The United Nations says its security personnel did not want to use force when they dispersed a protest in the Security Council chamber organized by anti-Israel groups last week.
On Tuesday, some three-dozen people in a group called Rabbis for Ceasefire entered U.N. headquarters in New York under the guise of a tour group. The group includes both those who identify as rabbis and rabbinical students.
Sporting tefillin—the small black leather boxes with leather straps containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah that left-wing groups increasingly use as a Jewish prop to seek legitimacy during political protests—and wearing masks, the group unfurled banners and sang songs while some gave political speeches in a choreographed, camera-ready protest staged in an empty chamber, aimed at the Biden administration.
Washington has used its veto power at the Security Council to ward off demands for ceasefires in the Gaza Strip.
The banners were likely snuck in under protesters’ clothing, as coats and jackets are generally not required to be removed at the headquarters’ security check.
The group called for a ceasefire to be imposed in the Israel-Hamas war, something that the Israeli and American governments have said would allow Hamas to rearm and keep its pledge to repeat the massacre the terrorist group carried out in Israel on Oct. 7.
10 minutes to intercede
A video posted by Rabbis for Ceasefire shows U.N. security personnel, who are generally diligent and proactive in seeking out, identifying and stopping security threats in and around the world organization’s facilities, taking a full 10 minutes to intercede in Tuesday’s protest, despite it taking place inside one of the building’s more sensitive locations.
A security guard posted at the top of the chamber near the beginning of the video appears to do little, if anything, to interrupt the protest. A tour guide who was assigned to oversee the group is not readily identifiable.
“Security didn’t want a scene where, at the United Nations, people’s voices were being silenced through use of force. It’s the last resort for them to pull people and use force to break up any type of protest,” Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, told JNS. “That’s especially true as they were dealing with some middle-aged and older people in the group.
Dujarric said that one officer stationed in the Security Council chamber is standard when the council is not in session, “because they just don’t expect anything to happen, and 99.9% of the time, it doesn’t.”
He said that once the tour guide assigned to the group realized what was taking place, the guide left to get additional security personnel, though, according to Dujarric, “it took security time to figure out how they were going to break it up without causing any sort of scene.”
There are generally three to four U.N. security officers located in the hallways on both floors outside the chamber, within a 10-second walk of the entrances.
Dujarric intimated to JNS that the group’s political message, which is aligned with that of Guterres, did not play a factor in its lenient treatment, but rather that its members were not aggressive towards officers once confronted.
In fact, security officers merely requested identification from each of the protesters, and they were free to depart the building afterward. Dujarric indicated that while he is not aware of a final determination, the participants will not necessarily be placed on any type of blacklist or be barred from future visits.
The group continued protesting from across the street.
The reaction from security personnel differed vastly from when they swiftly and physically escorted Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan out of the U.N. General Assembly Hall as he quietly held up a photograph during a speech by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in September.
It is unclear if there will be any repercussions for Huffington Post reporter Matt Shuham, who embedded himself with the group as an “observer,” forewarned that it would be staging the protest. Journalists are typically not provided access to the Security Council chamber without clearance from the U.N.’s media unit.
Tuesday’s protest was sponsored by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, all groups that label themselves as Jewish and take consistent, concrete anti-Israel positions. The organizations are viewed by the vast majority of American Jewry as outside the mainstream.