NEW YORK – Thousands of demonstrators gathered in east Manhattan Monday to protest Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s participation in the United Nations General Assembly. The rally, organized by several North American Jewish organizations, was attended by Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, Natan Sharnasky, and Elie Wiesel, among others.
In his speech, Wiesel advised the Iranian leader to “go home and stay home,” saying that his place was not at the UN, but rather, at the international war crimes tribunal, where he should be tried for crimes against humanity. Wiesel slammed Ahmadinejad for repeatedly calling for Israel’s extermination and for preaching hatred and nuclear destruction.
Protestor at the rally (Photo: Dana Zimmerman)
The Holocaust survivor and acclaimed author said Iran’s president should be treated as a “persona non grata” worldwide, and added that even if he does not yet know this, he will be ultimately arrested. Wiesel also urged all UN delegations to leave the room the moment Ahmadinejad takes the podium.
Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Itzik said that she never believed that threats to the existence of the Jewish people will be uttered again, declaring that the “nightmare is back” to her regret. Some may think that Ahmadinejad is crazy or arrogant, she said, but bitter experience has taught us to “take him seriously”. However, Itzik stressed that this time around the world will not remain silent and will not ignore the Iranian president’s words.
“The Free World must act to stop him,” Itzik said, adding that the horrors of the Holocaust would not be repeated.
Security concerns at rallyMeanwhile, Ynet learned that Israeli and American security officials initially attempted to prevent Itzik from speaking due to security concerns. However, the Knesset speaker insisted on addressing the crowd, eventually prompting her to agree to a compromise and wear a bullet-proof vest.
“It wasn’t very pleasant, but those were unequivocal demands by security officials, and Itzik had no choice but to comply,” a source familiar with the matter said.
The protestors on hand, both Jews and Christians, held up signs slamming Ahmadinejad for threatening the US and Israel and calling on the world to stop Iran. Some demonstrators used the occasion to refer to the upcoming US elections, holding up signs praising Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin and criticizing Hillary Clinton. Other protestors, apparently affected by the recent Kadima primaries in Israel and Tzipi Livni’s victory, chanted “Tzipi, Tzipi.”
Amnon Meranda contributed to this report