UNITED NATIONS - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told a Jewish audience at the United Nations Wednesday night that bigotry is not just a threat to Israel or the Jewish people, but a “danger to all religions and all who believe in freedom.”
“That is why truth must unite us in a struggle against violent extremism and against the terrorist bigots of Daesh (Islamic State), Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and so many others,” Kerry said.
At the White House on Monday, President Barack Obama held his first meeting in a year with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Secretary Kerry’s presence at an event attended mainly by members of the Jewish community appeared to indicate yet another step in the thawing of relations after the Iranian nuclear deal, which Israel adamantly opposed.
“No alliance of Israel’s is stronger than the one it shares with the United States of America," Kerry told the crowd to loud applause.
“Times may change,” he said, “but one thing we do know, America’s support for Israel’s dream and Israel’s security -- that will never change.”
Israel’s U.N. delegation, the American Jewish Committee and the Yad Chaim Herzog Association hosted the event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of a speech by then-Israeli U.N. Ambassador Chaim Herzog denouncing the adoption of a U.N. General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism.
An angry Herzog told the assembly that it was befitting that “the United Nations, which began its life as an anti-Nazi alliance, should 30 years later find itself on its way to becoming the world center of anti-Semitism.”
The Israeli diplomat later served as his country's sixth president for a decade.
The non-binding, but symbolic, resolution was revoked 16 years later, in 1991, in a vote of the world body, with many of the countries that originally voted for it voting to have it annulled.
Earlier Wednesday, Secretary Kerry met with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington. State Department spokesman John Kirby said they discussed concrete ideas for stopping the violence, improving conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, and moving the diplomatic process forward.
The Israeli prime minister did not attend the commemoration, but sent a video message in which he criticized the “systemic discrimination” and “irrational and excessive bashing” of Israel at the world body.
Also Wednesday, the European Union announced it would label some goods produced on Jewish settlements built on land occupied by Israel.
“This also is a biased and unjust act, and this shameful decision will also be repealed,” Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon told the gathering.
The European Union insisted the move is a "technical" issue, not a political stance. Netanyahu said the EU should be "ashamed" of its decision, comparing it to the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses before and during World War II.