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Combating Antisemitism as a Global Human Rights Challenge

Swedish Mission to the United Nations

October 23, 2019

Reported by ICJW NGOs, Fran Butensky, Joan Lurie and Judy Mintz


Ambassador Ulrika Sundberg, Special Envoy for Intercultural and Religious Dialogue at the Swedish Mission opened the meeting.


 Sweden and the World Jewish Congress were cosponsors of this event. She recognized that Sweden has a problem with anti-Semitism.  This is a problem for all of us and a worldwide threat to democracy.  For Ambassador Sundberg, anti-Semitism has taken on a personal meaning.  When she was Sweden’s Ambassador to Belgium in 2014, she witnessed first hand the terrorist attack at the Belgium Museum. She was appalled and it has left her with a determination to ensure that Sweden will do everything possible to combat anti-Semitism and identify it on all levels of society.


There are a range of measures that have been implemented by the Swedish Government and are ongoing:

  • In 2016, the Government adopted a national plan to combat racism. The plan takes an integrated approach to prevent and combat anti-Semitism and other forms of racism through monitoring, education and training.

  • The Living History Forum carries out major education initiatives on different form of racism both historical and present day, including anti-Semitism.

  • The Swedish Media Council works to empower children and young people

  • to become knowledgeable and informed media users. The Council is also involved in a campaign to combat racism on the Internet.

  • The Swedish Police Authority has increased its role in combating hate crimes, working with government agencies and other civil society groups.

  • As of 2018, appropriations to security-enhancing measures for civil society and schools have been increased.

  •  In October 2020, Sweden will host an international forum on Holocaust Remembrance and combating anti-Semitism. The forum will focus on remembrance and education, and address the issue of anti-Semitism on social media. Heads of state and governments from around 50 countries, experts, researchers and civil society have been invited to the forum. There will be an emphasis on educating children and young people and different forms of racism and training with school staff.

It was so reassuring to know that we are not alone in our fight against anti-Semitism and hopefully, other countries will do the right thing and join Sweden in combating this evil travesty.


Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief


Mr. Shaheed recently published a report entitled Combatting Antisemitism to Eliminate Discrimination and Intolerance Based on Religion or Belief.   According to a report from the American Jewish Committee, in Shaheed’s report the UN finally confronts anti-Semitism as a human rights problem.


To counter anti-Semitism, which is “toxic to democracy” and poses “a threat to all societies if left unaddressed”, countries must invest more in education, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief has warned, speaking at UN headquarters in New York.


His report is for all member states and includes recommendations on combatting anti-Semitism.  This has become, he states, a global problem – not restricted to areas where there is a Jewish population.  There has been a 13% year-to-year increase in anti-Semitic incidents for the last two years.  Currently, many Jews do not feel safe in their own countries.


There are many forms and many sources of anti-Semitism.  He cites Christian, Muslim, left wing organizations and other quarters from which anti-Semitism is currently arising.  There are also world leaders engaging in anti-Semitic speech.  In his report he studies anti-Semitic hate and violence around the globe by country.


There are toxic manifestations on line; the authors of these often use the so-called “Dark Web”.  The discourse occurring on line leads to manifestations off line!  One of the key findings of his study was that there is insufficient monitoring. 


Some of his recommendations:

  • Since anti-Semitism is a human rights offense, the UN has the duty to address it to protect human rights.

  • There must be laws against hate crimes – governments and policy makers must also make sure their own actions do not contribute to anti-Semitism. 

  • Education is essential – there must be continued Holocaust education. There should also be mention of the achievements of Jews rather than just continuing to emphasize victimhood.

  • Intercommunity dialog is recommended; there should be a single focal point in each country and in the Jewish community.



Daniel Radomski Head of Programs and Strategy of the World Jewish Congress


Mr. Radomski reminded us that the WJC represents 100 countries with Jewish countries worldwide.  He reported that examples of anti-Semitism come into their offices daily.  Most are examples of hate and intolerance.  There is often a climate of fear for the physical security of their communities.  There is even anti-Semitism where no Jews live.  He emphasized that anti-Semitism is a human rights issue.


His informative presentation included these highlights:

-There must be a global perspective in addition to local action in combating anti-Semitism.

-The hatred of Jews is a common thread that unites many diverse hate groups.

-There is much hatred on college campuses around the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement.  BDS doesn’t have much of an impact on Israel but does greatly hurt Jewish students who can’t have a full Jewish identity.

-Hate is spread off-line and on-line.  Often individuals don’t display anti-Semitism when they are off-line but use on-line sites instead to express their hate.  The issue of “free speech” must be considered.  There is a “fine line” between the two.

-The definition of anti-Semitism must be followed and monitored.  Both judiciary and law enforcement are key components.   There must be a holistic, consistent approach. We need action as well as critical thinking and empathy training.

-Anti-Semitism is not only a Jewish issue.  The victim is society.


Q and A

Some of the participants were from the Missions of Germany, Morocco and Canada as well as ICJW, NCJW Canada-Toronto, the Anti-Defamation League and Hadassah.


Some additional comments included:

-The importance of education was stressed; education can be used to combat anti-Semitism and is a powerful tool.

-The definitions of hate crimes and hate speech must be determined and then endorsed and accepted by member states.

-In two years time, there should be a review of this released report and then best practices must be shared.

-All of us were encouraged to speak up against hate and intolerance.

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