MINELRES: US Helsinki Commission: OSCE at Critical Point in Fight against Anti-Semitism

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sun May 21 09:20:22 2006

Original sender: Helsinki Commission News <news@csce.gov>


234 Ford House Office Building               www.csce.gov
Washington, D.C. 20515-6460                  Media Contact: Shelly Han 
Senator Sam Brownback, Chairman              202.225.1901
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Co-Chairman       May 11th, 2006   

For Immediate Release  

Helsinki Commission Briefing Details OSCE Initiatives to Combat
Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Intolerance

(Washington, DC) - On May 9, 2006, the Helsinki Commission held a
briefing on Holocaust education tools and law enforcement training
programs undertaken by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE).  The briefing titled “Tools for Combating Anti-Semitism:
Police Training and Holocaust Education” was chaired by Commission
Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ).  
Co-Chairman Smith cited the vicious murder of Ilan Halimi as a reminder
of the need to redouble efforts to combat anti-Semitism and to speak out
when manifestations of related hatred occur.  A French Jew, Halimi was
kidnapped and gruesomely tortured to death earlier this year because of
his faith.  “His tragedy made brutally clear that Jews are still
attacked because they are Jews, and that our work to eradicate all forms
of anti-Semitism in all its ugly forms and manifestations is far from
done,” said Smith.  Because of incidents like this, Rep. Smith cited his
request for approximately $200,000 in appropriations to support OSCE
anti-Semitism activities.  
The Helsinki Commission leadership has worked to build a bipartisan
coalition of Members of Congress to launch a series of initiatives at
home and abroad.  The efforts to bring attention to troubling trends of
rising anti-Semitism and related violence in the OSCE region have been
the catalyst elevating the issue of anti-Semitism on the agenda of the
55-nation organization.   The ongoing work of the OSCE’s Office for
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the focus of the
Capitol Hill briefing, is part of a broader plan to address
anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance, including hatred aimed at
Muslims, Christians, and others.  The briefing highlighted specific
programs which promote awareness of the Holocaust and provide law
enforcement professionals with the tools to investigate and prosecute
hate-inspired crimes.   
“Communities within the OSCE region have turned from tranquil to chaotic
in an instant . . . by a single hate crime,” noted Paul Goldenberg, a
Special Advisor to ODIHR who designed the law enforcement training
program which assists police to recognize and respond to hate crimes. 
Goldenberg stressed that law enforcement professionals must be
recognized as an integral part of the solution.  ODIHR and Goldenberg
have successfully implemented the program in Spain, Hungary, Croatia and
Ukraine, and hope to conduct additional trainings if resources permit. 
ODIHR also issued a report on “Combating Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region:
An Overview of Statistics, Legislation, and National Initiatives”
<http://www.osce.org/odihr/item_11_16251.html>, based on information
submitted by participating States about statistics, legislation, and
national initiatives to combat hate crimes.
Dr. Kathrin Meyer, ODIHR Advisor on Anti-Semitism Issues, presented
ODIHR developed documents for Holocaust education, such as “Education on
the Holocaust and on Anti-Semitism: An Overview and Analysis of
Educational Approaches” <http://www.osce.org/odihr/item_11_18712.html>.
The book provides an overview of current teaching on the Holocaust in
the OSCE region, highlighting good practices and recommending areas to
improve.  It also addresses the challenges presented by contemporary
forms of anti-Semitism and highlights ways to address the subject in the
“The ODIHR was tasked to disseminate best practices and to assist the
states to implement these commitments,” said Dr. Meyer.  These
guidelines will assist OSCE participating States in meeting their
commitment “to promote educational programs to combat anti-Semitism, to
promote the remembrance of and education on the Holocaust, and to
promote respect for all ethnic and religious groups.” 
On the second panel, Rabbi Andrew Baker, Director of International
Jewish Affairs at the American Jewish Committee, praised the serious and
substantive work of the OSCE.  “There has been a remarkable set of
achievements in getting the OSCE to address [anti-Semitism,] and to
address it seriously and substantively.”  However, Baker warned that
“right now we are in a really critical point, a point where we may be in
danger of losing these gains.”  He urged Commissioners to ensure that
the OSCE remains vigorously engaged in combating anti-Semitism, and
called for the formal OSCE acceptance of Romania’s offer to host a major
conference on anti-Semitism in 2007.
Stacy Burdett, Associate Director of Government and National Affairs at
the Anti-Defamation League, stressed the particular responsibility of
OSCE countries to implement their commitments to undertake the concrete
steps they have promised in recent years.  “One of the strengths of the
ministerial decisions in OSCE, the declarations and the conferences is
that they highlight that the primary responsibility for implementing
commitments for addressing acts of intolerance rests with participating
States,” said Burdett, “Putting those commitments into action has been a
challenge…what is lacking, not just funding, is really political will.”
Liebe Geft, Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of
Tolerance, expressed alarm over exploitation and perversion of
justifiable complaints over anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice to
undermine support for educating new generations about Hitler’s crimes.
“Learning about Europe’s historic persecution, culminating in the
Holocaust of its archetypal minority, the Jews, can educate other
minorities, including today’s Muslim immigrant communities in Europe,
about the dynamics of prejudice and discrimination against which they
seek to empower themselves.”

A full transcript of the hearing as well as the official statements from
each of the witnesses is available here.

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