Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe:
U.S. Helsinki Commission
“Anti-Semitism, Racism and Discrimination in the OSCE Region”
Committee Members Present:
Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD);
Senator John Boozman (R-AR);
Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
Rabbi Andrew Baker,
Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism;
Personal Representative on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against
Personal Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination,
also focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians and Members
of Other Religions
OSCE/ODIHR Deputy Chief of Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Unit
The Hearing Was Held From 10:03 a.m. To 11:03 a.m. in Room 562 Dirksen Senate
Office Building, Washington, D.C., Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Presiding
Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Federal News Service
CARDIN: Well, let me welcome you all to the Helsinki Commission. I expect
we’ll be joined shortly by some of my colleagues from the House side of the
Commission. They have a little bit longer walk from the House side to get over
here, but we welcome our three personal representatives to the OSCE chair on
the tolerance agenda, and we always look forward to this hearing to get an
update as to the circumstances within the OSCE region on tolerance.
Quite frankly, we think it’s more critical at this moment because of world
circumstances, and we very much look forward to this hearing. The Helsinki
Commission has worked long and hard on the tolerance agenda, and we take
special note of our role in the creation of these three Personal
Representatives to the OSCE Chair-in-Office.
It was the work of the Helsinki Commission many years ago, first concentrating
on the rise of anti-Semitism – and I do want to acknowledge the work of three
of my colleagues – Congressman Hoyer, the chairman emeritus of the Helsinki
Commission, Congressman Hastings, who was the Chairman of the Helsinki
Commission for a good part of time, and Congressman Smith, who is now the House
Chair of the Helsinki Commission. All three are laudable members. I take
pride in my own participation in having the Helsinki Commission concentrate on
the rise of anti-Semitism to take that work to the OSCE parliamentary
assemblies, and I remember many discussions with colleagues from other
countries as to what we could do on an action agenda to combat anti-Semitism,
and it led up to the Berlin conference on anti-Semitism that took place 10
The work that was accomplished at that Berlin conference – and many of the
people that are here were part of that, and I was proud to be part of the U.S.
delegation to the Berlin conference and the good work came out of that meeting
10 years ago. There was an acknowledgment by the countries in the OSCE that
there was a problem, and they needed to do something about it. So an action
plan was adopted that included Holocaust education --- to what good police work
is involved in dealing with tolerance, the requests for information concerning
hate crimes in all of our states was part – came out of the Berlin Conference.
The responsibility of government leaders to speak out against intolerance came
out of the Berlin Conference, and the Personal Representative for Combating
Anti-Semitism was one of the results of the – of the Berlin Conference.
As we know, we now have three Personal Representatives dealing with not just
anti-Semitism, but dealing with anti-Muslim activities and dealing with
xenophobia and racism and anti-Christian activities, and ODIHR – they’re here
today has been the focal point for the coordination of the work dealing with
So today, we are updating what is happening, and we’re at the 10th anniversary
of the Berlin Conference, and we anticipate later this fall that there will be
a gathering in Germany to assess where we have been in regards to combating
anti-Semitism. And the other forms of intolerance – and I very much believe
that they’re – all three related – a community that’s vulnerable to hate crimes
against Jews is a community that’s vulnerable towards hate crimes towards
people of African descent is a community that is vulnerable to hate crimes
against Muslims. It’s a community that’s vulnerable to hate crimes against
Christian minorities, so it’s all – and hate crimes against the Roma
population. They’re all very much related to these issues.
But let me just point out, in regards to anti-Semitism, some of the most recent
events that have me extremely concerned. There was the EU fundamental rights
agency, last year, that did a survey that found that in three European
countries – Hungary, France and Belgium, between 40 to 48 percent of the Jewish
population is in fear of their own safety, so much so that they are considering
emigrating to Israel. That’s an alarming number.
The Anti-Defamation League surveyed 100 countries and said there is persistent
anti-Semitic prejudice in the countries that were surveyed. We’ve seen
violence in the United States – in Kansas, three people were killed at a Jewish
community center. In May, in Brussels, three people were killed outside of a
Jewish museum. So it has really – we’ve seen the outbreak and concern. I had
a friend who recently came back from France and told me that he could sense –
he’s Jewish, and he could sense the anti-Semitism as he was visiting that
country – the outward feeling that you get when you know that you’re not
welcome in certain places.
So it is a major area of concern, but here is what really has me concerned.
Ten years ago, when we were talking about the tolerance agenda in Berlin, we
knew that we had a problem with communities, but we knew that governments were
on our side. They were prepared to take action to fight the intolerance.
Today, we see governments taking actions that support the intolerance and are
not openly working to fight intolerance. That is of great concern because I
don’t want to say we’re at where we were leading up to World War II, but the
problems leading up to World War II is when governments took direct action to
support intolerance and prejudice, and we see those signs developing today in
Europe, and that has us gravely concerned.
In Hungary and Greece, extremist parties are associated with street militias.
We know in Greece the problems of the Golden Dawn party in regards to open
anti-Semitism. In Hungary, the Jobbik party, which is the second most
significant party from the point of view of representation in that country, has
taken direct steps to promote anti-Semitism.
