Floor Debate of H. Con. Res. 49 Condemning Anti-Semitism in Europe

Floor Debate of H. Con. Res. 49 Condemning Anti-Semitism in Europe

Hon.
Christopher Smith
Washington, DC
United States
House of Representatives
108th Congress
First Session
Congressional Record, Vol. 149
No. 95
Thursday, July 03, 2003
EXPRESSING SENSE OF CONGRESS THAT ESCALATION OF ANTI-SEMITIC VIOLENCE WITHIN PARTICIPATING STATES OF OSCE IS OF PROFOUND CONCERN AND EFFORTS SHOULD BE UNDERTAKEN TO PREVENT FUTURE OCCURRENCES

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution (H . Con . Res . 49 ) expressing the sense of the Congress that the sharp escalation of anti-Semitic violence within many participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is of profound concern and efforts should be undertaken to prevent future occurrences.

The Clerk read as follows:

H . Con . Res . 49

Whereas the expressions of anti-Semitism experienced throughout the region encompassing the participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have included physical assaults, with some instances involving weapons or stones, arson of synagogues, and desecration of Jewish cultural sites, such as cemeteries and statues;

Whereas vicious propaganda and violence in many OSCE States against Jews, foreigners, and others portrayed as alien have reached alarming levels, in part due to the dangerous promotion of aggressive nationalism by political figures and others;

Whereas violence and other manifestations of xenophobia and discrimination can never be justified by political issues or international developments;

Whereas the Copenhagen Concluding Document adopted by the OSCE in 1990 was the first international agreement to condemn anti-Semitic acts, and the OSCE participating States pledged to “clearly and unequivocally condemn totalitarianism, racial and ethnic hatred, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination against anyone as well as persecution on religious and ideological grounds”;

Whereas the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly at its meeting in Berlin in July 2002 unanimously adopted a resolution that, inter alia, called upon participating States to “ensure aggressive law enforcement by local and national authorities, including thorough investigation of anti-Semitic criminal acts, apprehension of perpetrators, initiation of appropriate criminal prosecutions and judicial proceedings”;

Whereas Decision No. 6 adopted by the OSCE Ministerial Council at its Tenth Meeting in Porto, Portugal in December 2002 (the “Porto Ministerial Declaration”) condemned “the recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the OSCE area, recognizing the role that the existence of anti-Semitism has played throughout history as a major threat to freedom”;

Whereas the Porto Ministerial Declaration also urged “the convening of separately designated human dimension events on issues addressed in this decision, including on the topics of anti-Semitism, discrimination and racism and xenophobia”; and

Whereas on December 10, 2002, at the Washington Parliamentary Forum on Confronting and Combating anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region, representatives of the United States Congress and the German Parliament agreed to denounce all forms of anti-Semitism and agreed that “anti-Semitic bigotry must have no place in our democratic societies”: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of the Congress that--

(1) officials of the executive branch and Members of Congress should raise the issue of anti-Semitism in their bilateral contacts with other countries and at multilateral fora, including meetings of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Twelfth Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to be convened in July 2003;

(2) participating States of the OSCE should unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism (including violence against Jews and Jewish cultural sites), racial and ethnic hatred, xenophobia, and discrimination, as well as persecution on religious grounds whenever it occurs;

(3) participating States of the OSCE should ensure effective law enforcement by local and national authorities against criminal acts stemming from anti-Semitism, xenophobia, or racial or ethnic hatred, whether directed at individuals, communities, or property, including thorough investigation and prosecution of such acts;

(4) participating States of the OSCE should promote the creation of educational efforts throughout the region encompassing the participating States of the OSCE to counter anti-Semitic stereotypes and attitudes among younger people, increase Holocaust awareness programs, and help identify the necessary resources to accomplish this goal;

(5) legislators in all OSCE participating States should play a leading role in combating anti-Semitism and ensure that the resolution adopted at the 2002 meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Berlin is followed up by a series of concrete actions at the national level; and

(6) the OSCE should organize a separately designated human dimension event on anti-Semitism as early as possible in 2003, consistent with the Porto Ministerial Declaration adopted by the OSCE at the Tenth Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in December 2002.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) each will control 20 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith).

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, anti-Semitism is a deadly disease of the heart that leads to violence, cruelty, and unspeakable acts of horror. The anti-Semite is, as Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel grimly wrote last week, an ideological fanatic and pathological racist: “An anti-Semite is someone who never met me, never heard of me, yet he hates me.”

While we all are aware and deplore the hate crimes and cowardly acts that are committed routinely by Hamas and their like-minded murderers, what is new, Mr. Speaker, is the enormous surge in anti-Semitic acts and the resurgence of hatred for Jews in Europe, the United States, and in Canada.

Just a brief look, Mr. Speaker, of some of the startling statistics makes the point. In France, for example, there was a 600 percent increase in anti-Semitic acts from the year 2001 to the year 2002. Thankfully, the French have moved with new legislation designed to not only chronicle and get a better handle on how often these hate crimes are occurring, but they are also trying to stop them.

The Anti-Defamation League, Mr. Speaker, did a survey that also showed a spike in five other countries of Europe. They found that 21 percent of the people in those five countries had strongly anti-Semitic perspectives or views. The ADL also looked at the United States and found that 17 percent of our own people in the United States had strong anti-Semitic views. If you extrapolate that, Mr. Speaker, that is about 35 million Americans. That is up 5 percent from just 5 years ago.

H . Con . Res . 49 recognizes this dangerous and alarming trend, condemns this ancient-modern scourge, and calls on each of the 55 countries that make up the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to take concrete steps to eradicate anti-Semitism. The resolution before us today is an unequivocal condemnation of violence against Jews and Jewish cultural sites, racial and ethnic hatred, xenophobia and discrimination, as well as persecution on religious grounds wherever it occurs.

The resolution calls on all the states of the OSCE to ensure effective law enforcement and prosecution of individuals perpetrating anti-Semitic violence as well as urging the parliaments of all those states to take concrete legislative action at the national level. We are encouraging, Mr. Speaker, the creation of education efforts to counter these anti-Semitic stereotypes and the attitudes that we are seeing increasingly among younger people. We are calling for an increase in Holocaust awareness programs, and seeking to identify necessary resources to accomplish these goals.

Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, I chaired a congressional hearing and three international summits on anti-Semitism within the last year alone. Joined by my good friend and colleague from the German Bundestag, Gert Weisskirchen, at the three special summits, and my good friend and colleague, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), who I thank as well for his good work on this, these summits have focused on this rising tide of anti-Semitism.

The summits, Mr. Speaker, were held in Berlin, in 2002; in Washington, in December of 2002; and in Vienna, earlier this year, in February. We heard from world renowned leaders, including Rabbi Israel Singer, President of the World Jewish Congress; Ambassador Alfred Moses, Abraham Foxman and Ken Jacobson of the Anti-Defamation League; Mark Levin from the NCSJ; Rabbi Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee; Dr. Shimon Samuels, director of the Weisenthal Center located in Paris; and many others, Amnesty International and other human rights’ organizations, all of whom made very powerful statements about this alarming rise of hate directed towards Jews.

Let me just quote for my colleagues what Dr. Samuels said, very briefly: “The Holocaust, for 30 years, acted as a protective Teflon against blatant anti-Semitic expression. That Teflon has eroded, and what was considered distasteful and politically incorrect is becoming simply an opinion. But cocktail chatter at fine English dinners can end as Molotov cocktails against synagogues. Political correctness is also ending for others, as tolerance for multiculturalism gives way to populist voices in France, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Portugal, and the Netherlands. These countries’ Jewish communities can be caught between the rock of radical Islamic violence and the hard place of a revitalized Holocaust-denying extreme right. Common cause must be sought between the victimized minorities against extremism and against fanaticism.”

Dr. Jacobson pointed out, and I quote, “Sadly, some European leaders have rationalized anti-Jewish attitudes and even more violent attacks against Jews as nothing more than a sign of popular frustration with events in the Middle East. Something to be expected, even understandable, they say.”

Mr. Speaker, we have been hearing more and more about this idea of pretext; that there is a disagreement with the policies of the Israeli Government, that somehow that gives license and an ability and permission for some people to hate the Jews themselves. We can disagree, as we do on this House floor. The gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), and I have been working on this for years, and of course the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos). We disagree on some issues, but anti-Semitism? We do not hate. We do not use that as a pretext, as a front to promote hatred. That is exactly what is happening in Europe, in the United States, and in Canada.

Let me point out too that, as a result of these summits, we have come up with an action plan. Mr. Weisskirchen and I have signed it, it has been agreed to by our commissions, and we are trying to promote it among all our States. Again, education, trying to get parliaments to step up to the plate, and trying to make a meaningful difference to mitigate and hopefully to end this terrible anti-Semitism.

Last week, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) and I joined Rudy Giuliani in Vienna for an OSCE assembly focused on anti-Semitism. We have been doing it in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, but now the OSCE itself has taken up this important cause. And it will be followed up with a meeting, most likely in Berlin next year, to focus on anti-Semitism so that we rally the troops all over the world, starting with Europe, the U.S., and Canada to say “never again.”

Let me also point out to my colleagues, and I thought his statement said it all, when Abraham Foxman, who gave riveting testimony at our Berlin conference, pointed out just recently in the Jerusalem Post, just a couple of days ago, and I would like to close with his statement, he said “Anti-Semitism is surging in the world to the extent unprecedented since the end of World War II. Europe must take seriously the ideology of anti-Semitism coming out of the Arab and Islamic world. It must denounce the deliberate targeting of Jews by terrorist groups, whether it be al Qaeda or Hamas. It must denounce the vicious anti-Semitic material in the Arab press and educational systems and call on Arab leaders to do something about it. It must understand that the Holocaust happened not only because Germany was taken over by the Nazis, who developed a massive military power to conquer most of Europe, but also by the complicity--active and passive--of other Europeans. Today, the great threat comes from the combination of the ideology of hatred with Islamic extremists to acquire weapons of mass destruction.” And then he bottom lines it and says, “Let Europe never again be complicit in developments of this kind.”

Mr. Speaker, this Congress needs to go on record in a bipartisan way, Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, Moderates, and Liberals to say anti-Semitism, never again, and we need to do it strongly today.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I rise in strong support of the resolution.

First, I want to commend my dear friend, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith), the chairman of our delegation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, for his lifelong indefatigable and passionate advocacy of human rights, and his powerful opposition in all fora to anti-Semitism. We are all in his debt.

I also want to thank the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde), of the Committee on International Relations, for moving this legislation so expeditiously to the floor. And I want to thank my good friend, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), the ranking Democrat on our OSCE delegation, for his outstanding work on behalf of all of the causes that the human rights community is interested in.

