UN chief: World must rise up against worsening anti-Semitism

Antonio Guterres tells Holocaust commemoration event that international community should not ignore similarities between today and 1930s, says hate moving into mainstream

Antonio Guterres delivering remarks at the opening of the exhibit 'Beyond Duty: Righteous Diplomats among the Nations.' (UN/Manuel Elias)
Antonio Guterres delivering remarks at the opening of the exhibit 'Beyond Duty: Righteous Diplomats among the Nations.' (UN/Manuel Elias)

UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that hatred of Jews is growing, calling for a concerted fight “against rising anti-Semitism.”

“Not only is anti-Semitism still strong – it is getting worse,” Guterres told the UN’s annual commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “We must rise up against rising anti-Semitism.”

Guterres cited figures that showed anti-Semitic incidents in the United States increased 57 percent in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League and noted that the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency reported last year that 28 percent of Jews experienced some form of harassment just for being Jewish.

And he urged the world not to “ignore the similarities” between political discourse and attacks on Jews and other minorities today and in the 1930s.

In this photo from October 6, 2018, police officers search a visitor of a far neo-Nazi rock concert in Aploda, Germany. Slogan on the shirt reads ‘guaranteed indexed.’ (Sebastian Haak/dpa via AP)

The UN chief pointed to attempts to rewrite the history of the Holocaust, during which 6 million Jews and many others were murdered by Adolf Hitler’s forces during the Nazi occupation of Europe in World War II.

Guterres also warned that neo-Nazi group are proliferating and recruiting the disaffected and people with military experience.

“It is necessary – more and more – that we sound an alarm,” he said.

The massacre three months ago at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh by a heavily armed man shouting “All Jews must die” was in keeping with the neo-Nazis’ “advocacy of violent, so-called ‘lone wolf’ attacks,” the secretary-general said. The man killed 11 worshipers in the worst anti-Semitic attack in US history.

A person holds a sign during a protest gathering on the block of the Jewish Community Center in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where the funeral for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, Tuesday Oct. 30, 2018. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)

“Inevitably, where there is anti-Semitism, no one else is safe,” Guterres said. “Across the world, we are seeing a disturbing rise in other forms of bigotry.”

He pointed to attacks and persecution aimed at Muslims in several countries, at Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, at the Yazidi minority in Iraq, and at others, “simply for who they are.”

“Intolerance today spreads at lightning speed across the internet and social media,” Guterres said. “Perhaps most disturbingly, hate is moving into the mainstream — in liberal democracies and authoritarian systems alike.”

He said political discourse is being coarsened and “the demonization of others rages on,” with political parties once considered pariahs now making gains and no longer afraid to trumpet their views.

Supporters of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement hold flags during a demonstration at the Kungsholmstorg square in Stockholm, Sweden on August 25, 2018. (AFP/ TT News Agency / Fredrik Persson)

“Such hatred is easy to uncork, and very hard to put back in the bottle,” he warned.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the liberation of the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp 74 years ago, and Guterres said it is imperative to heed the lessons of the Holocaust, especially by keeping its memory alive.

Illustrative image of students visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, April 16, 2015. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

But he cited a recent poll in Europe that said one-third of people surveyed reported knowing “little or nothing about the Holocaust.” Among millennials, “some two-thirds had no idea Auschwitz was a death camp,” he said.

“Education is crucial — about the Holocaust, about genocide and crimes against humanity, about racism and the history of slavery,” Guterres said.

“And we must stand up to those who disseminate hatred,” he said.

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