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Engel Remarks on Anti-Semitism in Europe

ENGEL REMARKS ON ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE

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WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives in support of H. Res. 354, expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the safety and security of Jewish communities in Europe:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this measure and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

“I want to thank Chairman Royce, again, for being on top of all these very important issues and under his leadership the Foreign Affairs Committee has really taken the lead in important issues such as this. 

“I want to also thank Mr. Smith from New Jersey for sponsoring this resolution.  As the chair of our Foreign Affairs Subcommittee dealing with human rights issues, Chris Smith has been focused on the disturbing surge of anti-Semitism in Europe.  He’s always there.  He always speaks out forcefully about anti-Semitism and other things that are important to him, and I’m grateful for his leadership.

“It’s disappointing that we still need to take up this sort of measure.  But as we all know, anti-Semitism—that ancient hatred—has continued smoldering through the centuries. 

“Week after week, we hear reports of new anti-Semitic attacks.  The vandalism of the Babi Yar Holocaust site in Kyiv.  I’ve been there a number of times.  It’s very disheartening that that would be desecrated.  The targeting of the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen.  And of course the unfathomable attack—as Chairman Royce mentioned—in Paris last January.

“And we’d be foolish to dismiss this surge in anti-Semitism as the work of a few violent, fringe individuals.  In countries like Hungary and Greece, shamefully, we see explicitly anti-Semitic political parties winning seats in elections.  And it’s deeply troubling, very disturbing.

“It wasn’t even a century ago that we heard this canary in the coalmine.  And you can draw a straight line from early indifference and inaction to the darkest chapter in human history.  The lessons of the Holocaust are seared in our collective consciousness.  Those lessons are telling us to throw water on this fire before it burns out of control.

“You know, I was born after World War II, in New York.  And I remember hearing family members talking about anti-Semitism. And the general prevailing thought was, ‘Well, this is something that will never happen again.’  That the Holocaust was so horrific that the world, humanity would understand that something like this could never happen again.

“And when I say, ‘never happen again,’ I mean to any group.  Not just the Jewish groups.  To any group.  This cannot be tolerated and one has to just look around the world and see all the hatreds and all the people that are being slaughtered because of who they are or what tribe they’re from or what people they’re from.

“But it is particularly galling, on Europe, in Europe where so many people—six million people perished—Jewish people perished, during the Holocaust—that anti-Semitism would rear its ugly head once again. One would think that people would be ashamed and would not want to go down the anti-Semitic path again.

“And here it is—barely seventy years after the end of World War II—and we see an alarming rise.  And its alarming rise from a lot of different communities.  There are skinheads and people who have always uttered anti-Semitic remarks.  But we also, unfortunately, have a number of people living in Europe of Middle Eastern descent, who also are using the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to again fan the fires of hatred, anti-Semitic hatred. And as the numbers of people from Arab lands go to Europe, some unfortunately are fanning the fires of anti-Semitism.  That has to be condemned and stopped as well.  Anti-Semitism needs to be condemned no matter who is espousing it, no matter where it’s coming from, and no matter what they’re saying.  And it’s really time to call it the way it is.

“So we need greater vigilance by law enforcement when Jewish communities in Europe are under threat.  But it’s not that simple. We also need greater leadership from officials by speaking out against anti-Semitism.

“We had a bill just a couple of hours ago—maybe not even a couple of hours ago—which  talked about the Palestinian leadership not condemning anti-Semitism.  And having incitement of things that result in anti-Semitic attacks. So this is the same thing.  It’s the same thing whether it’s in Europe or the Middle East.  It’s rearing its ugly head and it’s time for us to continue to speak out against it.

“The United States of America has always been the bastion of society and the world looks to us for leadership. And I think it’s very important that the United States Congress is doing this now. 

“So we need greater vigilance by law enforcement when Jewish communities in Europe are under threat.  But it’s not that simple.  We also need greater leadership from officials by speaking out against anti-Semitism.  We need stronger partnerships with Jewish communities to help them develop their own safety responses, community policing techniques, and information-sharing with government agencies.  And we need to foster cultures that respect diversity and don’t ostracize minority groups.

“I condemn any kind of ostracization of any minority group.  In this country or around the world.  We need to step in and say that we will not tolerate it.

“So this resolution encourages these efforts, and I encourage my colleagues to support it. Anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head but it can be defeated.  And I think what the Congress is doing today is a very good step in that direction.  I reserve the balance of my time.”