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(Washington, D.C., Sep. 7, 2023)—A B’nai B’rith International webinar on Thursday discussed the United Nations General Assembly’s request that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issue an advisory opinion on the legality of Israeli policies. The webinar explored why the move by the U.N. was unjustified and deeply unhelpful to peacemaking.

“If the forces demonizing, delegitimizing and assaulting Jews—including Israeli Jews—are to be stopped, the ICJ must draw a line in the sand and not abet political prosecution of Israel,” chair of the B’nai B’rith Office of U.N. Affairs Millie Magid said in remarks introducing the webinar.

In July, B’nai B’rith International, B’nai Brith Canada and the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem jointly submitted a brief to the ICJ that argued why the court should reject the U.N.’s request, in December 2022, for an advisory opinion.

“This referral to the ICJ represented the latest escalation of international actions singling out Israel for relentless scrutiny and, invariably, condemnation,” B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin said.

Mariaschin moderated the panel and was joined by authors of the submission to the ICJ, including Richard D. Heideman, senior counsel of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, PC and B’nai B’rith honorary president; David Matas, senior legal counsel of B’nai Brith Canada; and Joseph H. Tipograph, attorney at Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, PC. The panel also included Avigail Frisch Ben-Avraham, legal advisor at the Embassy of Israel in the Netherlands; David Michaels, B’nai B’rith director of U.N. and intercommunal affairs; Alan Schneider, director of the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem; and Yifa Segal, founder of the International Legal Forum.

Panelists highlighted that although the ICJ advisory opinion would not be legally binding, it could still have serious consequences for the Jewish state. According to Tipograph, the fact that it isn’t binding law has not stopped the opinion from being taken seriously by the public.

Schneider noted that the opinion could undermine the prospect of peace negotiations, inspire renewed violence and strengthen the delegitimization of Israel. Segal said, “It’s not just about the truth. It’s about what’s perceived to be the truth.”

Frisch pointed out that the questions presented to the ICJ “presuppose Israeli violations of international law.” Matas focused on how the ICJ referral set the stage to malign Israel. “This U.N. General Assembly request to the International Court of Justice is part of the delegitimization campaign.”  He later noted that hatred against Israel is a powerful motivator and the effort to combat it must be diligent.

According to Michaels, a ruling from the ICJ might “add yet more fuel to the cycle of U.N. partisanship, one-sided trials in the court of public opinion and that prospect of an especially menacing” International Criminal Court prosecution of individual Israelis engaged in their country’s essential self-defense.

Heideman emphasized that B’nai B’rith and its allies unwavering support of Israel is simple: “Stand up, speak out, speak forcefully and make it clear that Israel, like every nation state in the world, deserves to be treated with equality,” Heideman said.

Watch the entire webinar here.

B’nai B’rith has led Jewish communal engagement with the United Nations since the U.N.’s very founding in 1945. We will continue to speak up about the misuse of international political and legal instruments to target the world’s only Jewish state.

Read the full B’nai B’rith submission to the ICJ here.

Read the executive summary here.