26 September 2018

Anti-Semitism Rising Even in Countries with No Jews at All, Secretary-General Tells Event on Power of Education to Counter Racism, Discrimination

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the High-level Event on the Power of Education for Countering Racism and Discrimination:  The Case of Anti-Semitism, in New York today:

I thank UNESCO [United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization] and its Director General, Audrey Azoulay, for bringing us together to focus on anti-Semitism and education.

Jews continue to be attacked for no other reason than their identity.  And anti-Semitism is not a problem for the Jewish community alone.  Where there is anti-Semitism, there are likely to be other discriminatory ideologies and forms of bias ‑ feeding each other in a cauldron of contempt.  Today, hatred also targets religious minorities, migrants and refugees and is particularly virulent.

Anti-Semitism threatens all people’s human rights.  It is a menace to democratic values, to social peace and stability.  It spreads through social media, the Internet, and through hate speech and conspiracy theories.  Anti-Semitism has often been called “the oldest hatred”.

Prejudice against Jews can be found in the earliest chapters of recorded history.  Within recent memory, anti-Semitism culminated in genocide.  Today, it is on the rise in all parts of the world where Jewish communities live.  But it is also present in countries where there are no Jews at all.

Anti-Semitism has evolved, grown more complex and adopted new guises.  It is abetted by public discourse that stigmatizes minorities, refugees and foreigners.  It traffics in distortions of history and attempts to deny or diminish the fact and horror of the Holocaust.  In more recent times, it is expressing itself in attempts to delegitimize the right of Israel to exist, including calls for its destruction, using the pretext of the situation in the Middle East to target Jews and Jewish symbols.  The world is also seeing an alarming proliferation of neo-Nazi and white supremacy groups, and of those seeking religious and ethnic domination.  This is tribalism run amok.  Not only are their vile views coming into the mainstream, but the mainstream unfortunately, sometimes, is coming to them.

Since anti-Semitism always tends to come back, all of us have a duty to fight back.  Member States have the primary responsibility to protect their citizens’ human rights and address the root causes of intolerance.  Education is one of our most powerful tools.  Allow me to highlight four possible priorities.

First, to recognize anti-Semitism as a problem to be addressed internationally.  I wish to acknowledge the efforts of the 31 member countries of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to agree on a common definition of anti-Semitism.  Such a definition can serve as a basis for law enforcement, as well as preventive policies.  Second, develop education programmes that address anti-Semitism in a framework of human rights and global citizenship.  Third, build the capacity of educational systems to address anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories and all other forms of hate speech.  Fourth, we must see diversity as a richness.  As societies become more multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural, we must invest more in social cohesion.

The United Nations, including UNESCO, is leading important work to prevent anti-Semitism and discrimination, including through Holocaust education and guidelines for educators and policymakers.  I call on all Member States to join this crucial effort.

Jewish boys should not be afraid to wear yarmulkes in the streets of our cities.  Jewish youth should not have to travel to school under the protection of armed military or police.  Jewish cemeteries should not be desecrated.

Anti-Semitism has survived across the millennium but should have no place in the twenty-first century.  The origins of the United Nations itself are rooted in the need to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.  Being true to our Charter means combating anti-Semitism and hatred with all our energy and will.  I have fought against intolerance for my entire civic and political life, and you can count on me to continue to be in the forefront as Secretary-General.

Thank you very much.

For information media. Not an official record.