Last month, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, released the first UN human rights report wholly dedicated to anti-Semitism. In his report, Shaheed found that anti-Semitic incidents have created a “climate of fear” among Jews and refers to anti-Semitism as a threat that is “toxic to democracy.”
In a New York conversation with People of the Pod co-host Seffi Kogen, Shaheed said that prior to writing the report he had observed how disengaged the UN was on the subject of anti-Semitism and, at the same time, how violent the increasing anti-Semitic attacks were. His report, he said, is “long overdue” and a good starting point for the UN to use its global reach to address the issue.
Weekly podcast People of the Pod is produced in partnership between the American Jewish Committee and The Times of Israel. We take you beyond the headlines and analyze global affairs through a Jewish lens.
According to Felice Gaer, director of the AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur is an independent human rights expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. Shaheed, a former foreign minister of the Maldives, is now Deputy Director of the Human Rights Centre at the UK’s University of Essex.
Freedom of expression is essential — even in fighting anti-Semitism, said Shaheed. However, in addition to traditional physical and verbal attacks, the online dimension is quite a significant forum for anti-Semitism, he said.
Anti-Semitism comes in a variety of forms and is apparent across almost the entire spectrum of politics and religious beliefs, he said. The prejudice isn’t necessarily about Jews, but is a manifestation of the dark underbelly of society in general.
Shaheed calls for putting proper laws in place and for the UN to appoint a high-level envoy to address the issue.
“I think we should look at intolerance in all its forms,” said Shaheed, but anti-Semitism is both a specific hatred and a widespread prejudice that is endemic almost everywhere and manifested in extreme violence. “If we can address anti-Semitism effectively, then we will have the tools to address other hatreds,” he said.
Next, we have a special report from five meters underneath Jerusalem. Ahead of Sukkot, the Times of Israel’s Jewish Times editor Amanda Borschel-Dan takes listeners to the City of David’s 2000-year-old Stepped Street, an ancient road that Jewish pilgrims walked to reach the Temple Mount.
The working archaeological site, deep under a bustling east Jerusalem Arab neighborhood adjacent to the City of David National Park, is not yet open for tourists. Borschel-Dan tours with Israel Antiquities Authority excavation director Ari Levy and discusses the history of the Pilgrims’ Path, as well as the methodology used to excavate it.
For a more in-depth look, see Borschel-Dan’s recent article and videos by TOI’s Luke Tress: On an ancient road to the Temple, archaeological innovation, mystery and dispute.
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