NEW YORK—Hundreds of impassioned Israel supporters gathered down the road from the United Nations Headquarters on Wednesday to protest the UN’s approach to Israel on the opening day of the UN General Assembly session. The rally, which a press release from organizers said drew nearly 2000 people, focused on “Durban III”—the commemoration of the Durban anti-racism conference that singled out Israel—as well as the Palestinian push for UN membership and statehood recognition.
The event brought together a coalition of Christian and Jewish organizations, and was organized by Dr. Robert Stearns. Dr. Stearns in a speech at the rally slammed the UN for “bashing” Israel while ignoring serious human rights abuses around the world. He called Israel “a shining example of human rights” in the Middle East, with voting rights for Arab women, press freedoms and parliament membership for Arabs.
He also urged the crowd to not be silent regarding Israel, leading them in a chant of “not on our watch” as they waved Israeli flags and held up signs of support for Israel.
Dr. Stearns is the founder of the Christian organization Eagle’s Wings, although the event brought together a number of organizations and people of different faiths. Dr. Gary Kellner, president of the International Center for Christian Leadership, said, “I think the best way to characterize it is that this is an event that is organized by a broad coalition of people across religious and ethnic boundaries.”
Dr. Kellner termed the Durban racism conference events a “thinly-veiled platform for Israel bashing.” Multiple nations have already pulled out of Durban III.
“It’s our contention that if there’s going to be United Nations-sponsored events, and we’re going to talk about racism in the world and abuse of human rights, you don’t single out one member state—and the only viable democracy in the Middle East—for special bashing,” said Dr. Kellner, who called upon the UN to address with more intentionality the “egregious abuses” in other nations.
In addition to it’s timeliness with this week’s Durban event, Wednesday’s rally also came as the Palestinians have been planning to go to the UN Security Council for full UN membership. Dr. Kellner noted the event tried to “stand with Israel” in the face of the Palestinian effort.
“It is our view that that is not going to move the peace process forward. If anything, it is going to torpedo the peace process,” said Dr. Kellner of the planned unilateral Palestinian move.
He made it clear they do not think the UN should mandate in favor of one side in the peace process. “If the United Nations has any integrity, if it has any reason to exist, if it’s going to be relevant in the 21st Century, it can’t jump on the side of the table of one of the disputants,” said Dr. Kellner. “It has to try to operate in an evenhanded and fair manner.”
He said that if they endorse the Palestinian statehood bid, and by sponsoring events like Durban, the UN “is being anything but an honest broker.”
He noted that the American government pulled out of Durban and urged nations not to support the Palestinian UN statehood move, and “we certainly want our government to know that there are a lot of Americans who share those convictions. We don’t want them to feel like they’re out there by themselves, we want them to know that there are people across ethnic divides, cultural divides, religious divides, who hold those values.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, September 21, 2011)