World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
Durban, South Africa
31 August 7 September 2001
3 September 2001

AM Meeting


As the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance continued its general debate this morning, the gathering of government leaders and high ministers were warned that maintaining inflexible positions on issues of vital importance for all members of the global community would doom the Conference to failure.

"If each of us insists on maintaining our own proposed language and nothing else, this Conference will fail", Norway's Minister of International Development, Anne Kristin Sydnes, told the assembled delegates. "Therefore, we must be more open, more forward-looking, more constructive. We must seek compromise, not conflict", she urged.

The attention of the Conference, she said, had been drawn to the suffering in the Middle East. She called for the implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations and the swift resumption of negotiations, thus allowing the Israeli and Palestinian people to develop and prosper in security and freedom.

Zouheir Hamdan, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lebanon, said that two previous international conferences on the issue of racism and racial discrimination, held in 1978 and 1983, had focused on two countries -- South Africa and Israel. And while South Africa had rid itself of discriminatory policies practised there, Israel had increased theirs. Indeed, Lebanon had truly suffered at the hands of Israel. As Lebanon had suffered, the Palestinians were also suffering a holocaust at the hands of Israel. That country should stop the policy of violence, and return to negotiations with the Palestinians.

The Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Abdelouahed Belkeziz, said the racist policy of Israeli politicians, based on cynicism, so-called racial superiority, the idea of chosen people and its cavalier attitude towards international legitimacy, was a policy of a bygone epoch in which Israel felt that it could give itself the right to use brute force against unarmed civilians in their own occupied territories, assassinate their politicians, close or seal their sanctuaries and Judaize their cities. Those practices constituted breaches of human rights and of international humanitarian laws and the Conference must address those issues with the appropriate response and effective deterrence.

Mordechai Yedid (Israel) said that he was addressing the Conference today because his country's Foreign Minister had refused to attend because of negative developments which appeared to be materializing. Mr. Yedid said this Conference was dedicated to a simple proposition -- that all of us had a common lineage, and were all, irrespective of race, religion or gender, created in the same divine image. If slavery was one form of racist atrocity, anti-Semitism is another.

He went on to say that the twentieth century, which had witnessed the atrocities of the Holocaust, also witnessed the fulfilment of the Zionist dream, the re-establishment of a Jewish State in Israel's historic land. Yet, those who could not bring themselves to say the word "Holocaust" or to recognize anti-Semitism for the evil that it was, would call for the condemnation of "racist practices of Zionism". Anti-Zionism was nothing but anti-Semitism, "pure and simple".

A year ago at Camp David, Mr. Yedid continued, Israel demonstrated its deep commitment to peace by offering our Palestinian neighbours far-reaching compromises. Those compromises, applauded by the entire international community, had not been accepted by the Palestinians. To Israel's deep dismay, they had responded with a wave of violence, which over the past year, had escalated into protracted and inhuman attacks on the Israeli civilian population, forcing Israel to defend its citizens by military means.

Another issue of concern to many speakers this morning was the unique plight of vulnerable groups and people in distress, particularly refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons. Most agreed there was a need to make special commitment to ensuring the protection of the rights of those groups. The representative of Bangladesh said that many societies, instead of being inclusive, often practiced a policy of exclusion -- a practice to which migrant workers, immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers were particularly vulnerable. That left groups stranded in an alien environment where they were unable to exercise their rights.

Alhaji Mustapha Ali Idris, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana, echoed that sentiment, adding that with globalization virtually removing all borders and boundaries, international migration had been rendered not only feasible but inevitable. It was therefore incumbent upon the Human Rights Commission, in collaboration with States, to define and enforce the rights of immigrants, migrant workers and their families. Policies and programmes to protect the dignity of migrants must be structured to include just remunerations for the transfer of their earnings to destinations of their choice.

