April 14, 2010
Massimino Urges Congress to Champion Smart Solutions to Combat Antisemitism
Washington, DC Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino today told members of Congress that the United States must champion smart solutions to combat violence motivated by antisemitism, a growing problem that has resulted in record numbers of violent attacks in many parts of Europe and North America in recent years. Her testimony came as the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight held a hearing on combating antisemitism and protecting human rights. In her testimony, Massimino noted that antisemitic violence in Europe and North America remains at high levels, following a significant increase beginning in 2000. In fact, violence in some countries is several times higher than that of the end of the 1990s. Though the specific number of incidences has fluctuated from year-to-year and from country-to-country, Human Rights First has found that, with alarming frequency, synagogues, Jewish homes, and Jewish-owned businesses have been targeted in arson attacks and subjected to widespread vandalism. In addition, ordinary people have been harassed, beaten, stabbed, or shot because they were Jewish. "Human Rights First has long maintained that antisemitic violence, as well as other forms of hate crime, must be viewed and responded to as a serious violation of human rights and that governments must do more to confront these abuses," said Massimino. "Likewise, we believe it is important that these violations be challenged, not just by victims' groups or those who represent communities of targeted individuals, but by all those who seek to advance universal rights and freedoms." Massimino noted that, while the threats facing the Jewish community today are deeply-rooted and uniquely potent, they are part of a rising tide of hate-motivated violence across Europe. Human Rights First reports since 2005 show a disturbing rise in bias-motivated violence in the region, perpetrated against members of a range of communities because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, immigration status or other similar factors. To confront this problem, Massimino called on Congress to support efforts by other governments to strengthen laws and policies designed to combat antisemitic violence and to adopt a more comprehensive approach to combating all hate crime. "The strong global role for the United States in combating antisemitism starts at home, where antisemitic and other hate crime remain a serious problem," Massimino observed. She noted that Human Rights First welcomed the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, legislation that has given renewed vigor to the efforts to combat antisemitic and other bias-motivated violence in the United States. The bills passage offers an opportunity for the United States to demonstrate leadership in both bilateral and multilateral efforts to combat the scourge of hate crime globally. Massimino said that the United States should now build on that success and advance a vigorous human rights response to antisemitic and other violent hate crime abroad. She outlined three specific recommendations:
- The United States should demonstrate international leadership in the OSCE by encouraging the implementation of commitments and by providing extrabudgetary contributions to specific initiatives to combat antisemitism and racism.
- The United States should advance efforts to combat antisemitism in bilateral relations by ensuring that the need to confront this problem is a part of regular discussions with other governments, and by offering technical assistance and other forms of cooperation, as appropriate.
- The United States should positively contribute to the strength of civil society actors on the grounda key factor in promoting a vigorous government responseby ensuring that human rights defenders advancing this cause in their countries have access to the funds and training resources they need to succeed.