MS ORTAGUS: Okay. So we’re going to do this on the record today. Somebody actually wrote me opening remarks for once. All right.
Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us in this briefing at the State Department – on the State Department’s efforts on Holocaust issues.
QUESTION: I don’t know, Morgan, you sound a little too canned. (Laughter.)
MS ORTAGUS: Now that’s on the public record, Matthew.
QUESTION: Maybe you can take it out. (Laughter.)
MS ORTAGUS: Okay, on the State Department’s efforts on Holocaust issues and anti-Semitism, as we approach Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27th, 1945. This year will be the 75th anniversary of that important date. Today, we have Cherrie Daniels, the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, and Elan Carr, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, with us to underline the State Department and the U.S. Government commitment to remembering the Holocaust and the crimes committed against the Jewish people and all Holocaust victims.
Okay. Who’s going to go first? Cherrie?
MR CARR: I think you.
MS DANIELS: Yes.
MS ORTAGUS: Go for it.
MS DANIELS: Great. In just a few days we will be marking the 75th anniversary of the arrival of Allied Soviet troops who liberated the remaining survivors of the German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, where some 1.5 million people – mostly Jews – were murdered, but also non-Jewish Polish citizens and others.
There were concentration camps, death camps across Europe established by the Nazis, including some created just for women. It’s an unconscionable kind of suffering, unimaginable suffering. But our job in promoting Holocaust remembrance is to make it – to make it imaginable, to actually delve into the evil. And not just what happened during the Holocaust, but why it happened. If we haven’t done that, I don’t think that we’ve set up International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the appropriate way. We do need to learn and teach what happened, but why. And if we do that, I think that we will be getting maybe some progress, something that we can learn from during the 75th anniversary, and the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust, which is approaching.
I wish I could say that humanity had learned its lessons from the Holocaust and that the lessons were permanent, and that we have moved on. But I think the recent resurgence of anti-Semitism around the world and here at home is a reality that we cannot deny or ignore.
So the position I currently hold as Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues was created in 1999, and it’s existed with bipartisan – overwhelmingly bipartisan support to this day. The issues we follow remain – are addressing all the remaining Holocaust issues that are still with us. The fall of the Iron Curtain and the reunification of Germany led to a new period where Central and East European countries could examine their own World War II histories sort of anew, in a fresh way, and acknowledge the horrors of the Holocaust. So some countries came to that issue later than others.
In 2009 – so after this period of transition in Central and Eastern Europe, and in the former Soviet Union – in 2009, 47 countries got together in – at the Prague Holocaust Era Assets Conference and endorsed the Terezin Declaration. And I point this out, I brought a copy with me – it laid out several important principles that these 47 countries who endorsed it have stood by, and it’s our goal to improve their record and their fulfilling their obligations under this voluntary, nonbinding declaration. The most significant principles of it were about property restitution, about remembrance and commemoration, and about Holocaust education. And those principles guide my work and my office’s work every day.
We’re committed to help the 80,000 or so survivors of the Holocaust who live here in the United States achieve a measure of justice in – when it comes to the material losses suffered during the Holocaust. We develop and implement U.S. policy to return Holocaust-era assets to their rightful owners, compensation for wrongs committed during the Holocaust.
And we also help communities around the world, especially in Europe, protect Jewish cultural and religious sites. As you know, because of the Holocaust, there are many cemeteries, synagogues, and other Jewish properties throughout Europe which don’t even have the smallest of Jewish communities remaining to care for them. So this is an issue we also address with the governments of those countries.
We promote Holocaust remembrance and education, and make sure that we advocate for countries to address Holocaust history in an accurate way. And why do I focus on that? Because there’s been a development last month on this issue that I was very proud to be part of, and that is that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance grew from 33 to 34 countries in December and also endorsed a new guideline, recommendations for teaching and learning about the Holocaust. And to get 34 countries to unite themselves about how to address, how to teach the Holocaust, from Western Europe to Eastern Europe, but including Australia and Israel and the other members of this body, they will now translate into all the languages of all those 34 countries this and promote it to teachers throughout the world, including here at home in the United States. The U.S. Holocaust Museum – Jen Ciardelli was a key driver of the Education Working Group that produced this. Extremely proud to be rolling that out this year.