In Hungary, we’ve seen not only a monument that was erected to glorify a World
War II anti-Semite, but we also see, in the middle of the night, Hungary set up
a memorial to the 1944 German occupation in a way that was offensive to the
Jewish community. So there are direct governmental issues, and then, on June
2nd, the Supreme Court issuing a finding in Hungary that basically says that
you can’t criticize the Jobbik Party. These are all areas of grave concern.
The State Department report verifies a lot of what we are saying here – the
rise of xenophobia and anti-Semitic Jobbik Party, which has called for the
creation of a list of Jewish public officials, repeated the historic blood
libel against Jews and labeled Jews as a national security risk. So there are
reasons for us to be concerned about what’s happening by governments, not just
communities – not just individuals, but what’s happening by governments. We’re
seeing laws that are passed that inhibit Jews from being able to practice their
religion on Kosher foods, on wearing a head covering. We’ve also seen it
against the Muslim communities, we know, with the Burka restrictions that have
been imposed that are offensive to Muslims and insulting to Muslims.
So we are concerned about what is happening in the tolerance area – not only as
it relates to Jews but as it relates to minorities, as it relates to the Roma
population, the Christian population. I’d note that ODIHR is going to have a
meeting this fall of people of African descent leaders. We appreciate the
leadership that has been demonstrated there.
The purpose of this hearing is to determine how we, the United States – how the
Helsinki Commission, which, over a decade ago, led the charge in regards to
OSCE’s sensitivity to tolerance – how we again can provide the leadership so
that OSCE can be a leader in government responsibility for promoting tolerance
for all people. And with that, let me turn it over to Senator Boozman, and
thank you very much for being with us today.
BOOZMAN: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this very important
hearing, and I certainly want to associate myself with your remarks. I think,
in the interest of time, what I’d like to do is ask unanimous consent to put my
statement in the record with votes and things like that, and then go ahead and –
CARDIN: I thank you very much, and I should point out, as Senator Boozman has
already pointed out, that there will be a series of votes on the Senate floor
beginning at around a quarter of 11:00 this morning, which – we will try to
continue the hearing, depending upon the House participation, and I don’t know
what the vote situation is in the House, but if not, we will have to take a
recess at that particular time.
So with that in mind, let me turn to our three Personal Representatives who are
here, and once again, thank you very much for being here, and thank you very
much for your commitment on these issues. Rabbi Andrew Baker, the Personal
Representative for Combating Anti-Semitism, well-known to our commission.
Professor Talip Kucukcan – we thank you very much for being here – the Personal
Representative on Combating anti-tolerance and discrimination against Muslims.
Alexey Avtonomov – sorry for how I must have mispronounced that – the Personal
Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, and also
focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians and Members of
other Religions, you have a broad agenda in dealing with all those particular
issues. And Azra Junuzovic from the ODIHR. We appreciate you being here. We
understand that you’re a resource to answer the really tough questions that the
three Personal Representatives wish to defer to you. So we appreciate your
presence here and we appreciate the work of ODIHR.
With that, we’ll start with Rabbi Baker. As is the practice of our commission,
your full statements will be made part of the commission record. You may
proceed as you wish.
BAKER: Senator Cardin, thank you very much. And thank you for your leadership
in this entire issue. As you yourself, in your remarks, indicated – and I have
a memory going back those 10 years and more – much of what has happened at the
OSCE in the creation of now a full department at ODIHR to deal with tolerance
and nondiscrimination leading up to significant conferences and the creation of
our respective mandates really started here, and started with your efforts and
that of your colleagues. And without that, I think none of this would have
really emerged. So it really is a personal pleasure to be here.
While it’s a personal pleasure, we meet at a very difficult time. The ongoing
conflict right now in Gaza has sparked anti-Israel demonstrations in many
places, with notably large numbers of angry protesters in several European
capitals. Many are carrying placards and spewing rhetoric that’s clearly
anti-Semitic. A week ago in Paris, crowds shouted “Death to the Jews” and laid
siege, literally, to a synagogue with 200 worshippers inside. It led the
Interior Minister to impose a ban on some of these demonstrations, though they
have still continued. You’ve had similar outbursts in other European capitals
– cities, in Germany, in the U.K., in Italy.
As you noted, at the Berlin conference 10 years ago a declaration was adopted,
and that declaration stated that we, the collective countries, participating
states then numbering 55, declare unambiguously that international developments
or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East,
never justify anti-Semitism. While events taking place today in the OSCE
region show how important it is to remember those words and to remind
governments that they are part of that collective statement, they’re a rebuke
to those who would still seek to somehow excuse the anti-Semitism or
rationalize it. And they’re a clear call to political leaders to speak loudly
and act quickly to condemn the anti-Semitic attacks and ensure that all
available legal measures are taken to prevent further outbreaks.