Mr. Speaker, as the only survivor of the Holocaust ever elected to Congress, I am acutely aware of the dangers of allowing anti-Semitism to go unchecked. The horrors of the Holocaust in World War II began with anti-Semitism. Growing up in Europe in the 1930s, I saw firsthand the horrendous results of anti-Semitic rhetoric, leading to the nightmare of anti-Semitic violence, and, ultimately, to the mass murder of 6 million innocent men, women and children.

Mr. Speaker, today, anti-Semitism in Europe, as well as in a number of other places in this world, is approaching the appalling levels that I personally experienced in the 1930s.

We cannot, we must not, and we will not sit idly by and ignore the sharp escalation of anti-Semitic rhetoric and anti-Semitic violence.

Our resolution notes that expressions of anti-Semitism in some European countries range from vicious propaganda to physical assaults, from the burning of synagogues to the desecration of cemeteries. Since the 1990 Copenhagen Concluding Document, a number of resolutions have been adopted by OSCE condemning anti-Semitism. In that spirit, I welcome this effort.

Our resolution urges officials of our executive branch and Members of Congress to raise the issue of anti-Semitism in their bilateral and multilateral meetings with all foreign government officials where appropriate and to condemn in the strongest possible terms not only anti-Semitism but racial and ethnic hatred, xenophobia, discrimination and religious persecution of all types. We urge all member countries of the OSCE to ensure effective law enforcement by local and national authorities against criminal actions stemming from anti-Semitism and other types of racial hatred.

Most importantly, our resolution calls upon all States to promote educational efforts to counter anti-Semitic stereotypes and attitudes and to dramatically increase Holocaust awareness. Our best ammunition in this fight against anti-Semitism is education.

Mr. Speaker, the battle against this age-old and horrendous mental sickness will not be easily won, but I believe the recognition of the problem and the call for actions to deal with it is the first critical step. I urge all of my colleagues to support this important legislation which serves to eliminate the outrage of hate-filled anti-Semitism.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as she may consume to the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen), the chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia.

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I am honored to be in the company of the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) in cosponsoring this resolution. I rise in support of its passage and ask my colleagues to vote in its favor as well.

Mr. Speaker, one of the essential lessons of the Holocaust is that words lead to murder, that the teaching of contempt and acceptance of bigotry and anti-Semitism can lead to genocide. Today, over 50 years after the horrors of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism has again become a disease spreading throughout the world. In recent years I have witnessed its resurgence, particularly through my work relating to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and legislative efforts concerning religious freedom in Europe.

At the commission, resolution after resolution, statement after statement are filled with the rhetoric of hatred, using the international fora to further promote and generate support for an anti-Semitic agenda, an agenda which condemns a freedom-loving people and a democratic nation, while many times legitimizing those regimes that torture, oppress, and subjugate their own people.

As the previous chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and as the current chair of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, and as cochair along with my colleague and friend the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) of the Congressional Task Force on Anti-Semitism, I have pressed European officials to take concrete steps to monitor, investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law crimes that are borne out of hatred for the Jewish people.

In January of this year, for example, Jewish leaders in France came to me with concern and anxiety about the increasing example of vandalism and personal attacks against rabbis in that country. I immediately called on the French foreign ministry officials and French parliamentarians to address this grave matter.

The situation in France, however, is only a microcosm of a growing problem that is sweeping throughout many OSCE states. While I will not delve into details because my colleagues, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), have already done so, I will simply note, as has been said, we must learn the lessons and the mistakes of the past, or we are condemned to repeat them.

This is why it is imperative that we take immediate action to prevent further escalation of anti-Semitism and related violence, to help ensure that the evil of the Holocaust will never again be allowed to exist.

As Eli Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace laureate has said, “A destruction, an annihilation that only man can provoke, only man can prevent.” We can help prevent a repetition of history, and we can begin here today by voting in favor of this resolution. Let us adopt House Concurrent Resolution 49 and convey the commitment of the U.S. House of Representatives to work with our allies to confront and combat anti-Semitism and eradicate it from its roots.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), the distinguished ranking Democratic member of the Helsinki Commission, who has demonstrated a passionate commitment to human rights and on all of the issues that that commission works with.

Mr. CARDIN. Mr. Speaker, let me first thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos). There is no Member of this body who has done more in his lifetime to fight anti-Semitism than the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), and I congratulate him for his effective leadership against anti-Semitism here and around the world.

I also want to thank the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith), who is the chairman of our OSCE delegation. I have the honor of being the ranking Democratic member. The gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), who will be speaking shortly, is one of the commissioners. We have made the fight against anti-Semitism a top priority of our delegation. We have been effective in making it a top priority within the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

We have done that because we have seen a rise of anti-Semitism, physical assaults on individuals solely because they are Jewish, desecration of Jewish cultural sites, propaganda in the media have all been on the rise. We must have a zero tolerance policy about anti-Semitism.

The OSCE Helsinki Commission provides a unique opportunity for us to fight anti-Semitism. It not only has in its membership all of the countries of Europe, Canada and the United States, but it has the participation of our Mediterranean partners, which include Israel, Egypt and Jordan. The OSCE Helsinki Commission has had a history of effectively dealing with human rights issues, so that is why the United States leadership has been effective in bringing about the forums to deal with anti-Semitism. I know there was just a meeting in Vienna that the gentleman from New Jersey (Chairman Smith) and the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings) participated in. We adopted in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly last year a very strong resolution against anti-Semitism as a result of the U.S. leadership, and we have signed a letter of intent with Germany to spell out specific actions that we need to take in order to fight anti-Semitism.

We can never justify anti-Semitic actions by international developments or political issues. We need to have an action plan to fight anti-Semitism. We need to have strong laws that are adopted by our member states and enforced. We need to speak out against anti-Semitism as parliamentarians. Silence is not an option. As all my colleagues have expressed, we need educational programs for our children. The resolution says we need to create educational efforts throughout the region encompassing the participating states of OSCE to counter anti-Semitic stereotypes and attitudes among younger people, increase Holocaust awareness programs, and help identify the necessary resources to accomplish this goal. Our children are our future. In many of these states, we are finding there are counterproductive programs promoting anti-Semitism.

We need a proactive agenda. This resolution puts this body on record in strong support of our resolution within OSCE to continue our commitment to support action plans to stamp out anti-Semitism. I urge my colleagues to support the resolution.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Maloney), who has been a champion not only of the fight against anti-Semitism but on behalf of all human rights causes.

Mrs. MALONEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this resolution, and I thank the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) for their extraordinary leadership on this important issue and so many others.

We are experiencing the worst outbreak of anti-Semitism in Europe since the end of Holocaust in 1945. Just under 60 years have passed since the defeat of Hitler and now swastikas have reappeared in Europe. They can be found sprayed on Jewish schools, drawn on gravestones in a desecrated Jewish cemetery, painted on the wall of a synagogue, and stitched on the flags of anti-Israel demonstrators, and in the hearts and minds of the people who attack rabbinical students and Jewish athletes.

When we allow intolerance and hatred to fester and flourish, we are faced with tragic consequences. Put simply, hatred, violence and prejudice must not be tolerated. Countries must speak out against anti-Semitic acts, but rhetoric is not enough. Words will not restore the hundreds of Jewish cultural and religious sites which have been burned, desecrated and destroyed throughout Europe, and words alone will not prevent these tragedies from happening again.

Governments and institutions must condemn these acts as we do today, and they must ensure effective law enforcement against them. They must also promote tolerance education for their children. There is no question teaching children about the horror and tragedy of the Holocaust and other tragedies will create a generation of youth who are less likely to commit hate crimes and who are more likely to mature into adults who will envision and work towards peaceful world relations.

When this body passes H . Con . Res . 49 , we will be spending a strong message to the world that anti-Semitism must be confronted and must be eradicated. I thank both leaders, particularly the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), for his extraordinary life commitment to ending anti-Semitism and for world peace.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Hastings), who has been throughout his congressional career and prior to that an indefatigable fighter for human rights.

(Mr. HASTINGS of Florida asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) for yielding me this time, and before I go forward, I would be terribly remiss if I did not point out that the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) has spent his lifetime in the struggle that some of us come to with equal passion, but not the clarity that he brings to the issue.

I also am happy to support the resolution offered by the chairman of the Helsinki Commission and to compliment the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) for his continuing work in the area of human rights and the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) as being a stalwart champion for human rights.

As Chairman SMITH has already mentioned, last week he and I had the privilege to represent the United States at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s conference on anti-Semitism. A footnote right there. That conference came about because the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith), the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer), the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), myself and others on the Helsinki Commission along with colleagues in Europe brought it to the attention of the parliamentary assembly by way of resolution which we will introduce yet another resolution for follow-up purposes when we are in Rotterdam 1 week from now. But it was in this body that that conference’s seed was planted. The conference, which was the first of its kind, provided the OSCE’s 55 member states and NGOs with an opportunity to discuss ways in which governments can work to combat anti-Semitism within their borders and abroad.

Today’s resolution is an important symbolic statement of the House that the United States will not stand idly by while many European governments neglect a rise in anti-Semitism. We must work with our allies and not hesitate to apply pressure when needed to ensure that governments properly address increases in anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.

A few years ago, there were hopes that anti-Semitism was gradually declining and restricted to fringe elements such as neo-Nazis, white supremacists and certain conspiracy theorists. However, recent developments throughout much of Europe and the Middle East suggest that there is a resurgent anti-Semitism with a much broader base and message that resonates at an alarming level. Many European leaders have formally recognized the resurgence of anti-Semitism in their countries and have begun to take the necessary steps to stop this spreading virus. But still, more must be done to ensure that what occurred to the Jewish and minority communities in Europe during World War II will never happen again.

Sadly, Mr. Speaker, the fight against bigotry and xenophobia is an ongoing struggle as many of us know from our own personal experience. Last week when the gentleman from New Jersey and I were in Vienna, we heard from a woman whose name is Rosalia Abella of the Ontario Court of Appeals. As she noted in one of the more poignant statements made at that conference, “Indifference is injustice’s incubator.” Indeed it is.

Now is the time for the United States to be vocal and now is the time for the House to be active as it is today under the leadership of the gentleman from New Jersey and the gentleman from California. Today is not a day for complacency. If we remain silent, then there will be no tomorrow. We cannot legislate morality, we cannot legislate love, but we can teach tolerance and we can lead by example.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Shays).

Mr. SHAYS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Smith-Cardin-Lantos resolution. I am a cosponsor of this resolution because I am deeply concerned about the surge of anti-Semitism in Europe and throughout other parts of the world, but particularly in Europe.

This is not a problem that simply can be monitored. It must be actively and aggressively dealt with, for we must never forget that just 60 years ago, Europe saw the worst scourge of systematic, government-ordained hatred, violence and murder in the history of mankind, in what was an unbelievable Holocaust.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has recognized and condemned anti-Semitic violence in its member states. At its parliamentary assembly in July 2002, the OSCE resolved to aggressively enforce laws and investigate anti-Semitic criminal acts. It is important that the United States openly support the OSCE’s resolution and actively encourage it to address hatred and prevent violence in Europe.