Statements were also made by Elayne Whyte, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica; Victor Gaber, Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Tofig Musayev, Deputy Director of Treaty, Legal Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan; and Walter Schwimmer, Secretary-General, Council of Europe. Belize, Philippines, Ukraine, Barbados and Guyana also spoke

The Conference, which opened on 31 August and is scheduled to run through Friday, 7 September, provides the first opportunity in the post-apartheid era for the global community to deliberate a broad agenda to combat racism and related issues. World leaders have set as a goal adopting a Declaration and Programme of Action that can be used as a framework by individual countries, governments and their civil society partners to further promote policies of tolerance and further protect citizens form all forms of discrimination.

The Conference's plenary session will continue today at 3 p.m., when it will continue its general debate.


ANNE KRISTIN SYDNES, Minister of International Development of Norway: In principle the international community has taken a clear stand against racism. In resolutions, the United Nations has demonstrated great resolve. In rhetoric, world leaders have excelled. But in real life, racism remains an assault on human dignity. Racism is global and plagues all countries, including my own. While I am pleased that this Conference is taking place in South Africa, I am also worried because the preparatory process leading up to it has been particularly difficult. Many apparently irreconcilable proposals have been put forward. If each of us insists on maintaining our own proposed language and nothing else, this Conference will fail. That must not happen. We must add new energy to the fight against all forms of racism.

Norway emphasizes the importance of education, awareness raising and strengthening of national legal frameworks for combating racism. Governments should be further encouraged to elaborate national strategies of plans of action. Our Government is now in the process of elaborating a new plan of action to combat racism and discrimination. It is extremely difficult to ensure respect for humanity in a world where almost 3 billion people live on less than $3 a day. We, therefore, must combat all forms of poverty. Factors such as gender, disability, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation and descent cause added vulnerability in the cycle of poverty and discrimination. The debate on social exclusion due to ethnicity and race has to be about that complex interplay, which is often inherited and perpetuated. Many victims of multiple forms of discrimination also deserve special attention and special remedies. That applies not least to those affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. To combat AIDS, we have to focus on the rights of the most vulnerable groups, including men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and prostitutes. We must also empower women and girls.

The initiative to establish closer cooperation among youth in the fight against racism is most promising, as youth can, among other things, change attitudes and behaviour. Rights have no borders and we should demonstrate that by making special commitment to assuring the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons. The rights of indigenous people should also be a part of the final document. Further, we must be willing to honestly face the truth. Only through repentance and repair of broken relationships and violated dignity can true reconciliation come about. During this Conference, our attention has also been drawn to the suffering in the Middle East. We call for the implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee and the swift resumption of negotiations, thus allowing the Israeli and Palestinian people to develop and prosper in security and freedom.

ASSAD SHOMAN, (Belize): I am appalled at the argument that slavery and the slave trade should not be condemned as crimes against humanity because they were legal at the time. The laws of some European colonies may have sanctioned slavery and the slave trade, but did that make them universally applicable as accepted international law? Nor can we accept the self-serving argument that it is impossible to assign responsibility for those crimes. That may have been plausible if the descendants of the African and other indigenous people that suffered as a result were today free from the consequences of those crimes. The question of reparations must be seen in the light of those facts. We are not asking you to pay for the murders and exploitations of the past; that is an unpayable debt. All we are saying is: recognize that they were crimes against humanity and apologize for them, and recognize that many of the descendants are still suffering the consequences of those wrongs. The modalities of reparations are negotiable; but we must abide by the principle.

My delegation will resist any language in the documents of this Conference that questions the rights of indigenous peoples, since that would represent a betrayal of the indigenous peoples and their struggle, and a shameful stain on the integrity of this anti-racist Conference.

We recognize the tradition of not naming specific countries, but sometimes the cause of humanity compels us to dispense with diplomatic niceties and tell the truth, such as in the case of apartheid. In the name of the Palestinian and the Israeli people, Arabs and Jews alike, let us now take up the Palestinian's cause as we did the anti-apartheid cause, for by doing so we will be helping both Palestinians and Israelis to rid themselves of that scourge, and we will be advancing the cause of all peoples who suffer from racism and discrimination. I say that as the representative of a country that supports the State of Israel's right to exist in peace and security, convinced that it can only achieve that if it recognizes the rights of the Palestinian people and removes all expressions of racial discrimination and other aspects of its occupation policy from its State practice.

