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Israeli delegation did not boycott Obama’s U.N. speech

The seats assigned to the Israeli delegation were vacant when President Obama delivered his Thursday morning speech to the United Nations, but that was not a snub directed at Obama, an Israeli official tells The Cable. "It’s the religious holiday of Sukkot," the official e-mailed, referring to the Jewish holiday that falls on the 15th ...

The seats assigned to the Israeli delegation were vacant when President Obama delivered his Thursday morning speech to the United Nations, but that was not a snub directed at Obama, an Israeli official tells The Cable.

"It’s the religious holiday of Sukkot," the official e-mailed, referring to the Jewish holiday that falls on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei, according to the Jewish lunar calendar. Sukkot is the beginning of seven days of festivities centered around the autumn harvest.

We excused ourselves in advance to the U.S. delegation to the U.N. and the administration and explained it is the Jewish Holiday," the official said.

Nevertheless, several conservative blogs posted a video showing the vacant chairs, one with the headline "Video: Israel Delegation BOYCOTTS Obama UN Address."

"For people to suggest that the Israelis were absent for any other reason than the Jewish holiday is wrong, and depending on who it’s coming from, could be malicious," said Josh Block, spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The seats assigned to the Israeli delegation were vacant when President Obama delivered his Thursday morning speech to the United Nations, but that was not a snub directed at Obama, an Israeli official tells The Cable.

"It’s the religious holiday of Sukkot," the official e-mailed, referring to the Jewish holiday that falls on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei, according to the Jewish lunar calendar. Sukkot is the beginning of seven days of festivities centered around the autumn harvest.

We excused ourselves in advance to the U.S. delegation to the U.N. and the administration and explained it is the Jewish Holiday," the official said.

Nevertheless, several conservative blogs posted a video showing the vacant chairs, one with the headline "Video: Israel Delegation BOYCOTTS Obama UN Address."

"For people to suggest that the Israelis were absent for any other reason than the Jewish holiday is wrong, and depending on who it’s coming from, could be malicious," said Josh Block, spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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