Antisemitism is the ‘canary in the coalmine of global hatred’, UN expert warns

Ahmed Shaheed also called Jew-hate ‘toxic to democracy’ as he reported his findings to the General Assembly


A leading United Nations expert has said antisemitism is “toxic to democracy” as he reported his findings on the rise in Jew-hate to the General Assembly.

Ahmed Shaheed, UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, noted that antisemitism was rising on both the left and right.

“I am alarmed by the growing use of antisemitic tropes by white supremacists, including neo-Nazis and members of radical Islamist groups, in slogans, images, stereotypes and conspiracy theories to incite and justify hostility, discrimination and violence against Jews,” he told the assembly.

“I am also concerned about the increasing expressions of antisemitism emanating from sources in the political left and about discriminatory State practices towards Jews.”

Mr Shaheed also said that education was a “key factor in addressing issues and preventing future incidences of hate.”

Speaking at a UN Education panel discussion, Mr Shaheed said a global coalition was needed to speak out against anti-Semitism, and education is a vital tool to achieve this end.

Speaking to the UN in a separate interview, Mr Shaheed called antisemitism the “canary in the coalmine of global hatred”.

He has previously called on member states to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Mr Shaheed’s report noted “numerous reports of an increase in many countries of what is sometimes called ‘left-wing’ antisemitism, in which individuals claiming to hold anti-racist and anti-imperialist views employ antisemitic narratives or tropes in the course of expressing anger at the policies or practices of the Government of Israel.

“In some cases, individuals expressing such views have engaged in Holocaust denial; in others, they have conflated Zionism, the self-determination movement of the Jewish people, with racism, claimed that Israel does not have a right to exist and accused those expressing concern about antisemitism of acting in bad faith.”

Addressing antisemitism in the UK, his report added “monitors, academics and researchers” had also “expressed alarm about what appears to be an increasing use of antisemitic tropes by prominent political figures, along with the politicization of those incidents, which only serves to inflame tensions.

“In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched in 2019 an investigation into allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party.”

The report also called the activities of the BDS movement “fundamentally antisemitic”, saying “it is never acceptable to render Jews as proxies for the Government of Israel.”

The report follows comments by the UN Secretary General António Guterres, who said “attempts to delegitimise the right of Israel to exist, including calls for its destruction”, were “a contemporary manifestation of antisemitism.”

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