So I think that education is essential to prevention of genocide and mass atrocity crimes, so that’s why I point that out.
I also look forward, along with Phil Reeker, the acting assistant secretary, to joining the U.S. delegation to the Auschwitz commemoration events, the 75th anniversary commemoration events, on January 27th. And before that happens, I’m leaving this weekend for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s ministerial meeting in Brussels on Sunday, January 19th, where you should look for an important ministerial statement to update the Stockholm Declaration of 2000. So really just kind of wrapping together all the principles that these 34 countries are going to address.
In terms of what we’ve done – what we do domestically, we have, in addition to International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, we in the capital and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum celebrate – commemorate the Days of Remembrance, Yom HaShoah, in April. So you’ll see that we’ll do several events here in Washington around the January 27th timeframe, but also an entire week of Days of Remembrance with the U.S. Holocaust Museum in April.
So I think that one of the – some of the themes you’re going to be looking at as you look at the 75th anniversary events coming up in January are to remember those who were murdered, to honor their lives, also honor those who resisted the Nazis, those who survived the Holocaust, and those who are referred to as Righteous Among the Nations. So these types of themes can show that for people like those who resisted and those who tried to rescue their fellow citizens at great risk to themselves, kept their humanity during the darkest of times.
So I think that that’s one of the things that many countries like to focus on when they teach Holocaust history, is the Righteous Among the Nations, and I think that we can learn from the ones that we will hear from during this anniversary event.
Before I hand over to Elan, one more note on why the work we do is so crucial now. Why now 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz are we still dwelling on these issues? I think that despite the many obstacles and politically sensitive nature of the Holocaust legacy issues that I deal with in my office, the U.S. has persisted in leading efforts to find a measure of justice, and that’s a very key theme. Still working on Holocaust restitution. We are not giving up. There is work to be done. There’s work that the countries have committed to, and we will help them fulfill their commitments on that issue. And again, our efforts enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support as was shown by the JUST Act, which was signed into law in May of 2018.
I think our mission is made even more critical by the advanced age of Holocaust survivors, and that is that with the brave survivor generation increasingly aging, we now have to come to terms with what happens and how do we maintain the honor and the legacy, and that’s where Holocaust education is what we owe to those survivors.
I think I’ll leave it at that.
MR CARR: Well, thank you, Cherrie, and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. As Special Envoy Daniels said, we are days away from commemorating 75 years of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust. And this is recent history, and we commemorate this event under a cloud of rising anti-Semitism throughout the world. We see anti-Semitism rising in Europe, in the United States, and in practically every other region.
I arrived in Halle, Germany, to visit the site of a deadly attack on a synagogue in Halle on Yom Kippur, on October 27th. I chose that date to arrive in Halle because it is the one-year anniversary of the massacre in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue and the six-month anniversary of the massacre at Chabad of Poway in San Diego. And I chose that date to make the point that this is a global problem – it is not a U.S. problem or a German problem or a European – it is a global problem that demands a focused, coordinated global solution.
In addition to rising anti-Semitism around the world, we are also seeing a disturbing erosion of Holocaust understanding. A 2018 CNN poll on European attitudes toward Jews found that 30 percent of those surveyed said that they know just a little or had never heard of the Holocaust, and that’s one reason why the commemoration events that are coming up are so very important to ensure that we never forget.
Anti-Semitic content continues to spread with unprecedented speed through the internet. We’re seeing Jews vilified, demonized, and eventually physically attacked, both overseas and right here at home. The Anti-Defamation League recently released a survey of anti-Semitic attitudes that included 14 European countries. One of the survey’s key findings was that roughly one out of every four residents of the European countries polled fall into the most anti-Semitic category, meaning that they subscribe to a majority of the anti-Semitic stereotypes tested.
There are three primary sources for the rise in anti-Semitism: the far-right ethnic supremacists, the radical-left anti-Zionists, and the militant Islamists. It is a fundamental principle of our work that we do not rank these sources in importance nor do we minimize any of them. All three are dangerous and all must be combated. If one-third or two-thirds of a tumor is left untreated, the patient does not fare well. So all must be combated.
