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Last week, at a White House briefing with a small group of Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Marvin Hier the Wiesenthal Center's dean and founder, U.S President George W. Bush spoke about prospects for peace in the Middle East and concerns over Iranian actions. The President then turned to the question of antisemitism, noting that he was deeply disturbed about continued antisemitism in Europe. He then told Rabbi Hier that he was shocked and dismayed by the proliferation of European antisemitism, adding that it must not be tolerated.
Since the resurgence of antisemitic hatred in Western Europe, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has been on the frontlines of combating this frightening escalation. In 2000, we first raised the issue with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, (pictured right). In 2001, as the spokesmen for Jewish NGOs at the UN Conference Against Racism in Durban South Africa, we raised the alarm of a new campaign to de-legitimize Israel and defame her supporters throughout the world.
In France, we gave voice to victims of anti-Jewish hate crimes while at the same time we vigorously lobbied French authorities to fully protect Jewish institutions from violent attacks. At the European Union, at the OSCE, in Berlin, Paris, and across the continent, we have pushed for tougher sentencing for violent antisemites, demanding that proscribed Holocaust curricula be carried out - especially in schools with large Muslim populations.
The Wiesenthal Center has helped thrust these issues onto the front burner of the international community by convening a historic Conference on Antisemitism at UNESCO (pictured right) and later participating in similar events at UN headquarters.
But the situation remains precarious in many locations and that is why we must continue to demand that the safety and dignity of Jews be protected wherever they live.
That is why we are asking you to join our campaign to José Manuel Barroso, the newly elected President of the European Commission urging him make the threat of antisemitism a priority for his administration in 2005. As the European community has expanded to 25 nations, there is no more crucial an address than the EU to finally take on this virulent new strain of anti-Jewish hatred.
With your help, we have made a difference but so much more needs to be done.
Jewish cemetery in Herrlisheim, eastern France, 2004
In France, we financed and co-sponsored a grass roots group, the SOS Truth and Security Organization to combat the rise of attacks of French Jews. In addition to meeting with French government leaders, we also met with the heads of the French Magistrates Union and pressed for harsher sentences for antisemitic hate crimes. We have also offered to assist in preparing curriculum to be taught in the schools. We issued travel advisories to both France and Belgium after authorities failed to take the necessary steps to insure the safety and security of Jewish institutions.
In Germany, antisemitic books were removed from the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair after we protested charging that many of the books violated German law, which bans incitement to hate. Following our objections, German authorities banned the "First Arab Islamic Congress" and when the conference organizers planned on relocating the conference to Austria, Center dean and founder Rabbi Hier met with Austrian President Heinz Fischer (pictured left) informing him of the developments where he promptly took measures to ensure the conference wouldn't take place.
Years ago Simon Wiesenthal expressed the fear that we would "repeat the old mistakes under new conditions... (that) we are afraid to mobilize right against wrong." If the Holocaust has any lesson, it is precisely that we cannot stand by while antisemitism and other forms of bigotry take root.
We must join together and act now to stop the escalation of antisemitism in Europe.
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