ELAYNE WHYTE, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica: The United Nations was founded so that future generations can live in peace. It has helped build a consensus on the fundamental needs for global existence. It is important that people realize that all are born equal, regardless of gender, race or religion. But discrimination still persists, and keeps people from enjoying their fundamental rights. Today, there are two parallel trends -- globalization has led to increased migration, resulting in far more diverse societies. But there is also a resurgence of local interest and the desire to be identified by one's ethnic background. Given that new reality, the international community cannot remain passive. There is need for quick and effective action -- one that recognizes different groupings while respecting diversity.

Costa Rica believes that this Conference should focus on joint strategies to combat past injustices of practices of slavery, and to recognize effective ways to combat new and contemporary forms of slavery. It is important to reconcile the events of the past with building concrete action to build a brighter future. Recently, Pope John Paul II set a great example by admitting the historical mistakes of the Catholic Church.

Costa Rica feels that any violation of international obligations calls for adequate redress. The discussion should focus on redress so that such errors should never happen again. There should be apologies and acceptance of past errors. Measures adopted here cannot change the past, but they can help build the future. The countries of the Americas have agreed to follow up and implement the strategies that were adopted at the preparatory conference to this Conference in Santiago, Chile. We should begin by recognizing the multiracial, multilingual and multicultural reality of all societies, and the benefits of diverse societies. The States present should commit themselves to adopting the laws necessary to comply with the international organizations to which they are party. And it is essential to foster educational programmes that teach basic human rights. Lastly, all countries are urged to adopt the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

VICTOR GABER, Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance constitute the most persistent and destructive challenges facing the international community today. Those phenomena threaten the broad promotion of human rights and the protection of basic human values. To advance our efforts we must use the various relevant international instruments -- particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- as blueprints for international action. Our efforts must embrace development of international human rights law. Preventing the spread of racism and discriminatory practices can be furthered through the establishment of legal frameworks. The basic problem, however, is the gap between what is proclaimed and what is realized. Even the most sophisticated frameworks will not produce the desired results without structures for effective implementation.

Multicultural societies are a reality and, sadly, violent forms of racism are most often aimed at members of multi-ethnic or multicultural groups and communities. It is most necessary to promote the culture of human rights and respect for diversity, particularly among children. Teachers, law enforcement officials and members of the judiciary should also be included in our efforts in that regard. Abusive racism for political purposes and promoted through political entities is the basic creator of the climate of hatred and intolerance in many societies. It directly feeds ethnocentrism. Hence an enormous responsibility lies with politicians to guide public opinion on cultural diversity and respect for human rights. For decades now, our region has faced monstrous forms of ethnic cleansing. Lasting peace and security in the region have been threatened due to the conduct of the racist policies of some religious and political leaders. Our crisis is of an external nature, regrettably, a direct export from the situation in Kosovo. Those situations have been caused by the failure of all of us to oppose the notion of "ethnically clean" territories. If we continue to ignore that, we may face another generation of conflict.

ALHAJI MUSTAPHA ALI IDRIS, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana: It is necessary to discuss ways of combating contemporary forms of racism, but it is also essential to focus on the equally important past manifestations of racism, especially the slave trade, which violated the human rights of millions of people. To attempt to combat contemporary forms of racism without giving due attention to the tragedies of the slave trade will be an exercise in futility.

It is the responsibility of States to create conditions conducive to the full enjoyment of the right to development. However, those favourable conditions cannot be created in a situation of endless debt-servicing, abject poverty, widespread illiteracy, chronic misery and painful hunger. While it is untenable for developing countries to expect the developed countries to assume responsibility for the whole world, it is equally important for the affluent North to realize that the poor South cannot rigorously promote and enforce good governance, human rights, democracy, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms in a situation of acute poverty.

