27 April 2004
BERLIN – Criticism of the Israeli government cannot be considered a form of anti-Semitism, the leader of the World Jewish Congress said Tuesday.
“Anybody in a democracy can raise criticism – this is not anti-Semitism,” said World Jewish Congress (WJC) Secretary General Israel Singer in an interview with ZDF TV prior to a major anti- Semitism conference opening Wednesday in the German capital.
Singer noted that criticizing policies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could not be seen as anti-Semitism.
In contrast, denying that Jews have a right to live in their own state is deeply anti-Semitic, he said.
The WJC is an international federation of Jewish communities and organisations serving as an umbrella group to Jews of all political beliefs and religious denominations.
Wolfgang Benz, the head of Berlin’s Technical University Centre for Research into Anti-Semitism, called on European states to take a far tougher line on hate directed at Jews.
“We cannot allow complaints about Jews to be raised in parliaments as has happened in some eastern European states,” said Benz in a Bayersicher Rundfunk radio interview.
Benz said about 20 percent of all Germans had latent anti-Semitic sentiments.
Singer warned that racism and hate were “coming back into fashion” in Europe in the 21st century.
About 400 officials from 55 countries plus non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will take part in the two-day anti-Semitism conference in Berlin.
Hosted by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Germany, the meeting is being attended by numerous foreign ministers including U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Subject: German news