Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin
Commissioner - Helsinki Commission

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Mr. Chairman, I want to begin by thanking you for calling this hearing today on a matter of the utmost importance to the Jewish community and to human rights advocates both in the United States and around the world. I am gravely concerned about the recent sharp escalation of anti-Semitism and acts of racism and violence directed towards members of the Jewish community in the OSCE region.

We have seen a number of horrific incidents recently in France, Belgium, and Germany, as well as in the United Kingdom, Greece, Ukraine, and Russia. Such incidents have included shootings, fire bombings, and physical assaults. Synagogues have been the target of several firebomb attacks in France and Belgium. We have also witnessed terrible acts of anti-Semitism in Russia and the former Soviet Republics. Jewish hate propaganda is distributed in Moscow, Minsk, and Vilnius. The mayor of a Lithuanian town continues to vent anti-Semitic statements on a regular basis. In Belarus, the government forcibly merged several periodicals into one government controlled media outlet and reportedly appointed editors with well known anti-Semitic views.

Mr. Chairman, I am hopeful that this hearing today will remind OSCE participating States that they have pledged to unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism and take effective measures to both prosecute those that commit such hate crimes and to protect individuals from anti-Semitic violence. I am pleased to note that the OSCE was the first organization to successfully create an international document condemning anti-Semitism, as stated in the 1990 Copenhagen Concluding Document.

I am disappointed that our friends and allies in Europe have not taken a more aggressive stand against anti-Semitism in Europe. Many European officials, in my view, have proved slow to publically condemn the initial attacks and to vigorously prosecute the perpetrators of such acts. The increased attacks, couple with government inactivity, understandably left many European Jews feeling isolated and unprotected. I continue to call on European governments to publicly and loudly condemn anti-Semitic attacks, establish more visible police protection of Jewish sites and synagogues, and to more vigorously investigate, arrest, and prosecute those responsible for these hate crimes against Jews.

I am very disappointed, Mr. Chairman, with the conduct of United Nations agencies in the fall of 2001 at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban. I agree with our distinguished witness Dr. Samuels that United Nations agencies at Durban, particularly the Human Rights Commission and UNESCO, were “hijacked into a campaign for the demonization of the Jewish state and, through it, of the Jewish people.” I look forward to hearing Dr. Samuels’ first-hand account of his experiences at Durban.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I hope that today’s hearing will energize members of this Commission and members of the advocacy community to redouble their efforts to oppose anti-Semitism in all its forms, and to continue to pressure OSCE participating States to crack down on anti-Semitism violence and discrimination whenever it occurs.