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UN: Guterres meeting ‘not a reward’ for unapproved anti-Israel protesters

Rabbis for Ceasefire protested inside the sensitive U.N Security Council chamber on Jan. 9.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking at a press conference in New York City, Dec. 9, 2020. Photo: Lev Radin/Shutterstock
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking at a press conference in New York City, Dec. 9, 2020. Photo: Lev Radin/Shutterstock

Some two-and-a-half weeks after the anti-Israel group Rabbis for Ceasefire snuck into the sensitive United Nations Security Council chambers on Jan. 9 to protest Israel, the group shared a picture of a meeting it scored with António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations.

“A delegation of us had the honor to meet with Secretary-General Guterres today,” the group posted on Jan. 25. “He appreciated our Jewish leadership aligned with his support for ceasefire. We appreciated his commitment to pursuing peace. We mourned the 160 U.N. staff [that] has been killed in Gaza and found hope in each other.”

The meeting the photo purported to show appeared to reward the group after some three dozen of its members, including those who identify as rabbis and rabbinical students, entered U.N. headquarters in New York under the guise of a tour group.

Sporting tefillin (phylacteries), which are increasingly-common props at left-wing Jewish political protests, and masks, the group unfurled banners and sang songs. Some delivered political speeches in a camera-ready protest staged in an empty Security Council 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.

It took U.N. security personnel more than 10 minutes to intercede, despite the protest occurring inside one of the building’s more sensitive locations. The group was eventually asked to leave and each individual was asked for identification prior to departing.

Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman to Guterres, was asked on Thursday whether it is customary for his boss to grant a meeting to groups that hold unauthorized protests on U.N. grounds.

“It was not a reward,” Dujarric said, suggesting simply that the group asked to meet with Guterres, who agreed. Asked for details of the meeting, Dujarric said that Guterres briefed the group “on his view of the situation and his advocacy for a humanitarian ceasefire.”

Of U.N. security taking more than 10 minutes to remove the protesters on Jan. 9, Dujarric told JNS, “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.” 

“That’s especially true as they were dealing with some middle-aged and older people in the group,” Dujarric said.

The U.N. spokesman suggested at the time that the group’s political message, which aligns with Guterres’s, played no role in its lenient treatment. Instead, he said, the group wasn’t punished because its members were not aggressive towards officers.

Rabbis for Ceasefire’s protest was sponsored by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, which the vast majority of U.S. Jewry sees as outside the mainstream.

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