I’m pleased to note that even today at the meeting of EU foreign ministers in
Brussels, there was a collective – a joint statement by three ministers – those
of France, of Germany and of Italy – that essentially expressed this same
position, that there is no place for anti-Semitism and that this – these
demonstrations must be curtailed when they turn into anti-Semitic acts and
expressions, and that they said we will do everything in our countries together
to ensure that all of our citizens can continue to live unmolested by
anti-Semitic hostility, and in peace and security, which was an important
intervention at this time.
I would like to have – I would have liked at this meeting to be able to report
to you on an extensive experience in this role as a Personal Representative.
We are already six months past our appointment by the current Chair-In-Office.
This is, unfortunately, our first joint visit to be taken. Another is
scheduled in September for Denmark. We hope to have still another later in the
year to Russia. But I think the importance of these issues show that there’s
much more that we could have been doing during these months that have already
I would like as well to point out – and you have a more complete report of this
in the record that I did make my own visit to Ukraine in late April. It was
responding to really what was an extraordinary situation at the time and the
heightened attention that was being given and different parties making charges
of anti-Semitism. That report has been completed. It’s been issued. You have
a full copy of it, which, if you’d like, we can – we can discuss in further
detail. But one of the critical issues was separating out anti-Semitism that
was really being fomented by provocateurs, by outside actors, from what was
more indigenous, shall we say, to Ukraine. There are of course other troubling
developments in this issue, in this area throughout the OSCE region, which I
would at least quickly like to highlight.
You mentioned the violence that took place earlier this year, the murders in
Brussels at the Jewish museum. Frankly, it heightened the very real problem of
Jewish community security. This is something that the OSCE took up at a
high-level expert conference a year ago in Berlin resulting in a series of
civil society recommendations – again, something you’d find appended to my full
testimony. But what happened in Brussels points out the dilemma that Jewish
communities confront. They have an enormous security burden. It’s a
combination both of potential terrorist attacks and what we see now, radical
jihadists returning from Syria looking for local targets, trained, armed and,
again, radicalized by that experience.
Even when I met in my role with officials in the Interior Ministry of Belgium,
they acknowledged that the security level, the threat level facing Jewish
institutions, was similar to that facing the American embassies or the Israeli
embassy in Brussels. But they have nothing like the security needed or the
security that those institutions receive, so more really must be done to
address this issue of community security.
And as you noted, 10 years ago was the seminal Berlin conference of the OSCE
and declaration that was issued at the time. And I’m pleased to be able to say
that there will be a high-level 10th anniversary event. It is scheduled for
Berlin. It should take place on November 11th through the 13th. It will
include, at the beginning, a very full and robust NGO civil society forum. As
you recall, that was a significant component 10 years ago. I’ll be in Berlin
next week, hopefully to try and finalize the logistical aspects of this. But
it’s an event all the more looking at what’s taking place today that should be
a focus of energy, attended by, I would hope, another American delegation and
by governments at a high level.
We do know and expect the German foreign minister to preside; the Swiss
Chair-In-Office, Federation Foreign minister, also to be present. And I hope
our government will be there at an equally high level, again to be able to
reiterate, to look back at the commitments that were made but in many cases
unmet by various governments, and hopefully to try and focus attention and
continue this really ongoing struggle.
So let me thank you for this opportunity. And let me, as I close, just pay a
special word of thanks to Representative Steny Hoyer, who was – as you said, he
was here at the beginning, but he was really here before the beginning, I think
– in moving these issues. So it’s really wonderful to see him here today.
Thank you, Senator.
CARDIN: Thank you, Rabbi Baker.
Before Congressman Hoyer arrived, I referred to him as the Chairman Emeritus of
the Helsinki Commission, and I think that is the appropriate title for
Congressman Hoyer. During the days of the Soviet Union, he was the most
outspoken member of the United States Congress on standing up for the rights of
people within the iron curtain that had no voice, but for the work that was
done here, and I was proud to be part of many of those delegations to Eastern
Europe at the time to stand up for basic rights and – under the leadership of
Congressman Hoyer, and the tolerance agenda clearly was forwarded by his
leadership when he was chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission. So I’m going
to interrupt at this moment and give Emeritus Chairman Hoyer an opportunity to
HOYER: Well, thank you very much, Chairman Cardin, and Senator Boozman, thank
you very much for being here. Rabbi Baker, thank you for your comments, and
witnesses, thank you for your not only being here, but for your focus, your
energy and your intellectual power being applied to the issue of racism,
anti-Semitism, and discrimination on the basis of irrelevant aspects of
personality or gender or place. It’s critically important that we live in a
country that expresses a view that all men are created equal, and endowed by
God with inalienable rights. Protecting those rights is an ongoing, daily
experience for those of good will who want to see a world in which that
principle is respected. So I am very pleased to be here with you. When I
retire from Congress – Rabbi Baker, you said I was here before the beginning –
I am old, but I was not here before the beginning. (Laughter.) But I
appreciate what you meant by that, and thank you very much.