Mr. Speaker, there are several topics on which the United States and Europe disagree. There must be no disagreement, however, on the absolute right of the Jewish people to practice their religion freely and to live in peace and prosperity. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should not only investigate anti-Semitic crimes but also promote and facilitate discussions that address the root causes of xenophobic hatred.

I encourage my colleagues and the administration to take advantage of bilateral meetings with our European counterparts to reaffirm our deep commitment to the prevention of violence in Europe.

I again thank the gentleman from New Jersey for bringing this resolution to the floor and urge its adoption.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Crowley), a distinguished member of the Committee on International Relations.

Mr. CROWLEY. I thank my good friend the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to strongly support this resolution, and I thank the gentleman from New Jersey for sponsoring this crucial piece of legislation. I am very aware of the danger of being inactive about the threat of anti-Semitism. It was anti-Semitism that was responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust, the most horrible crime committed against the Jewish people ever. Sadly, I have to say here today that nearly 60 years after the end of World War II, anti-Semitism in Europe, in many of the OSCE member states, is on the rise again. Once again we witness evil propaganda, physical attacks against Jews, the burning of Jewish sites and the desecration of synagogues. We must not stand aside and ignore this grave escalation of anti-Semitic violence and hatred.

This resolution addresses this threat. It particularly calls on administration officials and Members of Congress to focus on anti-Semitism in their bilateral and multilateral meetings. It calls upon OSCE member states to swiftly bring anti-Semitists to justice and to focus on educational endeavors to fight anti-Semitic stereotypes.

I would also like to point out that this piece of legislation is similar to a resolution I introduced last year. House Resolution 393 also addresses the anti-Semitic threat in the OSCE region. It urges European governments to provide security and safety of the Jewish communities, to prosecute and punish perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence, and to cultivate a climate in which all forms of anti-Semitism are rejected.

I was proud that my colleagues in Congress joined me in sending this message to the European Union, but we must go further. Anti-Semitism continues to fester throughout the OSCE region. This resolution is the right follow-up to my legislation that passed in the last Congress.

Mr. Speaker, the threat of anti-Semitism is looming large and our fight against it is far from over, but I believe that recognizing this problem and taking action is critical. I therefore urge all of my colleagues to strongly support House Resolution 49 sponsored by the gentleman from New Jersey. I would ask them all to vote for this resolution unanimously. I want to thank the gentleman from California again for his work on this resolution and all my colleagues in bringing this to the House floor.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher).

Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Speaker, I am proud to join the gentleman from New Jersey and the gentleman from California as I have over the years on many human rights issues, and this is a human rights issue. Racism, religious hatred, these are things that decent people must condemn and we must unite in our strong opposition wherever this type of vile behavior and vile thought patterns emerge. We must recognize that there are, however, people who exploit these type of negative feelings and this type of racial hatred. Anti-Semitism is perhaps the epitome of this ignorance and irrationality and mindless hatred and it is again raising its ugly head both in Europe and in the United States.

Let us note that over 10 years ago, a major political figure in the United States referred to New York City as “Hymietown.” What is important is the fact that he was winked at and that for 10 years after that statement, he still remained a recognized leader. That did tremendous harm in America’s black community. It sent a horrible message to young blacks and we are paying some of the price of an increased anti-Semitism today in our black community by mistakes that we made 10 years ago by not condemning that and other types of horrible remarks that should never have been made or accepted in our political debate.

In Europe today, we see that same kind of winking going on. Oh, yes, people are ignoring statements that are being made that are totally unacceptable to people who believe in civilized behavior and are opposed to this type of vile hatred, the vile hatred in relationship to their fellow man. This is an alarm bell today. I am very proud to stand here with the gentleman from California and the gentleman from New Jersey ringing the alarm bell. We are not going to sit idly by and wink at an increase in this level of hatred towards our Jewish friends nor towards any other minority in the Western democracies. The Western democracies, our friends in Europe, just like we in the United States, have to remain vigilant and it is up to us as leaders of this society and the democratic leaders in Europe to call to task those who would wink and would not condemn this type of vicious trend in their society. We can cut it short now. Let us stand together united against anti-Semitism and all such hatred.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to yield 2 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Frank).

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, in terms that we do not usually use on this floor but in terms that may be familiar to our friends in Europe, in the American context, I am a man of the left. I voted against the war in Iraq. I will vote for the resolution later about Israel’s right to respond to terrorism, but I will put into the Congressional Record Tom Friedman’s article urging them to think about prudence and restraint. I think the settlements are by and large a mistake. And I speak today in defense of this resolution, specifically to others on the left in Europe, many of whom have in my judgment been morally deficient in the obligation we have to speak out against prejudice and injustice across the board. Those who hold to liberal values have no moral right to put an ideological screen between victims and those values, and those on the left who use an excuse of a disagreement with the policy of the Sharon government or the Bush government or anybody else as a reason to be soft on anti-Semitism betray liberalism and betray its values.

By the way, with regard to the government of Israel, let me speak to the people on the left. I disagree with some aspects of its policy, but I staunchly defend its right to exist. But even more important, by every value that I as a liberal hold dear, the government and society of Israel is quite morally superior to any of its neighbors, and to focus only on those aspects of disagreement and to ignore its longstanding commitment to civil rights and civil liberties, in fact I think our society, the United States, has a good deal to learn from the society of Israel about how you deal with external threats and still show a respect for civil liberties.

I thank the gentleman from California and the gentleman from New Jersey for bringing this forward and the gentleman from Illinois for his support. I want to reiterate as a man on the left who shares a great deal of both general values and specific policy prescriptions with many on the left in Europe, I am appalled at those who fail to carry out our liberal principles fully and across the board. A vigorous and ongoing condemnation of anti-Semitism is a requisite part of that commitment.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

At the most recent conference that was held in Vienna, I just want to again thank the great work that Ambassador Minikes did, our Ambassador to the OSCE. He has worked very, very hard to help put together that anti-Semitism conference. He did an outstanding job. Ambassador Cliff Sobel, our Ambassador to the Netherlands, also worked very hard on it as well, as did many others in the State Department. It was a joint effort. Again I want to thank Rudy Giuliani for the good work he did in leading that.

Let me just also say that, Mr. Speaker, next week in Rotterdam we will have an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and I plan on offering another resolution on anti-Semitism at that and hopefully we continue not only this dialogue but this outrage that we are expressing about intolerance. The more we raise our voices, the more we have mutually reinforcing policies, including good law, good law enforcement and hopefully a chronicling of these misdeeds so that law enforcement knows that they do indeed have a problem. This has been a particular problem in Europe, where hate crimes are committed and they are not attributed to the hate crimes that they represent.

The more we chronicle, the more we will see that there is an explosion of anti-Semitism in Europe. This is a good resolution. I thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), and I thank the gentleman and chairman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde) for moving this bill expeditiously through the committee and for his strong support for it.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from Nevada (Ms. Berkley), a distinguished member of the Committee on International Relations and a fighter for human rights.

Ms. BERKLEY. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos) and the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) for putting this before our body.

I grew up hearing about anti-Semitism from my grandparents and my parents, things that I could not believe could have ever happened; but the anti-Semitism acts that they spoke of seemed like historic oddities to me, something from a distant time and a distant place. I never dreamed, never dreamed that anti-Semitism could ever rear its ugly head again during my lifetime or the lifetime of my children.

Especially after World War II, I thought Europe and the rest of the world had learned a very important and valuable lesson. I ran for Congress so that I could speak out against issues that I thought were horrific; and anti-Semitism, and its continued existence on this planet, is certainly something that I wish to speak out against. I am glad that we are condemning anti-Semitism in no uncertain terms and putting the United States Congress on record and speaking out forcefully against this horrible scourge and plague.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to reclaim my time for purposes of yielding the remainder of my time to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer).

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Bass). Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New Jersey?

There was no objection.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman has 1 minute.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer).

Mr. HOYER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman of the Helsinki Commission for yielding me this time. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this very important resolution.

This is about anti-Semitism. But more broadly than that, it is about hate. It is about the human inclination from time to time to hate others who are different, to discriminate against others who are different, who have a different color of skin, who have a different religion, who have a different national origin. More human violence perhaps has been perpetrated in the name of those distinctions and prejudices and hate than any other.

It is important that we regularly and strongly and without equivocation speak out against those who would perpetrate and spread hate in our world, in our country, in our communities.

I thank the gentleman from New Jersey, and I thank my good friend, the gentleman from California, for their leadership on this issue. It is an appropriate statement for us to make as the representatives of a free and tolerant people.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Davis).

(Mr. DAVIS of Alabama asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. DAVIS of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, I do not want this debate to end without adding my voice in support of the resolution.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Nadler), a distinguished fighter for human rights.

Mr. NADLER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, many people thought that the Holocaust cleansed the Western world of anti-Semitism, that the catastrophe, the mass murder, and the genocide in the Holocaust caused the civilized world or at least the Western part of the civilized world to recoil in such horror that anti-Semitism would not be a major problem again. We now know that maybe it did that for a generation or two, but that the scourge of anti-Semitism is returning in great and terrible force in its ancient homeland of Europe and other places.

Today we have two major problems of anti-Semitism: in Europe and in the Muslim world. It is very appropriate that we adopt this resolution today to ask the governments of Europe through the OSCE and individually to crack down on anti-Semitism, to speak out against it, to act against it because many of the governments of Europe, many of the parts of the political left in Europe and elsewhere as well as the right have not done so. They ought to do so. And this resolution is fitting and appropriate to adopt today for that purpose. [Begin Insert]

Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H . Con . Res . 49 , expressing the sense of Congress that the sharp escalation of anti-Semitic violence within many participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is of profound concern and efforts should be undertaken to prevent future occurrences.

I begin by praising the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for their conference this past weekend devoted to the issues of anti-Semitism and how to combat it. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the largest regional security organization in the world with 55 participating countries from Europe, Central Asia, and North America. The OSCE has a comprehensive and cooperative approach to security, stressing preventative diplomacy and human rights.

The conference last weekend was the first high level OSCE conference devoted specifically to the issue of anti-Semitism. Over 400 government and nongovernment officials attended.

The conference took place at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace. This same location is where Hitler stood, 65 years ago, proclaiming Austria’s annexation to a cheering crowd of thousands. Sixty-five years later, what can we say about tolerance and diversity in Europe? What can we say about Human Rights worldwide? Specifically, 65 years after the beginning of the worst genocide in our time, what can we say we have learned about anti-Semitism and the horrors of racial hatred?