With globalization virtually removing all borders and boundaries, international migration is rendered not only feasible, but also inevitable. In the circumstances, it is incumbent upon the Human Rights Commission, in collaboration with States, to define and enforce the rights of migrant workers and their families. Policies and programmes to protect the dignity of migrants may be structured to include just remunerations for the transfer of their earnings to destinations of their choice.

ABDELOUAHED BELKEZIZ, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference: The Organization of the Islamic Conference has contributed, ever since its inception more that 30 years ago, to the consolidation of the concepts of equality among humans and man's dignity, based on the teachings of the tolerant religion of Islam, which advocated such values more than 14 centuries ago. The Organization's efforts were obvious in promoting the concept of integration and cooperation resting upon justice and non-discrimination through its initiative to launch the idea of the "Dialogue among Civilizations". The United Nations has declared this year as the "Year of Dialogue among Civilizations".

The racist policy of Israeli politicians, based on cynicism, so-called racial superiority, the idea of chosen people and the ensuing nonchalant attitude towards international legitimacy, is a policy of a bygone epoch; an epoch wherein Israel feels that it can give itself the right to use brute force against unarmed civilians in their own occupied territories, assassinate their politicians, close or seal their sanctuaries and Judaize their cities. Those practices constitute breaches of human rights and violations of international humanitarian laws. But they are also, for the most part, war crimes clearly specified in international covenants. All that has to be met by your Conference with the appropriate response and effective deterrence.

Likewise, we believe that it is legitimate to compensate peoples for what they endured in terms of colonialism, slavery and plundering of their resources, especially since similar redress was lavishly paid to one community from among the victims of the Holocaust. The case of the Holocaust cannot be permitted to become the only one of its kind, lest we see yet another pattern of racism and ethnic discrimination.

ZOUHEIR HAMDAN, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lebanon: Because of its cultural and social structure, it is clear that Lebanon is committed to combating racism in all its forms. All victims are equal in rights and dignity. The two previous conferences, in 1978 and 1983, focused on two countries -- South Africa and Israel. Lebanon did not want to bring the problems of the Middle East to this Conference. But while South Africa has got rid of its discriminatory policies, Israel had increased theirs. Lebanon has suffered at the hands of Israel many times over the years. At a detention centre, the Israelis practised the most brutal forms of torture, and they undertook a policy of extra-judicial detention. Nineteen Lebanese political prisoners are still detained in Israel. As Lebanon has suffered, the Palestinians were suffering a holocaust at the hands of Israel that began last year. They are using military force against unarmed Palestinians.

Israel is confiscating land and destroying property, implementing curfews and restricting movement -- prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention. One minister described the Palestinians as serpents, and said they reproduced like ants. Another one proposed that Palestinians in Israel be marked with yellow cards. Israel should stop the policy of violence, and return to negotiations with the Palestinians.

This Conference is looking at a very important humanitarian matter. We should look at the historical injustices committed against people, particularly in regard to the slave trade and colonialism. Past injustices should be acknowledged. There should be assurances that the decisions of this Conference have adequate follow-up mechanisms.

SAMUEL RAMEL (Philippines): It is sad to note that the technological and information revolutions that offer promises of a better life for all also provide the means for propagating the dreadful disease of racism and racial discrimination. Hundreds of sites on the Internet are promoting racial hatred and intolerance. If we really care, then we should dare to confront that menace squarely and pay particular attention to the need for a code of conduct that would make the Internet unfriendly to those who seek to corrupt minds and undermine cherished human values. In addressing that problem, we have to take into account the concerns expressed with respect to the freedoms of speech, expression and belief.

