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UN Seminar Decries Anti-Semitism


UN Seminar Decries Anti-Semitism, Urges Stepped-Up Global Response

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today issued a strong call for vigilance against anti-Semitism as he opened a seminar at United Nations Headquarters in New York as part of a series on "Unlearning Tolerance" being hosted by the world body.

"The rise of anti-Semitism anywhere is a threat to people everywhere," he said. "Thus, in fighting anti-Semitism we fight for the future of all humanity."

The Secretary-General acknowledged that the UN's own record on anti-Semitism has at times fallen short of the Organization's ideals. "The General Assembly resolution of 1975, equating Zionism with racism, was an especially unfortunate decision. I am glad that it has since been rescinded" - in 1991.

At the same time, he called for stepped-up efforts within the UN to combat the problem. "All parts of the Secretariat should be vigilant," he said.

He noted that the UN Commission on Human Rights has asked its Special Rapporteur on contemporary form of racism, Doudou Diène, to examine the situation of Muslim and Arab peoples in various parts of the world. "Are not Jews entitled to the same degree of concern and protection?" he asked.

On the wider political context, the Secretary-General drew a distinction with respect to the situation in the Middle East. "When we seek justice for the Palestinians - as we must - let us firmly disavow anyone who tries to use that cause to incite hatred against Jews, in Israel and elsewhere," he said.

He also lauded the example of the 55-member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which recently adopted a declaration condemning "without reserve all manifestations of anti-Semitism and all other acts of intolerance, incitement, harassment, or violence against persons or communities based on ethic origin, or religious beliefs, wherever they occur."

"We must make this vision a reality while we still have survivors of the holocaust among us," Mr. Annan said, introducing one such individual, Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel.

Delivering the keynote address, Mr. Wiesel referred directly to his personal experience to illustrate the deadly nature of the problem. "We saw our parents, our friends die because of anti-Semitism," he said.

Mr. Wiesel, a designated UN Messenger of Peace, called on the world body to fight anti-Semitism with vigour, talent, imagination and devotion. He also appealed to national leaders everywhere to fulfil the UN's mission and use its political and moral authority to outlaw the plague of anti-Semitism.

The next seminar, set for around January 2005, will deal with the problem of Islamophobia.

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