Anti-Semitism. The UN sounds the alarm: +38%hate crimes in a year, growing anti-Semitic behaviour online

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Ahmed Shaheed, UN United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, drew an alarming picture of threats and hate crimes against minorities and against Jews in particular.

The report on anti-Semitism presented by Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, has been described as both historic and alarming. During the event, hosted by the Swedish mission to the UN, alongside with Daniel Radomski, Head of Programs and Strategy of the World Jewish Congress, Dr. Shaheed gave an alarming picture of the threats and expressions of hatred against minorities and Jews in particular. One year since the Pittsburg synagogue shooting, in which eleven Jews were killed and seven others injured, the United States, along with many world countries, is concerned about the resurgence of anti-Semitism that unexpectedly and threateningly resurfaced in various parts of the world.

“Anti-Semitic incidents have grown by 38% in less than a year, both online and in real life”, said the UN Rapporteur, highlighting the connection with hate crimes, fomented primarily by the extreme right, the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, radical Islamic movements. “These groups have no ideological common ground, but they all unanimously express contempt for the Jews”, Shaheed continued, pointing out that the problem must be carefully monitored not only in Europe, where acts of intolerance are recurring (the latest occurred at the synagogue in Halle, Germany), but also globally.

Dr.Shaheed sounded the alarm before the escalating use of slogans, images, stereotypes and conspiracy theories to incite and justify hostility, discrimination and violence against Jews. “I am also concerned about the increasing expressions of anti-Semitism emanating from sources in the political left and about discriminatory State practices towards Jews.” Furthermore, the Internet is instrumental in increasing the number of “haters.”

A survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee at the beginning of October involving a sample of approximately 1,300 Jews found that 88% of American Jews consider anti-Semitism to be a problem, while almost a third have avoided publicly wearing, carrying or displaying objects or symbols that might help people identify them as Jews. This is happening in a country that Jews have always considered to be among the safest in the world for members of their religion.

“One of my grandmother’s recommendations when I was a child was not to wear a kippah (the traditional Jewish headcovering) to avoid being identified. It was 1970 and we were in Sweden. I could not imagine that even today I would have to remind my children and grandchildren to do the same. Daniel Radomski sadly describes his daily life as a Jew who every day, at the headquarters of the World Congress, receives reports on anti-Semitic activity even in countries where no Jews are present, and also in Israel – where threats are internal and not always connected to the Palestinian question. “75 years since Auschwitz, the number of schools where our children can study without being discriminated against and in full respect of their religious identity decreases every year”, concluded Radomski, inviting the UN Rapporteur to consider hate crimes an attack on human rights, in particular the right to life and religious freedom.

Shaheed said that in many cases anti-Semitic incidents are disguised as the right to freedom of expression, but “this definition cannot extend to hate speech, since it is not only a religious group that is affected, it also poses a threat to our democracies.”

The Special Rapporteur recommends reinforcing legal instruments to ensure that those who are responsible for incitement to discrimination are punished, and requested a serious investment in education “so as to deconstruct discriminatory narratives and prejudices and promote mutual understanding.”

In the last part of his report Dr. Shaheed illustrated a set of best practices “because there is a need for role models.” These include the measures adopted by the Swedish Government with the Discrimination Act for the protection of minority groups and those promoted by the King of Morocco through the restoration of six Jewish cemeteries, highlighting the centuries-long coexistence that no hate crime, carried out by fundamentalist groups, will ever question.
[Maddalena Maltese, da New York – SIR]