June 8, 2021 — New York
Luis Almagro, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), told the worldwide American Jewish Committee (AJC) 2021 Virtual Global Forum today that he is issuing an executive order to create the position of OAS Commissioner for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism.
“The Commissioner’s main responsibilities will be to promote adoption and implementation by all countries in the region of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, and to vigorously engage states and civil society organizations to raise awareness of the need to remain alert to all forms of antisemitism,” said Almagro.
The groundbreaking announcement came during Almagro’s remarks about OAS efforts to combat terrorism and antisemitism, and to show support for Israel.
Two years ago, at the AJC Global Forum, Almagro received AJC’s Champion of Democracy Award. At the time, he announced that the OAS was adopting the IHRA working definition and would urge its 35 member states to do the same. Today, Almagro said the OAS has applied for IHRA membership as an institutional partner. In addition, the OAS and AJC are working on the publication of a Latin American version of the Handbook for the Practical Use of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism published by the European Commission in January.
Almagro’s decision to create the antisemitism commissioner position follows on the establishment in recent years of similar posts in Europe, Canada, and the United States. “We are confident that our hemisphere needs to be adequately prepared to face the growing threats of antisemitism in the same way that many other nations and democratic international bodies have done so,” said Almagro.
“Antisemitism has had traumatic and violent dimensions in our region,” said Almagro, citing the 1994 terrorist bombing of AMIA in Buenos Aires, the 1992 terrorist attack against the Israeli Embassy in Argentina, violent attacks against the Chilean Jewish community, and the use of antisemitism as an ideological political tool. “All are clear examples of threats not just against Jewish communities, but against the society to which they belong,” he emphasized.
Almagro also expressed profound concern about relentless attacks on Israel. “We are witnessing antisemitic campaigns in many places trying to delegitimize Israel and calling for its disappearance,” added Almagro. “I want to say it loud and clear – calling for the disappearance of the State of Israel is an act of terrorism and is plain, simple antisemitism.”
Last month, the OAS Secretary-General declared Hamas a terrorist organization. He told the AJC Global Forum today that the OAS “is pressing individual countries in the region to do the same.” At the 2019 AJC Global Forum, he declared that the OAS was designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
AJC CEO David Harris enthusiastically praised Almagro. “Let the world know that moral courage and moral clarity have a home in the office of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, who has just made history,” said Harris.
“Secretary General Almagro has just said to the world for the first time that the OAS will establish a commissioner, whose job it will be to monitor and combat antisemitism, and to encourage individual member nations to follow suit,” said Harris. “We have also heard a clarion call to support the State of Israel, its right to defend itself, and very clear words regarding Hamas and Hezbollah.”
The OAS is the oldest and most prominent multilateral organization in the Western Hemisphere. It comprises 35 member countries. AJC was granted NGO status at the OAS in 2005.