Remarks Before 2010 Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism
Ladies and gentlemen, parliamentarians and honored guests, we have incredible work to do together. This conference is the largest meeting of its kind to take place, and it follows the successful 2009 inaugural conference, where the landmark London Declaration sought to draw the democratic world’s attention to the resurgence of anti-Semitism. That remarkable declaration encourages us all to build societies based upon respect and citizenship in order to combat manifestations of anti-Semitism and hatred.
I am here today to share with you the strong commitment of the United States to this cause. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, anti-Semitism is something very personal to me. 72 years ago today, my father was arrested – on Kristalnacht – and sent with many of his congregants to prison and then to Buchenwald. He was the lucky one – every other person in his family perished at Auschwitz. I have dedicated my life to eradicating anti-Semitism and intolerance with a sense of urgency and passion that only my father could give me. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have honored me with this appointment and have elevated my office and integrated it into the workings of all other parts of the State Department. I get to work closely with the US Congress – and I want to recognize Representative Chris Smith – who not only helped launch the ICCA, but helped create the position I hold. His commitment to combating anti-Semitism is profound. He has dedicated his life to protecting the world’s most vulnerable, and since his election to the US Congress, he has been an internationally renowned leader in the field of human rights and religious freedom.
I have been on the job for almost a year now – and I have seen six significant trends in the increases of Anti-Semitism around the world:
Traditional forms of anti-Semitism continue to plague societies worldwide. We are all familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property, desecration of cemeteries, and even accusations of blood libel. Conspiracy theories continue to flourish, such as supposed Jewish control of the U.S. media and the world banking system, or that Jewish persons were involved in executing the September 11 attacks. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion continue to be best sellers in many, many countries, and taught to religious students as truth. The ‘old fashioned’ anti-Semitism is alive and well.
Another potent trend is the growing Holocaust denials. It is coming from religious leaders in some places, by heads of State, in academic institutions in some places, and is a standard on several hateful websites and other media outlets. With the window closing on having survivors and liberators alive to tell their stories, there is urgency to promote Holocaust education, create museums and memorials, and carry the memory and lessons of the Holocaust forward.
There is also growing Holocaust glorification – which can be seen in parades honoring the Waffen SS still living, in the growth of neo-Nazi groups, and is especially virulent in Middle East media – some that is state owned and operated – calling for a new Holocaust to finish the job. Truly bonechilling.
And there is Holocaust relativism – where government agencies, museums, academic research and the like are grouping the lessons of the Holocaust with other repressive regimes, especially in the FSU and Argentina. While no one wants to get into dueling victimhoods – to combine these bad chapters of history is not only historically dishonest, it also misses opportunities to learn the different lessons. History must be accurate – it must instruct, it must warn, and it must inspire us to learn the particular and universal values as we prepare to mend this fractured world.
And what I hear from our 194 posts around the world, and from our close relationship with NGOs in the US in other nations, opposition to a policy by the State of Israel morphs into anti-Semitism easily and often. We record huge increases in anti-Semitism whenever there is activity in the Middle East. This form of anti-Semitism is more difficult for many to identify – but if all Jews are held responsible for the decisions of the sovereign State of Israel, when governments call upon and intimidate their Jewish communities to condemn Israeli actions, when academics from Israel are boycotted – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism. Our State Department uses Natan Sharansky’s framework for identifying when someone or a government crosses the line – when Israel is demonized, when Israel is held to different standards than the rest of the countries, and when Israel is delegitimized. These cases are not disagreements with a policy of Israel, this is anti-Semitism. The US is often the only “no” vote in international bodies who seem to have an obsession with condemning Israel.
The last trend is the growing nationalistic movements which target ‘the other’ – be they immigrants, or religious and ethnic minorities in the name of protecting the identity and ‘purity’ of their nation. When this fear or hatred of the ‘other’ occurs or when people try to find a scapegoat for the instability around them, it is never good for the Jews.
