UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Doug Emhoff, the husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, took his campaign against antisemitism to the United Nations Thursday, urging diplomats from many nations to speak out against the rising global hatred of Jews and stressing: “Silence is not an option.”
The first Jewish spouse of either a U.S. president or vice president, the California lawyer said those who don’t speak out should be called out, and there must be “consequences” for all those engaged in antisemitism.
Emhoff — officially called the Second Gentleman — pointed to celebrity comedians too often using antisemitism “to draw cheap laughs, high profile entertainers and politicians openly spouting tired antisemitic tropes (and) others making comments laced with not so subtle innuendo.”
“We must build coalitions to tackle this epidemic of hate,” he said. “We must bring together people from all backgrounds, all faiths, all ethnicities, because hate is interconnected. It affects everyone.”
Emhoff recently returned from what he called an “emotional” and “somber” trip to Poland and Germany where he visited the former site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and commemorated the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II as well as the others killed including Roma, Sinta, the disabled, LGBTQ people, and political dissidents.
In Berlin, Emhoff said, he hosted an interfaith round-table with clergy and lay people who are working together to promote tolerance and inclusiveness. He singled out a young activist named Brock who “spoke passionately” about a project he is leading called Young Muslims in Auschwitz that seeks to engage fellow German Muslim teens in discussions about history, antisemitism and stereotypes through a visit to Auschwitz.
The Muslim teens see that like Jews they are targets of right-wing violence and belong to an often-stigmatized minority, Emhoff said, and “this powerful realization often leads to solidarity and understanding.” This kind of dialogue must be strengthened, he said.
“We need to make clear to the haters, the antisemites out there that there is no safe harbor for them anywhere,” Emhoff said.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield led to the event on “Globalizing Efforts to Combat Antisemitism” in the U.N. Economic and Social Council chamber. It was co-hosted by Argentina, Canada, Israel, Morocco and the United Kingdom.
Thomas-Greenfield pointed to an upsurge in antisemitism and antisemitic attacks around the world, saying this hatred, both in person and online, “is being stoked not only by extremist groups but also by mainstream political leaders, popular celebrities and people in positions of power.”
In tackling this upsurge, Emhoff said President Joe Biden and vice-president Harris “have made revitalizing our partnerships and alliances a priority, and that extends to fighting hate and antisemitism.”
“This moment requires bold collective action and urgency, not just words, not just concepts,” he told the U.N. diplomats. “And I know we will meet this moment together.”
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