now, ten Hindus sit in a squalid prison, charged with murder as collective punishment and denied due process of law.  Perhaps Bangladesh is a moderate country if you tow the line set by Islamists but not if you dare to have a different thought.

In October of 2013, a man entered a religious temple, began destroying holy objects and abusing the women there.  Several men rushed to their defense, and in the struggle that followed, the man was killed.  Now in a moderate country, that might be the end of it except for some press and an investigation; a clear case of self-defense.  But this is Bangladesh, and the dead man was a Muslim, the temple a Hindu temple.  Almost immediately, the local police rounded up eleven members of the Hindu community seemingly at random with no logical connection to the event, and charged them with murder.  The bitter irony is that this same government fails to act even after years when Hindus are attacked.  Local Advocates in Gopalganj, the district represented by Sheikh Hasina where the arrests occurred, were intimidated not to take the case. So the families traveled to the capital of Dhaka and engaged the services of Advocate and human rights activist Rabindra Ghosh.  When he arrived in Gopalganj and asked to see his clients, he was refused.  When he petitioned the local court for justice, he was beaten in the courtroom in front of the judge who allowed it to continue.  When he petitioned the High Court for a change of venue, he was refused.  And now he, his clients, and their families are being threatened if he does not stop his attempt at further appeals.

Oh, did I say eleven men were arrested and charged but only ten sit in prison today?  That's not  typo.  One of the original defendants died while in custody--and of course the Bangladeshis have not looked into that.

The International Commission of Jurists has called on the Bangladeshi government to take "long overdue" action on Rabindra Ghosh's courtroom beating. It also notes that the rule of law has largely broken down in Bangladesh.  And last month in India, I began working on this with Human Rights Defense International, a group of Indian jurists.  I also am working with several staff in the United States Congress on action and am in regular contact with Rabindra Ghosh, who reports that the situation for his clients grows more alarming by the day.  He remains barred from contacting them.

This travesty of justice demands that all who love the law and, in fact, all good people demand due process and a fair trial for the "Gopalganj Ten."  To do so, email me.  Please help; lives depend on it.

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

American Jews need Save-Soviet-Jewry Effort

The November 18 attack on the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood should have put to rest the belief that Arab opposition to Israel is anything but anti-Jewish.  Unfortunately, the Jewish community’s response to it has been tepid, at best, confused, and confusing.  Many American Jews and American Jewish organizations are more concerned with appearing liberal than with defending their people against a serious threat; more afraid of being called Islamophobic than of Jews being murdered in Israel.  Their general silence and inaction indicate that they find it okay for Arab media and their partisans to refer to Israel incessantly as Nazis; but God forbid we identify the “Final Solution” embedded in anti-Israel politics.  Recognizing those realities that the synagogue attack brought so sharply into focus would shatter their cherished myth that the Israel-Arab conflict is merely political and can be solved by talk and giveaways.  More than that, the lack of unequivocal condemnation of the attack by Arab leaders also shatters their other myth:  that of the moderate Muslim country.  There might be moderate Muslims but no moderate Muslim country.

The Parliament in “moderate” Jordan, did observe a moment of silence after the attack—but for the two Palestinian terrorists.  The Speaker prayed for them and called them martyrs.  Usually, however, only “radical” Muslim leaders expressed their approval by praising the anti-Jewish act; “moderate” Muslim leaders expressed theirs by refusing to condemn it.  Not to be outdone, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack for the cameras, but blamed Israel for it.

We need a “Save-Soviet-Jewry” type effort.

Those of us who were around in the 1970s and 1980s will remember that back then, you could not pass a synagogue without seeing a large banner proclaiming, “Save Soviet Jewry.”  Our people were being persecuted in the Soviet Union, whose leaders wanted to eradicate their Jewish religion and identity.  A few, like Natan (then Anatole) Sharansky, who later became an Israeli Cabinet Minister, got some attention, but most suffered anonymously.  Members of the American Jewish community saw their persecuted brothers and sisters and recognized their obligation to save them.  More importantly, they acted on that obligation.

We lobbied Washington and our local officials.  We prevailed upon other religious bodies to recognize the atrocity, and their moral obligation to join us and let Washington know their position.

Average Jews who you might see at the office or in the supermarket went to Russia at their own expense.  They smuggled in religious books and other Jewish artifacts at considerable peril to themselves; and they let Jews there know that they were not alone.  It became common for Jewish children reaching their Bar and Bat Mitzvah to be “twinned” with Soviet children who did not have the freedom to celebrate this most important rite of passage; we did it for them.  Most Jewish children in religious schools had at least one Soviet Jewish pen pal.

There was no attempt to “understand” the Soviets or find the “good” in their communist ideology; and remember that back then, there were still those who defended communism as a “good idea in theory.”  No one felt compelled to say, ‘Well not all Russians are bad,’ because like similarly compulsions today, it did not change the heinousness of the action.  It did not matter if we were liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat; whether our synagogues were Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist.  Our organizations, long dedicated to a universalist image, put that aside to defeat the existential threat to our people.  And defeat it we did.  Before it was over, we helped get 1.2 million Jews out of that communist hell.   The rest found freedom not that many years later when “the evil empire” fell and that existential threat died with it.  The American Jewish community’s recognition of what all of us faced and our success in defeating it strengthened our identity, and helped us realize that we could in fact stand strong for our people, that the only thing that could stop us is ourselves.

And standing up for Israel is in our interests as Americans, too.  Our only constant ally in the region, Israel mourned after 9/11, while Palestinians gave out sweets to celebrate the terror attacks.  Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) tells how, beyond that, Israel sent us a body of experts so we could get our planes back in the skies.  And imagine for a moment what the 1991 Iraq War would have looked like if Israel had not taken out Sadam Hussein’s nuclear reactor.

Interfaith prayer meetings and understanding might in the end be needed for true peace, but right now, our priority is survival.  Those who minimized that in favor of political correctness can no longer do so in light of the November 18 attack.  As a start, Jewish organizations and those who stand with us against a final solution, should inform those Arab and Muslim organizations that they no longer can believe their statements of goodwill unless they unequivocally condemn the Jerusalem synagogue attack and all anti-Jewish actions.

American Jews need to recognize what comes first in Rabbi Hillel’s famous formulation:  If I am not for myself, who will be for me; if I am only for myself, what am I; and if not now when?”

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