UN rights chief says US not doing enough against anti-Semitism
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UN rights chief says US not doing enough against anti-Semitism

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein says 'greater and more consistent leadership' necessary to combat 'surge' in Jew hatred

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, gives a speech at the opening of a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council on February 27, 2017, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, gives a speech at the opening of a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council on February 27, 2017, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on Wednesday that US President Donald Trump needs to do more to combat anti-Semitism and racism in the US.

“Greater and more consistent leadership is needed to address the recent surge in discrimination, anti-Semitism, and violence against ethnic and religious minorities” in the US, he said at a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Zeid’s comments were made a day after a number of Jewish community centers and Jewish institutions received threats in the sixth such an incident since the start of the year.

At least three Jewish cemeteries in the US have also been desecrated over the past month, with vandals toppling hundreds of headstones.

Vandalized Jewish tombstones are framed through a hole in the fence surrounding Mount Carmel Cemetery February 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP)
Vandalized Jewish tombstones are framed through a hole in the fence surrounding Mount Carmel Cemetery February 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP)

While the White House has condemned the anti-Semitism, Jewish leaders have called for action to back up the words.

A man looks at fallen tombstones at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery, February 26, 2017, in Philadelphia, PA. (AFP/Dominick Reuter)
A man looks at fallen tombstones at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery, February 26, 2017, in Philadelphia, PA. (AFP/Dominick Reuter)

In addition to condemning the lack of movement over the recent swell of anti-Semitic and racist incidents, Zeid also singled out Trump’s policies on immigration, saying they may violate international law.

“Expedited deportations could amount to collective expulsions and refoulement, in breach of international law, if undertaken without due process guarantees, including individual assessment,” he said.

“Vilification of entire groups such as Mexicans and Muslims, and false claims that migrants commit more crimes than US citizens, are harmful and fuel xenophobic abuses,” he added.

Zeid said he was worried about the revised executive order issued Monday banning travelers from six Muslim-majority countries, while also adding that he was “dismayed” by “attempts by the [US] president to intimidate or undermine journalists and judges.”

He also criticized Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, condemning recent settlement building and accusing Israel of using disproportionate force against rocket attacks.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein gives a speech on the opening of a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council on February 27, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein gives a speech on the opening of a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council on February 27, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

Zeid’s criticism of the US came after Politico reported last month that the US is considering cutting its ties with the Human Rights Council in protest of the body’s actions in general, and specifically its treatment of Israel.

“There’s been a series of requests coming from the secretary of state’s office that suggests that [Secretary of State Rex Tillerson] is questioning the value of the US belonging to the Human Rights Council,” a former official was quoted as saying.

Citing two well-connected sources, the report said that one of the main reasons behind the US entertaining the option of leaving the UN body was its treatment of the Jewish state, which US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has described as unfair.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks to reporters after a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, Thursday, February 16, 2017 at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks to reporters after a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, Thursday, February 16, 2017 at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

After her first meeting at the UN Security Council in February, Haley called out the Human Rights Council for “breathtaking double standards” and “outrageously biased resolutions” against Israel.

In a speech earlier this month before a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, US envoy Erin Barclay called on the body to drop its “obsession with Israel,” which she described as “consistent, unfair and unbalanced.”

“No other nation is the focus of an entire agenda item… The obsession with Israel… is the largest threat to this council’s credibility,” she said. “It limits the good we can accomplish by making a mockery of this council. The United States will oppose any effort to delegitimize or isolate Israel.”

US envoy Erin Barclay addresses the United Nations Human Rights Council March 1, 2017 (Screen capture: UNHRC)
US envoy Erin Barclay addresses the United Nations Human Rights Council March 1, 2017 (Screen capture: UNHRC)

Should Trump’s administration opt out of the UNHRC, it wouldn’t be the first to shun the body.

When the UNHRC was created out of the discredited UN Human Rights Commission in 2006, then-US president George W. Bush refused to join the new group, believing that it would lack credibility and that, like its predecessor, it would allow human right violators to become members.

In 2009, president Barack Obama reversed that decision, hoping to improve the UNHRC.

When asked about the Politico report by a reporter during a press briefing on Tuesday, State Department Spokesman Mark Toner dismissed it as “rumors that may have been circulating out there” and said the US is “hard at work on the ground” and “bringing an agenda” to the Human Rights Council’s meetings this month.

Judah Ari Gross and AP contributed to this report.

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