Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the Vice Presidential candidate on Senator John McCain’s Republican ticket, has been dropped from the list of dignitaries that are to speak at a key rally in New York on Monday. Bowing to threats from Jewish Democratic groups, the organizers decided to withdraw her invitation days after Senator Hillary Clinton cancelled her own participation in the rally.
The focus of the rally, scheduled to take place Monday at the Dag Hammerskjold Plaza in front of United Nations headquarters in New York, is the upcoming arrival of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the United States to speak at the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly. The demonstration expressed the anger of many Jews and supporters of Israel at the U.N. for inviting Ahmadinejad to speak in front of the world at the year’s largest international venue. “This is a terrible embarrassment, politically, to the Jewish community,” said Michael Fragin, adding that organizers had no reason to fear the threats.
Organizers are calling for the U.N. to hold Iran’s president accountable for his calls to “wipe Israel off the map,” which they say is an incitement to genocide and thus a clear violation of the U.N.’s Charter Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The rally will call for the U.N. to bring Ahmadinejad to justice, joining demands from various legal experts and government officials in the U.S. and Israel that the leader be brought to the International Criminal Court at the Hague for what many feel to be his promotion of another Holocaust against the Jews.
Senator Clinton spoke at a similar rally last year, and she was expected to attend Monday’s rally. Meanwhile, rally organizers decided to add Governor Palin, the Republican Vice-Presidential contender, to the list of speakers in order to draw attention to their cause. Upon hearing that a such a high-profile candidate from her rival party was attending, Clinton withdrew from the event earlier this week.
“[Palin's] attendance was news to us, and this was never billed to us as a partisan political event,” said a spokeswoman for Sen. Clinton. She did not explain how having representatives from both major parties at the event would make the event a “partisan” one, nor how the presence of only the Democratic senator would have made the event a non-partisan one.
The rally, organized by the National Coalition to Stop Iran Now, is sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, United Jewish Communities, U.J.A.-Federation of New York, and Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
On Thursday, Senator John McCain, the Republican Presidential candidate, announced that the organizers have pulled Gov. Palin off the list in response to pressure from Democratic groups, contradicting claims from the Democrats that they were trying to avoid a “partisan political event.”
"Gov. Palin was pleased to accept an invitation to address this rally and show her resolve on this grave national security issue, regrettably that invitation has since been withdrawn under pressure from Democratic partisans," said McCain.
"We stand shoulder to shoulder with Republicans, Democrats and independents alike to oppose Ahmadinejad's goal of a nuclear armed Iran. Senator Obama's campaign had the opportunity to join us. Senator Obama chose politics rather than the national interest."
'Jewish Democrats Resort to Threats'
One activist who is scheduled to attend the rally said that the pressure to drop Palin from the event came from Jewish Democrats among the event’s organizers. The organizers also invited Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Biden, who has reportedly told Israeli officials that they "will just have to accept a nuclear armed Iran." Biden will not be attending the event.
The Jewish Star reports that threats to revoke the rally organizers’ non-profit status were made by certain Democratics in order to pressure them into cancelling Palin’s appearance.
“There were threats of IRS problems against some of the organizations,” said one anonymous source.
“This is a terrible embarrassment, politically, to the Jewish community,” said Michael Fragin, a former aide to New York Governor George Pataki, adding that organizers had no reason to fear the threats.
“That is totally inaccurate. As long as you don’t endorse, and as long as you do not deny access to a single side … there is no impediment” to tax-exempt status ,said Fragin.
He pointed out that if the organizers invite the Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Obama, for example, and then “you tell McCain he cannot come, then you would run afoul of the IRS. But if one side chooses not to show up, that’s not your fault.”
Rabbi Zev Friedman, the head of the Machon HaTorah yeshiva in New York State, said he was “shocked” by the decidely un-'democratic' decision of the organizers to withdraw the invitation Gov. Palin’s invitation.“If [Clinton] wants to pull out for political reasons I think that speaks volumes.”
Calling the move “foolhardy,” Rabbi Friedman added, “If [Clinton] wants to pull out for political reasons I think that speaks volumes.”
'Iran Threat a Major World Crisis'
David Parsons, media director for the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, emphasized the critical importance of Monday’s rally. “It’s like 9/11, like the hurricane,” he said, pointing out that the Iranian president’s genocidal rhetoric presented a severe crisis to global security, especially in light of the rapidly materializing threat of a nuclear Iran.
“I think there are lessons we can take from Hitler,” said Parsons, whose group organized a petition to be delivered to U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, demanding that Ahmadinejad be brought to justice rather than honored by the U.N.
The petition was signed by 55,000 people in 128 countries.
“When someone develops a warped self-awareness, like Hitler had about being the ‘fuhrer’ of the fatherland, and makes threats against the Jews, and then develops the means to carry them out, we should take all this seriously,” Parsons explained.