2004 OSCE Conference Calls For Response To Anti-Semitism
(April 29, 2004)
The OSCE's second Conference on anti-Semitism ended in Berlin with a ringing condemnation of all acts motivated by anti-Semitism or other forms of religious or racial hatred, and participating States agreed to take specific, practical counter-measures.
In the Conference's "Berlin Declaration", read out by OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, and accepted as a summary of the proceedings, the Organization's members undertake to assemble reliable information and statistics about anti-Semitic crimes, as well as other hate-crimes.
At the same time, through its Warsaw-based human rights watchdog, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Organization will gather and report these findings to its member States, and make them public. The ODIHR will also start systematically collecting best practices to prevent or respond to anti-Semitism and disseminate the information throughout the OSCE area.
The OSCE Chairman-in-Office said the level of attendance, which included many foreign ministers, showed the depth of concern felt across the OSCE States at the upsurge in anti-Semitism: "We are particularly concerned that this hostility towards Jews -- as individuals or collectively -- has manifested itself in verbal and physical attacks and in the desecration of synagogues and cemeteries."
The Berlin Declaration contains other concrete measures such as reviewing legal systems to ensure they foster a safe environment free of anti-Semitic harassment, violence or discrimination and calls for educational programmes to combat anti-Semitism and promote remembrance of the Holocaust.
Held in Berlin at the invitation of the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, the two-day conference drew over 800 participants, including representatives of a large number of non-governmental organizations, as well as the OSCE's ten partner states for co-operation, which include Israel. The aim was not just to talk but to agree on practical action by the OSCE's 55 participating States to counter the upsurge in anti-Semitism.
The role of the media also came under scrutiny at the conference, which looked at ways in which some reporting and comment could, even inadvertently, serve as fertile soil for new intolerance by failing to challenge underlying prejudices.