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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

RD/940
2 September 2001

IMPACT OF PAST ON GLOBALIZATION, MIDDLE EAST ARE MAJOR CONCERNS
AS RACISM CONFERENCE DEBATE CONTINUES


As the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance entered the second day of its general debate, top government officials from Africa and the Middle East called on the international community to recognize the far-reaching significance of past indignities and persistent violation of human rights through foreign occupation, while stressing the need for broad cooperation and understanding to find durable solutions.

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Mohamed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, said colonization by settlers and foreign occupation constitute sources, causes and forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Today, all had witnessed the repugnant practices of racial discrimination by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians and the other inhabitants of the occupied Arab territories. Those practices constituted a serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, a crime against humanity. No just peace in the Middle East could be attained unless legitimate Arab rights were recovered.

At the opening of the session, the President of the Conference, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Foreign Minister of the host country, South Africa, announced that the General Committee this morning had endorsed the African Group's nomination of Najat Al-Hajjaji (Libya) as the Rapporteur of the Main Committee. She added that the election of officers for the Conference was now complete.

The Conference is being held in Durban, South Africa, and is scheduled to run from 31 August to 7 September. The event provides the first opportunity in the post-apartheid era for the global community to deliberate a broad agenda to combat racism and related issues with aim of producing a strong practical action plan to forge an alliance between governments and civil society and serve as a blueprint for all nation's efforts to promote tolerance and combat racial discrimination.

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Statements

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MOHAMED BENAISSA, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco: ...

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One of the situations that had an international dimension at the time of the creation of the United Nations was the Palestine issue. Since then, and despite the efforts undertaken, the numerous resolutions by the Security Council and other organs, Israel has persisted in its persecution policy against the Palestinian people, and in using its military machinery to kill infants and women indiscriminately. The World Conference cannot remain indifferent to the deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel.

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AMRE MOUSSA, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are among the main grounds for the struggle being waged at the international level, despite enormous efforts made, and despite the three Decades to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination In All Its Forms. Africa must be compensated for policies of slavery, the slave trade and colonialism. We must recognize that slavery, slave trade and colonialism were the major causes of racism and racial discrimination and also of the marginalization of people, one of the main causes of poverty. We must all determine that they were crimes against humanity. Policies carried out against the poor and against migrants have often been based on oppressive ethnic approaches. Other kinds of oppression are religious discrimination and persecution.

I will now talk about colonialism by settlers in the Middle East and policies against Arab peoples. The right to self-determination, a universal right of all peoples, has been denied the Palestinian people. Israeli leaders have said that Arabs are scorpions and that they multiply like rabbits. Some religious persons in Israel accuse all Palestinian people of being terrorists. Can there be more serious racism than this? Yet we are told that we should not speak out on this and just forget.

We, the Arab States, came here united and are all resolved to work for the success of this Conference. The success of the Conference will be a success for every human being. We are not here to stop anybody from complaining about what has happened to them. We want to support those people and we want to call for compensation. Some have been compensated for what has happened to them in the past. Why not others? We, as Arabs, condemn what has happened to the Jews and would stand side by side with the Jewish people to prevent it from happening again. Yet, we want to prevent it not only from happening to them, but from happening to anybody. We should not select just certain issues to speak clearly upon. The Conference cannot be selective in the kind of racisms it focuses on. We reject calls for selectivity.

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AHMED MAHER EL SAYED, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt: ...

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The African Group has shown great flexibility in ongoing negations. That spirit should engender equal flexibility on the part of other groups so that the continent can successfully close a painful chapter in its history. It is time for the ex-colonialist -- who has become a partner today -- to sit down with the colonized. The African Initiative should be the framework for our work in that regard. The Arab Group and the Islamic Group have also shown flexibility. Deliberations have moved beyond the ideological consideration of Zionism and racism in order to focus on specific issues. Egypt has participated in discussion on the situation in Palestine and the occupation that prevents the Palestinian people from living sided by side in freedom and equality with their neighbours. That occupation and many of the views that surround it show how some can openly stand against the noble principles that are at the heart of the work that we are doing at this Conference.

Occupation is an evil, and when it is accompanied by killings, sophisticated military actions and subjugation it is even more so. Is it possible that in the face of all this, the declaration and the plan of action under consideration this week will not include such manifestations of intolerance? Is it possible that the declaration, which includes references to anti-Semitism does not address anti-Arabism or Islamophobia, which are becoming more and more prevalent in today's society?

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MOHAMMED SABAH AL-SALEM AL-SABAH, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait: ...

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The colonization by settlers and the foreign occupation constitute sources, causes and forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Today, we witness repugnant practices of racial discrimination by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians and the other inhabitants of the occupied Arab territories. Those practices constitute a serious violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, a crime against humanity and a serious threat to international peace and security. No just peace in the Middle East can be attained unless legitimate Arab rights are recovered.

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