Representatives of the World Jewish Congress delivered remarks during a United Nations Human Rights Council panel discussing racism in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The panel, on “Voices for Action against Racism,” featured speakers who are known for their active role in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
South African Jewish Board of Deputies President and WJC Vice President Mary Kluk, who was invited by the United Nations to participate as a panelist, reflecting on South Africa’s “extensive history of exclusion, which tragically continues in different forms today.”
Addressing the issues of racism and violence, Kluk noted that “what exacerbates the problem is when people in positions of power not only in South Africa but globally see migrants as a danger, deflecting [attention] from poverty, the rising unemployment crisis and the unprecedented climate crisis," adding that "when one group is targeted we all speak up."
Kluk outlined initiatives that the South African Jewish community is taking to address racism, noting that the South African Jewish Board of Deputies is a founding member of the Hate Crimes Working Group, and is also a member of the network’s Steering Committee representing not only the Jewish community of South Africa but also the faith-based sector.
Dr. Leon Saltiel, the WJC representative in Geneva to the United Nations and UNESCO and the coordinator on countering antisemitism, outlined the actions WJC is taking to combat antisemitism and other types of hate, noting that the WJC delivered joint statements with the World Council of Churches on ethical issues related to global vaccine distribution and with the Muslim World League to outline the organizations’ mutual commitment to peace, among other objectives.
Concluding his remarks, Saltiel said, “The World Jewish Congress is convinced that all our struggles will be stronger if we support and speak out in favor of each other’s causes. In that respect, we would like to ask the panelists for their suggestions on how activists fighting hate can join forces with a common purpose.”
Among the dozens of noteworthy speakers at the panels were High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who condemned “Islamophobia, antisemitism, religious discrimination and intolerance affecting Muslim, Arab, Jewish and other communities around the world,” and concluded her statement with the words “Never Again.”
Watch the full panel discussion here.