UN Experts Urge Action Against Rising Anti-Semitism Around Globe, Call for More Holocaust Education

The United Nations headquarters building in New York City.

January 27, 2021

A group of United Nations experts on Wednesday urged countries to take action against rising anti-Semitism and promote Holocaust education.

In a statement published on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Special Rapporteurs Ahmed Shaheed, Tendayi Achiume, Irene Khan, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Fernand de Varennes, Karima Bennoune and Agnès Callamard — members of the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures body — said, “In 2019, reports by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism documented a dramatic and persistent increase in antisemitic rhetoric and incidents in many countries in recent years, both offline and online. During 2020, these trends grew even more worrying, with widespread reports of antisemitic rhetoric on social media and in traditional media outlets, promoting outrageous conspiracy theories and attributing responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic to Jews, as noted by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief in an April 2020 statement and by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism in an August 2020 report.”

“It is clear that when left unchecked, distortion and denial of the Holocaust — in which six million Jews, alongside members of other targeted groups were murdered in a uniquely brutal, systematic and state-sanctioned campaign of antisemitic extermination, dehumanisation and persecution — can undermine States’ ability to protect and promote human rights,” the statement noted. “Not only can these and other forms of antisemitic expression create a climate of fear in which Jews are unable to manifest their religion and identity, but they can also threaten the rights to liberty and security and to take part in cultural life and equality and non-discrimination of all by encouraging the spread of conspiracy theories, stereotyping and harmful prejudices.”

“Today, we call for public figures to condemn Holocaust denial and distortion and for States to urgently step up educational, training and awareness-raising efforts that counter antisemitic stereotypes and prejudices and that include accurate information about the Holocaust, at all levels of society,” the Special Rapporteurs declared.

“Recent events have served as a painful reminder of the potential for antisemitic conspiracy theories and misinformation to contribute to an environment in which violence, discrimination, and hatred can flourish. We urge stakeholders to come together and act, in line with a human rights approach, to ensure more effectively that the facts of the Holocaust are known and appreciated, and to counter Holocaust distortion and denial and other similarly harmful antisemitic narratives, in the years ahead,” they concluded.