'It threatens all societies in which it goes unchallenged'

New UN report on combating anti-Semitism warns phenomenon ‘toxic’ to societies

Israel praises ‘unprecedented’ document, while claiming it cites BDS as a leading cause of Jew hatred — which the report does not

File: Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon addresses the United Nations Security Council, at UN headquarters, on January 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
File: Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon addresses the United Nations Security Council, at UN headquarters, on January 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

A new UN report on combating anti-Semitism has warned that the phenomenon is on the rise in the world, particularly among white supremacists and Islamists, and is “toxic” to societies in which it allowed to proliferate. It urged governments to act to curb hatred through outreach and education.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon on Monday praised the report, and particularly what he said was its “determination” that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) “encourages anti-Semitism” — though the document actually made no such claim.

The report by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed, said that anti-Semitic incidents were on the rise in several countries that follow such trends, creating “a climate of fear among a substantial number of Jews, impairing their right to manifest their religion.”

It warned that “anti-Semitism, if left unchecked by governments, poses risks not only to Jews, but also to members of other minority communities” because it is “toxic to democracy… and threatens all societies in which it goes unchallenged.”

The report also said the issue has received “scant attention as a human rights issue” and noted that “in many states anti-Semitic harassment is significantly under-reported.”

It urged nations to “identify, document, and prohibit” incidents of anti-Semitic hate
crimes, to grow government outreach to Jewish communities and to work on education and awareness programs to stop the spread of hateful views.

File: Ahmed Shaheed in London, 15 April 2013. (Wikimedia/OGL/UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

As for the causes behind the rise in anti-Semitism, the rapporteur cited growing use of anti-Semitic tropes by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and radical Islamists; and it took note of reports “left-wing anti-Semitism” in various countries, “in which individuals claiming to hold anti-racist and anti-imperialist views employ anti-Semitic narratives or tropes in the course of expressing anger at policies or practices of the Government of Israel.”

The report went on to say it “notes claims that the objectives, activities and effects
of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement are fundamentally antisemitic.” However it went on to note that “these allegations are rejected by the BDS movement.”

Possibly misreading this statement, Israel’s mission to the UN said the report “stresses” that the BDS movement is one of the chief causes of rising anti-Semitism and is “fundamentally anti-Semitic.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon speaks to members of the UN Security Council during an emergency session on the Israel-Gaza Conflict at United Nations headquarters in New York on May 30, 2018. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)

Israeli envoy Danon said in a statement: “We welcome the publication of an unprecedented report on behalf of world nations against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism. The report is another example of the change in the UN [attitude] towards Israel and the determination that the BDS movement encourages anti-Semitism is an important statement by the UN.”

He added: “Anti-Semitism has no place in our society, and must be denunciated everywhere.”

In late August the UN’s anti-racism committee criticized Palestinian authorities, calling on them to act against “racist hate speech and hate crimes,” including incitement to violence against Israelis and Jews.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in a report on the Palestinians said it was concerned about “hate speech in certain media outlets, especially those controlled by Hamas, social media, public officials’ statements and school curricula and textbooks, which fuels hatred and may incite violence, particularly hate speech against Israelis, which at times also fuels anti-Semitism.”

The report marked the first time the panel had criticized Palestinian officials, according to UN Watch, a Geneva-based organization that addressed the session leading to the report.

Earlier in the month during a review of the “State of Palestine,” some delegates at the committee referred to examples of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish content in Palestinian textbooks and state-owned media outlets.

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