US Senate resolution to condemn European anti-Semitism
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US Senate resolution to condemn European anti-Semitism

Bipartisan initiative calls on EU governments to appoint special envoys to address growing phenomenon in wake of series of attacks

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Illustrative photo of anti-Semitic graffiti in Europe (CC BY-SA Beny Shlevich/Flickr)
Illustrative photo of anti-Semitic graffiti in Europe (CC BY-SA Beny Shlevich/Flickr)

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of US senators announced a new resolution Wednesday condemning European anti-Semitism and calling on the US administration to work with European authorities to combat the phenomenon. The resolution, which was backed by a majority of senators and thus expected to face clear legislative sailing, renews calls for European states and the European Union (EU) to appoint special envoys to address anti-Semitism.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, authored the resolution which was co-sponsored by 52 other senators. It calls upon the US secretary of state, the attorney general and other relevant government agencies to work closely with the European Union and European governments to further address anti-Semitism in Europe.

The resolution notes that “an alarming increase in anti-Semitic attacks and incidents targeting Jewish institutions, places of worship, and individuals continue[s] to take place in Europe and remain[s] a challenge to stability and security.”

It calls on the US to work with its European counterparts to ensure that steps are taken to combat anti-Semitism, including “undertaking prompt, impartial, and effective investigations of any acts of violence motivated by anti-Semitism and fully prosecuting those responsible for such violence within the extent of the law”; cooperating on developing programs to counter violent extremists; integrating measures combating anti-Semitism into national action plans for the prevention of hate crimes and violence; convening regular consultations with the Jewish communities; and increasing cooperation on training initiatives related to hate crimes, particularly crimes motivated by anti-Semitism, for law enforcement personnel, and improving monitoring and reporting efforts.

The resolution also calls on the US to encourage European states and the EU to designate senior-level special envoys to “monitor, prevent, and combat anti-Semitism regionally and domestically.”

This last call has been aired repeatedly by Jewish community advocates. The United States already has a special envoy – Ira Forman – tasked with such a role, and it is Forman who frequently interacts with European administrations on efforts against anti-Semitism in their respective countries.

“Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we are witnessing an alarming rise in anti-Semitic sentiment in Europe that must be condemned and addressed. Anti-Semitic attacks and incidents in Europe and around the world are a challenge not only to international stability and security, but to our shared morality as human beings,” Senator Menendez said. “This resolution firmly recommits the United States and its European allies to combat anti-Semitism with even greater resolve, vowing to never again allow the atrocities of the past to be repeated.”

One co-sponsor, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) tied the significance of the legislation to the murder of four Jewish shoppers at the Hyper Cacher market in Paris last month, describing the attack as “a direct affront to basic human rights and dignity.”

A policeman stands guards, on January 21, 2015 in front the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket where jihadist gunman Amedy Coulibaly killed four Jewish men on January 9, 2015 in Paris. (Photo credit: AFP/ ERIC FEFERBERG)
A policeman stands guards, on January 21, 2015 in front the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket where jihadist gunman Amedy Coulibaly killed four Jewish men on January 9, 2015 in Paris. (Photo credit: AFP/ ERIC FEFERBERG)

“The recent anti-Semitic attacks in Europe are extremely disturbing and have no place in the modern world,” said another co-sponsor, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). “This resolution reaffirms the need for action and change to ensure that Jews in Europe and throughout the world, along with those of all faiths, are free from persecution based on religious beliefs.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), B’nai B’rith International, HIAS, the Union for Reform Judaism, and Jewish Federations of North America all supported the resolution.

“Congressional action against anti-Semitism has been vital and we are gratified that the Senate is elevating US leadership on this issue,” said Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL’s National Chair.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman was optimistic Wednesday evening that the resolution would pass the Senate easily, given that it already has support from a bipartisan majority of senators. We look forward to the Senate’s passage of this resolution and hope that leaders across Europe will heed this call and agree to come together and work with the United States to push back against the rising tide of anti-Semitism,” Foxman responded in a statement. “By doing so, they will show the world that violence and hatred will not be tolerated.”

Well wishers reacts as they bring flowers and light candles to honor the shooting victims outside the main Synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark on February 15, 2015 (photo credit: AFP/Odd Andersen)
Well wishers reacts as they bring flowers and light candles to honor the shooting victims outside the main Synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark on February 15, 2015 (photo credit: AFP/Odd Andersen)

Similarly, Mark Hetfield, the president and CEO of HIAS wrote in a statement that his organization has been “deeply disturbed by the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere, along with rising xenophobia, Islamophobia, and other forms of hatred.”

“One thing that has changed, however, over the last century is Congressional support for standing up against bigotry and hatred,” he added. “We welcome this bipartisan effort by Senators Menendez and Kirk to proactively speak out against and pursue strategies against the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.”

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