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Helsinki Commission Leaders React to State Department’s Anti-Semitism Report

WASHINGTON – United States Helsinki Commission leaders today welcomed the State Department’s release of its report on global anti-Semitism, as mandated in legislation calling for an assessment of the level of anti-Semitic activity worldwide.

Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Ranking Commissioner Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) offered their appraisal of the report.

“I am very pleased by the release of the Report on Global Anti-Semitism, and I want to thank Ambassador Ed O’Donnell and his staff for overseeing the writing of this groundbreaking document,” said Chairman Smith.  “Thanks to their good work, we now have a comprehensive record of whether countries are propagating or combating the evil of anti-Semitism.  With this information in hand, the United States can confront state-sponsors of anti-Semitism and press recalcitrant countries to clamp down on anti-Semitic activity.”

“Anti-Semitism is a scourge that must be defeated, and understanding where problems begin is the first step toward a solution,” Smith continued. “This report establishes a clear benchmark for reporting by the State Department and should lead to consistent and thorough coverage of anti-Semitism each year.”

“I commend the State Department for issuing its first-ever comprehensive global report on anti-Semitism,” said Commissioner Cardin. “I was pleased to work with Helsinki Commission Chairman Chris Smith and International Relations Committee Ranking Member Tom Lantos to enact the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, which led to today’s report.  This report surveys the rising tide of anti-Semitism in numerous countries, and most importantly details the responses of foreign governments to combat anti-Semitism in their countries.”

“I am encouraged that this report specifically names countries that are still falling short in meeting their OSCE commitments, as well as countries that have adopted ‘best practices,’ by strictly enforcing anti-discrimination legislation and promoting anti-bias and tolerance education,” Cardin continued.  “I am confident that this report will serve as an important baseline to build upon in future country reports and religious freedom reports by the State Department.”

“The Helsinki Commission and the OSCE must continue to play a leading role in combating the scourge of anti-Semitism, and I look forward to working with the State Department and my colleagues in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to fully implement the Berlin Declaration and insure that participating States meet their OSCE commitments,” Cardin added.

Chairman Smith served as Vice Chairman of the U.S. Delegations to the Vienna and Berlin OSCE Conferences on Anti-Semitism, and Ranking Member Cardin was part of the U.S. Delegation to the Berlin meeting.  Former New York City Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Edward Koch led the delegations to the Vienna and Berlin conferences, respectively, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell spoke at the Berlin conference.

“The increasing frequency and severity of anti-Semitic incidents since the start of the 21st century, particularly in Europe, has compelled the international community to focus on anti-Semitism with renewed vigor,” the report states.  “In recent years, incidents have been more targeted in nature with perpetrators appearing to have the specific intent to attack Jews and Judaism.  These attacks have disrupted the sense of safety and well being of Jewish communities.”

“This nation will keep watch; we will make sure that the ancient impulse of anti Semitism never finds a home in the modern world,” said President George W. Bush as he signed the legislation into law last year.  “The unwavering support from the Bush Administration on this issue has greatly aided our efforts to fight anti Semitism across the globe.”

Today’s report was mandated by the Global Anti Semitism Review Act of 2004.  A joint effort between Chairman Smith, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), Commissioner Cardin and Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), the Act increases U.S. efforts to combat anti-Semitism through the establishment of a monitoring office, new reporting standards for acts of anti-Semitism both in the United States and abroad.

The Act also established additional requirements for reporting on anti-Semitism when appropriate in the State Department’s annual reports to Congress on Human Rights Practices and International Religious Freedom.  These standards parallel the areas covered by the Office, enabling U.S. embassies to more thoroughly and consistently document acts of anti-Semitism.

The report is available through the State Department’s Internet web site at www.state.gov.

The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.

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