United Nations Secretary-General Guterres met with senior officials of the Simon Wiesenthal Center at his offices at UN headquarters in New York.
The discussion covered a wide range of issues including efforts to make terrorism a crime against humanity, the UN’s role in countering burgeoning anti-Semitism in Europe, ending the demonizing and abuse of Israel in and by UN agencies, including UNRWA, UNESCO, and the UN Human Rights Council, and stumbling blocks hampering Middle East peace prospects.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the leading Jewish human rights NGO urged the Secretary-General to pave the way for the UN to declare terrorism a crime against humanity. Rabbi Hier said, “There needs to be real consequences for perpetrators and supporters of terrorist acts like the recent suicide bombing carnage at a concert in Manchester, England and the UN must declare that this scourge is a crime against humanity.”
Secretary General acknowledged the seriousness of terrorism and said that he is committed to reforming the current UN structure that currently has 38 separate entities dealing with the issue.
Mr. Guterres, the former Prime Minister of Portugal and a close friend of the late President of Israel, Shimon Peres, emphasized, “Denial of Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism.” He rejected the campaigns to erase Jewish history in the Holy Land. “History must be respected. Jerusalem is a holy city for three religions,” Secretary General Guterres added.
Rabbi Hier pointed to Hamas’ genocidal founding charter and ongoing terrorist activities as the main roadblock to the peace process-not Israeli settlements. Mr. Gutteres, who opposes expansion of Israeli communities on the West Bank, acknowledged that Hamas had succeeded in leveraging the UN presence in Gaza. He said that he has a “very strong commitment to not allowing UNWRA to be instrumentalized” in the future, the way Hamas and Islamic Jihad during the last Gaza War.
The Center’s Associate Dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper who directs the Center’s Social Action agenda asked the Secretary General to speak out against legal and political attacks on core Jewish (and Muslim) religious practices including Shechita (ritual slaughter) and mila (circumcision). A recent unanimous vote in Belgium’s parliament outlaws Shechita, and there are recurring calls in Scandinavia and Germany to ban circumcision of Jewish baby boys.
Government Affairs Director, Mark Weitzman who represents the SWC at the UN, outlined the many efforts in Europe and the Middle East underway to revise, rewrite, and in some instances deny past history, including the Shoah. Also participating was Rabbi Meyer H. May, SWC Executive Director.
“We are profoundly impressed by the scope of Secretary General Guterres’ knowledge and interest on issues that impact World Jewry directly,” noted Rabbi Hier, adding, “As an NGO at the UN and UNESCO, the Wiesenthal Center is committed to support the Secretary General’s efforts to ensure that all members, including the Jewish state be treated as equals,” Rabbi Hier concluded.