UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Monday for a global fight on two fronts – one against the coronavirus pandemic and the other against “the poison” of anti-Semitism and hatred of Muslims, migrants, refugees and many others.
Even before the virus struck earlier this year, the UN chief said there was a surge in anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, racism and other forms of discrimination.
“And with COVID-19, another virus has spread – anti-Semitism and hatred of many kinds,” he said.
Guterres pointed to “a steady stream of prejudice” in recent months from anti-Semitic assaults, harassment and vandalism to Holocaust denial and a guilty plea in a neo-Nazi plot to blow up a synagogue.
He was speaking after receiving the highest award from the World Jewish Congress, named for Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism whose vision led to the establishment of the state of Israel.
It was awarded virtually, because of the pandemic, by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a previous recipient. The event was held on the 82nd anniversary of the Nazis’ Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass,” pogrom against Jewish synagogues, schools, hospitals and homes.
Guterres, who is Portuguese, recalled coming of age in Europe as it was recovering from World War II and the Nazi Holocaust.
“To see neo-Nazis and white supremacists on the march today is bone-chilling,” he said. “To see them infiltrating militaries and security establishments heightens the danger further still.”
As the world tries to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, Guterres said, “age-old blood libels have been given new life.”