Anti-BDS summit at UN Headquarters, May 2016.
(photo credit: SHAHAR AZRAN)
NEW YORK - Some 1,500 pro-Israel activists, students, and representatives of Jewish organizations among others attended the largest gathering to date against the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, hosted by the Permanent Israeli mission to the United Nations at the UN Headquarters. The event, entitled “Building Bridges, Not Boycotts” begun with an opening session held in the General Assembly hall of the United Nations, a place often described as hostile to Israel. “Look around you,” Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told attendees. “This is a historic moment in the UN.”
“Never before have so many people, from so many places, gathered here in the General Assembly to declare unanimous support for the State of Israel,” he said to the cheering audience. “One day, you will tell your children: ‘I was there when we stopped BDS’.”
In his speech, Danon also said that BDS is “the true face of modern anti-semitism” and that it has “infected” the United Nations.
“You will never win,” Danon said, addressing “those who want to see an end to the Jewish State.”
“Our people have overcome every threat and every enemy. We stand strong we stand together and we will defeat you once and for all,” he added. Pro-Israel and Jewish students were largely present at the event. Among them was recent New York University Graduate Yaniv Hoffman, who came as a representative of the organization “Realize Israel”, founded at NYU two years ago and aiming to educate about Israel on campus. Hoffman told the Post that although he doesn't feel the tension with BDS advocates on campus on a daily basis. The movement's presence at NYU has caught much attention after the Graduate Student Union passed a controversial pro-BDS resolution last month. “I think it’s great just to bring everyone together to talk about this issue,” he said. “It’s exciting to have all these people in one room fighting for something important especially in this room.”
Board members of the American Jewish Committee’s New York Branch Emily Benedek and Elissa Bernstein were also in the room on Tuesday. “Frankly I’m amazed that the UN is allowing this conference to take place here,” Bernstein told the Post.
“BDS represents the mindset of future world leaders and future opinion makers and so we are very concerned about what is being taught in academia, what is being taught in universities in Europe, in the US and what the next generations are going to think about Israel,” she explained.
Benedek too said she views BDS as “an atrocity” that is “growing like a fungus”.
“It’s long lived, it’s growing and it’s hard to get a handle on so it’s gonna require the best minds and a sustained activity against it,” she explained. But representatives of Jewish groups and organizations were not the only ones in attendance.
Chriss Portella, who is originally from the Congo, and runs a consulting firm representing African organizations in the US, said he wanted to show his support for Israel by attending the conference. “I do a lot of work with nonprofit organizations and as part of a nonprofit you have to fight against inequality, unnecessary boycotting, gender inequality etc,” he told the Jerusalem Post. “So anywhere i can attend an event where I can learn more about anything that is against Israel, because I do support Israel, obviously I have to be there.”
“I want to know what the solutions are going to be,” he added. “All these organizations that are boycotting Israel, should the rest of the world boycott them at the same time in order to stop it? I want to learn how we can solve this problem.” Tuesday’s summit was organized in partnership with over a dozen Jewish organizations including the World Jewish Congress, Keren HaYesod, the American Center for Law and Justice, the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America, Israel Bonds and many others.