Anti-Defamation League National Leadership Council
Thank you for that kind introduction, and for inviting me here tonight. It is a true honor to sit on this panel with three proven leaders in the global fight against anti-Semitism.
The ADL is a one of the premier human and civil rights organizations in the world. I do not need to tell you what you have in Abe Foxman. He is a dear friend of mine and to countless others worldwide. When he speaks, I listen.
I also want to welcome the more than 20 activists from South Florida with us tonight. Make sure to thank them for bringing the warm weather.
I have been asked to keep my remarks brief. So please forgive me if I am a bit cryptic, and do not hesitate to ask me questions later.
Elected officials have a unique platform from which to address anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance. In fact, we have a moral obligation to do so.
As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission and the immediate past President of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, I been working to improve trans-Atlantic relations to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance for years. Both organizations have provided an invaluable political impetus for this issue to receive the attention which it deserves by all 56 OSCE countries.
The reality is that we are seeing a resurgence not only of anti-Semitism, but all forms of intolerance, throughout the entire world. The need for us to combat these evils is growing every day.
In Romania, for example, the courts are attempting to rehabilitate the reputation of General Ion Antonescu, an individual responsible for the killing of between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews during the Holocaust.
In Hungary, the U.S Holocaust Museum is being denied access to Holocaust archives.
And, in Bad Arolson, Germany, one of the largest Holocaust-era archives in the world remains closed to the public because four countries – Italy, Greece, France, and Belgium – have not yet ratified certain amendments to the Bonn Accords.
Realize, had it not been for the actions of the Helsinki Commission and others, including the ADL, the situation in Bad Arolson would be worse today than it already is.
The Commission first acted on the issue last year with a public briefing. And just last week, the House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution I authored calling on European countries to expedite the opening of these archives.
Indeed, we will not be successful in this and other endeavors unless we work together.
Almost every day, I meet with various senior officials, ambassadors, parliamentarians and other dignitaries. Hardly a meeting passes without me engaging my colleagues on common concerns of justice and fairness.
Essential aspects of such dialogue are an acknowledgement that we don’t have all the answers, and when it comes to anti-Semitism, no country is immune.
It is, therefore, critical that we partner with those who share our awareness, concern, and passion to confront and combat these evils.
But let me not sugar coat the issue. Time and time again, I am met with resistance from certain quarters of the international community to these efforts. Some want to talk about the problem and its manifestation, while others refuse that a problem even exists.
Institutions built to combat anti-Semitism and protect human rights are key to refuting the deniers. As such, countries would be wise to create their own Helsinki Commissions to serve as a mechanism under which these issues can be addressed.
Further, I can not stress enough the importance of face-to-face dialogue.
In early June, I will travel first to Warsaw to keynote a conference on the U.S.-Polish-Israeli relationship, then to Israel with the current President of the OSCE PA. My journey will end in Bucharest, Romania at the next OSCE conference on anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance and discrimination – a conference which I and other legislators helped create almost five years ago.
High-level government officials will be there with NGO’s, including the ADL, and it is my sincere hope that Secretary Rice will be among them. Her presence would send a very powerful message.
Friends, we can no longer live in a world which encourages and fosters the manifestation of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and all other forms of bigotry.
Our shared dream for justice and fair treatment of all citizens alike is attainable with continued commitment to working together and a willingness to confront anything that comes our way.