The seeds of racism and racial discrimination will not take root where there is no fertile ground or receptive minds. Therefore, we need to stress the importance of education in programmes for the eradication of all forms of racism and related intolerance. Children need to be taught that they have rights and freedoms, but also that their rights and freedoms can only flourish in a world where everybody respects the rights and freedoms of others. Our children must learn to appreciate the richness and diversity of the world's cultures and peoples. We also need to imprint in their minds the importance of tolerance, acceptance and respect for all human beings, the virtues of peace and non-violence, and the need for compassion for those who are less privileged in life.

With respect to migrant workers, it is widely acknowledged that they bring benefits to both their countries of origin and countries of destination. They do not deserve the racist and xenophobic discriminations, indignities and assaults of which many are victims. To enhance their international protection, countries are invited to sign the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

IGOR TURYANSKYI (Ukraine): As it enters the third millennium, mankind has achieved considerable progress in development in many spheres, including human rights. But serious problems still remain, and they require the coordinated actions of the international community. This Conference shows that that international community recognizes the existence of such problems, and is determined to undertake efforts required to eliminate them.

Despite many resolutions against racism that were passed by the General Assembly and other bodies of the United Nations, the problem still continues. It is important to ensure there is a comprehensive approach in order to effectively fight all forms of racism. The activities of the United Nations institutions and the specialized agencies should be intensified. In particular, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the United Nations Committee on Human Rights could act as instruments to provide proper monitoring in that sphere in the future.

Ukraine is a party to various international conventions, and its legislation guarantees in full respect of human rights and fundamental freedom, and ensures equality in political, economic, social, cultural and other spheres of public life for all citizens, without distinction of race, colour, or national or ethnic origin. The World Conference gives us the opportunity to widely discuss the whole spectrum of issues. It is important to consider the lessons of the past and to put forward recommendations that will lead to activities that will eliminate those disgraceful phenomena in the future.

TOFIG MUSAYEV, Deputy Director of Treaty-Legal Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan: Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country whose national policies are built around regard for the legitimate interests of persons belonging to minorities. In the spirit of traditional tolerance and the co-existence of different groups, the equality of all citizens is guaranteed by law. Our Constitution prohibits racism, and the recognition and implementation of international human rights principles in political, economic and social areas is encouraged and protected. We firmly believe that the promotion and protection of human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, contributes to the political and social stability of the States in which they live. At the same time, we should also give attention to the duties of those persons to respect the national legislations and the rights of others, in particular, those persons belonging to the majority as well as other minorities.

In that regard, it should be pointed out that minority rights cannot be interpreted as permitting any activity contrary to the fundamental principles of international law and in particular sovereign equality, territorial integrity and the political independence of States. Disrespecting those obligations is a common cause of conflict in various parts of the world. In some well-known instances, secessionist movements, accompanied by foreign military intervention, aggression or occupation, lead to depriving the majority population of fundamental rights. Experience has shown that policies aimed at the protection of minority identities do not guarantee freedom from ethnic tensions and hostilities. A glance at the world today shows that there are several minorities that pursue extremely provocative and violent policies towards majority populations or other minorities.

Groundless territorial claims towards Azerbaijan and an externally inspired secessionist movement and interethnic hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan have resulted in one of the most tragic conflicts of the past century. The armed conflict which resulted in occupation of nearly 20 per cent of the territory by neighbouring Armenia and flagrant violations of human rights law there have resulted in the forced expulsion of about 1 million Azerbaijanis from the region. Despite the fact that the international community has clearly defined a legal basis for settlement, the unconstructive position of Armenia has not allowed peace to be achieved. While seeking a realistic formula for compromise based on adherence to the norms and principles of international law, we reject settlement proposals that infringe on sovereignty of the State.

TOUFIQ ALI (Bangladesh): Many societies, instead of being inclusive, often practice a policy of exclusion. The particularly vulnerable groups are migrant workers, immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers who are in an alien environment and are unable to exercise their rights. The Constitution of Bangladesh expressly forbids discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, caste, sex or birthplace. We are parties to all the major human rights conventions. Based on those principled positions, we have lent support to persecuted communities around the globe in their defence of their legitimate rights. Our Middle East policy is unequivocal in our rejection of the policies and practices of the occupying Power that are precisely the subject of this Conference.

