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A prominent Jewish human rights institute has accused the United Nations of intentionally barring pro-Israel Jewish groups from attending a major meeting on the pursuit of Palestinian statehood.
The Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust (IHRH), a U.N.-approved NGO group, claims the U.N. Division for Palestinian Rights (UNDPR) has unjustly barred 18 pro-Israel Jews from attending a Monday event marking the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”
U.N. security officials initially had granted the Touro Institute credentials permitting 18 Birthright Israel alumni to attend the daylong series of meetings, which will be attended by the U.N.’s most high-level officials.
However, those credentials were quickly revoked at the behest of the UNDPR, according to IHRH officials and e-mails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The incident has sparked a pointed back-and-forth between U.N. officials and IHRH director Anne Bayefsky, who accuses the body of allowing the UNDPR to effectively bar pro-Israel groups from attending major events regarding the Palestinians.
Bayefsky is concerned that this behavior is part of a larger trend by the Palestinians to control the narrative at the U.N. and prevent dissenting voices from being heard.
Bayefsky has registered her concerns with multiple U.S. officials and even U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, who has yet to reply.
“This is the face of modern anti-Semitism by the U.N.,” Bayefsky told the Free Beacon when asked about the days-long back-and-forth. “This is the how discrimination works in the real-life operation of the U.N. Where is Ambassador Samantha Power?”
With 2014 slated to be a “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”—an initiative that is expected to be approved by the U.N. General Assembly next week—Bayefsky and others worry that pro-Israel Jewish groups will be vulnerable to discrimination all year long.
Senior U.N. officials are not pleased with Bayefsky’s accusations.
They accused her on Wednesday of promulgating “inaccuracies and inappropriate accusations” and instructed her to take her case back to the UNDPR, which they say has unilateral authority to decide who attends the meeting.
The feud first erupted last week when U.N. Security and Safety Service official Lt. Paul Jankowsky informed Bayefsky that her group’s passes had been revoked in accordance with a set of rules established by the Palestinians.
The event had been advertised as open to all NGOs who care to attend.
Jankowsky initially “agreed to issue temporary non-photo passes” to the group on Nov. 15, according to emails reviewed by the Free Beacon.
However, several hours later Jankowsky informed Bayefsky that “the Division of Palestinian Rights will be distributing the passes.”
“I cannot and will not issue passes for a meeting if the organizers instruct me not to issue additional passes that they did not request,” Jankowsky wrote.
This denial led Bayefsky to personally phone Ambassador Power and send her a formal letter requesting that “urgent” action be taken to rectify an “extraordinary breach of U.N. rules” by both the U.N. Security department and the Division for Palestinian Rights.
“I note that all of the requested participants are Jewish and strongly support the fair and equal treatment of the state of Israel—a perspective in short supply at the advertised event known as the ‘U.N. Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,’” Bayefsky wrote on Monday, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon.
“The campaign by the U.N. Division for Palestinian Rights to deny Jewish and pro-Israel NGO’s access to the open session, and the willingness of the U.N. Security office to collaborate and facilitate such an agenda despite having already attested to our compliance with all security needs, is an affront to the U.N. Charter,” she wrote.
State Department official Katherine Gallogly acknowledged receiving Bayefsky’s letter on Monday. Erin Pelton, a spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said the U.S. Mission is “alarmed” by the exclusion of Birthright.
“The United States strongly supports the principle of non-governmental organization participation at the United Nations and is alarmed by reports that a Birthright Israel student group has not been not allowed to attend a November 25 meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP),” Pelton wrote in an emailed statement. “Over the past several days the U.S. Mission to the United Nations has contacted several offices at the United Nations regarding this issue. While we are not a member of the CEIRPP, have not sought to join it, and do not attend its meetings, we are committed to the fair and unbiased treatment of Israel and will continue to engage on this issue in order to facilitate a satisfactory resolution.”
By Wednesday of this week, the controversy had reached the highest levels of the U.N., where officials expressed displeasure with Bayefsky’s campaign to gain entry for her Jewish delegation.
“Your letter” protesting the withdrawal of credentials “contains inaccuracies and inappropriate accusations against” U.N. Security officer Jankowsky “and staff of the Division for Palestinian Rights,” wrote Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N.’s undersecretary general for political affairs.
“I have to completely reject your claims against the security officer and against the staff of my department, who were just carrying out their duties in accordance with the established rules and procedures,” Feltman wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon.
The Division for Palestinian Rights has unilateral authority to issue or deny credentials based on an internal list of pre-approved organizations, according to Feltman and other U.N. officials who spoke to the Free Beacon.
“Organizations not on the mailing list would have to request the division to be registered,” a U.N. official explained to the Free Beacon. “The division would then have to obtain the approval of the bureau of the committee to register the respective NGO for the meeting and would inform the organization accordingly.”
“No one has been barred from attending the special meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” the official maintained.
Bayefsky dismissed this claim as false, saying that it is unprecedented to deny groups admittance merely because it was not “on a secret internal invitation list.”
“I have been following the U.N. for 30 years and this is the first time that the United Nations secretariat is barring access of a pro-Israel officially accredited U.N. NGO from a publicly-advertised open U.N. meeting,” Bayefsky said.
“The suggestion that the mere presence in the visitor’s gallery of an official U.N. accredited NGO is conditional either on being on a secret internal invitation list of a U.N. division or being explicitly approved by a group of states which refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel is appalling,” she said.
Bayefsky expressed a similar sentiment in follow up letter sent on Wednesday to the U.N.’s Feltman.
“As a senior U.N. official you are announcing that countries which do not recognize the self-determination of the Jewish people, embodied in the state of Israel, have a veto over the attendance at a U.N. meeting of a Jewish organization and its representative that are committed to the self-determination of the Jewish people (and to combating the anti-Semitism inherent in its denial),” she wrote in the letter.
Bayefsky added that the secretary general should immediately provide the IHRH with an invitation, “rather than creat[e] a unique qualification to attend U.N. meeting for Jews committed to combating anti-Semitism in all its forms.”