Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Christopher H. Smith
Ranking Minority Member - Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe


Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good morning to our witnesses and everyone joining us this morning.

Mr. Chairman, it was in the spring of 2002 that this Commission held the hearing on escalating anti-Semitic violence in Europe, which put the fight against anti-Semitism on the OSCE’s agenda. I recall you were present that morning, Mr. Chairman, and Rabbi Baker was a witness. That day we Commissioners received a real education in the shocking increase in anti-Semitic hate in Europe; and then we acted against this evil. We reached out to like-minded parliamentarians in Europe, including Gert Weisskirchen of Germany, John Mann of the UK, and together put the issue on the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s agenda and from there carried it to the OSCE.

This led to a series of high-level conferences on combating anti-Semitism, which took place in Vienna, Berlin, Cordoba, and Bucharest. At these conferences and elsewhere, the OSCE countries have undertaken a considerable body of commitments to combat anti-Semitism. And the Parliamentary Assembly and the OSCE remain engaged in the fight against anti-Semitism: this year alone there has been a roundtable on combating anti-Semitism, and a supplementary human dimension meeting on hate crimes.

Yet the will to continue fighting anti-Semitism seems to have diminished, and few participating states have met their commitments. At recent conferences, it has become clear that some participating states want to subsume the fight against anti-Semitism into a general campaign against intolerance. What a mistake that would be—not only is anti-Semitism a very distinct form of hate, but the very purpose of this move to generalize is to relativize anti-Semitism—something we must never do. As to unfulfilled commitments, the Vienna conference in 2003 focused on collecting data on anti-Semitic hate crimes—to combat anti-Semitism effectively, we had to learn more about it. Sadly, six years later, most participating states still have not provided basic data on anti-Semitic incidents, nor on anti-Christian or anti-Muslim incidents.

For these reasons it is essential that the high-level conference now being planned for 2010 tackle the problem of implementation, and that it maintain a distinct focus on anti-Semitism.

Finally, I am very glad that the struggle against anti-Semitism led the OSCE to appoint Personal Representatives, and that, since 2004, that has included Personal Representatives working to combat intolerance against Muslims, Christians, and members of other religions. I’d like to urge the incoming Kazakh chairmanship to re-appoint all of the personal representatives. Intolerance of Muslims and Christians are both different from anti-Semitism, but they are both grave problems in many OSCE states: only 14 years ago intolerance against Muslims enabled genocide in Bosnia. Intolerance against Christians is a complicated matter—a grave problem, but its manifestations very different in Central Asia, Western Europe, and the Balkans.

I know the personal representatives have done great work, and have been indispensable in focusing attention on the issues within their respective mandates, and so I look forward to hearing from each of them.