B’nai B’rith International concluded a leadership delegation visit to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, where top staff and volunteers advocated on important historic and cultural issues and challenged the body’s growing exploitation as a political tool against Israel. The group met directly with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on the heels of several days of advocacy at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
From March 16 to March 20, B’nai B’rith leaders met with senior diplomats from some two-dozen countries, including the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Germany, Kenya, India and Russia. B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin led the delegation.
“UNESCO bodies have become, over the past few years, more and more complicit in an ill-conceived and politicized Palestinian campaign that seeks to erase the connection between Jews and their holiest sites—beginning with the Temple Mount and the Western Wall,” Saltzman and Mariaschin said from Paris. “Reversing this negative and destructive trend is not only important for Israel and the Jewish people, it’s vital to UNESCO itself if the organization wants to credibly speak on cultural or educational matters in the future without the tainted reputation of a politicized U.N. organ.”
During the trip, the delegation held meetings with Bokova, UNESCO Assistant Director-General Eric Falt, Israeli Ambassador to France Aliza Bin-Noun and Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama Hacohen. B’nai B’rith also met with Francis Kalifat, president of the French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF.
In addition to Saltzman and Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith was represented by: Chairman of the Executive Peter Perlman, Detroit, Mich.; Senior Vice President Sheila Mostyn, Toronto; Senior Vice President Eric Engelmayer, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg; B’nai B’rith Europe President Daniel Citone, Rome; B’nai B’rith UNESCO representative and Executive Board of Directors member Stéphane Teicher, Paris; B’nai B’rith Executive Board of Directors member Yves Kamami, Paris; Executive Board of Directors member and B’nai B’rith Foundation of the United States Chair Irving Silver, Mobile, Ala.; Chair of the International Center for Human Rights and Public Policy Charles Kaufman, Austin, Texas; Chair of the Council on U.N. Affairs Michael Nachman, New York; B’nai B’rith Europe Vice President Valerie Achache, Paris; B’nai B’rith Canada Senior Honorary Counsel David Matas, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Dr. Owen Perlman, Detroit; Board of Governors member Jacques Jacubert, Paris; UNESCO alternate representative Annie Cohen-Ganouna, Paris; UNESCO alternate representative Irene Ores, Paris, and Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs David Michaels, New York.
Michaels coordinated the meetings in Paris together with U.N. Affairs Program Officer Oren Drori, from New York.