Much has changed since then. Yet today there are both overt and subtle versions of anti-Semitism, in the United States and abroad. Physical assaults, arson at synagogues and desecration of Jewish cultural sites are occurring. Unfortunately, government officials are not speaking harshly enough against them.

The conference on anti-Semitism opened a day after the Romanian Government retracted an earlier claim that “there was no Holocaust” on Romanian soil. In Greece, a recent newspaper cartoon had one Israeli soldier telling the other, “we were not in Dachau concentration camp to survive, but to learn.”

France has experienced a six-fold increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the space of a year. In Poland, the word “Jewish” is used as a term of abuse for Polish soccer fans. In other parts of Europe, claims are made that Jews had forewarning of the September 11th attacks at the Pentagon and World Trade Towers.

The existence of anti-Semitism has played throughout history as a major threat to freedom. Participating states of the OSCE should unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism, racial and ethnic hatred and xenophobia, and they need to be loud and clear in their message.

We cannot allow future generations to be taught a distorted view of history. Prejudice must be rooted out of textbooks, governments must speak out against these wrongdoings, and anti-Semitic actions must be classified as hate crimes. We also need to ensure effective law enforcement. Finally, we must promote the creation of educational efforts and we must increase Holocaust awareness. I abhor and stand against all forms of hatred.

If action had been taken in the 1930s, many lives could have been saved. There are so many lessons of history that need to be learned, lest they not be repeated. For that reason I support H . Con . Res . 49 .

Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker: I will reluctantly vote in favor of this legislation, partly because it is simply a sense of Congress resolution. But I am concerned about this bill and the others like it we face with regularity on the floor of Congress. We all condemn violence against innocents, whether it is motivated by hatred, prejudice, greed, jealousy, or whatever else. But that is not what this legislation is really about. It is about the Congress of the United States presuming to know--and to legislate on--the affairs of European countries. First, this is the United States Congress. We have no Constitutional authority to pass legislation affecting foreign countries. Second, when we get involved in matters such as this we usually get it wrong. H. Con. Res. 45 is an example of us getting it wrong on both fronts.

This legislation refers to the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe as if it is a purely homegrown phenomenon, as if native residents of European countries are suddenly committing violent crimes against Jews. But I think we are only getting part of the story here. What is absent from the legislation is mention of the well-reported fact that much of the anti-Jewish violence in Europe is perpetrated by recent immigrants from Muslim countries of the Middle East and Africa. Reporting on a firebombing of a Synagogue in Marseille, France, for example, the New York Times quotes the longtime president of that region’s Jewish Council, Charles Haddad, as saying, “This is not anti-Semitic violence; it’s the Middle East conflict that’s playing out here.”

Therefore, part of the problem in many European countries is the massive immigration from predominantly Muslim countries, where new residents bring their hatreds and prejudices with them. Those European politicians who recognize this growing problem--there are now 600,000 Jews in France and five million Muslims--are denounced as racist and worse. While I do not oppose immigration, it must be admitted that massive immigration from vastly different cultures brings a myriad of potential problems and conflicts. These are complicated issues for we in Congress to deal with here in the United States. Yes, prejudice and hatred are evil and must be opposed, but it is absurd for us to try to solve these problems in countries overseas. [End Insert]

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution, H . Con . Res . 49 .

The question was taken.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds of those present have voted in the affirmative.

Mr. LANTOS. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

The yeas and nays were ordered.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX and the Chair’s prior announcement, further proceedings on this motion will be postponed.
 

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  • Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing

      Today, many countries seek to address historic wrongs, heal wounds, bridge divisions, and build a shared future. Truth and reconciliation efforts to encourage restitution, reparations, and restorative justice have been called for in many places, including the United States, Western Europe, Canada, and the Balkans, while Holocaust survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution continue to seek justice worldwide. In June, Amsterdam city councilors voted to apologize for the city’s role in the transatlantic slave trade. In April, Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel apologized for the kidnapping of thousands of children born to mixed-race couples during its colonial rule in several African countries.  In 2015, Sweden published a historic white paper on abuses and rights violations against Roma in the 20th century.  A decade ago, Canada established a reconciliation process in response to the Indian Residential School legacy, which forced First Nation children to attend government-funded boarding schools. On July 18th, 2019, the U.S. Helsinki Commission held a briefing entitled, “Truth, Reconciliation and Healing: Towards a Unified Future,” where expert panelists reviewed lessons learned and discussed ways to heal and reunify societies divided by war, genocide, hierarchal systems of human value, and other tragedies stemming from extreme nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of ethnic and religious discrimination. Speakers addressed official government apologies, truth and reconciliation processes, restitution, reparations, and other policy prescriptions that have been used or are currently being considered to address historic wrongs and unify citizens in countries across Europe and North America. According to Dr. Gail C. Christopher, “this country was built over two and a half centuries with the deeply embedded fallacy of a hierarchy of human value, that some human beings just simply don’t have value.” She continued, “racism, anti-Semitism, religious bias, extremism, xenophobia – they all have their root in this fundamental fallacy of a hierarchy of human value. […] Our country has a history of enslaving people, committing genocide among Indigenous people, and embracing centuries of institutionalized racism [additionally] inequities caused by racism [are] costing our nation almost $2 trillion annually in lost purchasing power, reduced job opportunities, and diminished productivity.”  She went on to note that unlike other countries that have endured war, sectarian or racial strife, the United States has never undertaken a comprehensive Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) or other process, undergirding the antiquated belief in a hierarchical separation of races.  To address this problem, she discussed her efforts to adapt a truth and reconciliation process across America based upon “truth, racial healing, and transformation.”    Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat discussed his work over three U.S. administrations to provide belated justice for victims of the Holocaust and other victims of Nazi tyranny during World War II, as a Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State on Holocaust-era issues. “I’ve negotiated $17 billion in recoveries for Holocaust survivors who suffered under the Nazis.  Eight billion as a U.S. government representative under Clinton and Obama administrations and $9 billion as the chief negotiator for the Jewish claims conference in our annual negotiations with Germany,” he stated.  The payments covered everything from forced enslaved labor, unpaid insurance policies, to looted works of art including for non-Jews in some cases.  His other efforts included a presidential commission on the Holocaust led by Eli Wiesel that led to the creation of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and $5 billion for a German remembrance foundation. He also described how Jewish refugees were refused entry into some countries, or their assets confiscated and then used to finance Nazi war efforts.  Citing the Justice for Uncompensated Holocaust Survivors (JUST) Act, he called for Congress to hold hearings on findings from a report to be released in November 2019 on whether countries have met their commitments under the Terezin Declaration. Former Flemish Christian and Democratic Party (CD&V) Councilwoman Tracy Tansia Bibo spoke in her video testimony about recent efforts to address the horrors of Belgian colonialism from the period of Leopold II through the 1960s where people's hands were cut off when they did not reach their rubber quota, communities and villages burned in response to uprisings and women were raped.  As one of the authors of Belgian legislation that led to an apology from the Prime Minister, Councilwoman Bibo described efforts to provide reparations and other means of redress for the kidnapping and forced adoption of close to 20,000 children from former Belgian colonies in Burundi, Congo, and Rwanda.  She noted that in addition to the apology, archives had been opened and travel assistance provided to support families in finding one another.  With the work of the Belgian government on hold since the last elections, she highlighted continuing efforts towards reconciliation and healing for Belgium and its former colony, including open societal dialogue; recognition of colonization and its modern day-effects; education and knowledge about colonization and racism; and reparations to address social and economic inequities stemming from institutional racism and colonization. “It's hard to talk about reparations,” she said. “Reparations is about fighting racial inequalities created by political systems that in the past were maintained by a privileged group. Hearings to determine exactly what this recovery means are therefore necessary… What if we finance programmes that, for example, aim to provide better health care for the black population who, according to studies, are more affected by certain diseases? What if we eliminate inequality in education by means of targeted programmes? Reparations is about more than handing out cheques to the black population. It is about eliminating inequalities.” Dutch Councilman and ChristienUnie Party Leader Don Ceder shared a European perspective on truth and reconciliation efforts, following his role in passing June 2019 legislation calling for a formal apology for the city of Amsterdam’s role in enslaving close to 600,000 Africans in the colonies and the Netherlands being the largest slave trader between West African and South America in the 17th century.  The apology is scheduled to take place July 1, 2020 on the Dutch day of remembering the abolition of slavery also known as Keti Koti - a Surinamese term that means “the chains are broken.”  According to Ceder, the effort was a result of seven political parties coming together because, “we see that a formal apology for the shared past is a mature step to a consolidated shared future in Amsterdam [in part because] though slavery has been abolished since 1863 in the Netherlands, the traces remain visible everywhere around the city today.”  Amsterdam will join cities such as Liverpool and Charleston and countries such as Benin and Ghana in issuing formal apologies for their participation in racial oppression, in addition to the European Parliament calling for all Member states to apologize for their roles.  Ceder recognized that a new narrative may be needed to redefine Amsterdam with the understanding that withholding truth only creates an obstacle to a unified future.    Dr. Diane Orentlicher cited numerous lessons learned from her work in Bosnia-Herzegovina. “Experience in many countries has shown that, unless they are adequately addressed, historic wrongs leave deep wounds, whose toxic legacy afflicts not only victims but whole societies.  […] Social divisions rooted in wrongs and oppression will not be fixed without an honest reckoning, including a robust acknowledgement and condemnation of the original wrongs and a determination to address their toxic legacies.”  Listing “denial” and “silence” as some of the main barriers to societies recovering from tragedy, she stated, “I do not believe Bosnia can become unified in any meaningful sense until public officials and other elites, as well as ordinary citizens, acknowledge the full extent of atrocities committed by members of their in-group and unequivocally condemn their crimes.“  Acknowledging that addressing historic wrongs can be painful, she noted the importance of honesty, bringing people together, courageous and innovative leadership, and persistence.

