An international conference in Vienna devoted exclusively to anti-Semitism ended last week with calls for the 55 participating nations to reaffirm their condemnation of anti-Semitism, and racial and ethnic hatred, and to work to combat them.
It was the first time an international body had recognized anti-Semitism as a unique form of prejudice that needed addressing.
The conference was convened by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a group that includes nations in North America, Europe and Central Asia.
Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committeeís director of International Jewish Affairs and a member of the American delegation to the conference, said the member nations were beginning to "grapple with the challenges of tackling the upsurge of violence and other forms of hatred towards Jews worldwide."
The head of the OSCE Task Force, Daan Everts of the Netherlands, said the fact that such a meeting was necessary "is in itself deplorable, but we would be remiss not to recognize that this need still exists. … It is shocking to have to acknowledge that anti-Semitism has shamelessly recurred after the Holocaust and may even be on the rise, as witnessed by recent instances."
Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who led the American delegation, told participants that Europe needed to do more to combat anti-Semitic violence.
"Words do not suffice to turn the tide of anti-Semitism that is once again growing in Europe and other parts of the world," he said.
In remarks to delegates and later in a conference call with The Jewish Week and other media, Giuliani called for countries to compile hate crime statistics in a uniform way and analyze them regularly to gauge efforts to combat such crimes.
In addition, Giuliani called on countries to pass hate crimes legislation that would increase penalties, establish educational programs dealing with anti-Semitism and discipline debate so that disagreements over actions in the Middle East do not result in "demonizing attacks on the Jewish people and Israel."
Delegates were taking the issue "very seriously," he said.
Giuliani, asked about his suggestion to develop a uniform reporting system to keep track of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide, said there appeared to be some support. He noted that the United States has developed such a mechanism and if Europe followed suit, the same methods could be used for handling hate crimes against other minorities.
"There is no denying the fact that there is a connection between the Middle East (Israel and the Palestinians) and many of the anti-Semitic acts that have taken place," Giuliani said. "In having a political and foreign policy debate about the Palestinians, it is very, very easy to have it slip over into anti-Semitism."
Asked by The Jewish Week if anti-Semitism in Europe would disappear if there were peace tomorrow between Israel and the Palestinians, Giuliani replied: "No, anti-Semitism has a long history that predates the whole issue of the Palestinians. I donít see how a resolution of that [issue] is going to end anti-Semitism."
He said there appears to be an increase in anti-Semitic incidents since Sept. 11, 2001, and since violence in the Middle East erupted in September 2000. But Giuliani said the lack of a uniform reporting of such incidents makes it possible to be sure.
Giuliani also said there should be a concerted effort, "at the highest level of government," to refute hate-filled lies at their earliest stage. He noted such canards as Jews drink the blood of Christians and that "Jewish people were absent from the World Trade Center the morning of the [terrorist] attack."
"I can refute that by the number of synagogues I went to for people who were lost at the World Trade Center," he said.