Why and how Jews are once again being targeted in Europe was the message of leaders from Europe's Jewish communities who testified before Congress today on the rise of anti-Semitism in their countries.
They were joined by American Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders who spoke of the threat anti-Semitism poses to non-Jewish communities and even to democratic government. The hearing was called by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House’s global human rights subcommittee.
“Unparalleled since the dark ages of the Second World War, Jewish communities on a global scale are facing verbal harassment, and sometimes violent attacks against synagogues, Jewish cultural sites, cemeteries and individuals,” said Smith, who has co-chaired the House Bi-Partisan Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism for years. “It is an ugly reality that won’t go away by ignoring or wishing it away. It must be defeated. We gather to enlighten, motivate, and share ideas on how not just to mitigate this centuries-old obsession, but to crush this pernicious form of hate. We see this in governments as varied as those of Iran and Egypt, Pakistan and Syria and Saudi Arabia, and the list doesn’t end there.” (Click here to read Smith’s opening remarks)
The congressional hearing was entitled “Anti-Semitism: A Growing Threat to All Faiths.” Those testifying from the U.S. and Europe include witnesses from academia, religious freedom organizations and democratic advocacy groups (Click here to read their testimonies):
- Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism, Office of the Chairperson-in-Office; Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe;
- Rabbi Yaakov Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine;
- Dr. Tamás Fellegi, Ph.D., Managing Partner, EuroAtlantic Solutions, (Former Minister of National Development Government of Hungary);
- John Garvey, J.D., President of Catholic University of America, Washington D.C.;
- Dr. Zudhi Jasser, M.D., President, American Islamic Forum for Democracy;
- Elisa Massimino, President and Chief Executive Officer of Human Rights First;
- Eric Metaxas, Author and Commentator;
- Rabbi David Meyer, Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Contemporary Jewish Thought, Pontifical Gregorian University;
- Mr. Willy Silberstein, Chairman, Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism;
- Andrew Srulevitch, Director of European Affairs, Anti-Defamation League, and;
- Katrina Lantos Swett, Ph.D. Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
To view a three-minute video excerpt of the hearing opening click here or on image above.
To watch a video of the entire hearing, click here and then advance approx. 25 minutes to the 9:06 a.m. mark to see the start of the hearing.
“Governments have a basic obligation to provide for the security of their citizens. They also affirm a bedrock commitment to the free exercise of religion,” Baker testified. “And yet the security needs and the financial burdens that many Jewish communities now face seriously call these principles into question. So it is that these quite elemental challenges of a decidedly practical nature ultimately pose an existential threat to the future of Jewish life in Europe.”
Fellegi noted that since the openness and freedoms associated with democracy since the late 1980s, anti-Semitism has entered public speech and politics.
“Anti‐Semitism has been on the rise in Hungary,” said Fellegi. “This fact has complex reasons but at its core, the current phenomenon is an expression of frustration with Hungary’s imperfect democratic transition, and especially with the deep political, moral and economic crisis dominating Hungary since 2006.”
Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, spoke about the link between Islamism and anti-Semitism, and other issues.
“It is self-evident that supremacists from within a particular faith community will create and exploit hatred towards another faith community in order to collectively rally their own followers against a common enemy,” Jasser said. “Islamists utilize anti-Semitic imagery, profiling and demonization of Jews as a tool for their own ascension into power among Muslim majority communities and nations.”
Smith, a congressional leader in the fight against anti-Semitism for three decades, authored the provisions of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 that created the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism within the U.S. State Department.
As a result of his landmark 2002 hearing, “Escalating Anti-Semitic Violence in Europe,” he led a congressional drive to place the issue of combating anti-Semitism at the top of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agenda, as a result of which in 2004 the OSCE adopted new norms for its 56 member states on fighting anti-Semitism, and from 2004 to the present has held a series of high-level conferences on combating anti-Semitism. Rep. Smith is the author of numerous laws, resolutions, and member letters on combating anti-Semitism. In the 1990s Smith chaired Congress’s first hearings on anti-Semitism and in the early 1980s his first trips abroad as a member of Congress were to the former Soviet Union, where he fought for the release of Jewish “refuseniks.”