  • HELSINKI COMMISSIONERS VISIT HUNGARY

    Pictured: Mate Szabo, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (left) meets with Representative Tom Cole (right). From July 1 to July 3, three members of the U.S. Helsinki Commission visited Hungary as part of a bipartisan delegation led by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer. The delegation included Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Ranking Senate Commissioner and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance, as well as Commissioners Steve Cohen and Gwen Moore. It was the largest congressional delegation to visit Hungary in at least three years.  From left: Rep. Garret Graves, Rep. Val Demings, Helsinki Commissioner Rep. Steve Cohen, Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin, Amb. David Cornstein, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Guylas, Rep. Tom Cole,  Helsinki Commissioner Rep. Gwen Moore, Rep. Gregory Meeks The delegation met with civil society representatives; independent investigative journalists; analysts with expertise on corruption, Russian malign influence, and security; experts on the judiciary; and democratic opposition representatives. In addition, the delegation met with the rector of Central European University and the head of Hungary’s Jewish communities. The delegation requested meetings with the Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Speaker of the Hungarian parliament. During the visit, the Members of Congress had an exchange of views with Gergely Gulyás, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, and Zsolt Nemeth, the chair of the Hungarian National Assembly foreign affairs committee.  U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Cornstein welcomed the delegation and accompanied the Members to their meetings, also hearing the diverse concerns raised. The purpose of the visit was to strengthen support for the shared principles of democracy and collective security to which the United States and Hungary have jointly committed and with a view to safeguarding fundamental freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law. In meetings with government officials, the members welcomed the Hungarian parliament’s approval of the Defense Cooperation Agreement on July 2. Following the conclusion of their visit to Hungary, the delegation traveled to Luxembourg to participate in the annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Members of the delegation also spoke about their visit to Hungary at the Parliamentary Assembly meeting. Members of the Congressional delegation at the statue in Budapest of President Ronald Reagan. The statue was erected in 2011 to honor the American president’s efforts to end communism. It is on Liberty Square, facing the U.S. Embassy, with the Hungarian parliament visible in the background. Majority Leader Hoyer served as chair and co-chair of the Helsinki Commission (positions that rotate between the House of Representatives and Senate) from 1985 to 1994. During that critical period of transition before and during the fall of communism, he made Central Europe a focus of the Commission’s efforts to support human rights and democracy. He led delegations to Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania, working closely with Secretaries of State George Schultz, James Baker, and Warren Christopher to advance democracy in the region. He also chaired roughly a dozen hearings focused specifically on human rights in Central Europe, including minority rights and religious liberties. As chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Majority Leader Hoyer participated in the 1989 Paris Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension and personally introduced a Helsinki Commission initiative that became a formal U.S. proposal: a call for free and fair elections throughout the OSCE region. That U.S. proposal became a key element of the 1990 Copenhagen meeting a year later and set the stage for the subsequent framework for OSCE election observation. Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (right) meets with independent journalists Szabolcs Panyi (left) and Anita Komuves (center). Photo: Attila Németh/U.S. Embassy or fotó: Németh Attila/Amerikai Nagykövetség. Majority Leader Hoyer also represented the United States at the 1991 Moscow Conference on the Human Dimension, a meeting notable for taking place shortly after the August coup attempt in Russia. The Moscow Concluding Document included an unprecedented provision explicitly recognizing that human rights and democracy are not strictly the internal affairs of participating States: “The participating States emphasize that issues relating to human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law are of international concern, as respect for these rights and freedoms constitutes one of the foundations of the international order. They categorically and irrevocably declare that the commitments undertaken in the field of the human dimension of the CSCE are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the State concerned. They express their determination to fulfil all of their human dimension commitments and to resolve by peaceful means any related issue, individually and collectively, on the basis of mutual respect and co-operation. In this context they recognize that the active involvement of persons, groups, organizations and institutions is essential to ensure continuing progress in this direction.”     Hoyer Leads Congressional Delegation to Hungary For Immediate Release:  July 3, 2019 Contact Info:  Annaliese Davis (202) 226-1290 WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) led a bipartisan Congressional Delegation to Budapest, Hungary, where they met with government officials, opposition leaders, independent media, and civil society activists.   “The United States continues to support efforts to strengthen democracy in Hungary, and we had many honest discussions during our time in Budapest,” said Leader Hoyer. “We were disappointed that we were unable to meet with Prime Minister Orban. The threat of oligarchs and party loyalists gaining control of independent institutions, the judiciary, and the media is alarming. The erosion of democratic checks and balances ought to concern everyone. We appreciated the opportunity to meet with civil society activists and share our support for the work they are doing to renew democracy in their country.  We will continue to promote strong democratic institutions in Hungary that hold its leaders accountable to protect the rights and freedoms of its people.”   “Our meetings with diverse political leaders, independent journalists, representatives of religious communities and civil society were informative and illuminating.  We remain convinced that a strong, democratic Hungary would be the most effective partner for the United States and our NATO allies,” said Senator Cardin, the lead Senate Democrat on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). “We regret that we were unable to speak directly with Prime Minister Orban regarding the steps his government has taken which have undermined core elements of democracy, opened the door to Russian malign influence, and enabled corrosive corruption. Our alliance is not only about shared interests but shared values, and hope alone will not make this reality.  The United States remains open, as an active partner, to find ways to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, protect civil society, and counter extremism that fuels anti-Semitism and undermines regional stability.”    “Hungary is a firm friend and a loyal ally, but all of us are concerned about the erosion of democratic institutions and the rise of Russian influence," said Congressman Cole. "We intend to work with our Hungarian friends across the political spectrum to ensure that their elections are free and fair, their judiciary independent, and their press vibrant and robust." The delegation prioritized meeting with human rights and anti-corruption leaders. The delegation also met with the leadership of the Central European University and expressed their support for it to remain open.  Among the government officials with whom the Members held meetings were the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Hungarian Parliament and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.    The other Members of the Congressional Delegation are: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the lead Senate Democrat on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and Reps. Tom Cole (OK-04), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Garret Graves (LA-06), and Val Demings (FL-10).   

  • OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir to Appear at Helsinki Commission Hearing

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following hearing: STATE OF MEDIA FREEDOM IN THE OSCE REGION Thursday, July 25, 2019 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Capitol Visitor Center Room HVC-210 Live Webcast: www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission Journalists working in the 57 participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) are facing increased risks to their lives and safety. According to a new report released the Office of the Representative for Freedom of the Media, in the first six months of 2019, two journalists have been killed and an additional 92 attacks and threats—including one bombing, three shootings, and seven arson attacks—have targeted members of the media. In his first appearance before Congress, OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir will assess the fragile state of media freedom within the OSCE region. Mr. Desir also will address the number of imprisoned media professionals as well as the violence, threats, and intimidation directed toward female journalists. The hearing will explore the threat posed by disinformation and online content designed to provoke violence and hate.  Following the hearing, at 5:00 p.m. in Room HVC-200, the Helsinki Commission will host a viewing of the documentary, “A Dark Place,” which details the online harassment of female journalists working in the OSCE region.

  • Responding to Hate

    In the past year alone, places of worship in Christchurch, Colombo, Pittsburgh, and Poway were targets of hate-based violence, resulting in the tragic loss of more than 300 lives.  Effectively countering hate crimes requires a comprehensive effort bringing together government institutions, criminal justice systems, civil society actors, and international organizations.  Religious actors and interfaith institutions play an important role in promoting safe and inclusive societies and reducing violence, hostility, and discrimination. The U.S. Helsinki Commission convened a hearing on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 that examined the role of religious actors in responding to hate domestically in the United States and throughout the OSCE region. The hearing, titled “Responding to Hate: The Role of Religious Actors,” focused on how faith-based institutions can promote safe and inclusive societies and reduce violence, hostility, and discrimination. Helsinki Commissioner Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04) chaired the hearing and was joined by other commissioners including OSCE PA Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance and Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), and Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09). Rep. Moore opened the hearing by stating, “All of us have something to gain from those who look different, pray differently, and may come from a different place. And we must not wait until tragedy strikes, again and again and again, to learn the value of mutual respect. We must seize every opportunity to denounce hate-motivated violence, and in doing so we protect the value of freedom of expression, the hallmark of democracy.” She also paid homage to six Sikh worshippers killed near her district in Oak Creek, Wisconsin seven years ago. In his opening remarks, Sen. Cardin recounted his side event at the 28th Annual Session of the OSCE PA earlier in July, titled, “Countering Hate: Lessons from the Past, Leadership for the Future,” where he called on parliamentarians to act now to prevent a repeat of the past where bigotry and violence resulted in the deaths of millions under Nazi rule. Witnesses at the hearing described how religious actors and interfaith institutions can work together to further human rights and protections for all, domestically and throughout the OSCE region. Witnesses also shared strategies to prevent and respond to hate, ignorance, and violence targeting our societies, including places of worship. Father James Martin shared a video testimony about his response to the Pulse nightclub shooting, which at the time was the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, taking 49 lives. He noted that the LGBT community received an outpouring of love and support the in the aftermath of the tragedy, with the notable exception of the Catholic church. Father Martin said, “Why am I bringing this up? Because when it comes to the role that religious actors and organizations can play in combatting hate crimes, the most effective thing they can do is to get their own houses of worship in order. Racism, sexism, and homophobia still exist in many Christian denominations – my own included.” He ended his testimony by underlining that “the most important thing that religious actors and organizations can do to combat hate crimes is not only to fight the hatred on the outside, but on the inside as well.” Imam Gamal Fouda also testified by video and remarked on New Zealand’s response to the tragic shooting that targeted and killed Muslims at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, where he is the imam. “New Zealand set a good example to the whole world for how to look after your people, how to actually support all your people. And we all stand together against hate, hate speech, and hate crimes,” he said. He said the power of New Zealand was demonstrated in the wake of the Christchurch shooting and called for more education on the strength of diverse and inclusive societies. “We have to stand together looking at the diversity in our communities as something that is strengthening our community,” he said. “It is the secret of the power of our community to see different colors and different languages.” Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, victim, witness, and survivor of the 2018 attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA—the worst attack on a synagogue in the history of the United States—stated, “The metaphor of America as a melting pot, is a beautiful image, but sadly, it is not true, [because …we] do not know our neighbors. We live in silos, with no bridges connecting them. Many choose to live in their own private silos, not wanting ‘others’ to enter their silo.” He believes that the key to addressing hate—what he referred to as the “H-word”— is to learn to build bridges. “Some people just don’t know how to build a bridge. This is where religious leaders like me make a difference…I’m a bridge builder. When the Muslim community extended an olive branch to me, I responded by offering an olive tree,” he said. Reverend Aaron Jenkins testified on the power of developing partnerships and relationships across different sectors of society to adequately tackle the issue of hate and hate crimes wherever they occur. He remarked, “Any plan to address hate must engage faith actors within and across their faith traditions in respectful and meaningful ways. We cannot wait until the next hate crime happens.” He stated that partnerships, resources, and relationships were needed to address the problem. Radia Bakkouch spoke about the situation in France and Coexister’s “belief in the concept of ‘faith for good’ and the practice of interfaith cooperation in empowering young people to address violence and exclusion.” She stressed the importance of defending pluralistic societies and highlighted the importance of building coalitions to address the rise in hate-based violence taking place in France and elsewhere in Europe. Usra Ghazi detailed federal hate crimes statistics, highlighting that hate crimes historically and consistently are underreported. This, she said, is partly due to a lack of a standardized reporting processes and “strained relationships between bigotry-impacted communities and law enforcement entities.” Ghazi shared that many members of the Muslim, Arab, and Sikh communities affected by anti-Muslim discrimination, hate, and violence in the United States have opted to keep low profiles rather than report these events. She stressed, “Due to the rise of hate crimes and hate speech against Muslim and Sikh Americans, these communities by necessity have had to organize outreach efforts to humanize themselves while raising cultural and religious literacy among their neighbors and governments.” Ghazi also shared positive examples of how discriminated communities are building their civic health, getting more involved in elections, and running for office at record rates. “We now have Muslim and Sikh mayors of American cities, as well as officials from these faiths in a range of governmental positions. These efforts help to ensure that our cities, counties and states are truly representative of the rich diversity of American communities.” Alina Bricman’s video testimony concluded the hearing. She presented an overview of the first-ever report of Young Jewish Europeans: perceptions and experiences of antisemitism, released July 4, 2019. Findings included that “44 percent of young Jewish Europeans have faced anti-Semitic harassment, that’s almost 1 in 2 Jews; […] and 25 percent identified as too scared to display Jewish-affiliated ornaments or accessories.” To address the problem, Bricman recommended investing in education (such as anti-racist and anti-bias training) that emphasizes the importance and strength of diversity and diverse communities, supporting civil society, and depoliticizing anti-Semitism and racism by having leaders engage responsibly in the public arena where it is not viewed as a left or right issue.

