Jewish groups step up protest over UN head’s trip to Tehran

Jewish groups step up protest over UN head’s trip to Tehran

Ban Ki-moon should not visit a country whose leaders have 'routinely, ritually, and sometimes daily called for the annihilation of a UN member state,' says AJC

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

Ban Ki-moon speaking at a climate change conference last year. (photo credit:  CC-BY UNclimatechange, Flickr)
Ban Ki-moon speaking at a climate change conference last year. (photo credit: CC-BY UNclimatechange, Flickr)

A growing number of Jewish organizations are protesting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s decision to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran later this month, saying the visit will lend credibility and support to a regime that denies the Holocaust, violates human rights and threatens to destroy Israel.

“This is a stain on the United Nations,” said Jason Isaacson, director of Government and International Affairs for the American Jewish Committee. “For the [UN] secretary general to stand alongside leaders of a country who have routinely, ritually and sometimes daily called for the annihilation of a UN member state debases the organization.”

While it is true that “by its nature and charter the UN admits every nation in the world to its ranks, regardless of form of government or noxiousness of leadership,” Isaacson told The Times of Israel this week, “it is different for the secretary general to get on an airplane and travel thousands of miles to appear beside a leader who has made the most vile and outrageous anti-Semitic comments, who has denied the Holocaust in ways that are unthinkable in any capital of any country in the world – and got away with it.”

AJC has launched a letter-writing campaign intended to flood Ban’s office with expressions of concern over his trip to the summit, which will take place from August 26-31.

Earlier this month, Anti Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman wrote a letter to the UN secretary general that called Ban’s presence in the Iranian capital “counterproductive to the efforts of the international community to bring Iran into compliance with its obligations under the [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] and abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.”

“Iran has shown scant respect for the United Nations. It continues to rebuff international efforts, including Security Council resolutions, to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program, and thumbs its nose at IAEA demands that it permit inspections of the military installations where it is believed the program is based. While the United Nations – including the Secretariat – is urgently seeking ways to stop the bloodshed in Syria, Iran has positioned itself as President Assad’s staunchest champion. Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, uses his annual appearance at the General Assembly to spout extreme condemnations of Jews, Israel, Western governments, and assorted other targets,” Foxman wrote.

The latest protests join calls from B’nai B’rith and the Conference of Presidents urging Ban to reconsider his attendance.

“Your trip to Tehran will be used as a propaganda tool by Iran, and will be seen as condoning the regime’s belligerency,” warned a letter from B’nai B’rith President Allan Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel Mariaschin.

The Conference of Presidents urged NAM member states to boycott the summit entirely in protest of the Iranian regime’s policies.

Tehran itself sees the conference as a bulwark against the growing international movement to isolate it over its nuclear program, which Israel and much of the West believe is for military purposes.

Jerusalem is reportedly trying to convince capitals to boycott the summit, or only send low-level officials, Israeli daily Maariv reported last month.

Earlier in August, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also called on the UN secretary general not to go to Tehran. In a phone call, Netanyahu told Ban of Israel’s “disappointment” in hearing that he will attend the conference.

“Even if it is not your intention, your visit will grant legitimacy to a regime that is the greatest threat to world peace and security,” Netanyahu said.

“It is impossible to exaggerate the danger [Iran] presents to Israel,” Netanyahu added. “The Iranian regime is committed to the destruction of the State of Israel and openly declares its intention to destroy the State of Israel.”

“To reward Iran for its impudence by a visit of the UN Secretary-General would be a horrible mistake. To grant legitimacy, however unintentional, to a regime that openly calls for the elimination of another UN member state will stain you and the organization you lead… Mr. Secretary General, your place is not in Tehran,” Netanyahu said.

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