When Jewish individuals are demonized, delegitimized, or when Israel is held to a standard not applied to any other country in the world, that is anti-Semitic. Secretary of State Pompeo has clearly stated, and I quote: “This bigotry is taking on an insidious new form in the guise of ‘anti-Zionism.’ … Now, don’t get me wrong, criticizing Israel’s policies is an acceptable thing to do in a democracy. It’s what we do. But criticizing the very right to exist of Israel is not acceptable. Anti-Zionism denies the very legitimacy of the Israeli state and of the Jewish people. … Let me go on [the] record: Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism,” end quote.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, working definition on anti-Semitism adopted unanimously by 30-plus IHRA member countries at a meeting in Bucharest in 2016 has been a game changer. Many European countries have adopted it. The working definition includes the examples that comprise a key part of the working definition that identify both traditional and contemporary forms of anti-Semitism. The Department of State has long used that working definition, and in December the President of the United States issued an executive order formalizing the administration’s embrace of the IHRA definition – in that case, specifically in the context of fighting anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses. It is one of my top priorities to encourage countries that have not adopted the definition to adopt it, and for all countries to implement the definition, including by training on it in the law enforcement community and educating on it in schools.
Other priorities we are working on include the following:
One, urging governments to provide adequate security for their Jewish populations and Jewish community property. Security must be a top priority because when people do not feel safe, and when they don’t feel that their children are safe, there is no quality of life.
Two, ensuring that countries properly investigate, prosecute, and appropriately punish hate crimes.
Three, urging countries to remove anti-Semitic content from school textbooks. Indoctrinating children in hate, teaching children to hate other children, is nothing short of mass child abuse and it creates damage that is so difficult to undo.
Four, confronting and condemning hate speech, particularly on social media. Now, let me be clear, we’re not speaking of censorship or restrictions on speech that are inconsistent with the First Amendment. Even despicable hatred can be protected speech, we all know that, but we must counter hate speech online with alternate messaging, and we must urge leaders around the world swiftly and consistently to speak out against hate speech.
Five, promoting educational curricula that not only teaches accurately about Holocaust history, which as I discussed earlier and as Cherrie mentioned we don’t do enough of, but also teaching about the important contributions that the Jewish community has made to those respective countries. I call this educating in philo-Semitism, and it is a key component of combatting anti-Semitism.
Ladies and gentlemen, anti-Semitism is on the rise and the stakes are high, but I want to stress that there’s also good news. There are many leaders around the world who are genuinely appalled by rising anti-Semitism and are committed to this fight. Some of those are heads of government, some are ministers, some parliamentarians, and some appointed anti-Semitism coordinators. I am inspired by their dedication, and I am privileged to work with them.
Through our collective and coordinated efforts, I am convinced that we can move the needle on combatting anti-Semitism and make our world a better place. Since my appointment one year ago, I visited 10 countries and engaged both bilaterally and multilaterally with foreign organizations, and I met with Jewish communities and civil society organizations. The work of our partners is bearing fruit and I’m encouraged that, like I said, working together we’ll be able to bequeath to our children and grandchildren that better and more just world that they so deeply deserve.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
QUESTION: Can I – on the restitution front, are there any big cases – what are – sorry – big cases that are left outstanding? I mean, the last one I think that was resolved was the SNCF that Stu Eizenstat is working on.
MS DANIELS: In that timeframe was also in 2016 when Serbia adopted heirless property, heirless and unclaimed property restitution. That was the first heirless property legislation since the Terezin Declaration and the only. So I’m going to say this about the restitution issue. It’s a huge part of my office’s work. There are negotiations yet to be had or still to be had, countries that are still in dialogue with us at this moment, and a lot more on that topic is going to come out shortly when we finish the JUST Act report to Congress, so there’s going to be an entire —
QUESTION: Which is when?
MS DANIELS: — which is going to be hopefully in February. It was due already, so I’m —
QUESTION: Yeah. Deadlines, shmedlines. (Inaudible) all about that.
