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Regev: We respect, and are deeply grateful to, the members of the Jewish and diplomatic communities and in government who defended our right to speak in defense of Israel and the cause of justice.
Vera Hollander, World Union of Progressive Judaism, 212/452-6530
Jonah Perlin or Sean Thibault, Religious Action Center, 202/387-2800
New York City, June 10, 2008 -- The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), the international umbrella organization of the Reform Jewish Movement, successfully fought back an attempt to suspend its status as an accredited Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) at the United Nations, according to an agreement reached late Friday, June 6th by members of the U.N. Committee on NGOs. Assisting the World Union was the Reform movement's legal and social action agency, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) in Washington, D.C.
The decision capped a week of serious discussions over whether remarks made on behalf of the World Union at a meeting of the U.N.'s Human Rights Council in Geneva last January warranted the sanction. After the WUPJ and the RAC helped facilitate the intercession of the Bush Administration (including U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilizad as well as White House and State Department officials), several foreign embassies, U.S. senators and representatives, the complaint was resolved and closed without further proceedings.
In commenting on the matter, World Union president, Rabbi Uri Regev, said, "It is gratifying that the U.N. Committee on NGOs decided not to pursue the complaint. The World Union has been active as an NGO for almost 40 years, pursuing the core values it shares with the U.N. of human equality, peace and social justice." He added further, "We respect, and are deeply grateful to, the members of the Jewish and diplomatic communities and in government who defended our right to speak in defense of Israel and the cause of justice. Our Movement's own Religious Action Center, B'nai B'rith International and the American Jewish Committee played an especially crucial role in mobilizing support."
The complaint requesting the revocation of the World Union's status was submitted by Cuba as chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in response to comments made by a World Union representative during an HRC session entitled "Human Rights Violations Emanating from Israeli Military Incursions in the Occupied Territories, Particularly in the Occupied Gaza Strip." The representative, who tried to introduce the nature of the terrorist group, Hamas, and its Jihadist charter into the discussion, expressed consternation when ultimately asked to cease his remarks by the Council president.
On May 29, the World Union maintained that the remarks were, indeed, germane to the topic and not meant to be derogatory, but expressed its deep regret for any offense perceived by members of the Council. The World Union submitted a letter of explanation to the Committee, which, in turn, sent the World Union a mutually negotiated letter expressing the Committee's concerns.
"The week-long debate demonstrated the best and worst of the U.N. system," Rabbi Regev added. "Although we regret the incident in Geneva which gave rise to the charges against the World Union, we cannot help but note the palpable anti-Israeli context in which so much of the work of the NGO committee and other U.N. bodies takes place. At the same time," he continued, "the coalition that came together to support us - nations from all around the world, a wide array of NGOs - reflects the real power of international cooperation."
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The World Union For Progressive Judaism, founded in London in 1926, is the international umbrella organization of the Reform, Liberal, Progressive and Reconstructionist movements, serving 1,200 congregations with 1.7 million members in 42 countries. The World Union strengthens Jewish life in Israel and worldwide by establishing and supporting modern, pluralistic congregations and institutions, developing Jewish communal and youth leadership and advancing social justice.