Wednesday , September 21st, over 2,000 Christians, Messianic Jews, secular Jews and other supporters of Israel gathered in New York City’s Dag Hammerskjold Plaza to protest the then ongoing Durban III conference at the United Nations building. The demonstration was put together by a coalition of several organizations headed by the Jerusalem Institute for Justice (JIJ). HaShomer organized a bus of fifty-four people from the Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus, OH areas and drove through the night to arrive in time for the protest. Many in attendance marveled that such a large group would travel through the night simply for the demonstration.
According to protest organizers, over twenty states and fifteen countries were represented. Demonstrators held signs that demanded support for Israel and to end UN racist policies. Speeches were made from members of the Christian, Jewish and Hindu communities all condemning the Durban conference. A Sudanese refugee shared his story with the crowd taking a strong stance against, particularly, Muslim extremists. The rally concluded with the singing of HaTikvah, Israel’s national anthem.
The Durban conferences are UN Assembly meetings focusing on addressing issues of racism around the globe. Both Dubran I (South Africa, 2001) and Durban II (Switzerland, 2009) were used by Israel’s political opponents to publicly give a verbal lashing to the Jewish state. The Jerusalem Institute for Justice protested outside Durban II in Geneva while the keynote speaker, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, gave a nearly ten-minute speech on, in his words, the “totally racist government occupying the Palestinian territories”.
In 2011, the racist stance against Israel was attempted to be taken a step further in submitting a bid to grant the Palestinian people a seat in the general assembly. The Palestinian territories currently have a seat in assembly meetings as observers but are not recognized as voting members. The bid was submitted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the General Assembly but has yet to be voted on by the UN Security Council to be made official.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a strong speech on behalf of the Jewish state following Abbas’ address stating that he is often told to abandon the settlements in the West Bank and all violence will desist. Netanyahu noted that Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2001 and disengaged the Gaza strip in 2005, both resulting in eventual war. He ended by inviting President Abbas to meet with him even that day in the UN building to renew talks toward peace. Nothing has been released in the media that any talks took place.
As Israelis and Palestinians await the outcome of the vote, the already rising tension is sure to continue to escalate within the tiny country. This is truly a defining moment is Middle Eastern politics that will either bring the two groups a step closer to peace or a few steps backwards closer to yet another war.