Mr. Miguel Moratinos, The High Representative for UNAOC
WJC International Meeting of the Special Envoys
and Coordinators Combating Anti-Semitism
19 November 2020
It’s my pleasure to participate for the first time in your meeting and to be sharing the floor with such distinguished personalities who are dedicated to a shared objective that is combatting Anti-Semitism.
This meeting is very timely and it complements the previous discussions in the past weeks spearheaded by the World Jewish Congress. I believe that we all agree that stemming out anti-Semitism requires a holistic approach that aims at combating and eliminating all forms of discrimination and acts of intolerance or violence that targets Jews, and / or all adherents of other religions or beliefs. It is also imperative that is an all-of-society approach based on international human rights.
According to the 2020 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance and a study by the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, there has been an 18% increase in anti-Semitism globally alone. Such incidents were not limited to anti-Semitic rhetoric but also attacks on Jewish religious and sacred sites. Such incidents were fueled by conspiracy theories that COVID19 virus had been manufactured and spread by Jews and/or Israel as a form of biological warfare. It is to be noted that that thousands of officially recorded incidents take place each year in EU countries. Terrorist attacks, like on the synagogue in Halle in 2019 and on the kosher supermarket in Paris in 2015 and in Graz, Austria last August show us that, anti-Semitism has not been eliminated in Europe despite earnest efforts by many European member states.
However, anti-Semitism and acts of violence targeting Jews and their places of worship attacks are not confined within European borders. Last month marked the second anniversary of the deadliest attack on Jews in US history, the attack on the Tree of Life or L’Simcha synagogue in Pittsburg in which 11 Jews were brutally murdered. Few months later another attack took place on the Chabad of Poway in San Diego. Both hate crimes were perpetrated by white supremacists who spewed their poisonous content on social media targeting migrants and other minorities.
It is therefore important to note as well that the rise of anti-Semitism must be understood in the context of broad and rampant racism and other forms of hatred and intolerance affecting other groups as well. Extremists and radical groups have exploited the vacuum created by the pandemic due to extended lockdowns, reliability on digital communications, fear and erosion of trust in political institutions, to promote their twisted ideologies.
The main takeaway here is that Hate is the common denominator in all these forms of discrimination practiced against specific communities on the account of their religion, belief, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. And hate towards Jews is one of the main drivers of those physical and verbal attacks that we have been witnessing.
Two days ago, I was pleased to participate in the High level side event organized by Germany and the World Jewish Congress on the role of the UN in combatting antisemitism. It was a very informative meeting as we listened to state and non-state actors as they outlined the work and pledges they are undertaking to stem out anti-Semitism.
Since this is the first time to be in the presence of the distinguished envoys and coordinators of combatting anti-Semitism, I would like to re-iterate few points that I outlined in that meeting:
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 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-Semitism. I see that one of the challenges here is the absence of an internationally agreeable definition of anti-Semitism, which hinders the identification and reporting of the acts verbal or physical that are considered as anti-Semitic. 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 anti-Semitic content and close their authors’ accounts. However, there has been other cases of inconsistencies and we need to continue this engagement and 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 and at the same time promoting religious freedom and mutual respect .
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.
I hope that together, we will identify synergies in our work so that we can eliminate the menace posed by anti-Semitism.
I look forward to collaborating with you.