UN's Guterres: COVID-19 created antisemitism spike, as neo-Nazism rises

"Antisemitism continues to blight our world. It is sad... that the pandemic has triggered yet another eruption of this poisonous ideology" • "There is no vaccine for antisemitism and xenophobia"

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech at the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, December 18, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS/HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/FILE PHOTO)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech at the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, December 18, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/FILE PHOTO)
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a wave of antisemitism while neo-Nazism and white supremacy are already on the rise, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said Monday night.
“Antisemitism continues to blight our world,” he said at New York’s Park East Synagogue during a ceremony to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is on Wednesday. “It is sad, but not surprising, that the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered yet another eruption of this poisonous ideology.”
Antisemitism, xenophobia, hate speech, white supremacy, neo-Nazism and Holocaust denial has grown stronger, Guterres said.
“In Europe, the United States and elsewhere, white supremacists are organizing and recruiting across borders, flaunting the symbols and tropes of the Nazis and their murderous ambitions,” he said, adding that such symbols were also part of the riots in Washington earlier this month.
The Anti-Defamation League in 2019 recorded the highest level of antisemitic incidents since it began tracking them in 1979, Guterres said.
The more time people spend online, the more vulnerable they are to propaganda, fear and hatred disseminated by the white supremacists and neo-Nazis, he said.
“They even trade information on how to infect minority communities by effectively making themselves into bioweapons,” he added.
In some countries, neo-Nazi ideas have entered mainstream debate; in others, neo-Nazis have “infiltrated police and state security services,” Guterres said.
The rise of these dangerous ideologies has come about as the result of “a global attack on truth that has reduced the role of science and fact-based analysis in public life,” he said.
“When truth dies, it is far easier to exploit real and imagined differences between groups to scapegoat communities and groups of people,” he added.
Recovery from COVID-19 must also address issues that were exposed by the pandemic, such as antisemitism, Guterres said.
“There is no vaccine for antisemitism and xenophobia,” he said, “But our best weapon remains the truth.”
Global action is needed to build “an alliance against the growth and spread of neo-Nazism and white supremacy and to fight propaganda and disinformation,” Guterres said.