ECI at UNGA 2019New York, September 30th, 2019 – The European Coalition for Israel (ECI) has asked the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, to add the eradication of anti-Semitism to the list of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG). In a letter to the Secretary-General ahead of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, on Monday, ECI congratulated the Secretary-General for a successful high-level week of UNGA with an unprecedented focus on religious freedom and religious persecution, including anti-Semitism.

On Monday September 23rd the US government hosted a high-level UN summit on religious freedom where US President Donald Trump highlighted the challenges facing religious minorities around the world and called on the UN to take concrete action for the protection of religious freedom. At the seminar, Secretary-General Guterres mentioned the rise of anti-Semitism and the deadly attack at the synagogue in Pittsburgh last year as an expression of religious persecution.

On Friday September 27th, Brazil and Hungary co-hosted a seminar focusing specifically on the persecution of Christians worldwide with additional contributions from panellists from the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, the Holy See, the Philippines and Lebanon. The seminar concluded that while Christians make up the most persecuted religious community in the world, they have mostly been ignored by the international community with the exception of Israel which has raised the issue on the UN Security Council level.

British Secretary of State, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon summarized the seminar in saying that “religious persecution around the world is not only a Christian concern but a human concern”.

In bilateral meetings with government leaders throughout the week, ECI reminded them about the urgent need to address the rise of anti-Semitism by learning about the immense contributions of the Jewish culture to humanity. These concerns were echoed in a unique report issued earlier in the week by the UN Special Rapporteur for freedom of religion and belief, Ahmed Shaheed, who warned about the threat of rising anti-Semitism and called for the UN to take concrete action. The report recommends the creation of a new position at the office of the Secretary-General to help coordinate the global fight against anti-Semitism, and recognizes the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism as an important tool to help fight Jew hatred.

In its letter to the Secretary-General, ECI thanked the UN secretariat for the good cooperation over the years, which in 2016 led to the recognition of the Jewish religious holiday, Yom Kippur, as an official UN holiday. The recognition came about as a result of three years of campaigning by ECI and the Israeli government to prevent any important future UN meetings to be held on Jewish holidays.

“This is a small but important step in the better inclusion of the Jewish state in the family of nations,” the letter concluded.

The ECI delegation consisted of Gregory Lafitte, Tomas Sandell (picture) and J. Rudolf Geigy.