UN Racism Expert Condemns Antisemitism – But It Is Not Enough

In his regular report (A/HRC/29/46) to the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council on contemporary forms of racism, the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, focuses on the issue of racial profiling, which in his view affects primarily people of African descent and Middle Eastern origin. However, in his second report (A/HRC/29/47) that will be presented to the same HRC session, the Special Rapporteur addresses the issue of the resurgence of neo-Nazi ideologies.

Muslim and Jews, as well as the Roma communities are the minority groups suffering the most from stigmatization and violence in their respective countries, as pointed out by the Special Rapporteur. Political leaders have used the constant stigmatization of certain “vulnerable groups,” especially during austerity periods to justify “high unemployment rates, cuts in social benefits and increasing poverty.”

Indeed, the Special Rapporteur acknowledged that constant “racist and xenophobic violence continues to be perpetrated by extremist movements and groups, including neo-Nazis, skinheads and other right-wing movements, against Roma, Muslims, [and] Jews.” For instance, Jewish schools and cemeteries have been painted with swastikas and anti-Jews slogans, while gravestones were defiled and broken.

Besides the continuing racist and xenophobic violence, the Special Rapporteur identified Holocaust denial and distortion of history as major issues, which “are generally motivated by strong anti-Semitism.” The Special Rapporteur is concerned about those views, which “perpetuate long-standing anti-Semitic prejudices and stereotypes.” Such attempts to falsify history contribute to the dissemination of Nazism and have been condemned by the Special Rapporteur. In fact, he emphasized the importance of criminalizing Holocaust denial in national law, as it is the case in a number of countries. In addition, in a clear reference to Iran, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern “about allegations regarding a cartoon competition disdaining the Holocaust and insulting the victims and remaining survivors of that tragedy.”

Despite considerable recent efforts made by States to fight against “extremist political parties, movements and groups” as well as neo-Nazis and right-wing extremist movements, racist and xenophobic violence, especially against the Jewish communities remains as one of the principal challenges in today’s world. Therefore, the Special Rapporteur highlighted two key policy measures to counter those challenges, such as “awareness-raising programmes” and adopt “a victim-centred approach.” Instead, he just recalled the importance of collective action regarding good practices, by including “civil society and international and regional human rights mechanisms […] to counter extremist political parties, movements and groups.”

Nevertheless, the Special Rapporteur has ignored the scourges of antisemitism originating from the left, Islamic fundamentalist circles, as well as governments, especially in the Middle East. He also did not send any communications regarding antisemitism in his last “Communications Report on Special Procedures (A/HRC/29/50). Indeed, after the peak of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe, with the attack against the Hyper Casher in Paris in January 2015,  the Rapporteur did not take any action on the issue. In a period when anti-Semitism has reached a new height, the Special Rapporteur ought to address this phenomenon more holistically.

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