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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

Plenary
PM and Night Meetings
RD/D/21
1 September 2001

DISCRIMINATION AGAINST MINORITIES, MIDDLE EAST, REPARATIONS FOR
SLAVERY AMONG ISSUES RAISED AT WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM

The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, during contiguous meetings, covering the afternoon and evening, heard from 48 speakers, who focused on such issues as reparations for slavery, the slave trade and colonization, education, globalization and economic development, discrimination against ethnic minorities and the situation in the Middle East, as it continued its general debate. Many speakers talked of action under way at the national level to overcome racism.

The Conference takes place in Durban, South Africa from 31 August to 7 September, providing an opportunity for the world to engage, for the first time in the post-apartheid era, in a broad agenda to combat racism and related issues. The Conference's objectives are to produce a declaration that recognizes the damage caused by past expressions of racism and that reflects a new global awareness of modern forms of racism and xenophobia; to agree on a strong practical programme of action and to forge an alliance between governments and civil society that will carry the fight against racism forward.

On the subject of reparations, Abdul Sattar, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, said that the past could not be undone, but the scars of slavery and colonial domination would not heal with the passage of time, nor with verbal atonement. A measure of restitution was necessary, through concrete affirmative action, to redress the economic, social and psychological ravages suffered by victim communities. He suggested that this Conference request the United Nations Secretary-General to appoint a group of eminent experts with a mandate to recommend appropriate measures for redress and restitution.

Addressing the problem of the Middle East, Louis Michel, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that that long-running tragedy was a major source of concern. It was primarily a territorial dispute, a clash between two sets of suffering people. The positions of the parties and the peace endeavours being made were well known, but this Conference was not the place to discuss them. In Durban, the first job was to reaffirm emphatically that incitement to hatred and all acts of racism and racial discrimination committed by individuals or groups of individuals were unjustifiable and reprehensible, wherever they occurred.

Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme, said that only when political and economic space could be seized and used by those who were discriminated against would racism end. Exposing racism, even affirming that as a global society we must condemn it, was a beginning, not an end, he said. The tangled web of political economy and culture that had for too long, in too many places, allowed discrimination of all kinds to take root, survive and grow must now be confronted. Those knots -- some centuries old, others alarmingly new -- must be cut. Only then could the excluded rise to their full potential.

Kamal Kharazzi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, however, said that an important task for this Conference was to identify the contemporary forms and manifestations of racism and racial discrimination. Today, the most vivid manifestation of institutionalized racism was Zionism. What other than racism could one call the uprooting of an entire people from their own land, driving them into diaspora, the unabated killings and massacre of innocent Palestinians and the building of Jewish settlements? he asked. Rejection of Zionism should in no way be construed as an attack against Judaism or the Jewish people, he said. Anti-Semitism and oppression of the Jewish people in Europe during the Second World War must be rejected in the same vein as today's Islamophobia, anti-Arabism and anti-Palestinian practices.

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Statements

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LOUIS MICHEL, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU), Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey: ...

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The long-running tragedy in the Middle East is a major source of concern. That is primarily a territorial dispute, a clash between two sets of suffering. The Israeli population has not been spared and the Palestinian population is paying an even heavier price. The positions of the parties and the peace endeavours being made are well known, but this Conference is not the place to discuss them. Here in Durban, our first job is to reaffirm emphatically that incitement to hatred and all acts of racism and racial discrimination committed by individuals or groups of individuals are unjustifiable and reprehensible, wherever they occur. As political leaders, we have to address the basic issues, since history and public opinion in our countries would look on us with incomprehension if we failed to grasp the unique opportunity afforded by this Conference to help shape the new humanity of the twenty-first century.

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DAH OULD ABDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania: ...

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This Conference is being held when the situation in the Middle East and occupied territories is becoming more and more of a concern. We must ensure the safety of Palestinian peoples and holy places. Palestine must achieve its legitimate right of independence. This is the only way to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace throughout the region. Overall, we must ensure that the Conference identifies appropriate measures that will protect the rights of today's, tomorrow's and future societies. The Conference will be judged on whether or not it can successfully elaborate the machinery for genuine international solidarity that can lead to a new era of development, prosperity and peace for all.

JOSCHKA FISCHER, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany: ...

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The shocking increase in violence and hatred in the Middle East leads to the gravest concern. The many victims and their families on both sides deserve deep sympathy. The vicious circle of violence must finally be broken using all means available. The Israeli and the Palestinian peoples have a right to collective and individual security, to a life without fear, a life in dignity and offering prospects for their children and grandchildren. That includes Israel's right to exist, which is regarded as inviolable, but equally also the continuing and unqualified Palestinian right to self-determination, including the option of a State.

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MOHAMMED BIN NUKHAIRA AL DAHRI, Minister of Justice of the United Arab Emirates: ...

