The rise of populism has triggered an increase in anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said.
The new UN chief told several hundred people, including Holocaust survivors, at the UN’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust that “a ‘new normal’ of public discourse is taking hold, in which prejudice is given a free pass and the door is opened to even more extreme hatred.”
Guterres, who as Portugal’s prime minister spurred Parliament in 1996 to revoke a 16th century letter expelling all Jews from the country, said people like him who grew up after World War II never imagined they would see rising attacks on Jews in Europe.
But “anti-Semitism is alive and kicking,” he said. “Irrationality and intolerance are back.”
Some people still deny the Holocaust despite the facts, Guterres said, and there is a new trend of Holocaust revisionism “with the rewriting of history and even the honouring of disgraced officials from those days.”
He warned that “hate speech and anti-Semitic imagery are proliferating across the internet and social media”, and violent extremist groups are using anti-Semitic appeals “to rouse their forces and recruit new followers.”
Guterres said growing intolerance in many forms is being “triggered by populism”.
He called the stereotyping of Muslims “deeply troubling,” and said he is “extremely concerned at the discrimination faced by minorities, refugees and migrants across the world.”
The secretary-general said the UN must promote tolerance, strengthen its human rights operation, push for justice for perpetrators of grave crimes, and invest in education and youth.
“We need to strengthen social cohesion so that people feel that diversity is a plus, not a threat,” Guterres said.