Rivlin thanks UN’s Ban for fight against anti-Semitism

At meeting in New York, president also speaks out against ICC decision to probe possible Gaza war crimes, saying Israel can investigate on its own

Reuven Rivlin, left, meeting Ban Ki-moon in New York on January 26, 2015. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO)
Reuven Rivlin, left, meeting Ban Ki-moon in New York on January 26, 2015. (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin called on the United Nations to persist in battling anti-Semitism around the world, in a meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Monday.

Rivlin also rebuffed a preliminary International Criminal Court probe into Israel’s actions during the summer war with Gaza, saying the country could investigate allegations of wrongdoing on its own.

Meeting Ban in New York before a massive snow storm walloped the area and delayed a planned speech at the UN to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Rivlin thanked the leader for statements against anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism affects all of humanity, and it is my hope you will continue to lead the UN’s fight against it,” Rivlin said, according to a statement from his spokesperson. “I want to thank the Secretary General … for his unwavering commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism.”

Rivlin called the need to fight religious extremism and terrorism “a primary international interest.”

The meeting between the two came a week after a landmark UN session on anti-Semitism.

With Israel leading the way, 37 nations called on the UN on January 22 to respond to the sharp spike in violent anti-Semitism around the world. The UN missions of the US, Canada and those of all 28 members of the European Union partnered with Israel to bring about the informal meeting.

At the meeting last week, Ban said the fight against anti-Semitism was linked to the winder quest for world peace and human rights, but chided those who see anti-Israel statements as anti-Semitism.

“Grievances about Israeli actions must never be used as an excuse to attack Jews.  In the same vein, criticisms of Israeli actions should not be summarily dismissed as anti-Semitism,” he told the General Assembly.

Rivlin also thanked Ban for his efforts toward Israeli-Palestinian peace, but spoke out against the recent announcement that the ICC, an independent body linked to the UN, would investigate Israel for war crimes related to the summer war against Palestinian fighters in Gaza.

“Our soldiers are our children, and I have no doubt that we know how to investigate every event which took place during a conflict that was forced upon us, and to draw every necessary conclusion – there is no force in Israel stronger than the law,” Rivlin said.

Ban thanked Rivlin for being a voice of moderation and calm, according to a statement from the UN spokesperson.

He also expressed “deep horror” over a recent terror attack in Tel Aviv in which a Palestinian man stabbed 17 people during rush hour.

Rivlin is in New York on his first trip to the US as president. He was scheduled to speak along with Ban at the UN on Tuesday for an event marking 70 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, but the event was pushed to Wednesday by a large blizzard which paralyzed much of the northeast and shut down UN headquarters.

On Sunday, he addressed African-American community leaders, comparing Israel’s founding to the civil rights movement.

Rivlin in his address Sunday at the Christian Cultural Center also recalled the friendship of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. He said the proximity of Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week and International Holocaust Remembrance Day this week is “no coincidence.”

“I also have a dream, that we will once more hear God knocking on the door,” Rivlin said, making reference to King’s famous Washington speech in 1963. “I dream, and believe, that Jerusalem, which is a microcosm of the whole world, will serve as an example of coexistence between different religions and communities. Jews and Arabs are not doomed to live together, we are destined to live together.”

Rivlin also met with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the trip. He will not be meeting with President Barack Obama, citing conflicting schedules.

Cathryn J. Prince and JTA contributed to this report.

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