This week, the U.S. House passed without opposition a resolution from the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism, which includes two congressional representatives from South Florida, to examine growing anti-Semitism in Europe.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, are two of the co-chairs of the taskforce which formed early in 2015. Other co-chairs include Republican U.S. Reps. Kay Granger of Texas, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Chris Smith of New Jersey, and Democratic U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel, Steve Israel and Nita Lowey of New York. Besides the co-chairs of the taskforce, other co-sponsors from Florida included Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast and Democrats U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The resolution call for the State Department for enhanced reporting on anti-Semitism in Europe. It also expressed that “combating anti-Semitism at home and abroad is in our national interest” and it “is critical to ensure the safety of European Jewish communities”
“It’s shocking that in the 21st century, anti-Semitism is gaining strength within our borders and across Europe. Effectively confronting this problem requires a better understanding of its scope and depth,” the co-chairs of the taskforce said in a statement on Wednesday. “This bill would require the U.S. government—and encourage our global partners—to continue to take a hard look at anti-Semitism in Europe, provide a thorough assessment of trends, and outline what the United States and our partners are doing to meet this challenge. We’re glad to see this bill pass the House unanimously, and hope our colleagues in the Senate work quickly to get this to the president’s desk.”
The resolution, which was introduced by Lowey, was introduced at the end of last year in the House. The bill now heads to the Senate where U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., brought out a similar resolution in January.
“The recent harassment and violence occurring throughout Europe against Jews in schools and synagogues, as well as a number of governments amplifying anti-Semitic messages, are profoundly concerning,” said Rubio when he introduced the Senate version at the start of the year. “We must work with European governments to combat this evil global phenomenon. This bipartisan legislation will ensure the State Department has the information it needs to assess and understand the challenges so that we can combat European anti-Semitism in all its forms.”
With anti-Semitism on the rise across the globe, the taskforce formed in 2015 to serve as a forum for educating members on this distinct form of intolerance and to engage with the executive branch, foreign leaders, and civil society organizations for the sharing of best practices and cooperating on solutions to rebuff this disturbing trend. It also promotes Holocaust remembrance in concert with exploring innovative ways to teach tolerance and confront hate.
Representatives from Florida have been in the vanguard on battling anti-Semitism in recent months. For example, at the end of 2014, Deutch teamed up with U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and then U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., to lead efforts urging the United Nations to do more to combat anti-Semitism, along with U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, to send the U.N. a letter on the matter. Signers ranged the political spectrum, from conservatives such as then-U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to liberals like U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. Members of the Florida delegation who signed the letter were Republicans U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Ros-Lehtinen, and Democrats U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Frankel, then U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, then U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson.