TEL AVIV – Jew hatred and demonization of Israel are at “the highest level of our lifetimes,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations said at a high-level forum on anti-Semitism held on Wednesday at the UN’s headquarters in New York.
“Over 1/3 of European Jews are afraid to wear a yarmulke or Star of David in public,” Danny Danon said. “More than half of French Jews have considered emigrating because they don’t feel safe living as Jews in France. Today we hear things about Jews and the Jewish people that we thought belonged to the pages of history. … Anti-Semitism is returning to everyday life without shame.”
Danon also said that social media presents a “new kind of threat” in that anti-Semitism goes global very quickly.
“We are living in a new era and we face a new kind of anti-Semitism,” Danon said. “Using the tools of online social networks to demonize the Jewish people and the Jewish state, this is Anti-Semitism 2.0.”
“The enemies of the Jewish people are using the tools of modern technology to target and harass Jews around the world,” he said, adding that the modern world makes life easier for anti-Semites since “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 added.
He said that attacks against Jews online lead directly to attacks against Jews on the street.
“We know from history that during times of crisis, people look for scapegoats,” Danon said. “And time and time again that scapegoat has been the Jewish people. So we have to be proactive, we have to speak out and we have to educate our young people about the dangers of online anti-Semitism. And we also have to be honest. Talking is not enough. We need immediate and concrete action. … Media companies have to take preventative steps.”
Danon slammed some UN member states for expressing openly anti-Semitic sentiments.
“There is a place where some are not ashamed to spread lies and slander about Israel and the Jewish people and you are sitting in it right now, here at the UN,” Danon said.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power also spoke at the forum, asserting 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.”
Power went on to list a series of anti-Semitic attacks that have taken place all around the world this year and said that, in the U.S., Jews and Jewish institutions continue to be the biggest target of religiously motivated hate crimes, according to a recent FBI report.
The American diplomat added that “we must be careful not to label or conflate legitimate criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic.”
“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 video broadcast, calling 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 added.
The day-long forum included addresses from 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 and representatives of the Anti-Defamation League.