MS DANIELS: Yeah. But there will be a report that will cover the – 46 of the 47 countries – everyone but us – will have a checklist on what they’ve done with restitution and what they haven’t.
QUESTION: Okay, but are there any big negotiations that are ongoing right now or what – the ones that are outstanding with not necessarily governments but private companies like the railroads or like the —
MS DANIELS: There are. There are a number of – I don’t want to list them for you right now if that’s okay, but there are countries in Central and Eastern Europe, and then, of course, there’s other countries that are looking at what France did on railroads. But when it comes to Central and Eastern Europe, the focus is on catching up. Western Europe was able, for the most part, after World War II to turn to that issue, some almost immediately in the 1940s, whereas Central and Eastern Europe, those under the Iron Curtain, didn’t even start or couldn’t start because of the Communist-era nationalizations that overlaid the Communist – the Nazi confiscations.
So for those countries in Central and Eastern Europe that haven’t yet addressed private property, communal property, and heirless property, not to mention art and Judaica and other things like that, those are the countries we’re negotiating with. And there are quite a number of those. We’re going to have an entire, hopefully, briefing where you’ll get a lot more on that issue very shortly.
QUESTION: Okay. Is that like early February, late February?
MS DANIELS: I don’t have a target date in mind at the moment, but during February is my goal.
MS DANIELS: Yeah.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Said.
QUESTION: Thank you. My question is to Mr. Carr. What would constitute a legitimate criticism of Israel in your opinion, or in your definition?
MR CARR: Any criticism of Israeli policy is legitimate as long as Israel is not being subjected to a double standard. Now, one of the defined examples of anti-Semitism is subjecting Israel to a double standard. So even criticism of Israeli policy could be anti-Semitic if it’s a criticism that is – if it embraces a standard not applied to any other country in the world. However, other than that case, any criticism of a policy of the state of Israel is legitimate. However, criticizing Israel’s right to exist, targeting Israel as a Jewish collective, denying the Jewish people the right of self-determination in its ancient homeland, these are defined in the IHRA working definition as examples of contemporary anti-Semitism.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay —
QUESTION: But on – in terms of —
MS ORTAGUS: Said, I’m trying to let everyone —
QUESTION: Please, let me just follow up on this?
MS ORTAGUS: No, we’re going to let everyone do a question first.
QUESTION: I just wanted to clarify something that he’s —
MS ORTAGUS: No. We’ll let your colleagues have a question, and then we can come back to you once everyone’s had a chance. Thanks.
Anyone else? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you think that there’s any link between the recent rise in anti-Semitism in the U.S. and the pro-Israel policies taken by the government that have taken U.S. support a little further than it has in the past?
MR CARR: No. Anti-Semitism has been increasing in the United States for quite some time. It’s increasing everywhere in the world. It’s increasing in countries that are overtly pro-Israel, and it’s increasing in countries that are less pro-Israel, so no, I don’t think so at all. I think that this is a global phenomenon that stems from activities on the far right, on the far left, and in militant Islam. And like I said, we need to confront all the sources that are driving this rise in anti-Semitism.
MS ORTAGUS: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. When you talk about the need of a coordinated effort, can you be more specific? Is it just you coordinating with your counterparts in other countries, or do you have in mind some more global initiative against anti-Semitism, something more broad, more institutional?
MR CARR: Well, all of the above. I mean, we engage bilaterally and multilaterally with countries all around the world on initiatives, on programs. We just issued a notice of funding opportunity for a grant for combatting anti-Semitism in Europe. I recently was in Germany, where I met with leading justice and law enforcement officials from seven separate German states to coordinate our efforts to investigate, prosecute, and appropriately punish hate crimes. I met with parliamentarians in Paris about their initiative to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by the National Assembly. I addressed anti-Semitism to an audience in the British parliament. And so we’re working together with anti-Semitism coordinators, but also parliamentarians and other leaders of – at various levels among our friends and allies, to take a global stand against this global scourge.
MS ORTAGUS: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have any mandate domestically, like rising anti-Semitism inside U.S., like Pittsburgh shooting and things like that?
