Civil Rights and Human Rights Coalition Takes Anti-Hate Message Global
Feature Story by David Altstadt - 4/29/2004This week, human rights leaders and delegations from European, North American, and Central Asian nations met to discuss the alarming rise of hate crimes against Jews and Jewish communities in Europe. Berlin, Germany hosted the conference on anti-Semitism, sponsored by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), on April 28 and 29.
One delegation from the United States, comprised of coalition members from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF), included Mike Posner, executive director of Human Rights First, Pedro Cavallero of the National Council of La Raza, Karen Narasaki, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, Hannah Rosenthal, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jane Wishner of the Union for Reform Judaism, Andrew Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, Shanna Smith, executive director of the National Fair Housing Alliance, Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and many others.
"I am very pleased that LCCR was able to bring such a diverse group of U.S. civil and human rights leaders together to participate in this important meeting," said LCCR Executive Director Wade Henderson. "This conference served as an opportunity to demonstrate that the civil rights and human rights community in the United States is committed to working with our partners from around the world to combat anti-Semitism and all other forms of intolerance."
The two-day OSCE conference focused on ways the 55 member-nations can improve hate crime reporting and monitoring. Attention also was given to training law enforcement agencies to recognize criminal anti-Semitic acts, teaching tolerance to schoolchildren, involving Muslim and Christian leaders in fighting anti-Semitism, and examining the role of the press and the Internet in encouraging or disparaging tolerance. The Berlin conference was a follow-up to a 2003 meeting in Vienna, Austria.
"One of goals of our participation in this conference is to demonstrate that anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem but a human rights injustice that must be combated by all nations and their people," said Julie Fernandes, senior policy analyst and special counsel for LCCR and LCCREF. "Anti-Semitism is anti-everybody."
While anti-Semitism is not a new problem, many countries around the world have seen an increase in anti-Semitic acts over the past few years. For example, according to a recent study by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom are all experiencing a resurgence of violent acts against Jews that has included assaults, desecrations of synagogues, cemeteries and property, and fire-bombings of schools. In addition, according to the Anti-Defamation League, an LCCR member organization, more than 1,500 incidents of anti-Semitic acts were reported in the United States in 2003.
At the OSCE conference, governmental delegations, Jewish organizations, and human rights advocates examined the latest bouts of anti-Semitism and what can be done to counteract them.
LCCR and LCCREF also participated in a nongovernmental organization (NGO) forum April 27, as a lead up to the two-day conference. At the NGO forum and the government conference, LCCREF distributed material highlighting its work in developing educational tools to combat hate crimes.
"Using education to fight hate is a global strategy," said LCCREF Executive Director Karen Lawson. "We were honored to participate in this important conference to help share messages of understanding and tolerance worldwide."