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B’nai B’rith International commends United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his first visit to Israel, which concluded yesterday. During his visit, the secretary-general recognized that calls for destroying Israel constitute “modern anti-Semitism,” and that every United Nations member state, including Israel, deserves equal treatment.
During his visit, Guterres laid a wreath at the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, met with Israelis whose family members are being held hostage in Gaza and toured an underground tunnel built by Hamas terrorists controlling the coastal Palestinian enclave.
At the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel yesterday, Guterres said: “Let me stress that when I talk about anti-Semitism, I include calls for the destruction of Israel. Israel is a member state of the United Nations. It bears all the responsibilities and enjoys all the rights of every other member state and, therefore, it must be treated as such. As secretary-general of the United Nations, I am determined to do everything I can to stand against anti-Semitism and to all other forms of bigotry and discrimination.”
Guterres also asserted that terrorism and incitement must end, and spoke in personal terms of the historic persecution of Jews and of Israel’s achievements, including peace treaties with two neighboring Arab countries. Calling both Israelis and Palestinians at home in the Holy Land, he said, “Anyone visiting Israel is left with no doubt that it has fulfilled the rights and national aspirations of Jews throughout generations. Your country has become renowned worldwide for its great cultural, scientific, technological and scholarly achievements … Most importantly, you have created, for the first time in 2,000 years, a home for your people.”
B’nai B’rith shares the secretary-general’s hope for coexistence and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Sadly, Palestinians exploited Guterres’ visit to orchestrate an apparently unplanned encounter between him and the relatives of imprisoned terrorists, and to then portray them as victims enjoying the U.N. chief’s support. 
On another key front, the U.N. Security Council yesterday renewed, but also expanded the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which has not yet effectively taken action as Hezbollah, the fanatically anti-Israel faction on Israel’s northern border, has further augmented its extraordinarily lethal arsenal threatening the Jewish state.
B’nai B’rith hopes that the U.N. secretary-general will further play a serious leadership role in confronting and addressing the true impediment to peace in the region: violent fanaticism that rejects the presence of a democratic Jewish state within any boundaries.
Senior B’nai B’rith leaders, including President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin, met with Guterres in January at the United Nations headquarters in New York. They discussed a variety of priority concerns, particularly a long history of hostile and inequitable treatment for Israel at the world body, Middle East peacemaking, Iranian involvement in illicit nuclear activity and terrorism and the scourge of global anti-Semitism.