Itongadol.- In a meeting held on Tuesday evening (26 January 2016) of the UN Committee on Non Governmental Organizations, ZAKA Search and Rescue was unanimously granted advisory status at the UN as an official body, after a four year struggle for recognition. This status at the UN gives the volunteer organization the right to take part in official UN discussions and conferences that are open for such organizations. The decision represents a significant diplomatic victory for the Israeli delegation to the UN and for Israeli diplomacy.
ZAKA granted official advisory status by UN Committee on NGOs
In 2005, ZAKA was recognized by the UN as an international volunteer humanitarian organization. For the last four years, the Jerusalem-based NGO has been trying to upgrade its status and receive recognition as an advisory body with official observer status. However, each time the request was denied. The decision is taken in a special committee made up of 19 member states, including Iran, Sudan, Venezuela, Cuba, Turkey, China, Russia, Pakistan, Uruguay, Burundi, Greece, USA and Israel.
In a vote that took place six months ago, the committee decided to recognize the Palestinian Return Center, a Hamas-affiliated and British-based organization that promotes anti-Israel propaganda in Europe, and, once again, reject the request from ZAKA. This, despite the fact that, in response to questions asking if the organization operates in the territories, ZAKA US representative Zvi Gluck responded that ZAKA operates in every place where it is asked to help, regardless of religion, race, creed or gender. ZAKA also clarified that ZAKA volunteers often help Palestinian victims in traffic accidents and other mass casualty incidents.
It was decided by the Israeli delegation to the UN, in cooperation with the US delegation, to once again raise the issue of a vote for ZAKA\’s recognition in January 2016. In the last few months, there has been considerable international diplomatic activity to ensure the consent of the member countries. At the behest of the Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and the Foreign Ministry Director-General Dr. Dore Gold, the issue of recognition for ZAKA became a diplomatic endeavor for the State of Israel, with Israeli ambassadors around the world working to persuade member countries to vote in favor of ZAKA.
The Israeli delegation to the United Nations, previously headed by Ambassador Ron Prosor and now headed by Ambassador Danny Danon and his deputy David Roet, has spearheaded the campaign, meeting with dozens of UN representatives and helping arrange one-on-one meetings with representatives of the member states for the head of the ZAKA International Rescue Unit Mati Goldstein. Goldstein traveled to New York for the meetings, explaining to each representative the scope of the international activities of ZAKA at dozens of mass casualty incidents around the world – including natural disasters and terror attacks – where ZAKA volunteers treat all the victims, regardless of religion, race or creed. Hotevely also met with several of the UN representatives and the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berele Lazar, was also influential in persuading the Foreign Office in Russia to support the decision.
Tuesday\’s unanimous decision will be brought to next month\’s meeting of the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC) for their approval. ZAKA will also serve as an advisory body to ECOSOC, which, with its 54 member states, works to promote health, economic and social issues.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely praised the announcement, saying: "I congratulate the members of the Foreign Ministry and our embassy at the United Nations, under the leadership of Danny Danon, for ZAKA\’s success in securing UN advisory status. I was happy to meet ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav and to support their acceptance as much as possible. ZAKA is an important organization that does holy work every day of the year, and a group like this should certainly be part of an international body such as the UN."
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon: "This is a very significant victory for Israeli diplomacy. ZAKA is an organization that reflects Israel\’s moral values and its acceptance by the UN represents conclusive proof to the world of this fact. ZAKA received the status it deserves."
ZAKA Founder and Chairman Yehuda Meshi Zahav praised the move, saying, "It is a great honor for the State of Israel in general and the ZAKA organization and its volunteers in particular that the UN recognizes and appreciates the unique sacred mission that we do, regardless of religion, race or creed. The professional, humanitarian efforts of ZAKA around the globe, combined with the complex and sensitive diplomatic efforts of the UN delegation, have resulted in the official UN recognition of ZAKA." Meshi Zahav added that, with the coveted recognition, ZAKA will expand its international search, rescue and recovery missions, working in continued close cooperation with international emergency forces.
Mati Goldstein, head of the ZAKA International Rescue Unit, added: "After years of working at terror sites and at mass casualty incidents in Israel and offering assistance to all who need, ZAKA has received a unique status that will allow us to continue our sacred work around the world." Goldstein added words of praise and gratitude for all those who had helped and worked so tirelessly over the last four years to achieve this coveted status.