  • Truth, Reconciliation, and Healing Focus of Upcoming Helsinki Commission Briefing

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: TRUTH, RECONCILIATION, & HEALING Toward a Unified Future Thursday, July 18, 2019 10:00 a.m – 12:00 p.m. Rayburn House Office Building Room 2167 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission Today, many countries seek to address historic wrongs, heal wounds, bridge divisions, and build a shared future. Truth and reconciliation efforts to encourage restitution, reparations, and restorative justice have been called for in many places, including the United States, Western Europe, Canada, and the Balkans, while Holocaust survivors and other victims of Nazi persecution continue to seek justice worldwide. For example, in June, Amsterdam city councilors voted to apologize for the city’s role in the transatlantic slave trade. In April, Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel apologized for the kidnapping of thousands of children born to mixed-race couples during its colonial rule in several African countries. In 2015, Sweden published a historic white paper on abuses and rights violations against Roma in the 20th century. A decade ago, Canada established a reconciliation process in response to the Indian Residential School legacy, which forced First Nation children to attend government-funded boarding schools. At this briefing, panelists will review lessons learned and discuss ways to heal and reunify societies divided by war, genocide, hierarchal systems of human value, and other tragedies stemming from extreme nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of ethnic and religious discrimination. Speakers will address official government apologies, truth and reconciliation processes, restitution, reparations, and other policy prescriptions that have been used or are currently being considered to address historic wrongs and unify citizens in countries across Europe and North America. The following speakers are scheduled to participate: Dr. Gail C. Christopher, Founder, Ntianu Center; Chair, Board of the Trust for America’s Health Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, Author, “Imperfect Justice: Looted Assets, Slave Labor,” and “The Unfinished Business of World War II;” Senior Counsel, Covington The Hon. Tracy Tansia Bibo, former City Councilor, Liedekerke, Belgium Councilor Don Ceder, Municipal Councilor, City of Amsterdam, the Netherlands The Hon. Soraya Post, former Member of the European Parliament, Sweden Dr. Diane Orentlicher, Professor of International Law, American University; former Special Advisor to the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; Author, “Some Kind of Justice: The ICTY's Impact in Bosnia and Serbia”

  • Helsinki Commission Hearing to Examine Role of Religious Actors in Responding to Hate

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following hearing: RESPONDING TO HATE The Role of Religious Actors Tuesday, July 16, 2019 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Rayburn House Office Building Room 2200 Live Webcast: www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission In the past year alone, places of worship in Christchurch, Colombo, Pittsburgh, and Poway were targets of hate-based violence, resulting in the tragic loss of more than 300 lives.  Effectively countering hate crimes requires a comprehensive effort bringing together government institutions, criminal justice systems, civil society actors, and international organizations.  Religious actors and interfaith institutions play an important role in promoting safe and inclusive societies and reducing violence, hostility, and discrimination. Witnesses will describe how religious actors and interfaith institutions can work together to further human rights and protections for all in the OSCE region, and share strategies to prevent and respond to hate crimes and violence targeting our societies in public places, including places of worship and social institutions. The following witnesses are scheduled to participate: Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers, Rabbi and Cantor, Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, PA Father James Martin, Editor at Large, America Media, New York, NY Imam Gamal Fouda, Imam, Al Noor Mosque, Christchurch, New Zealand Radia Bakkouch, President, Coexister, Paris, France Alina Bricman, Elected President, European Union of Jewish Students, Brussels, Belgium Usra Ghazi, Director of Policy and Programs, America Indivisible; Mayor’s Interfaith Council, Washington, DC Reverend Aaron Jenkins, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, The Expectations Project (TEP), Washington, DC Additional witnesses may be added.

  • Delegation Led by Co-Chairman Wicker Demonstrates U.S. Commitment to Countering Kremlin Aggression and Preserving Stability in Europe

    WASHINGTON—From July 4 to July 8, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) led the largest bipartisan, bicameral U.S. delegation in history to the 2019 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) Annual Session in Luxembourg. The participation of 19 members of Congress showed the deep U.S. commitment to European security and to countering Kremlin aggression and anti-democratic trends across the 57-country OSCE region. “The size of our delegation for this Parliamentary Assembly is a clear demonstration of the importance that the Americans place on this institution and its mission,” said Sen. Wicker ahead of the official opening of the event, which brought together approximately 300 parliamentarians from North America, Europe, and Central Asia. Sen. Wicker, who also serves as a vice-president of the OSCE PA, was joined in Luxembourg by House Majority Leader and former Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD-05); Helsinki Commissioners Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08), and Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-04). Other participants included Sen. John Cornyn (TX), Sen. Rick Scott (FL), Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Rep. Tom Cole (OK-04), Rep. Val Demings (FL-10), Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC-03), Rep. Garret Graves (LA-06), Rep. Tom Graves (GA-14), Rep. Andy Harris (MD-01), Rep. Billy Long (MO-07), Rep. Gregory Meeks (NY-05), and Rep. Lee Zeldin (NY-01). In the opening plenary, Rep. Hoyer, a founder of the OSCE PA, reminded the delegates of the OSCE’s commitment to human rights, fundamental freedoms, and democratic governance. Rep. Moore then spearheaded the passage of a resolution on protecting and engaging civil society that was originally introduced by Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20). The assembly also adopted a second U.S. initiative on educating children to avoid human trafficking introduced by Rep. Smith, who serves as OSCE PA Special Representative on Human Trafficking Issues. Fourteen of the 16 amendments proposed by the U.S. delegation were adopted, including those holding the Kremlin accountable for the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; criticizing Moscow for abusing INTERPOL diffusions to harass Kremlin critics abroad; expressing concern about the overreliance of European countries on Russia for energy supplies; and seeking to protect those who report hate crimes from retaliation.  During the annual session, Sen. Wicker and Rep. Smith co-hosted a presentation to raise awareness and encourage reporting of efforts to entice children into being trafficked. Sen. Cardin, who serves as the OSCE PA Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance, hosted a discussion on best practices to combat hate in society. Prior to attending the annual session, Co-Chairman Wicker convened the first-ever Helsinki Commission hearing held outside of the United States. In Gdansk, Poland, senior U.S. civilian and military leaders briefed members of Congress on their approaches to enhancing security in the region. High-level defense officials from Lithuania, Poland, Finland, Sweden, and Estonia also provided regional perspectives on the evolving security environment in and around the Baltic Sea. Hearing participants included Lt. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty, Deputy Commander, United States European Command; Douglas D. Jones, Deputy Permanent Representative, United States Mission to NATO; Raimundas Karoblis, Minister of National Defense, Republic of Lithuania; Maj. Gen, Krzysztof Król, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces; Janne Kuusela, Director-General, Defense Policy Department, Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Finland; Jan-Olof Lind, State Secretary to the Minister for Defense, the Kingdom of Sweden; and Kristjan Prikk, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, the Republic of Estonia. The hearing underscored America’s commitment to security in the Baltic Sea region and its unwavering support for U.S. friends and allies.

  • Countering Hate: Lessons from the Past, Leadership for the Future

    Today at the 28th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Luxembourg, Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin hosted a U.S. side event in his capacity as OSCE PA Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance. The event, “Countering Hate: Lessons from the Past, Leadership for the Future,” called for parliamentarians from across the 57 OSCE participating States to adopt an action plan to counter bias and discrimination and foster inclusion.  Several members of the U.S. delegation—along with U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE James Gilmore and U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg Randy Evans—attended the event, where speakers included Dr. Rebecca Erbelding of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and OSCE parliamentarians Michael Link (Germany), Nahima Lanjri (Belgium), and Lord Alf Dubs (United Kingdom). “We are here today to exchange information on what we are doing in our home countries to address the problem and how we might be able to develop a plan of action to work better together to address the rise in hate-based incidents we have been witnessing across the OSCE region and beyond from Pittsburgh and Poway to Christchurch,” said Sen. Cardin. “It is not only the most vulnerable in our societies whom are in danger when we fail to act, but the very foundations of our democracies.” Dr. Rebecca Erbelding of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shared a cautionary tale, reminding the audience, “The Holocaust did not appear out of nowhere [and] the Nazi Party was in power in Germany for eight years before mass killing began.”  Warning signs in the past were ignored, she stated.  “A rise of populist leaders, of simple solutions, of demonizing minorities, of propagandizing hate, of neglecting or ignoring refugee protections, of isolationism, of appeasement—these factors, when taken together, have led to genocide in the past, and not just in Europe. We must [..] work together to prevent genocide in the future.”  OSCE parliamentarian and former director of the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Michael Link stressed the need for action, saying that we are witnessing these first alarming signs of hate, but have a choice in whether we will repeat the past. He lauded the success of and need to continue the OSCE’s Words Into Action project funded by the German government to increase education on addressing anti-Semitism, security protections for the Jewish community, and build diverse coalitions across communities against hate. He cautioned that Romani populations should also not be forgotten in the efforts to address the problem. OSCE parliamentarian Nahima Lanjri described rampant discrimination in Belgium’s employment sector and its negative impact on the labor market. Citing the need for increased tools to fight all forms of discrimination that have the negative affect of repressing talents needed for societies to flourish, she called for more disparities data and initiatives that address economic and other forms of discrimination and bias. Lord Dubs, a British parliamentarian who was born in Prague in what was then Czechoslovakia, was one of 669 Jewish children saved by English stockbroker Nicholas Winton, and others, from the Nazis on the Kindertransport.  He shared a recent hate post he had received online and stressed the need to address increasing hate in our societies through education, legislation against hate speech and discrimination, and by shifting public opinion that denigrates communities instead of building them up. U.S. House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer cited the anti-discrimination work of Brian Stevenson and stressed that difference does not make one “less than." Parliamentarian Hedy Fry of Canada noted rising hate crimes in her country amid numerous initiatives addressing disparities and inclusion. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks highlighted the importance of Jewish and African-American coalitions in the civil rights movement. Stating that no group should have to fight for their rights alone if we truly espouse democratic values, he said, we all should be joining the Roma in their human rights struggle.  U.S. Rep. Val Demings called for the conversation to also include LGBT+ communities, recalling the tragic mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in her Orlando, Florida district.  The sessions concluded with Special Representative Cardin calling for an OSCE Action Plan to address bias and discrimination and foster inclusion and OSCE/ODIHR Advisor Dermana Seta providing an overview of tools currently offered by the OSCE to assist governments in addressing hate crimes and discrimination. 

