February 07, 2008

ENCOURAGED BY PROGRESS, SENATOR CARDIN SAYS GREATER ACTION NEEDED TO COUNTER ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), along with Chairman Alcee Hastings (D-FL), chaired a hearing today on efforts to combat anti-Semitism in Europe. This was the second in a series of hearings with leading experts and government officials dedicated to this topic.

"Despite our best efforts, the record level of violence and negative sentiments against the Jewish community in OSCE countries over the last decade has not significantly declined. Educational, civil society, and hate crimes initiatives are showing positive progress but, obviously, we must be doing more and engaging more states in the persistent battle against anti-Semitism," Senator Cardin said at the start of today's hearing, intended to solicit ideas on how the OSCE can move forward and develop additional private-public partnerships to combat anti-Semitism. 

"I applaud the efforts of our many of witnesses who have been on the frontlines from the beginning and key to OSCE efforts on this issue," Senator Cardin said. "Courageous work and diligent reporting have contributed to our knowledge of anti-Semitic acts and other examples of intolerance and xenophobia taking place in the signatory states of the OSCE, allowing us to create and target resources where possible."


Positive progress has included reports that governments of countries such as the United Kingdom are collecting anti-Semitic hate crimes data and supporting Holocaust education.  In Russia, political leaders have spoken out in response to anti-Semitic violence, which some believe is on the decline, although it appears that other manifestations of xenophobia are increasing.  Following meetings with members of the Jewish community, Ukraine has formed a special security unit to combat intolerance toward ethnic minorities. 

Participants in today's U.S. Helsinki Commission hearing, "Taking Stock: Combating Anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region," included Dr. Gregg Rickman, U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism; Felice D. Gaer, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Rabbi Andrew Baker, Executive Director, The American Jewish Committee; Mark Levin, Executive Director, National Conference on Soviet Jewry; Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder, Simon Wiesenthal Center; and Stacy Burdett, Associate Director, Anti-Defamation League. The hearing on January 29 included Professor Gert Weisskirchen, member of the German Parliament, Personal Representative of the Chairman-in Office of the OSCE on Combating Anti-Semitism and Dr. Kathrin Meyer, Advisor on Anti-Semitism Issues, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.