Israeli envoy: The UN, founded on the ashes of the Holocaust, is failing its purpose

Gilad Erdan says world body holds ‘heinous double standard’ against Jewish state, calls for action against officials who have made antisemitic statements

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Gilad Erdan, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, January 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Gilad Erdan, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, January 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

UNITED NATIONS — Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, lashed the world body for its disproportionate focus on Israel and for antisemitism in its ranks in a speech to the General Assembly on Friday marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The UN was founded upon the ashes of the Holocaust. It was established to ensure such darkness never befell humanity again,” Erdan said. “It is a living monument to the horrors suffered by the Jewish people.”

“As such, it is the UN’s responsibility to lead the world in combating hatred, yet when it comes to fighting antisemitism, sadly, the UN ignores its purpose,” he said to an audience that included UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Holocaust survivors and Erdan’s parents, the children of survivors.

“Educational programs are very, very important. Learning about history is crucial. But at a time when antisemitism is on the rise and Holocaust denial is spreading, words are not enough,” Erdan said. “In the past year, what has the UN done to combat bigotry? There’s a politicized — we all know it — and an institutionalized bias among member states. This bias is the source of the disproportionate number of anti-Israel resolutions.”

The UN General Assembly condemned Israel more than all other countries combined last year, and the Jewish State is the only country with a mandated agenda item at every session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“Mandating Israel bashing at every council session, singling out the one and only Jewish state — yes, it is antisemitism, and on Holocaust Remembrance Day it is our duty to call out this heinous double standard,” Erdan said.

He blasted the UN for inaction against officials who have made antisemitic statements, including two UN-appointed investigators into Israel, Miloon Kothari and Francesca Alabanese.

UN commissioners Navi Pillay, left, and Miloon Kothari, center, discuss their probe into Israel and the Palestinians at the United Nations in New York, October 27, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Kothari, a member of the UN’s Commission of Inquiry into Israel, said last year that the “Jewish lobby” controlled social media and questioned why Israel was allowed in the UN. Albanese, the special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, has said the “Jewish lobby” has subjugated the US, compared Israelis to the Nazis, sympathized with terror groups and said Israel starts wars out of greed. Her antisemitism was exposed by The Times of Israel last year. Both investigators are harshly critical of Israel and their official UN reports almost entirely ignore Palestinian terror and violence.

“Similar to Mr. Kothari, Ms. Albanese still remains in her role and has been met with zero UN condemnations,” Erdan said.

Neither official has faced any repercussions from the UN for their antisemitism. Guterres has spoken out against antisemitism in the past year amid controversy over their statements. His office has said the investigators are appointed by the Human Rights Council and are outside of his purview.

A bipartisan group of US Congress members this week called on Guterres to remove Albanese from her position.

Erdan also blasted the UN agency for the Palestinians, UNRWA, for antisemitism in its ranks, said other UN agencies distort casualty figures for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by minimizing Israeli deaths, and censured the UN for not adopting the widely accepted IHRA definition of antisemitism.

“When it comes to anything related to Isreal this organization is very quick to respond and condemn, but when it comes to Jew hatred the silence is deafening,” he said. “This double standard is disgraceful.”

“We all know that the libels of antisemitism are always followed by horrific actions, so I beg you that our words today also be followed by actions. The UN must remember its mission and history. It must take a stand against antisemitism,” Erdan said.

Israel’s UN envoy Gilad Erdan, left, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, center, and Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan, right, view a Holocaust installation at the UN Headquarters in New York, January 26, 2023. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Guterres, speaking ahead of Erdan, likened today’s climate to the rhetoric in 1930s Germany that led to the Holocaust, saying the rise of the Nazis was made possible by “the indifference, if not connivance, of so many millions.”

“We now know the terrifying depths of the abyss into which Germany would plunge, but the alarm bells were already ringing in 1933. Too few bothered to listen, and fewer still spoke out. Today, we can hear echoes of those same siren songs to hate,” he said.

“The painful truth is antisemitism is everywhere. In fact, it is increasing in intensity,” he said, citing surveys and attacks on Jews in New York, Los Angeles, Australia and Germany.

Guterres was especially critical of rhetoric on the internet and the entities responsible.

“The threat is global, and it is growing. And a leading accelerant of this growth is the online world. Today, I am issuing an urgent appeal to everyone with influence across the information ecosystem – regulators, policymakers, technology companies, the media, civil society and governments. Stop the hate. Set up guardrails, and enforce them,” he said.

On Thursday, Guterres, Erdan and Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan toured an installation at UN headquarters commemorating the Holocaust. Yad Vashem’s “Book of names” contains personal information about all known victims of the Nazi genocide.

In addition to the speeches and display at UN headquarters in New York, commemorative events took place Friday at the UN Human Rights Council, including memorial ceremonies and talks by survivors.

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