February 10, 2023 — United Nations
Speaking at a high-level UN event yesterday focused on globalizing efforts to combat antisemitism alongside Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO Ted Deutch called on UN leaders to do more to counter antisemitism at the world body.
Deutch recalled that AJC has stood in support of the UN since its founding and will continue to seek multilateral engagement in the fight against antisemitism. He applauded UN senior leaders, including Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, for having been “resolute in speaking out and condemning antisemitism,” and for pushing back against particularly toxic antisemitic narratives such as calls for Israel’s destruction.
He pointed to other important UN efforts to raise the alarm about rising antisemitism, including the 2019 report and 2022 Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism prepared by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the former Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, and ongoing work by UNESCO.
Despite taking these steps, Deutch recalled, "it's no secret that certain bodies of the UN focus disproportionately on Israel, notwithstanding the efforts of the United States and so many of you here to change that.” Deutch appealed to UN leaders to do more, and particularly to assist AJC in “breaking through indifference among some diplomats and some UN personnel to what happens here sometimes in these halls.”
Deutch expressed particular alarm about “insinuations that Israel itself, the world's only Jewish state, is a racist endeavor." He pointed to the “shameful” legacy of the UN General Assembly’s 1975 “Zionism is Racism” resolution, which took more than 15 years for the UN to revoke in 1991, following years of advocacy by AJC. He appealed to UN leaders to do more to ensure “that we never, ever see a return to that shameful moment” that took place in 1975.
Deutch said, “we need UN officials to speak out” against narratives suggesting that the establishment of Israel and the nature of Zionism are racist and to acknowledge “that they’re false, that they’re harmful, that they’re dangerous.” He explained that these narratives “are helping to fuel the violence and hatred that endangers Jews around the world.” Deutch affirmed that “promptly condemning antisemitic statements when they are expressed by diplomats at official [UN] meetings or made by personnel or persons associated with the UN is important.”
The event, held in the UN’s Economic and Social Council chamber, was convened to discuss solutions to address the various manifestations of contemporary antisemitism, at a time when it has risen to alarming levels around the world and precedes the release of AJC’s next State of Antisemitism in America report.
“The horrible truth is that all around the world, antisemitism is pervasive and growing,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the UN. “We need to stand up to this threat and stand up for Jewish people everywhere.”
The event highlighted the need for countries, even those without Jewish communities, to confront antisemitism. It was co-hosted by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and the missions of Argentina, Canada, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, and the United Kingdom.
In his keynote address, Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff said society must “call out” those who do not speak against antisemitism. “Silence is not an option,” he added.
Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of an American president or vice president, said it was vitally important to "push back" on Holocaust denial, distortion, and disinformation, which is also spreading online. He recently led a U.S. delegation to Europe and visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In December, Emhoff convened a White House roundtable, attended by Deutch, to discuss antisemitism in the U.S. It was followed several days later by an announcement that the Biden administration would create an interagency task force to combat antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of discrimination. Its first order of business will be to create a national strategy to fight antisemitism.
Joining Deutch in a panel discussion at yesterday's UN event was Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism, and Melissa Fleming, UN Undersecretary General for Global Communications.
Lipstadt said to the extent that social media companies, even unwittingly, serve as forums for antisemites, they can also be part of a solution.
“It is time for people to speak up,” Lipstadt said. “What we need on social media is for influencers to say this is not acceptable.” She reported that in a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonion Guterres and High Representative Miguel Moratinos, the US diplomats urged the UN to implement Dr. Shaheed’s Action Plan.
Fleming noted that while hate is “circulating far and wide,” teaching children how to navigate the internet and distinguish fact from fiction can go a long way.
AJC is the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people. AJC drives change through an unparalleled global network that spans six continents and includes 25 U.S. regional offices, 14 overseas posts, and 38 international partnerships.