But I have been involved in this process for a very long time, and when I
retire from Congress 20 years from now or thereabouts, I will look back on --
one of the most important aspects of my – some – now 34 years in the Congress
of the United States -- was my service on the Commission on Security and
Cooperation in Europe and my participation with other nations, mainly in Europe
on trying to bring the principles – particularly Basket III of the Helsinki
Final Act to realization as realities in countries, not simply articulated
I also want to take the liberty of – I think you saw me come in and embrace a
number of these staff members with whom I have worked almost all of my
Congressional career and who have brought such extraordinary expertise to this
effort and such passion to this effort, so I thank them very much for their
continuing service. And those who are new, I thank them as well for involving
I want to thank the Commission for conducting this critical hearing, as well as
to extend my gratitude to the three witnesses, and to you, Madam Secretary,
each of whom serves a critical function in advancing the OSCE’s mission of
protecting freedom and democracy. The Soviets thought that the Helsinki Final
Act, signed in 1975, were simply words. Vaclav Havel gave a speech to a joint
session of Congress in which he said he thought Czechoslovakia and Helsinki
activists were empowered that ultimately led to the fall of the iron curtain.
Nowhere is that mission, signed onto in ’75, more visible today than in
Ukraine, where OSCE personnel have helped oversee elections, monitored the
border, and reported on key security developments. OSCE is, in fact, on the
front lines of the somber work of collecting bodies from the wreckage of
Malaysian flight 17 and securing the crash site.
In the Helsinki Final Act, signed in ‘75, the participating states made this
declaration: the participating states will respect human rights and fundamental
freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief for
all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
It went on to say that they recognize the universal significance of human
rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for which is an essential factor in
the peace, justice and wellbeing necessary to ensure the development of
friendly relations and cooperation among themselves, as among all states.
The Helsinki Final Act, of course, was a reaction to the horrific concept that
how a nation treats its own people is not the business of any other nation. We
have rejected that thought, that we have adopted, essentially, the
international premise that we are our brother’s keeper. Your work, as Personal
Representatives to the OSCE on these issues is integral to the organization’s
Never has your work been more important – and I speak of the OSCE and this
commission – anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and xenophobia have been
on the rise in recent years in the OSCE region, the region where it least ought
to be on the rise. It ought not to be on the rise anywhere at any time for any
justification, but least of all in Europe and in this nation. In recent days,
we have seen disturbing protests in France and elsewhere that have included
I sent a letter last week to the president of the Abravanel Synagogue in Paris
expressing solidarity with his congregation in light of an incident on July
13th in which a mob protesting Israel’s defensive actions against Hamas
besieged the synagogue and began throwing stones and other objects at the
building and its security guards.
We have seen this play before. It must not have another act. At the same
time, we hear too frequently of anti-Semitic and other racist chants at
sporting events across the continent, as well as entertainers who make comments
disparaging the Holocaust and celebrating Nazism, one of the most horrific
ideologies pursued by mankind. We’ve seen what these forces can do, and we
must never forget the tragedies of the 20th century that took so many innocent
Russia’s proxy war to defend minorities, as they call it, in Ukraine, is
particularly offensive in light of this history. It cuts to the very order the
OSCE and its supporters. The first and second World Wars were instigated, in
part, as a result of the pretext of protecting ethnic minorities abroad. My
view is that this Commission – this country – people who express the principles
of freedom and justice and fairness need to speak out and to act out to prevent
this growth and the manifestations of this hate that it reflects. I thank the
Commission for continuing to make this issue a priority and for making a strong
stand against these forms and any forms of hatred that threaten to undermine
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
CARDIN: Congressman Hoyer, thank you so much for your – for your statement.
More importantly, thank you for your commitment to the tolerance agenda. We
will now turn to Professor Kucukcan, and we look forward to your comments.
KUCUKCAN: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am thankful to those who
are organizing the Commission for giving us the opportunity to express our
views and share our recommendations. I will be reporting on what’s happening
with the Muslims in the OSCE region. First, I would like to share the findings
of some of the large-scale research carried out by the EU Fundamental Rights
Agency, Pew Research and Gallup that show intolerance against Muslims, and
also, Islamophobia, is on the increase in the OSCE region.
This is taking place, in fact, in the context in which Islam and Muslims are
seen in a monolithic fashion, and the perceptions, especially perpetrated by
the leading political figures in some countries and in the media – especially
in recent years – in social media are contributing to the rise of monolithic
and essentialist perceptions of Muslims. And in those perceptions, what we see
is that Islam and Muslims are usually associated with violence and intolerance,
and Muslims are seen as incompatible with Democratic values, and Western values
are usually seen as superior when it comes to Islam.
And the Runnymede Trust Report, which was established in Britain in the 1960s,
also indicates that there are widespread misinformed and biased views of
Muslims, and sometimes, of course, those views and perceptions are translated
into acts among the public. And also, Muslims especially, where they are in
minority, are seen as not being able to integrate into the society –
especially, this is the case in France and in other places where some of the
Muslim traditions are not allowed to be practiced, like ritual slaughtering,
head scarf issues like the Chairman has alluded to, and also circumcision
issues. These are fundamental rights of the Muslims but, in some cases, they
are not able to practice. I think there are similar issues with the Jewish
communities around these areas.
