Smith Calls for Expansion of Holocaust Education and Renewed Commitment to Eradicating Anti-Semitism
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) called on governments around the worldincluding the U.S.to expand Holocaust education and renew their commitments to eradicating anti-Semitism in the remarks he delivered at the closing session of an anti-Semitism conference in Bucharest, Romania this weekend.
"Each of us knows we can and must do better. For our part, let me assure you that the members of the U.S. delegation will return home with fresh enthusiasm, commitment and resolve to eradicate the scourge of hate," Smithco-chair of the US delegationsaid during his closing remarks to the conference. "We return with an urgent mission to expand Holocaust education and remembrance so that the words, never again' finally have meaning and to educate both young and old alike that human rights and tolerance are not fanciful words, but the only way a civilized, compassionate and caring society can survive and prosper."
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Conference on Combating Discrimination and Promoting Mutual Respect and Understanding was a follow-up to the OSCE's previous conferences on anti-Semitism and reflects the organization's continued commitment to eradicate anti-Semitism. It was attended by legislators from a number of the OSCE's 56 member nations, which includes the US.
Smith and the U.S. delegationwhich included delegation chairman U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Julie Finleyreturned to the States today.
Smith was invited to serve as co-chair of the U.S. delegation as a result of his extensive work to combat anti-Semitism and promote human rights around the globe.
Over the course of his 27 years in Congress, Smith has won passage of a number of resolutions in both the U.S. House of Representatives and international assemblies condemning anti-Semitism and urging tough penalties for anti-Semitic crimes.
"At a hearing I chaired in the U.S. in 2002, in response to what appeared to be a sudden, frightening spike in anti-Semitism in some OSCE countriesincluding my ownwe first proposed the idea for an OSCE international conference on combating anti-Semitism. Convinced we had an escalating crisis on our hands, the U.S. teamed with several OSCE partners to push for action and reform," Smith stated at the conference.
Smith noted that these efforts resulted in the groundbreaking anti-Semitism conference held by the OSCE in Berlin in 2004.
"From the start, before any conference had even taken place, there were colleagues who thought the struggle against anti-Semitism should be folded into a more general effort against intolerance. Well-meaning as that might seem, it would have diluted our focus and resolve," Smith said. "Let's be frank. Anti-semitism is a particularly insidious form of hate that has had horrific consequences, including genocide. In the span of human history, the Holocaust was yesterday."
Smith serves as Ranking Republican of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, an independent U.S. government agency that is charged with monitoring and encouraging compliance with OSCE commitments.
In concluding his comments, Smith urged his OSCE colleagues to remain committed to vigorous and robust efforts to eradicate anti-Semitism, and called for "follow-up expert meetings and another implementation meeting in 2009."
"We can't allow human rights fatigue and indifference to set in," Smith said.