US envoy to Human Rights Council blasts UN official

Farida Shaheed’s “mischaracterization” of the IHRA antisemitism definition harms efforts to ensure "students can access the education they deserve.”

Farida Shaheed, the special U.N. rapporteur on the right to education. Credit: Wotancito via Wikimedia Commons.
Farida Shaheed, the special U.N. rapporteur on the right to education. Credit: Wotancito via Wikimedia Commons.

Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva hit back at a U.N. official’s denigration of the most widely accepted definition of antisemitism and a minimizing of Jew-hatred on campuses globally.

Farida Shaheed, the special U.N. rapporteur on the right to education, filed a report in April after a late 2023 tour of U.S. college campuses, in which she said that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism “conflates criticisms of Israel with antisemitism to silence lawful speech supportive of Palestinian human rights and the right to self-determination.”

The U.N. official lamented in the report that Hamas supporters were “blacklisted as supporters of terrorism, with accompanying threats to their prospects for future employment.”

There were also “actions to curtail speech” of those who “express solidarity with the suffering civilians in Gaza and denounce the ongoing Israeli military response,” Shaheed said.

She claimed in passing that she is “equally concerned at the reported increase of antisemitism in universities” following Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, “but regrets that the resort to the IHRA definition brings confusion on such an important issue.”

During a dialogue with Shaheed at the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, Michèle Taylor, the U.S. ambassador to the council, welcomed Shaheed’s “note of concern at the rise of antisemitism on campuses.”

“Indeed, religious and ethnic Jewish students are experiencing discrimination and harassment on campuses throughout the Diaspora,” the U.S. envoy said.

“Unfortunately, the blatant mischaracterization in your report of a long-standing and widely used structure to address antisemitism is harmful to much-needed efforts put in place to ensure that those students can access the education they deserve,” Taylor said.

Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, backed Taylor, thanking her “for affirming the importance of IHRA as a valuable instrument to combat antisemitism.” 

Lipstadt added that “calling for the condemnation of the Hamas terror attacks on October 7 is not something donors or alumni do alone but a responsibility we all have to condemn terrorism and hate.

“Educational institutions must be safe for all, including Jewish students and faculty,” Lipstadt said.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told JNS that the department “has embraced the IHRA definition and its examples as integral to the fight to eliminate the scourge of antisemitism.

“We wholeheartedly condemn antisemitism on campuses around the globe,” the spokesperson added.

Taylor is Jewish and the daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors from Vienna. Shaheed is Pakistani.

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