Anti-Semitism, in the words of former Secretary-General Annan, is a unique manifestation of hatred, intolerance and persecution that over history has been a harbinger of discrimination against other minorities. As we witness an alarming resurgence of this age-old scourge, our report measured the performance over the past three years of key UN bodies and officials in fighting anti-Semitism, according to the yardstick and call for action outlined by Mr. Annan in June 2004. Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon the UN to live up to its promise.
While progress in some areas was encouraging, our report also revealed inaction, and, worse, the aiding and abetting of anti-Semitism through an infrastructure of manifestly one-sided and irrational UN measures designed to demonize the Jewish state. In the fight against anti-Semitism, and dealing with its own past, it is clear that the UN needs to do far more.
Under the leadership of Mr. Annan, since June 2004 there were several unprecedented advances, mostly concerning remembrance of the Holocaust. These include the establishment of an annual UN day for Holocaust commemoration, the GA special session on the liberation of Auschwitz, and the creation of a UN Holocaust education program. At a minimum, these efforts serve as a counter to Holocaust denial, a pernicious form of anti-Semitism that has become a global campaign led by the government of Iran. Not accidentally, the same person proclaiming the Holocaust to be a “myth” also avows to finish the job. To their credit, key UN bodies and officials—Mr. Annan, the Security Council, the General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon—have publicly protested the hatred and incitement preached by President Ahmadinejad. This admirable response should become sustained, reiterated after every offense, rather than isolated.
Regrettably, some UN officials have failed to answer the call. For example, after examining the public actions of High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, we were unable to find any noteworthy action on her part against Holocaust denial or any other form of anti-Semitism. Because Ms. Arbour is charged with overseeing the UN effort to protect human rights and fight racism, this lapse is disappointing and cause for concern.
Other officials in the UN human rights apparatus have taken several positive steps to combat anti-Semitism. Most importantly, racism expert Doudou Diène has on more than one occasion confronted the government of Iran for its anti-Semitic statements, forcing the regime to answer for its actions. However, a seminar on racism and anti-Semitism organized by Mr. Diène in 2004, which served as the basis for one of his reports on anti-Semitism, raised serious questions for relying heavily on a French author known best for opposing the fight against anti-Semitism. Citing such marginal figures contributed to occasional incoherence in Mr. Diène’s analyses, with some of his reports condemning the denial of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and others defending it as legitimate anti-Zionism.
Freedom of religion expert Asma Jahangir, whose mandate includes religious intolerance, addressed the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in France during her mission there, but on the whole has not been outspoken on this issue. A joint protest with Mr. Diène was sent to Saudi Arabia over an anti-Semitic drawing published in a state-controlled newspaper. Both experts, however, failed to recognize that this phenomenon was hardly an isolated case, but rather a pattern and practice of anti-Semitic propaganda that is prevalent throughout the region. Similarly, despite repeated requests by UN Watch and other groups and individuals, both experts have insufficiently addressed the incitement to hatred against Jews, Christians and other non-muslims, that have been documented in children’s textbooks distributed by the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
In addition to measuring efforts at the UN to fight anti-Semitism, one must also address efforts that undermine this cause. The Islamic bloc of fifty-six states has waged a steady campaign in key UN bodies to gut anti-Semitism of its meaning, by making the absurd argument that the term also refers to hatred against Arabs and Muslims. This is a pernicious distortion of language and meaning designed to prevent the UN from coherently expressing sympathy for Jews as victims, and to create a form of immunity for Arab and Islamic states accused of fostering anti-Semitism.
Finally, the report examines the annual onslaught of one-sided UN resolutions in the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council that contribute—whether by intent or in their effect—to an atmosphere that demonizes the Jewish state and promotes hostility toward Jews as a whole. in the past year at the General Assembly, only a handful of countries were criticized, in no case by more than one resolution. Israel, by contrast, was targeted in no less than twenty-two resolutions, all of them one-sided. Worse, in 2006-07, the Human Rights Council passed one hundred percent of its condemnatory resolutions against Israel, ignoring the other 191 UN member states, including the world’s worst abusers. All of this amounts to an irrational obsession by key UN bodies with singling out Israel for censure, turning the organization into Ground Zero for the international campaign to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state.
Contrary to the argument that these resolutions are meaningless, an analysis of published speeches and articles in the middle east demonstrates that extremist states and terrorist groups make direct use of these resolutions to justify their cause and to delegitimize israel. In addition, the indirect effect of such resolutions throughout the world is to create the perception of Israel as an outlaw state and of Jews as criminally guilty by association. Perpetrators of anti-Semitic incidents around the world have often cited animosity towards Israel as their motive.
In conclusion, the UN since June 2004 has made progress in some areas, while other areas have seen stagnation or regression. The UN has a unique role to play in addressing the global challenge of anti-Semitism and must begin to fully live up to its promise.