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News :: Human Rights
OSCE: Anti-Israel sentiment is cover for anti-Semitism
28 Apr 2004
BERLIN - The claim that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is serving as a cover for worldwide anti-Semitic sentiment and expression will receive official recognition at Thursday's final session of a conference held by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Berlin. The special conference has been dedicated to the struggle against anti-Semitism.
BERLIN - The claim that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is serving as a cover for worldwide anti-Semitic sentiment and expression will receive official recognition at Thursday's final session of a conference held by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Berlin. The special conference has been dedicated to the struggle against anti-Semitism.

Europe has experienced a rise in attacks on Jews that has coincided with an escalation in Middle East violence since the start of the intifada in 2000. Jewish groups say Europe has been slow in fighting against the rise in anti-Semitism, but some say that dislike for Israel's policies is behind the attacks.

Clause 3 of the conference's summary statement says that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not be allowed to serve as a cover for the expression of anti-Semitic positions and opinions. Inclusion of the clause in the conference's summary statement is viewed by Israeli and Jewish organizations as a significant achievement in an important international forum that comprises 55 member states.

A member of the U.S. delegation to the conference said Wednesday that agreement on the text of the clause was achieved after the Russian delegation retracted its opposition to the interpretation of the link between anti-Israeli sentiment and anti-Semitism. This link was the focus of the addresses delivered by a number of the conference's main speakers Wednesday, including U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Powell and Israel's president, Moshe Katsav, were the highest profile guests at the two-day meeting that included representatives from North America, Europe and Central Asia.

Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, but using Nazi symbolism and racist language to do so certainly is, Powell told the conference. "It is not anti-Semitic to criticize the policies of the State of Israel, but the line is crossed when Israel or its leaders are demonized or villainized, for example, by the use of Nazi symbols and racist caricatures," Powell said.

"Today we confront the ugly reality that anti-Semitism is not just a fact of history, but a current event," Powell added. "May future generations of children read that in the early decades of the 21st century, mankind finally consigned anti-Semitism to history, never to darken the world again."

The head of Israel's delegation to the conference, Minister Natan Sharansky, expressed satisfaction with Powell's remarks, noting that he has been claiming for a long time that the demonization of Israel is an expression of anti-Semitism.

German President Johannes Rau, who opened the conference Wednesday, said racists had seized on the Middle East conflict and the policies of the Israeli government. "Everyone knows that massive anti-Semitism is behind some of the criticism of the Israeli government's politics over the last decades," he said.

But Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said playing the race card was wrong whether either as an attack or in defense. "The exploitation of race for political purposes by any government or any politician, be it as an offensive weapon or as a shield to fend off criticism, is quite simply unacceptable," Cowen said.

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