Unlike its discredited predecessor, the Human Rights Council has not passed one single resolution condemning antisemitism. (The Commission on Human Rights used to condemn antisemitism in 3 separate resolutions each year. Not much has changed since our 2004-2007 The United Nations and Anti-Semitism Report Card.)
Yet, in a recent welcome development, Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, the UN’s expert on racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, had some tough words for antisemites across the world. In his most recent report, the expert dedicated an entire section to “Countering Holocaust denial and the distortion of History” and included another section outlining successful methods for combating neo-Nazis and skinheads.
In particular, the report explicitly defines and denounces modern Holocaust denial. The report defines Holocaust denial as 1) denying six million Jews were killed during the Second World War; 2) professing the Nazis had no official policy or intention to exterminate Jews; and 3) extermination and concentration camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau never existed.
The expert explains that while the Holocaust “is one of the well-documented events in recent history,” Holocaust denial is driven directly by antisemitism and as a tool for advancing the conspiracy of Jewish world domination. This antisemitism, the expert continues, also manifests in overtly antisemitic events and actions such as a full military funeral of an SS officer, a celebration of a Nazi military victory, and the promotion of antisemitic views by a comedian [alluding to French “comedian” Dieudonne] and other public personalities.
Mr. Ruteere highlights several efforts and initiatives taken by countries to combat antisemitism. In particular, he “emphasizes the importance of criminalizing the approval, denial or belittlement of the Holocaust in national law.” The Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland and Romania explicitly consider Holocaust denial a crime, a measure Mr. Ruteere believes is crucial in combating “racist ideologies” and “hate speech.”
Despite the fact, however, that many nations commemorate the Holocaust, antisemitism, Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about Jews still “persist in societies across Europe.” One of the best practice for fighting such scourges, Mr. Ruteere notes, is through education and “recommends that States ensure that education about the Holocaust is included on school curricula.”
As a result, the UN expert recommends that all nations adopt provisions that add increased sanctions for crimes that are deemed to be motivated by antisemitism (paragraph 53) and to actively curb the rise and influence of neo-Nazi and skinhead groups (57/58). The UN expert also calls on all countries to actively preserve “Holocaust sites which served as Nazi death camps, concentration and forced labor camps” and “encourages states to take legislative, law enforcement and educational measures to put an end to Holocaust denial” (60).
Mr. Ruteere’s reminds the public of the oft used, yet seldom practiced adage of “never again,” that sadly remains ignored today. Mr. Ruteere writes, “The Holocaust is a powerful reminder of the need to protect, promote and defend human rights…by promoting Holocaust remembrance, Governments can also speak out against contemporary manifestations of racism, anti-Semitism and other related intolerance.”