This week of meetings gives B’nai B’rith leadership access to world leaders and an opportunity to engage in advocacy on core issues of importance to B’nai B’rith, most critically: the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people throughout the world, and our concerns about the Iranian nuclear deal and Iran’s continued support for terrorism.
In addition to meetings that B’nai B’rith requests on our own, B’nai B’rith also has the privilege of coordinating a number of Jewish organizations seeking joint UNGA meetings. B’nai B’rith is able to do so because of a number of factors.
First, B’nai B’rith has a long-standing position as the only Jewish organization with a full-time office dedicated solely to U.N. affairs, which allows us the opportunities to engage year-round with the diplomats in New York who arrange the meetings and the schedules for the visiting dignitaries.
Second, B’nai B’rith is headquartered in Washington, D.C., an important diplomatic post for all countries, whose diplomats are usually close to the presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers in their capitals. Third, B’nai B’rith has a wide reach, as an organization with members and supporters around the world who can follow up on requests in their home countries.
The importance of these meetings cannot be understated. It is an indispensible component of B’nai B’rith’s U.N. work each year. These meetings offer B’nai B’rith leaders a chance, in some cases the only chance for that year, to engage directly with the leadership of many countries, and in a rather short period of time.
These meetings may not always produce tangible effects because we are a non-governmental organization (NGO), not a state. So, we cannot sign trade agreements or defense deals. Our role is to hold these governments to account, to advocate for the issues of top concern to the members of our organization and to engage in constructive dialogue with the leaders of states large and small.
Often, those issues include the threat posed to Israel, the Middle East and the world-at-large by Iran; terrorism; unilateral Palestinian actions that damage prospects for peace; and the ever-present and growing danger of anti-Semitism. Sometimes the discussion topics are more locally-focused, such as Holocaust-era restitution negotiations in countries that have not adequately addressed this issue.
Regardless of whether the meeting is friendly or business-like or even tense, though, each meeting has value, for B’nai B’rith and for our partners on the other side of the table. Our interlocutors do not necessarily always agree with our positions, but both sides benefit from the exchange of views.
Each September, appropriately, usually at the dawn of a new year on the Jewish calendar, B’nai B’rith reaches out to the world to engage in respectful and meaningful dialogue on pressing issues that confront the nations. And, once September passes, B’nai B’rith’s efforts to engage diplomatically continues throughout the year in New York, Washington and many other locations throughout the world.