U.N. General Assembly 2013: Key Issues

  • September 23, 2013

On September 24, world leaders will meet at the United Nations for the General Debate of the 68th General Assembly. The headlines of the week will likely involve issues related to the ongoing civil war in Syria, particularly the framework agreement to remove chemical weapons, as well as Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the Islamic Republic’s newly elected President Hassan Rouhani’s debut appearance on the international stage.

ADL will be meeting with numerous heads of state, foreign ministers and other international dignitaries over the course of the week to raise issues of concern about these and other matters vitally important to our work.


The Assad government’s barbarous gassing of civilians killing 1,400 Syrians – including more than 400 children – has shocked the conscience of the world. While we welcome the framework agreement between the United States and Russia to eliminate Syria’s cache of chemical weapons and the equipment for producing them by 2014, we strongly believe this deal was only possible because of the credible threat of force. Any action taken by he international community must include meaningful verification of Syria’s compliance with this agreement, and keep active the credible threat of force to ensure the removal and destruction of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpile.


Despite recent promises of increased cooperation by Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, the IAEA’s latest report shows continuing installation of centrifuges, bringing Iran ever closer to the ability to quickly enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon. Iran’s history of posturing and stalling in negotiations with the P5+1 and the facts that decision-making authority remains with the hardline Supreme Leader Khomeini and operational oversight with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps warrant clear-eyed skepticism toward Rouhani’s promises. Iran must be judged by its actions and not merely its statements. It is vital that the US and the international community remain vigilant towards Iran, and ensure that Teheran finally takes meaningful and tangible steps to demonstrate a change in its behavior and not just its rhetoric. The international community must commit to increasing economic and political pressure on Iran as much as necessary to compel Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. As additional measures, the EU should ban all transactions with Iran, and major importers of Iranian oil should make additional substantial reductions. The P5+1 governments responsible for negotiating with Iran should clearly define benchmarks for diplomatic progress and specify the consequences to Iran for failing to meet those benchmarks.


Israel is deeply committed to direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority that will lead to a peace agreement resolving all issues and establishing a Palestinian state living alongside the Jewish State of Israel with peace and security. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking the current negotiating process seriously and is engaging with good faith with the Palestinians. Public opinion polls demonstrate that Israelis are supportive of peace, but are skeptical of the Palestinian commitment. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has frequently used the podium of the UNGA to castigate Israel, using incendiary accusations and terms such as “apartheid,” “colonial,” “racist” and “ethnic cleansing.” With the renewal of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Abbas has the opportunity in September 2013 to stand at the podium of the UNGA and directly tell the Palestinian people, the Israeli people and the international community that the Palestinian are committed to peace with Israel, that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a partner, and the Palestinians – while asserting their own narrative and nationalism - acknowledge the deep Jewish connection to the land. Abbas’ message should be positive and hopeful, and he should avoid his perennial listing of grievances and use of incendiary terms and accusations. The Palestinians must also cease all activity to upgrade their status/seek to be declared a state.


An entrenched, institutionalized, anti-Israel infrastructure endures at the UN through various anachronistic departments and committees which are funded from the budget of Secretariat. Anti-Israel resolutions in the General Assembly and Human Rights Council sail through. The Human Rights Council has a permanent item on its agenda which only deals with Israel. Israel is barred from fully participating in UN activities as it has been prevented from obtaining full membership in the WEOG regional group.


European governments must make clear that freedom of religion is a cornerstone of democracy and that intolerable restrictions or outright bans on ritual circumcision and ritual slaughter would violate this fundamental right and cannot be permitted. Two of the most fundamental Jewish rites – circumcision and kosher slaughter – are increasingly being challenged in Europe.


Anti-Semitic Incidents

Anti-Semitic hate violence in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere and the presence of blatant anti-Semitism in anti-Israel discourse and demonstrations continue unabated. Attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions must be condemned and perpetrators prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Combating anti-Semitism should be a national priority. Governments must send a strong signal that there is no acceptable justification for anti-Semitic speech or action even if it is cloaked in criticism of Israel.

Anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim World

ADL continues to closely monitor manifestations of anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world. Decades of heinous anti-Semitic caricatures that are mainstays in government and opposition newspapers across the region have taught generations to fear and hate Jews and Israelis. The changes across the Arab world have done little to ameliorate this situation, and anti-Jewish stereo-types and conspiracy theories are still regularly featured in the media. Anti-Semitic notions are deeply rooted in the manifestos of al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and other extremist groups. These anti-Semitic images and assertions are exported from countries with small or no Jewish populations around the world when there is tension in the Middle East, increasing rates of anti-Semitic violence where Jews do live and shaping attitudes across national boundaries. This incitement and hatred must be addressed by the political leadership in every country. Real and sustained progress in Arab-Israeli peace efforts will only be possible when Jews and Judaism, Israel and Israelis, are not demonized using age-old anti-Semitic themes and images.

Promote Effective Holocaust Remembrance and Education and Fight Back Against the Perversions of Memory

We urge the international community to support proactive, meaningful Holocaust remembrance and education that will address modern day anti-Semitism. Expand these efforts at home and support the work of the International Task Force, the OSCE and United Nations efforts internationally. The use of Nazi imagery to depict the Jewish state revitalizes anti-Semitic myths that have plagued the Jewish people.

Improve the Response to Hate Crimes

An important tool against anti-Semitism and all hate violence is the adoption of laws and policies to help respond to and prevent hate crime. Following the rise of anti-Semitic incidents around the world several years ago, efforts by communities and organizations like the OSCE to monitor and urge governments to address anti-Semitism and hate crime have been models for multilateral organizations. We urge your government to implement meaningful laws and policies to monitor, address and prevent hate crimes and to support the continued focus of the OSCE on combating anti-Semitism and broader efforts against hate crimes that targets all groups.

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