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Wiesel Urges UN to Outlaw Anti-Semitism - 2004-06-21

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has issued a call at the United Nations for world leaders to outlaw anti-Semitism. From U.N. headquarters, Mr. Wiesel shared a stage with Secretary General Kofi Annan as the world body held its first anti-Semitism conference.

In an impassioned speech, Mr. Wiesel said he had thought anti-Semitism would be dead 60 years after the Nazi Holocaust. But he noted, surprisingly, attacks on Jews are still a common occurrence in Europe.

"There is nOt a week, sometimes a day, without an anti-Semitic incident in Europe," he said. "A young Israeli visiting Berlin was assaulted in the street in broad daylight, yesterday. Last week a young Jewish student was stabbed in Paris in broad daylight. A number of European Jews told me, of course in confidence, that they live in fear."

Mr. Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and winner of the Nobel Peace prize, said the rise of anti-Semitism is especially disturbing in the Islamic world. He sharply criticized television outlets in Muslim countries for what he called "outrageous exaggeration" that fosters hatred toward the Jewish people.

Several speakers told the conference that a benchmark of the world body's sincerity would be a General Assembly resolution condemning anti-Semitism. The 191-member assembly has rejected such calls in the past. Mr. Wiesel went a step further, calling on the international community to outlaw the practice.

"We ask the leadership of the world to fulfill its mission and use its political and moral authority to outlaw the plague which anti-Semitism is," he said.

In his address to the conference, Secretary General Annan again reiterated his regret over the 1975 General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism. That resolution has since been rescinded. Mr. Annan, who was instrumental in overturning the Zionism resolution, called for a renewed commitment to work for one of the world body's original ideals: to practice tolerance.

"No Muslim, no Jew, no Christian, no Hindu, no Buddhist, no one who is true to the principles of any of the world's faiths, no one who claims a cultural, national or religious identity based on values such as truth, decency, and justice, can be neutral in the fight against intolerance," he said.

The conference on anti-Semitism is the first of what is to be series of seminars on the subject of Unlearning Intolerance. The second meeting, examining the phenomenon of Islamophobia, is scheduled for early next year.