"The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
— Edmund Burke
Once again America and Europe disagree. America is demanding firm action while Europe tries to downplay the problem arguing that existing restraints are enough. No, the dispute isn't over Iran or another rogue state; the divisive issue is anti-Semitism.
Only six decades after the annihilation of a third of the Jewish people in Western Europe, the past year has seen a marked increase in attacks on Jewish graves, communal centers and Jews themselves. As the Steven Roth Institution for the Study of Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University recorded, "most anti-Semitic violence in 2002 took place in Western Europe, especially Belgium and France." Disturbingly, reports from the past few months show the problem is only getting worse. In the first three months of 2003, one monitoring group recorded 290 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in Paris alone. At recent demonstrations in Europe, organized by left-wing and pro-Palestinian groups, shouts of "death to the Jews" and "dirty Jews -- Hitler hasn't finished his job" could be heard.
In what would seem to be a nod of recognition that a problem exists, delegates from 55 countries met on the 19th and 20th of June at the Hofburg Royal Palace in Vienna -- where Hitler addressed cheering crowds following his annexation of Austria -- to discuss anti-Semitism. The conference was held under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Unfortunately, the talk-fest seems to have accomplished little.
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani led the America delegation and warned the conference that Europe must stop pretending that anti-Semitism does not exist here. Mr. Giuliani, along with other delegates, told countries that they should learn from the techniques used to combat anti-Semitism in the U.S., which he summarized as "laws, education and the keeping of statistics."
America has set an admirable example to the world in its fight against anti-Semitism. Politicians have been vocal in denouncing anti-Semitism publicly and have passed hate crime legislation. In addition, the U.S. Justice Department monitors anti-Semitism across the country. Mr. Giuliani argued that similar mechanisms and educational programs should be set up within the OSCE. These calls were echoed by organizations such as the International League for Human Rights, the Anti-Defamation League, and by the Israeli delegation.
It appears that the European delegates weren't prepared to accept this sort of advice. One OSCE official I spoke to took a pessimistic view of any effective action resulting from the conference. The official said the conference had only been convened because of American insistence. A number of major European countries refuse to recognize anti-Semitism as a serious problem or as a unique phenomenon and believe it should be dealt with as part of the larger problem of racism and xenophobia. This attitude was openly evident from the speeches of the European Union -- represented by Greece, the current holder of the EU presidency. No concrete recommendations were made; as the official I spoke to put it, it is "difficult to see what will happen."
In other words, nothing much has changed since the EU last visited the issue in its 1990 OSCE conference in Copenhagen. At that conference EU delegates declared that member states would "unequivocally condemn" anti-Semitism, and deal with anti-Semitism as part of the problem of racism and xenophobia. The steady rise in anti-Semitic attacks over the years shows that this method has failed. Europe needs to adopt America's approach.
Although it is true that anti-Semitism exists beyond Europe, in Europe the trend is most worrying. While the Anti-Defamation League did report an increase in incidents in the U.S., attacks decreased in U.S. states such as New York which took a zero-tolerance approach to such incidents. In the past year there was a fall from 408 to 302 anti-Semitic incidents in New York.
One can debate whether pre-emptive strikes are an effective foreign policy tool, but the world has seen the results of pacifism in the face of anti-Semitism. Elie Wiesel posed the question to the conference, "if Auschwitz hasn't cured mankind of anti-Semitism what will?" Yet it's possible to believe that where anti-Semitism is recognized as a unique problem and people actively fight it, it can be beaten. This is one disagreement with Europe that America must win.
History has shown the consequences of failure.