Maybe one can also see that some areas can also be seen with other communities,
especially when it comes to ethnicity, race and religion. These are the issues
that should be brought together. And maybe cooperation could be established in
order to fight intolerance and discrimination on the basis of faith and
religious belongings in the OSCE region.
These essentialist perceptions also led to the securitization of Islam and
Muslims in Europe and elsewhere, even in this country, especially since 9/11.
And what we see is that there’s a trend towards the securitization of Islam,
representing Muslims as threats to Democratic values. Therefore, what we have
seen in those areas, is that anti-terror laws curtail some of the civil
liberties, and religious profiling have started in some of the OSCE countries.
In Germany, for example, we have never seen before the search of the mosques.
In the last couple of years, we have seen the rise of intelligence gathering on
mosques and imams in several countries that have also, I think, a violation of
basic human rights for Muslims. These kinds of profiling and intelligence
gathering on the basis of religion continues in different degrees today.
Despite the fact that Muslims are concerned, also do not approve the radical
views, especially as seen in the last Pew poll which indicate that more than 80
percent of Muslims are concerned with radicalism and they do not approve of it.
But generally in the media, in the political discourse, Muslims are seen as
extremists and I think time to time that leads to feelings of intolerance
against Muslims in many places.
And especially in the last European Parliament’s elections, we have seen the
rise of far-right movements and racist parties in Europe. And they have --
especially in three countries, Britain, France and Denmark -- they have
expressed a hatred against Muslims and other minorities. And social media is
an important site where one should look at very carefully.
There are, of course, different sites where we can see the intolerance and
anti-Muslim activities in the world. For example, instances of anti-Muslim
rhetoric by politicians and public figures posting on the Internet and other
forms of social media. The nexus of intolerance, hate – or crime -- one might
call it cyberhate and intolerant discourse against Muslims is an issue that
participating states need to address.
While acknowledging the challenge for participating states to ensure the
freedom of expression, they also have a duty to promptly renounce hate speeches
by public officials and ensure robust intervention whenever comments expressed
pose a threat to Muslim individuals and communities. What we see actually in
many European countries and in OSCE countries, there is not a regular reporting
of the hate crimes against Muslims. I think only in several countries --
Austria, Serbia, Sweden and the United States -- do you have such activities.
Therefore Muslims are not able to -- or not encouraged to report some of the
assaults and threats against imams or physical attacks on Muslim women wearing
head scarf and desecration of mosques and other Islamic sites simply because
they believe that their complaints will not be taken on board by the
authorities. I would like to end up with a set of expectations and
recommendations that could be taken further.
First, it should be acknowledged that the intolerance against Muslims is not a
problem of -- only for Muslims. It is a human rights problem concerning
everyone. Second, integration policies, especially in places where Muslims are
the minority, should address the social and economic needs of Muslims in the
countries that they are residing. Especially after the economic crisis in many
countries, we see that minorities, including Muslims, are becoming targets
The third, senior government leaders should send immediate, strong, public and
consistent messages that violent crimes which appear to be motivated by
prejudice and intolerance against Muslims will be investigated thoroughly and
prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Fourth, recognizing the particular harm caused by violent crimes, governments
should enact laws that establish specific offenses or provide enhanced
penalties for violent crimes against Muslims. We have seen, for example, that
is a welcome development in many countries, the Holocaust or denial of
Holocaust or anti-Semitism is a punishable crime. Therefore, Islamaphobia or
hatred against Muslim on the basis of religion should be a punishable crime as
Fifth, governments should ensure that those responsible for hate crimes against
Muslims are held accountable under the law, that the enforcement of hate crime
laws is a priority for the criminal justice system and that the record of the
enforcement is well-documented and published. Sixth, governments should
maintain official systems of monitoring and public supporting to provide actual
data for informed policy decisions to combat violent hate crimes against
Muslims. These are taking place, but on a very minor level, not sufficient
Seventh, governments should conduct outreach and education efforts to Muslim
communities and civil society groups to reduce fear and assist victims, advance
police-community relations, encourage improve reporting of hate crimes to the
police and improve the quality of data collection by law enforcement buddies.
Lastly members of parliament and local government leaders should be held
politically accountable for bigoted words that encourage discrimination and
violence and create a climate of fear for minorities, including Muslims. Thank
you for your attention.
CARDIN: Well, Professor, thank you for your testimony. I think your
recommendations are extremely important to us and we know that we’ve taken the
issue of hate crimes, that you need to know -- you need police training and you
need to be able to identify hate crimes. And we have to have statistics on it.
And that’s one of the major efforts that we’ve made in the United States at
the national level. And we thank you so much for your testimony.
We now turn to Mr. Avtonomov. Thank you very much for being here.
AVTONOMOV: Thank you very much for giving me the floor and thank you for the
invitation. I think it’s very important for us just to have a joint visit in
the United States and to discuss all these problems. Thanks, I would like just
to turn to my colleague and thank Helsinki Commission for this meeting and for
My mandate is one of the most -- the vastest, the broadest among all three
Personal Representatives. And that is why I don’t mean just to repeat what
they have already said. And I think that it’s very important just to stress
that the hate crimes and the hate speech is rising all the time. And not long
ago, when the thought that xenophobia and hate crimes might be eliminated
completely, but unfortunately during the last years, especially during the
economic crisis period, we noticed that there was a constant rise of the hate
speech and trying to blame all the problems upon those who are minorities from
this or that point.
