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June 17, 2015

White House Hosts Conference on Combating International LGBT Hate Crimes

whitehouse

On June 12, the White House hosted a “Conversation on Combating Bias-Motivated Violence against LGBT Persons Around the World.”  Bias-motivated violence against LGBT individuals remains disturbingly prevalent, as documented by a May 2015 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics Act report.  The problem is compounded by inconsistent definitions of hate crime and inadequate hate crime data collection efforts, according to a 2013 ADL/Human Rights First report on hate crimes in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) region.

Randy Berry, the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons,announced a number of new Administration initiatives at the conference, which fell during LGBT Pride Month.  He highlighted existing partnerships and pledged to expand international law enforcement training and technical assistance, as well as efforts to empower civil society and LGBT education and advocacy organizations. The Administration will continue to draw on existing expertise across the US Government to enable organizations and agencies abroad to request assistance to launch new local and national initiatives.

The White House program included panels focused on the impact of community-based organizations, the role of law enforcement and the judiciary, and government actions and best practices – which was moderated by ADL Washington Counsel Michael Lieberman.  The meeting built on a December 2011 Presidential Memorandum on “International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons.” Federal agencies – especially USAID, the Justice Department, and the State Department – have done a lot of work on the issue.  The State Department released a report in May 2014 detailing its progress on carrying out the President’s Memorandum.

ADL works to address discrimination and violence against LGBT individuals in the United States and abroad, filing amicus briefs in Supreme Court cases, conducting workshops and training for educators and law enforcement officials, and encouraging the collection of hate crime statistics that help local and federal law enforcement track and address this issue. ADL representatives also helped craft the seminal OSCE publication, Hate Crime Laws: A Practical Guide, and maintain relationships with many human rights groups to track anti-Semitism, hate crimes, and violence and discrimination against LGBT persons at home and abroad.  ADL Washington Office Director Stacy Burdett, who also attended the conference, leads that work.

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May 31, 2013

New Government Documents Detail Decades Of Global Terrorist Activities By Iran And Hezbollah

In recent days, reports issued by government bodies in Argentina and the United States detail the intensive and far-reaching terrorist activity by Iran and its Lebanese-based terrorist proxy, Hezbollahiran-hezbollah-global-terrorism

On May 29, Alberto Nisman, the General Prosecutor of the case involving the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Argentina, issued a lengthy indictment accusing the Iranian regime of infiltrating several South American countries through building local intelligence gathering facilities tasked with fostering and executing terrorist attacks. The report claims that the planning for these attacks is carried out either directly by the Iranian government or its proxy, Hezbollah.

The Nisman report comes a few months after Argentina and Iran agreed to establish a joint “truth commission” to investigate the AMIA attack. In his report, Nisman argues that the AMIA bombings, which he had previously accused senior Iranian officials  of planning and financing (and for which there is an Interpol red alert warrant, including for two who are candidates in the upcoming Iranian president election), were not isolated incidents, and should be examined “as a segment in a larger sequence.” He highlights parallels between the AMIA bombing and other Iranian-backed terrorist plots, including the case of two Guyanese men with ties to the Iranian government convicted in 2010 of conspiring to bomb JFK Airport. Nisman argues that Iran could be operating terrorist cells in other South American countries, including Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay. 

In its annual terrorism report issued on May 30th, the State Department states that Iranian and Hezbollah terrorist operations have “reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s, with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa,” highlighted by the suspected Iranian and Hezbollah involvement in recent attacks and plots in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Thailand, Georgia, Kenya and India.   In addition to Iran’s global terror activities, the report also notes Iran’s regional involvement in training, funding and providing weapons to the Assad regime, Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, Hezbollah’s operations in Lebanon and Shia militant groups in Iraq.  

There is also growing evidence that Iran and Hezbollah are operating terrorist cells in other regions of the world.  On May 30, the Nigerian military announced the arrest of three admitted Hezbollah operatives, all Lebanese nationals, who were in possession of extensive weaponry, including landmines, anti-tank weapons, dynamite, grenades and machines guns. The military spokesman stated that the operatives were planning on attacking Israeli and Western targets.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the European Union is moving closer to designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.  ADL has urged the EU to avoid labeling only Hezbollah’s “military wing” as terrorist, arguing that a partial designation is unlikely to have a significant impact on Hezbollah’s fundraising activities in Europe, and will create additional challenges for law enforcement efforts against terrorist financing.

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May 22, 2013

State Department’s Religious Freedom Report Recognizes Severity Of Global Anti-Semitism

jewish-cemetery-desecration

Desecration of Jewish cemetery

On May 20, 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2012, describing the U.S. assessment of the status of religious freedom in every country. The report covers government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world.

This annual report demonstrates the American commitment to the fundamental democratic right to practice one’s religion without interference from government and signifies and underscores the role governments must play in protecting that right.  It shines a light on a number of important issues specifically related to the persecution of religious minorities, including government sponsored discrimination, religious bigotry and hatred propagated by the media, and violence directed at specific religious denominations.

While addressing all forms of religious discrimination, the U.S. government’s role in monitoring and combatting anti-Jewish expressions around the world is an important feature of the report. It highlights incidents of anti-Semitism on the governmental level, in politics and within the media, and documents acts of vandalism and violence directed at Jews. These include:

Iran – The government’s continued Holocaust denial and propagation of anti-Semitic stereotypes, including pronouncements by President Ahmadinejad regarding “Zionists…ruling the major world affairs” for some 400 years.

Egypt – Senior Muslim Brotherhood officials, including Supreme Guide Mohamed Badei, frequently issue anti-Semitic statements, while the media airs anti-Semitic programming, including the TV series “Horseman without a Horse” based on the notorious anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The widespread hatred and violence directed at Egypt’s Coptic Christian community is also mentioned.

Venezuela – Anti-Semitism is quite prevalent in the government controlled media, particularly in opinion pieces and editorial cartoons. The recent presidential candidacy of Henrique Capriles, a Catholic of Jewish descent, was a main focus of the media’s anti-Semitism. 

Chile – There has been an increase in the number anti-Semitic public statements, particularly across social media platforms. Incidents of anti-Jewish vandalism are on the rise, and a number of physical attacks against Jews were documented, including an assault on a 14 year-old by a group of Neo-Nazis.

The State Department’s report also makes a number of references to ADL’s work in highlighting and combating global anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe. These include:

Austria – ADL’s training projects with the Ministry of Education on Holocaust education.

Greece – ADL’s statements calling on government authorities to do more to counter the anti-Semitic rhetoric and violent actions of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn political party.

Hungary – ADL’s statements calling on the government to enforce a new law that would hold members of parliament legally accountable for espousing hateful remarks. This law was in reaction to an anti-Semitic statement by a member of country’s neo-Nazi Jobbik party, who called on parliament to “assess how many MPs and government members are of Jewish origin and who present a national security risk to Hungary.” The report also cited ADL’s survey on anti-Semitic attitudes in Hungary which showed a significant rise in the percent of the population harboring anti-Semitic attitudes.

Turkey – ADL’s statement criticizing a cosmetics company for featuring Adolph Hitler in a shampoo commercial that ran on state television.

The State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 can be found here.

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