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U.N. Secretary-General Warns of Rising Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Hate During COVID-19 Pandemic

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May 8, 2020
BERLIN, GERMANY – JANUARY 19: Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres attends a press conference on the International Libya Conference in Berlin, Germany, 19 January 2020. According to media reports the participants of the Berlin Libya summit have committed to a UN arms embargo and guaranteed an end of military support for the civil war parties. (Photo by Omar Messinger-Pool/Getty Images)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement on May 8 calling for countries to tackle rising anti-Semitism and other forms of hate.

Guterres said that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a torrent of bigotry being spread online.

“Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets,” he said. “Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.  Migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus — and then denied access to medical treatment.”

Guterres later added: “We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate.  That’s why I’m appealing today for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally.”

The secretary-general urged world leaders to condemn hatred, social media companies to remove posts spreading bigotry from their platforms and for more education to combat intolerance online.

“I call on civil society to strengthen outreach to vulnerable people, and religious actors to serve as models of mutual respect,” Guterres said. “And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness.”

MADRID, SPAIN – DECEMBER 02: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to the media at the opening day of the UNFCCC COP25 climate conference on December 2, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. The conference brings together world leaders, climate activists, NGOs, indigenous people and others together for two weeks in an effort to focus global policy makers on concrete steps for heading off a further rise in global temperatures. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt praised Guterres’ remarks.

“Thank you @UN [Secretary-General] @antonioguterres for this important call to action for a global end to hate speech — both online and off,” Greenblatt tweeted. “At a time when the world is fighting the #COVID19 pandemic, we must stand together against anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and hate of all kinds.”

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Ahmed Shaheed issued a similar statement on April 17 warning of rising anti-Semitism during the pandemic, which has included conspiracy theories of Jews using the virus to take over the world.

“I am extremely concerned to see that certain religious leaders and politicians continue to exploit the challenging times during this pandemic to spread hatred against Jews and other minorities,” Shaheed said at the time. “We must collectively reject anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance and discrimination now.”

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