I mean, just ethnic minorities, language minorities, religious minorities and
so on and so forth. And so it’s a great problem. I’m very thankful to ODHIR,
who is preparing annual reports on the hate crimes. And this report gives us a
lot of information in this field and shows that all the -- all the problems are
more acute during the economic crisis and so the economic difficulties also
make a great contribution to the rise of xenophobia and discrimination and hate
I’m very grateful just that Romani ethnicity was mentioned as well because they
are also victims. During the second World War they were, along with Jews, they
also were victims and proclaimed just to be eliminated completely -- they were
two nations who were proclaimed by Nazis to be eliminated -- Jews and Roma.
It’s also problem for us. I’m trying just to find information about Roma from
the United States. I understand that probably there is not any problem, but we
know that we need some information to understand what is going on.
I am very grateful for any other information about, for example, people of
African descent, all efforts and all affirmative actions that were just made by
the United States. Still in this field, especially in the field of justice
assistance to the OSCE, to provide some -- to provide research work and
roundtables dealing with people of African descent, all efforts and all
affirmative actions that were just made by the United States. Still, in this
field, especially in the field of just assistance to the OSCE to provide some –
to provide research work and roundtables dealing with people of African
descent, I think that’s important, and the United States shows us an example.
Because of the information that were collected inside the United States, we
know better the situation now as well actions in favor of – in favor of
elimination of discrimination of people of African descent, but still are
narrow. And we receive information from different NGOs that the structural
discrimination still exists in the United States and in many other countries of
the OSCE. But I think that the collection of information is one of the main
tasks, just to understand – to understand the problem and just to find the
solution for them – for the problem.
So I think that, as well, Christians are considered to be dominant religion in
the majority of OSCE countries, but still – but actually we’re faced with the
problems of anti-Christian actions as well, and not only from a ---
anti-Semitic but as well anti-Christian, which is probably surprising. But I
think that any problem which is not faced by the people, and the problem which
is not tried to be resolved, may arise and may bring us to the difficult
Unfortunately, the majority of the OSCE countries, despite of the fact that
they proclaimed collection of data, didn’t collect enough data. And I know
that only a few countries are collecting the data. And according to the – to
the Holy See, for example, during the last – during the – during the previous
year there were 12 actions in the OSCE countries which has anti-Christianic
nature, different actions in the different fields. But I think that the
struggle against any kind of xenophobia and intolerance may bring us to the
situation of better understanding of different religions, different ethnic
groups and different linguistic groups, which is very important.
So I don’t mean just to be very talkative. We don’t have a long time to
discuss all the questions. So that’s why – let me just to thank once more the
Helsinki Commission for this invitation and for the discussion. Thank you very
CARDIN: Well, thank you, all three of you, for your contributions. And it’s
good to have all three of you together. I know that’s the desire of the
Chair-In-Office that we share the information from all three of the
Representatives, so we appreciate that.
I want to start, if I might, on an issue that has been brought up, and that is
when international events occur it is used at times to justify intolerance.
And I recall very vividly after the attack on our country on September the 11th
that the Muslim community was particularly vulnerable. I was very proud of
leaders of our country appearing openly with the Muslim community to express
support and to act in a responsible manner. I’ve called – I visited several
mosques during that period of time.
And I think that it’s important that leaders stand up during these particular
moments. I remember during the Berlin conference, the intervention by the
Vatican dealing with no justification for historical events for anti-Semitic
activities, and I thought that was an incredibly important moment in dealing
with dispelling international events as justification for intolerance.
Recently, obviously with the problems between Hamas and Israel, that could
affect, as Rabbi Baker has pointed out, the anti-Semitism in Europe
particularly but also anti-Muslim activities in the United States.
So are we seeing government leaders take positions very clearly that there is
no justification for anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic activities during these
upticks of international events that could be used to justify such actions?
Where are the leaders, Rabbi Baker?
BAKER: Well, we’ve seen some responses. I guess the question is, how quickly
did they come, how forcefully, and by how many? Several people referenced what
has gone on in France. And you did have, over the weekend, a very strong
statement by the French Prime Minister, another statement by President
Hollande. But as you pointed out, French Jewry, the largest community in
Europe, has an enormous level of anxiety, even questions about their future in
the country. So these are important statements.
I referenced earlier a joint statement by three foreign ministers. But for the
most part, I think these almost are the exceptions. It’s not quick and genuine
to see these responses. They still need to be encouraged. I think the culture
may be a different one than what we’re used to in the United States where a lot
of church leaders, opinion leaders, others more reflexively will speak out. I
think that’s something that we’re trying to – trying to push, trying to
encourage, again, reference to that declaration 10 years ago.
One of the other dilemmas, just to let me cite – even with these strong words,
what we’ve seen in places – France again a good example – political leaders
sometimes describe this as a manifestation of intercommunal tension, as though
these are two minorities outside of the mainstream who are somehow battling
with each other. Nothing could be further from the truth.
