Published On: Mon, Jan 28th, 2019

Holocaust Remembrance Day: UN Chief Expresses “profound concern” about increasing acts of Anti-Semitism worldwide

NEW YORK (TURKISH JOURNAL) By Janet Ekstract – Speaking at the annual Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony at historic Park East Synagogue in New York City, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his profound dismay at the most recent, numerous acts of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and abroad.

This year’s annual remembrance theme was “Holocaust Remembrance: Demand and Defend Your Human Rights.”

The UN chief told those present at the synagogue event that “Our urgent challenge today is to heed the lessons of a period when human dignity was cast aside for a racial ideology.”

Mr. Guterres reminded those present that the previous time he spoke at this event had been four days after Shabbat services were shattered at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year, by a lone gunman. He labeled the act, “a barbaric assault- the worst anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States.”

He reminded all those present of the multi-faith vigil held in memory of the victims where Christian, Muslims and many others including the top leadership of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation declared their absolute opposition to any type of hatred, whatsoever.

The secretary-general reiterated his “profound concern” that in the months following that abhorrent act even more anti-Semitic incidents have occurred. The UN chief cited that just last month, headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg were defaced with swastikas while this month, rocks were thrown through windows of Sofia, Bulgaria’s famous Central Synagogue.

Mr. Guterres pointed out that anti-Semitic attacks in Europe and the U.S. have been increasing at an alarming rate.

He added that current statistics and polls demonstrate a bleak outlook when it comes to anti-Semitic incidents. The secretary-general explained anti-Semitic acts in the U.S. increased by 57 percent in 2017 while a European poll reported in 2018, that at least 28 percent of Jewish people had experienced some form of harassment for being Jewish.

Meanwhile, a recent CNN article by Michael Kaplan dated November 28, 2018, highlighted just how horrific and pervasive anti-Semitism has become in Germany.

According to a CNN poll, 55 percent of Germans said anti-Semitism has increased and the article indicates that a number of Jewish school teachers were taunted, abused and even had to switch schools for being Jewish. According to the article, even acts of anti-Semitism that were reported by the teachers were ignored without punishment being meted out to those guilty of the abuse as well as no consequences for the perpetrators.

The stunning realization here is that the perpetrators written about in the CNN article are teenagers.

And Germany is not alone in its incidence of anti-Semitism.

According to a number of articles and statistics, France has a poor record when it comes to anti-Semitism. According to French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, anti-Semitic incidents spiked by 69 percent in the first nine months of 2018.. Philiippe has labeled the number of anti-Semitic acts in France, “relentless.”

For his part, the French PM has vowed that his government will not be indifferent.

He has plans to toughen rules on hate speech online in 2019 while putting pressure on media moguls to do more to remove racist and anti-Semitic content. In addition, the French prime minister indicated his plans to “experiment with a network of investigators and magistrates specially trained in the fight against acts of hate,” which he said could be extended nationwide.

Phillipe also added that mid-November a national team was mobilized to intervene in schools to support teachers dealing with anti-Semitism.

UN chief Guterres made it clear that his Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide will devise a global plan of action to deepen the world body’s effort to counter hate speech. Guterres added: “We are also striving at a deeper level to address the roots of the fears and anger that make people susceptible to populism and the divisive appeals of opportunistic political figures. That means working for a fair globalization and building democratic societies.”

Senior Rabbi of Park East Synagogue, Arthur Schneier, added that “Anti-Semitism does not just target Jews. It is an indicator of how societies treat other minorities.” To that end, the secretary-general echoed the rabbi’s sentiments when he said: “And it means ensuring Governments and international organizations show they care about people and are attuned to their needs and aspirations. I include the United Nations in this. And this is a job for all societies, everywhere.”

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