UN Meeting Challenges World to Stand Up Against Anti-Semitism

January 22, 2015 Updated: January 22, 2015

UNITED NATIONS—French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy challenged the world at the first-ever U.N. General Assembly meeting devoted to anti-Semitism to take action to counter the rising hatred of Jews, which he denounced as “radical inhumanity.”

In a keynote address, Levy decried that “faulting the Jews is once again becoming the rallying cry of a new order of assassins.”

The United Nations was established on the ashes of the Holocaust after World War II, and one reason was to fight the “plague” of anti-Semitism, Levy noted. He called for new arguments to counter Holocaust deniers and those who deny Israel’s legitimacy.

“It is up to you who are the faces of the world to be the architects of a house in which the mother of all hates would see its place reduced,” said Levy, who is Jewish. “May you in a year’s time, and in years after that and every other year, reconvene to observe that the mobilization of today was not in vain.”

The assembly meeting was held in response to the global increase in violence against Jews and was scheduled before the killing of four French Jews at a kosher market during three days of terror in Paris earlier this month. Paris was just the latest attack to raise fears among European Jews, following killings at a Belgian Jewish Museum and a Jewish school in southwestern France.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power urged the world to stand up against anti-Semitism and take action to end “this monstrous global problem.”

“When the human rights of Jews are repressed, the rights of other religious and ethnic groups are often not far behind,” she warned.

German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth warned that “anti-Semitism is gaining ground in a loud and aggressive manner” and posed a threat to society as a whole.

Because of Germany’s role in the Holocaust, he said, his country will always be in the forefront of fightinganti-Semitism and pursuing “a zero-tolerance policy.”

A surprise speaker was Saudi Arabia’s U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Moualimi, who spoke on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation and told the meeting that Islamic countries condemn all words and acts that lead “to hatred, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia.”

“We have witnessed with growing concern the increase in hate crimes around the world, and we are very concerned because some arbitrarily reject their responsibilities in this regard,” Al-Moualimi said. “Anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia and all crimes that are based on religious hate are inextricably linked, they’re inseparable.”

The U.N. meeting was informal, and about half the 193-member states did not attend, but nearly 50 countries were slated to speak.

A panel discussion in the afternoon will include U.S. and Canadian lawmakers and several human rights experts including an Israeli professor.

Assembly spokesman John Victor Nkolo said the 193-member world body has discussed anti-Semitismmany times in sessions dealing with intolerance, xenophobia, violence, racism and human rights violations. But he said “based on the available records we were able to check, this is indeed the first time that anti-Semitism as such is specifically the subject of an informal meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.”

The meeting was requested by 37 countries who sent a letter to assembly President Sam Kutesa on Oct. 1 calling for a meeting in response to “an alarming outbreak of anti-Semitism worldwide.” They said they wanted a meeting because “a clear message from the General Assembly is a critical component of combatting the sudden rise of violence and hatred directed at Jews.”

The letter noted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement last Aug. 3 expressing concern at the spike in anti-Semitic attacks.

“At rallies, crowds have chanted ‘Gas the Jews” and ‘Death to the Jews,'” it said. “Firebombs have been thrown at synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses have been vandalized.”

From The Associated Press