Bipartisan Legislation Addresses Growing Antisemitism in Europe
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged members of Congress to support the bipartisan bill H.R. 6208, the Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2016. The bill was introduced by the House of Representatives Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism and builds on the widespread bipartisan support and unanimous adoption of House Resolution 354, by formally incorporating reporting requirements on antisemitism in Europe.
“This bill is a significant bipartisan effort to address the serious and dangerous problem of antisemitism in Europe,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “It is inspiring to see such a strong initiative, even as the world grapples with a rise in anti-migrant sentiment, xenophobic far-right parties, and terror attacks and backlash against Muslim communities.”
H.R. 6208 requires additional reporting on antisemitism in European countries where threats or attacks against Jewish persons are particularly significant as part of the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report. This bill requires the State Department to include information on the security challenges and needs of European Jewish communities; bilateral efforts between the U.S. government and European law enforcement and civil society; educational programming promoting tolerance; and efforts by European government to adopt a working definition of antisemitism.
The Combating European Anti-Semitism Act also reaffirms its support for the working definition of antisemitism, which was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Human Rights First previously supported the need for a definition of antisemitism and other forms of intolerance. Human Rights First urges the United States to support the adoption of this definition in multilateral institutions, such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The organization notes that adopting a working definition of antisemitism is crucial in fighting hate crime because it helps parse the distinction between conduct and speech that is legitimate, and that which is not. Defining antisemitism and other forms of religious discrimination will help courts identify and prosecute hate crimes. In addition to supporting State Department efforts to encourage the adoption of the working definition, this bill requires the State Department to report on similar efforts made by European governments.
The legislation introduced Friday also supports bilateral cooperation between the United States, European governments, and civil society by requiring reporting on these efforts. Human Rights First has advocated for this approach, and piloted a bilateral initiative to address the issue in France. This bill encourages the United States government to continue their engagement with European government counterparts and further strengthen civil society in Europe.
“Support for this bill reaffirms the United States’ commitment to combat antisemitism at home and abroad, by using a human rights-based approach to foster cultures that respect diversity and inclusion of all minority groups, including Jews,” said Corke. “Its passage will signify to our European allies that the United States will support multilateral efforts to address this urgent global problem.”
Human Rights First will participate in the OSCE Chairmanship Conference on Tolerance and Diversity in Berlin on October 19th and 20th that will tackle the growing threat of antisemitism and other forms of intolerance in Europe.