  • The Helsinki Process: A Four Decade Overview

    In August 1975, the heads of state or government of 35 countries – the Soviet Union and all of Europe except Albania, plus the United States and Canada – held a historic summit in Helsinki, Finland, where they signed the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. This document is known as the Helsinki Final Act or the Helsinki Accords. The Conference, known as the CSCE, continued with follow-up meetings and is today institutionalized as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, based in Vienna, Austria. Learn more about the signature of the Helsinki Final Act; the role that the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe played during the Cold War; how the Helsinki Process successfully adapted to the post-Cold War environment of the 1990s; and how today's OSCE can and does contribute to regional security, now and in the future.

  • Chairman Hastings on Release of 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom

    WASHINGTON—Following the release of the 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, a former chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) issued the following statement: “The Helsinki Commission welcomes the release of the annual International Religious Freedom Report. Robust reporting on the full range of human rights—including respect for religious liberties—is critical to the preservation of democratic institutions. “The report details a number of continuing concerns in countries including Hungary and Turkey. In Hungary, government officials have engaged in anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic rhetoric and publicly venerated World War II-era anti-Semites and Hitler allies. Amendments to Hungary's controversial 2011 religion law came into effect in April, but it is not yet clear if the new and more complicated law will end discrimination against the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship and other faiths. In Turkey, long-standing concerns persist about respect for the rights of Alevis and non-Muslim minorities to freely manage their religious activities and internal affairs. “These violations of religious freedom are extremely troubling, especially since Hungary and Turkey—like all participating States of the OSCE—have committed to protecting freedom of religion or belief and preventing intolerance and discrimination based on religious grounds.” The annual State Department International Religious Freedom Report details religious freedom in every country. The report includes government policies violating religious belief and practices of individuals and religious groups, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world.

  • Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Commitments Regarding Freedom of Religion or Belief

    The 57 participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have repeatedly committed to recognizing and respecting freedom of religion or belief. The 35 participating States of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe–the forerunner of the OSCE–signed the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, which included: “The participating States will recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practice, alone or in community with others, religion or belief acting in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience.” The OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has staff dedicated to freedom of religion or belief, led by a senior advisor. ODIHR legal reviews to help participating States comply with their OSCE commitments have included existing law and draft legislation on freedom of religion or belief. ODIHR only conducts such reviews after receiving a formal invitation from a participating State. A panel of OSCE/ODIHR experts on freedom of religion or belief assists OSCE/ODIHR, and the ODIHR director appoints the panel’s 14 members every three years. This compilation, developed by Helsinki Commission staff, covers CSCE/OSCE commitments on freedom of religion or belief in 16 documents from the Final Act to the OSCE Ministerial Council in 2015. It includes the document title, excerpted text, and links to the original document. Participating States have also made commitments relating to discrimination or hate crimes base on religion or belief.” Some examples are in “OSCE Human Dimension Commitments: Thematic Compilation.” This Helsinki Commission compilation only includes commitments on freedom of religion or belief. The Commission will update the compilation when new commitments on freedom of religion or belief are made.

  • Chairman Hastings on World Refugee Day

    WASHINGTON—In honor of World Refugee Day, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) today issued the following statement: “On World Refugee Day, we recognize those who risk everything—even their lives—in the search for freedom and safety. They have fled their homes in fear, only to face perilous journeys and uncertain futures. “There are more refugees now than at any point since World War II. There are nearly 71 million displaced persons worldwide. Almost 26 million of them are refugees, half of whom are children.     “International organizations like the OSCE help ensure that humanitarian assistance and protections, including anti-discrimination measures, are being delivered in accordance with international norms and human rights. “Please join me in commemorating the courage and resilience of the millions of refugees and displaced persons around the world fleeing persecution, war, and violence. Their stories inspire us, and their triumphs have enormously strengthened the nations that have welcomed them.”

  • International Election Observation in the U.S. and Beyond

    In 1990, the 57 participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) pledged to hold free and fair elections. Election observation is one of the most transparent and methodical ways to encourage countries to uphold their commitment to democratic standards, and is a core element of the OSCE’s efforts to promote human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.  Since the 1990s, the OSCE has been invited to observe approximately 250 elections in countries throughout the OSCE region, including the United States and Russia. In addition to the OSCE, the United Nations, Organization for American States, European Union, and other multilateral organizations routinely participate in international election observation.  Civil society actors—including U.S.-based organizations like the National Democratic and International Republican Institute, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, and the Carter Center—also observe elections around the world with the common goal of upholding democratic standards.  The briefing focused on the benefits and challenges of international election observation, best practices, and emerging issues like voting technology and security.

  • U.S. Helsinki Commission Participates in D-Day Commemorations

    By Alex Tiersky, Senior Policy Advisor and Kyle Parker, Senior Senate Staff Representative On June 6, 1944, universally known as “D-Day,” history was forever altered by the largest multi-national amphibious landing and operational military airdrop in history. On that day, approximately 160,000 Allied troops, supported by more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft, braved the withering fire of Nazi Germany's fortifications on the beaches of Normandy to gain a foothold in continental Europe, commencing in earnest the liberation of Europe and the end of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.  The program for the June 6 Ceremony for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Normandy American Cemetery, Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer, France.​ Members and staff of the U.S. Helsinki Commission traveled to Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of that momentous day and to honor the bravery and sacrifice of more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers who were killed or wounded in the assault.  The presence of members of Helsinki Commission leadership, including Co-Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker and Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin, attested to the continued strength of the transatlantic bond cemented by this seminal event.Their presence underlined once again the continued U.S. commitment to European security, and to promoting freedom, justice, and peace in the OSCE region and beyond. Army flight formation as part of the D-Day commemoration. The 2019 anniversary took on special resonance, as it is likely to be the last major opportunity for D-Day veterans—now in their mid-90s and older—to participate. Commission representatives began the morning of June 6, 2019 with a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. The hallowed ground, which sits on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach, contains the graves of more than 9,380 of American soldiers, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. Left, General Dunford, Chairman of Joint Chiefs speaks to Representative Michael Waltz (FL-06). At the ceremony, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman U.S. Senator Roger F. Wicker recalled being moved by President Trump’s remarks. As Senator Wicker recently relayed at a hearing in Gdansk, "Under no circumstance can we be divided from our friends and allies, here or anywhere else.  I was reminded of this key principle when I participated in the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy.  I am certain all of my colleagues are unanimous in their agreement with the sentiment President Trump expressed on that occasion: “To all of our friends and partners: Our cherished alliance was forged in the heat of battle, tested in the trials of war, and proven in the blessings of peace.  Our bond is unbreakable.”  A particularly poignant moment of the ceremony saw French President Macron turning to face several dozen veterans of that fateful day 75 years ago to tell them in their native tongue, "We know what we owe to you, veterans: our freedom. And on behalf of my nation I just want to say thank you." Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau speaks at the Juno Beach ceremony. Later on June 6, Commission representatives took part in a second ceremony, this one at Juno Beach (Courseulles-sur-Mer), where some 21,000 men (14,000 Canadian and 7,000 British) had landed 75 years before. The ceremony, presided over by French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe (in the presence of Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, among other dignitaries), featured solemn remarks from senior officials. However, perhaps most moving were a series of personal reflections from school-age children on the meaning of war, peace, and memory. Their innocent sincerity offered possibly the greatest tribute to what the heroes of D-Day fought and died for. 

  • Partially Protected?

    The U.S. Helsinki Commission convened an expert briefing on the background, implementation, and legal and political implications of temporary protection for people in the United States and Europe who come from countries of conflict or natural disaster but not qualify for asylum. The discussion explored whether some European Union countries are choosing temporary protection even when asylum claims are credible. Alex T. Johnson, Chief of Staff for the Helsinki Commission, said in his opening remarks, “Chairman Hastings sees [protected status] as a priority, particularly in the United States and in the OSCE region because of the erosion of human rights and democratic institutions that we are seeing now. It’s particularly urgent as we look at our own domestic compliance with commitments in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and how we partner with countries who are also exploring issues related to granted protected status for vulnerable communities in their midst.” Johnson also noted Chairman Hasting’s introduction of H.Con.Res. 5, which expresses support for Haitians residing in the United States with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In the discussion that followed, Jill Wilson of the Congressional Research Service provided context on TPS and its implementation in the U.S. Wilson reported, “Ten countries are currently covered by TPS, benefitting some 400,000 individuals in the United States. The Trump administration has announced terminations for six of these ten countries on the grounds that the conditions on which the original designations were based no longer exist. These terminations are currently on hold pending court action.”  Recent efforts by members of the 115th and 116th Congress saw a greater number and variety of TPS-related bills that seek either to expand or restrict TPS and shift the decision-making power from the Secretary of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to the U.S. Congress. Currently, the Secretary of the DHS, in consultation with other key government offices namely the U.S. State Department, has the power to designate a country for temporary protection in periods of six, twelve, or eighteen months based on three categories: armed conflict, natural disaster, or extraordinary circumstances that prevent the safe return of a country’s nationals. Marleine Bastien of the Family Action Network Movement shared her expertise on the current political and economic situation in Haiti, following the catastrophic earthquake in 2010 and subsequent natural disasters that resulted in major public health emergencies, about 300,000 displaced people, and severely damaged infrastructure. Despite these continuing poor conditions, Haiti’s TPS status is subject to termination. Bastien remarked, “We hope that Congress will take a close look at what’s going on in Haiti today…The conditions in Haiti continue to deteriorate. Haiti still qualifies for temporary protected status… TPS is still applicable, not only for the countries that qualify now, but for the countries in the future which may experience natural and political disasters.” Without its TPS re-instated, she said, Haiti does not have the capacity to resettle and support the 58,000 Haitians currently living in the U.S. Sui Chung, an attorney with the Immigration Law and Litigation Group in Miami, Florida, and Chair of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) stated that unless legislation like the American Dream and Promise Act, H.R. 6 is passed, TPS recipients remain at risk of being detained or deported. Chung remarked, “Although the federal courts have enjoined the termination of TPS for some countries, these court orders are temporary. If a higher court rules unfavorably, those with TPS would be vulnerable to losing authorization to work and reside in the U.S., and they would be subject to deportation.” Chung stated that 94 percent of individuals under TPS are employed, generating about $5.5 billion in federal, state, and local taxes, with roughly $25 billion spending power. According to Chung, losing this population could cripple the U.S. economy and harm communities.  Catherine Woollard, Secretary General of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, described Europe’s decision-making process for protection status as an inconsistent and unfair “asylum lottery” She argued that the lack of fairness and uniformity in granting TPS originates from the selection process, where the decision to grant protection status is left solely to the discretion of the twenty-eight European Union Member States rather than a universal eligibility process. Woollard noted, “Our analysis shows that these different protection statuses have a wide variation when it comes to the rights attached. Key rights that are of interest and necessity for people who are seeking protection vary. If you have refugee status, your residence rights are for a longer duration. For subsidiary protection, less time is granted for residential rights. In some cases, there are very stark differences.”

