Kofi Annan on Monday opened the first UN-organised seminar dedicated to anti-Semitism in response to charges that the UN dwelled on Palestinian rights and deliberately ignored injustices to Israelis and Jews.
New York: The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, worried by what he called an "alarming resurgence" of anti-Semitism in the world, has called for UN bodies to adopt resolutions and investigate the scourge.
Mr Annan on Monday opened the first UN-organised seminar dedicated to anti-Semitism in response to charges that the UN dwelled on Palestinian rights and deliberately ignored injustices to Israelis and Jews.
"When we seek justice for the Palestinians - as we must - let us firmly disavow anyone who tries to use that cause to incite hatred against Jews - in Israel or elsewhere," Mr Annan told the gathering, which included a wide spectrum of US Jewish groups and representatives of other religions.
Mr Annan, whose speech was greeted with a standing ovation, said it was hard to believe, 60 years after the Holocaust, that anti-Semitism was rearing its head. "But it is clear we are witnessing an alarming resurgence of this phenomenon in new forms and manifestations," he said.
"This time the world must not, cannot, be silent."
Mr Annan called on UN member states to adopt a resolution to combat anti-Semitism, similar to one approved in April by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. He also said the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva should examine anti-Semitism as diligently as it looked into racism against Muslims in various parts of the world.
"Are not Jews entitled to the same degree of concern and protection?" Mr Annan asked.
Jewish leaders pointed to dissent in the Arab world they say is descending into expressions of extreme anti-Semitism and a flurry of incidents in Europe, especially in France and Russia.
Only Germany came in for praise for its education system and tough laws to combat anti-Semitism, despite rising fears among the Jewish population there. There was little discussion of anti-Semitism in the US, where there are about 5 million Jews, slightly more than in Israel. Elie Wiesel, the author, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, said he thought anti-Semitism had perished in the Auschwitz death camp, but "only the Jews perished there".
Wiesel said that discriminating against Jews often translated into hatred against all minorities and "those who are different".
The UN came in for heavy criticism, especially from Anne Bayefsky, a professor and fellow at the Hudson Institute think tank, who said Israel was frequently demonised while Arab nations got away with redrawing the map of the Middle East.
Felice Gaer, a human rights and UN expert from the American Jewish Committee, called Mr Annan's address "forthright and unique" in UN history. "It's as good as it gets," she said.