A fundamental objective of this Conference is to re-establish the primacy of human rights and fundamental human values. We must take a three-pronged approach: listen to the voice of the victims; ensure that the policies and practices of States do not create such victims; and work together to stamp out that curse and correct past mistakes. Colonialism has hurt many societies. Humankind needs to understand what has happened and, where possible, mitigate the adverse effects. It is vital that the State itself be at the forefront of that effort. Only if the State is convinced of the injustices, can it work with the rest of society to draw up national strategies based on international norms. It is also imperative that the international community work in unison and exert their combined will in countries where the State practices a form of racism or racial intolerance.

Internationally, there are some fundamental norms that we may agree to. For instance, our educational curricula should address those issues so that from a very young age people are aware of the dangers, know how to recognize them and what action to take should they find such problems in their midst. At the same time, we must be courageous in admitting the mistakes of our earlier generations, so that we may now redress them.

HILARY BECKLES (Barbados): It was in the Caribbean world that the civilizations of Africa, the Americas, Europe and later Asia were forever linked to create the new colonial dispensation that became known as phase one of the Atlantic System. It was a system that was based on crimes against humanity in the form of genocide against the indigenous peoples, and racialized chattel enslavement. The crimes against the indigenous and African peoples were recognized at the time by informed and well-meaning persons as crimes against humanity. But the voices of those noble men and women were silenced by the considerable power of those persons, institutions and governments who benefited from those crimes. It is as much the case today as then.

The silence that surrounds our past must be broken in order to liberate our creative potential. We support the call for a formal but scientific discussion of reparations and programme-based compensation for past crimes against humanity, as well as the issue of an apology by those States that have collectively benefited from those crimes. The logic of our history tells us that the principle of debt cancellation for developing nations is one that is morally correct and consistent with the justice of reparation that we are calling for. The past is not without its ironies. The French Government demanded and received 20 million gold francs from the Haitian Government between 1825 and 1922 as compensation to French slave owners because the enslaved dared to abolish slavery. Other European governments paid millions as compensation to slave owners when they ended formal slavery in the Caribbean.

The contribution of Africans and people of African descent from the slave trade to world civilization have been ignored and suppressed. Only significant advances in research, publication and curriculum development can help in exploding harmful myths and other forms of distortion that have enlivened racist thinking and actions. We believe that such a facility can also play an active role in the global search, safe repatriation and preservation of historical artifacts.

L.K.N. SINGH, (Guyana): The history of mankind has been replete with examples not only of extraordinary human achievements, but also of horrible crimes against humanity, including slavery. In the last century alone, we experienced two world wars, which were precipitated largely by the belief in the superiority of one race over another. From the ashes of the Second World War arose the United Nations, which had an aim of restoring the faith in the fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person. In several landmark actions, the United Nations has removed the shackles of colonialism, broken the curse of apartheid and condemned discrimination wherever it existed. Over the years, an important body of legal instruments has been developed to promote and protect the human rights of all people, irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political persuasion, social origin, property, birth or other status.

Today, new forms of discrimination have arisen in the new era of globalization, which has brought distant and diverse communities closer together, through advances in communication. We have witnessed such evils as ethnic cleansing and the oppression of vulnerable groups such as minorities, migrants, refugees and indigenous peoples. Guyana stands firmly against those practices and hopes that this Conference will produce a clear set of concrete recommendations in keeping with the objectives established by the General Assembly.

Guyana is a multi-racial, multicultural and multi-religious society that has its roots in the colonial past. The country is not without its problems, but with perseverance, we know they can be overcome.

