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Contemporary Manifestations of Anti-Semitism In the OSCE Region
Excerpts from an address by Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Conference on Anti-Semitism,
April 29, 2004, Berlin, Germany
There are three fundamental truths about bigotry that apply to the current problem of anti-Semitism in the OSCE region. One is that, when beginning to confront a new form of bigotry, people fear that by talking about the problem honestly - you create it.

Second is that, until we have a common language and understanding about what the problem is, we cannot come together around combating it. We cannot even monitor it effectively and we certainly cannot seek out solutions. There is no common language - no common definitions - no agreement as to what is indeed an act of anti-Semitism. Further, there exists no formal system through which to channel information - if you ask the man or woman on the street to whom they should report anti-Semitism, you will often hear conflicting answers.

Third, confronting and recognizing bigotry honestly often runs against a prevailing political climate. Just as openly confronting bigotry against African Americans in the American South was an irritant in the climate of the day, so today we are struggling to achieve a recognition of the current manifestation of anti-Semitism that is causing the most problems today.

Addressing the new forms of anti-Semitism honestly is considered controversial. In the United Nnations and even in the OSCE, language on anti-Semitism is not dealt with by the human rights departments - but in the Middle East section. Talking about anti-Semitism that is related to Jewish equal rights to have their nationalism, their self determination, their homeland - is a political hotbutton issue.

If we are to mainstream anti-Semitism as a "rights" issue, we must first reject attempts to brand it a Middle East issue subject to efforts to be even handed. There is no even handedness when it comes to defending victims of racism and hate violence.

Anti-Semitism is not a conflict between two ethnic minorities that should be brokered, mitigated, massaged. We must reject the notion that a leader who acknowledges anti-Semitism must pay a price for somehow disrespecting their Muslim constituency. Surely we oppose all forms of bigotry including anti-Muslim hatred, but exposing anti-Semitism as it is found in our society should not be shunned as a denigration of any other religion or group.

We hear much about controversy surrounding the identification of the perpetrators and have seen examples of how naming sources of anti-Semitism is considered too provocative. Those who oppose identifying sources and perpetrators - think exposing anti-Semitism should be limited by a fear of insulting the communities to which perpetrators of hate violence belong.

This discussion is vital today because, if we talk only about "best practices," we are seeking a cure without first studying the disease. For those of us who have watched the problem closely, it is without question that a key factor that has enabled the growth of this problem is the fear, reticence, inability to talk about it in honest terms. Something about defining, talking about anti-Semitism today touches a raw nerve. As with any disease, the denial is insidious and makes it fester and grow. One cannot talk about anti-Semitism in the OSCE region without confronting the role of the Arab world in propagating the kind of anti-Jewish myths which flourished in Europe centuries ago. For so long it was the elephant in the living room that no one dared name but it loomed large. Today we see some more honest understanding of how ancient anti-Semitic canards are being revived and cloaked in theology and religion. Islamist campaigns within the Muslim world and Europe have moved the anti-Jewish beliefs within Islam from the fringes, where they historically resided, closer to the center. This demonization of Jews and Judaism emanates from houses of worship and from clerics. It pervades educational systems and government-sponsored media. In the digital age, it is beamed around the world and permeates popular culture well beyond the Middle East.

Like other victim groups, we are told that, perhaps because of the Holocaust we are overly sensitive. Yes, we are sensitive to the conspiracy theories that continue to swirl around the globe, where millions and millions of people in the Arab world believe that Jews working in the twin towers stayed home on 9/11 because our coreligionists who planned it gave us all a heads-up. When people actually believe that a majority of CEOs worldwide are Jews, when Prime Minister Mahathir of Malaysia calls for a holy war on Jews and leaders of every Islamic nation give him a standing ovation, we are sensitive.

Our challenge during this discussion is to find a way to go forward from this conference with the message that it is vitally important honestly identify the disease without letting it be viewed as a political issue or an insult or a slander to any other religion or ethnic group.

I hope we can come together around the importance of doing so and I look forward to hearing from you.

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News from Berlin

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Additional Links and Resources
OSCE Berlin Conference Web page
ADL's 10-point Action Agenda Against Global Anti-Semitism
ADL Survey of Five European Countries Finds One in Five Hold Strong Anti-Semitic Sentiment
Global Anti-Semitic Incidents 2004

2003 Conference in Vienna
U.S. Mission to the OSCE Statement on Anti-Semitism, Delivered By Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director (PDF Version)
(Requires Acrobat Reader)
OSCE Conference Ends with Call to Action Against Anti-Semitism
2003 OSCE Conference in Vienna Web Site
Includes updates and transcripts of speeches from Vienna
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