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11 March 2004


Sixtieth session
Item 6 of the provisional agenda


Written statement* submitted by B’nai B’rith,
a non-governmental organization on the Roster

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

[24 February 2004]

* This written statement is issued, unedited, in the language(s) received from the submitting non-governmental organization(s).

1. B’nai B’rith is the oldest international Jewish humanitarian and advocacy organization represented in 58 countries on all continents and has been engaged in the struggle for human rights and against racial discrimination for over 160 years.

2. Our organization is deeply concerned about the one-sided approach adopted by this Commission on the question of racism during the 59th session. Whereas the draft resolution submitted by South Africa on behalf of States Members of the African Group contained the laudable paragraph 49 specifically recognizing “with deep concern the increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in various parts of the world, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas directed against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities “, this paragraph was eliminated before the final resolution was adopted under the pressure of countries members of the Commission who are radically opposed to the very mention of the word “ anti-Semitism” in any UN resolution. Inasmuch as Islamophobia was extensively condemned by another resolution (2003/4) adopted by this Commission under a related agenda item (Combating defamation of religion), the deletion of the paragraph concerned meant that the Commission deliberately passed over in silence a form of racism -- anti-Semitism -- that had led to the massacre of millions during the lifetime of many participants.

3. The rise of anti-Semitism over the past year in many parts of the world has not only been quantitative in nature, but also qualitative in the sense that verbal and physical attacks against Jews and their institutions are no longer limited to “politically acceptable” criticism directed against the democratically-elected Government of Israel, not even to anti-Zionist attacks designed to delegitimize the very existence of the Jewish State (thereby denying the Jewish people the fundamental human right of self-determination contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), but are returning to the classical anti-Semitic attacks used in the early 20th century, which served as the precursor of the Holocaust.

4. Fortunately, the danger of this phenomenon has been recognized by many neutral observers, including some close to this Commission. Thus, in his Human Rights Day message on 10 December 2003, Mr Bertrand Ramcharan, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, specifically included anti-Semitism among the forms of racism that he found to be “prevalent in our midst” against which the human rights movement was called upon to struggle. In a recent article drafted by Ms Mary Robinson, the former High Commissioner on Human Rights, expresses our concerns in a vivid and succinct manner: “Europe has a long and tragic history of anti-Semitism, not least the horrors of the Holocaust. Many postwar European leaders expressed a commitment to combating this evil. But now, as we confront a resurgence of anti-Semitism, it is critical that European leaders -- Government officials, representatives of respected non-governmental organizations, and other opinion leaders -- do everything in their power to combat these racist acts.” The initiative by the French Minister of Education designed to outlaw expressions and acts of anti-Semitism in French public schools, has been followed up more recently by a strong statement by the President of the French Republic, in which he stated that an attack against a Jew (in France) is an attack on France itself. Moreover, he instituted a Ministerial Commission to monitor the problem on a regular basis. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, one of the Vatican's most senior officials, in condemining the resurgent anti-Semitism declared that "not to recognize it, not to call it by its name is an unwitting way of accepting it." He might have included this Commission among those he chastised. He further stated that resurgent anti-Semitism could not be blamed entirely on the fallout from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, noting that the phenomenon had developed in Europe over centuries.

5. The pervasiveness of the problem throughout Western Europe is reflected in a thorough study undertaken by the Centre for Research on Anti-Semitism affiliated to the Technical University of Berlin on behalf of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). It should be noted that this study defines anti-Semitism in such a way as to draw a clear distinction between it and criticism of the Israel Government. If the EUMC has seen fit to suppress the publication of this study, it had less to do with limited time span covered by the study, and more with the “politically incorrect” identification of the principal sources of Western Europe’s new form of anti-Semitism.

6. The most blatant example of “classical” anti-Semitism outside Europe occurred at the recent summit meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, where the Prime Minister of the host country and President of the Conference stated the following:

7. If this Commission wishes to retain a semblance of credibility in its treatment of racism, racial prejudice and xenophobia, it behooves it to specify anti-Semitism as one form of racism that deserves study by the Special Rapporteur and condemnation by the Commission on a basis of equality with forms of racism directed against other groups.


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