UN failing to act against anti-Semitism, says watchdog

Geneva-based UN Watch releases new report finding UN agencies, officials and experts are failing to act against violence against Jews.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

United Nations Headquarters
United Nations Headquarters
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UN agencies, officials and experts tasked with combating racism are failing to act against hatred, incitement and violence against Jews, finds a major new report released on Monday by the Geneva-based watchdog UN Watch.

The group examined a decade of UN actions from 2008 through 2017.

The 40-page report, entitled “The United Nations and Antisemitism: 2008-2017 Report Card,” was presented in the Knesset in Jerusalem, at a hearing chaired by Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid.

“Our report’s findings are disturbing and clear: Key UN agencies, officials and experts are, with limited exceptions, turning a blind eye to escalating antisemitism worldwide,” said Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch.

Notably, UN Watch’s findings were corroborated last week by the UN itself. Speaking at a Geneva meeting, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, acknowledged the “scandalous lack of attention” paid by the UN human rights system to antisemitism.

UN Watch called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “to acknowledge the demonstrable failure of the world body when it comes to antisemitism, and to set forth an action plan that will mobilize key UN stakeholders, and in particular those within its human rights machinery, to exercise their responsibilities to confront bigotry, hate or violence targeting Jews worldwide.”

The report notes that Guterres, like his predecessors Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan, has made a series of positive statements about combating antisemitism. It also notes that the UN General Assembly hosted an informal meeting on anti-Semitism in 2015, that the UN’s Holocaust Outreach Program commemorates and teaches about the Holocaust and that UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, recently released a publication with the OSCE aimed at assisting policymakers in addressing anti-Semitism through education.

“Regrettably, however, the exceptions prove the rule,” said UN Watch in a statement. “Over a decade when Jews were targeted for slaughter in India, France, Belgium, Denmark and elsewhere—whether in a Jewish school, museum, synagogue or supermarket—the UN’s primary agencies and officials for addressing discrimination have, for the most part, turned a blind eye to anti-Semitism. UN plenaries like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, which enact hundreds of resolutions a year, including on subjects related to racial and religious discrimination, failed to address the threat of anti-Semitism, other than in a few passing words included in general statements. Until 2010, both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council adopted annual resolutions focused on the ‘defamation of Islam and Muslims,’ mandating special reports, yet there was never one resolution to address anti-Jewish hatred and violence.”

UN Watch further noted that during the course of his tenure from 2006 to 2016, Ban “issued more than 100 condemnations of terror attacks worldwide. When the attack targeted religious worshippers, mosques or Christian clergy, his condemnations included strong language against the targeting of people for their religious beliefs. By contrast, he refrained from employing similarly strong language regarding terrorist attacks against Jewish targets, many of which he did not condemn at all. In a decade marked by shocking anti-Semitic violence, Mr. Ban was often silent. While he proved quick to condemn an anti-Muslim film or statement by private parties, he failed to address pervasive, state-sanctioned incitement to anti-Semitism in the Middle East, including Iran’s Holocaust denial, Jewish conspiracy theories, and calls to commit genocide.”

The organization also points out the UN’s former High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who served from 2008 to 2014, “was likewise quick to condemn a film perceived as anti-Muslim, as well as ‘malicious’ cartoons by Charlie Hebdo.”

“Yet in the face of murderous physical attacks against Jews, such as the shooting at a Toulouse Jewish school, Pillay was typically silent. Worse, Pillay and her office repeatedly smeared Jewish organizations as ‘single-issue lobbyists’ for seeking to prevent anti-Semitism from infecting the UN’s 2009 Durban II conference on racism,” said UN Watch.

Similarly, the organization points out current High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein “has not only turned a blind eye to anti-Semitic incitement and violent attacks—even though he has addressed incitement against Muslims in Myanmar—but he has repeatedly engaged, as have other UN officials, in what Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt has called softcore Holocaust denial, through a series of statements that seek to de-Judaize the Holocaust.”

“The UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteurs on racism and freedom of religion ought to be the first UN experts to speak out against anti-Jewish discrimination and violence. However, as a rule, successive mandate-holders over the past decade have failed to comment on rising antisemitism, including the murderous incitement against Jews in the Arab and Muslim world, or deadly attacks in Europe and elsewhere. By contrast, they did speak out on behalf of other targeted groups,” continued UN Watch.

Expert bodies like the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which review country compliance with international treaties, should be affirmatively monitoring state parties for any anti-Semitic incitement or violence which puts Jews at risk, or infringes their rights to freely practice the Jewish religion, noted the watchdog.

“Yet an examination of the Human Rights Committee’s concluding observations for numerous state parties—including Arab and Muslim states where anti-Semitic incitement is rampant, as well as other states that have witnessed high levels of anti-Semitic incidents in the last ten years—reveals that antisemitism is of limited concern,” it said.

Similarly, the study of the CERD’s concluding observations for numerous countries, including Argentina, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, the UAE, Ukraine and Venezuela found that the 18-member body “rarely mentioned violent attacks on Jews or other forms of anti-Semitism, though it did devote attention to Islamophobia or discrimination against Roma.”

Moreover, said UN Watch, despite the fact that anti-Semitic incitement from the Arab and Muslim world has inspired attacks worldwide, the CERD addressed hate speech in these countries only when the speech was directed at other groups—but never when the target was Jews.


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