From Bill Sutter’s Desk Nov/Dec 2004
History in the making or merely window dressing? This was the question on the minds of many of us who gathered recently at United Nations headquarters in New York City for a daylong conference, “Confronting Anti-Semitism.”
The fact that this was the first conference on anti-Semitism in the history of the UN is an unfortunate reflection on the international body’s decades of self-imposed blindness to mankind’s oldest, most continuous form of hatred and violence: that which is directed against the Jewish people.
During his opening address, UN Secretary-General Kofi Amman, in the understatement of the day, declared, “Let us acknowledge that the UN record on anti-Semitism has at times fallen short of our ideals.”
He also said, “But it is clear that we are witnessing an alarming resurgence of this phenomenon in new forms and manifestations. This time the world must not, cannot be silent.” Concluding his remarks he declared, “The fight against anti-Semitism must be our fight. And Jews everywhere must feel that the United Nations is their home too.”
The response of many of the 700 participants, most of whom were Jewish leaders, was understandably cautious in light of the UN’s miserable history.
Panelist Anne Bayefsky, adjunct professor of law at Columbia University Law School, pointed out, “This meeting occurs at a point when the relationship between Jews and the UN is at an all-time low. The UN has become the leading global purveyor of anti-Semitism, intolerance, and inequity against the Jewish people and their state.”
Between repeated interruptions of enthusiastic applause, Bayefsky continued her exceptionally perceptive presentation: “There has never been a UN resolution specifically on anti-Semitism or a single report to a UN body dedicated to discrimination against Jews, in contrast to annual resolutions and reports focusing on the defamation of Islam and discrimination against Muslims and Arabs.”
Panelist Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center spoke of the Jewish people’s vulnerability to both physical attacks and attacks of their institutions worldwide. As he described the horrendous bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1993, I thought of our Friends of Israel medical team there led by Drs. Alfredo and Asunta Espinoza. With our ambulance, they were first on the scene, and they continued treating the victims until all had received care.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, effectively documented and condemned anti-Semitic practices worldwide. He passionately challenged the UN to reverse the tide of member-state anti-Semitism and discontinue its long-standing history of anti-Israel practices.
Bringing the panel sessions to a close, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president and former president of the New York Board of Rabbis, noted that for the first time, Jewish people and their struggles against anti-Semitism were not kept outside the UN’s fence, but were inside the UN. Perhaps with an earlier panelist in mind, an Islamic imam who called for “tolerance,” Potasnik placed the harsh realities of Islamic anti-Semitism into proper perspective by citing actual anti-Jewish hate speech coming from mosques in New York City.
Though all member states were invited to the conference, few Arab or European diplomats attended.
Many of the mostly Jewish participants left the conference with a degree of encouragement but with nagging questions as well. Did this conference represent the beginning of a historic shift at the UN on the issue of anti-Semitism? Or was it simply a minor counter-ripple in the worldwide tidal wave of hatred against Israel and the Jewish people?
As Bible-believing Christians, we understand that anti-Semitism is the historic, long-term struggle between none other than Satan and the Jewish people. So systemic is this hatred of God’s ancient people among the nations of the world and so grievous is it to God that He Himself will judge the nations and hold them accountable for their actions against His people.
He promised, through the prophet Joel, “I will also gather all nations…and will judge them there for my people and for my heritage, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land” (Joel 3:2).