B’nai B’rith International sent some 30 senior leaders to the United Nations on June 22-24 to engage in urgent advocacy against terrorism—including the current hostage-taking of three Israeli schoolboys—as well as Iran’s advancing nuclear program, the Palestinian Authority’s partnership with Hamas and the threat of further exploitation of the United Nations as a political weapon against Israel.
In a little more than 24 hours, B’nai B’rith directly advocated on these issues to roughly two-dozen ambassadors and other senior diplomats from around the globe, including members of the U.N. Security Council. The B’nai B’rith leaders were also briefed by key officials, including U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal; Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Ambassador Ron Prosor, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations; and Kimberly Mann, manager of the U.N. Holocaust Outreach Programme.
“Rarely have B’nai B’rith leaders launched an advocacy campaign at a more pressing moment,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The violent extremism that Israel faces in the Middle East is the unsurpassed challenge faced by the world.”
Secretary-General Ban transmitted a personal message for the occasion, in which he confirmed, among other points, his “sympathy for the recently abducted Israeli teenagers” and asserted that the United Nations “continues to stand against racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.” Launsky-Tieffenthal separately noted deep concern about “Naftali, Eyal and Gilad”—the three boys abducted by Palestinian terrorists—and, acknowledging B’nai B’rith’s exceptional history at the United Nations, described it as a “midwife or godmother” of the world body.
While in New York, B’nai B’rith leaders presented the organization’s Excellence in Diplomacy Award to Canadian Ambassador Guillermo E. Rishchynski and his country’s mission to the United Nations, in the presence both of Canada’s Ambassador to the United States Gary Doer and the Consul-General in New York John Prato. After being hailed for his government’s unsurpassed championing of fairness and justice at the United Nations, Rishchynski said, “I’m grateful to B’nai B’rith for its leadership.” Calling Israel an “extraordinary society” that “stands in stark contrast to many other nations in that region,” he affirmed that “Canada stands with Israel in its pursuit of freedom, peace and security.” He added that groups currently calling for boycotts of Israeli businesses “demand a vigilant response that repudiates hatred for what it is.”
For the principled friendship of those like Canada, Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said that “history, and the Jewish people, will long hold deep admiration and gratitude.”
In meetings with ambassadors, B’nai B’rith took the opportunity to challenge members of the United Nations to quickly embrace a new initiative to add Yom Kippur to a series of Christian, Muslim and other holidays officially recognized by the organization.
“The U.N. has long framed itself as defined by diversity, equality and inclusiveness. Its record on the only Jewish state, Israel, has fallen dramatically short,” Mariaschin said. “The body can now begin to demonstrate Jewish inclusion in the family of nations by honoring the most sacred day of the Jewish faith, in a city with the single largest population of Jews in the Diaspora.”
With an accredited presence at the world body since its founding and representation at U.N. arms worldwide, B’nai B’rith is the only major Jewish organization with a dedicated, full-time Office of United Nations Affairs.