U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, greets Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

NEW YORK – With the leader many call “today’s Hitler” addressing the United Nations General Assembly, it’s no surprise hundreds of people rallied near the U.N. yesterday in vocal protest of the return to New York of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

After all, the Iranian leader has repeatedly and unambiguously called for the total annihilation of Israel – which he describes as a “filthy, black germ” – denies the Holocaust ever happened, and is by all accounts engaged in a full-throttle quest for nuclear weapons.

Thus, security measures at the United Nations have been at an all-time high. Teams of reporters follow a maze of barricades to gain access to the U.N. building through the bowels of the main tower. Bomb detection dogs wag their tails, bobbing in and out of cars and electronic cases.

Yesterday, school buses from throughout the Tri-State area unloaded children who were ready to participate in the now annual rally protesting the visit of the Iranian president. But there were several groups among the crowds seemingly angrier at the withdrawal of both vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Joel, who was holding a sign reading “Christian in Support of Israel,” had flown in from Buffalo, N.Y., to attend the rally: “It’s a shame Clinton decided to make this political, there was plenty of room for both of them.”

Joel understood his concern for Israel as a natural extension of his faith: “Christians support a safe and secure Israel. We believe in Israel and the Jewish people and we should not stand by as witnesses to another Holocaust.”

“This isn’t just about Jews, it’s an international issue,” added Ann Greenfield, who identified herself as an experienced veteran of Jewish affairs in New York. “The Iranian president is an enemy of the world,” she said.

Greenfield was with several “concerned citizens” collecting signatures in protest of the Sarah Palin withdrawal from addressing the rally.

Esther Ehrenberg, who was also collecting signatures, agreed. Both ladies hesitated to comment on the political fallout of Hillary Clinton’s refusal to speak, but intended to force an apology to Sarah Palin who was abruptly disinvited from speaking at the rally.

“I am ashamed of my own people,” said Mort Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, a major Jewish organization that dates back to 1898. Talking to WND by phone, Klein, a major figure in Jewish issues, said: “I would have fought strongly not to withdraw the Palin invitation. But I wasn’t consulted, no one was consulted.”

After the Palin announcement, all other politicians withdrew from addressing the rally.

For instance, added Klein, “Florida Congressman Robert Wexler was coming.”

Several observers suggested that rally organizers were threatened with having their tax-exempt status revoked if vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin spoke. But no one WND contacted was willing to make that allegation on the record.

The U.N. Security Council has moved to sanction Iran on three occasions and to force that nation to halt uranium enrichment – a process most agree will lead to the construction of a nuclear bomb. Ahmadinejad insists his aims are peaceful, but his repeated incendiary comments have put Israel on a state of high alert.

In 2006, in a televised speech from Tehran, the Iranian president told his audience, “We say that this fake regime [Israel] cannot logically continue to live.” Since then, the Iranian president has only ratcheted up his rhetoric.

In a corner of the rally, a half-dozen members of the antiwar group Code Pink held signs insisting the American government use diplomacy and renounce war.

Observers estimated the crowd this year was noticeably smaller than the year before.

“The politicians are the only ones who have any real influence here,” said one, “and none of them showed up.”

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