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The United Nations is in a unique position to play a significant role in efforts to combat antisemitism around the world and to encourage such efforts as part of its larger mission to promote global peace and the protection of universal human rights for all people.

We all are painfully aware that member states and others at the United Nations make antisemitic comments, partake in Holocaust denial, and distort or deny Israel’s existence. These comments reflect unfortunate and historic prejudice against Jewish people and, when they occur, the United States makes sure to call them out as antisemitic.

Past actions by the United Nations have sometimes had the effect of fueling antisemitic attitudes about Jews. Notably, UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, adopted in 1975, which former Secretary-General Kofi Annan called a “low point,” endorsed the “Zionism is racism” trope. In a long overdue step, the General Assembly revoked the resolution in 1991.

To this day, Israel is often the subject of disproportionate and one-sided attention from United Nations intergovernmental bodies relative to other actors and situations of global concern. Of course, not all criticism directed at the State of Israel is antisemitic. Israel is subject to criticism just like any other country, but when that criticism is premised on a double standard, attempts to delegitimize the very existence of the State of Israel, or otherwise crosses the line into antisemitism, the United States will push back.

In the fight against antisemitism, we point out that antisemitism is not only harmful to Jews, but also to the entirety of societies where antisemitism goes unchecked — whether or not those societies have substantial Jewish communities. We stress that antisemitism, as are other forms of hatred, is a threat to societies, breeding conspiracy theories and distorting the ability of citizens and public officials to make logical, informed decisions, which is central to healthy development and effective governance.

Time and again, we are seeing a disturbing and dangerous interconnectedness of hatreds. For example, the so-called “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory combining hatred against Jews with racism against Blacks.  Combatting this interconnectedness of hatreds will require building broad and strong coalitions of conscience across communities and among governments around the world.

In coordination with the U.S. Mission to the UN, my office is working closely with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, which has been tasked by the Secretary General to create a UN Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism. We praise the Secretary General, and the UN, for taking this important step.

There must be a good number of you who are already familiar with the preliminary draft version of the Action Plan that was disseminated a few months ago. My collaboration with the High Representative of the UNAOC, Miguel Moratinos, has been geared toward addressing concerns that many of you identified. I can assure you that the High Representative is giving this plan a great deal of thought and is working toward the goal of developing a plan that the United States will be able to strongly support.  As a result, I am optimistic that the UN Action Plan will land in the right place.

High Representative Moratinos understands that the plan has to create a path for the UN to take to counter antisemitism in the future. It must improve the UN response to combating antisemitism across the UN system and at the country level in line with international human rights law.

At the United Nations, which will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this December, discrimination and bigotry must have no place. It is the responsibility of the United Nations to ensure its staff are aware of the risks of antisemitism, that they are able to recognize it, and that they respond effectively when it occurs.

The United Nations was founded as a direct response to the devastating effects of the Holocaust. The UN’s very existence serves as a constant reminder — a reminder of the need to reject hatred motivated by a person’s identity, of the international catastrophes to which unchecked hatred can lead, and of our shared imperative to promote tolerance and uphold the human rights and dignity of all.

U.S. Department of State

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