NEW YORK – United States Second gentleman Doug Emhoff on Thursday urged United Nations leaders to tackle the surge of antisemitism as part of his ongoing tour to combat Jewish hate.
Emhoff, the Jewish husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, in his first visit to the UN, spoke to UN representatives, community leaders and senior figures at a convening on Globalizing Efforts to Combat Antisemitism to draw attention to concerning levels of rising antisemitism globally. At the event, held at the UN headquarters in Manhattan, Emhoff also discussed solutions for confronting the various manifestations of contemporary antisemitism.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States ambassador to the United Nations provided opening remarks. “Last week, swastikas were spray painted on a Jewish cemetery in Australia, a Russian missile hit a Ukrainian synagogue, and in Bloomfield, New Jersey someone with hate in their heart threw a Molotov cocktail. This was all just in one week,” she recalled.
“Antisemitism is pervasive and growing,” Thomas-Greenfield continued. “The world’s oldest form of hatred is threatening the safety, security and sense of security Jewish people involve, stoked by mainstream leaders, popular celebrities and people in power. Here in the US, 4 in 10 American Jews have changed their behavior out of fear of antisemitism. In November of last year, here in New York City, antisemitism hate crimes were up 125%. We need to stand up to this threat.”
Global progression toward combatting Antisemitism
“President Biden announced last year we are launching a national strategy to combat antisemitism,” Thomas-Greenfield continued. “The US helped pass a UN resolution to condemn Holocaust denial, the first resolution of its kind in 15 years. Today, let’s give more fuel to hope. Let’s forge stronger partnerships to halt the spread of antisemitism.”
Emhoff spoke of the Biden-Harris administration efforts to combat antisemitism, including a roundtable in December hosted by the second gentleman at the White House to discuss the push against antisemitism.
“Silence is not an option,” Emhoff said. “We must build coalitions to tackle this epidemic of hate," "We must bring together people from all backgrounds, faiths, and ethnicities. Because hate is interconnected. It affects everyone."
“Education,” he continued. “We must instill knowledge in our future generations to help fight antisemitism. It is important to tell the truth on the Holocaust and push back on Holocaust denial, distortion, and misinformation. We all know antisemitism has been around for thousands of years, but in recent years there has been a dramatic spike.”
“It's not just about Jews,” Emhoff continued. “It’s about all of us. Antisemitism is often accompanied by other forms of hatred. There is a chilling interconnection between all forms of hate. We need more dialogue, not less. We need to make clear to the haters that there is no safe harbor for them, anywhere.”
The second gentleman called on “collective action and urgency, not just words.”
“I know we will meet this moment together,” Emhoff said.
As Anti-Defamation League tracking shows antisemitism has skyrocketed to record numbers, Emhoff has taken the lead in White House efforts to combat attacks on Jews.
Last month, Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of one of the top two nationally elected US officials, took his message abroad on a visit to Berlin, Germany and Krakow, Poland.
Emhoff’s trip included a visit to Auschwitz to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“It's not just about Jews. It’s about all of us. Antisemitism is often accompanied by other forms of hatred. There is a chilling interconnection between all forms of hate. We need more dialogue, not less. We need to make clear to the haters that there is no safe harbor for them, anywhere.”First Gentleman Doug Emhoff
“While there, we honored the six million Jews who were systematically and savagely murdered by the Nazis,” Emhoff said Thursday.
“I also met with our allies to deepen our coordination to combat antisemitism,” he recalled. “In our meetings, we agreed, there must be consequences for those who engage in antisemitism. In order to combat antisemitism, we need everyone to be united in this mission.”
Following Emhoff’s remarks, Sarah Hurwitz, former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, moderated a panel discussion with Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism and American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch.
Thursday’s event was hosted by the United States Mission to the UN and the Permanent Missions of Israel, Argentina, Canada, Morocco and the United Kingdom to the UN.
Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan thanked Emhoff and the Biden-Harris administration. He told leaders further action must be taken to combat the rising levels of antisemitism in New York and nationwide.
“Jews today are afraid to walk outside with Jewish symbols, and Jewish day schools, and I witnessed it this morning, and synagogues need to be as secure as military bases,” Erdan said. “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.Not enough is being done to fight this hatred. Antisemitism is not only alive, it is spreading at rates unseen in decades.
This can only mean one thing: the current approach is broken, the current approach is broken, and we need to take action. Not tomorrow, not next week, but today. Words are not enough.”
Erdan called on accountability from UN leaders.“How can it be that even here, at the UN, Jew-hatred is spreading? Despite the clear action plan laid out by Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion nearly one year ago, UN leadership still has not implemented his recommendations.I regret to say that UN leadership is utterly failing to do what must be done in this war against evil.UN employees spew antisemitic tropes, yet remain in their posts without even receiving public condemnation. UN 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 UN leadership.But as Member States, our responsibility extends much further than the walls of this institution.One year ago, it was mentioned here many times today, we adopted the historic resolution combatting Holocaust denial and distortion, a twisted phenomenon that legitimizes antisemitism.
With this resolution, we held social media and internet companies responsible for the hate spread on their platforms.
But how far has this resolution gotten us?”