Palestinians blast anti-Semitism meet

by Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
Thursday 29 April 2004 1:21 PM GMT

German special police secure anti-Semitism meet

A two-day international conference on anti-Semitism in Berlin has drawn criticism from Palestinians who have described it as a “red herring” and a “sly distraction” aimed at diverting attention from their oppression by Israel.
The conference, held under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), is expected to issue a set of decisions and recommendations linking “some” anti-Israeli sentiments to anti-Semitism.
Clause-3 of the conference’s summary statement says that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not be allowed to serve as a cover for the expression of anti-Semitic positions and opinions.
Moreover, the 55-nation forum has effectively agreed that there is a link between criticising Israeli actions and policies on the one hand and expressions of classical anti-Semitism.
Speaking at the conference on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Collin Powell pointed out in a short speech that while criticising Israel was legitimate, the line is crossed when critics employ Nazi symbolism to do so.
“It is not anti-Semitism to criticise Israel, but the line is crossed when the leaders of Israel are demonised and vilified by the use of Nazi symbols.”

Powell and other speakers, however, ignored the use of Nazi symbols and comparisons by Israeli officials to demonise Arab and Muslim leaders.
Only Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, voiced a more balanced approach to the issue of racial hatred.
He told the forum that it was wrong to use “race” for political reasons, either as an offensive weapon or as a shield to fend off criticisms.
OSCE meet diverts attention from Israeli oppression of Palestinians
Palestinian academics, while denouncing anti-Semitism as a morbid phenomenon, have voiced deep misgivings about the conference and especially its “tendentious timing”.
Mahmud Nammura, an author who writes extensively about anti-Semitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called the Berlin conference a “red herring” and “sly distraction”.
“It is a shame that instead of paying attention to the Nazi-like persecution of the defenceless Palestinian people at Israel’s hands, the OSCE is effectively telling Israel that it is ok to continue to slaughter Palestinians and destroy their homes since opposing these crimes would be a form of anti-Semitism.”
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