UNITED NATIONS: French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy on Thursday led calls at the United Nations to confront a global rise in anti-Semitism, during a special session held two weeks after the Paris attacks that shocked the world.
Levy took to the podium at the General Assembly and declared that the world must confront “the renewed advance of this radical inhumanity, this total baseness that is anti-Semitism.”
Four Jews were killed during the January 9 attack on a kosher supermarket that followed the slaying of 12 people in the assault on the Charlie Hebdo weekly in the worst violence in France in decades.
While the UN meeting was scheduled before the attacks, it took on a fresh sense of urgency in the wake of the violence.
“In Paris, just a few days ago, we heard once again the infamous cry ‘Death to the Jews’ and cartoonists were killed because of cartooning, police for policing and Jews just for shopping and being Jews,” Levy said.
“In other capitals in Europe and elsewhere, faulting the Jews is once again becoming the rallying cry of a new order of assassins, unless it is the same but cloaked in new habits.”
Levy recalled that the United Nations was created in the wake of World War II and the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust that yielded the pledge to “Never Again” allow genocide.
“It is up to you, who are the faces of the world, to be the architects of a house in which the mother of all hates — anti-Semitic hate — would see its place reduced,” he said.
US Ambassador Samantha Power said it would be a “big mistake” to think that anti-Semitism was a European problem and cited a report showing that two-thirds of religious-driven hate crimes in the United States targeted Jews.
“While Jews in Europe may feel increasingly fearful or even threatened, we must not forget there are communities — and even entire countries — where attending a synagogue or Jewish school is impossible, because they do not exist,” said Power.
In a direct appeal to world governments, Israel’s ambassador urged them to show vigilance to “spot the warning signs” and act swiftly to condemn anti-Semitism.
“I call on every nation to stand tall beside us. Refuse to allow evil to take root. Refuse to be silent. And refuse to submit to indifference,” said Ron Prosor.
France’s minister for Europe, Harlem Desir, called for a new legal framework for the Internet to close off the digital space to the spread of anti-Semitism, discrimination and other forms of hate propaganda.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recalled that UN efforts were being severely tested by rising extremism but said conflict in the Middle East should not serve as a pretext for violence.
“Grievances about Israeli actions must never be used as an excuse to attack Jews. In the same vein, criticisms of Israeli actions should not be summarily dismissed as anti-Semitism,” said Ban.
Levy also evoked the crisis in the Middle East and rejected the view that Israeli-Palestinian tensions were fueling anti-Semitism.
“Even if Israel was exemplary — a nation of angels — even if they granted the Palestinians a state which is their right, even then this enigmatic and old hatred would not dissipate one iota,” he said.
Thirty-seven countries including Israel, the United States, all 28 countries of the European Union, Canada and Australia requested the meeting in October.