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5/3/04 - ANTI-SEMITISM CONFERENCE - 2004-05-03

At a conference in Berlin, the fifty-five nations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have condemned anti-Semitism. In particular, the “Berlin Declaration” of the O-S-C-E “declares unambiguously that international developments or political issues, including those in Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East, never justify anti-Semitism.”

In his remarks to the conference, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “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 vilified, for example, by the use of Nazi symbols and racist caricatures.”

The O-S-C-E conference on anti-Semitism was organized in response to an upsurge last year in attacks on Jews and Jewish property and institutions in Europe as well as growing anti-Semitism in the Middle East and other places. Secretary of State Powell said a clear message must be sent that “anti-Semitic hate crimes are exactly that: crimes, and that these crimes will be aggressively prosecuted.” He said that governments “must not permit anti-Semitic crimes to be shrugged off as inevitable side effects of inter-ethnic conflicts”:

“Political disagreements do not justify physical assaults against Jews in our streets, the destruction of Jewish schools, or the desecration of synagogues and cemeteries. There is no justification for anti-Semitism.”

The O-S-C-E countries and others, said Secretary of State Powell, “must work together with non-governmental organizations, religious leaders, and other respected figures within our societies to combat anti-Semitism by word and deed. . . . Not only do we believe that combating hatred is the right thing to do,” he said, “we think that promoting tolerance is essential to building a democratic, prosperous, and peaceful world.”

Betty Ehrenberg, another member of the U.S. delegation to the O-S-C-E conference, put the matter well when she said, “Jews may be the first targets, but they are never the last ones.”