United Nations appoints first 'UN Focal Point' to monitor antisemitism

High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations Miguel Ángel Moratinos, will now be tasked with "enhancing a system-wide response" to combat antisemitism.

Miguel Angel Moratinos Cuyaube speaks during the Annual Report on Wider Atlantic Perspectives and Patterns in the city of Marrakech in Morocco. (photo credit: ABDERRAHMANE MOKHTARI/REUTERS)
Miguel Angel Moratinos Cuyaube speaks during the Annual Report on Wider Atlantic Perspectives and Patterns in the city of Marrakech in Morocco.
The United Nations has named Spanish diplomat Miguel Ángel Moratinos, high representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), as its envoy tasked with monitoring antisemitism.
Moratinos, appointed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, will now be tasked with “enhancing a system-wide response” to combat global antisemitism – within an international body that has long been accused of anti-Israel bias.
“In his capacity as the United Nations focal point designated by the United Nations secretary-general to monitor antisemitism and enhance a system-wide response, the high representative underscores that the United Nations is fully engaged in combating antisemitism as well as all forms of discrimination and intolerance based on religion or belief,” the UNAOC said Tuesday.
The alliance “promotes mutual respect, cultural diversity and religious pluralism, as well as strengthening interfaith dialogue across the faith spectrum in line with its motto ‘Many Cultures, One Humanity,’” it added.
“In this context, the high representative stresses that countering hate speech and all forms of discrimination, including against Jews and all other communities, religious or otherwise, requires adopting a human rights-based approach.”
The position mirrors similar roles in the EU, US, UK, Germany and France, positions that have been used to coordinate global efforts among governments and NGOs to take antisemitism head on.
Moratinos’s first act within the role was to “unequivocally condemn” the statements made on social media by a senior member of the Board of Trustees of Britain’s largest Muslim charity, Islamic Relief Worldwide, after The Times penned an article about these controversial statements last week – leading to a charity worker resigning from the role.
“The high representative unequivocally condemns such loathsome social media posts by a high-profile member of the management team at Islamic Relief, which remained on public display since 2014 before being recently removed,” the UNAOC said.
“While the high representative takes note of the statement issued by Islamic Relief on July 22, 2020, which condemned those offensive views and announced the resignation of the senior staff member – author of the social media posts – he reiterates that it is imperative for civil society organizations and faith-based actors to exhibit a zero-tolerance policy toward antisemitism and all forms of discrimination online and offline by putting in place effective measures.”
In 2014, IRW leader Heshmat Khalifa categorized Jewish people as the “grandchildren of monkeys and pigs,” adding that Egypt’s president is a “Zionist pimp,” via his Facebook page.
Islamic Relief noted it was alerted to the matter on July 16, with action taken a week later following the release of the Times article.
Khalifa also said Hamas is “the purest resistance movement in modern history.”
Islamic Relief responded within hours.
“Following the publication of Heshmat Khalifa’s social media posts in today’s media, Islamic Relief reiterates its strong condemnation of the offensive views expressed within them,” it said following the release of the Times article. “These have no place in our organization. We are appalled by the hateful comments he made and unreservedly condemn all forms of discrimination, including antisemitism.
“Heshmat Khalifa has resigned from the Board of Trustees... with immediate effect. He will also play no further part in any other Islamic Relief boards,” they added. “We reject and condemn terrorism and believe that all forms of discrimination – including antisemitism – are unacceptable. These values are fundamental to our organization, our donors and the people we serve.”
The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement lauded Moratinos’s appointment, the significance of his position within the international body and the message it sends to the world.
“We warmly welcome the appointment of Miguel Moratinos as the United Nations’ antisemitism envoy. The importance of this role is reflected by the wealth of high-level experience and prominent leadership positions High Representative Moratinos has served in,” said CAM director Sacha Roytman-Dratwa.
“By appointing an antisemitism envoy, the United Nations is sending a very important message to the world: that tackling hatred against Jews is very much a global priority.”