Julie Stahl | Jerusalem Bureau Chief | Friday, November 2, 2007
"The UN and Anti-Semitism, 2004-2007 Report Card " gives "mixed grades" to the United Nations for the overall way the international body has handled the issue of anti-Semitism, said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based NGO, U.N. Watch.
The report notes that globally, anti-Semitism is on the rise. The State Department's 2005 "Report on Global Anti-Semitism" says that there has been an "increasing frequency and severity of anti-Semitic incidents since the start of the 21st century."
According to Tel Aviv University Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism, anti-Semitic attacks have been on the rise since 1989 and hit a 16-year high in 2006. And Doudou Diene, the U.N. expert on racism, told the U.N. Human Rights Council in June about a rise in anti-Semitism.
"Founded upon the ashes of the Holocaust, the UN as a global organization has a unique role to play in combating the alarming resurgence of this age-old scourge," said Neuer.
In 2004, the United Nations addressed the issue of anti-Semitism in a historic meeting.
At the time, then Secretary General Kofi Annan noted that the U.N. had "a human rights agenda that fails to address anti-Semitism denies its own history."
This is the first time since then that anyone has examined the U.N.'s progress, Neuer told Cybercast News Service in a telephone interview.
And while Neuer noted that the report gave high marks to the U.N. for its new Holocaust commemoration activities and for the Security Council's condemnation of Iran's Holocaust denial, he noted that the negative messages are "much more frequent."
Among its findings, the report charged that High Commissioner on Human Rights Louise Arbour neglected to take any "noteworthy" action against Holocaust denial or any other form of anti-Semitism.
That is particularly "disappointing and cause for concern" since she is charged with overseeing the U.N. efforts "to protect human rights and fight fascism," it says.
A statement sent from Arbour's office to Cybercast News Service, stated that, "The High Commissioner for Human Rights has continuously condemned the multiple forms of intolerance and discrimination, including anti-Semitism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia.
The High Commissioner, it said, had "used the various tools and mechanisms at her disposal, including through support to the relevant special procedures mandates, to denounce and demand reforms in these areas, as well as reminding States of their obligations to promote and protect all human rights, everywhere and at all times," the statement said.
Neuer said that repeated attempts to obtain a list of her statements against anti-Semitism from her office went unanswered.
During its first year, the U.N. Human Rights Council, itself, issued 10 condemnations, which were all directed against Israel, Neuer said.
Exposing the lie
Many diplomats say privately that they feel they must give support to the Arab states in backing anti-Israel resolutions but the resolutions are silly and nobody pays attention to the resolutions anyway, Neuer said. "But that's a lie."
The United Nations is one of the most trusted institutions and regarded as a premiere voice around the world. Countries and terrorist organizations like Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad regularly use the U.N. resolutions as justification for their actions, Neuer said.
In 2003, the General Assembly passed one of its annual resolutions criticizing Israel over the Golan Heights but failing to mention Syria's previous use of the strategic plateau to shell Israeli farmers or Damascus' present support for terrorist organizations.
Damascus proclaimed that "this reflected Israel's isolation ad proved that our causes are just and enjoying broad international support," the report said.
Iran, too, has made use of the U.N. statements.
At an annual Iranian celebration of "Al-Quds Day" protesting Israel's control over Jerusalem, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani announced that "Today the Palestinian scene is the setting for the struggle of Islam against infidelity. It is the scene for the Jihad of the Muslims."
"To prove that the world supported his cause, he dedicated the largest part of his sermon to a detailed recitation of UN resolutions against Israel, including those 'urging Israel not to be present at Al-Quds [the Arabic name for Jerusalem]," the report states.
So while voting for anti-Israel resolutions may seem to be meaningless, it can actually have an anti-Semitic effect, Neuer said.
Campaign to change meaning of anti-Semitism
The report, Neuer noted, details what he called an "ongoing and very persistent" campaign to redefine the meaning of the word anti-Semitism, to include all Arabs since they are "Semites," thereby discounting the meaning as being against the Jews.
"At the September 2007 session of the UN Human Rights Council, Pakistan took the floor on behalf of the 56-strong Islamic bloc to declare that 'a cruel form of anti-Semitism' is 'Islamophobia," the report says.
"The intent is very clear," said Neuer. It is used to deflect any accusation of anti-Semitism against the Arab nations and allow them to justify their actions against Israel.
Among its recommendations, U.N. Watch called on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to take a leadership role in the fight against anti-Semitism, encouraged the U.N. to continue to hold Iran accountable for its anti-Semitic incitement and adopt a definition of anti-Semitism that would not allow political developments to be used to justify anti-Semitism.
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