GENEVA (Jul. 10)
The eradication of anti-Semitism “is a litmus test of our generation’s civilization,” Samuel Wise told a meeting here this week of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Wise is staff director of the U.S. congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe and a member of the U.S. delegation to the CSCE gathering here. It is convening to discuss the subject of national minorities.
Wise devoted his speech to the phenomenon of anti-Semitism, which he observed “has been devilishly persistent and diabolically widespread through the ages,” especially in this century.
He noted that “it is particularly troubling in societies undergoing transition, since anti-Semitism has historically been linked with the forces of reaction.
“its entry into the political arena in these unsettled times bodes ill for lasting, fundamental reform and democratization,” he said.
“It is precisely because anti-democratic forces have attacked democracy and freedom of opportunity — including economic opportunity — by labeling them as ‘Jewish’ or ‘pro-Jewish,’ that political leaders who truly value democracy should take a public stand,” he said.
Wise cited events in the Soviet Union and Romania as examples of anti-Semitism surfacing at times of social change.
Romania, he pointed out, dedicated a memorial last week to Romanian Jews slaughtered in World War II. But its parliament also recently honored the memory of Ion Antonescu, the fascist dictator who cast Romania’s lot with Hitler and “supervised anti-Jewish pogroms and massacres.”
In the Soviet Union, Wise said, “the long-awaited loosening of central controls over society has unleashed many anti-Semitic groups and newspapers associated with official organizations, such as the writers union.”
But “only one person, to our knowledge, has been tried on charges of violating Soviet laws against inciting ethnic animosities,” he said.
“Governments can curb anti-Semitism, not only by prosecuting the criminal acts it inspires, but by loudly condemning the sentiment itself,” the U.S. delegate said.
It is the “signal from the top” that can influence public opinion and create standards of what is acceptable and what is not, he said.