The Institute for Public Affairs of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America testified at a hearing held this week by the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe to assess the results of the historic April 2004 Berlin Conference on anti-Semitism organized by the OSCE. The Helsinki Commission hearing, led by Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD), examined the outcome of the Berlin Conference, focusing on what steps the OSCE can reasonably be expected to undertake to promote the implementation of the commitments highlighted in the Berlin Declaration. Testifying for the Commission were Rep. Tom Lantos; Minister Natan Sharansky; Betty Ehrenberg, IPA/OU; Jay Lefkowitz, Washington attorney; and Fred Zeidman, Chairman, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. Other witnesses included Conference of Presidents, AJC, ADL, NCSJ, B’nai Brith, and Simon Weisenthal Center.
In her testimony, Ehrenberg said that “The Berlin Declaration was a groundbreaking example of countries willing to re-commit themselves to protect human rights and fighting anti-Semitism. Their pledge to take concrete steps to fight anti-Semitism in their countries highlights the growing threat that anti-Semitism presents. Today, the increase of terrorism and the development of weapons of mass destruction by rogue states combined with the demonization of the Jews and Israel yields a combination of very volatile elements. In light of this unprecedented situation, the Berlin Declaration, which condemns all manifestations of anti-Semitism, is all the more timely and significant. The presence of Secretary Colin Powell at the Conference demonstrated America’s determination to take the lead in reversing this alarming trend.” Ehrenberg added, “One of the most important results of the Conference was the declaration that political developments in Israel and the Middle East never justify anti-Semitism. Singling out Israel for blame by the international community by ignoring the most deplorable human rights records of others is a double standard that cannot be allowed to exist.”
Commission leaders Smith, Cardin, and Nighthorse Campbell recently introduced resolutions in the House and Senate encouraging the ongoing work of the OSCE in combating anti-Semitism. The IPA/OU is pressing for the passage of H.Con.Res.425 and S.Con.Res.110 which demand that all participant states track data on incidents of anti-Semitism and other hate crimes and make these reports public. They also call for the designation of a high level special OSCE envoy to ensure that the OSCE member states will indeed adhere to the commitments made in Berlin.