(photo credit: REUTERS)
“Denial of Israel’s right to exist is antisemitism," declared United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a meeting with senior officials of the Simon Weisenthal Center (SWC).
The meeting took place at the UN headquarters in New York, according to an SWC press release sent out on Tuesday.
The topics discussed with Guterres included countering growing antisemitism in Europe, blocks hampering the Middle East peace process, and ending the demonization of Israel by certain UN agencies.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told Guterres that Hamas and their continuing terrorist activities are the major roadblocks to peace rather than settlements. Guterres is against Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank.
Guterres said that he is strongly committed "to not allowing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to be instrumentalized" in the future by Hamas, acknowledging the group's use of the UN presence in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.
Criticizing campaigns to delegitimize the historic connections between the land of Israel and the Jewish people like UNESCO's decision in May which disavowed Israeli sovereignty
in Jerusalem, Guterres said that "history must be respected. Jerusalem is a holy city for three religions.”
Guterres is seen as friendly toward Israel. He visited Israel in 1993 as secretary-general of the Portuguese Socialist Party and leader of Portugal’s opposition.
Guterres’ interpreter when he came, Avraham “Moshka” Hatzamri, was one of the heads of the Labor Party’s international department at the time.
He said Guterres had a good sense of humor and always spoke favorably of the Jewish state.
“He proved to be a true friend of Israel, and we always received his support on the Middle East Committee of the Socialist International,” Hatzamri wrote in his memoirs.
He met with then-foreign minister Shimon Peres and then-industry and trade minister Micha Harish.
Following the visit, Guterres remained in close contact with Peres and former prime minister Ehud Barak, who both served under him in top posts in the Socialist International. Peres and Barak paid official visits to him in Portugal during their respective terms as prime minister, while he served as Portuguese prime minister.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.