Tuesday, October 12, 2004

U.S. Congress Passes Lantos’s Antisemitism Bill

Both houses of the U.S. Congress have unanimously passed legislation requiring the U.S. to monitor anti-Semitism around the world, despite the State Department’s opposition.

The bill, known as the Global Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (H.R. 4230), was introduced by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), in response to the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East. Lantos is the only Holocaust survivor serving in the Congress. The bill requires the State Department to compile an annual report on anti-Semitism around the world, and establishes an office within the department to focus on the issue.

The State Department at first stalled the bill, by arguing that Lantos’s proposal would extend exclusive status to one religious or ethnic group. But the legislation moved forward in recent weeks after the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and former Congressman Stephen Solarz organized more than 100 prominent Americans to sign a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, protesting the State Department’s position.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported: “One key to advancing Lantos’ bill may have been the surprise intervention of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. The Pennsylvania-based organization, named for a historian who has written about the West's response to the Holocaust, organized an open letter to Powell signed by 104 prominent Americans. They included former Republican vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, former United Nations ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, ex-CIA director James Woolsey and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills. ‘I was delighted and totally surprised by this bipartisan, multi-faith group,’ said Lantos.”