Annan: Jews must feel UN is their home
UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the world organization's first-ever seminar on anti-Semitism on Monday that Jews must feel "the United Nations is their home."
Author Elie Wiesel, a Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, told the seminar that he thought anti-Semitism had died at Auschwitz. However, he said, it has turned out that Auschwitz killed Jews while anti-Semitism lives on.
Jewish leaders say anti-Semitism is escalating around the world but is ignored by UN institutions.
Annan said Monday the UN must participate in battling anti-Semitism, and called on the members of the UN to pass a resolution against anti-Semitism in September's General Assembly meeting.
"The fight against anti-Semitism must be our fight, and the Jews everywhere must feel that the United Nations is their home," Annan said at the opening of the all-day conference.
Annan also called on the human-rights organizations affiliated with the UN to "actively explore a way of combating anti-Semitism more effectively in the future."
"We owe it to ourselves, as well as to our Jewish brothers and sisters, to stand firmly against the particular type of hatred that anti-Semitism represents, and that means we must be prepared to examine the nature of today's manifestations of anti-Semitism more closely," Annan said.
Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman and World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman were also scheduled to speak at the seminar.
Seminar discussions are expected to be tough on the UN, which has adopted countless resolutions condemning Israeli actions against the Palestinians.
Criticism of Israel is not the problem in itself, several Jewish leaders say.
"The UN has multitudes of annual reports on various racist situations but an obvious neglect of anti-Semitism," said Elon Steinberg, executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress. "We are seeing the most severe level of anti-Semitism around the globe since the Holocaust." He said Jewish communities in Europe have been made "the innocent victims" of reverberations in Europe from the Middle East conflict.
Another panelist, Felice Gaer, director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, said the "spike in anti-Semitic incidents in recent years is not hooliganism, it's human rights abuse."
The Jewish leaders point to dissent in the Arab world they say is descending into expressions of extreme anti-Semitism.
In Europe, many nations, including France which has had a flurry of incidents against Jews, resisted for some time treating them as anti-Semitic acts. In some countries, the violence has been justified as reactions against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policies.
Israel for decades has viewed the United Nations and its members as irredeemably hostile. It has accused the body of ignoring anti-Israeli suicide bombers, and even such acts as Iraq's firing missiles at Tel Aviv during the 1990 Gulf War.
In contrast, Arab nations insist that the United Nations, which has adopted a stream of General Assembly resolutions favorable to their cause, has failed to prevent the deaths of Palestinians and encroachment on their territory.