Media Contact: Ben Anderson
(Berlin) – Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Member Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), and Commissioner Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) joined Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other foreign ministers in a conference this week focusing on anti-Semitism, hosted by the 55-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The meeting of more than 1,000 participants focused on the roles of governments, civil society, education and the media in combating anti-Semitism and in promoting tolerance. The U.S. delegation was headed by former New York City mayor Ed Koch, and Chairman Smith again served as Vice Chairman, as he did for the first OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism, held last summer in Vienna.
“Each of our countries – some more than others – harbors men and women poisoned by anti-Jewish hate,” said Chairman Smith. “Indifference or inaction in robustly confronting this evil only enables it and allows it to fester. Silence is not an option, nor is inaction.” Smith addressed the conference on Wednesday, challenging governments to actively fight anti-Semitism of all forms.
“The Berlin Declaration represents a significant diplomatic victory for the
United States and its friends, such as
Bulgaria , who have partnered with us in this endeavor,” said Commissioner Cardin. “I urge all countries to take these commitments seriously and to work with OSCE institutions in following up on the commitments highlighted in
Berlin .” Mr. Cardin gave the official
U.S. delegation statement on Wednesday.
Commissioner Hastings, a Vice-President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, delivered a statement today, concluding, “As citizens of the world we have come to this place to teach and learn. The challenges are obvious and many - and we have a responsibility to meet them all.”
“The Berlin Declaration is an unambiguous, sweeping denunciation of anti-Semitism,” continued Chairman Smith, “and commits each nation to seriously monitor and combat hate crimes, promote Holocaust remembrance and education – especially for the young – and to work more effectively with NGOs to mitigate – no, end – anti-Semitism. The purveyors of hate 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," said Chairman Smith.
All three Commissioners have worked actively to move the OSCE and its participating States to confront the spike in anti-Semitic violence that occurred throughout the region in 2002.
Berlin conference is the second high-level governmental meeting, organized by OSCE, focused on combating anti-Semitism. The historic meeting is the latest in a series of initiatives following the Helsinki Commission’s May 2002 hearing on escalating anti-Semitic violence in
Helsinki Commission leaders, together with Members of the German Bundestag, took the initiative to address the issue during the 2002 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly annual session also held in
Berlin . Both delegations together have organized forums – in
Berlin, Washington and
Vienna – on anti-Semitism. The OSCE PA also unanimously approved in 2002 and 2003 resolutions condemning anti-Semitism.
The full text of the Berlin Declaration can be found at www.osce.org.
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.