Mere days after the Charlie Hebdo Massacre in Paris, a lone gunman stormed through the doors of a kosher supermarket in Paris, Kalashnikov blazing, and took its customers hostage. Four of them died in the terrifying four-hour ordeal. "All four," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, "were casualties of violent anti-Semitism – targets because they were Jews."
It would be a mistake to think that anti-Semitism is just a European problem. It is in fact a global problem.
There remain communities or entire countries where attending a synagogue or Jewish school is impossible, because they do not exist. In other countries, synagogues and schools can only operate with armed guards to protect against attacks by terrorists and hate groups. There are entire nations where once-vibrant Jewish communities have been driven into exile by edicts, harassment, threats, and attacks.
Particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, said Ambassador Power, "Holocaust denial is still commonplace and accusations of 'blood libel' are routinely circulated in the press. . . . there are violent extremist groups who preach a radical form of Islam and believe they are doing God’s work by killing Jews."
The defense of freedom of religion and expression across faiths and cultures is critical to pluralistic societies. "Rising anti-Semitism is rarely the lone or the last manifestation of intolerance," said Ambassador Power. "When the human rights of Jews are repressed, the rights of other religious and ethnic groups are often not far behind."
In January, the U.N. took a historic step by holding the first-ever meeting in the General Assembly on tackling the long-standing and growing problem of anti-Semitism. The United States is proud to have joined 36 other nations in calling for this meeting last October.
The United States urges governments and civil society to join the struggle against anti-Semitism. "We must not only stand up together against these acts of violence," said Ambassador Power, "but also against the hatred, intolerance, and prejudice that helps lead to such acts. If we fail to expand dramatically the ranks of those fighting anti-Semitism, not only will we fail in our obligations to the Jewish people, but we will see the weakening in our own societies of the rights and bonds that tie us all together."