10 February 2008
Testimony by Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder and Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center United States Helsinki Commission - Feb 7, 2008
“Taking Stock: Combating Anti-Semitism in the OSCE Region”
The Honorable Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman
Chairman Hastings, Co-Chairman Cardin, distinguished members of Congress, thank you for inviting the Wiesenthal Center to comment on the OSCE’s work in the fight against anti-semitism and bigotry.
Following WWII, when the Nazi death camps and the murder of 6 million Jews were laid bare before the world, there was hope that the horrors of Auschwitz would finally end the 2,000-year unabated hatred directed against the Jewish people.
But it did not. After the defeat of the Third Reich, and the establishment of the State of Israel, state anti-semitism became a principal tool of the Soviet Union and her allies. When the Cold War ended, anti-semitism became privatized, but nonetheless remained a threat.
Today, with the phenomena of extremist Islamic movements throughout the world poisoning impressionable youth in the large Muslim diaspora in Europe, classical anti-semitic themes and imagery have resurfaced with a fury. Conspiracy theories such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, blood libels, Holocaust denial, are the staple of Jihadist sermons and websites. As Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner of Justice, noted just last week, 50% of anti-semitic incidences in Europe are tied to radical Islamic elements.
State anti-semitism is back in vogue as well and has become an integral part of statecraft in some Muslim countries, extending its tentacles to the highest levels of government. The new anti-semitism is especially dangerous because it is inextricably linked to the world of terrorism.
That is why the efforts of the OSCE to combat anti-semitism is of such crucial significance, particularly when contrasted with some agencies of the United Nations. As an NGO, we have successfully collaborated with UNESCO in a series of important conferences promoting tolerance and best Internet practices. However, we are deeply concerned that the General Assembly is often paralyzed by 57 Muslim states who exercise a virtual veto over its activities, and politicizing UN conferences.
The UN world conference against racism, known as Durban I, that took place just before 9/11, degenerated into a hate-fest, where speaker after speaker railed against the US, and laid all the world’s problems at the doorstep of the State of Israel. It was at Durban I that Jewish NGOs, such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, were physically intimidated, publicly maligned - accused of being outlaws and supporters of an apartheid state.
Free from such politicization and constraints, we salute the OSCE for its leadership in the field of tolerance, and fostering an environment conducive to honest and open dialogue among diverse religious and cultural leaders. And we are grateful that the OSCE has emerged as the most effective international address in combating anti-semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry.
As experts in the field of Holocaust and tolerance education, police training, and digital terrorism and hate, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and our Museum of Tolerance are honored by our ongoing relationship with the OSCE in these areas.
From its conferences in Cordoba (2005), at which I was honored to serve as a US Delegate, Bucharest (2006), and Dubrovnik (2007) the OSCE has charted a new course, introducing a curriculum on anti-semitism for teachers, encouraging all 56 member-states to annually commemorate the Holocaust, to monitor hate crimes and train law enforcement how to respond. Indeed, this year 29 member states had already agreed to hold annual commemorations. But unfortunately, not all countries have responded. Sadly, some countries ignore hate crimes or pretend they are free of them.
But the OSCE can do much more.
This year marks Israel’s 60th anniversary. The same hatred that debased Durban I threatens to poison next year’s Durban II conference. The agenda for Durban II is being planned by a UN Committee - led by Libya, Iran, Sudan, and Cuba. There is no doubt that the targets again will be the US and Israel. Their plan will call for boycotts, demonization, de-legitimizing, and exclusion of the Jewish state. For these very reasons, Canada has announced it will not participate in Durban II.
We call upon the OSCE to establish a Durban II monitoring mechanism. Just as the OSCE was the catalyst for the series of conferences on anti-semitism and bigotry, it should now take a proactive role in helping to prevent the hijacking of Durban II.
Sadly, Mr. Chairman, the quickest way to get a resolution on the agenda at the UN is for the subject matter to be about Israel. For example, the new UN Human Rights Council has, has passed thirteen human rights condemnations, twelve of them against Israel. Yet, there are no UN General Assembly resolutions on Women’s Rights in the Arab world – no resolutions condemning the tactics used by the so-called “modesty police,” who arrest and beat people and violate human rights each and every day.
The UN has held many Special Sessions on important issues of the day, such as Drug Trafficking, Apartheid, AIDS, Disarmament, but no Special Session on Suicide Terror, the crime of the 21st century, which threatens to engulf all of mankind. We urge the OSCE to take the leadership role in awakening the international community to deal with this issue.
Another area of concern we all share is the Internet. The Internet, the most powerful marketing and communications tool ever, has empowered us all. Unfortunately, it is also manipulated by hate and terror groups to spread dangerous creeds among the young and impressionable, to recruit, and raise funds.
The OSCE has a pivotal role to forge an alliance between its member nations, concerned NGOs, and the online community to monitor and marginalize the forces of hate while protecting personal freedoms.
On the day of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, there was one hate site; today our researchers are tracking some 8,000 problematic websites, blogs, and videos, including Facebook and YouTube, which teach how to commit acts of terror; who to hate and who to kill.
That is what motivated us to introduce our new website, AskMusa.org, which is our outreach effort to the Muslim world to provide basic information about Jews and Judaism in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Indonesian, and English. This is what also motivated us to convene together with former Indonesian President Wahid, the Bali Religious Summit on Terrorism and to bring an influential delegation of Indonesian Muslim leaders to Israel last month.
In conclusion, Simon Wiesenthal always reminded us that just as the Jews did not cause anti-semitism so it cannot be left exclusively to them to cure it. To do that requires a mobilization of world leaders, governments, and clergy from all faiths. None of us can be bystanders.
As Albert Einstein reminded us, "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing." Today, clearly, the OSCE is an important part of the solution.
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