GENEVA - The U,N. human rights office condemns the rise of antisemitic incidents in Europe and the United States and urges governments to redouble efforts to combat all forms of racism and intolerance.
In the past week, a significant rise in antisemitic incidents in Germany prompted a government official to urge Jews not to wear skullcaps in public. This, so as not to draw attention to their heritage and religion. The German government then backtracked on this suggestion in the face of protests.
In Austria, right wing vandals painted Nazi swastikas on the images of Holocaust survivors displayed in a street exhibition in Vienna. The U.N. human rights office denounces these acts and the noticeable upsurge of antisemitic incidents in a number of European countries and the US.
The agency says it is particularly disturbed by the increase in physical attacks against Jews in a number of countries in recent years. Spokeswoman Marta Hurtado says there has been a particularly sharp rise in violent incidents in Germany and France.
“However, the worst incidents have taken place in the United States, where eleven people were killed during an attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last October, and in April a woman was killed… in another attack on a synagogue in Southern California,” she said.
Attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in the United States remained near historic levels in 2018, with physical assaults on adherents of the Jewish faith doubling, the Anti-Defamation League reported Tuesday.
There were 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents in 2018, down from 1,986 in 2017 but the third-highest level since the 1970s, the Jewish civil rights organization said in its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in 2018. The incidents included 1,066 cases of harassment and 774 cases of vandalism.
Hurtado tells VOA governments must condemn and denounce policies and acts against people based on their race, religion or sexual and gender orientation.
“We think that governments in general should do much more, be more vocal against hatred, against discrimination of any kind of any person," she said. "Governments should be vocal, condemning and explaining to the whole population why… words matter because words lead to action and eventually to violence.”
Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner has advised Jews that it may be dangerous in certain parts of the country to wear the kippahs, also known as skullcaps, traditionally worn by Jewish men.
The U.N. human rights office says freedom of expression must be respected, but there are limits. When abuse rises to the level of incitement to hatred and violence, it says that type of expression should be prohibited by law.