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General Assembly Holds Informal Meeting on Anti-Semitism

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 23 2015 (IPS) - Responding to an increase in violence against members of the Jewish faith, the General Assembly Thursday held an informal meeting to discuss concerns about the rise in anti-Semitism worldwide.

Speaking to member states by video message, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that a United Nations that wants to be true to its founding aims and ideals has a duty to speak out against anti-Semitism.

The informal meeting, described as the first to discuss anti-Semitism, was scheduled following a request by 37 Member States in October 2014 – several months before the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris earlier this month, which raised renewed fears among European and especially French Jews.

Nearly half of the 193-member states did not attend the informal U.N. meeting, but nearly 50 countries were planned to speak.

In a keynote speech, the French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, denounced anti-Semitism as “radical inhumanity.”

“In Paris, just a few days ago, we heard once again the infamous cry “death to the Jews” and cartoonists were killed for cartooning,” Levy said.

One of the reasons the United Nations was created after World War II was to fight this “plague” of anti-Semitism, Levy pointed out.

Ban, who was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, addressed the meeting via video message, expressing his solidarity in the fight against anti-Semitism worldwide.

“Anti-Semitism is one of the oldest forms of prejudices known to human kind,” Ban stated.

“Our efforts to build a world of mutual understanding are being severely tested today by rising extremism and barbaric acts. The poison of hatred is loose in too many places. Jews remain target, as do Muslims and so many others,” Ban warned.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power urged the world to stand up against anti-Semitism and take action to end “this monstrous global problem.”

On this particular day, which was also the French-German day, French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Harlem Désir and German Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth, came together at the United Nations as a symbol to fight against anti-Semitism, racism and any other form of barbarism.

Désir said there is a need for a European and international legal framework to prevent the diffusion of racist and anti-Semitic speeches: “Terrorists use social networks, they understand that it is the best way to promote a message.”

“We do not want to restrict the use of social media but what we are seeing in the past years and months, is that these networks are being used to promote violence and hatred,” he added.

On Wednesday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced “exceptional measures”, more police and intelligence officers to combat terrorism, especially the threat from online jihadism.

Because of Germany’s role in the Holocaust his country will always be in the forefront of fighting anti-Semitism and pursuing “a zero-tolerance policy”, Roth said.

Alvaro Mendonca e Moura, Acting President of the General Assembly, looked ahead to the International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust on January 27, emphasizing the need to remember the tragedies and to learn from the ‘unspeakable atrocities’ committed.

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