UN failing to recognize, fight anti-Semitism, watchdog charges

UN failing to recognize, fight anti-Semitism, watchdog charges

UN Watch report accuses world body of engaging in ‘softcore Holocaust denial,’ calls on Guterres to push reforms that will help combat Jew hatred worldwide

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The Security Council Chamber as Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein (shown on screen), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, addresses via video conference the Council's open debate on the victims of attacks and abuses on ethnic or religious grounds in the Middle East on March 27, 2015, in New York. (UN photo)
The Security Council Chamber as Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein (shown on screen), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, addresses via video conference the Council's open debate on the victims of attacks and abuses on ethnic or religious grounds in the Middle East on March 27, 2015, in New York. (UN photo)

In addition to its notorious anti-Israel bias, the United Nations largely fails to condemn and combat anti-Semitism, a Geneva-based watchdog charged Monday.

A report by UN Watch published Monday accuses top UN officials of being quick to condemn racism and ethnic discrimination all over the world but hesitant to denounce attacks on Jews.

Quoting “overwhelming evidence over the past decade,” the report claims that leading UN officials and bodies “that should be condemning and combating anti-Semitism are, with limited exceptions, failing to do so.”

Presenting the report in the Knesset Monday, UN Watch called on Secretary General Antonio Guterres to acknowledge the world body’s failure to address anti-Semitism and to work toward halting “bigotry, hatred or violence targeting Jews worldwide.”

“When it comes to Jews, when it comes to Israelis, the UN has become a hostile and biased body,” said MK Yair Lapid, who hosted the session. “The organization which is meant to fight anti-Semitism, which is sworn to fight anti-Semitism, is guilty of anti-Semitism itself.”

The report, entitled “The United Nations and Antisemitism,” was welcomed by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

From left: Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, MK Yair Lapid and UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer at the launch of a new report on anti-Semitism in the UN at the Knesset, July 9, 2018 (courtesy)

According to the report, written by UN Watch’s legal adviser Dina Rovner, the UN General Assembly has only passed two resolutions condemning anti-Semitism — though “not as a stand-alone issue, but in the context of broader resolutions on religious freedom and racism which do not contain any concrete call for UN action to combat antisemitism.”

The report, which analyzed the UN between 2008 and 2017, also took former secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and other top officials to task for what the report called “softcore Holocaust denial.”

One form of this is “dejudaizing” the Holocaust by failing to acknowledge the uniqueness of the Nazi effort to systematically annihilate the Jewish people, unlike other groups they targeted, such as Roma or homosexuals.

“Ban Ki-moon routinely universalized the Holocaust and minimized it as a Jewish event,” the report charged. After reviewing Ban’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day statements, Rovner found that “the attempt to universalize the Holocaust has him downplaying Hitler’s genocide of the Jews and falsely equating it to Nazi crimes against other minorities.”

When he took office in 2007, Ban had vowed to fight anti-Semitism, but during his tenure “was too often silent” when Jews were attacked, the report said.

“In a decade marked by shocking antisemitic violence in which Muslim extremists were behind the most devastating attacks and, particularly, in light of the inflammatory antisemitic incitement coming out of the Muslim world, Ban’s overall silence on this issue marks a moral failure,” the report stated.

Guterres, Ban’s successor, also “downplayed the unique aspects in which Jews as a people were targeted for extermination by the Nazis,” the report noted. It added, however, that Guterres has “clearly acknowledged the role of antisemitism,” expressing the hope he will “prove to be a more forceful leader than his predecessors in combating antisemitism and Holocaust denial at the UN.”

The last three UN High Commissioners for Human Rights have similarly issued statements that would seem to universalize the Holocaust, according to the report.

It reserved special criticism for the current holder of this influential office, Jordanian prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein. His tenure, which started in 2014, “is one of almost complete disregard when it comes to fighting antisemitism,” it charged.

While he has publicly condemned attacks on albinos in Tanzania, Coptic Christians in Libya, and gays in Florida, he has never a standalone statement denouncing an anti-Semitic attack, such as the deadly attacks on the Hypercacher Jewish supermarket outside Paris or an attack on a synagogue in Copenhagen.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, gestures during a special session of the UN Human Rights Council to discuss ‘the deteriorating human rights situation’ in the West Bank and Gaza Strip following clashes on the Gaza border. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

“Zeid’s office posted a total of 20 tweets mentioning Muslims or Islam; none mentioning Jews or Judaism; and three referencing antisemitism — one of these being a general post that also mentioned Islamophobia, and the other two relating to the 2017 Holocaust Remembrance Day and not to any particular antisemitic attack or current event,” according to the report.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said she had wanted to cut the Justice Ministry’s cooperation with the Human Rights Council and only refrained from doing so at the request of the Foreign Ministry.

“Being an anti-Semite today is not politically correct, but it’s super in to be anti-Israel,” she said.

Lapid also endorsed continuing to work with the UN rather than cutting off ties with it, though the government has indicated it may downgrade cooperation with the UNHRC after the US pulled out of the panel last week.

“We need to manage this fight. We’re not doing it at the moment, or at least not doing it well enough,” Lapid said.

“It’s time for the UN to stand with the victims of anti-Semitism, not with the anti-Semites. It’s time to free the UN from the obnoxious grip of the enemies of Israel and the enemies of human rights.”

A spokesperson for Guterres did not reply to a request for comment.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer accused the UN of ignoring its own history of being formed “from the ashes of the Holocaust.”

“Ironically, in the world of human rights, all too often the same people who tend to see racism everywhere see anti-Semitism nowhere,” he said.

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