At a moment of intensifying political activity surrounding the Middle East, B’nai B’rith International representatives from around the world have mobilized to advocate for Israel at the United Nations.
In private meetings with nearly 30 ambassadors, other diplomats and U.N. officials, including Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos (who returned from a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories last week), B’nai B’rith leaders urged rejection of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, and undiminished focus on Iran’s nuclear program. B’nai B’rith leaders also appealed for rectification of anti-Israel bias at the world body, retraction of the Goldstone Report on Israel’s counterterrorism efforts in Gaza, as well as government non-participation in the commemoration of the tainted Durban conference on racism, scheduled for September.
During several days of advocacy in New York, dozens of B’nai B’rith delegates from around the world were briefed by key experts on global developments. At a B’nai B’rith diplomatic reception at U.N. headquarters, Under-Secretary-General Vijay Nambiar, the chief of staff to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, delivered a message from Ban repudiating anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
Nambiar said on behalf of Ban: “We are committed to speaking out against Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and hatred everywhere, since we know this can be one of the precursors to mass violence.”
Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, Meron Reuben, saluted B’nai B’rith as a vital partner in confronting systemic mistreatment of the Jewish state at the U.N. He referred to B’nai B’rith as “remarkable friends” and “an important partner for our mission and one of the great supporters of the State of Israel here in New York and around the world. B’nai B’rith has provided one of the most consistent voices for moral clarity in the U.N. since its founding, working to safeguard the rights of the Jewish State—and advance the timeless Jewish values...”
B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin presented two awards at a lunch reception, where Mariaschin noted that B’nai B’rith could not fulfill its human rights goals without important partners dedicated to justice.
B’nai B’rith presented the Excellence in Diplomacy award to Ambassador David T. Killion, permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In October 2010, Arab states broke with the UNESCO tradition of consensus by advancing five blatantly anti-Israel resolutions. With Killion’s leadership, the United States decided to vote against each resolution and last week, a new session of the UNESCO Executive Board concluded in Paris with a return to consensus.
Accepting his award, Killion noted that the United States works tirelessly to ensure that Israel’s legitimacy is beyond dispute. He described UNESCO as a bridge for peace and described how UNESCO is “working to spread mutual tolerance and understanding as an answer to hate.” He promised that the United States would continue pushing back when Israel’s rights are violated.
The Champion of Human Rights award went to Ambassador Richard Schifter, former United States assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs. Schifter noted that it’s not all hopeless at the United Nations, but the challenge is to identify states that can and will support Israel and make the case for restoring the world body. He said with hard work, we can go forward to obtain a better tomorrow for the United Nations.
B’nai B’rith has led Jewish communal engagement with the United Nations since its 1945 founding conference in San Francisco. It maintains a dedicated Office of United Nations Affairs with accredited representation at multiple U.N. bodies around the world.