UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) — The UN General Assembly opened a special session on Thursday to denounce the global rise of anti-Semitism, two weeks after Islamist attacks in Paris that shocked the world.
French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy told the 193-nation assembly that the world must confront “the renewed advance of this radical inhumanity, this total baseness that is anti-Semitism.”
While the meeting was scheduled before the attacks on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Paris kosher supermarket, it took on a fresh sense of urgency in the wake of the violence.
Four Jews were killed in the January 9 attack on a kosher deli that followed the slaying of 12 people in the assault on the Charlie Hebdo weekly in the worst violence in France in decades.
“In Paris, just a few days ago, we heard once again the infamous cry ‘Death to the Jews’ and cartoonists were killed because of cartooning, police for policing and Jews just for shopping and being Jews,” Levy said.
“In other capitals in Europe and elsewhere, faulting the Jews is once again becoming the rallying cry of a new order of assassins, unless it is the same but cloaked in new habits.”
Levy recalled that the United Nations was created in the wake of World War II and the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust that led to calls to “never again” allow genocide.
“This assembly was given the sacred task of preventing those terrible spirits from re-awakening, but they have returned and that is why we are here,” said Levy.
Thirty-seven countries including Israel, the United States, all 28 countries of the European Union, Canada and Australia requested the meeting in October.
“The world pledged ‘never again,’ but here we are again,” Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor told the assembly. “Seventy years after the Holocaust ended, European Jews are once again living in fear.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recalled that UN efforts were being severely tested by rising extremism but said conflict in the Middle East should not serve as a pretext for violence.
“Grievances about Israeli actions must never be used as an excuse to attack Jews. In the same vein, criticisms of Israeli actions should not be summarily dismissed as anti-Semitism,” said Ban.
Levy also evoked the crisis in the Middle East and rejected the view that Israeli-Palestinian tensions were fueling anti-Semitism.
“Even if Israel was exemplary — a nation of angels — even if they granted the Palestinians a state which is their right, even then this enigmatic and old hatred would not dissipate one iota,” said Levy.
France’s minister for Europe, Harlem Desir, said the world must respond resolutely to acts of anti-Semitism and recalled that his government had taken steps to protect Jewish sites, combat hate on the Internet and promote tolerance through education.
“Those who attack Jews in France because they are Jews are also attacking France, its values, the republic and its integrity,” Desir told the assembly.