Smith Amendments to Combat Anti-Semitism Adopted by International Assembly
Amendments sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) that condemn increasing incidents of anti-Semitism, and call on countries to clearly define anti-Semitism and more effectively prosecute hate crimes, were adopted by an international assembly of lawmakers on Monday.
Amendments sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) that condemn increasing incidents of anti-Semitism, and call on countries to clearly define anti-Semitism and more effectively prosecute hate crimes, were formally adopted by an international assembly of lawmakers on Tuesday.
“Anti-Semitism remains a persistent problem in much of the OSCE region,” Smith stated. “Jewish communities and their members are fearful of verbal harassment and physical attacks. I call on participating States to adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism at the upcoming Milan Ministerial Council in December.”
Smith, in his leadership role as co-chair of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, headed the U.S. delegation of 13 Members of Congress to the 2018 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE-PA) in Berlin.
More than 300 parliamentarians from 57 member countries in North America, Europe, and Asia attended the assembly, to discuss human rights, economic and security issues and adopt resolutions to help shape and influence national and international policies on these matters. The countries collectively represent over one billion people.
Smith’s two amendments on anti-Semitism both emphasize the continuing problem of anti-Semitic threats and violence in OSCE member countries, and call on member countries to adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism at the Milan Ministerial Council in December.
The “working definition” of anti-Semitism was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2016, of which the U.S. is one of 31 member countries. It states that “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Smith noted in his statement during the debate that “A clear definition of anti-Semitism enables a country’s judiciary and law enforcement to more effectively identify and prosecute threats and acts of violence against Jewish communities.” In the U.S., at a March 22, 2017 Congressional hearing that Smith chaired on “Anti-Semitism Across Borders,” Rabbi Andy Baker, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism and Director of International Jewish Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, testified that without the guidance of a working definition of anti-Semitism, “we have seen how real attacks on Jewish targets are still dismissed as politically-motivated incidents.”
Smith is the Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism. In Congress, he authored the provisions of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 that created the position of Special Envoy and the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism within the U.S. State Department, and introduced the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act (H.R. 1911) to elevate and strengthen the position of the Envoy; the bill passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in May.
At a May hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised Rep. Smith that he would move quickly to appoint a new Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism after Smith asked him to act to fill the vacant position.
In 2002, Smith led a Congressional drive to place the issue of combating anti-Semitism at the top of the OSCE-PA agenda; the assembly passed Smith’s major resolutions on anti-Semitism in each of the following declarations:
Among other actions, these resolutions authored by Smith:
Also on Monday at the OSCE-PA, Smith’s comprehensive resolution to create trafficking-free communities was adopted by the assembly. It would encourage the 57 member countries to draw upon effective best practices for fighting trafficking developed in the U.S., including the creation of joint task forces, a unified trafficking hotline throughout Europe, and the training of employees who are likely to be in contact with trafficking victims to recognize possible trafficking cases and respond appropriately.
On Saturday, Smith led a U.S. delegation of Members of Congress in a bilateral meeting with Russian lawmakers, where they discussed many issues including election interference, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, visas, adoption, trafficking, cyber attacks, terrorism, and the shooting death of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
Another Smith amendment that passed on Monday urged OSCE Participating States to create joint responses to the Chinese government’s repression of Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities. It also called on member countries to ensure protections of their citizens visiting or working in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.