OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism and on Other Forms of Intolerance

At 8–9 June 2005 in Cordoba, Spain, the OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism and on Other Forms of Intolerance focuses on anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.

The Conference draw attention to issues such as anti-Semitism and the media, Holocaust education, fighting discrimination and intolerance against Muslims, Christians and members of other religions in the OSCE area. Other sessions discuss the roles of government, civil society, schools and the media in combating prejudice and in promoting tolerance.
It is expected to attract ministerial-level attendance from the USA, EU, Eastern European and Mediterranean states. Different delegations and participants issued statements eg. Statement on Fighting Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Discrimination, and Promoting Tolerance, as delivered by New York Governor George E. Pataki to the Cordoba Conference on Anti-Semitism and on Other Forms of Intolerance June 8, 2005
Governor George E. Pataki stated: „It is a great privilege to participate, with so many distinguished representatives of the world community, in this highly worthwhile discourse on ridding our world of anti-Semitism and intolerance. I would like to thank President Zapatero, Minister Moratinos, the City of Cordoba and the people of Spain for hosting this important conference and for the wonderful hospitality they have so graciously extended to us. And thank you Minister Rupel, for your hard work and great leadership of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. I am deeply honored that President Bush and Secretary Rice have chosen me to lead such a distinguished group of US delegates at these important and historic proceedings. I share President Bush’s strong commitment to battling intolerance, oppression and hate wherever they occur, and I bring you his very personal best wishes and full support for the work we will accomplish here in Cordoba. The United States of America is a nation of immigrants; and as such we Americans are the most diverse people in the world. For the past 10 years, I have been privileged to lead the state that is the foremost example and symbol of America’s diversity — home to not only the US’s largest Jewish population, but home to the most culturally diverse population anywhere. In mosques, churches, temples and synagogues, New Yorkers freely practice all of the world’s major religions — they trace their ancestry to every corner of the Earth, their faces bear every tone of the human palette. For us, tolerance and respect for each of the components of our culture are not just an ideal – they are a necessity; an inherent part of our daily way of life. But our history is not free of intolerance and discrimination; indeed, like all nations, we have made mistakes and learned hard lessons we must never forget. As a nation, we continue to contend with and work to rectify the injustices of slavery, racial and religious bigotry and ethic persecution that stain our history. And to that nation’s great credit, Germany has done much to help heal the devastating wounds inflicted on the Jewish people during the Holocaust. The Holocaust was truly one of the darkest chapters of human history, yet amazingly, instances of anti-Semitism are once again on the rise and we need to act now to halt this disturbing and alarming trend. If the Holocaust taught us one lesson, it is the devastating price of silence and inwhen evil men fan the flames of hatred to achieve their own depraved ends. Six million Jews were slaughtered before the Third Reich was finally toppled. Who knows how many could have been saved had our nations’ collective eyes been opened earlier to Hitler’s maniacal genocide? When left unchecked, ethnic and religious hatred become the fuels that fires mankind’s most unspeakable evils – a point my fellow New Yorkers witnessed first hand – as did I – on September 11, 2001. So for me, the quest toward mutual acceptance and respect among the peoples of the world and the struggle against merchants of hate are a personal, as well as a professional, pursuit. And while all forms of racial and ethnic intolerance and hate are immoral and wrong, I submit to you that anti-Semitism must be specifically targeted because of its unique and tragic history, and particularly because of the inexplicable resurgence in the past few years. The noted historian Paul Johnson recently called anti-Semitism “an intellectual disease, a disease of the mind, extremely infectious and massively destructive. A disease to which both human individuals and entire human societies are prone.” Despots, dictators and tyrants throughout history have promoted hatred of Jews to further their own ambitions, and Hitler was no exception. And while some may be tempted to regard the blatant anti-Semitism of the Holocaust as the stuff of mere history, it is simply not so. Consider that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a century-old fabrication of Jews’ supposed plan for world domination, a work read and believed by Hitler himself, continues to be distributed, quoted and taken as fact in many parts of the world. Despite the fact that The Protocols were exposed as a fake in the early 1920’s, neo-Nazis, skinheads and radical Islamic Jihadists continue to this day to wield this counterfeit history as a weapon against the Jewish people. The most powerful weapon we have against hate is truth – we must not allow the disease of anti-Semitism to infect another generation. Outside the purview and supervision of our nations’ respective public school systems, there are a growing number of parallel schools run by radical Islamic Jihadists that are not only preaching anti-Semitism, but actually encouraging violence against Jews. Sadly, this disturbing, all-too-familiar movement is occurring in many nations of the OSCE, including the United States. We must be vigilant – we must protect our children from the fallacious and toxic anti-Semitic fiction, and instead allow them to hear and learn from the horrific first-hand accounts of the tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors who still are with us in Europe and America today. Anti-Semitism isn’t just a crime against Jews, it is a threat to all freedom-loving nations and all civilized peoples of world. It is clear that together we must enforce a policy of “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry around the world. In New York we have accomplished this with a three-pronged approach – promoting awareness, appreciation and respect between our many cultural communities, enacting tough laws and policies to combat acts of discrimination and hate, and enforcing those laws and policies aggressively and constantly. In 2000, I was proud to sign the historic Hate Crimes Law into law in New York State – a measure that imposes even more severe penalties for crimes that are motivated by hatred against people of a particular ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. This historic law has not only ensured swift, severe and just punishment for perpetrators of hate crimes in New York State; it has sent a clear message that the people of New York are unified in our opposition to acts of intolerance and hatred. In addition, New York State is proud to be in the forefront of training our state police, local police, corrections officers, and prosecutors in tolerance and dealing with bias-motivated crimes. It is extremely heartening to see so many nations of the world taking a tough stand on Anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance. But there is much more to be done. We must define, discover, quantify, study and eradicate anti-Semitism, and all forms of ethnic and religious intolerance and violence whenever and wherever they are discovered. Fighting hate is a responsibility borne by the governments of all civilized nations – moreover, it is a moral obligation borne by all members of the human race. I extend my sincere thanks to all OSCE participating States for their commitment and resolve as we collaborate in united pursuit of this solemn duty. Thank you.”