MR CARR: So my role was created by Congress in 2004, and in that statutory role it specifies foreign policy only. So my statutory role is overseas only. I will say that the White House has asked me to focus on a number of domestic issues, and so, for example, at the behest of the White House, I spoke at San Diego at the funeral of Lori Kaye; I visited Jersey City; I visited Lakewood, where there’s brewing anti-Semitism; I expect to visit Muncie in a week. And so – or within the next few weeks. And so that’s at the behest of the White House, but the statutory role of special envoy is overseas only.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MS ORTAGUS: Let’s do the follow-ups – and so everybody gets a chance, because we only have time for like one or two more.
QUESTION: You mentioned that this is a global problem. Are there any areas or countries where you’re particularly concerned right now?
MR CARR: I’m concerned about every place where anti-Semitism is rising, and it is rising really almost everywhere. I’m not going to say everywhere, but almost everywhere. I don’t know that it’s fair to single any one particular country out. I think almost every country has work to do in this area, and that includes us, by the way. And so I think that because this is a global issue, we really need to focus on it as a global phenomenon and confront it globally.
Some countries are doing outstanding work. I really can commend a number of steps that have been done on the part of some countries. Some countries need to do more, and we’re having those diplomatic discussions every day with our friends and allies to coordinate our efforts and to encourage them to do more and to – hopefully for us to do more.
MS ORTAGUS: Said, did you have another follow-up?
QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to clarify. You said that Israel is being held to a double standard. Can you give us some examples? I assume you – that you are referring to debate or activities that probably are taking place in international bodies like the UN and other places. Could you clarify and cite some examples?
MR CARR: Exactly. Well, exactly. I mean, the UN Human Rights Council’s obsessive focus on condemning Israel and according Israel a specific agenda item for discussion and condemnation is unacceptable, and that’s one of the reasons why the United States walked out. And we see under the leadership of President Trump and Secretary Pompeo a determination not to collude in this kind of singling out of the one Jewish state in the world and treating Israel like no other country should be treated.
Now, again, criticism of Israeli policy, sure, have at it. You can criticize American policy, Israel’s policy, and every country’s policy. But be fair, don’t apply double standards, and don’t question the very right of the Jewish state to exist.
QUESTION: But Israel, you must agree, occupied the Palestinians for over 52 years.
MS ORTAGUS: Wait, let’s let Michel go. Go ahead. Thank you. You don’t have to answer that. Go ahead, Michel.
QUESTION: What’s the —
QUESTION: Can I finish my question, Morgan, because that is the kind of —
MS ORTAGUS: No, you can’t. No, you can’t. You cannot finish, thank you. Go ahead, Michel.
QUESTION: What’s behind the rise of anti-Semitism locally and internationally?
MR CARR: Well, like I said, there are three sources of it: the far right ethnic supremacists, the radical left anti-Zionists – Israel-haters – and militant Islamists. Each of these three sources, each of these three ideological driving forces, are making use of social media and the internet to spread their venom with blinding speed around the world. And so what we see is young people, often – not only young people, but young people are sucked into this vortex of anti-Semitic venom that we see on the internet and they are radicalized. Sometimes radicalized to the right, sometimes radicalized to the far left, and they become radicalized and some of them become violent. And that’s why this is so important.
I have to say that the fight against anti-Semitism – and this is why this is such a priority for the United States – the fight against anti-Semitism – isn’t only about protecting Jews. If it were, by the way, that would be enough moral reason to do it, but truly, anti-Semitism is history’s greatest barometer of human suffering. President Trump, every time he speaks of anti-Semitism, calls it the vile poison of anti-Semitism, and it is. It’s a vile poison because every society that imbibes this poison rots to its core. And so in fighting this ancient, recurring, relentless hatred, we are truly fighting for the values on which the United States of America and, frankly, so many tolerant, decent countries around the world were built.
MS ORTAGUS: Humeyra, did you have one last one? We’re out of time, but if you have something quick.
QUESTION: I’m actually fine. He addressed it. It’s okay, thanks.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Thanks.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) justice and —
MS DANIELS: Justice for uncompensated survivors today.