NEW YORK – The spread of anti-Semitism on social media is “a new kind of threat, the new 21st-century anti-Semitism,” Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon warned at a high-level forum on global anti-Semitism held on Wednesday at UN Headquarters.
The forum, a joint initiative of the Israeli, US, Canadian and EU delegations, aimed to propose practical steps that can be implemented by the international community.
The meeting came as a follow-up to last year’s first special General Assembly meeting convened to raise awareness on the rise of global anti-Semitism. It was only the second- ever meeting on the subject since the establishment of the United Nations some 70 years ago.
“We are living in new era and we face a new kind of anti-semitism,” Danon said in his remarks. “Using the tools of online social networks to demonize the Jewish people and the Jewish state, this is Anti-Semitism 2.0.”
“Online communities of hate spread lies about Israel and conspiracy theories about the Jews to millions around the world,” the ambassador added. “Today it’s easy: all you need is a wireless connection, a Facebook account and a deep hatred for the Jewish people.
“It is more effective than The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” he continued. But the danger of online anti-semitism, Danon explained, doesn’t just remain online. He referred to attacks against Jews in Europe and also in Israel that were inspired by online content.
“It’s not just about slander against Israel. It’s about saving Jewish lives,” he said. “Make no mistake: attacks against Jews online lead directly to attacks against Jews on the street.”
Danon also called for the international and Jewish community to ‘be proactive” and “speak out.”
“We have to educate our young people about the dangers of online anti-Semitism, but we also have to be honest. Talking is not enough, we need immediate and concrete action,” he said.
Diplomats, academics and experts from the private sector all spoke at the day-long event. Subjects of discussion were divided into panels and included government responses to global anti-Semitism, hate speech on the Internet, civil society responses as well as youth and education on the issue.
The United States Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power also spoke at the forum and said that “anti-Semitism poses a threat not only to Jews, but to the principles of pluralism, diversity, and the fundamental freedoms that we hold most dear.”
She listed several anti-Semitic incidents which have occurred across the world in the past year, from an attack on a hassidic man in Berlin to Iran’s Holocaust denial cartoon contest organized this summer.
“We here in the United States are of course hardly immune to these problems,” she added. “According to the most recent FBI report, Jews and Jewish institutions continue to be the biggest target of religiously motivated hate crimes.”
However, Power said, “we must be careful not to label or conflate legitimate criticism of Israel as antisemitic.”
“Such unfounded accusations may chill speech, unfairly marginalize those with distinct points of view, and, paradoxically, distract from the much needed efforts to combat such hatred,” she said.
“At the same time, governments and civil society groups – including those that may be critical of Israel’s policies – have a responsibility to swiftly and unequivocally condemn instances in which such criticism crosses over into attacks on the Jewish people, or if it tries to hold all Jews responsible for the policies of the State of Israel.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the forum via a video message, in which he called anti-Semitism “one of the world’s oldest, most pervasive and deadliest forms of hatred.”
“Despite the lessons of history and the horror of the Holocaust, Jews continue to be targeted for murder and abuse solely because they are Jews,” he acknowledged.
“Violence against people because of their religious identity or beliefs is an assault on the core values of the United Nations. Such bigotry is also one of today’s greatest threats.”
Ban Ki-Moon also pointed out that “many other alarming forms of discrimination” exist in the world.
He mentioned in particular hatred and stereotyping directed at refugees and migrants.
“Time and again, history has shown that those who attack one minority today, will target another tomorrow,” he said. “Discrimination does not discriminate.”
The secretary-general added that he is “appalled by those who fan the flames of religious bigotry for political gain.”
“Such intolerance and opportunism does more than poison young minds and hearts, it poisons all of society,” he said. The UN and the secretary-general, however, have been much criticized by Israel’s mission to the international body for staying silent when some UN ambassadors spread hateful remarks about Israel.
This includes an instance in which the Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour sent a letter to the Security Council accusing Israel or harvesting the organs of Palestinians last fall, or another in which the Venezuelan Ambassador Rafael Ramirez asked whether Israel was planning to inflict a “final solution” on Palestinians.
Other speakers at the event included the president of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft; Canada’s Ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard; the EU’s Ambassador João Vale de Almeida; as well as renowned Holocaust historian, Deborah Lipstadt, representatives of the Anti-Defamation League and of the Muslim-Jewish Conference, among many others.
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