‘Fighting Antisemitism Means Fighting for Democracy and Human Rights’

‘Fighting Antisemitism Means Fighting for Democracy and Human Rights’

Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro was honored last night for his work countering antisemitism over the past decade at a symposium in Washington, D.C., organized by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) and B’nai B’rith International.

“Antisemitism is the oldest, most coordinated form of racism,” Almagro said in his remarks after being presented with the CAM Global Leadership Award by CAM Board of Governors Member Robert Singer. “Fighting antisemitism means fighting for democracy and human rights.”

Almagro highlighted the adoption by the OAS of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism and its designations of Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations as important steps it has taken to address Jew-hatred in the Western Hemisphere, and he also warned of the global threat posed by Iran.

“Antisemitism is present in the Americas, and we have suffered from its attacks,” Almagro said, listing past terrorist incidents targeting Jews in the region. “Autocratic regimes here have close ties with Iran and its proxies.”

CAM’s Global Leadership Award was granted to Almagro in recognition of his “commitment to combating antisemitism, extremism, and hatred across the Americas.”

Singer said, “We the Jewish people need leaders of Almagro’s caliber. He is in a special category of our friends, and deserves 100% credit for his clear and strong stance against antisemitism.”

More than 100 diplomats, organizational officials, and community leaders gathered at the OAS headquarters for Thursday’s symposium. At the opening of the program, U.S. Congresswoman Maria Salazar — who represents Florida’s 27th district and chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere Subcommittee — hailed Secretary-General Almagro’s leadership in the fight against antisemitism.

“We will confront the scourge of hate against the Jewish people that we unfortunately are currently experiencing now in our hemisphere,” Congresswoman Salazar said. “After the horrific attacks on Israel on October 7th, there has been an explosion of antisemitism in Latin America — specifically in three countries, Colombia, Honduras, and Chile, who have recalled their ambassadors from Israel after Israel began defending itself.”

The U.S. State Department was represented at the symposium by Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Aaron Keyak.

“This year marks the 30th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires which claimed the lives of 85 people, leaving hundreds injured,” Keyak noted. “Shockingly, the same hatred that fueled that tragedy three decades ago still leads to violence today, as evidenced by the surge in global antisemitism since October 7th.”

“Malicious actors including Iran and its proxies continue to weaponize antisemitism to advance their aims. This is something we must collectively, utterly reject,” he emphasized.

The Washington Institute’s Dr. Matthew Levitt and Catalan journalist and former politician Pilar Rahola both offered deeper expertise on the influence of Iran and Hezbollah across Latin America in recent decades.

Levitt noted, “It is critically important to pay attention to what Hezbollah is up to in Latin America, because this is inseparable from what Iran is up to there.”

“Antisemitism is the main source of destruction of democratic values,” Rahola underscored.

A musical interlude was offered by Uruguayan classical guitarist Magdalena Duhagon, before Betty Ehrenberg — Executive Director for World Jewish Congress-United States and North America — and Eduardo Kohn — Latin America Director for B’nai Brith International — gave presentations on the 500-year Jewish history of Latin America, as well as the contemporary state of affairs for Jewish communities there.

Kohn thanked Almagro for firmly condemning Hamas after October 7th and meeting with family members of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip. “This is the time to be clear — freedom or despotism,” Kohn declared. “Supporting Hamas is endorsing despotism.”

CAM Director of Hispanic Affairs Shay Salamon said, “Too many today ignore the real danger of the tentacles that Iran has extended across the Latin American region. Now more than ever, with the rise of antisemitism following October 7th, we need to seek the truth.”

B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin shared in the praise of Almagro, saying his “determination to speak out quickly and without hesitation every time he witnessed antisemitism is something we deeply value.”

“History teaches us that societies which allow antisemitism to flourish ultimately end up corroding their democracy and the health of their institutions,” Mariaschin added. “Therefore, the plague of antisemitism must be fought, not just by the Jewish people, but also by all those who want to live in a healthy, democratic, and inclusive society.”

Speaking on behalf of the symposium’s OAS host countries, Canada, Uruguay, Argentina, Permanent Representative of Canada to the OAS Stuart Savage said, “No one could have imagined the brutality of the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel, nor could we have foreseen the sharp rise of antisemitism that followed across the globe. Such extreme manifestations of hate and antisemitism are an assault on all of us, not just Jews.”

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