On Friday, 70 years after its founding, the United Nations finally recognized the holiest day of the Jewish calendar as an official holiday. The designation ensures that no official meetings will take place on Yom Kippur, and that U.N. employees can choose not to work on it. Previously, Jews who wished to observe the penitential fast day were given no such dispensation, even as New York—the home of the U.N. headquarters—had long declared Yom Kippur to be a school holiday.
The move to add Yom Kippur to the U.N.’s list of official holidays—which already includes two Christian and two Muslim holy days—was spearheaded by the Israeli delegation, with the backing of the United States, in a campaign launched last year. The initiative picked up additional steam when two U.S. Jewish leaders published an op-ed in The New York Times in August 2014 calling on the U.N. to take the long overdue step of recognizing Yom Kippur. In September, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made an unscheduled appearance at a pre-Yom Kippur ritual organized by the Israeli Mission and attended by many ambassadors, lending tacit support to the cause of recognition.
While granting that recognition might seem like a no-brainer—and denying it might seem anti-Semitic—not everyone was in favor of the move. Most notably, Ali Abunimah, founding editor of Electronic Intifada and a leader of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel, darkly insinuated that prejudice against Jews would increase should the U.N. recognize Judaism’s holiest day:
Making Yom Kippur a UN holiday to honor the genocidal “state” of Israel would be sure way to increase global anti-Jewish sentiment.
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) August 27, 2014
Unfortunately for Abunimah, the U.N. apparently disagreed with his novel notion that it should disrespect Jews and their traditions in order to decrease anti-Semitism.
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