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Press briefing notes anti-semitism

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Marta Hurtado
Location: Geneva
Date: 28 May 2019

We condemn the rise in anti-Semitic incidents taking place in a number of European countries and the United States. Just in the past week, after a significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Germany, the Government official charged with combatting anti-Semitism felt the need to urge Jews in parts of the country where incidents have been taking place, to consider avoiding wearing kippas (skullcaps) on their heads in public, in order not to draw attention to their race and religion.

And in Austria, a number of pictures of Holocaust survivors displayed in a street exhibition entitled "Lest we forget" in central Vienna have been vandalised not once, but three times. Initially, swastikas were painted on the faces of the survivors, and then on Sunday night large sections of the faces on the pictures were cut out.

These events in Germany and Austria cannot, unfortunately, be described as isolated, with other European countries also experiencing increases in acts of vandalism, including of Jewish businesses and gravestones. Most disturbing of all, acts of physical violence against Jews have also increased in a number of countries in recent years, with particularly sharp rises in violent incidents reported in both Germany and France. However, the worst incidents have taken place in the United States, where 11 people were killed during an attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last October, and in April a woman was killed and three other worshippers were injured in another attack on a synagogue in Southern California.

The rise in attacks targeting Jews, along with other groups targeted because of their race or religion, is a matter of grave concern, and we urge all governments to redouble their efforts to combat racism and related intolerance in all its forms. Under international law, people are entitled to legal protection from incitement to hatred and violence. When abuse rises to the level of incitement – whether it be on the street or on the Internet – it should be prohibited by law, while respecting freedom of expression, which has permissible restrictions in such cases.

On a more positive note, it was encouraging to learn yesterday that a number of people in Vienna have taken a stand against the acts of anti-Semitism, thereby working to repair the damaged pictures of the Holocaust survivors and joining forces to guard the exhibition from further attacks.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org or Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org or Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / mhurtado@ohchr.org

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