Kerry Urged to Counter Extremism, Antisemitism at OSCE
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today urged Secretary of State John Kerry to uphold the values of the Organization for Society and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and to prioritize combating extremism, antisemitism, and xenophobia, when he meets with his German and European counterparts this week. The call came in a letter from Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino to Kerry ahead of his visit to Hamburg for the OSCE Ministerial Conference.
“The final weeks of the Obama Administration and the German chairmanship of the OSCE present an important opportunity to reinforce the values and commitments on which the OSCE was founded and cement recent gains in countering extremism, antisemitism, and xenophobia. I urge you to seize it,” wrote Massimino.
As Chairman in Office of the OSCE in 2016, Germany has prioritized combating antisemitism, xenophobia, and extremism, and has worked to increase the organization’s capacity around these issues, including by providing funding and other support to civil society. Germany has also led the region by accepting refugees and managing financial emergencies and political shakeups that threaten the OSCE’s structure and its democratic, inclusive vision.
Human Rights First will soon release a report on xenophobia and extremism in Germany, which provides recommendations for the U.S. and German governments to address the issues of rising intolerance and xenophobia—including antisemitism and Islamophobia—with political will, institutional coordination, collaboration with civil society, public support, and the active support of allies and international organizations. Hate crimes, particularly those associated with xenophobic attitudes, have increased drastically in Germany, parallel to the refugee crisis.
In the aftermath of World War II, Europe and the United States committed to human rights and democracy as the best path to ensure collective peace and security. The United States should look to recent examples in Europe to understand how populist, xenophobic, isolationist forces are undermining this foundation, particularly as far-right rhetoric in the United States has taken hold. Political extremism and its undemocratic principles threaten even the strongholds of Europe, like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Immediately following Brexit, which was fueled on xenophobic narratives, there was a significant uptick in hate crimes in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. In the United States, hate crimes are on the rise along with public expressions of hatred fanned by extreme political forces. Far-right parties have made electoral gains in Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, and the Netherlands. The rise of political extremism suggests an accelerating and serious challenge to liberal, inclusive democracy in the region.