UN Secretary-General António Guterres betrayed the Jews

In his opinion article, Jewish News Syndicate columnist Ben Cohen explains that U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres basically officially approved the worst antisemitic blood libels to emerge from the halls of the United Nations.

In February 2024, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a speech at the Ohel Jakob synagogue in Munich, acknowledging that the Jewish people are indigenous to the historic Land of Israel.

Guterres said, “Since the beginning, [the Jewish people] became in the different areas of the [Roman] empire, victims of different forms of segregation, discrimination and persecution.”

Antisemitism, Guterres added, “was not born with the Nazis and did not die with the Nazis.” And, he continued, “antisemitism is unfortunately spreading today. It has had, I would say, a clear acceleration since the horrific attacks of Hamas on October 7, but it was already a central concern for us in the last decades. We have seen how it was multiplying both online and offline with all kinds of manifestations, desecration of cemeteries, personal attacks on people, vicious actions online, and worst, an attempt to rewrite history.”

In 2017, Guterres said that the “denial of Israel’s right to exist is antisemitism,” which is an enormously significant statement for the head of the world’s most thoroughly and consistently anti-Israel body. Additionally, during the coronavirus pandemic, Guterres spoke out more than once against the antisemitic memes that spread like wildfire due to conspiracy theorists.

Yet he has always remained silent about the antisemitism that stains the organisation he leads.

When Guterres rightly identified calls for Israel’s elimination as antisemitism, which has become an everyday occurrence since October 7, he failed to acknowledge that the United Nations has contributed to legitimising this demand. In 1975, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution decrying Zionism as a form of racism, already established as a staple of Soviet propaganda. The same year, the U.N. created a Division for Palestinian Rights dedicated to promoting and amplifying the themes in that resolution. Alongside this network is a so-called humanitarian agency, UNRWA, which is solely dedicated to Palestinian refugees and their descendants. No other dispossessed or persecuted people, inside or outside the Middle East, has been handed the same privilege. UNRWA has undoubtedly risen to the occasion, spreading antisemitic ideology in the schools it runs and even employing Palestinians who participated in the October 7 atrocities.

The U.N. Human Rights Council regularly vilifies Israel and periodically pushes out ugly, unsubstantiated attacks on Israel through the guise of “independent experts.”

And while there is nothing remarkable about the U.N. putting Israel on a blacklist with states whose militaries systemically abuse children, it is noteworthy that the list carries the endorsement of Guterres, who goes out of his way to portray himself as an ally of Jews when he speaks to Jewish audiences, but then sticks to the anti-Zionist script once he returns to his office.

Because if Guterres really did believe in his own remarks he made about antisemitism in the Ohel Jakob synagogue in Munich, he would not have assented to Israel’s inclusion on the blacklist.

If he really appreciated the centrality of Israel as an anchor of security for Jews the world over, if he really grasped the mass trauma provoked by October 7 for Israelis and Jews around the world alike, if he really knew in every fibre of his being that the Jewish people have only this one country that is currently facing a campaign of deadly violence orchestrated by Iran and its regional proxies, then Israel would not be sharing space with militaries who systematically murder and torture innocent civilians.

That is why Jews have every right to feel betrayed by Guterres, who has lent his imprimatur to one of the worst antisemitic blood libels to emerge from the halls of the United Nations.

The twisted logic that places Israel on such a list could easily be applied to the United States, the United Kingdom and France—all permanent U.N. Security Council members whose militaries have faced war-crime charges in countries like Algeria, Iraq and Afghanistan. But only Israel faces this treatment because targeting the Jewish state has become routinised and normalised in the U.N. setting.


Photo credit: Mark Garten/U.N. Photo.