Bipartisan Legislation an Important Step to Fight Antisemitism in Europe

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First praised the House of Representatives, and in particular the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism, for unanimously passing the Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 on Thursday. The bill is a significant bipartisan effort to address the serious and dangerous problem of antisemitism in Europe. The legislation, which would improve State Department efficacy in fighting rising hatred, now faces a vote in the Senate, where a companion bill has been introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

“It is inspiring to see the House take such a strong step against antisemitism, even as the world grapples with a rise in anti-migrant sentiment, xenophobic parties, and backlash against Muslim communities,” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “An effective strategy to combat antisemitism must not only work across the aisle but across borders; that’s exactly what this does. We urge the Senate to follow with swift passage.”

The Combating European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 builds on the widespread bipartisan support for and unanimous adoption of House Resolution 354, which called for the United States to work with European governments and law enforcement agencies to protect Jewish communities by incorporating and enhancing reporting requirements on antisemitism in Europe. Human Rights First has publicly championed the importance of the bill since its introduction.

If passed, the legislation would require 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, the bill  would require the inclusion of information on the security challenges and needs of European Jewish communities; bilateral efforts between the U.S. government and European law enforcement agencies  and civil society; educational programming promoting tolerance; and efforts by European government to adopt and apply a working definition of antisemitism.

The legislation also supports cooperation between the United States, European governments, and civil society by requiring reporting on these efforts. Human Rights First has advocated this approach, and piloted a bilateral initiative to address the issue in France. The bill encourages the U.S. government to continue its engagement with European government counterparts and further strengthen civil society in Europe.

“Passage of this bill reaffirms the United States’ commitment to combat antisemitism at home and abroad through a human rights-based approach to diversity and the inclusion of all minority groups, including Jews,” added Corke. “This will signal to our European allies that the United States will continue to support multilateral efforts to address this urgent global problem.”

The legislation builds upon annual reporting on religious freedom worldwide as required by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 and the 2004 Global Anti-Semitism Review Act, which required the State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to report annually on anti-Semitism around the world. President Trump has not yet appointed an official to that role or pledged to maintain the office’s current resources.

In addition to nominating a Special Envoy, Human Rights First also calls on the administration to appoint a new Special Representative to Muslim Communities. The State Department position, which was established in 2009, acts as the U.S. government’s focal point of engagement with Muslim communities around the world to advance U.S. foreign policy goals, including religious freedom, combating intolerance, and countering extremism. Yesterday President Trump spoke of Islam as “one of the world’s great faiths” and called for “tolerance and respect for each other.” Appointing respected voices for both envoy positions will help put into action these words into action.


Published on May 22, 2017


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