Other statements were delivered as well, eg. Edgar M. Bronfman (World Jewish Congress) stated, “The OSCE has played an important role in the establishment of human rights in Europe. This organization was critical in protecting Soviet dissidents thirty years ago. Then Foreign Minister Sheveradnadze told me and Israel Singer of the freedoms the Soviet Union was about to grant Soviet Jews to live in dignity and to be able to practice their religion, which he was about to announce at a meeting of the OSCE. Last year in Berlin, the conference began to fight a perplexing new challenge, the revival of anti-Semitism. This anti-Semitism, the oldest hate, has reemerged in the aftermath of the Holocaust where the world witnessed how horribly low man’s inhumanity to man could descend. For over half a century, we have experienced a bloody struggle between Israel, created by the United Nations as a result of the Holocaust, and the Palestinians, who also have rights in the Middle East. That struggle has become an excuse for a revival of anti-Semitism in the last few years. We have seen many incidents of Jew hatred. There certainly can be legitimate criticism of Israel. But let us not forget that as a state under constant siege since its inception, it must protect its citizens and fight to survive as the Jewish state. But whatever mistakes Israel may make, it is not a reason for the burning of a synagogue in Lugano, or the bombing of a Jewish owned pastry shop in Paris, or the stabbing of a Jewish teenager on a street in Antwerp, or the assault against a Jewish family returning home from Sabbath services in Essex. The Middle East struggle has re-energized a millennia old anti-Semitism. It is illegitimate and it has to stop; it has to be stopped.. The Holocaust and the attempted extermination of the entire Jewish population of Europe was not a German affair alone. There were other willing executioners. Now, we continue to experience repeats of anti-Semitic brutality – Ukraine and Russia stand out for our most immediate concern. Just two days ago, a Moscow court acquitted Victor Kor CHA ginn, who has propagated the blood libel myth and accused the Jews of killing five boys for ritual purposes. The road of hate takes us to violence – and it must be stopped. I am at a loss to understand why vicious anti-Israel rhetoric exists when Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is making such a decisive effort to bring peace to the region. We all know that a vast majority of Israelis want to end the conflict, to have a democratic Palestinian state living side by side with Israel, and are at one with the Prime Minister. In Berlin last year, U. S. Secretary of State Colin Powell put it succinctly. He said: “It is not anti-Semitic to criticize the state of Israel, but the line is crossed when Israel or its leaders are demonized or vilified, for example by the use of Nazi symbols and racist caricatures.” That line is crossed when Ariel Sharon is depicted in a newspaper cartoon as a monster devouring Palestinian babies. That line is crossed when an otherwise respectable academic organization such as the U.K.’s Association of University Teachers, boycotts Haifa and Bar Ilan Universities. That decision has been reversed, but the sting remains! It is reminiscent of the Neurenberg laws and Hitler’s actions with Guttenburg University. Haifa University has some 25% Arab students. Both Universities are places where freedom of expression is practiced daily and where mutual respect and understanding between Arabs and Jews is encouraged and is lived. Mutual respect and understanding between all faiths and peoples is the key to ending hatred and to creating a better world. And while I’m on that subject, I consider desecration to any holy book an insult to me. Desecration of the Koran, the Torah, or the Christian Testament, or any religious site, for that matter, should be offensive to all of us. Mutual respect means just that; you respect me and what I stand for, and I respect you and that which you stand for. I urge the OSCE to further the path outlined last year in Berlin, to teach mutual respect in schools. Distinguished scholars and educators should create curricula which will be both exciting and effective in teaching not only the awful results of hatred and bias, but also the benefits that would accrue to all of us. Much has been achieved through the dialogue between the Jews and the Catholic Church. We have also made significant progress with the Orthodox Church. We must extend those dialogues to include the Protestant churches and Islam. We, all children of Abraham, should learn what we have in common. After that, our differences will look quite insignificant. Last year in Berlin, 55 nations singularly and unambiguously condemned anti-Semitism and committed to specific practical steps to combat it. They included coordinated monitoring and reporting, stronger legislation and enforcement, and importantly, education. Many nations have taken partial steps to fulfill these commitments; others have failed miserably to do so. In the United States last year, the Congress passed and President Bush signed a bill that not only condemned anti-Semitism in all its ugly forms and manifestations, but also ordered the United States Department of State to create an office specifically to monitor anti-Semitism and publish its results. The challenge to the OSCE is to continue to give teeth to the monitoring programs designed to expose and stamp out expressions of anti-Semitism; to coordinate such efforts with other organizations and agencies; and to share information and best practices to increase effectiveness. It is the responsibility of this body to hold accountable those nations that do not fulfill their commitments to combat anti-Semitism and protect the rights of Jews and Jewish communities. The World Jewish Congress stands ready to partner with the various bodies of the OSCE to accomplish these tasks. The Jewish communities of the world will work to hold nations accountable. It is in the interest of all NGO’s at this conference to struggle together to fight anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism. Last year the OSCE declared that “International developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism.” This year I hope OSCE will take the further steps needed to hold nations accountable. Thank you.”
(BPI Info)