The Global Forum is the new name for AJC's annual meeting, and this year will bring together nearly 1,100 participants from across the United States and 50 Jewish communities around the world, including 100 delegates from Latin America alone.
At the AJC Annual Gala, on April 28, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal will be honored with the organization's prestigious Light Unto the Nations Award. Previous recipients include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and U.S. President Bill Clinton.
White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere, and Bulgarian Foreign Minster Nickolay Mladenov will also address the Gala, the highpoint of the Global Forum, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver a message from Jerusalem.
"We are thrilled to have a record number of attendees for the principal global Jewish event in Washington this year," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "The Global Forum is increasingly popular -- this year, approximately 40 percent of attendees are first-timers -- because we offer individuals unique opportunities to engage key ambassadors directly in private dinners, learn advocacy tools in breakout sessions with leading experts, and, of course, hear directly from a prominent array of global figures on the issues that top our agenda as Americans and Jews."
AJC, founded in 1906 and with headquarters in New York, today maintains 26 regional offices in the U.S., eight overseas posts and 31 international partnerships.
The Global Forum will open with Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001, and Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998 to 2005, exploring international trends and the role of the U.S. and Europe in a rapidly changing world order.
Two stimulating debates are scheduled for the Global Forum, one on U.S. policy in the Middle East and the other on the contemporary meaning of liberal Zionism.
Elliott Abrams, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor in the Bush administration, will face off with Robert Wexler, President of S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, in the first debate. Wexler served for 13 years as a Democratic Congressman from Florida.
The second debate on liberal Zionism will feature Peter Beinart, senior writer for The Daily Beast, and Yossi Klein Halevi, contributing editor of The New Republic.
AJC, a longstanding pioneer in advancing interreligious relations, will engage the controversial issues surrounding Evangelical Christians and Israel in a dialogue between Gary Bauer, president of American Values, and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly.
Leading Middle East human rights activists -- Saad Eddin Ibrahim of Egypt, Radwan Ziadeh of Syria, and Mahnaz Afkhami of Iran -- will speak about the dramatic developments and current challenges in their countries and the vast region. The session is sponsored by AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, which is marking its 40th anniversary.
In a session devoted to the global assault on Israel's legitimacy, two leading European public figures, Lorna Fitzsimons, CEO of the Britain Israel Communication and Research Centre (BICOM) and a former Labor Party Member of the British Parliament, and Rafael Bardaji, Madrid-based Executive Director of the Friends of Israel Initiative and a senior advisor to former Spanish President Aznar, will join Gidi Grinstein, the Israeli head of the Reut Institute. The three experts will examine the roots of the problem and how best to respond.
What are the implications of an increasingly multi-polar world for U.S. foreign policy, Israel and the Jewish community? This is the topic to be tackled by three leading observers in another headline session -- Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution, and Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs.
AJC's annual Congressional Leadership Award will be presented this year to Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) for his indefatigable efforts to combat worldwide anti-Semitism, rescue Soviet Jewry in the 1980s, and defend human rights. Last year's recipient was Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
The full Global Forum program open to media coverage follows:
Wednesday, April 27, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
The Changing World Order: What Role for the U.S. and Europe?
Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, 1997-2001
Joschka Fischer, Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor of Germany, 1998-2005
Congressional Leadership Award
Recipient: Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ)
Thursday, April 28, 8:15 – 9:15 a.m.
The Great Debate I: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Middle East
Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Deputy National Security Advisor, 2005-2008
Robert Wexler, President, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace; Democratic Member of Congress, 1997-2010
Thursday, April 28, 9:30 – 10:45 a.m.
Delegitimization: The Global Assault on Israel
Rafael Bardaji, Executive Director, Friends of Israel Initiative
Lorna Fitzsimons, CEO, Britain Israel Communication and Research Centre (BICOM), former Member of Parliament