Guyana has sought to put in place legislation that offers all citizens equal protection from racial discrimination. For example, the Government enacted legislation for an ethnic relations commission, which has among its members Christians, Hindus, and Muslims, as well as the labour movement, women and youth. Further, there is a human rights committee that oversees and guarantees the equality and justice outlined in the Constitution. We realize that legislation alone will not deter racism and xenophobia. Those are evils that must not be tolerated and therefore must be eradicated. Intolerant beliefs and practices are learned. Only through an extensive process of education can a change be brought about. We therefore need to conceive and implement educational strategies which promote a deeper awareness of the negative impact which those deplorable practices have on us both as individuals and societies.

MORDECHAI YEDID (Israel): This Conference was dedicated to a simple proposition -- that all of us have a common lineage, and are all, irrespective of race, religion or gender, created in the same divine image. The Jewish response to slavery was remarkable. Rather than forget or sublimate the suffering of slavery, Jewish tradition insisted that every Jew must remember and relive it. If slavery is one form of racist atrocity, anti-Semitism is another. And by anti-Semitism, we mean the hatred of Jews. And while Jews may be the first to suffer from its influence, they have rarely been the last. Those who cannot bring themselves to recognize the unique evil of anti-Semitism similarly cannot accept the stark fact of the Holocaust, the first systematic attempt to destroy an entire people. The past decade has witnessed an alarming increase in attempts to deny the simple fact of that atrocity, at the very time that the Holocaust is passing from living memory to history. After wiping out 6 million Jewish lives, there are those who would wipe out their deaths. At this Conference, too, we are witnessing a vile attempt to generalize and pluralize the word "Holocaust", and to empty it of its meaning as a reference to a specific historic event with a clear and vital message for all humanity.

And yet, those who cannot bring themselves to say the word "Holocaust" or to recognize anti-Semitism for the evil that it is, would have us condemn the "racist practices of Zionism". Did any one of those Arab States that conceived that obscenity stop for one moment to consider their own record? Or to think of the situation of the Jews and other minorities in their own countries? Those States would have us believe that they are anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic, but again and again that lie is disproved. What are the despicable caricatures of Jews that fill the Arab press, and which are being circulated at this Conference? What are the vicious libels so freely invented and disseminated by our enemies -- about the use of poison gas, or depleted uranium, or injecting babies with the AIDS virus? To criticize the policies of the Government of Israel -- or of any country -- is legitimate, even vital. But there is a profound difference between criticizing a country and denying its right to exist. Anti-Zionism is nothing but anti-Semitism, pure and simple.

Barely a year ago, at Camp David, Israel demonstrated its deep commitment to peace by offering our Palestinian neighbours far-reaching compromises. Those compromises were applauded by the entire international community. But the Palestinians did not accept those proposals, nor did they put forward any compromise proposals of their own. To our deep dismay, they responded with a wave of violence. Over the past year, that violence escalated into protracted and inhuman attacks on the Israeli civilian population, forcing Israel to defend its citizens by military means. The vicious libels and the dehumanization we have heard at this Conference will do nothing to prevent more Israeli and Palestinian mothers and fathers bringing their young ones to their graves. Can there be a greater irony than the fact that a conference convened to combat the scourge of racism should give rise to the most racist declaration in a major international organization since the Second World War?

WALTER SCHWIMMER, Secretary-General, Council of Europe: Many of the roots of present-day racism can be traced back to our shared history in which the human rights of whole populations were massively violated. All States must acknowledge the suffering caused by slavery and colonialism. Yet it is equally vital to be united in our vision for the future.

Today, racism and intolerance take different forms, from the horrific concept of "ethnic cleansing" to daily manifestations of discrimination. Aggressive nationalism, ethnocentrism and religious intolerance also persist and lead, now as in the past, to massive violations of human rights in Europe and across the world.

Threads of anti-Semitism remain in political discourse. It is alarming to see the development throughout Europe of extremist groups threatening individuals and propagating anti-Semitic views and material, including through the use of the Internet. There are also worrying signs of an increase of intolerance towards Islam and Muslim communities. The Council of Europe will also fight underground forms of discrimination such as anti-Zionism, including the intimidation of Jewish students from Europe during the NGO Forum.

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