  • Helsinki Commission Briefing to Explore Non-Asylum Protections in United States And Europe

    WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following briefing: PARTIALLY PROTECTED? Non-Asylum Protection in the United States and the European Union Friday, June 14, 2019 2:00 p.m. Rayburn House Office Building Room 2237 Live Webcast: www.facebook.com/HelsinkiCommission The United States and the European Union give legal protection to some people who flee armed conflict or natural disaster, but do not qualify as refugees. In the United States, the Secretary of Homeland Security designates countries of origin for “Temporary Protected Status” (TPS), enabling their nationals to legally remain in the United States and work until and unless the Secretary terminates the designation. Approximately 417,000 individuals from 10 countries currently have TPS, living in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. commonwealths and territories. In 2018, more than 100,300 people were granted similar non-asylum protection, on an individual basis, across the 28 countries of the European Union. Since 2017, the United States has extended TPS for Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, and announced terminations for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan. Lawsuits have challenged the terminations. To date, Members of Congress have introduced at least 10 TPS-focused bills in the 116th Congress. This briefing will explore the background and implementation of non-asylum protection in the United States and Europe—including whether some European Union Member States are according this protection even when asylum claims are credible—legislative and legal responses, and implications for policy, law, and protection. The following panelists are scheduled to participate: Marleine Bastien, Executive Director, Family Action Network Movement Sui Chung, Attorney at Law, Immigration Law and Litigation Group, and Chair, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Committee, American Immigration Lawyers Association Jill H. Wilson, Analyst in Immigration Policy, Congressional Research Service Catherine Woollard, Secretary General, European Council on Refugees and Exiles Additional panelists may be added.

  • Chairman Hastings on Confirmation of Ambassador Gilmore as U.S. Representative to the OSCE

    WASHINGTON—Following yesterday’s confirmation of Ambassador James S. Gilmore as the U.S. Representative to the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) issued the following statement: “I congratulate Ambassador Gilmore on his confirmation as the U.S. Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and look forward to working with him to promote human rights and comprehensive security in Europe and Central Asia. A strong U.S. voice at the OSCE is essential to demonstrating our dedication to common values and continuing to advance implementation of OSCE commitments.”

  • Helsinki Commission Leaders Commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day

    WASHINGTON—As the country commemorates Holocaust Remembrance Day and mourns the victims of the shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Co-Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), and Ranking Members Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statements: “More than 70 years ago, Nazis slaughtered millions of innocents, and we said, ‘Never Again.’ Tragically, we are still battling anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance across the OSCE region, including in our own country,” said Chairman Hastings. “Our communities must come together to condemn vile acts of hatred like the tragedy in Poway.  We honor the victims by not only remembering the millions who were lost, but also continuing to fight to protect human rights for all.” “As we solemnly mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, we mourn the millions of lives lost to Hitler’s evil, including the six million Jews murdered because of anti-Semitism—the world’s oldest hatred,” said Co-Chairman Wicker. “Bigotry continues today, and we have recently seen religiously motivated violence, including attacks on Jews worshipping at synagogues. Holocaust Remembrance Day is an occasion to reflect on these tragedies and to aspire to the heroism of those resistors in Europe who fought the Nazis and saved thousands.”    “Today, communities of all creeds and nationalities come together to commemorate one of the darkest times in human history. We honor the six million Jews who perished and those who survived the Holocaust,” said Sen. Cardin. “The recent tragedy in Poway following the horrific murders in Pittsburgh are a painful reminder that our work is not finished.  We must come together to reject all forms of hate, racism, and xenophobia. We must pledge to speak up for one another, regardless of whether our neighbor looks, worships or lives like us.” “‘We Remember’ cannot be just a phrase—it must be a promise to forever recall the victims that perished, the families that were separated, and the communities that courageously rebuilt,” said Rep. Wilson. “The devastation of the Holocaust must never fade from our collective memory and never be repeated. Saturday’s attack on peaceful worshippers in Poway is evidence that we must do more to ensure that the lessons of one of the worst tragedies in human history are not forgotten.”

  • Climate Disruption

    By Cade Stone, Max Kampelman Fellow The OSCE was founded on a commitment to cross-border cooperation in the face of indiscriminate regional threats, in pursuit of comprehensive security, and in mutual acknowledgement of the need for sovereignty and stability. Today, as the earth’s climate continues to change, global environmental issues are increasingly tangible security concerns. Climate change stands to magnify both the internal challenges faced by OSCE participating States and the external pressure of mass migration out of critically unstable regions—a redoubled “migrant crisis” in the mold of 2015. “Climate change is having far-reaching effects on agricultural productivity and food security,” warned UN Migration Director General William Lacy Swing on World Food Day 2017. “It is among the main reasons for the record numbers of people compelled to migrate from rural areas to towns and cities around the world.” The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that a large share of migrants come from rural areas where more than 75 percent of the world’s poor and food insecure depend on agriculture and natural resource-based livelihoods. As agricultural yields dwindle, water supplies shrink, and threatened regions become less habitable, poor populations will suffer most immediately and most critically. As atmospheric and oceanic temperatures rise, mounting evidence suggests that natural disasters will become increasingly catastrophic. Displacement rates in disaster-prone areas will increase, along with the costs of crippled infrastructure and lost productivity.   In 2015, according to the FAO, there were already 244 million international migrants, 40 percent more than in 2000. Nineteen million people were internally displaced because of natural disasters. An average of 26 million were displaced annually by climate or weather-related disasters between 2008 and 2015. In a changing global climate showing no signs of reversal, these trends stand only to worsen. It is at this intersection of climate change and migration that the OSCE region may be most immediately threatened. During the 2015 migrant crisis, millions of displaced people fled to Europe from the same regions that now face the greatest risk of further instability; migration flows may surge once more as environmental pressures mount. Stable governments and populations rely on access to vital resources and are thus deeply imperiled by the threat of widespread drought, crop failure, flooding, and other disruptions that climate disruption portends. By this measure, any of the “staging” areas for migrants in North Africa, as well as their origin nations throughout Africa and the Middle East, are already politically fragile. The OSCE has gradually begun to mobilize around the pressing security reality of a changing climate. In the wake of the latest UN Climate Report, Nilza de Sena, chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Economic and Environmental Committee, warned that the effects of climate change are close and potentially disastrous and urged bold action to “accelerate decarbonization and intensify the discussion on the expansion of renewable and sustainable energy and maximizing energy efficiency.” The OSCE also has joined the Environment and Security (ENVSEC) Initiative, a sweeping multi-agency program established to examine the security risks posed by climate change, particularly in Eastern Europe, South Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia. Crucially, the effort treats climate change as a threat multiplier inherent to future national and international security agendas. Its “Climate Change and Security” report analyzed credible domestic security concerns for OSCE member nations, including competition for scarce resources, increased social tension and conflict, loss of trade, and infrastructural damage. The analysis has yet to account for the compounding effects the external pressures of increased migration will inflict, as the same climate shocks ripple across more fragile regional neighbors. Climate disruption and subsequent migration imperils the whole of the OSCE and calls for a defense of its most foundational commitments, from sovereign equality to territorial integrity to interstate cooperation. Action must be taken to prepare for the security crisis on Europe’s doorstep, both in domestic planning and investment abroad. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization calls for massive investment in rural development to bolster opportunity, resiliency, and stability. It has developed Sustainable Development Goals to address the structural drivers of migration and shepherd responsible growth in migrant source countries. Increased investment in infrastructure, ensuring reliable access to resources, and redoubled diplomatic conflict resolution will help stem the instability and conflict that displaces vulnerable populations. Further, the Center for Climate and Security promotes a Responsibility to Prepare framework for European leaders to elevate the institutional awareness and responsiveness to climate insecurity, both in migration hotspots and on Europe’s doorway. ENVSEC’s Climate Change and Security report proposes a portfolio of actionable items to better brace OSCE project nations, many of which can and should be implemented broadly across Europe, including raising public urgency, encouraging cross-sectoral policy integration, and incorporating increased cross-border cooperation on climate projections and vulnerability assessments. Finally, the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Climate accords need not preclude it from climate leadership within the OSCE. It remains uniquely poised to help foster the vital regional cooperation needed to meaningfully address these challenges. European security was shaken by the migration crisis of 2015. Political stability across the continent was undermined and fringe populist forces emboldened in its wake. Unless concerted, collective action is taken quickly, the coming waves of climate migration could make past surges look like ripples. The U.S. and OSCE have both a mandate and responsibility to lead.

  • Helsinki Commission Chairman Condemns Mob Attacks on Roma in Europe

    WASHINGTON—Following reports of a mob attack against the Roma community and a police station in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) today issued the following statement: “I am very disturbed by the increasing frequency of mob attacks on Roma in Europe—most recently in Bulgaria, but also in Italy, France, and the Czech Republic. Governments must do more to counter the corrosive effects of hate-mongering and protect their most vulnerable communities from bias-motivated crimes. “The violence in Bulgaria is particularly concerning. As they say in the horror movies, ‘the call is coming from inside your house.’ An attack on a government institution like a police station is an attack on democracy itself.” Reports indicate that earlier this week, an anti-Roma group attacked the police station in Gabrovo when officers refused to turn over three Roma to the mob following an altercation at a local shop. Some Romaní homes were subsequently destroyed. The attack comes on the heels of recent anti-Roma rhetoric at the highest levels of the Government of Bulgaria. In February, Bulgarian Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Krasimir Karakachanov proposed offering free abortions to limit the Roma birthrate. In early April, a mob attacked 70 Roma, including children, in a suburb of Rome, Italy. Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the attack.  Similar attacks on Roma in the town of Dvorec in the Czech Republic forced a Romani family to leave the area. Three Romani children were subsequently attacked in the Czech village of Lipník nad Bečvou. In France in late March, false kidnapping accusations against Roma circulated on social media were associated with gang attacks on Roma in France. Local police issued statements to quell the disinformation. 

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