Remarks by Mr. Miguel Moratinos
the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
at the High-Level Side Event on
The Role of the United Nations in Combatting Anti-Semitism
17 November 2020
It’s a pleasure to be addressing this important and timely topic and I thank the Permanent Mission of Germany and the World Jewish Congress for convening this meeting that is focused on the role of the United Nations in combatting anti-Semitism.
COVID19 pandemic has laid bare the fissures and holes in societies. Racism is one of those fissures . It was manifested in antisemitism, anti-Asian and anti-black, Islamophobia and all forms of discrimination and related intolerance. However, this hate speech phenomenon has existed and persisted even before the pandemic and at alarming rates.
Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are expanding their outreach spreading their twisted and poisonous ideologies on-line and off-line through mainstream media platforms but especially on the dark web. Anti-Semitic attacks were not only verbal but also physical where we have seen Jews murdered in synagogues and other public places and their graveyards desecrated by haters.
All this is an affront to the right of everyone to freedom of religion and belief and the freedom of practicing that right without fear. This right is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Following the important report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Secretary General has designated me since February 2020 to be the UN Focal Point to monitor anti-Semitism and to enhance a system-wide response to anti-Semitism. I have been reaching out to to Jewish Organizations and UN relevant entities and bodies. I plan to convene a meeting that will also involve like-minded member states to create synergies between relevant stakeholders and enhance a system-wide response based on a human rights approach. I see here many areas that we can tap into together such as :
1. Enforcing mechanisms for monitoring and reporting anti-semistm. I see that one of the challenges here is the absence of an internationally agreeable definition of antisemitism, which hinders the identification and reporting of the acts verbal or physical that are considered as antisemitic. I plan to work on having an agreement on a definition of anti-Semitism within the UN based on the IHRA definition which constitutes a basis to start from.
2. Continue to engage and collaborate with social media companies including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – which have recently have taken steps to remove egregious antisemitic content and close their authors’ accounts . However, there has been other cases of inconsistencies and we need to continue this engagement.& identify the red lines within the framework of international human rights law.
3. Governments which has the primary responsibility to protect its citizens, are encouraged to take a “robust approach” to combatting hate speech, but within the framework of international human rights law, which calls on governments to prohibit speech where it amounts to “advocacy of…religious hatred that constitutes incitement to hostility, discrimination or violence”
4. Peer-to-peer education to law enforcement and teachers. When equipped with knowledge, political parties, groups and movements, public officials will be better enabled to undertake their responsibilities in combating and curbing such crimes.
5. Developing global citizenship education programs with focus on anti-Semitism, and all other forms of discrimination based on race, religion, belief, ethnicity.
6. Mainstreaming combating anti-Semitism within the UN system, UNAOC will start doing that as of the new iterations across our priority areas with particular focus on youth.
In this context, I was very encouraged by the progress that substantive steps that many European countries have taken in combatting anti-semitism such as the growing number of countries endorsing the IHRA definition and the appointment of envoys and coordinators to oversee efforts in combatting anti-semitism.
Combatting hate speech, upholding the right of all to exercise their religion or belief freely and safely is also a priority for the United Nations. To this end, the Secretary General launched in 2019 the Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech and the UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites. Both plans complement each other.
The United Nations General Assembly have adopted resolution 60/7 which rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or in part, Resolution 61/255 condemns any denial of the Holocaust and urges all Member States unreservedly to reject any denial of the Holocaust.
Anti-Semitism have been often described as the “oldest hatred’”. I started by stressing that anti-Semitism must be understood in the broader context of racism and other forms of hatred and intolerance towards other faith communities.
I would like to conclude, by quoting the late Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom Jonathan Sachs who has famously said: “The hate that begins with Jews never ends there.”
I thank you.