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Combating Anti-Semitism: Taking Stock of the Situation Today

WASHINGTON – “Our work fighting anti-Semitism is far from done,” said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), at a hearing held in Washington, D.C. today by the U.S. Commission that oversees human rights in the 56 countries of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Smith, the Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe also known as the Helsinki Commission said: “By most accounts, and thanks to the work of many courageous nongovernmental organizations, NGOs, the despicable evil of anti-Semitism has decreased in most parts of the OSCE region in recent years – but it still remains at higher levels than in 2000. This is simply unacceptable, and it’s why we’re here today.”

Smith has a long record as a congressional leader in the fight against anti-Semitism.  He is the author of the provisions of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 that created the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism within the U.S. State Department. In 2009 Smith delivered the keynote address at the Interparliamentary Coalition Combating Anti-Semirtism London conference. As a result of his landmark 2002 hearing, “Escalating Anti-Semitic Violence in Europe,” he led a congressional drive to place the issue of combating anti-Semitism at the top of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agenda, as a result of which in 2004 the OSCE adopted new norms for its 56 member states on fighting anti-Semitism, and from 2004 to the present has held a series of high-level conferences on combating anti-Semitism. Rep. Smith is the author of numerous laws, resolutions, and member letters on combating anti-Semitism. In the 1990s Smith chaired Congress’s first hearings on anti-Semitism and in the early 1980s his first trips abroad as a member of Congress were to the former Soviet Union, where he fought for the release of Jewish “refuseniks.”

Experts testifying at the hearing addressed such key issues as anti-Semitism masking itself as criticism of Israel and the danger posed by Holocaust relativism (attempts to conflate other events that entailed great human suffering with the Holocaust). Other concerns raised included political transitions in the Arab world and how they might affect Muslim-Jewish relations, including in Europe; the importance of engagement with Muslim communities in Europe; and growing nationalist and extremist movements that target religious and ethnic minorities.  Additionally the roles of the OSCE, U.S. government, and Congress in addressing continuing issues of anti-Semitism at home and abroad were discussed.

Testifying at the hearing were Hannah Rosenthal, U.S. State Dep’t Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism; Rabbi Andy Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chair-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism; Stacy Burdett, Director, Gov’t and National Affairs, Anti-Defamation League; Eric Fusfield, Director, Legislative Affairs, B’nai B’rith International; Mark Levin, Executive Director, National Conference on Soviet Jewry; and Shimon Samuels, Director of International Relations, Simon Wiesenthal Center.

To read Congressman Smith’s opening remarks and the testimony of witnesses, please click here.

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