Jewish leaders, officials gather at U.N. for antisemitism summit
The event featured a panel discussion, moderated by author and speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz, between Amb. Deborah Lipstadt, CEO of AJC Ted Deutch and Under-Secretary General for Global Communications Melissa Fleming.
Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images
Fresh off of a five-day trip to Poland and Germany, during which he spoke with government and faith leaders about combating antisemitism worldwide, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff delivered the keynote address during a global antisemitism event at the U.N. led by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Thursday evening.
“My message to all of you is the same message that I carried with me throughout my trip to Europe,” Emhoff said during his opening remarks. “We must all speak out against antisemitism and call out those who don’t. Silence is not an option. We must build coalitions to tackle this epidemic of hate. We must bring together people from all backgrounds, all faiths, all ethnicities, because hate is interconnected. It affects everyone.”
Hosted by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Canada, Israel, Morocco and the United Kingdom, the event featured a panel discussion, moderated by author and speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz, between U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Amb. Deborah Lipstadt, former Rep. Ted Deutch, now CEO of the American Jewish Committee and Under-Secretary General for Global Communications Melissa Fleming.
During the discussion, the panelists discussed the circumstances under which anti-Israel comments and activity veer into antisemitism.
Lipstadt said that while it is not antisemitic to disagree or find fault with the Israeli government, such criticism becomes problematic when critics single Israel out.
“When you use a double standard, when you single out Israel and you use words that are generally antisemitic or give it characteristics of antisemitism, you have to ask, ‘Why? What’s going on here?’” Lipstadt said. “At the very best, at the very least, it raises questions about a person’s motivation.”
Deutch later called out the U.N. for behaving with double standards when he was asked about global solutions to antisemitism.
“It’s crazy to have to say this, but I’m going to take this moment to point out what we should all know, that Israel is a member state of the United Nations equal to every other member state of the United Nations,” Deutch said. “It’s no secret, though, that this institution, certain bodies here in particular, focus disproportionately on Israel, notwithstanding the efforts of the United States and so many of you here to change that. So we need U.N. officials to speak out, but particularly when there are insinuations that Israel itself, the Jewish state, the only Jewish state in the world, is a racist endeavor.”
“The Zionism is Racism Resolution, passed in 1975, was a shameful moment for the United Nations that took more than 15 years to revoke,” Deutch continued. “And so I would just suggest the importance of U.N. leaders publicly affirming these narratives about the establishment of Israel, the nature of Zionism, that they’re false, that they’re harmful, that they’re dangerous, and yes, that they are helping to fuel the violence and hatred that endangers Jews around the world.”
During the event, each co-host delivered brief remarks, most of them speaking of antisemitism’s prevalence in their respective countries along with the steps their governments have put in place to combat it. Amb. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s representative to the U.N., had sobering words to share. While he began by applauding the work of the panelists, he emphasized that the international community still has a long way to go.
“Tragically, this evil is still far from being eradicated. The opposite is true. The very fact that the task force [for combating antisemitism] must be established is clear proof,” Erdan said. “A generation of Jews is growing up in fear. Jews today are afraid to walk outside with Jewish symbols, and Jewish day schools and synagogues need to be as secure as military bases. This is a disgrace on a global scale. The year, dear friends, is 2023 not 1943, yet Jews are still in the crosshairs of bigots.”
Erdan continued, “This is a war that can only be won by going on the offensive and implementing a zero-tolerance policy for hate,” the first step of which is “demanding accountability,” starting within the U.N.
“How can it be that even here at the U.N., Jew-hatred is spreading? Despite the clear action plan laid out by Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, the former U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion, nearly one year ago, U.N. leadership still has not implemented his recommendations,” Erdan said. “I regret to say that U.N. leadership is utterly failing to do what must be done in this war against evil. U.N. employees spew antisemitic tropes, yet remain in their posts without even receiving public condemnation. U.N. agencies continue to employ antisemites, including even Hitler glorifiers, and the basic step of adopting the IHRA working definition of antisemitism has not even been taken.”
“Words that are not backed up by actions are empty words. If this institution refuses to be a role model in fighting antisemitism, then the onus is on us, member states, to demand accountability from U.N. leadership,” he added.
Erdan concluded by saying that the responsibility of member states extends beyond the walls of the U.N.
“We, member states, must combat antisemitism wherever it raises its head, and only by working together as you mentioned today, can we make a true impact,” Erdan said. “No Jews should ever live in terror, and it is our shared responsibility to ensure this.”