First of all, it separates them, certainly Jews in France, from understanding,
as full and longtime citizens of the country, and also suggesting a kind of
equivalency here, which is, frankly, not the case. So I think words are
important, speaking out quickly is important, but also caution in trying to
somehow deflect this as though these are intercommunal fights when in reality
CARDIN: Are we doing enough in the United States with leadership to protect
the Muslim community during these times?
KUCUKCAN: Certainly there has been responsible leadership, but also the
research indicates that there has been some religious profiling, et cetera. I
think when we compare the United States to European countries, we have seen
that the United States provides a wider atmosphere for freedom of religion for
organizations, for, you know, communities, et cetera, et cetera. But the 9/11
has a spillover effect all over the world. I think that is what matters.
And maybe the United States overcomes this issue, but if you look at some of
the OSCE countries, still we see that Muslims are seen as a threat, if you look
at the laws and regulations, especially anti-terror rules for example. Yes, of
course these states are responsible to protect the nations and citizens, but
that should not be at the expense of, I think, civil rights. That’s my
observation. Thank you.
CARDIN: Several of you mentioned hate crimes in your presentations. And of
course ODIHR is responsible to get statistics on hate crimes among the OSCE
states. So perhaps I could start with – you have the largest agenda of any of
the three Personal Representatives. How satisfied are you of the information
that is currently available by collection by ODIHR? And then perhaps I’ll
allow you some rebuttal time. Yes? Or maybe it’s not rebuttal; maybe it’s
supportive time. Yes.
AVTONOMOV: So, I – even on mine, I think just also to contribute to what my
colleagues said, what is necessary actually? It’s not only just collection of
data, but I think it’s not necessarily just only punishment of those
perpetrators – which is important, of course – but it is only some kind of the
struggle of post-action. I think what is very important actually, it is just
promoting tolerance and understanding in the educational system.
In my opinion, it’s not quite enough efforts in the OSCE countries just to
promote this mutual understanding of the diversity and mutual understanding of
different communities. So separation of community is one of the ways just to
promote intolerance while cooperation among different communities.
Understanding their identities, their own identities, and recognizing the
identity of others are the most important just to overcome for these problems
and to promote tolerance, first of all, because tolerance is – this is the best
way to – the cooperation. The first step is tolerance but the next is
cooperation and solidarity among different communities without – with different
identities, and maintaining these different identities and diversities.
So thank you very much.
CARDIN: Let me see first if Senator Boozman wants to make a comment, because I
know he’s going to need to leave to the floor soon because there’s a vote on.
BOOZMAN: Let me just ask one question.
Rabbi Baker, we understand from a report by Human Rights First, coming out this
week, that Russia has been courting the anti-Semitism far right parties across
Europe, and that eight of the far-right parties that were elected to the
European Parliament in May are avowedly pro-Russian. At the same time Moscow
is accusing the nationalists in Ukraine of being anti-Semites, and it is
turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism in its own youth organization, Nashi. Do
you have any insight into how Russia is using the anti-Semitism issue in Europe
and to the extent that Russia supports anti-Semitic European parties? And how
might the United States respond?
BAKER: Well, of course, I realize there is a challenge in responding to Russia
on so many fronts these days, this is hardly first among them. But it really
was to a degree one of the reasons that I made a visit to Ukraine in late April
because we saw there certain charges, accusations, and we saw a number of
violent anti-Semitic incidents, which, frankly, had really been absent in
Ukraine for some time. So part of the difficulty was sorting through was
clearly appeared to be, and at least in these violent incidents, provocations
that, according to most sources and certainly virtually everyone in the Jewish
community in Ukraine, were probably traced to at least pro-Russian elements in
society. And clearly, the Russian media reporting on events in Ukraine twisted
many things out of basic reality to suggest, again, a much higher degree of
anti-Semitism in the country and rhetorically painting the interim leaders at
the time as being Nazis and right extremists.
Here again I think there is an element in Ukrainian society, a nationalist
element, that has been anti-Semitic, that has posed challenges, certainly to a
correct view of history and the Holocaust in Ukraine. But I think this has
been enormously exaggerated as well, as its reach for those nationalist
strongly anti-Semitic reasons, its reach in society has been quite, quite
limited. And so ironically, Jews in Ukraine were expressing a high degree of
optimism in the future for the Jewish community provided that the larger
challenge with Russia would be resolved or settled. So I think there was a lot
in the arsenal coming from some of these pro-Russian voices -- again, related
to, perhaps stemming from sources in Moscow -- that clearly exaggerated and
exacerbated the situation -- at least vis-à-vis Ukraine; I don’t have quite the
same intelligence when it comes to other countries.
BOOZMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
CARDIN: Thank you.
Mr. -- Ms. Junuzovic, would you just brief us as to the status and how
satisfied ODIHR is on the information you’re receiving from the member states
on hate crimes?
JUNUZOVIC: Thank you very much. I would gladly do so.
