“Strengthening Global Efforts to Combat Antisemitism: A Human Rights Imperative”
Side Event at the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism
Antisemitism is one of the most ancient and persistent manifestations of hate.
Antisemitism has maintained vitality over time, repeatedly reappearing in one form or another. While official antisemitism enshrined in law is rare today, unofficial, de facto antisemitism has survived and thrived.
In some societies and moments of history, antisemitism has been conspicuous, characterized by exploitation, brutality, and murder. At other times, it seems to subside. But it has resurfaced again and again. Antisemitism appears at times in the absence of a link to the targeted community – this is to say that some of the most virulent tropes regarding Jews emerge in places with no Jewish communities.
What makes antisemitism so pernicious is not just its durability but its fluidity. It may manifest as religious intolerance, political discrimination, economic exploitation, and racial discrimination.
In its 1960 publication, “As the UN Probes Prejudice: Observations on the United Nations Inquiry into Antisemitism and other Forms of Religious and Racial Prejudice” the American Jewish Committee wrote, “It should be borne in mind that antisemitism is cumulative rather than evolutionary, in the sense that it feeds on earlier sources of nourishment, even those which have lost their initial rationale.”
Thus, there is a need to prevent antisemitism and to avoid nourishing any form of hatred .
Sad to say though, I work in a growth industry where hate is on the rise as it keeps being fed.
The current social and political landscape across much of the globe has given rise to conspiracy theories, as populist leaders aim to exploit anti-Semitic tropes for political gain. This has led to the nourishment of hate and an increase in hate incidents.
For example, antisemitic incidents in the United States surged to historic levels in 2022, with a total of 3,697 incidents reported across the United States, an increase of 36 percent compared to 2021.
Antisemitism is not just a problem in the United States. Around the globe we have witnessed mass shootings at synagogues, violent attacks on Jewish people in the streets and Jewish cemeteries desecrated.
These antisemitic incidents seek to divide us from one another, erode trust in government and nongovernmental institutions, and undermine democracies.
In the fight against antisemitism, we point out that antisemitism is not only harmful to Jews – although that alone would be enough reason to act. Antisemitism also is harmful to the entirety of societies where antisemitism goes unchecked — whether or not those societies have substantial Jewish communities.
We stress that antisemitism, like other forms of hatred, is a threat to societies, breeding conspiracy theories and distorting the ability of citizens and public officials to make logical, informed decisions, which is central to healthy development and effective governance.
Time and again, we are seeing a disturbing and dangerous interconnectedness of hatreds.
For example, the so-called “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory combining hatred against Jews with racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia.
Antisemitic conspiracy theories fuel other forms of hatred, discrimination, and bias—including discrimination against members of other religious minority groups, racism, sexism, and other marginalized groups.
Discrimination occurs when a person is unable to enjoy his or her human rights or other legal rights on an equal basis with others because of an unjustified distinction made in policy, law, or treatment.
This discrimination strikes at the very heart of being human. It harms someone’s enjoyment of their human rights simply because of who they are or what they believe.
The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all persons are born equal in dignity and rights. All human beings should be treated as such, regardless of our race, ethnicity, nationality, class, caste, religion, belief, sex, gender, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex characteristics, age, health, or other status.
Moving forward together there is a need for a coordinated international response.
One example of that coordination comes in addressing hate through education.
To this end, the United States has rejoined UNESCO this year. We committed to not just paying the 2023 membership dues, we also paid an additional voluntary contribution of $10 million earmarked for Holocaust education.
Additionally, combating the interconnectedness of hatreds requires building broad and strong coalitions of conscience across communities and among governments around the world.
Thus, in coordination with the U.S. Mission to the UN, my office is working closely with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations High Representative Miguel Moratinos, who has been tasked by the Secretary General to develop a UN Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism.
It is also important that in addition to combating antisemitism on a global level each member state also combat hatred at home.
On December 12, President Biden announced the formation of the Interagency Policy Committee to Combat Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Related Forms of Bias and Discrimination.
As its first order of business, the President directed this group to develop a national strategy to counter antisemitism, which he launched in May of this year. Both were historic firsts for the United States of America.
Effective implementation of this strategy at home in the United States requires a whole-of-government effort and it will be essential for government and civil society to work together and forge cross-community coalitions against hatred in all of its forms.
On the global level, effectively combatting antisemitism and other kinds of hatred requires international cooperation among countries, civil society, and international organizations.
Thus, we need to work together and remember that the United Nations 75 years ago this year adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We must follow that declaration and pledge that discrimination and bigotry must have no place in our world.