Defending the Jewish state at the United Nations is like being in a lion’s den, as former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon and others have said. On Wednesday, biblical Isaiah references replaced those of Daniel, however, as wolves and lambs interacted peacefully.
The envoys of some 60 countries squeezed into an American Jewish Committee conference room in Manhattan to show solidarity with the Jewish state. It was a rare demonstration of broad support for Israel from U.N. ambassadors and New York consuls general, which came five days after Hamas attacked Israel in a murderous spree, killing 1,300 people—the bloodiest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust, as the Israeli and U.S. presidents have said.
“Israel is at the forefront of the war on radical jihadist terror, and if Israel does not succeed in eradicating Hamas’s terror capabilities, the whole world will pay the price,” Israeli ambassador to the United Nations
“Israel is at the forefront of the war on radical jihadist terror, and if Israel does not succeed in eradicating Hamas’s terror capabilities, the whole world will pay the price,” Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan said at the event.
The terrorist organization’s genocidal ideology “is not just about destroying Israel,” he added. “It is ultimately about bringing the jihad war to each and every one of your countries. They will not stop until they murder all of what they call ‘infidels.’”
‘Good against evil’
Attendees spanned the diplomatic spectrum, from Barbara Woodward, the British Ambassador to the United Nations and member of the U.N. Security Council, to Agnes Mary Chimbiri-Molande, Malawi’s U.N. ambassador. (Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.)
The combination of the sheer magnitude of Hamas’s atrocities and the strong showing of support for Israel in a recent address to the nation by U.S. President Joe Biden “inspired many other countries” to attend the AJC gathering, Erdan told JNS.
The challenge at this point, he said, is to maintain their support.
Israel has begun a massive campaign to eliminate Hamas in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, where Hamas is known to use human shields. Israel’s efforts to defend itself will necessarily come with high levels of civilian deaths in Gaza, which could swing international opinion in the other direction.
“This is the test for them: whether they stand with Israel, with good against evil, with a law-abiding, democratic state, fighting against a genocidal terrorist organization, or they again play with empty words, calls for calm and restraint from both sides, talking about a circle of violence that does not exist,” Erdan told JNS. “Let’s wait and see.”
A key part of Erdan’s address on Wednesday was pointing out Hamas’s broad support in Gaza, as well as among Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, countering the widely accepted notions that civilians live helplessly under the thumb of a dictatorship.
“It was easy for many diplomats to lie to themselves because it’s very hard to address such a challenge. You have 2 million people that voted for a genocidal terrorist organization,” Erdan told JNS.
The Israeli diplomat cited Hamas’s election as Gaza’s controlling entity, and repeatedly canceled Palestinian Authority elections, for fear Hamas would win there, too.
“We have an immediate challenge to obliterate Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure and ensure that they can never commit these atrocities again,” Erdan said. “Then we will have another challenge because the ideology still exists within the Palestinian society. And this will have to be changed.
At Israel’s side
Throughout the event, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appeared firmly planted on Israel’s side. The U.S. envoy spoke passionately about the “unadulterated evil carried out by Hamas, a terrorist group whose stated purpose is to destroy Israel and kill Jews.”
Comparing the sheer number of Hamas murders to those carried out by Islamic State and others, Thomas-Greenfield said the raw figures, “shocking as they are, do not do justice to the depths of horrors, the depravity of the violence.”
“They do not do justice to the victims and their loved ones,” she said. “Human lives are not just numbers.” (Per official counts, more than 1,300 Israelis have been killed since Saturday; that number is proportionate to nearly 45,000 Americans.)
Thomas-Greenfield stressed the importance, in coming days, of telling the stories of those who were “executed, who were raped, who were kidnapped. Entire families, children, babies, Holocaust survivors, grandparents in wheelchairs.”
In a “test of our common humanity,” do not draw false equivalencies and issue weak condemnations, Thomas-Greenfield implored diplomatic colleagues.
The U.S. envoy recalled her visit to the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. “‘Never Again,’ my friends, is now,” she said.
Thomas-Greenfield told colleagues it was important to “shun evil and do good.”
She added: “May we seek peace. Am Yisrael chai,” the “Nation of Israel lives.”
‘The time to be very resilient’
Ted Deutch, CEO of AJC and a former U.S. congressman, told diplomats at the event that the United Nations must “stand on the side of decency and humanity.”
“It does not go unnoticed that at a time like this, all of you, recognizing your own histories, all of the times that you looked to the world for support, acknowledge the importance of being here now,” as Israel “stands up to evil on behalf of the world,” he said.
Prior to the event, Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, told JNS that his country understands Israel’s pain.
“It is the time to be very resilient and be ready for a very difficult fight, and nobody knows how long it may take,” Kyslytsya said. “But I think that the Ukrainian people, and the people of Israel even more so, have shown for many years—and the Israelis for decades, if not centuries—how strong they are. I’m sure that terrorists will be held to account. That’s the only way to deal with them.”
Asked if he feared, as some diplomats have cautioned, that Israel’s defense against Hamas will overshadow Ukraine’s war with Russia, Kyslytsya demurred.
“We should look at this case and the case of Ukraine as the need to fight terrorism, and that will unite us,” he said. “The war of Putin on Ukraine is a war of terrorism, and what you’re experiencing right now is a war of terrorism.”
As the Ukrainian diplomat was leaving the event, Kyslytsya told JNS: “You could take Ambassador Erdan’s speech, replace Israel with Ukraine and Russia with Hamas, and you would know we both understand what we are all going through.”