I would like to add that we’ve been tasked to serve as a collection point for
the information on hate crimes in the OSCE region, and we’ve seen that since
2008, when we started publishing our reports, there has been an improvement in
the level of the awareness by the participating states, which on one hand
should be acknowledged and should be applauded, but at the same time, what we
are seeing that is being done throughout the region, it’s not enough. Very
often the data that we receive on hate crimes that are targeting Jews or
Muslims are very scarce. They are not very comprehensive. There is no clear
disaggregation of data, and very often it’s not clear where further actions
need to be taken.
I should also add, when it comes to data collection, yes, it’s immensely
important, but it’s also immensely important when it’s put into context, that
we need data to be able to formulate adequate policies so that for example,
when a tax on Jewish places of worship or Muslim places of worship or Christian
places or worships and -- when they take place, that this data is used to
protect the communities and individuals at question.
So I think for us, data that we receive is certainly not enough, and what we
see as really important is that we continue training police, prosecutors,
criminal justice system, that they are able to recognize and monitor hate
crimes, and that also we are able to train civil society so that they have the
capacity to also work together with the criminal justice system on trying to
address this issue adequately.
CARDIN: Well, what I would offer to you is the help of this Commission to
further the -- your work. We recognize some countries are doing a great job;
others are doing a mediocre job. And I think it’s important to share best
practices. And I would invite the help of our Commission and our embassy in
Vienna to do what we can to share what countries need to do on police training
and on compiling information so that the work of our Personal Representatives
can be more informed.
JUNUZOVIC: Thank you very much for your support. And I should also just use
this opportunity to thank the U.S. government for the ongoing support that we
have received on many different fronts, also with the financial contributions
to our work. And we will certainly will be relying on your support.
CARDIN: One of the greatest challenges here is how we divide the right of
freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of political participation
with intolerance activities. And that’s particularly difficult for the United
States because we have the constitutional protections in our First Amendment to
guarantee those rights to all of our citizens. And I think where the three of
you can be most helpful to us is helping us with guidance as to when you cross
the line on your unalienable rights to express your views and participate in
the political process and when you are involved in activities that need to be
condemned and spoken out against because of its anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim,
anti-tolerance issues. So any way you could help us in that, I would certainly
I have just an additional comment to make, and if you want to respond, Rabbi
Baker, I‘ll give you a chance. And that is: In Hungary, why would 48 percent
of the Jewish people there feel like they’re unsafe? Is there -- here we have
a NATO ally, a country that we thought was a -- on a strong path towards the
principles of OSCE -- 48 percent, the largest in Europe. Largest Jewish
population, large Jewish population there. That’s a huge number of people that
feel their government’s not there to protect their rights to be Jews.
BAKER: Yeah, I think you’re referring to the FRA survey where 48percent had
suggested they considered emigrating during these last several years. And as
you say, it’s the largest Jewish community in Central Europe -- 100,000,
120,000 or more -- where there’s been a genuine revival, really, of Jewish life
I think it’s a combination of two general pieces. First, we’ve seen the rise
of the Jobbik party, an extremist, far-right, anti-Semitic party. So it’s
taken what was really a vicious anti-Semitic, crude anti-Semitic rhetoric you
might have heard only on street corners and brought it right into the halls of
parliament. But you also have a government, a center-right government, as it
will describe itself, the Fidesz government, which has both courted the votes
of the Jobbik party, so in political campaigns plays a certain -- within limits
one has to say, but a certain nationalist card, and also has in various often
public ways suggested that there ought to be a somewhat different historical
narrative about the Holocaust, which adds to the insecurity and uncertainty
that Jews in Hungary feel, as though even this history is no longer settled.
So there have been some provocative acts and statements.
And it leads, again, to a sort of message that says -- and Hungary, by the way,
is a very homogenous society, so Jews and Roma are perhaps identified as almost
the only minority groups. But the Jews in Hungary are very Hungarian-focused,
assimilated community, one that has done so with pride. So these efforts to
somehow push them outside the mainstream of Hungary -- Hungarian population,
thought, culture -- has I think been a main contributor to the sense of anxiety
that was reflected in this survey.
CARDIN: Yeah. Well, let me thank you for those comments. And I thank all
four of you for your participation here.
It -- for your convenience, we’re going to adjourn the hearing rather than keep
it open during -- via lengthy recess; it would take at least 45 minutes. But I
do have other questions for you, and I assure you that through the Helsinki
Commission, we will be in touch to figure the best agenda to move forward. I
think Congressman Hoyer said it best that the Helsinki Final Act is probably
best known for its advancements of human rights. And quite frankly, I think
the work of the three Representatives are critically important to that. I know
that Chair-In-Office is looking at ways to make the -- this -- your work more
efficient and effective, and I can assure that the U.S. Helsinki Commission
will weigh in very strongly to maintain a focus on the agenda that the three of
you represent. We strongly support your mission. We strongly support the work
that you do. We want to give you more tools rather than less to be able to
accomplish your objectives. And with that, again, we thank you very much for
your work. We thank ODIHR for its presence here. And the committee will stand
[Whereupon, at 11:03 a.m., the hearing ended.]