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At Munich shul, Guterres denounces Jew-hatred on same day UN official says Hamas not terror group 

The embattled U.N. chief, whose agency has long been accused of Jew-hatred, said the top U.N. priority is freeing the hostages in Gaza.

António Guterres (center), secretary-general of the United Nations, at Ohel Jakob synagogue in Munich on Feb. 15, 2024 with (from left) Margaritis Schinas, (European Commission), Deborah Lipstadt (U.S. special envoy), Charlotte Knobloch (World Jewish Congress commissioner for Holocaust legacy) and Maram Sterm, executive vice president of the WJC. Credit: Marcus Schlaf/World Jewish Congress.
António Guterres (center), secretary-general of the United Nations, at Ohel Jakob synagogue in Munich on Feb. 15, 2024 with (from left) Margaritis Schinas, (European Commission), Deborah Lipstadt (U.S. special envoy), Charlotte Knobloch (World Jewish Congress commissioner for Holocaust legacy) and Maram Sterm, executive vice president of the WJC. Credit: Marcus Schlaf/World Jewish Congress.

António Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, told the Jewish community in Munich that “We must be in the center of fighting antisemitism in all its aspects.”

The U.N. head spoke at Ohel Jakob, a synagogue in the capital of the German state of Bavaria, on Thursday. He was in town for the Munich Security Conference, and the city’s Jews invited Guterres—whose agency has long been accused of Jew-hatred—to address the community in a World Jewish Congress-sponsored event.

Antisemitism is “the most permanent, pervasive and abject form of hatred in the history of humankind,” Guterres said

“I said, publicly, that I considered that the denial of the right to existence of the State of Israel was a form of antisemitism, and I maintain that position,” he added. “I can have disagreements sometimes with the policies or the actions of the government of Israel, but that can never be confused with a very clear belief that the rights of the people of Israel to live in security is necessary.”

Although Guterres said he “sometimes” has disagreements with the Israeli government, he and his agency have battled Jerusalem nearly daily on the public relations front.

The U.N. chief noted “a clear acceleration” of Jew-hatred  since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Asked about the hostages whom Hamas terrorists kidnapped on Oct. 7 and still hold in Gaza, Guterres said he’s “been totally committed” to securing their release.

“I’ve been totally committed, totally committed, working with the Qataris—we have no contact with Hamas—but working with the Qataris, working with the Egyptians also in our contact with Israel to make sure that everything is done to release the hostages,” he said, per a U.N. transcript of his remarks.

Also on Thursday, Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, slammed Martin Griffiths, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, for saying in an interview that Hamas is not a terror organization.

“The U.N.’s pro-Hamas stance is finally exposed on live TV. In the words of a U.N. under-secretary-general, ‘Hamas is not a terrorist group for us. It’s a political movement,’” Erdan wrote. “Is the brutal murder of hundreds of civilians, not terror? Is the systematic rape of women not terror? Is attempting Jewish genocide not terror?”

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the United Nations: a terror-excusing, Hamas-promoting, victim-blaming organization that has lost every ounce of credibility. Nothing said by the United Nations can be trusted or accepted.”

At the Munich shul, Maram Stern, executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, said that the hostages “are our only priority at the moment,” and that “Everything else is secondary.”

‘Most stupid’ act

Guterres has been much more vocal about securing a ceasefire and ramping up the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gazan citizens of late, although he has intimated a pause in the fighting would allow for more productive discussions on gaining the release of hostages.

Israel has said that only military pressure on Hamas has secured the release of any of the hostages.

Family members of several of the Israeli hostages, whom Hamas still holds in Gaza, are slated to gather for Shabbat dinner at Ohel Jakob together with Germany’s Israeli delegation and U.S. officials.

During Thursday’s event, Guterres recited a history of antisemitism, including in his native Portugal. Jew-hatred “was not born with the Nazis and did not die with the Nazis,” he said.

“We had during the Middle Ages in different moments and with different intensities, these forms of persecution, but of course, the horrible moment of the Portuguese history in relation to the Jewish community was the edict of expulsion of King Manuel I in the beginning of the 16th century—the most criminal and the most stupid act of the Portuguese power,” he said. (The monarch issued the decree in 1496.)

“Criminal because it dramatically impacted, made terrible suffering in the Jewish community of Portugal. Stupid, because, with the departure of so many of our citizens of the time, Portugal has lost the energy, and we witnessed a clear economic decadence from the 17th century onwards,” he said. “So, it was criminal, and it was stupid. And I’m very happy to see the Portuguese Jewish community now becoming vibrant again.”

Guterres also noted his decision, while serving as Portuguese prime minister, to revoke the edict.

“It was a symbolic gesture obviously, the article was no longer valid legally. But formally, the Portuguese parliament has revoked it and I had a chance to deposit it in one of the most beautiful temples in the world, the Portuguese synagogue of Amsterdam,” he said.

Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, attended Thursday’s event, as did Margaritis Schinas, European commissioner for promoting our European way of life, and Tobias Lindner, minister of state at the German Federal Foreign Office. The president of the Portuguese Jewish community and Charlotte Knobloch, commissioner for Holocaust legacy at the World Jewish Congress, also attended.

Israeli officials and some U.S. politicians have called for Guterres to be fired for letting anti-Israel and antisemitism fester at the United Nations. 

In early 2020, Guterres appointed a high-ranking U.N. official as an antisemitism focal point with a mandate to develop a plan to enhance a system-wide response to antisemitism.

A draft plan developed by the focal point, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, U.N. under-secretary-general and high representative for the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations, was finally distributed to Jewish leaders last summer. It was roundly criticized for being woefully insufficient and failing to acknowledge antisemitism within the U.N. ranks.

A planned meeting in Spain to discuss the draft was abruptly canceled. A JNS source within the U.S. Jewish community said a revised draft plan is circulating, with plans to release it later this year. 

“I am still hopeful that it will contain useful and positive recommendations,” the source told JNS.

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