'Insult' may cost Reform Jews UN status

Follows attempt by World Union rep to read Hamas charter to UN session in protest of anti-Israel focus.

United Nations AP 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
United Nations AP 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The United Nations Committee on NGOs met in New York Wednesday with an agenda that included possibly stripping the umbrella organization of Reform Judaism of the observer NGO status it has held since 1972. The decision was later delayed until Thursday. "Sanctioning the World Union would be extremely unjust and unwarranted," said World Union of Progressive Judaism president Rabbi Uri Regev. "It would be a sad statement as to the way that the decisions and considerations play out in the UN today." Cuba requested the revocation of the union's status following a Human Rights Council session in Geneva in January titled "Human Rights Violations Emanating from Israeli Military Incursions in the Occupied Territories," where, in protest at the session's exclusive focus on Israel, World Union representative David Littman tried to read passages from the Hamas charter calling for the destruction of Israel. Littman was interrupted three times by the presiding officer on the grounds that Hamas's ideology was not the topic before the council. Before he took his seat, Littman told the presiding officer that "something is rotten in the state of this council." This statement led to complaints largely from Muslim countries that the UN had been insulted by the Reform representative. The World Union was informed of the initiative at the NGO committee last Thursday, and given a week to prepare its response. Observer status allows an NGO's representatives to enter UN institutions, and observe and speak at its meetings. Jewish organizations and Reform Movement representatives have been meeting with diplomats from the 19 countries on the NGO Committee in the past few days in an effort to convince them to reject the initiative. But the World Union's prospects are uncertain. Sudan chairs the committee, which also includes Pakistan, Cuba, Egypt, Angola and Qatar. Committee members whom the World Union representatives hope to sway to their side include Burundi, China, Columbia, Dominica, Guinea, India, Peru, Romania, Russia and Turkey. The US, UK and Israel make up the last of the 19 members of the committee.