President Burkhalter calls on politicians and civil society to take a clear stand against anti-Semitism

Bern, Press release, 13.11.2014

At the Conference on Anti-Semitism in Berlin, President of the Swiss Confederation Didier Burkhalter praised the action that the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has taken over the past ten years to combat anti-Semitism. Burkhalter, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, called for a strong ongoing commitment to fighting hostility against the world's Jews. He believes that young people, in particular, hold great potential in efforts to counter the dangers of anti-Semitism.

The OSCEs tenth Conference on Anti-Semitism takes place on 13 November 2014. © Keystone
President of the Swiss Confederation Didier Burkhalter giving a speech at the opening of the OSCEs Conference on Anti-Semitism in Berlin. Keystone

At his speech at the Conference on Anti-Semitism in Berlin, President of the Swiss Confederation Didier Burkhalter, Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE, called upon politicians and civil society to take a clear stand and condemn anti-Semitic attitudes, statements and physical violence. "Anti-Semitism continues to threaten security within OSCE states, and undermines human rights and democracy," he said as the conference opened. It has been organised by the Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE, by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The event commemorates the Berlin Declaration of 29 April 2004, in which the participating States of the OSCE agreed to institute a range of measures to combat anti-Semitism more effectively. At today's conference in Berlin, President Burkhalter praised the action that has been taken over the past ten years, such as the appointment of a Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism, improvements in the way in which anti-Semitic incidents are recorded, and training programmes aimed at heightening awareness of the danger that comes with anti-Semitism.

In his speech, President Burkhalter demanded that anti-Semitic incidents and accusations be clearly termed as such, and that it be made clear that they will not be tolerated. Furthermore, criticism of political developments in Israel, for example, should not be used as a vehicle for anti-Semitic comment or action. He continued that politicians and civil society must do everything to ensure that the Holocaust remains part of the world's collective memory. "Each and every citizen can and must play their part in ensuring that the Jewish community – like other communities – is safe and not discriminated against," said Burkhalter. Young people, in particular, must be able to develop an awareness of the danger that goes with anti-Semitism. He recalled that, when visiting Auschwitz in January 2014, he was accompanied by a young Swiss woman who had written down the story of her grandfather, a survivor of the concentration camp. President Burkhalter called on the world to "awaken the great potential of our young people to fight anti-Semitism".

In Switzerland, the Federal Council has long condemned any form of hate propaganda and racism, including anti-Semitism. Since 2004, the international Holocaust Remembrance Day has served as a platform for educational events against anti-Semitism and intolerance, and is observed by the cantons and communes. In his speech at today's Conference on Anti-Semitism, President Burkhalter mentioned the Likrat project as one of the specific measures that Switzerland has instituted to fight hostility against Jews. This outreach programme, set up by the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, visits schools and other institutions to achieve a better understanding of the broadest aspects of Judaism, and thus break down the stereotypes that might otherwise feed anti-Semitic resentment.

Further information:

OSCE Chairmanship 2014
OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism in Berlin
Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE on Twitter
ODIHR : Tolerance and non-discrimination (en)
Opening address by the President of the Swiss Confederation Didier Burkhalter

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