On Holocaust Remembrance Day, UN rights chief says COVID-19 conspiracies blaming Jews abound

(Photo: REUTERS / Fabrizio Bensch)German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of the Roman Catholic Church, Nikolaus Schneider, President of the council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder , German President Joachim Gauck, Dieter Graumann, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Daniela Schadt partner of President Gauck and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit (L-2nd R) pose on stage after an anti-Semitism demo at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate September 14, 2014. At right is TV presenter Cherno Jobatey.

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, UN human rights experts have reiterated their calls to combat antisemitism and all forms of religious and racial bigotry.

"Early reports confirm that 2021 – like 2020, 2019, and 2018 before it – was a year in which monitors around the world again documented historically high levels of antisemitism," said the experts ahead of the day, on Jan. 26.

Also, Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said, "We need to push back against hatred."

She said that today, racism and xenophobia are rising sharply as violent attacks on Jewish sites and antisemitic incidents have been reported in many countries.

"Antisemitic conspiracy theories have attributed responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic to Jews. Many public figures have minimized, distorted and weaponised the Holocaust in statements attacking public health measures.

"As they were in the 1930s, lies, hatred, scapegoating and dehumanization are on the rise – gravely threatening our social fabric today."

The experts said that of particular concern over the past year are the many reports that Jewish people, and sites, were subjected to violence, discrimination and harassment by people targeting them as proxies for Israel because of their Jewish identity."

They cited incidents particularly and following armed hostilities in the Middle East in May 2021.


"Jewish people were violently attacked, suffered death threats and were harassed online; Jewish neighbourhoods were targeted by groups of individuals making violent threats," they said.

They said Jewish religious, educational, and cultural sites were vandalized and defaced; and protests targeted synagogues and Jewish community centers.

The experts include Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur on cultural rights; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial or arbitrary executions; and Fernand de Varennes RP, Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

"Over the years, we, and the UN mandates that we hold, have repeatedly issued warnings of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice to all peoples everywhere," they said.

Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva gave a grim reminder of who the Holocaust is commemorated in a speech she gave a ceremony at the UN on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27.

"On this day, 77 years ago, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp was liberated by the allied forces from the Nazis and their collaborators," said Shahar.

"Auschwitz: the largest of all Nazi extermination camps. Auschwitz: a place where over 1,000,000 Jews and other victims of the Holocaust were dehumanized, starved, gassed, and burnt. Auschwitz: 'Hell on Earth.'

"Auschwitz also symbolizes the "Final Solution" - the Nazi's policy of systemic mass murder of the Jewish People. So marking its liberation today, means celebrating light over darkness."

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