Schroeder says anti-Semitismremains serious danger
27 April 2004
BERLIN – Hatred of Jews remains a serious danger to open and pluralistic societies, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on the eve of a major conference on anti-Semitism opening Wednesday in Berlin.
“Historic responsibility for the Holocaust and common engagement against every form of anti-Semitism is a top priority and long-term task for the German government,” said Schroeder in a statement.
The Chancellor said the international community needed to take a more active role in efforts to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.
Schroeder warned it was a big mistake to view anti-Semitism as a fringe issue.
“It is a serious danger for the democratic rule of law and for the human dignity of every individual,” he said.
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 due to be attended by numerous foreign ministers including US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Participants are seeking to adopt unanimously a declaration and an action plan to combat xenophobia and racism directed at Jews.
But unanimity may be hard to achieve on such a contentious subject, sources close to the meeting warn.
The most divisive issue is a proposal by leading NGOs to include a definition of anti-Semitism in a final declaration which states that criticism of Israel is fuelling anti-Jewish sentiment and has become a new form of anti-Semitism.
While a majority of member-states have agreed more or less reluctantly to this formula, some countries – among them France – “still haven’t come fully around” to this point of view, one high- ranking conference participant said.
Israel Singer, head of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), said criticism of the Israeli government cannot be considered a form of anti-Semitism.
“Anybody in a democracy can raise criticism – this is not anti- Semitism,” said Singer in an interview with ZDF TV, adding that criticizing policies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could not be seen as anti-Semitism.
Singer nevertheless warned that racism and hate were “coming back into fashion” in Europe in the 21st century.
Another topic at the meeting creating discord is how to set up a clearing house for the country-by-country, anti-Semitism data produced by monitoring groups and to ensure fast responses by international organisations and governments.