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6/23/04 - ANTI-SEMITISM CONFERENCE AT U-N - 2004-06-25

One of the “most sacred purposes” of the United Nations, says Secretary-General Kofi Annan, is to promote tolerance:

“No Muslim, no Jew, no Christian, no Hindu, no Buddhist, no one who is true to the principles of any of the world’s faiths, no one who claims a cultural, national, or religious identity based on values such as truth, decency, and justice, can be neutral in the fight against intolerance."

Success in this struggle depends on education. “Tolerance and mutual respect have to be learned,” said Mr. Annan. That is why the U-N is holding a series of seminars on groups whose members are often the victims of intolerance. The first seminar, on June 21st, was on “Confronting Anti-Semitism.”

Throughout history, said U-N Secretary-General Annan, anti-Semitism “has been a unique manifestation of hatred, intolerance, and persecution. . . . The rise of anti-Semitism anywhere is a threat to people everywhere. Thus, in fighting anti-Semitism, we fight for the future of all humanity.”

The Holocaust carried out by Nazi Germany during the Second World War “was the epitome of this evil,” said Mr. Annan. “We know -- and yet we still cannot really comprehend -- that six-million innocent Jewish men, women, and children were murdered, just because they were Jews. That is a crime against humanity which defies imagination.”

Yet sixty years after the Holocaust, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel told seminar participants, attacks on Jews are a common occurrence in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere:

“There isn’t a week, sometimes a day, without an anti-Semitic incident in Europe. A young Israeli visiting Berlin was assaulted in the street in broad daylight yesterday. Last week, a young Jewish student was stabbed in Paris in broad daylight.”

It is clear, said U-N Secretary-General Annan, “that we are witnessing an alarming resurgence” of anti-Semitism. “This time, the world must not, cannot, be silent.”