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Jews Applaud As Rights Group Calls Anti-semitism a ‘danger’

For the third time this summer, voices in the human rights camp — often seen by the Jewish community as quick to criticize Israel, while overlooking attacks on Jews — have spoken out against anti- Semitism.

In a report released Tuesday, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights said European governments are not accurately reporting or effectively combating anti-Semitic violence, and must immediately acknowledge the “extraordinary dangers” that such violence poses in Europe.

Officials should develop systems to register, report and combat hate crimes, the report said.

“The fight against anti-Semitism should be integral to international efforts to combat racism,” said Michael McClintock, who wrote the report, called “Fire and Broken Glass: The Rise of Anti-Semitism in Europe.”

The report comes a year after the U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, became a circus of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incitement. Efforts by European governments and institutions to monitor and confront the problem of anti-Semitism are insufficient, the report said.

“The rise in violence against Jewish communities across Europe is part of a broader pattern of racist violence — but the severity, pan-European scope and historical roots of this violence require particularly urgent attention as a part of this larger effort to combat racism,” the report said.

Amnesty International issued a report last month criticizing Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli civilians as “crimes against humanity.” The report also criticized some U.N. actions since the Palestinian intifada began in September 2000.

Israeli officials and Jewish leaders long have criticized Amnesty and other human rights groups for being one-sided in their reporting on the Middle East conflict, saying they harp on alleged Israeli violations while ignoring their context or minimizing attacks against Israel.

Last week, the United Nations released a report indicating that the rise in anti-Semitism, along with an increase in xenophobia and the persistence of racist propaganda on the Internet, are the principal tendencies of contemporary racism and intolerance.

Nevertheless, Jewish leaders are not ready to call the reports a sign of real change, saying they merely acknowledge past one-sidedness.

Leaders also speculate that Jewish financial support for human rights organizations, historically strong, may have fallen in the past year because the groups seemed so anti-Israel. That may have encouraged the groups to look at the issue of anti-Semitism more seriously.

“They’re playing catch-up,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “But human rights groups have a long history, and the reports are not going to change 40 years of history.”

Hier welcomed the report, but believes it came about because human rights groups realized they were losing credibility in the Jewish community.

The Anti-Defamation League said the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and others had a lack of even-handedness that made them focus on violence from Israel but not from the Arab world, and had a “blind spot” when it came to anti-Semitism.

“The human rights community that stood by in Durban heard our complaints, listened to us and are now showing they do care,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL.

Indeed, in remarks accompanying the report, the Lawyer’s Committee executive director, Michael Posner, made clear how powerful had been the impact of the Durban conference.

“The world needs to continue the global conversation about combating racism,” Posner said. “To do this, though, it was clear we needed to address the very racism that marred the Durban meeting: anti-Semitism.”

Foxman said the report should bring about more open dialogue between groups and make it easier to collaborate. It also will up the pressure on European governments to combat anti-Semitism more seriously, he added.

“Better late than never,” he said.

Anti-Semitic attacks rose dramatically in France and Britain over the past year. There also were attacks in Belgium, Italy and other countries.

The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights recommended registering and reporting hate crimes. It also stressed the need to cooperate with European inter-governmental organizations charged with combating racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations.

In separate letters to European leaders, the committee said anti-Semitic acts need to be treated as serious violations of international human rights and called for perpetrators to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Governments must also take other steps as necessary to combat escalating anti-Semitism, the group said.

Kenneth Bandler, spokesman for the American Jewish Committee, called the report positive but said the call for enforcement that was included in the letters should have been part of the report itself.

Bandler noted that the Lawyers Committee was the only group that was present at the Durban conference that later produced a thorough study of anti-Semitism.

Posner said it’s important to state explicitly that anti-Semitism is racism and a human rights violation.

Though the group often has criticized Israeli policy, the Lawyers Committee spoke out in Durban against harshly anti-Israel language in resolutions at a conference of nongovernmental organizations, calling the attacks inaccurate and inappropriate.

Posner called the Durban conference a “lost opportunity,” but said it was important to move forward.

“One thing became more clear after Durban: We didn’t fully appreciate the extent of the personalized attacks against Jewish organizations,” he said.

Posner said this report will not be the group’s last.

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