NJ lawmaker chairs anti-Semitism hearing

NJ lawmaker chairs anti-Semitism hearing

Jewish leaders tell Rep. Chris Smith of global threats

Hannah Rosenthal, the Obama administration’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, told a Washington hearing chaired by a New Jersey lawmaker that bias against Jews is still prevalent in many parts of Europe.

Rosenthal, a former executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, testified Dec. 2 at a meeting of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The commission oversees human rights in the 56 countries of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Its chair is Rep. Chris Smith (R-Dist. 4), who agreed that “our work fighting anti-Semitism is far from done.”

Smith, a Catholic, claims a long record as a congressional leader in the fight against anti-Semitism.

“By most accounts, and thanks to the work of many courageous nongovernmental organizations, the despicable evil of anti-Semitism has decreased in most parts of the region in recent years — but it still remains at higher levels than in 2000,” he said at the hearing, according to a release issued by Smith’s office Dec. 6. “This is simply unacceptable.”

Rosenthal cited incidents of anti-Semitism that range from desecration of cemeteries and Holocaust memorials to physical attacks on Jews.

She also decried “the blurring of the lines between opposition to the policies of the State of Israel and anti-Semitism. What I hear from our diplomatic missions, and from non-governmental organizations alike, is that this happens easily and often. I want to be clear — legitimate criticism of policies of the State of Israel is not anti-Semitism. We do record huge increases in anti-Semitic acts whenever there are hostilities in the Middle East.”

Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international Jewish affairs, and Stacy Burdett, Washington director of national and governmental affairs of the Anti-Defamation League, also testified at the hearing.

“While governments still fall short in monitoring and reporting physical incidents of anti-Semitism, fewer still have any systematic process of monitoring and recording let alone responding to incidents on the Internet or in the media,” said Baker. “Governments can and should do much more, and in the interim, practical steps can be taken to help civil society groups develop the capacity to do their own monitoring.”

Burdett suggested greater education about anti-Semitism, more training of police and criminal justice officials, and more civilian monitoring of hate crimes and bias incidents.

Shimon Samuels, director for international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris, said during recent months anti-Semitic expressions were on the rise, from the Iranian government to the demonstrators in Cairo.

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