World

UN holds first-ever meeting devoted to anti-Semitism Thursday in response to global attacks

  • French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Levy addresses the United Nations General Assembly,  Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. The U.N. General Assembly is holding its first-ever meeting devoted to anti-Semitism in response to a global increase in violence against Jews — a meeting scheduled even before the recent attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

    French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Levy addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. The U.N. General Assembly is holding its first-ever meeting devoted to anti-Semitism in response to a global increase in violence against Jews — a meeting scheduled even before the recent attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)  (The Associated Press)

  • Germany's Foreign Minister Michael Roth addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. The U.N. General Assembly is holding its first-ever meeting devoted to anti-Semitism in response to a global increase in violence against Jews, a meeting scheduled even before the recent attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

    Germany's Foreign Minister Michael Roth addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. The U.N. General Assembly is holding its first-ever meeting devoted to anti-Semitism in response to a global increase in violence against Jews, a meeting scheduled even before the recent attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)  (The Associated Press)

  • France's State Secretary for European Affairs Harlem Desir , left, and Germany's Foreign Minister Michael Roth, hold a news conference after they addressed the United Nations General Assembly,  Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. The U.N. General Assembly is holding its first-ever meeting devoted to anti-Semitism in response to a global increase in violence against Jews, a meeting scheduled even before the recent attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

    France's State Secretary for European Affairs Harlem Desir , left, and Germany's Foreign Minister Michael Roth, hold a news conference after they addressed the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. The U.N. General Assembly is holding its first-ever meeting devoted to anti-Semitism in response to a global increase in violence against Jews, a meeting scheduled even before the recent attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)  (The Associated Press)

The U.N. General Assembly is holding its first-ever meeting devoted to anti-Semitism on Thursday in response to a global increase in violence against Jews — a meeting scheduled even before the recent attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris.

The daylong informal meeting will feature a keynote address by French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Levy and speeches by Canadian, German and French ministers and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power in the morning. A panel discussion in the afternoon will include U.S. and Canadian lawmakers and several human rights experts including an Israeli professor.

Assembly spokesman John Victor Nkolo said the 193-member world body has discussed anti-Semitism many times in sessions dealing with intolerance, xenophobia, violence, racism and human rights violations. But he said "based on the available records we were able to check, this is indeed the first time that anti-Semitism as such is specifically the subject of an informal meeting of the U.N. General Assembly."

The meeting was requested by 37 countries who sent a letter to assembly President Sam Kutesa on Oct. 1 calling for a meeting in response to "an alarming outbreak of anti-Semitism worldwide." They said they wanted a meeting because "a clear message from the General Assembly is a critical component of combatting the sudden rise of violence and hatred directed at Jews."

The killing of four French Jews at a kosher market during three days of terror in Paris earlier this month was just the latest attack to raise fears among European Jews. It follows killings at a Belgian Jewish Museum and a Jewish school in southwestern France.

The letter seeking the meeting noted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's statement last Aug. 3 expressing concern at the spike in anti-Semitic attacks.

"At rallies, crowds have chanted 'Gas the Jews" and 'Death to the Jews,'" it said. "Firebombs have been thrown at synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses have been vandalized."