Testimony to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

June 16, 2004

June 16, 2004 - 

Government Actions to Combat Anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

June 16, 2004

Statement by
Rabbi Andrew Baker
Director of International Jewish Affairs
The American Jewish Committee

Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to present testimony to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. At the outset it must be said that, were it not for the continued attention and support of this Commission, the OSCE would not have begun to address the problem of anti-Semitism in Europe in the substantive ways that we have recently seen. We owe each of the Commission’s members a debt of gratitude.

We are particularly heartened by the presence and participation at the recent OSCE Berlin Conference of you, Congressman Smith, and of your colleagues, Congressmen Cardin and Hastings, and by your resolve to see that serious attention is given to following up on its recommendations. With that in mind, I would like to focus my remarks on how best that can be done and the role that Governments can play.

Monitoring and Collecting Data/Information

Following last year’s OSCE conference in Vienna and recommendations at the Ministerial Meeting, most attention was placed on charging the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) with the responsibility for collecting information on anti-Semitic incidents and other hate crimes. Prior to the Berlin Conference, ODIHR did contact OSCE member governments asking for legislation and other information in place to address this issue, but did little more. ODIHR must be encouraged by OSCE states to bring forward a clear plan as to how it intends to gather information and address the problem. Informal reports from the ODIHR director indicate that he will seek funding for six new professional staff members to conduct this work. The US Government should work to insure that the necessary OSCE funding is provided.

At the present time, the only other European wide body with responsibility for monitoring anti-Semitism on a country-by-country basis is the European Union Monitoring Center (EUMC). Now that it will be responsible for twenty-five of the fifty-five OSCE states, efforts should be made to encourage the EUMC and ODIHR to work cooperatively and reinforce each other so that they can maximize their combined resources.

Operational definition of Anti-Semitism

In order to collect and monitor incidents of anti-Semitism, there must be a clear and proper operational definition of the phenomenon. It is instructive to note that the recently released EUMC report indicated that six of its fifteen focal points had no definition of anti-Semitism, and of the nine that did, no two were the same. ODIHR and the EUMC should be encouraged to develop and adopt an operative definition of anti-Semitism that will serve as a basis for its monitoring work and can also aid in instructing political leadership and the general public. (In this regard, ODIHR and the EUMC have accepted an invitation by the American Jewish Committee to convene a consultation with this goal in mind.)

OSCE Special Representative

It became evident during the Berlin Conference that one means of continuing the efforts to combat anti-Semitism and to see that recommendations are pursued would be the appointment of an individual of stature as a special representative for the OSCE on this subject. Several possibilities for implementing this proposal were discussed, ranging from the ad hoc appointment by the Chair-in-Office to the establishment of a more permanent post. Informal conversations with various delegations during the conference suggested that the necessary support for such an appointment would be possible to attain. The US Mission to the OSCE should use its efforts to press for the realization of this goal.

Development of Law Enforcement Training

Police and law enforcement officials are key to an effective response to anti-Semitic incidents and other hate crimes. As the “first responders” they are the ones who must see that the victims’ concerns are properly and sensitively addressed and that the perpetrators are apprehended. They are also the ones who can insure that any system of recording and monitoring these crimes is established properly and taken seriously. The US has experience in this area, and it should offer to share its methods with European governments. ODIHR could serve as an appropriate organization to help bring together European law enforcement officials with US trainers and their colleagues. [More detailed testimony on this subject is also being presented to the Commission by Paul Goldenberg, National Security Consultant for the American Jewish Committee.]

Educational Programs

There is a broad consensus that educational efforts to combat anti-Semitism and intolerance may be the only real, long-term means of dealing with this problem and therefore deserve strong support. Here, too, the American experience in fighting bigotry may offer useful examples worth replicating in Europe, and we should find ways to showcase our best efforts. At the same time, the European environment is not the same as our own, and even differences among European nations may make it difficult to predict the universal success of any program.

I would cite two American Jewish Committee programs that have managed to succeed in making a successful transition from one continent to another. “Hands Across the Campus” is a program designed to promote an appreciation for pluralism and diversity aimed at secondary school students in American cities. Our Berlin Director, Deidre Berger, working closely with our program staff in Chicago and New York and with a German-based task force of national experts, helped to translate this “American” program into a “German” one. This process has taken several years, but it has now been enthusiastically embraced by German State Education Ministry officials and is being implemented there. With support and adequate resources, we believe it can prove successful in other countries, as well.

“Promoting Tolerance in Central and Eastern Europe” is a program jointly sponsored by AJC and the [German Liberal Party’s] Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Now in its twelfth year, the program identifies emerging leaders in Central and Eastern Europe and brings them to the United States for an intensive two-week visit to five American cities. In this way participants are introduced to a wide variety of programs and activities designed to combat intolerance and promote understanding among diverse ethnic and religious groups. They are able to see firsthand what works and determine for themselves what might be of most use in their own countries. It is worth noting that among previous participants in the “Promoting Tolerance” program is the current OSCE Chair-in-Office, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy.

Taking the “Berlin Declaration” to other Venues

Those of us who were involved in the efforts prior to the Berlin Conference to secure an OSCE endorsement of a declaration know how difficult the process can be. Were it not for the tireless efforts of US Ambassador to the OSCE Stephan Minikes and others this would not have been achieved. And while there was certainly more that could have been said, we all recognize the important milestone of the “Berlin Declaration” issued at the close of the OSCE conference and representing the collective view of its fifty-five member states.

Surely, consideration should be given to adapting the language of the Berlin Declaration for adoption by other regional and international bodies, such as the Organization for American States and the United Nations. In this regard, the cooperative efforts of the US working with key allies within the OSCE to achieve its adoption could be replicated in other venues.

Additional Follow-up

During the course of the Berlin Conference, the Foreign Minister of Spain proposed hosting an OSCE conference on anti-Semitism in 2005. By most accounts, there had appeared to be little support in Vienna for an annual conference on this subject, and the Spanish offer took most delegates by surprise. The value of an OSCE conference devoted exclusively to the topic of anti-Semitism cannot be underestimated. It not only provides the opportunity to examine the current state of the problem, but it also focuses the attention of member States and OSCE agencies, who will want to be able to demonstrate progress. The US should seriously explore the Spanish offer as one way of ensuring that the subject of anti-Semitism will continue to receive the proper focus of concern next year.



Contact: Kenneth Bandler (212) 891-6771 PR@ajc.org

        Lisa Fingeret Roth (212) 891-1385 rothl@ajc.org
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