Protests planned for Ahmadinejad dinner in NY

Many groups to set camp outside Manhattan hotel where Iranian president will be guest of honor.

By ALLISON HOFFMAN, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
September 24, 2008 23:09
2 minute read.
Protests planned for Ahmadinejad dinner in NY

ahmadinejad UN press conference 224.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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A broad coalition of Jewish, Christian and secular human rights and political groups plan to demonstrate Thursday outside the Manhattan hotel where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be the guest of honor at a dinner reception. Even the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay political group, are joining the opposition to Ahmadinejad's invitation by Mennonites and Quakers, both pacifist religious groups that have a history of reaching out to the Iranian government. "If there is a common thread uniting all of those groups, it's opposition to Ahmadinejad and his exclusionary policies, and we're all promoting freedom, whether it's religious freedom or personal freedom," said Gregory T. Angelo, spokesman for Log Cabin's New York City chapter. Invited guests include representatives from an array of Christian groups, including the World Council of Churches, whose United Nations liaison office is co-hosting the dinner. Wire services will be among a handful of journalists allowed into the event. Organizers declined to extend an invitation to The Jerusalem Post despite repeated requests, claiming that they did not want the dinner to turn into a de facto press conference. "We aren't able to provide the invitation to come," Mennonite Central Committee spokesman Ed Nyce told The Jerusalem Post last week. Opposition to the dinner, to be held at the Grand Hyatt next to Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street, has been growing over the past two weeks, particularly among groups with ties to the evangelical Christian movement. One, the Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, sponsored a flood of critical e-mails to the dinner's organizers. The messages were sent under the banner of "Stand for Israel," an offshoot group that mobilizes Christian support for Israel. "The cause of peace will in no way be furthered by breaking bread with this tyrant," said the form letter, which also claimed that Ahmadinejad compared "Zionists" to Satan during a trip to Sudan, just days after a meeting last year with American Mennonite and Quaker leaders. The event has already drawn ire from Jewish groups, starting with the Anti-Defamation League, whose leader, Abraham Foxman, accused those who participate of "tarnishing" their reputations. Others have criticized other guests planning to attend, including Nicaraguan diplomat Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, listed as a guest of honor in his capacity as president of the UN General Assembly. Rev. Kjell Bondevik, a former prime minister of Norway who now heads a human rights center in Oslo, is also expected to attend. David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said in a radio address Tuesday that he was appalled that d'Escoto would appear with Ahmadinejad, who is in New York this week for the annual opening of the General Assembly. "Shame on him for conferring the legitimacy of his UN office on the Iranian president, shame on the UN if it doesn't rise up in protest," said Harris. A spokeswoman for d'Escoto, Brenda Vongova, said there would be no official comment on his participation at the dinner.

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