House Hearing Highlights Rise in Anti-Semitism

WASHINGTON – The House Foreign Affairs Committee convened a hearing on Wednesday to address the recent spike in anti-Semitism worldwide. Chairman of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee Christopher Smith (R-NJ) noted, “72 years after the Holocaust ended, anti-Semites continue to target the Jewish people for discrimination, destruction of property and even death.”  

Paul Goldenberg of the Jewish Federation’s Secure Community network testified that hate crimes against Jews doubled in New York City during the beginning of 2017 compared to the previous year, citing a NYPD report. Across the country, at least 166 bomb threats were sent to Jewish institutions since January, Goldenberg added.

“We can’t look the other way — either overseas or domestically — regarding anti-Semitism. We can’t pick and choose when it’s convenient to stand against violence and when it’s not,” said Ranking Democratic Member Karen Bass (D-CA). The California lawmaker urged the Trump administration to maintain funds for the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism after Bloomberg reported last month that the White House was considering nixing the position due to budgetary considerations.

The increase in right wing populist and xenophobic political parties across Europe poses a unique concern, emphasized Rabbi Andrew Baker, Director of International Affairs at the American Jewish Committee who also spoke before the Congressional hearing. Baker cited French Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen who urged Jews to do “do their part” by removing Kippot, or religious head covering, in public. He also pointed out that a number of European states have restricted religious animal slaughtering or Schitah.

Given the partisan tensions, Smith called for the fight against anti-Semitism be removed from the daily squabble between Republicans and Democrats. “It is my hope that this bipartisan consensus will continue, and that none will seek to score political points to advance a political narrative.” In early February, House Republicans blocked a resolution pushed forward by Democrats clarifying that the Jews were the primary victims of the Holocaust after the White House’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day did not mention Jews.

Stacy Burdett, Vice President for Government Relations at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), urged the lawmakers to raise awareness regarding the 3,441 police agencies across the nation, which are not reporting hate crimes to the FBI in addition to prioritizing Anti-Semitism in interactions with foreign officials.

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