At U.N. General Assembly, Iran tops Jewish agenda

Iran’s push for nuclear weapons is the overwhelming international diplomacy priority for American Jewish groups at this year’s U.N. General Assembly, which opened Sept. 18.

“Obviously Iran is No. 1, 2 and 3 on the agenda,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

However, Iran’s nuclear aspirations are not the only item of concern, adds Daniel Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International. In meetings with diplomats, he planned to press not only Tehran’s nuc-lear pursuits but also its domestic human rights abuses, as well as its support for international terror and Syria’s repressive Assad government.

“This is a regime that has a bloody record wherever you look,” he said.

Other top issues for American Jewish groups at the 67th annual session incl-ude the Palestinian push for nonmember state status, anti-Semitism in Venezuela, the eff-orts of some European countries to ban religious ritual circumcision and kosher slaughter, Holocaust restitution claims, and urging the European Union to place Hezbollah on its list of terrorist groups.

Israeli officials have been speaking publicly in recent months about how international sanctions against Iran are not working quickly enough. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted that a pre-emptive military strike is needed to set back Iran’s effort.

“The bottom line is they’re still moving forward” with the nuclear program, “and the can keeps getting kicked down the road,” said Michael Salberg, the Anti-Defamation League’s director of international affairs. “Well, we’re coming to a cul-de-sac in that road.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was scheduled to address the General Assembly Sept. 26; because that day coincided with Yom Kippur, Jewish response was to be delayed. Netanyahu was slated to speak to the world body on Sept. 27.

On Sept. 20, the Senate introduced a resolution calling on the United Nations to exercise its mechanisms to prevent genocide ahead of Ahmadinejad’s speech.

The nonbinding resolution introduced by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) calls on various U.N. bodies to sanction and charge Iranian leaders for violating the U.N. Charter because of “offensive remarks, contemptible statements, and reprehensible policies aimed at the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Among other measures, the resolution calls for Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Iran’s “supreme leader,” to face charges at the Inter-national Criminal Court.

On Sept. 24, Jewish leaders took part in a news conference to denounce Ahmadinejad’s appearance at the United Nations.

“We’re not saying he doesn’t have the legal right to be here, but we’re saying let the world know how offensive he is and what he stands for,” said Hindy Poupko, director of Israel and international affairs at the Jewish Community Rela-tions Council of New York.

Also on the agenda of Jewish groups as they meet with foreign diplomats will be the efforts of some courts and legislators to ban Jewish ritual circumcision and kosher slaughter of animals.

There also will be a push to end U.N.-sponsored groups considered hostile to Israel, such as the Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.