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Press Release

Immigration, Civility In Politics, Challenges Facing Israel Top Agenda Of Annual ADL Leadership Conference In Washington, D.C.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Keynotes

New York, NY, May 6, 2010 … Saying that he has "serious concerns" about the immigration law recently passed in Arizona, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said he believes the Justice Department and agencies across the country should work together with Congress in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

In remarks to the Anti-Defamation League's 2010 Shana Amy Glass National Leadership Conference, held May 2-4 in Washington, D.C., Mr. Holder blamed a "failure to act on the federal level" for states like Arizona taking matters into their own hands.

"I have serious concerns about the law and its effect on the people ofArizona-- citizens and noncitizens alike," Mr. Holder told an audience of 350 ADL leaders from across the country.

"I know that, over the past few days, many of you have been encouraging your elected officials to reform our flawed immigration system – and I commend you for this work. Quite simply, our immigration system must be fixed."

ADL's National Leadership Conference was chaired by Pamela Schwartz, ADL Leadership Chair.

Call for Immigration Reform

Coming just weeks after the nation's most sweeping anti-immigration law was enacted in Arizona, the need for comprehensive immigration reform took center stage at the ADL conference, where participants wore buttons declaring, "We Are A Nation of Immigrants." The ADL delegates discussed the issue with members of Congress in lobbying visits on Capitol Hill and urged them to work toward comprehensive immigration reform.

The League leaders also heard from Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, who briefed them on the potentially damaging consequences of the Arizona immigration law, which she called a "travesty of a bill" that could lead to racial and ethnic profiling.

"This new bill, passed and signed by the governor just a couple of weeks ago, is perhaps the harshest, most anti-immigrant piece of legislation we have yet to see," Ms. Murguia said. "It puts fully one-third -- 30 percent -- of Arizona's population at risk of being harassed, detained or abused by law enforcement. This bill codifies racial profiling."

U.S. Middle East Policy: What Is and Isn't Working?

OnIsrael, a number of Administration officials and policy experts took to the ADL podium to analyze and assess the status of U.S.-Israel relations and the current U.S. effort to launch a new round of shuttle negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Speaking for the Obama Administration, Daniel B. Shapiro, Senior Director for Near East and North Africa at the National Security Council, told ADL leaders that as the Administration plays a role in facilitating the proximity talks,Israel's security will remain "a key pillar of our Middle East policy."

"This commitment to Israel's security is not a slogan for us," Mr. Shapiro said. "We live it every day in the policies we carry out. Since taking office, President Obama has taken what was already a strong U.S.-Israel defense relationship, and broadened and deepened it across the board."

Mr. Shapiro said he believes that through negotiations, the Israelis and Palestinians "... can agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and Israel's goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel's security requirements."

Ambassador Dennis B. Ross, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region, discussed the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons as a central component of the administration's policy of ensuring regional stability in the Middle East. (View video from C-SPAN)

"A nuclear-armed Iran would almost certainly precipitate a dangerous arms race in the Middle East, where states are already hyper-sensitive in their competition for regional influence and security," Ambassador Ross said. "The Middle East is a dangerous and challenging enough place today; the dangers of a nuclear Middle East where there are multiple triggers for conflict are not hard to imagine."

Ambassador Michael B. Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., said that the government of Israelis committed to pursuing peace with the Palestinians, but not at any cost. "The government of Israel has taken unprecedented steps to promote peace talks -- steps that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised as 'unprecedented'," Ambassador Oren said. "Our ardent hope is that the Palestinian leadership will soon return to the negotiating table and together we can advance toward achieving a durable and historic peace." (View video from C-SPAN)

The ADL leaders also heard from a panel of experts on U.S.-Israel relations that included Ambassador Edward S. Walker Jr., former Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs; Danielle Pletka, Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute; and David Makovsky, Director, Project on the Middle East Peace Process, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Stepping Back from the Brink: Restoring Civility to Political Debate

The need to restore a measure of civility to political debate in America was the focus of a panel discussion featuring David Frum, former speechwriter to President George W. Bush; Wade Henderson, President & CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Frank Sharry, Founder and Executive Director, America's Voice; and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. (View video from C-SPAN)

Mr. Foxman said the Internet plays a role in fueling extremist rhetoric and pushing it from the fringes into the mainstream. "We always knew that there were bigoted people and bigoted expressions and bigoted institutions. But it never really made it into the mainstream," Mr. Foxman said. "Now, with the communication revolution, much of that bigotry is finding a new highway of legitimacy and much of those bigoted views are coming into the mainstream."

Mr. Foxman announced that during the 2010 election year, the League will be encouraging elected leaders and other public figures to sign a "Civility Pledge," that they will reject appeals to bigotry, racism and prejudice and allow debate on issues of the moment to be "thoughtful and reasoned."

Workshop Sessions Bring Into Focus Key Issues of the Day

ADL organized a series of workshops featuring key experts on issues of the day, including hate on the Internet, the war on terrorism, religious liberty and discrimination, Iranian nuclear armament and combating global anti-Semitism:

  • Iranian Nuclear Armament: Have We Reached the 11th Hour?, featuring Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; and Patrick Clawson, Director, Iran Security Initiative, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
  • Wired World: Federal Action Against 21st Century Hate, featuring Robert Moossy, Acting Chief, Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice; Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug Free Schools, U.S. Department of Education; David Waren, ADL Director of Education and Christopher Wolf, Chair, ADL Internet Task Force.
  • Combating the Global Anti-Semitism Pandemic, featuring Hannah Rosenthal, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, U.S. Department of State; Elisa Massimino, President and Chief Executive Officer, Human Rights First; and Michael Salberg, ADL Director of International Affairs.
  • Challenges for U.S. Policy in the War on Terror, featuring Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State; and Matthew Levitt, Director, Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
  • Religious Liberty and Discrimination: Balancing Equality and Accommodation, featuring Melissa Rogers, Director, Center for Religion and Public Affairs, Wake Forest University Divinity School; Stuart Ishimaru, Commissioner, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President, Interfaith Alliance; and Deborah Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director.

Partners on the Frontline: ADL and Law Enforcement

Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., discussed how she has worked with ADL's Washington, D.C.Regional Office in working to combat terrorism and hate crimes, including the shooting of a security officer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum by a longtime white supremacist. (View video from C-SPAN)

Chief Lanier said raising awareness about the threat of terrorism is an ongoing challenge and that her department has had to come up with creative ways to do so among their own ranks and the public.

"Crime fighting and crime prevention is not different than terrorism prevention," Chief Lanier said. "Detection, deterrence -- they are all inextricably linked, they're connected. The first thing we need to do is go out and educate our community leaders, our business leaders … on what to look for and how to be very security conscious and how to detect certain things and who to call when something is somewhat out of place."

Remembering the Righteous

The League paid tribute to an individual, and an entire nation, whose actions led to the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust.

Jaap Penraat, a Dutch resistance fighter who saved more than 400 Jews during the Holocaust by forging fake documents and guiding them to safety, was posthumously honored with the ADL Courage to Care Award for his heroism in risking his life to save others. The award was accepted by his daughter, Noelle Penraat.

The League welcomed Nickolay Mladenov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Bulgaria, a nation which shielded its entire Jewish population of approximately 50,000 from the Nazis during the Holocaust. Mladenov spoke of his nation's enduring bonds with the Jewish people and the state of Israel.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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