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Contact: Mark B. Levin/NCSEJ
202.898.2500

MLevin@ncsej.org 

    

NCSEJ PRESENTS TALK AT OSCE'S #BERLINPLUS10 CONF ON FIGHTING ANTI-SEMITISM  

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C./Berlin, Germany, November 13, 2014 - Today, NCSEJ Deputy Director Lesley Weiss presented an intervention statement at an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's conference on combating anti-Semitism.

In her statement, Ms. Weiss called for a new approach to fighting anti-Semitism that "incorporates close cooperation with national law enforcement and education officials, media institutions, and civil society representatives in countries of concern."

This month marks the tenth anniversary of the OSCE's Berlin Declaration on Anti-Semitism, which suggested new methods for opposing anti-Semitism and promoting tolerance across the OSCE region.

The anniversary conference is being attended by hundreds of international organization and OSCE representatives.

Below is her full written statement to the conference.

STATEMENT

Lesley Weiss, Deputy Director
NCSEJ: National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry

OSCE Berlin Conference on Anti-Semitism

Berlin, Germany - November 13, 2014

I am Lesley Weiss, Deputy Director for NCSEJ: National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, an umbrella organization that includes nearly 50 national American Jewish organizations and over 300 local community groups, including a number of those working and partnering with OSCE.

Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the signing of the historic Helsinki Final Act. NCSEJ was one of the first non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to support the ratification of the accords and was one of the leaders in establishing the U.S. Helsinki Commission. The Helsinki Accords have been vital in resolving so many concerns in the Jewish community, from freedom of immigration to combating anti-Semitism.

I appreciate the opportunity to offer this intervention, which focuses on the key role governments play in preventing and responding to anti-Semitic and other hate-motivated crimes. NCSEJ has worked very closely on this important issue with parliamentarians, officials, and organizations in the United States, Europe, and Eurasia.

Much has been accomplished in combating anti-Semitism across Europe and Eurasia since Berlin hosted the OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism ten years ago. We want to acknowledge the efforts and achievements of governments across the OSCE region in recognizing the problem and taking concrete actions to address it.

However, much more needs to be done, especially in the key area of formulating a more systematic approach to combating anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.

We encourage the OSCE and governments in the region to promote a comprehensive, across-the-board strategy to combat anti-Semitism that incorporates close cooperation with national law enforcement and education officials, media institutions, and civil society representatives in countries of concern.

While state-sponsored anti-Semitism is virtually non-existent in the former Soviet Union (FSU) region, "traditional" anti-Semitism, rooted in history and popular anti-Semitic stereotypes, remains an issue of concern.

In Eastern Europe and Eurasia, manifestations of popular anti-Semitism, such as desecration of Jewish cemeteries and memorials, anti-Semitic graffiti, and attacks on Jewish institutions continue.

Skinheads and neo-Nazi groups that target ethnic minorities and advocate racial and religious hatred are active. While violent attacks motivated by xenophobia and racism are tragically directed mainly at natives of Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Africa, anti-Semitism remains a part of extremist ideology and nationalistic marches are frequent.

In the region, ongoing restitution efforts and issues of national identity spur anti-Semitic sentiments, hate speech, and historical revisionism.

We see the resurgence of ultranationalism and the targeting of Jews and others seen as not belonging to their country.

In many former Soviet countries and in Eastern Europe, hate crime laws are inadequate or inconsistently enforced. The weak rule of law and pervasive corruption in some of these countries hinders implementation of such legislation. There is inconsistency in local governments' condemnation of incidents of anti-Semitism and other incitements to racial, ethnic, or religious hatred.

Anti-Semitic stereotypes are pervasive among the general public, and are rarely combatted through mainstream educational efforts. Difficult historical issues and nation-building challenges that confront these governments often lead to historical revisionism and impede such educational initiatives.

Coalition building with other ethnic and religious groups, and international and regional political organizations is happening in some, but not all countries in the region.

Finally, the cynical exploitation of anti-Semitism and xenophobia to advance a political agenda by some governments is alarming and unacceptable.

Recommendations

Governments of the Eastern Europe and Eurasia need to undertake reactive and proactive steps to combat anti-Semitism by: developing adequate hate crime legislation; improving enforcement mechanisms; educating different population groups about xenophobia and anti-Semitism; developing a better mechanism to confront extremists' political messages; building coalitions among ethnic and religious groups, and making greater use of regional and international organizations.

Existing legislation needs to be improved, building on the current best practices and successful models in the United States and other countries. States should establish ombudsman institutions for combating anti-Semitism, more effective monitoring of anti-Semitism and hate crimes, and enhance hate-crimes training for law enforcement professionals.

Governments and NGOs need to work together to ensure greater education about xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

For example, NCSEJ's recent outreach to the diplomatic community has included a collaborative effort with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where we guided diplomats through the "Some Were Our Neighbors" exhibit, which examines why some people chose to help Jews and others to collaborate with the Nazis during World War II. The tour was followed by a discussion about the history of anti-Semitism in the USSR, the Soviet Jewry movement and how this history affects the actions and attitudes of the Jewish communities in the United States and around the world today.

Holocaust education is important, but shouldn't be the only tool to combat anti-Semitism. Knowledge of Jewish history and contributions made by Jews to these countries, as well as to global civilization, needs to be promoted, though the development and implementation of school curricula.

Governments must undertake outreach to both the general population and agenda-setters (the clergy, academia, political and cultural leaders, and other public officials), and find ways to ensure political parties have a common obligation to confront extremism. The media must be a part of timely and consistent condemnations of anti-Semitic sentiments in the public discourse.

Coalition building with other ethnic and religious groups is essential. Governments must also find common cause with regional and international organizations, especially the United Nations, the OSCE, and the European Parliament.

Many of these recommendations require public-private partnership. National governments carry a large (but not the sole) burden of these responsibilities. Regional and local governments, as well as private institutions and individuals, must assume their share of responsibility to ensure that combating anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and extremism becomes a part of the public discourse.


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About NCSEJ National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry

Founded in 1971, NCSEJ represents the organized American Jewish community in monitoring and advocating on behalf of the estimated 1.5 million Jews in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including the 15 successor states of the former Soviet Union.

Web  www.ncsej.org

Email  NCSEJinfo@ncsej.org

Telephone  202.898.2500


NCSEJ is a beneficiary of  The Jewish Federations of North America and the National Federation/Agency Alliance through its network of Federations.
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