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Despite efforts made by the international community to eradicate racism, racist practices exist around the world in various manifestations. This Conference has a duty to fight all forms of racial discrimination. Foreign occupation is one of the most dangerous ways in which human rights can be violated. We see this happening in Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is of extreme importance to the Christian, Judaic and Muslim religions. The Israeli policy of murdering children and assassinating leaders of the Palestinian people, the destruction of houses and the continuing settlement policy are all flagrant violations of human rights.

The United Arab Emirates urges the international community to mention in its declaration the violations of which the Palestinian people are victim and to reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to liberty, dignity and self-determination. The final document of Durban cannot be discriminatory

KAMAL KHARRAZI, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran: ...

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An important task for this Conference is to identify the contemporary forms and manifestations of racism and racial discrimination. Today, the most vivid manifestation of institutionalized racism is Zionism. What other than racism can one call the uprooting of an entire people from their own land, driving them into diaspora, the attempted destruction of the national identity of a whole nation, the unabated killings and massacre of innocent Palestinians, the destruction of entire Palestinian villages and the building of Jewish settlements? Such policies and practices against the Palestinian people by Israel provide convincing evidence that Zionism is indeed racism. Rejection of Zionism should in no way be construed as an attack against Judaism or the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism and oppression of the Jewish people in Europe during the Second World War must be rejected in the same vein as today's Islamophobia, anti-Arabism and anti-Palestinian practices. But what happened in Europe then can in no way be used to cover 50 years of Zionist atrocities against the Palestinian people.

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ABDUL SATTAR, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan: ...

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Vilification of Islam, verging on racism, is an extremely disturbing trend. A billion Muslims are outraged that their religion of peace, with its liberal, humanist ideals, is misunderstood and defamed by xenophobic lobbies. It is said that the Jewish people who were the victims of racism -- the Holocaust -- are themselves succumbing to false rationales to justify discrimination of Palestinian people. Projecting the Palestinian people's struggle for self-determination as terrorism is a deliberate and discriminatory justification for the policies of blockade, assassination and settler colonization which are being imposed against the Palestinian people. This Conference cannot but speak out on that issue. It is sad that this theme of denigrating the struggle for self-determination as terrorism, and associating terrorism with Islam, is actively promoted to justify the ongoing brutal repression of the Kashmiri people.

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SLAHEDDINE MAAOUI, Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister in Charge of Human Rights, Communications and Relations with the Chamber of Deputies of Tunisia: ...

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In that context, despite the perfectly good intentions expressed by the international community to fight such negative aspects, the Middle East is still a hotbed of tension due to Israel's continued aggressive policies and practices, its repeated violation of the legitimate rights of Palestinian people, despite the resolutions of the international legality and related international decisions asserting the right of the Palestinian people for self-determination and for building its independence state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

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KAY PATERSON, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs of Australia: ...

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We hoped that there will be broad consensus on a number of issues at the Conference. There are many forms of racism and xenophobia in the world today. Australia is concerned about the deterioration of the situation in Israel and the occupied territories, but the Conference is not the appropriate forum to condemn Israel. There should be efforts to have the final documents adopted by consensus.

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SAYYID BADR BIN HAMAD AL BU SAIDI, Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Oman: ...

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In Islam, equality is a basic principle. That commitment to equality and tolerance shapes our response to current events. It has been a deeply held principle in Oman's foreign policy that we respond to what people do, and not who they are. It should be made clear that we absolutely reject and fiercely condemn the illegal actions of the Israeli Government against the Palestinian people. Currently, Israeli policy is in violation of international law, it flies in the face of our commitment to the rights of people to self-determination and equal treatment, and is clearly driven by intolerance that in many cases constitutes racism.

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ZAINUL ABIDIN RASHEED, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Singapore: ...

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We must be careful not to revive certain issues at this Conference which have already been decided by the international community. Resurrecting them would only result in more harm than good and will represent a step backward in our work. One such example is the 1975 Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism, which was later repealled in 1991. Apart from being detrimental to the Middle East cause, the 1975 resolution undermined the United Nations own credibility. While we are dismayed by the escalating violence in that region, we also believe that the issue would be best dealt with in a more appropriate forum. We have urged the Security Council to help the concerned parties implement the Mitchell report -- which both sides have accepted -- and support ongoing diplomatic efforts.

SHIHAN MADI, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office in Geneva: Despite the efforts of the international community over the past decade to strengthen collective action on the issue of racial discrimination and other forms of intolerance, a dialogue which promoted cooperation and respect has not materialized. Stereotypical characterizations, particularly of Islam, are still common. Indeed, I would like to see a proper picture of Islam reflected, as well as the removal of the veil of terrorism, which distorts the true picture of Islam. The true picture of Islam was peaceful.

Foreign occupation and the forced imposition of racist policies is incompatible with international law and international principles of human rights. Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention must step forward and provide the requisite support and protection to the Palestinian people. Palestine still looked to the international community for help and will certainly hope that the Conference reaffirms their legitimate right to independence. The international community must strive to bring an end to the last such occupation in the world. It is also necessary to establish a rate of return for Palestinian refugees, based on international principles and United Nations mandated prescriptions.

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