The State Department monitors these trends and activities and report on them in all 194 countries – in two major annual reports: The International Religious Freedom report is set to go public next week, and the Human Rights report next year. The only issue that is comprehensively covered in both of those reports is Anti-Semitism. I am now involved in developing a major training initiative for State Department employees so they can better monitor what is happening in their countries, and sensitize them to the various forms of anti-Semitism – this will make our annual reports more comprehensive, and allow us to do an even better job of monitoring and confronting anti-Semitism is all its forms. If we don’t chronicle it, we can’t fight it.
And my title calls for both monitoring and combating anti-Semitism. Combating this ancient hatred is daunting and calls for many different strategies.
My approach to combating anti-Semitism is to have non-Jews condemn it – government, civil society, international institutions, business leaders, labor unions, media.
Diplomacy – The United States maintains as a top priority the raising of anti-Semitism in the context of our relationships with other countries. Through bilateral l meetings and activities, we encourage other governments to take steps against anti-Semitic manifestations within their own societies. We ask governments to challenge acts of anti-Semitism, to speak out against and expose the hatred. We offer help with reporting and data collections. We encourage appropriate outreach by governments to members of Jewish communities. We also encourage governments to partner with us in multi-lateral institutions such as the UN, or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the OAS, EU And others, to those same ends. We are ready to work with governments that want to be part of the solution, and call out those that don’t.
Strengthening Civil Society – We promote public discussion on the nature of new forms of anti- Semitism – how to recognize it and ways to combat it, working with NGOs and human rights and interfaith groups to foster thoughtful and problem-solving discussions. We do not just confront intolerance, we actively promote tolerance. We participate in sustained dialogues with opinion leaders and policy makers about increasing levels of anti-Semitism and how it is insidiously entering mainstream media and public settings globally. We have begun the ART Initiative – ART standing for Acceptance, Respect and Tolerance – in which we identify and highlight interfaith and interethnic groups that focus on advancing acceptance, respect and tolerance with youth. As with everything, really, building strong relationships with civil society, with governments, with opinion leaders, is the way to change a culture – from fear and stereotypes to acceptance and understanding, from narrow-mindedness to pluralism, from hate to tolerance.
Education and Awareness . Educating our young is a priority – they are our future and will shape our world as we face the future. No government should produce materials that are intolerant of members of any religious, racial, or ethnic group, or teach such intolerance as part of its educational curriculum. The Department of State continues to focus on this important issue and express our concern to the governments using such hateful lessons and textbooks, calling Jews the children of apes and pigs or promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. We sponsor teacher training on the Holocaust – its particular uniqueness and its universal lessons. We help train law enforcement officials on how to identify, report and hold accountable individuals and institutions that engage in anti-Semitic activities. We use old and new technologies to communicate with the public about human rights, tolerance and democracy. We work hard to ensure internet freedom, learn how to condemn on-line hate, and stop its incitement to violence. We are also enhancing our cultural and educational exchanges to showcase our civil society organizations and engagement, and to learn from the successes of other countries.
Some examples of these diplomatic tools we use to combat anti-Semitism include:
To confront traditional forms of anti-Semitism, we raise the issues of blood libel accusations with prime ministers and foreign ministers, as well as religious leaders – urging all to make public statements condemning the rhetoric or activities identified
To combat Holocaust denial, we went to Dachau and Auschwitz with 8 leading imams, two of which had denial the Holocaust, and urged them to make a public statement condemning Holocaust denial and all forms of anti-Semitism.
To combat Holocaust glorification, we have involved media coverage and have reported examples to the highest level of governments.
To confront Holocaust relativism, we have requested changes in museums, memorials, and have met with academics to discuss historical honesty and accuracy.
To combat the demonization, delegitimization of Israel and holding Israel to different standards than all other nations in the world, we consistently vote NO and offer explanations of our vote to international bodies as well as institutions obsessing on Israel.
To confront hatred of ‘others’ and ultra-nationalistic movements that marginalize minorities, we help communities build coalitions and partnerships to help vulnerable populations move from isolation to having a voice.
We have all come here today to explore data and exchange best practices about the most effective ways to combat anti-Semitism around the world. Jews cannot eradicate anti-Semitism alone. Having the leadership of you parliamentarians from 50 countries, I remain hopeful that someday we will be able to relegate this relentless form of hatred to the dark annals of history.
Thank you for all you are doing and I look forward to working with you.