In a historical first, the United Nations General Assembly opened its doors to “Building Bridges, Not Boycotts”, a day-long summit hosted by Israel’s Mission to the UN aimed at combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.
Over 2,000 people attended the conference including students, pro-Israel activists, dignitaries, legal professionals, and representatives from a dozen of acclaimed Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America, StandWithUs, B’nai B’rith International, Hillel and CAMERA, The Times of Israel reported.
Kicking off the event, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon highlighted the dangers of BDS in his opening speech, saying the movement is “a true face of modern-day anti-Semitism.” He condemned the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) involvement in BDS activities, such as its recent resolution to blacklist “anyone who does business in Judea and Samaria, in Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights,” which Danon said “crossed a red line.”
Bolstering support against the anti-Israel movement, Danon emphasized, “This is a battle we must fight. This is a battle we will win.”
“Together we will defeat BDS,” he concluded as the crowd erupted in loud applause.
Chiming in with an inspiring and powerful message, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared via video, calling the “Building Bridges” attendees the “real freedom fighters, the real champions of justice.” Netanyahu concluded his short speech by congratulating each participant, saying, “I’m proud of each and every one of you.”
Among the others who addressed the General Assembly were Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Vice President of the Israeli Supreme Court; Jay Sekulow, Chief Legal Counsel of the American Center for Law; and Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress (WJC).
During his address, Lauder noted the cruel irony that the United Nations, a body which was created on the tail of World War II and the Holocaust with the intention of ensuring such catastrophes against human rights would never again occur, has “singled out the only Jewish state in the world with lie after lie after lie.”
It was therefore deemed quite fitting that the pro-Israel summit be deliberately held in the same room where the UN itself has previously engaged in BDS-like activities.
Lending a statement of understanding to those who support the anti-Israel movement, Lauder said the “political boycott makes you feel good,” because “it makes you feel like part of the group…especially when you think you are doing good for mankind, like standing up against tyranny or fighting oppression.”
Standing against injustice certainly makes a person feel they are mirroring the inspirational behavior of Dr. Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, even Moses, a very seductive notion, Lauder acknowledged, “especially when you are joined by beautiful celebrities, famous rock stars, and your favorite professors.” “But I wonder,” Lauder speculated, “if those who support BDS have the slightest understanding what the movement really means.”
“Five hundred thousand dead in Syria and Iraq, and Israel is charged with crimes against humanity?” Lauder asked with incredulity. For that reason, he noted, it’s clear BDS “does not truly support the Palestine people.” Instead, “they are strictly a campaign to delegitimize Israel which is simply the latest attempt to deny the Jewish people the right of self determination.”
Vowing a total annihilation of the vicious anti-Israel movement, Lauder emphasized that “WJC will commit all of our resources and all of our abilities to help fight BDS.”
“Enough is enough,” Lauder affirmed.
Throwing in some musical inspiration to the event, American-Jewish singer and songwriter Matisyahu sang his hit songs “Jerusalem” and “One Day” after a short speech. Matisyahu was also the victim of a BDS campaign in 2015 when activists attempted to ban him from performing at a festival in Spain over his support of Israel.
The event came a week after the State Comptroller’s office in Israel issued a scathing report criticizing the Foreign Ministry for not having a cohesive strategy to fight BDS, The Times of Israel reported. By gathering hundreds of people determined to end the discriminatory movement, Israel’s Mission to the UN hopes the summit is only the first major step in its ongoing battle.
Summarizing the goals of the day, said Dermer: “We are here to stand together proudly, shoulder to shoulder, for the state of Israel.”