- SUNRISE, United States (AFP)
-- US President George W. Bush said he had signed into law a bill requiring
the State Department to monitor global anti-Semitism and rate countries
annually on their treatment of Jews.
- "This nation will keep watch; we will make sure
that the ancient impulse of anti-Semitism never finds a home in the modern
world," Bush said as he campaigned in the key battleground state of
Florida. The state's Jewish population is the third largest in the world
after Israel and New York.
- The US State Department had opposed the legislation,
saying it was unnecessary as the department already compiles such information
in its annual reports on human rights and religious freedom.
- "Defending freedom also means disrupting the evil
of anti-Semitism," Bush told thousands of cheering supporters packed
into a sports arena usually used by the Florida Panthers professional ice
- "Today, I signed the Global Anti-Semitism Review
Act of 2004. This law permits the government to keep a record of anti-Semitic
acts throughout the world, and also a record of responses to those acts,"
- Florida is the richest haul among the battleground states
expected to decide the November 2 presidential election, with 27 electoral
college votes out of the 270 needed to win.
- Jewish voters are thought to favor Democrats historically,
but the Bush campaign hopes that his strong support for Israel and aggressive
outreach efforts could win a majority of Florida's sizeable Jewish community.
- The State Department had drawn fire for its position
from Jewish groups -- which wield significant political power especially
during a presidential election year -- and in September, more than 100
prominent Americans signed a letter to US Secretary of State Colin Powell
saying that stance was "wrong."
- "The fight against anti-Semitism deserves specific,
focused attention," said the letter which was signed by former Republican
vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp and ex-UN ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick
- The bill, known as the Global Anti-Semitism Awareness
Act, was introduced by California Democratic Representative Tom Lantos,
the only Holocaust survivor in the US Congress, in response to recent acts
of anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East.
- Jewish groups have hailed passage of the bill which they
said provided a new avenue to fight anti-Semitism.
- Under the legislation, the State Department will have
to produce an annual report on anti-Semitism around the world and form
a specific office headed by a special envoy to document anti-Semitic abuses
and design strategies to combat them.
- It requires the department to document acts of physical
violence against Jews, their property, cemeteries and places of worship
abroad, as well as local governments' responses to them and take note of
instances of anti-Jewish propaganda and governments' readiness to promote
unbiased school curricula.
- By tradition, Bush, who signed the legislation on his
official Air Force One jet on his way to Florida, will treat the law's
requirements more like strong advice and guiding principles because of
the separation of powers.
- Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse. All rights
reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority
of Agence France Presse.