) - United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Ranking Commissioner Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) today joined Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on the opening of an historic international conference aimed at combating anti-Semitism.
The Berlin Conference is currently in progress under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
, an international regional security organization. The conference is focused on anti-Semitism in the 55-nation OSCE region, specifically addressing the roles of governments, civil society, education and the media in combating prejudice and in promoting tolerance.
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is Chairman of the U.S. Delegation. Smith is again serving as Vice-Chairman of the Delegation as was his role during the first OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism, held last summer in
and headed by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Chairman Smith and Commissioner Cardin delivered their remarks during Wednesday morning’s opening session. The Conference runs from April 28 to April 29.
"We gather to enlighten and motivate with particular emphasis on what practical steps we must take not just to mitigate this centuries-old obsession, but to crush this pernicious form of hate," Chairman Smith said. "This increase in violence is a chilling reminder that our societies still harbor a dangerous collection of bigots and racists who hate Jews."
"If our fight is to succeed, we need government officials at all levels to denounce, without hesitation or delay, anti-Semitic acts wherever and whenever they occur. No exceptions,” continued Chairman Smith. “The purveyors of hatred never take a holiday or grow weary, nor should we. Holocaust remembrance and tolerance education must dramatically expand, and we need to ensure that our respective laws punish those who hate and incite violence against Jews.”
“So, clearly, our words this week are extremely important,” concluded Smith. “I respectfully submit that they must be matched with deeds. Paper promises must be followed with concrete actions.”
“Having just come from Auschwitz, I understand the importance of this Conference and the opportunity today that I have to speak about the urgency of ensuring proper responses by national leaders and government officials to anti-Semitism,” said Ranking Member Cardin. “Seeing the remains of that factory of intolerance, hate and death, I believe we cannot be reminded enough of the real consequences of not protecting universal human rights in the OSCE region. We must tirelessly work to build understanding between different communities to prevent future acts of prejudice and injustice.”
“The first way to promote tolerance is to fight intolerance,” Commissioner Cardin added. “By speaking out forcefully when instances of bigotry and hate arise at home, we can make certain that acts of intolerance will not be entertained or sanctioned. Remembering the horrors of
and other grotesque examples of hatred, I genuinely hope States will leave today fully committed to combat intolerance and discrimination.”
The full text of Chairman Smith’s and Ranking Member Cardin’s prepared remarks are available on the Helsinki Commission’s Internet home page, www.csce.gov.
During the 2002 Berlin Parliamentary Assembly session, the
and German Delegations organized an historic forum focused on the troubling rise in anti-Semitism and related violence in the OSCE region. Today’s Berlin Conference is another in a series of OSCE meetings on anti-Semitism since the
and German delegations forged new ground on this critical issue.
The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.