I would like to welcome holding a specific debate in the General Assembly on the issue of antisemitism.
There is a concerning increase in attacks and anti-Semitic attitudes in many parts of the world. The Pew Research Center has noted that there has been a rise in anti-Semitism in 75 countries. The terrorist attack committed a few days ago at a Paris kosher supermarket, as well as the ones perpetrated in 2014 in the Brussels Jewish Museum and in a synagogue in Jerusalem causes us great consternation.
First, I would like to refer to the Holocaust, since the International Holocaust Remembrance Day will be observed next 27 January. This year holds a special significance, as it will mark the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp. Unfortunately, the experience and the memory of the Holocaust have not been enough to eliminate attitudes and manifestations that are clearly against the dignity of the Jews. They were victim to the greatest barbarism ever committed against a people for the sole reason of existing. In the words of Shlomo Ben Ami, the Jewish cries have six million reasons. But from there, a path opens to our educational work as representatives to the UN and as citizens who wish to build a better world on the ashes of the past. Therefore, it is essential to promote remembrance and education about the Holocaust and to counter the attempts to distort, trivialize and deny it. Resolution 61/255 of the General Assembly condemns the denial of the Holocaust.
Holding this debate should be considered as an opportunity to strengthen our fight against anti-Semitism in all its manifestations. The fight must include specific actions in the fields of promoting dialogue among faiths and cultures, data collection, legislation, implementation of the law, education, media and the Internet.
States must ensure that those who commit anti-Semitic acts are held accountable, meaning arresting, investigating, charging and prosecuting attacks when they occur. Thus, they must pass the necessary legislation, including legislation against hate crimes and strengthening existing laws. Violent, xenophobic and anti-Semitic acts are never justified. International events or political issues, whether in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism.
As José Blanco Amor states, the presence of Jews in Spain is “as old as other Spaniards’”. Digging through the roots of its history, my country is recovering and revitalizing the Judeo-Spanish component of our idiosyncrasy as a people. Through this educational work, today we recognize their contribution to our essence as a country and their contribution to our historic and cultural heritage. Who has not heard of Maimonides, Ibn Gvirol or Yehuda Halevi.
Despite this process of recovery of historical memory, we must continue to be alert to old, and above all, to new forms of anti-Semitism. Hence, in recent years, my country has launched various measures in combating this phenomenon:
In the institutional field and in the promotion of Jewish culture, January 27th has been declared International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and since 2004, the Government has held an official event of remembrance. In 2007, the Prince of Asturias Award was awarded to Yad Vashem. Spain has held various international seminars against anti-Semitism. We are a full member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and we have hosted and organized the international symposium “Neutral countries and the Holocaust,” in Madrid last December.
The Sefarad-Israel Centre, funded by Spanish public institutions, aims to offer information on Jewish culture and on the preservation of Jewish heritage. In partnership with Yad Vashem, it organizes seminars, publications, research projects, debates, exhibits and teacher training programs.
By financing projects, the Foundation for Pluralism and Coexistence continuously develops policies in support of the inclusion of Jewish communities. The Observatory for Religious Pluralism provides training programmes to local authorities on the management of religious plurality.
A Network of Jewish quarters has been created by Spanish city councils to underline Jewish culture in their municipalities.
There currently exists a new law in parliamentary process for granting Spanish nationality to Sephardic Jews originally from Spain.
In education, the Spanish Government has adopted legislative measures so that education for the memory of the Shoah is specifically included in student curriculum. Training seminars aimed at teachers are often organized.
In the area of justice, it is worth noting the reform of the Penal Code, which is currently before Parliament, and which is one of the most advanced in Europe. Under the new legislation, all acts of direct or indirect incitement to hatred or violence, based on religion, national origin, ethnicity, race or anti-Semitism, are characterized. The denial and trivialization of genocide is included. They are separate crimes, with stringent penalties, which are more serious if committed through the Internet or social media. In 2014, fifty prosecution offices were created specializing in hate crimes over the Internet, especially Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
In the international arena, we support the creation of a Special Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism.
Finally, we must not forget that civil society is a key partner in the fight against discrimination and intolerance. It has an indispensable role to play in this effort, through prevention and by building bridges among religious and ethnic groups which promote understanding and respect for “the other”.
Strengthening interreligious dialogue is essential for tolerance and respect for all religions. Spain strongly supports this kind of initiative, and we are thus co-sponsors of the Alliance of Civilizations and co-founders of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.
As noted by the famous Spanish-Israeli musician Daniel Barenboim, anti-Semitism has no historic, political or cultural origin. Anti-Semitism is simply a disease which we must all fight.