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Posts tagged ‘House Foreign Affairs Committee’

Ros-Lehtinen: Venezuelan Regime Continuing ‘Assault on Democracy’.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says she is concerned there is going to be more bloodshed in Venezuela after three people died in fresh protests.

“[President Nicolas] Maduro is taking advantage of this to continue his assault on democracy. In fact, today, the latest is this: he’s called the peaceful protesters a name that you know is going to justify him taking further criminal action, an armed terrorist insurgency. Now these are peaceful student activists. They’re not armed. I fear the worst is going to be happening in the coming days,” the Florida Republican told Newsmax TV’s John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth on “America’s Forum” Friday.

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Ros-Lehtinen, who represents Florida’s 27th congressional district, became the first Cuban American and Latina in Congress when she was elected in 1989. She was also the first Republican woman elected to the House from Florida, and is currently the most senior Republican woman in the House.

She is highly critical of President Barack Obama’s policy on Venezuela, saying, “[Maduro] wants to take over Venezuela in the same way that the Castro brothers have, and that’s why this administration looking the other way is just not an answer. We have no foreign policy to speak of, no real policy direction, especially in Latin America.

“I’ve written a letter to the president and it was signed in a bipartisan manner, calling on the president to take action similar to the action that he’s taken against Russian human rights violators in the Ukraine, but knowing that the president will probably not take action on Venezuela. I have filed a bill that does the same thing. It would deny visas so that they can’t come to the United States, we’d be blocking property, we would freeze the assets, and prohibit all sorts of financial transactions to members of the Maduro regime who are responsible for the commission of serious human rights abuses against the citizens of Venezuela.”

Ros-Lehtinen continued, “The assembly of citizens in Venezuela is getting greatly curtailed. They’re limiting the access to print and broadcast media and what we’ve seen is that one of the things that we should do is reduce imports of Venezuelan oil. This would prevent Maduro regime from using the profits from the sale of petroleum to further oppress and further violate the human rights of the people of Venezuela. ”

She also had harsh words for the Organization of American States, calling it dysfunctional. “Even more so than the United Nations and we fund them — we fund 40 percent of this terrible body. They get 40 percent of their budget from you, the American taxpayer, and our bill says that our permanent representative to the OAS has got to use the voice, the vote, the influence, to defend what has long been the factor that has entered into U.S. and Latin American relations, which is the inter-American democratic charter,” she said.

“We’re doing all we can to help the folks who have been detained, the peaceful protestors, and just like the Cuban regime Maduro likes to blame the U.S. for his own failure. But the reality is that Maduro’s the one who has been responsible for the trampling of human rights. Do you know the economic situation, the food shortages, high inflation? This is a country that had all the natural resources and all the money and yet people don’t even have toilet paper. ”

Ros-Lehtinen said she is also concerned about organized crime from Latin America spilling over into the U.S. “What we have seen is that when the U.S. is looking the other way, when we’re looking at what’s happing in Ukraine, we’re looking at Syria, we’re looking at Iran—as well we should because those are problem areas for us— but what happens is that the drug traffickers and the cartels and the thugs, including terrorists, will make their way into the United States,” she warned.

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By Lisa Barron

House Considers Rising Anti-Semitism in Europe, Middle East.

Hungarian Jews
A Jewish man holds the Torah during morning prayer at a synagogue in Budapest Dec. 3. It is only relatively recently that Hungary’s Jews have celebrated their identity as openly as they did when Europe’s largest synagogue was built in Budapest in the 1850s. (Reuters/Bernadett Szabo)

An advertisement in Athens intertwines a swastika with a Jewish star. Hungarian politicians declare Jews a national security risk. A gunman executes three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in France.

Such recent instances of anti-Semitism reflect a growing wave of hatred toward Jews across Europe, one documented by civil rights groups and concerning to those who fear that, nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, it has again become socially acceptable to vilify Jews.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., convened a hearing on Wednesday (Feb. 27) on this rise in anti-Semitism, calling it a threat not only to Jews, but to other religious minorities and the ideal of tolerance in general.

“Unparalleled since the dark ages of the Second World War, Jewish communities on a global scale are facing verbal harassment, and sometimes violent attacks against synagogues, Jewish cultural sites, cemeteries and individuals,” said Smith, chairman of a House panel on global human rights, part of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

About one-third of Europeans hold anti-Semitic beliefs, according to a 2012 survey of 10 countries by the Anti-Defamation League, with many showing higher levels of disdain for Jews than in the ADL’s 2009 survey. The ADL asked questions such as “Do you believe Jews hold too much power over the world’s international financial markets?” In France, for example, nearly one-third of those surveyed (29 percent) agreed.

To a nearly packed hearing room, a first panel of witnesses—none of whom represent Jewish organizations—urged U.S. political leaders to call out anti-Semitism when they see it, and to support those who speak up for Jews, often at great risk.

On a recent visit to Egypt, Katrina Lantos Swett, chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said she confronted government leaders about the comments of President Mohamed Morsi, who had in 2010 urged Egyptians to “nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred for Jews and Zionists.”

“When confronted on these comments, Egyptian officials with whom we met attempted to divert the discussion to attacks on the state of Israel,” said Lantos Swett, whose father, the late Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., was the first Holocaust survivor elected to Congress and chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Several other witnesses also noted that anti-Semitism often masquerades as political criticism of Israel.

“Jews as a people are often vilified in the context of attacks on Israel,” said Elisa Massimino, president and CEO of the nonprofit Human Rights First, an international civil rights group based in Washington and New York. “While criticism of Israeli government policies—or those of any other government—is legitimate discourse, it crosses the line when it disparages or demonizes Jews as a people.”

Several speakers said the demonization of Jews is both homegrown and imported. Hostility toward Jews comes from both far-left and far-right political parties, as well as radicalized immigrants from the Middle East who grow up on Arab and Muslim media infused with negative Jewish stereotypes.

But governments have been generally slow to react to the growing threat to Jewish communities in Europe, said Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international Jewish affairs.

“Some governments willfully do not want to know,” said Baker, part of a second panel of Jewish leaders from the U.S. and Europe. “And they have limited their monitoring tools so they will not be confronted with the facts.”

Europe was home to 9.5 million Jews before the Holocaust, which represented more than 60 percent of the world’s Jewish population (and 1.7 percent of Europe’s population), according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Today, the vast majority of the world’s 13.4 million Jews live in North America or Israel, and 1.5 million live in Europe (0.2 percent of Europe’s population).

The situation seems most dire in France, which is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community: about 485,000 people. The 2012 ADL study showed that nearly a quarter of French people surveyed (24 percent) subscribed to anti-Semitic beliefs, up from 20 percent in the 2009 survey.

Rabbi David Meyer, born and raised in Paris and now a professor at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, noted that after a Muslim radical shot three children and a rabbi to death at a Jewish school in Toulouse last March, France saw sympathy toward the victims but also an uptick in harassment of and violence against Jews.

“Even after 2,000 years of attested Jewish life in Europe, we are still perceived as a foreign tribe, landed on the European continent,” Meyer lamented. “A tolerated minority whose religious practices are below the standard of what Europe likes to project about itself.”


Lauren Markoe/RNS

Copyright 2013 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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