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Public Statements

Condemning Restrictions on Freedom of the Press and Widespread Presence of Anti-Semitic Material in Arab Media and Press

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


CONDEMNING RESTRICTIONS ON FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND WIDESPREAD PRESENCE OF ANTI-SEMITIC MATERIAL IN ARAB MEDIA AND PRESS -- (House of Representatives - June 18, 2008)

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of H. Res. 1127, and I urge my colleagues to adopt this condemnation of the anti-Semitism that is sadly so widespread in the Arab media and the press.

As the resolution of my good friend and colleague, Mr. Ackerman, points out, this anti-Semitism often takes the violent forms of Holocaust denial and incitement to violence.

Madam Speaker, when political leaders fail to speak out against anti-Semitic hatred and incitement, the void is not only demoralizing to the victims, but silence actually enables the wrongdoing. Silence by political leaders, in particular, conveys official approval or at least acquiescence and contributes to a climate of fear and a sense of vulnerability.

It is tragic that modern Arab leaders have not done a better job of speaking out against anti-Semitism. We here in the U.S. Congress can speak out today. It is very important that we do so. But our words are not as effective as would be the condemnations from Arab leaders. Members of Congress are going to have to carry, as we go forward to Middle Eastern countries or meet with the leaders when they come here, the sentiments contained in this resolution, and again, as we have in the past, explain to them the importance of speaking out. We cannot remain silent any longer.

If this fight against anti-Semitism in the Arab world is to succeed, we need officials in the U.S. and Europe and again the Arab world to, without hesitation or delay, denounce anti-Semitic acts whenever and wherever they occur. There can't be any exceptions. The purveyors of hate never take a holiday or grow weary, nor should we. Holocaust remembrance and tolerance education must dramatically expand, especially in the Middle East where it is almost nonexistent, and must find a footing in the Arab world. We have to ensure that our laws and the laws of other countries punish those who incite violence against Jews. And it is not utopian to begin to encourage modern Arab governments to adopt such laws. It is time to push this issue harder, far harder than we have done so in the past.

Madam Speaker, on June 16, 2004, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing, and I chaired it, one of several in a series on combating anti-Semitism. Our prime witness at that hearing, as he had been previously, was one of the greatest, finest, most effective and certainly the most courageous human rights leaders the world has ever known, Natan Sharansky.

As we all know, Natan Sharansky spent years in the Soviet Gulag. Congressman Frank Wolf and I in the 1980s actually went to Perm Camp-35 where he had spent many of his years in solitary confinement, where he had been tortured, and met with many of the political prisoners who knew him well, and they had nothing but accolades and respect for this man.

He pointed out at our hearing that, ``Thirty years ago I was a dissident in the former Soviet Union. The irony is that 30 years later I am in the same job, collecting information about anti-Semitism,'' in that case as a cabinet minister in the Israeli government.

He pointed out that the new wave of anti-Semitism is characterized by two components. The first one is the so-called new anti-Semitism, and the lines between anti-Israeli propaganda and anti-Semitic propaganda are blurred.

He said the second is the classical anti-Semitism, the old, deep, primitive prejudice against Jews used over and over again to hurt individuals. He points out that this time, these images and this promotion of anti-Semitism is coming mainly through state-sponsored and state-supported media in the Middle East.

He pointed out that if you want to be successful in this struggle, we have to, like any other evil, we must have moral clarity about the issue. It is important to define the line between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. Israel, he said, is a strong democracy and the only democracy in the Middle East, and it is built on criticism from within and from without.

Of course, we support all forms of legitimate criticism, he went on, but it is very important to see the difference, draw the line between legitimate criticism and anti-Semitism.

He gave us a way of discovering it, or pointing it out and exposing it. He called it the three D's. You know it is anti-Semitism when it is all about demonization, double standard and delegitimization.

At our hearing, Madam Speaker, he brought with him a 150 page study entitled ``Anti-Semitism in the Contemporary Middle East.'' The study surveys anti-Semitic reporting, editorials and editorial caricatures in the government-controlled press of Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. In the more than 100 editorial cartoons included in the report, Jews and Israelis are invariably represented as poisonous snakes, murderous Nazis and bloodthirsty crusaders. When I looked at it, I was sickened. It was disgusting.

The report found that vicious anti-Semitism expressly calls for massive terrorism and genocide against Jews, Zionists and the State of Israel. He pointed out as well in the report that the overwhelming majority of the propaganda again was from government-controlled media and from supposedly respectable publishing houses closely tied to those regimes.

In a brief review of the findings, classic European and anti-Semitic imagery is widespread in the Middle East, as is Holocaust denial and the identification of Israel as a Nazi state. The borders between anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism are blurred, almost completely blurred, the report found. Islamic religious themes, quotations and sayings are being widely mobilized to demonize Jews and Israelis and to justify the outright annihilation of the State of Israel and all its Jewish and non-Jewish supporters.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is increasingly portrayed as part of an internal confrontation between pan-Islamic nations and the infidels, Jews and Christians alike, who embody all evil. All Israelis, men and women and children, and Jews around the world, the report found, as well as their crusader allies, are held responsible for alleged crimes committed by the Jews.

He also showed at that hearing a movie, part of a movie, a 15-hour movie, an anti-Semitic film produced in Syria. That film was all about blood libel. He pointed out to us that that film is not seen just in the Middle East, and it ran for 15 hours every night during the Ramadan season, it is also seen in Europe.

We wonder why people are incited to hate Jews. We watched just a few minutes of it, and, again, it was despicable and made it seem as if blood liable was real.

Finally, Madam Speaker, Sharansky concluded by telling us that anti-Semitism is not only a threat to Jews. History has shown us that left unchecked, the forces behind anti-Semitism will imperil all the values and freedom that our civilization holds dear. We must not let that happen; to which I say again, and this resolution strongly suggests, we must not let that happen.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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